Tuesday, October 26, 2010

positive attitude + caffeine!

Ok, so my "Some pictures" entry only allowed for one picture... me on top of the Duomo. That was the second time I'd been up there, and I'd say it's the best view of this lovely city that you can get anywhere. Anyway, on to more updates...

I'm back in Florence and up to my neck in classwork again. Switzerland was a nice relaxing break, and I feel well-rested and ready to take all of this on. I've decided that a positive attitude is at least twice as effective as caffeine, and a positive attitude COMBINED with caffeine... wow, I must be scary to be around right now.

I've found a new hobby: Photographing the graffiti in Florence. Some of it is beautiful, and I see it as true art. Some of it, though, is completely random, such as "F*** Life" scrawled in black spray paint across the side of a building. I saw some more cool graffiti as I was walking down Via Capponi this morning and smiling at people's dogs (not at the people, just the dogs... hahaha), and I need to remember to go back and take some pictures.

Today's an easy class day... Professor Koestner's class is meeting at the Horne Museum, which I only have a vague idea of the location. Mi amica Carolyn has it marked on a map though. :)

If there's one thing I've learned here, it's how to be independent and confident. I really am changing and maturing, and my walls are slowly coming down. It's an amazing feeling. When you take someone out of their natural element and put them in a new environment, they really discover what they are capable of, and I'm no exception.

Ciao for now! I need to look over some things for class.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Some pictures

Switzerland- reminds me of home.

FALL BREAK is here!

For our fall break, a classmate and I traveled to Bern, Switzerland for the majority of the week. I am in LOVE with this place!

I grew up in Vermont, and moved to Kansas when I was sixteen. So I'm used to mountains, excessive greenery, and cold weather. Switzerland has all three. And the leaves are just starting to change. I feel like I've come back home in a way, even though this is yet a different country and culture to get used to.

We will head back to Florence on Friday (tomorrow), at which point I will have to acknowledge the existence of the homework that needs to get done before Monday. Classes are still enjoyable, and more rewarding now that I'm getting a bit deeper into the subject matter. I don't know if I will ever study any of what I'm learning now again, but I'm sure the information will benefit me in some way. I really do enjoy learning for the pure sake of learning... I'm such a nerd. Haha. ;)

More updates soon!


Monday, October 11, 2010

Cararra, Pompeii, and sketchy trains.

I just easily had the best weekend I’ve had since I’ve been here. Friday, Bonnie Koestner’s Professional Artist in Renaissance Florence class went to Carrara to see the marble quarries and studios. Super cool, if I must say so myself. Wasn’t that an eloquent statement? I thought so too. ;)

I’m not allowed to disclose much information about what they were working on in the studio, but I can say that it was, again, super cool. I took an Art and Feminism class my sophomore year at Monmouth, and I remember talking a little bit about Louise Bourgeois. Bourgeois passed away recently, but some of her artwork is still being worked on in the marble studios at Carrara, and yours truly got to see it. I take an interest in gender studies in general, so I found Bourgeois’ focus on sex and sex roles quite fascinating. She designed a sculpture of a house, with female anatomy on the back, commenting on the traditional idea of a domestic sphere. The idea is simple, but it says a lot and makes you think. Artwork like this, that makes a statement and forces you to reflect, is my favorite kind, even though I don’t have much of a trained eye when it comes to art.

We then got to see where the marble actually comes from. It involved driving down a tiny narrow tunnel into the side of a mountain, which opened up into a network of large cube-shaped rooms cut out of the marble. The entire mountain is solid marble, and they cut it out in blocks and sell it to artists.
Then came the hike. Let me tell you, those mountains are GORGEOUS! It felt like we were in Lord of the Rings, actually. People kept asking where Frodo and Sam were. Haha.

We hiked up the side of one of the mountains, circled the peak, and then went down through the meadows on the other side, which could have easily passed for the place where they shot the opening scene to The Sound of Music. The day was just full of movie references, I guess.

And then came Saturday. Saturday was easily, EASILY the highlight of my entire abroad experience so far. I don’t know how I can emphasize my excitement over Pompeii enough. I’ll just say that my high school Latin textbook follows a family that actually lived in Pompeii, and ever since using that textbook, it has been my goal to go to Pompeii and try to find their house. So, this journey to find the home of Caecilius and his family was a sort of pilgrimage for me.

My friend Jenna and I left for Naples at 8am Saturday morning, and our train arrived there by 11:30. From there, we caught another train to Pompeii, and had some delicious pizza when we arrived. Then, it was time… dun dun DUN!
I had a general idea of where Caecilius’ house was located, thanks to the map in the textbook that I happen to have at home. I’d previously asked my mom to look it up and give me a general location. So, with a new map of the actual ruin, we set off in that direction.

On the way, we stopped to pose for pictures in the ruins, often acting out scenes from the textbook and general phrases we had learned. In the front room of one ruined house, there was a block of rock that I sat down in front of, pretending it was my “mensa”, and proceeded to act out the scene “Caecilius in scriptorium scribit.” (Caecilius is writing in the study). Jenna reinacted “Metella in atrio sedet” at another location (Metella is sitting in the atrium), and when we found what appeared to be a kitchen in one house, I couldn’t resist posing for “Grumio in culina coquit” (Grumio is cooking in the kitchen.) And the grand finale: “Caecilius est morto in horto” (Caecilius is dead in the garden). Yes, we did modify the phrase a bit… the correct word is “mortuus,” but “morto” rhymes. So there!  In the story, Caecilius met his end when Vesuvius erupted, and he got trapped under a fallen column in his big fancy garden.

