Monday, July 25, 2011
This past weekend was a whirl of amazing scenes and places.
On Friday, Jill and I went to the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. The Vatican has a wonderful collection of not just Christianity related items, but also those pertaining to Ancient Rome. There were rooms and rooms full of interesting artifacts, paintings, and statues. Also, almost every room had gorgeous frescoes painted on the walls and ceilings. One of my favorite exhibitions housed there is on Ancient Egypt. Two different mummies were displayed in their entirety; it was very creepy, but also very interesting.
Of course the Sistine Chapel was beautiful! I could have just stood in that room for hours on end. There was so much to look at. The artistry is so detailed, I cannot imagine the amount of work that Michelangelo put into that endeavor. It took him between 1508 to 1512 to finish the entire expanse of 1,100 square meters.
On Saturday, I toured the Villa Borghese. I could not have imagined what beauty and grandeur would greet me there. This Villa turned museum houses some of the most wonderful Bernini sculptures and countless other priceless art pieces. We were only given two hours to tour the entire Villa and private gardens, definitely not enough time. We started on the second floor, where the collection of paintings is gathered. The paintings are accentuated by the frescoes that adorn the ceilings in each room; all depicting Roman gods and goddesses. There were large couches that you could lay on and stare up at the amazing works of art above your head. My favorite room was the "Caravaggio" room. This room holds numerous pieces of his art. Each was so detailed and beautifully colored.
Downstairs, the frescoes continued; however sculptures filled the rooms and niches. Some of Bernini's most famous works were on display, such as David, Apollo and Daphne, Pluto and Proserpina, and Truth unveiled by Time. My favorite was Apollo and Daphne, where Apollo is chasing Daphne as she is turning into a tree. Once again, the detail was amazing. Everything was so beautiful.
Hopefully this week doesn't go by too fast!
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Of course I must say it, this week has gone by so fast! When we arrived back from the Amalfi Coast, we jumped straight back into classes. It was just as if we had been in a dream all weekend!
Monday night, Jill surprised me and took me to see Harry Potter! It was definitely an interesting experience. The movie theaters here are not at all like the ones at home. We had to take a taxi across town to get to one of the only English theaters in town. Once there, we thought we might get some snacks from the concession stand, however the selection was not up to par. During the movie, instead of having an automatic reel switch, there was a 10 minute intermission (without warning), right in the middle of an action packed scene! Oh well, I got to say I saw a movie in Rome!
On Tuesday, my "Ancient Rome and its Monuments" class traveled to the Pantheon, one of the best preserved ancient monuments in the entire world. When you enter, the ceiling immediately captivates your attention. The largest unreinforced dome in the entire world is bearing down upon all of your senses. The huge oculus, large hole right in the center of the dome, is an amazing sight to behold. A portal is opened into the sky, which lets the sun rays in at certain times of the day, to hit precise points in the cavernous room beneath. Tuesday was a cloudy day, but when the clouds parted and the sun shone down through the oculus, the beam of light hit the niche in the wall perfectly. Nothing spectacular was revealed, like it might be in some movie, but nonetheless the preciseness was amazing.
After the Pantheon, we visited some other monuments, my favorite of which was the Ara Pacis, also known as the Altar of Augustan Peace. This beautiful Italian marble monument is housed in a special museum built around it. This monument was constructed as a victory monument for the return of Emperor Augustus after a three year tour of Spain and Gaul, working on peace relations in that part of the Roman Empire. It is dedicated to the Goddess Pax, or peace. The fragmented monument was found buried underneath a barbershop in 1568; only discovered when the barber was digging a latrine. Over the next hundred years, fragments were found all around the area and finally in 1937 a full excavation took place. The monument was restored and put back together where it could be. The missing pieces have been filled in by plaster, and a full reconstructed monument now stands. The white marble glistens in the light, not letting your eyes stray to other exhibits down the hall in the museum.
On Wednesday, we watched "La Dolce Vita" a famous Italian film, in my Italian class. Thankfully we were allowed subtitles beneath the picture! It is a very interesting movie, but we didn't have time to finish. I will put it on my list of movies to watch!
