Education: Roman Holiday

To budding U.S. artists and scholars who need time to polish their talents, a prize indeed is the Prix de Rome—a year or more at Rome's secluded American Academy. In a setting that might have inspired Horace, the yellow-walled palazzo sits serenely atop the Janiculum hill, Rome's highest, where the eye is on a level with St. Peter's dome, and a languid fountain dripping in the courtyard is louder than the city's raucous Vespas. If the place is out of this world, the effect jolts men to hard, realistic work. "I know I'll never get another chance like this in my...

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