First Roads Lead to Rome


As a green young seminarian, I had the good fortune to be allowed to join my classmates in the University of Dallas tradition of having the sophomore class spend one semester at the UD Rome campus. It is a semester that is organized for travel. While we had to carry a full fifteen credit hour load, the term was skewed in organization such that we banked extra class time at the beginning and four-day weekends at the end. The formal course work also included on-site classes in Tuscany, Venice, Assisi, and ten-days in Greece. We seminarians stayed in a different location, across the valley of farmland at the Capuchin monastery, and we arrived a week early to conduct our annual Spring retreat with our seminary advisor, Fr. Damian Fandal, O.P.

A grid of photos from the early days of my Rome semester.
The first days of the experience were filled with wonder.
All photos by the author. Gallery available at Wright Gibson Memories


Amazing. Amazing to be in Rome, but nothing can quite compare to the first time I walked into Saint Peter’s Basilica. Wow! That is an enormous structure. The sheer scale of it is hard to absorb. Of course, now it is what it is and I don’t notice on the several occasions I’ve had to revisit. But that first time. Wow! And the meal we had! It was the first time I was able to appreciate what I would come to respect most about the Italians. They know how to eat. Slowly. For hours. With good friends, good conversation, and above all, good food.


For the alumnus of our Rome Adventure, one might want to peruse the full gallery of all my photos. Be warned, over the course of the term I took over 650 photos. 😄

Grid of photos of St Peter's Baldacchino, the alabaster window, the Baldacchino again, and the dome. The second row has the fountain in the Piazza Vaticano, the statue of St Dominic, the fountain of the four rivers in the Piazza Navona, and the sun setting behind San Agnese en Agonea.
Photos of St. Peter’s Basilica and the Piazza Navona.
All photos by the author. Gallery available at Wright Gibson Memories


We had formal coursework and lectures in Venice, Ravenna, and Assisi. We traveled by bus to Venezia and then we met the city of legend. The canals were amazing to see and smell. The history, art and architecture packed into this small space was remarkable. With piazzas and cathedrals and palaces at every corner, it was amazing. And then there was the adventure of simply wandering through the city. At one point, several of us wandered across into purely residential areas, starting a life-long appreciation for traveling in the non-touristy areas.

Ravenna was amazing, but not as famous as its cousin to the north, so I had no idea what we would see there. As I’ve grown older and read more, I have even more appreciation for what we saw, such as the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe, the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia and the tomb of Dante Alighieri.

Assisi did not fail to impress, but most impressive was staying with families across the old city and being able to go out in the evening and walk about the city. Remarkable for the time, given the cost of fuel of all sorts, the Basilica of Saint Francis was fully lit by floodlights all night due to an infusion of money from the US.

A grid of photos from Venice, Ravenna, and Assisi
Photos from Venice, Ravenna, and Assisi.
All photos by the author. Gallery available at Wright Gibson Memories


My youthful city crush was on Florence or Firenze. My first visit was with the group as we traveled to the city. We visited the Uffizi Gallery and saw some of the most famous works of renaissance art. I returned twice over the course of the term and never made it all the way across the city. There is simply so much that is beautiful and interesting packed into this space that I was fully occupied each time. I tended to move from the train station across the city and I never made it all the way to Santa Croce. My only regret is that I did not take many photos while I was in Florence. Strangely, I have not had opportunity to return to the city since my time all these years ago.

From Florence we traveled to Sienna (or was it vice versa?). I’ve returned to Siena later in life, but it was a fascinating city to visit while at university. I also visited Bologna on one of my trips as I was rather interested in St. Dominic and his tomb is found there.

A grid of pictures of Siena, the tomb of St. Dominic in Bologna, and Florence.
A selection of photos from Sienna, Bologna, and Florence.
All photos by the author. Gallery available at Wright Gibson Memories


One of the most remarkable aspects of the University of Dallas Rome Program is the 10-day Greece trip. It is class time. Professors lecture on sites and there is so much to learn. Much that we had learned about western civilization from our coursework came vividly to life as we ran races on the fields of Olympia, walked under the Lion Gate of Mycenae, orated in the auditorium of Epidaurus, stood the shoes of the Corinthians, looked out over Argos to contemplate the plans to depart to Troy, stood atop the Acropolis, visited the oracle at Delphi, and so much more.

Photos from Olympia, Epidaurus, Corinth, Athens, and Delphi.
All photos by the author. Gallery available at Wright Gibson Memories


It is a wonderful tradition of the UD Rome program that we have 10-Day. One could call it Spring or Fall Break, but we don’t. Most of the term is spent discussing what one plans to do on 10-Day. Where will you go? Some choose unusual adventures, like traveling to the Arctic Circle. Others try to penetrate the Iron Curtain (yes, I’m that old). We went on a form of pilgrimage (because Seminarians).

Memories of our travels to Lourdes, Loyola, El Escorial, Valle de los Caídos, Montserrat, and Barcelona.
All photos by the author. Gallery available at Wright Gibson Memories

We started in Lourdes where St. Bernadette experienced her visions of the Blessed Mother. Then we moved on to Loyola because our Father Jack was a Jesuit. Then we traveled to Madrid where we drove out to Avila and the home of St. Teresa of Avila, the massive palace of El Escorial and the controversial monument Valle de los Caídos, as well as visiting the Prado. Then we moved on to Barcelona where we also traveled out to Montserrat where St. Ignatius laid down his military life, later founding the Society of Jesus.

What do you think?