A London 2023 Memoir by Dr. Rocky
February 9, 2024

A foggy day in London town… For the past two weeks, I can’t get that song out of my head. That is, since we got back from our first-ever travel program outside of Italy called “Donatello in London.” And boy did we have a lot of fun.  From the moment that our group checked into the Claridge’s hotel in the elegant Mayfair district of London, we knew that the next 4 days would be magical. We began the festivities with a delicious welcome dinner accompanied by great wines – that I personally selected – at the fantastic Sartoria restaurant (Stanley Tucci eat your heart out.) The next morning began with my prep lecture on the extraordinary artistic career of our guest of honor – Donatello- in the beautiful French Salon of the hotel. That afternoon, we spent 2 hours visiting the once-in-a-lifetime “Donatello: Sculpting the Renaissance” exhibition. It was an absolutely emotional experience to see so many of Donny’s masterpieces traveling outside of Italy for the first time – and probably the last for quite a long time!

So how do follow that up? Well, we outdid ourselves by visiting the Italian Renaissance art collection at the National Gallery the next morning – Duccio, Masaccio, Botticelli, Piero, Bellini, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, Van Eyck (yes, Van Eyck), Caravaggio, Artemisia – just to name a few of the artists whose works are in the collection. MAMMA MIA is an understatement! The collection at the National Gallery is staggering! And we laughed and learned and loved our way through the endless array of Italian masterpieces. 

After lunch, we were met by one our most popular online faculty members, Dr. Meghan Callahan. Meghan took us on tour of what is left of ancient Roman London, including the remains of an ancient theater and an incredibly well-preserved Mithraic temple – definitely a part of London that few people have ever seen, or even knew existed! That night we capped off the program with a spectacular family-style dinner at Il Borro restaurant. We laughed a little, cried a little, drank a lot (of wine) and – SADLY – said our arrivedercis. Even my kids (who were with us the whole time) were sad to see it end. Our Sunday morning departure for Heathrow was tragic – especially with four members of the incredibly kind and accommodating staff of the Claridge’s waving goodbye to our taxi outside of the hotel at 5:30am!

Well, signore e signori, we had such a great time, that we decided to do it again! Yep, A New Year in London Travel Program 2024/2025 from Dec. 29, 2024, to Jan. 2, 2025! Our motive is the “Michelangelo, Leonardo and Raphael” exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, but I realized that you really don’t need an excuse to visit a city with one of the world’s greatest ensembles of Italian Renaissance art. And what better way is there to ring in the New Year than with those 3 guys?

So answer the call and join me in London in December 2024 and discover how much Italy there is in London!

And to all of you who made our 2023 London program such a success, a big GRAZIE MILLE!

Rocky Ruggiero has been a professor of Art and Architectural History since 1999. He received his BA from the College of the Holy Cross and a Master of Arts degree from Syracuse University, where he was awarded a prestigious Florence Fellowship in 1996. He furthered his art historical studies at the University of Exeter, UK, where he received a Ph.D. in Art History and Visual Culture. In addition to lecturing for various American universities in Florence, Italy, including Syracuse, Kent State, Vanderbilt, and Boston College, Rocky has starred in various TV documentaries concerning the Italian Renaissance. He has appeared as an expert witness in the History Channel’s “Engineering an Empire: Da Vinci’s World” and “Museum Secrets: the Uffizi Gallery”, as well as the recent NatGeo/NOVA PBS program on Brunelleschi’s dome entitled “Great Cathedral Mystery.”
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