A Travellerspoint blog

The Trevi

So I cannot get on top of my stuff in order to update you all about Barcelona, the Amalfi Coast, and Paris in a timely fashion. I am leaving for spring break tomorrow, so I will not be updating for a while.

Richmond, the university I am studying with, publishes a book of student essays at the end of every semester. Each semester, the essays have a theme, and many professors urge students to write a short piece and earn extra credit for the class. In addition, we receive a copy of the booklet with out essay in it and one is sent to our home university. The theme this year was "stone": the essay simply consists of a description of anything in Rome having to do with stone. I was encouraged by all four of my professors to write one, so I wrote on my favorite fountain in Rome, the Trevi fountain, which is posted below.

“Is this the Trevi? How about that one? Oh wait! What about this one?!”

Every time my sister and I passed a fountain in Rome, a question like this came out of her mouth, eager to find the famed Trevi Fountain. I attempted to explain that surprisingly, the wonder of the Trevi Fountain is not on display in some open-air piazza in Rome, a concept that is quite striking for a fountain so celebrated

The magnificence of the Trevi Fountain lies in it’s relatively hidden location. There are no grand boulevards leading up to the fountain, and the modest brown and white street signs merely point in the general direction of its location. Even so, one risks getting lost trying to navigate the narrow alleyways leading up to the fountain. Despite the hubbub of tourists on these streets, the sound of the falling water is mildly deafening, even from far away. People are essentially summoned by the sound of the flow of the water.

When you finally reach the fountain, the splendor of the Trevi is discovered. Whichever direction you approach the fountain from; it always reveals a new aspect of itself. From the left side, you are immediately confronted with an unruly sea horse that looks like it will emerge from its cast at any second. This horse depicts the turbulent side of the sea through the agony of the animal’s contorted face, trapped inside the stone. As you move around the fountain to the right, Poseidon stands tall as a force of nature overseeing and guarding the motion and well being of the fountain. His sturdy stance is somewhat contradicted by the billowing stone material wrapped around his body, an incorporation of convincing movement that is hard to come by in a stone structure. When facing the Trevi Fountain head-on, you do not feel like you are simply looking at a piece of art, but rather experiencing the movement of the artist’s tools as he worked the unforgiving stone.

Clearly the fountain is a tribute to Rome’s extensive aqueduct system with the many streams of water cascading over the rocks. Due to this fact, each waterfall is stronger than the next; giving life to the stone edifice it runs over. There is an abundance of stone wildlife thriving in the clean water, apparently about to burst into bloom.

The event that takes place when sitting in front of the Trevi Fountain is one unparalleled in any other part of Rome. While sitting on the stairs facing the fountain, you can be transported to Poseidon’s place simply by listening to the rush of the water. The sound of the water is in direct accordance time and place of the fountain, and therefore an encounter with the Trevi Fountain leaves you joined to the sculpture in some, inexplicable way.

Posted by taylork210 06:18 Comments (0)

La Città Eterna

Synopsis of first few weeks in Rome!

It is difficult to believe that we have been in Rome for six weeks already: the time has absolutely flown by, and I know it will only pass more quickly as the semester winds down.

We arrived in Rome on February 5th to a grey and rainy city: something new and different for us. The bus dropped us off right outside the Vatican walls where my roommates and I hopped in a cab and were sent to our apartment!

We were greeted by our landlord, Peppe Piermarini, a sweet little old man who speaks got albeit shaky English. He helped us with our bags (we had a ton of stuff between the three of us), and showed us around the apartment a little bit. He gave us our keys and explained the utilities and the washing machine and other appliances. We also met his wife (I cannot remember her name), who is apparently a clean freak. I guess that is good, it will make us keep our apartment somewhat tidy for the time we are here. Sinead and I decided to share the smaller double room because we had already lived together in Florence. We claimed our beds and began to unpack: it was refreshing to totally unpack my bags and settle into our apartment.

