Relationships, Rome, and Returning Home

Concluding our adventures in Rome, this is Elena writing a late-night post before our departure at 3:00am to the airport.

I’d like to start with saying again, a very Happy Easter to all you readers and I hope you all enjoyed the holiday, shared it with people who matter to you, and thought on the meaning of this life and the love we share. We began our last day with a regularly early morning breakfast (the spread of options for which were probably one of my favorite parts – toast with jam or Nutella spread, cereal, cheese and salami, yogurt, a table full of varied pastries, and some delicious juice options I wish we had in the States, not to mention the cappuccinos and tea), and a few of us went to the nearby Santa Marria Maggiore for 9am mass. Not being Catholic myself, coupled with the service being in Italian, I was lucky to have Alicia keep me updated on what was going on. What I discovered, though, was that the experience of the service and the relationships you develop with the people around you are really what the importance of the message comes down to. When the people around us turned to shake our hands in greetings of peace, it didn’t matter who said it in English or who said it in Italian, or French, or any other language. In that moment, you are there together with a shared understanding of what brings you to that space.

This has been a prominent theme for this journey as a whole for me. To see the relationships between each of our group members evolve has been one of the best parts, made all the stronger to experience these amazing sites together. Everyone has brought something so unique to this trip. Spending each night discussing our spiritual journies and our life goals together, friendships take on an infinitely deeper understanding and meaning. I have learned so much about everyone I am spending this incredible experience with on this trip, but beyond that, they have helped me learn more about myself – and that is what has really made this trip a pilgrimage.

I think we could each say that this has been an incredible journey (I’ve checked at least three things off my bucket list by this point). Being an art history major, Rome is my bread and butter! I have seen so many things I’ve studied in class, I think I’ve almost cried a couple times from being so excited. But this trip has been so much more than monuments and famous paintings, or crypts and fancy churches, or even seeing the Pope (which we did both on Good Friday at Palatine Hill by the Colosseum and today for Easter Sunday at St. Peter’s, followed by a new appreciation for being squished with lots of strangers). This trip has been a quest in understanding ourselves, our friends, and how the world around us shapes us the way it does.

Hope to see you all at the shareholder dinner (date TBD), when we will gush all about our trip to Rome – complete with pictures – and serve you fantastic Italian food (or our attempts at it)! Thanks for reading!

Ciao, Rome, with all my love.


Happy Easter Everyone! This is Jessalyn, and I am going to blog a bit about some discussions on travel and why it is so important to me in my future. ūüôā

Every night here in Rome, upon resting our minds and feet after a long day of walking, exploring, and discovering the city, our group gathered to talk about what we saw, how we felt about what we saw, and what it all means. In addition, we each shared our own spiritual journeys, whether it be in religion, passion for interests, or hardships that we have overcome. Last night, however, we went further in sharing where we would like to go in life and the future. This idea is also somewhat broad, in the fact that we can share where we are particularly headed geographically, in our education, in our spiritual life, or another personal pursuit.

Since this trip to Rome reflects part of my future endeavors, I thought I would relay part of what I shared with the group.

For me, travelling is a fundamental part of living life to the fullest. While its incredibly fortunate to be able to see the world, view sites you have only seen in pictures, and be around completely different people from your home area, there is a much more deeper benefit and reward one¬†receives¬†from traveling. Experiences. It’s the experiences aquired through traveling that opens the mind to cultures, their history, wisdom, patience, different forms of beauty, and life as a whole from many differing, yet all important, perspectives.

Being from a small town, I know many individuals (over 50 years old) who have never left the area within a 100 mile radius. Don’t get me wrong, that is their choice and if that is what makes them happy, so be it. But from my stance, I wouldn’t last a year. I thrive on seeing new things, experiencing new things, being a part of new things- each different from what I am accustomed to. ‚ÄúTravel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime‚ÄĚ (Mark Twain). Life is way to short to keep saying “tomorrow”, or “next time”. I realized this one year and twenty-nine days ago when my father died at age 45. Way too young! I could die anytime, and I want to know that I experienced all that I could with the time that I had. And I have one important and amazing resource to do that: the World!

I realized a lot more things when my father passed away unexpectedly. At the time I was pursuing pre-med and knew I wanted a higher-end way of living throughout my life. I wanted the big house, expensive clothing, extravegant furniture and vehicles– I wanted it all. But now, I dont want any of that. Am I really going to be able to bring that fancy car or expensive wardrobe with me when I die? Will they be any value to me in the end? Obviously, no. So what things in life are truly valuable that I should spend my money, energy, and time on in life? Again, it’s experiences. I realize that I do want a nice house, nice clothes, and a nice car. But it doesnt have to be anything near extravagent. I would rather use my resources to travel with the people I love and create memories that will last a lifetime. That is what truly matters to me.¬†‚ÄúIt is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end‚ÄĚ (Ernest Hemingway).