Tomorrow, we have midterms! Wish us luck!
Talk to you soon!
Sunday, July 17, 2011
This past week went by so fast! There is so much to do and see here in Italy, and we definitely do not have enough time to do it all!
This week started off with a trip to the Roman Forum in my “Ancient Rome and its Monuments” class. The Forum really is wonderful, despite the intense heat bearing down upon you. The buildings and ruins it contains are unbelievable. I wish I could see what everything looked like when it was intact. The Romans created incredibly ornate buildings such as bath houses, basilicas, and so much more. My favorite was the House of the Vestal Virgins, which is a beautifully preserved temple.
The next day Jill and I went to the Colosseum. I cannot imagine all of the bloodshed that took place there. The Colosseum is massive and could hold an estimated 50,000 people. There were a number of compartments underneath the stage that had elevators that brought the animals up to fight the gladiators. They could even flood the arena with water when they wanted to have a sea-battle.
On Wednesday, my Italian class attended Swan Lake at the Teatro dell’Opera. This theatre is actually an open-air venue with a background of the ruins of the Baths of Caracalla. The background is an amazing sight, especially when paired with the beautiful dancing of the ballet company.
For the weekend, we headed down to the Amalfi Coast. I have now found my new favorite spot in the world. The waters are so blue and clear and the scenery is magnificent. As my friend Jill put it, it is “unexpected pure bliss.” I want to live there for the rest of my life. We stayed at a campground in Sorrento, a charming seaside town. Our camp had its own private “beach”, which is more a group of rocks and cliffs that lead down to the water. We cliff dived into the water and could literally see down to the bottom. (I also brought my goggles!) Also, the infamous Mt. Vesuvius was right across the water from us.
The next day, we took a short ferry ride to the island of Capri. Again, the breathtaking views are to die for. Our group rented two boats with captains, who took us around the island to the grottoes and showed us the different sights. First, we went to the Emerald Rock, which we could swim under. I thought that was amazing, but our next stop was to a cave into which we swam to find a private beach at the other end. Another cave we swam into glowed green and had red coral along the sides. It had a passage to connecting caves, and when we swam through it, we found another secret beach at the back of the cavern. However, this was the first beach I have been to where the sun never shines! The main attraction, the Blue Grotto, was closed due to the roughness of the water, so that gives me an excuse to return!
Today, Sunday, we took a train to the ancient city of Pompeii. I am sure everyone is familiar with the tragedy that took place there, but if not this is a short history lesson. Pompeii, a bustling seaside city, just as powerful as Rome, was hit by an earthquake in 62 A.D., causing extensive damage. However, the town survived and had started rebuilding when in 72 A.D., Mt. Vesuvius erupted and completely destroyed and buried the town; essentially freezing it in time. The explosion covered Pompeii in four to six meters of volcanic ash and rock, and it was lost for nearly 1700 years before accidentally being rediscovered in 1749. Back to the present, Pompeii is now one the biggest archeological digs and attracts almost 3 million visitors a year. You can see the remains of the whole town, including some near perfect examples of villas and businesses. We even toured a brothel, which apparently was a major hub in the town’s everyday life. The preserved remains for people were very disturbing, yet interesting at the same time. When the volcanic ash rained down upon the city, the people suffocated from poison gases, and were perfectly preserved under the ash. When archeologists found the remains, they injected liquid plaster into the cavities left by the bodies and were able to obtain full casts of the people as they died. There was a dog which got caught up in his chain, a small boy with his hands over his face, and a couple other tragic examples of human life.
That is all for now!
Hope everyone is well!
Monday, July 11, 2011
Thursday, June 30, 2011
After our long night in Venice, we packed up and caught a train to a small town outside of Florence called Figline (pronounced Fa-lee-nay). This took us to the charming country side of Tuscany, of which we have all seen so many pictures. It is just like those pictures and the movies! I love the rolling hills, lush landscape and pleasant people. Every spot is green and vineyards cover most hillsides.