At dusk, Sinead, Katherine and I went exploring. We headed down our street peering into all of the boutiques and cafes along the way, until we came to a dead end at the Colosseum. We were all immediately taken with the enormity of it, and spent half an hour walking around it and trying to actually absorb the fact that we were a) standing in Ancient Rome; and b) we would be living here for the next three and a half months. I met up with my guy friends, Brad, Brenden, and Michael, and we headed over to Caitlin’s apartment to meet up with everyone else. We walked through the Forum and passed what Italians call the “Wedding Cake” Monument. It is a huge, gaudy monument dedicated to the first king of united Italy, Vittorio Emanuelle II. Italians do not like this piece of modernish art because it does not fit into the surrounding ancient ruins,

No one really wanted to go out, we just wanted to explore the city at night (I think the fountains and monuments tend to be prettier at night anyway). We walked to the center of town to see Piazza Navona, which holds Bernini’s Four Rivers fountain, the Pantheon, and the Trevi Fountain. The Trevi Fountain is magnificent: there is no grand boulevard leading up to it, no space was cleared out to single it out from the buildings it lies between. One always approached this fountain via a small, windy, Roman street, and you can usually hear the flush of the waterfalls well before the fountain comes into sight. This is definitely my favorite fountain in Rome: the beauty of the water and the carved stone were a bit too much to handle for the first day, and I almost ended up in tears over the perfection of it. The ten or so of us sat down on a step facing the Trevi, and continued to sit like that in silence for about forty five minutes. There were probably a hundred or so tourists around, taking pictures and throwing coins in, but we could not be bothered to notice anything except the mere fact that we were finally in Rome.

Friday the 6th we had another orientation meeting. This one, unlike icebreakers in Florence, was more to acquaint us with the city and make sure everyone knew everything in case of an emergency etc. etc. We received our class schedules, an econo-seized map, two single-ride bus tickets, and a bunch of other logistical papers. Grandmama and Caroline also arrived that morning! They got to their hotel right when our meeting was starting, so they were able to nap while I listed to a woman from the American Embassy in Rome tell horror stories about foreign students studying abroad. Honestly, who in their right mind would have the audacity to try push a carabinieri (military police officers) car down the Spanish Steps with the officers still in it?! We immediately scratched that off of our to-do list.

When I met up with Grandmama and Red, we just walked around my neighborhood a little bit before heading to do the Piazza Navona/Pantheon/Trevi Fountain loop (I need a nickname for that). I was able to give them a bit of a history lesson on each of the things we saw because I am a guidebook nerd and read my Rick Steves Rome 2008 book cover-to-cover before they got here. So, this is what they learned:

1) Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the founder of Baroque Rome, dedicated his Four Rivers fountain to the four continents that were known at the time: the Ganges for Asia, the Danube for Europe, the Nile for Africa, and the Rio de la Plata for America. The fountain is adorned with palm trees, horses, and even an armadillo.
2) The Pantheon (“pan” meaning “every” and “theon” meaning “god”), Grandmama’s favorite building in Rome, was built in 120 A.D. by Emperor Hadrian. The perfect, ancient dome of the Pantheon served as inspiration for the domes of Michaelangelo’s St. Peter’s and Brunelleschi’s Duomo (in Florence)
3) The Trevi Fountain was commissioned to Nicola Salvi by a pope who wanted to celebrate the opening of an ancient aqueduct. It is apt, therefore, that this fountain was designed to demonstrate how the Roman aqueducts function. There are 24 spouts that allow the water to fall over 30 different kinds of plants. My favorite part of the fountain are the horses that represent the two sides of the sea: one is unruly and tumultuous, and the other is calm and tranquil. Also, every tourist is supposed to throw a penny into the fountain to insure that they will return to Rome.

After this mini-tour, we headed home to get ready for dinner. On the recommendation of Rosanna, the receptionist and Grandmama and Red’s hotel, we went to a place around the corner called Taverna dei Fori Imperiali. Ironically, my friend Zoe had also told me to go to this place: she said it had some of the best Italian food she has ever eaten. It was delicious (I have been back twice since then): I had orechette with broccoli, sausage, and pecorino cheese, Red had enormous ravioli, and Grandma had linguini with clams that looked delicious. The restaurant is tiny with probably only about twenty tables and there is usually a line to get in, so if you do not have a reservation, you are basically screwed. It is run by a family: Alessandro is the head chef, his wife and their son serve tables, and his son is the drink waiter. The atmosphere is great: there red-and-white-checkered tablecloths, there is always a different fragrance in the air, and the place is always bustling.