As I meantioned above, traveling isn’t all about just ‘going’ places. I could get to every country on my buscket list (which is a lot) within a lifetime. This would be fairly easy if I was just traveling (or touristing) to say ‘Hey, guess where I’ve been’ and go on to name them all. While I do want to get to all those countries, places, and sites, I would much rather ‘experience’ that country. I could go to Paris and stand under the Eiffel Tower or watch the clock-hands of the Big Ben strike midnight at¬†the Palace of Westminster in London. While I do want to see and experience those things as well, I moreso want to engage myself with the culture and life of the countries. I want to crush the grapes with my feet at a vinyard in Tuscany; I want to sit atop an Asian Elephant while walking along the Rapti River in Nepal; I want to look down from the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro with the Kenya sun beaming down on my shoulders. Instead of leaving all these places with a picture in my mind, I want to leave with a change in my heart, in how I continue to go about life, and how I relay the wisdom gained through the experiences to others. I want to be impacted by the culture and the people. ‚ÄúThe real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes‚ÄĚ (Marcel Proust). I believe that being diversed in cultures and being ‘worldly’ is true wisdom.

A last thing I would like to note on and stress, is that I want to do all of these things, but not alone. I do like ‘roaming’ these streets of ‘Rome’ alone occasionally, but I believe the best way to get the most out of traveling and ‘experiences’ has a lot to do with ‘who’ you are with (or in our case, the group you are with- which has been great!).

So, to answer the question of why traveling is so important to my future is this: I want to experience everything life has to offer in as many meaningful and impacting ways as possible, with the people I love and who are close to me. With a volunteer trip to Nicaragua this summer and a 6 month study abroad ¬†trip to Ireland next year, I will once again be out of my comfort zone and having so many more experiences that will last me a lifetime. So, if you know anyone who hasnt left their home town for years (or their whole life), I highly recommend it. And remember,¬†‚ÄúThe journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step‚ÄĚ (Lao Tzu).

Happy Easter!


This is Alyssa from BadgerQuest! Happy Easter everyone! Today we will be spending our last day in beautiful Roma!

This trip has been absolutely amazing so far, I think we all agree we wish we could stay longer. My favorite place yesterday was the beautiful Trevi Fountain. Although its image can fit on a postcard it is grand in size, delicately and intriguingly carved out.

Today we will all be getting our last cappuccinos and gelatos, which have all been delicious! For this reason alone I plan on returning here, of course there are other reasons to return, but the food alone is amazing! I plan on convincing my family to come here and see all the wonderful and strange things. It truly is a city of wonder when you can walk past ancient monuments and brand new buildings within a few steps.

See everyone back in Madison and On Wisconsin!

Death & Dreams

March 30th

Ciao tutti! It’s Kierra and I’ll be giving my perspective on a couple interesting things from our second to last day in Rome!

Today we visited St. Peter’s, the Trevi fountain, the Spanish steps, and the Wedding Cake! All of which were wonderful to see and I appreciated the variety of cultures thrown together. St. Peter’s was a little too crowded for my taste, but of course impressionable. The Trevi fountain was a quick burst of fun; just being able to do the tradition of tossing a coin over your shoulder in hopes of returning to Rome. It was also so much larger and beautiful than I imagined. The Spanish steps were a little anticlimactic but it was fun taking pictures with the carabinieri! And the last spot we visited was the Wedding Cake, which I find particularly attractive. I got to take an elevator to the very top where you had the most magnificent view of Rome. It was an incredible experience!

Additionally we visited the Cappuccini Monastery! It has recently been modernized to contain not only the ancient decorations of bones, but also a museum portion. While the museum contains interesting information about the monks, I found the rooms decorated in bones to be the most intriguing. When you first enter the building you don’t expect there to be several rooms adorned in human remains. Each room is decorated with a central focus on one specific bone, such as a skull or pelvis room. The walls and ceiling throughout the space contain elaborate patterns with different skeletal parts. Additionally several sections have monks displayed in their traditional attire, either standing or laying down. After you’ve seen skeletons from thousands of previous monks, you’re greeted with a quaint bookshop and thrust back into the vivacious roman streets.

Although bone decor is enough to leave a lasting impression on anyone, I think the placard at the beginning is what particularly moved me.

