On a crisp Thursday morning, the Epsom College Chapel Choir set off to Heathrow, destined for Rome. With two smooth flights under our belt, we landed in Rome’s Fiumicino airport, engulfed by the scent of pizza and pasta in the evening air.
We boarded the coach and met our lovely tour guide, Lorena. As we drove towards our hotel she taught us some facts about places we passed on our journey. Once we had arrived at the hotel, laden with huge golden keys for our rooms, most of us were tired and after a delicious dinner we headed swiftly to bed, excited for the trip ahead.
The next morning, after a filling breakfast, we hopped on the coach again and headed to the beautiful Basilica di Sant’Agostino. After a successful rehearsal, everyone’s spirits were lifted for the concert that afternoon. For the next few hours we explored the area around the Pantheon. On arrival, there was a brief downpour which left only those with umbrellas smiling and dry. However, the rain soon cleared up and we split for lunch. Full of delicious Italian food and lots of gelato, some explored the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and the Spanish Steps, while others fancied some Italian shopping and the weather was now bright and sunny for when we headed back to the Basilica.
We rapidly changed into our concert clothes, lined up, folders and all, ready to sing like angels. As we processed out, we received a welcome round of applause. The acoustic of this particular church was beautiful, resonating particularly well after any pieces finishing fortissimo, as did the last in our repertoire – this was the perfect ending to the concert. After the concert, we all visited the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps and got some great photos. We finished the evening with an amazing four-course meal, and, exhausted after a long day, headed back to the hotel.
On our second morning in Rome everyone was buzzing to head to the Vatican. Naïvely, many of us had not taken into consideration the dismal weather forecast, with a mindset of “how bad can it be?” and deciding to go with the flow. This soon turned out to be quite literal as we stepped off the coach and there was a river of rain flowing through the streets. Once in the dry, although nowhere near dry ourselves, we began our tour of the Vatican. Every single one of us was able to appreciate the grandeur and majesty that surrounded us for the next two hours. As we entered the Sistine Chapel, we were awestruck by its beauty and the delicacy and detail of the incredible artwork. At the end of the tour, most of us were now craving some pizza and we left the Vatican and searched for shelter in the form of a restaurant.
After lunch, we headed out again, prepared to join the dreaded queue to enter St Peter’s Basilica. Once we’d finally got through the security check and neared the basilica, our excitement began to grow as we appreciated the majesty of the building before us. It was a rushed entrance when we arrived but we sang beautifully in the most prestigious religious building in the world. It was an incredible experience and we were so proud to say we have sung there.
The following day we visited the Parco dei Monstri. This slightly strange park full of statues of monsters was a welcome moment of calm and a time to enjoy ourselves for a couple of hours surrounded by nature. After this we got on the coach and headed to the beautiful village of Viterbo for lunch consisting, yet again, of pizza.
The concert that afternoon in Vetralla was an unforgettable experience. It all went incredibly smoothly and once again the acoustic of the church was immaculate. What’s more, the people from the village who had come to enjoy our music were so grateful to us and astounded at our singing, with some even wanting their pictures taken with us! It was so lovely to experience their genuine pleasure and happiness that they got from our music.
In good spirits we headed to our final dinner of the tour, hosted by a delightful local couple with an astonishingly beautiful home. They even had a mini theatre in their garden – from which some of the choir sang for the rest of us. As the sun set over the hills, we were treated to yet another delicious meal. The journey home was particularly lively as many of us participated in karaoke, and this was a great ending to another amazing day.
On our final day, we were excited to head into central Rome and see the Colosseum for the first time. We were fortunate enough to visit and see so many of Rome’s most famous features in only a couple of hours, including the Circus Maximus, the Roman Forum and the Palatine and Aventine Hills. Soon it was time to head home as we reluctantly said goodbye to Rome and returned to England after a very successful and enjoyable trip.