On Sunday, we went to see the Pope! We walked up to St. Peter’s to arrive at a packed square all waiting for Pope Benedict XVI to come out and bless the crowd. He appears from his office window every Sunday to give a blessing to the people standing so far beneath him. He spoke in Italian, Latin, French, English, Spanish, German, and probably another language or two that I am forgetting. We then headed to the massive line that was forming to enter St. Peter’s Basilica.

(In Italy, a basilica is specifically a church that houses the remains of someone, usually a saint, whereas a chiesa is simply a church used for worship.)

I have now been inside this basilica four times since I have been in Rome, but the splendor of the home of Catholicism always has something different to offer, usually because of the lighting. Based on which time of day you go, the light streams in from the windows hitting the altarpiece or the gold mosaic tiles so the whole church sparkles. Many great Italian artists contributed to the 112-year construction of this basilica: Michelangelo designed the dome; Bernini designed the four pilasters that hold the dome up, and Bramante as the original architect of the entire basilica. Michelangelo’s Pietà is also in St. Peters, but unfortunately this beautiful piece of Renaissance art is protected by a large piece of glass so you are only able to stand about twenty feet away from it. Still, this atypical representation of Mary and Jesus is brilliantly carved. It is in the shape of a triangle to represent the Holy Trinity, with the life-sized Jesus burdening his mother with his weight. But Mary’s face is clearly too young to be that of a mother of a 33-year-old man: it is possible that Michelangelo wanted to represent eternal youth. On the other hand, it is also possible this may be a flash to the future, a representation of Mary at the time of the Annunciation (when the angel Gabriel came down to tell Mary she would bear the child of Christ).

On Tuesday (my birthday!!!), Grandmama and Red went to the Capitoline Museums (Rome’s capital hill), while I had class. I rearranged my class schedule a little bit so I have all for of my classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9-6. This may seem brutal, but it means that I have a four-day weekend! I would also rather get all of my classes finished with in the morning, and I had one class scheduled for 3:00 in the afternoon on Mondays and Wednesdays, which would have been such a drag.

My classes are great for the most part, and all of my professors are awesome. Italian Literature in Translation is a bit slow going, partially because it is a 9am class. My professor, Luca Marcozzi is brilliant, but he literally speaks in a stream of consciousness that often has nothing to do with the topic. So far we have read Dante’s Divine Comedy, Bocaccio’s Decameron, and some works by Petrarch. We will be reading other authors like Machiavelli later in the semester.

I am also taking Introduction to Renaissance and Baroque Art, which may be my favorite class. My professor, Daria Borghese (yes, she is related to the Borghese family), is this 55-year-old fashionable Roman woman (I guess that is not saying much—all Roman women are fashionable) who has a such a passion for teaching art history I am often floored by her. She is incredibly knowledgeable (I guess she has to be to be a university professor) and loves to talk to us about anything and everything. She praises us in Italian when we get a question right, and becomes disappointed in us when we have not done our reading. I have the class with Brenna, Brad, and Ariel, which makes the class that much more fun.

Brad, Brenna, and I are also in the same History of Italian Cinema class: another awesome class taught by an awesome professor, Maddelena. We are studying all of Italian cinema—literally from the beginning of the first Italian movie up until now. I watched some of the films in my Italian class two semesters ago, including one of my favorite neo-realist films, “Rome Open City.” I do not know why, but I just love everything about the movie, even if it is an extremely depressing commentary on life under Fascist rule.

There are only five people in my Italian class, and the other day my friend Ally called it a cult. We were all in the same class in Florence, so we have been close since then. It is a great way to learn the language because we all feel comfortable helping each other out. I like to speak, Emily likes grammar, Ally likes to joke around, Alicia forms perfect sentences, and Josh likes to make fun of me. Matilde (our professor) brings us fun Italian snacks and takes us out for coffee and forces us to speak Italian in and outside of class.