Anyway, after posing for all of these pictures, making friends with the stray dogs that hang out in the ruins, and speaking a strange mixture of English, Italian, and Latin, we finally reached Stabia Street, where the “Domus Caecilius Iucundus” is located. And YES, IT IS THERE!!!!

However, there was a locked gate on the front door, which almost killed the whole mood. Jenna had to take pictures of me posing in attempts to climb over the gate. But you can still see into Metella’s atrium, Caecilius’ scriptorium, the horto in the back, and you can catch glimpses of the triclinio where Quintus would supposedly “vinum bibit” (drink wine).

Pompeii closed at 5, and we were forced to tear ourselves away and go in search of some dinner. We ate ravioli at a little outdoor restaurant on the way to the train station, and then headed back to Naples.

Now here is where I put in another word of advice: Female students thinking of coming to Europe: DO NOT TAKE THE TRAIN AT NIGHT.
Jenna and I had arrived to Naples on a Eurostar train, one that only stops at major cities and is a quicker way to travel. It is also more expensive, so on the way back we decided to just take the regional train and save some money. It meant a longer ride, but it was quite a bit cheaper. However, there were men on the train who kept talking to us and trying to sell us stuff, and we kept moving to different compartments in order to avoid them. Finally, we were joined in our compartment by four other travelers, two men and two women, who said they were traveling to Bologna. They seemed harmless, but also turned out to be a bit… shall we say… affectionate? Towards each other, I mean. It was obvious that the two couples wanted us out so they could, well, express their affections more expressively. So when I got up to go to the bathroom and made Jenna come with me for fear of being accosted by the annoyingly creepy men who stared at me like a piece of meat, one of the women got up also, and closed the compartment door behind us, saying “Ciao, bye bye”, in a sense kicking us out permanently. Hope they had fun, I guess.

We finally just sat in the hallway on the extra seats that fold out from the wall. We arrived in Florence at around 2am, and it just so happened that the train we were on didn’t stop at Santa Maria Novella station downtown, but instead stopped at Campo di Marte, which happens to be two blocks away from where I’m staying. So I hurried home, made sure Jenna got a cab, and FINALLY went to bed. I’m a morning person, not a night person, so I was exhausted and cranky and glad to be acquainted with my bed once again.

I’m not taking that train at night ever again. However, finding Caecilius's house still made everything worth it. :)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I'm not a tourist anymore!

Number of times people have asked me for directions since Monday: At least six.

I guess I don't look like a tourist anymore. Yay!

The interesting thing, though, is that everyone who asked me spoke English.

Them: Scusi? Scusi?
Me: Si?
Them: Parli inglese?
Me: Si.
Them: Okay. Where can I get tourist information?

Next time, I'm going to pretend I don't speak English and see how good I am at giving directions in Italian. :)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Venizia, mi amore.

Ciao mi amici,

Haven’t been able to update in awhile. I’ve been quite busy now that classes have started. I’m enjoying them. My favorite part of studying abroad is that we frequently have on-site classes, where we go to churches, museums, and different parts of the city, and look at what we’re learning about instead of simply reading about it. This is definitely a unique experience, and despite my earlier complaints of homesickness and stress, I highly recommend it to everyone.

This past weekend was spent in Venice, which is by far my favorite place in Italy so far. Being both a Shakespeare fan and a musician, I kind of had to be excited for it. (The Merchant of Venice self-explanatorily takes place there, and the composer Vivaldi taught there). The city was jam-packed with tourists, but so is Florence, so that didn’t bother me so much. The unique thing about Venice is that there is no motor traffic, and so the city is extremely quiet at night. A few of us went out and walked around on Saturday night, and though many people were out, there was a strange peaceful atmosphere that you usually don’t find in an urban setting. A few fellow students and I considered visiting the famous Florian CafĂ© in Piazza di San Marco, but after seeing that they charge 8 euros for a cup of coffee, we decided against it. The Florian always has live musicians playing outside under the awning, and it was fun to sit and listen to them. The accordion player started playing Sinatra, so I had to get up and tap-dance. :)

And St. Mark’s Basilica… breathtaking. That’s the only word I have. We were given the once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing the basilica at night, after it had closed and the tourists had all left. We entered in the dark, sat down in the first few rows of seats, and, one by one, the lights came on, exposing the breathtaking beauty of the sanctuary. My words cannot even begin to do justice to the extreme overdose of GORGEOUS that this experience gave me. I took pictures, but they pale in comparison. Every wall is covered in gold mosaics, and in dim light, it has an almost otherworldly feel to it. It must have been even more breathtaking back when they used only candles to light the building.

These are just a few of the wonders of Venice. I highly recommend that everyone should visit it at least once, since it is such a unique city. I hope that I’ll get the chance to go back at some point in my life.

This is either week 6 or week 7, I’ve lost count. I’ve just finished writing a fictional contract for a commissioned art piece for my Professional Artist in Renaissance Florence class, and though I have no prior knowledge of Renaissance art or how these contracts worked, I had fun researching it and putting it together. I take the role of the patron, and commission a specific artist to create an art piece for me in a requested location, following my exact instructions. I chose to request a wall fresco in a family chapel. Today, for that class, we have a guest coming in to demonstrate the process of painting a fresco. I’m looking forward to it.

More updates to follow. I’m out. Arrividerci!