“Noi eravamo¬†quello¬†che¬†voi siete, e¬†quello¬†che noi siamo voi sarete.”

“We were what you are, and what we are you will be.”

I get the chills just reading the quote. This simple statement, to me, encompasses so many essential characteristics of society: life, death, religion, and relationships. I take a unique perspective on this trip in regards to religion, so for me this site represented a place where people became aware of the precious life they have and how it will come to an end. But more so, how even though all of these monks are deceased, they continue to have an impact on society and create a connection with each person that walks through that display. I was deeply moved by the intricate beauty of how the bones were positioned and how even when there’s nothing left, you can still make a lasting impression on others.

March 30

Hey everyone! This is Matt from QuestRome and I will be telling you all about what we have done so far today in the wonderful city of Rome.

So far, today has been somewhat of an odd day for us Questers in that we had sometime to relax but also see plenty of sites.¬† The first site that we visted today was¬†non other that the beautiful St. Peter’s Basilica!¬† As most of¬†you may know this cathedral is located within¬†Vatican City and¬†is host to the Easter Day service,which we all will be attending tomorrow morning.

After St. Peter’s Basilica, we¬†stopped for a¬†quick lunch in Piazza Navona and then set off for a couple of Rome’s¬†main tourist sites, one of which was the Spanish Steps.¬† The Spanish Steps, as we learned today, do not have great historical significanc; however, because¬†of its gourgous architecture, busy atmosphere, and its reputation as a¬†hang out spot for some¬†of the world’s past major authors¬†(i.e. John Keats), it has become¬†a major tourist attraction.¬† Oh yeah! I almost forgot to tell you all that some of us had to opportunity to take a picture with a couple members of the Carabinieri, which could be somewhat¬†compared to¬†¬†a state trooper.¬† What’s so cool about an “Italian State Trooper,”, you ask? Well, these guys go far beyond just the regular¬†police¬†uniform that we see back in Wisconsin! They are¬†dressed up in snazzy¬†marine-like uniforms¬†and carry around swords.

After climbing up the Spanish Steps and walking down some of Rome’s beautiful side streets, we headed to the famous Trevi Fountain, where, after tossing a coin over their shoulder,¬†people¬†can ensure that they¬†will come back to¬†Rome, and then to the Caphuchin Monastery, which, in my opinion was one of the most unique places that we have visited so far in Rome.¬† When you first walk in, it looks like just another average museum with a couple of cool artifacts, relics, and poster boards with pieces of information on them.¬† However, when you reach the end of your self guided tour around the small museum, you come across four or so consecutive rooms decorated with nothing but human bone.¬† In the information¬†packet provided to us, it mention that the monks began to run out of room in their cemetaries and, in order to conserve space,¬†used the bones inside of the building.¬† There were some rooms that were¬†decorated primarily with skulls and even¬†some¬†with¬†pelvic bones.¬†¬†To say the least,¬†it was a very eery feeling walking in these rooms.

All in all, it was a very fun and productive day, and we cannot wait to continue exploring this beautiful city.

With much love from Rome!


March 28

Hello everybody and greetings from QuestRome. I am Sandy and I will be reporting on our wonderful journey yesturday.

Yesturday was an amazing day. We woke up really early and had breakfast at 7:30. The weather was cloudy and around 60. After breakfast, we headed to the subway that took us to Vatican City. I was really amazed by how crowded the station was and how fast the subways were.

We got to the Vatican Museum around 9, where Daniel had reserved our tickets before getting to Rome. I am so glad he did that since there was a huge line there. Right away we headed for the Sistine Chapel, in order to avoid the crowds. I was extremely touch and amazed when I was looking at the chapel. Looking up at the ceiling, I was astonished by how life like everything was.

After the Chapel, we went to explore the museum. By that time many people who were waiting in line got into the museum and many of the gallerys were extremely packed. There were so many amazing artifacts there, ranging from ancient Egyptian mummies to modern photography. My favorite part of the museum was the portions that housed the ancient Greek statues. It was great to see many so many art works that we had learned about.

After the Museum and lunch we headed to to St. Peter’s Basilica. After looking at the line we decided to save that for another day and instead head to Piazza del Popolo. We visited many of the shops and did some shopping. We ended the day with dinner at a nice quaint resturant at Piazza Navona and frequented the Gelato shop the night we had dinner with Professor Knust.