My Italian is developing every day, and I can understand the majority of things people say. One odd experience I had a couple of weeks ago was while I was eavesdropping on my bus ride home from school. I was listening to the conversations around me, and tuned into the chatter of two men behind me. I was thoroughly confused as I attempted to uncover what language they were speaking, when I suddenly heard some words that only exist in Italian and realized with a bit of horror that they were, in fact, speaking some incomprehensible dialect of Italian that I could not understand. I was amazed by this, and can only guess that they came from Southern Italy (Sicily, perhaps), where their language is so different that many fluent Italians cannot even understand it!!

My first day of classes was also my birthday, so I met up with Grandmama and Red for dinner when classes ended. One of Grandmama’s friends who travels a lot recommended a restaurant at the top of the Spanish Steps on top of the Hotel Messner called Imago. The views from the top of the restaurant were glorious: you could see all of Rome and way beyond. The penguin-outfitted staff was adorable and helpful, making sure everything was perfect all the time. We had a Prosecco toast to my twenty-one years, and I had a glass of my favorite Italian wine, Brunello di Montalcino. My eclectic dinner consisted of delicious gnocchi filled with olives and cheese and topped with octopus! For dessert, I had a chocolate and ricotta torte with saffron gelato. They wrote “Happy 21th Birthday!” I laughed at the slight grammatical error. After dinner, Caroline and I went over to the boy’s apartment to meet up with them before going out. I walked in and was thrown back by the loud ‘SURPRISE!’ that came hurdling my way. My friends were adorable—they got me a little chocolate torte and a bottle of Prosecco to celebrate.

The day after my birthday, Caroline and I got up a bit earlier than we would have liked in order to meet Grandmama for a tour of the Forum and the Colosseum. The cute tour guide we had was way worth getting out of bed for, though. This informative man’s name was Tom, and he took us through a few thousand years of Roman history in the Forum and Colosseum. We saw the exact place where Julius Caesar was cremated—people still put flowers on top of the cremation site! Some people are nuts.

On Thursday Grandmama and Red went to the Vatican Museums to see the Sistine Chapel while I had my lengthy day of classes. They both said it was amazing (Grandmama and I had been there once before already): how could it not be? They also went to the top of the Vittorio Emanuelle II statue to see more sprawling views of the city.

We were supposed to go to the Borghese Gallery on Friday, but there was a strike so we had to reschedule for Saturday. Instead, we spent the day souvenir shopping and going back to Red’s favorite gelato place near the Pantheon. Saturday was the perfect day to go to the Borghese: it was about 55 degrees without a cloud in the sky. This is my favorite art gallery in all of Rome, possibly in the world. Cardinal Scipione Borghese built this 17th century villa to house his family’s priceless art collection, spanning from ancient art up through the 1800s. The collection includes many sculptures by Bernini (my favorite is Apollo & Daphne), Canova’s sculpture of Pauline Bonaparte, and paintings by Titian and Caravaggio, just to name a few. I personally think this is the most beautifully assembled collection of art in the world. The mere list of names represented in the Borghese is mind-boggling.

That night, Valentine’s Day, we went back to Taverna dei Fori Imperiali for our last supper in Rome. Caroline and I then went to my friend Carly’s house where my friends were having a pot-luck type of Valentine’s Day dinner. We were there for a bit, but Red had to get up early to leave for the airport so she said her goodbyes and we headed back to the hotel. I said goodbye to Grandmama & Caroline and went back to my apartment with Brenna and Dana a bit teary-eyed. Even though it was a crazy week, I learned my way around Rome quickly, and was then able to get around without a map after a short ten days in the city.

The next weekend, my friend Meredith came to visit me! (She is studying in London, I saw her while I was there). I was able to play tour-guide again, and I was able to give her a complete history lesson about the city. We saw everything Grandmama and Red saw, including taking the elevator to the top of the Vittorio Emanuelle II monument to see gorgeous views of the city. It had rained the entire previous week, but Mere brought the good weather with her, so we were able to leisurely walk around the city enjoying the clear skies and warm breezes.