We had booked a hostel called Norcenni Girasole Club, not really knowing what to expect for only 13 Euros (approximately $19.50 USD) a night. A shuttle bus picked us and to our surprise took us to a family style resort. This place was amazing! There were at least five different restaurants, multiple pools, horseback riding and many more activities. The compound covered miles and miles of ground, all at our disposal. There was even a Disco (dance club) for the younger crowd.
When we got settled in our own private cabin, we set out for the pool. The olympic size pool had two different waterslides, a water polo pool, and a few other odd pools surrounding it. We kept wondering how we got so lucky!
That night we ate at one of the restaurants at the resort and went to the Disco. It was definitely very entertaining. In Italy there is no legal drinking age, you just have to be 16 to buy alcohol. There were younger kids everywhere drinking, but there were just using it to socialize, not to “get drunk” like most kids in the United States. However, not many people our age were here, as it was more of a family resort. At the Disco, the kids were kind of separated, just like a junior high dance. We went and danced out on the floor anyway though! I’m sure we got a lot of stares, haha!
The next day we booked a tour of Chianti country. A charter bus took us to two different vineyards were they gave us a tour of the vineyardes and explained the processes used to create the wine. The first vineyard we went to was a very quaint family owned operation. They cooked and served us a few different Tuscan dishes, all with bread they had freshly baked in their outdoor brick oven. Everything was so good! With the light lunch, they served us three different wines. The first was a Merlot, the second a Chianti, and the third a sweet desert wine. The next vineyard was a much bigger operation, headquartered in a Villa built in 1492. They took us down into their personal wine cellar, where the oldest wine dated back to 1945! This wine is not meant to be served anymore, as it is too old; but a bottle could go for over 10,000 Euros (approximately $15,000 USD)! Under the wine cellar was where the wine was put in huge wooden holding tanks to mature. One was open and I could stand comfortably inside of it! After the tour, we tasted the different wines. All of them were so good!
That is it for now! I will post again when I have internet! Hope all is well!
This post is for June 26.
Sorry I have not posted in awhile, we haven’t had internet!
To continue where I last left you in Venice, the next day we took the ferry boat down to San Marco Square. At one end of the square is Basilica di San Marco. This other-worldly spectacle has luminous angels trumpeting their horns on the way into the Basilica’s vast inside. The ceiling is covered in what seems like an infinite glittering mosaic and the floors are beautiful marble. We were awed by the mosiac ceiling, which was constructed from the 11th to the 15 century. As we stood from the roof of the church, we could see the entire square stretched out before us. We also saw the awesome views of the square from the St. Mark's Campanile tower.
We toured the whole square, which has an array of shop and restuarants lining it. The shops carried Murano glass, from the near by island of Murano, Carnivale masks, which is celebrated in Febuary, and many other souveniers and nick-nacks. Our favorite were the artists which lined the water front with their hand-painted masterpieces. Jill and I both bought a beautiful painting each; her’s from pastel and mine oil. We can’t wait to get them home and frame them! Jill made a goal of trying to find a small painting from each spot we visited so she could remember her trip there.
After the square, we trekked back to the hostel, but first stopped in a small square right by our residence to buy some Carnivale masks. These are beautiful masks covered in glitter, feathers and hand-painted. Jill also bought another small painting from a street vendor.
That night we attended a performance of “Venice: Behind the Mask” put on by a small theater group in the theater Teatro San Gallo. It told the story of the history of Venice and why they wore masks for Carnivale. Ancient Venetian men were apparently very mischevious and like to get up to no good... even with ladies in waiting and Nuns! They wore the masks so no one would know their identity if they were seen. There were several other reasons for the tradition of Carnivale. You can read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnival_in_Italy
After the performance, we tried some tiramisu at a beautiful restaurant on the water. I don’t really like coffee too much, but apparently it was good! We met some locals and went and had a few drinks at a neighborhood bar with them and then caught the ferry back to the hostel.
Apparently the hostel has a curfew... and we missed it. When we arrived at the door, we were locked out. We tried to find a number we could call, but no luck. Finally, we had to ring the very loud doorbell of the hostel and had to wake everyone up. Needless to say, they weren’t too happy. Oh well, they never informed us of the curfew time!
That’s it for Venice!