March 27, 2013

Greetings from Tim,

Today on our jounry through Rome, we visited the ancient city of Ostea. Lying in the ruins of brick buildings, marble temples, and stucco walls stood a beatuiful culture that gave me an insider perspective of ancient life.This experience was all together new to me because never before have I had such close contact with the ancient world. Not only did this adventure bring me closer to a once great civilization, but it also helped me paint a more realistic view of what the people were actually like. It is often easy to see people of past or even differing cultures as the “other”, and in doing such, one can view them as specimines or subjects of study. However, seeing their homes, forms of entertainment, and structures of worship brought their real life lifestyles a bit closer to me.

After traveling to the ancient city, our group visited the cathedral of St Paul. This house of worship was like none I have ever seen, for not only did its glamor capture the power of God, it also reminded me, as a Christian, of the importance of the apostle Paul and his work. This, for me, was important because it reminded me of his great influence in western world that eventually laid the grounds for my faith walk.  Nevertheless, although the church stood out with impecable beauty, I struggled with its grand ordinace. This church, like many Roman cathedrals, was decorated in gold, silver, marble, and other precious materals. Though their decadance has been argued to add to the worship service, I personally feel that it is an overkill, even a distraction to the message of Christ. For through the gathering of such material throughout the ages, numerous civilazations, ethnicities, and people groups were harmed in the name of the Christian mission. For me, this dichotamy has stirred great termoil, and I continue to fight through it in this city filled with beautiful houses of Worship.

‘Being’ in Rome

Goodmorning Family and Friends! This is Jessalyn Barker here on this fine day…

This morning I woke up to another beautiful morning in Rome, ready to start another day full of site-seeing, eating amazing food, and just ‘being’ in ROME! Last night we were roaming through many small streets in search of a favorite gelato shop and just seeing all the people, architecture, and life (that I’ve only seen in pictures) is definitely one of my favorite things here by far. I do love seeing all the great and famous sites, but thereis something about just ‘being’ in Rome that is truly captivating to me.

Our group just finished a lovely breakfast here at the convent in which we are staying at and are ready to head out to Ostia Antica for a day trip. We will get to see the beach (though its way to chilly to do more than walk along the shoreline) among many other exciting things.

I plan on telling all of you all about it when we return!! You all have a good day ūüôā

Good Morning, friends and family! This is Alicia with an early morning update.

After another delicious breakfast, we’re starting off today’s journey with a bus ride to the Catacombs of San’ Agnese (St. Agnes). These are the earliest christian catacombs, which makes me very excited to see them up close and personal.

After the catacombs, we’ll be visiting the Mausoleum of Constantina – a 4th century building converted to a church in the 5th century. We saw a very early and incredible church from the 6th Century yesterday, so I’m sure I will be taking lots of pictures of this one as well.

We also get to visit Santa Maria del Popolo which holds 2 very famous Caravaggio statues (as seen in the movie Angels and Demons) and the Piazza Navo (also in this movie), which used to be a racing track in Ancient Rome, but now holds a fabulous fountain in the middle surrounded by restaurants and GELATO!

For dinner we’re meeting up with Dr. Knust from Boston University and her son. It will be great to sit and eat an italian dinner with other people who enjoy Rome and studying Roman history as much as we do. Hopefully they have many interesting stories and historical facts to share with us!

We’re all very excited about what today will bring. Stay tuned to hear about it!

Much love from Rome!



Greetings from Rome! Gina here with an exciting recap of our first full day in the city!

Although the weather ourside our windows looked ominous, we began our pilgrimage of ancient Rome at The Colosseum. Nothing could match the excitement of that first full view of the giant ruin. The crazy picture taking began. (Mostly of Tim jumping off huge rocks in front of the site.)

Once inside The Colosseum our eyes wandered from the tall walls that were once stadium style seating to the sunken gladiator holding areas. As we weaved in and out of school groups listening to their guides, we got a sense of what it was like to be an ancient Roman.

Next on our list was the Palatine Hill. We viewed aqueducts, the hippodrome, and the living quarters of famous leaders of imperial Rome. The art that once adorned the Hill is truly stunning.

On the walk down the Palatine Hill, we encountered the Roman Forum. Rome is a combination of cities built on itself that culminates in a continuous history that is all but forgotten. Temples, churches and monuments line the Via Sacra. The sheer size and detail of the structures – no matter what period they were built in – were nothing short of impressive.

From the Roman Forum we walked to the Jewish Ghetto for dinner passing another ancient Roman theater. We all justified our carb intake by the amount of walking done today. (The food was as Rome is – incredible.)

After another walk near the Roman Forum at nightfall, we capped off the night with a gelato ¬†treat, something I hope will become a nightly tradition. Back at the guest house we bega sharing our “spiritual journies” with one another.¬† Good night and lots of love from Rome!