I took her into the Vatican Museums because I was not about to let her leave Rome without seeing it. We literally power walked through the museum until we hit the Sistine Chapel, which was a complete sensory overload. Meredith was speechless. It is said to be the most incredible piece of art done by a single artist in the world—I do not doubt it. The bright colors, the emotion shown on the faces of the characters on the ceiling and Last Judgment wall break many rules of Renaissance art. Michelangelo was commissioned by Pope Julius II to paint the Sistine Chapel: he was basically given free reign on how to paint the ceiling, which he completed between 1508 and 1512. He was also brought to Rome kicking and screaming, reluctant to paint the Chapel because he did not see himself as a painter. For those of you who do not know, the ceiling depicts the world according to Michelangelo with nine panels: creation of light, creation of the planets, separation of water and earth, creation of Adam, creation of Eve, original sin and the expulsion from the garden, the sacrifice of Noah, the construction of Noah’s arc, and the drunkenness of Noah. I do not really understand what Noah’s connection with Genesis is, considering it is part of the New Testament. I do know, however, is that the original entrance into the Sistine Chapel is not where we entered, close to the Last Judgment wall: people originally entered through the back of the chapel, underneath the scene showing drunken Noah. This is the order in which you are supposed to look at the panels: from Noah to the creation of light, moving from the most human of actions to up to the altar wall, above which the most divine action takes place. The Last Judgment wall is simply another demonstration of Michelangelo’s genius. It shows Judgment Day, with Christ deciding who to place in heaven and who to place in hell. If Michelangelo did not like you, he put you in hell, if you were his friend you were lucky enough to go to heaven. There is a pope who was rude to Michelangelo during his time in Rome, so he put the guy in the lowest corner of the wall being suffocated by a snake. Michelangelo even painted his own face in the wall: St. Bartholomew was skinned alive, and he is painted holding his own skin, on which is the artist’s face (gruesome, I know). Mere and I sat there for about forty-five minutes just staring (and taking pictures, which you are not supposed to do). There is always something new to see in the Sistine Chapel.

So far, everything in Rome has been wonderful. I love everything about this city, especially the history and the amount that I am learning about the city I feel I can now call my own.

Posted by taylork210 02:34 Comments (2)

Venezia and the last days in Firenze

Each city we go to is more beautiful than the last.

We arrived to 60-degree, turquoise-colored sky weather in Venice, and the first thing I noticed about the city was that it was significantly quieter than Florence. I do not know what I had been expecting, but the image of Venice I had in my head did was not accompanied by the shocking serenity of the city that I experienced upon my arrival. We stood along the canal for a few minutes marveling at how the color of the sky reflected that of the water almost perfectly. These were some of the brightest colors I have seen since I have been in Italy, and what better place to experience something like that than Venice.

We walked along the canal to our hostel, which was literally a hole in the wall. The streets of Venice are tiny to begin with, but this was an exception. Before we left, Rosanna (our director) had warned us that since we were staying in the center of Venice, we were going to be roughing it a bit in comparison to our four-star hotel in Florence. I shared a room with my two roommates from Florence (Sinead and Renee), and my friend Carly also joined us. Quarters were tight—one person at a time could hardly maneuver between the beds. There was a big double bed and then a set of bunk beds in the room. These “bunk-beds,” if you could even call them that, basically consisted of a couple of pieces of thin wood held together by a few springs and nails. The bottom bunk, where I was to reside for the two-day trip, was more or less a crib with a crunchy thing for a mattress: I literally had to climb into bed, not just sit on it, and I dared not move. It is a good thing that Carly, who was sleeping above me, is not fat.

Our professors started our tours of Venice almost instantly after our arrival. We found Franz, the one who took us through the Galleria dell’Accademia and the Uffizi, and latched ourselves onto him for the duration of the trip. We ventured out into the small alleyways and bridges that make up the roads of Venice. I honestly do not know how anyone navigates the streets of that city. I felt like I needed to leave a trail of breadcrumbs in order to find my way back home. Not that that would have been extremely efficient, considering there are probably more pigeons than people in Venice.

We stayed on one side of the main canal, weaving in and out of the teeny alleyways filled with boutiques and cafes alike, ending up in front of a church, but I have since forgotten the name. It has since turned into a museum, and I do not think it still serves the purpose of a church (although I could be wrong). Most of the wall frescoes are by Tintoretto, with a few paintings by Titian in between. They had huge mirrors in each corner of the room we were in so you could look at the paintings on the ceiling without breaking your neck, which I thought was rather innovative.

We left this church/museum and headed to another enormous church right across the street, called Santa Maria della Visitazione. It is quite amazing that cathedral-sized churches are found among such narrow streets. It is also amazing how incredibly freezing the churches are because of the marble. Here, we saw Canova’s tomb (a famous Italian sculptor), someone else’s tomb, and we saw what Franz thinks is Titian’s most beautiful painting.

The rest of the afternoon was ours to walk around and discover Venice on our own. We just wandered around a bit and ended up getting completely lost. Later that night, we all trekked over to the other side of the canal to see Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) to see the splendor of the most famous square in Venice, and it truly lives up to all of the pictures and movie scenes in which it is the background. Also, everything is more peaceful at night and therefore more beautiful, at least for me. The square is even bigger than perceived in movies: it seemed to take an eternity to walk from where we entered the square all the way up to the church. We sat on some benches by the canal for a while just talking and laughing and such before heading home for the night.

The next day, we rose rather early and trudged through bitter cold winds to get to the Doges Palace and St. Mark’s. The Doges, or Duke, was the leader of the republic of Venice for over a thousand years, and resided in this gorgeous palace located between St. Mark’s square and the Venetian Lagoon. It took us about three hours to go through the entire palace, and we were thoroughly exhausted after the tour. The rooms were spectacularly frescoed and they were enormous. There is a beautiful Titian painting hidden in a stairwell that I would never have noticed if I had not been with a guide.

After that tour, we headed into St. Mark’s, the third largest Catholic Church in the world, following St. Peter’s in Rome and Notre Dame in Paris. Every single church we walk into has a different story, a different effect, a different feel, and the decoration, the architecture, and the history never ceases to amaze me. When we walked into St. Mark’s, it was literally glittering, which had a nearly blinding effect. Luckily, we caught the last ten minutes of the lights switched on (they are only on from about 9:30am until noon every day, I am not sure why). What we did not immediately recognize was that the ceiling and dome decorations were all mosaic.

Following St. Mark’s, we had the remainder of the day to get lost in Venice. We were going to take the ferry over to Murano to see some glass blowing, but we discovered that the ferries that were running were expensive and did not run that often. We parked ourselves on a bench by the Ponte Rialto (Venice’s version of the Ponte Vecchio, although it is nothing like it), and decided what do to. We decided that in lieu of a gondola ride (which was 80 Euro for thirty minutes—what a rip off), we were going to hop on one of the waterbuses and tour Venice that way. These waterbuses run in Venice like the bus system does in Rome, and is relatively extensive for a town with canals for streets. So we hopped on one of them and explored the Grand Canal and the greater Venice area for a while, and ended up back close to St. Mark’s square.
After descending from the waterbus, we did a bit of Murano glass shopping. And by a bit I mean I think we went into every single store in the city that had something made of glass (mind you, virtually every street is lined with shops, and virtually every shop has something made of Murano glass). Although the repetition of a zillion items made of colored glass could have become old after a while, there was always a new trinket to discover with different colored glass that expanded beyond the color wheel. In one shop we went into, the presumable owner of the store was making glass butterflies. He had about twenty of them lined up on a cooling rack on his desk, and completed about six more in the twenty minutes we spent in his shop. After a while, the cold started to go right through out peat coats and Uggs, so we returned to the hostel to warm up.

We effectively experienced both spring and winter during our stay in Venice: we woke up to snow on Sunday morning! We threw ourselves out of bed, bundled up, and walked around the corner to the Guggenheim Museum. I was not remotely interested in modern art, but we were with Franz again and he taught us a lot about the artists like Picasso and Pollack. By the way, Peggy Guggenheim was psychotic (I guess you must be a little crazy to love modern art): she is buried in the courtyard of the museum with her twelve dogs. She also pretended to be shocked and awed at her daughter’s suicide after she slept with her husband. Some family.

It was a whirlwind of a weekend, and we were all relieved to return to Florence, only to begin packing for our departure to Rome on Thursday!!

There was one thing I had to do before I left Florence, and that was to visit the host family I stayed with when I came to Italy two and a half years ago. Carla and Maurizio Stanghellini, my host parents, had welcomed me with open arms into their cozy Florentine apartment when I did not speak a lick of Italian. In the two months I spent with them they really did become my parents, and I became close with their daughter, Claudia, and their grandson, Gabrielle. After school on Tuesday I picked up a bunch of Gerber daises and headed north to pay them a visit. My friend Brenna heard me talking about them time and time again and wanted to come with me (which was good—she calmed me down on the walk up to their apartment).

I rang the doorbell and was let in by Gabrielle. I was so excited to see him, but I had trouble trying to formulate a coherent sentence in Italian to ask if his grandparents were home. He did not recognize me right away, but scampered down the stairs just as well to get Carla. Carla did not recognize me immediately, but Claudia knew who I was and told her mom that I stayed with them during Halloween—they remembered that I brought them candy corn and some candles with ghosts and black cats on them. Carla eventually came around, and recalled that I brought her a giant bulb from Amsterdam, which has since bloomed into a big white flower with a pink middle. As soon as Maurizio saw me he knew who I was (although he still cannot say my name…the letter “k” does not exist in the Italian alphabet), and greeted me with kisses and asked me how Obama and the Big Apple were. Maurizio’s brother, Tommy, was there as well, and we all sat down and ate some delicious Carnevale snack that Carla made. Brenna sat bewildered as we began speaking in rapid Italian (she literally just started learning the language when we arrived in Florence): quite the contrast from the last time I was here. Carla and Maurizio used to correct me when I made a grammatical error, which they continued to do when I used the wrong auxiliary verb or something like that. Brenna was able to form a few simple sentences and practice her Italian a bit, for which the Stanghellinis praised her.

We left after about an hour, and they invited us back that night for dinner. I was a bit too jittery so I did not realize that they had invited both of us for dinner that night, so I returned a few hours later alone. The dinner was just like the ones I ate with them when I was living there: we sat around the table eating, drinking, talking about politics, and watching a game show that is something like “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” Just like old times, Carla fed me more than my stomach could hold. We ate penne with tomato sauce, chicken, potatoes, bread, salad, tomatoes, and pannetone (sweet cake with raisins in it) for dessert. During dinner, Carla told me that a Japanese guy who stayed with them ten years ago recently came back to visit with his girlfriend! They have been hosting students from all over the world for years, and I am thoroughly impressed that they remember the bulk of them. Unfortunately, my visit was short-lived because I had my Italian final the next day. Before I left, Carla told me to call her any time I was in Florence because she always had a bed for me to sleep in if need be. We exchanged cell phone numbers and I went on my way. I am glad I was able to see them before I left for Rome: I would have regretted it if I had not made the trip up there ☺.

Posted by taylork210 09:21 Comments (2)

Alcuni cosi che avevo imparato dell'Italia...

(Some things I have learned about Italy...)

So I know that I have been slacking in my blog posts, I am still working on the ones on Venice, the last days in Florence, the first month or so in Rome, and Barcelona. They will be up soon, hopefully by the end of the week.

Until then, here are some things I have learned about Italy since I have been here:

1. There is no such thing as bad Italian food. If you are in Italy and think the food you are eating is bad, go back to your own country.

2. Eating gelato every day is a given. It is equivalent to taking vitamin supplements.

3. People walk everywhere to walk off the carb-and-gelato loaded meals.

4. Crossing the street in Rome is like playing Frogger.

5. Apparently, one hour and forty minutes is too long of a time to sit straight through class: we have a fifteen-minute break in the middle of each of our classes so our teachers can get their hourly nicotine fix.

6. Italians wholeheartedly appreciate our attempts to communicate with them in Italian, and become extremely happy when you do so. They also have exactly zero qualms about correcting your grammar and will jump at the chance to give you a grammar lesson (which I love).

7. Italian women are incredibly chic and wear heels EVERYWHERE, despite cobblestones that make up every single road in this city.

8. You will never see a drunk Italian woman.

9. Apparently, Italians do not sweat. They insist on dressing in their fur coats, thigh-high boots, and thick stockings despite the fact that it is 70 degrees and gorgeous outside.

10. Rick Steves is a guidebook god. He has written on a ton of places so go buy one of his books for your next trip.

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Second Week

Our second week in Florence was much more low-key than the first week. I was able to organize my life a bit better by repacking my suitcases and doing my laundry. I found my dream boots, which I have been living in since last Sunday. Everyone went to Pisa on Monday and I opted out because apparently “There is nothing to see in Pisa.” I used the time to do my homework and call people and such.

Tuesday was an absolutely gorgeous day, and after school we climbed to the top of the Duomo to see sprawling views of Florence. Grandmama and I climbed up Giotto’s bell tower when she came to visit me, which had a spectacular aerial view of the Duomo. The duomo has 461 steps and no elevator, so it is quite a hike. The first part of the climb goes from the floor up to the base of the dome, where you can walk along the inside and look down at the church which is basically vacant and relatively void of decoration, but is still beautiful and huge. The second half of the climb is through the actual dome and is an incredibly steep hike through very narrow corridors which surprisingly only took about fifteen minutes. The view from the top was breathtaking: there are hardly words to describe it. We could see everything from the Arno to the hills of Fiesole (just outside of Florence) and then some. We were able to make out the gigantic shadow of the Duomo that hovered over the northern part of the city, which seemed act as protection over the small city of Florence.

We descended and went to get gelato at my favorite gelato place in Florence, Gelateria dei Neri before walking over to Piazzale Michaelangelo to see what are supposed to be the most spectacular views of the city. As if we had not had our fill of climbing up stairs already, we trekked up the stairs and consequent hills until we reached the Piazzale with the bronze copy of Michaelangelo’s David. The views of Florence from this perspective were even more amazing than those from the Duomo, if that is even possible. We arrived just in time to see the sun sinking into the western Tuscan hillside, and took this opportunity to attempt to capture this moment with our cameras, which is nearly impossible. From this piazza, it is clear that the Duomo is the heart of Florence. To freeze the grandiose of the Duomo against the humble Florentine neighborhoods in a single snapshot does not do it justice.

Wednesday was a day to rest up before our Thursday we did the Uffizi marathon. We went with our favorite tour guide, Christian, who gave us a 3.5 hour tour of the gallery. Giorgio Vasari both designed and built the Uffizi (which aptly translates to “offices”) in the late 16th century for the Medici family. It then housed the city’s administrators, judiciary, and guilds. It is now probably the most famous art museum in Italy, housing artists such as Cimabue, Giotto, Botticelli, Titian, DaVinci, Michaelangelo, just to name a few. Botticelli’s Birth of Venus was one of the first large-scale paintings to be done on canvas, and it is larger than anyone could ever imagine. It was also one of the first paintings to have a non-Christian theme. Although beautiful, Venus is awkwardly proportioned and has seemingly never-ending limbs and no shoulders. Titian’s Venus of Urbino, on the other hand, is a beautiful depiction of Venus personified into what looks like a teenage girl. It is said that the painting is a portrayal of one of the duke’s mistresses: there are portraits of he and his wife on either side of Titian’s Venus.

Apparently Renaissance artist like to paint their subject in disproportion. When looking at DaVinci’s Annunciation head-on, you can see that Mary (on the right side of the painting) is leaning on a desk with her shoulders slightly opened up to the audience. One also notices that her right shoulder is way too elongated to be a functioning part of her body. In fact, DaVinci meant for this painting to be examined while standing off to the right of it. When seen from this angle, you are standing in the same place as Mary is, watching the angel come toward you.

Michaelangelo’s only painting is in the Uffizi. The original gold frame encircles the figures of God, Mary, and Baby Jesus, with a random bunch of naked men in the background—they look like they are there to simply fill space. There is another child-like figure to the right of Baby Jesus that is said to be John the Baptist, the first person to recognize Jesus as the Son of God. It is a striking painting, and the intense muscular detail of each figure is such that can only be attributed to Michaelangelo.

We leave for Venice tomorrow morning.

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