Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Rain & Rainbows

Capri pictures are up! Check them out here.

Today was my last Art History class and Rome decided to grace us with more rain. The weather has been so weird here--rain since January!

I also got my stats test back--110%, which is funny considering that is the class I spend the least time on.

And when I got out of class I saw a rainbow in the sky...it was so beautiful, ending somewhere near the Synagogue.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Vatican, Carpi, Appian Way

What a busy weekend!


First I had an on-site visit for one of my classes at the Basilica di San Clemente. We got to go down to the lower levels of the church to see the ruins of an ancient worship temple devoted to a lesser god Mithras.

After that Marina and I tried to go to the Corsini Gallery but found it closed due to short staff. So what do you do on a Friday when your plans don't work out? Go to St. Peter's Basilica of course! Marina had never been to the top of the dome so I took her up there--all 551 steps--so she could get the amazing view from the top.


Shannon, Marina and I were up and ready to go early Saturday morning--our bus to Capri left at 4:30. We got to the port at around 8 but our tour guide was late. So we waited...and waited. Finally the leaders of our group decided we would just leave without her and she could meet us later. So we got to the island and waited some more.

At least the views as we were waiting were absolutely stunning. We hung out in some gardens as we waited and could look out over the ocean, at the bright blue water. Finally the tour guide arrived and we got on tiny buses that took us to the top of the island. Those drivers were crazy on the roads and hairpin turns, but we made it! At the top we found a place that hand-made leather sandals and most of the girls went nuts over that. I myself was more interested in the other side of the shop, the side that handed out free limoncello shots and chocolate samples.

After lunch and some more shopping by the other ladies in the group we headed back down to the coast and relaxed some more on the beach. On our boat ride back we circled the island and got to see Capri not only on land but from the water as well. When we got back to Sorrento, though, we were an hour late and our bus driver was not a happy camper.

We ended up stuck in traffic for most of the way home and didn't get back to Rome until after midnight so we were all quite tired. I was happy though--finally a day where it was warm and I even got a little pink! We haven't been having the best of luck with the Roman weather so Capri was like heaven!


Marina and I somehow made it out of bed and down to the beginning of the Via Appia antica where we were outfitted with some bikes and a map for an ancient bike ride. We rode down a street over 2,000 years old (and it showed in some places) and got to see all of the ruins along the way. The Appian Way is close to traffic (besides those who live on it) so it is filled with bikers, runners, and families spending the day in the country. The scenery was gorgeous and the weather even cooperated for the most part. It was pretty warm and only started raining near the end of our trip.

After our bike ride we headed back to the Corsini Gallery, which was at last open, and enjoyed all the paintings and sculptures for free since it was still Culture Week.

And then it was time to start that 10-page research paper due today. I'd been mulling it over in my head for a bit but never actually got down to writing it...and surprisingly, once I started, it came out pretty easy. I wrote nearly the entire thing late last night/early this morning and now I just have to reread it and add the finishing touches!

Friday, April 24, 2009

...final weekends...

Okay, last post about the Ben Harper concert. I forgot to post a link to my own pictures. Check them out here!

This weekend is our last hurrah before the end of classes and finals...I had an on-site visit for one of my classes this morning and Marina and I are headed to the Corsini art gallery this afternoon. Tomorrow Marina, Shannon and I will be off to Capri for the day with a group from school and Sunday Marina and I are taking a bike ride down Via Appia Antica, one of the oldest and most important roads in Rome. (I actually wrote a 10-page research paper on the Via Appia just last week!)

We're coming to the home stretch!!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Under Pressure - Ben Harper & Relentless7

I found the link to Ben Harper & Relentless7 singing Under Pressure. I'm somewhere in all of those people!!

Happy Earth Day!

Yesterday was Earth Day and in Rome that meant a free Earth Day Concert featuring Ben Harper and Relentless7 plus Subsonica, Nnekka, and Bibi Tanga and the Selenites.

The concert was held in Piazza del Popolo--which is huge, but barely held all of us. And since Italians don't believe in personal space we were CRAMMED in. A guy in front of me had dreadlocks and would not stop swaying to the music so I kept getting hit in the face by them.

The concert was sponsored by National Geographic Music and they even planted trees in Rome to offset the carbon footprint the concert would make.

Here are some links to each group so you can get a sample of what they sound like:

Bibi Tanga and the Selenites



Ben Harper & Relentless7

The best part was when Ben Harper came back on stage for his encore and sang Under Pressure...finally a song that both Americans and Italians knew!!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Happy Birthday....Roma!

That's right, today is Rome's birthday. It turned 2,762 years old today and is celebrating with historical reenactments, concerts, fireworks and free museum entrances. The free museums are actually a part of Italy's Culture Week this week and we took advantage of it during my art history class today when we visited Trajan's Markets. I guess you could compare Rome's birthday to our Independence Day since they both celebrate the creation of a people.

It's funny to think, though, that Rome has been here (according to tradition) nearly 3,000 years and America just over 230 years. We're babies!

Update on the papers: one done, two to go.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Homework? In Rome?

It's been a while since I've been on here. I've been mentioning papers to work on and I finally stopped talking about them and actually wrote some. I nearly have my ten page paper done for Tuesday and I'm getting closer to having something substantial for a meeting with my professor on Wednesday about my 20-page thesis. I pretty much devoted my weekend to getting stuff done. The weather cooperated by raining, making sure I wouldn't be tempted to just give up and spend the day at the Spanish Steps.

I did get out to get the stink blown off me and so my eyeballs wouldn't dry up from staring at a computer screen all day. I took some pictures of my school since I won't be able to see it for much longer and I walked around the center, seeing how things have changed since we got here in January. Since it's tourist season they are finally finishing up some of the construction they had going on and cleaning things up, making everything look nice.

This coming week promises to be a full one with papers and tests continuing but I'll try to get on here for updates!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Getting Used to It

On Tuesday I gave a presentation on the statue of the Hellenistic Boxer for my art history class. The only thing was, the actual statue was on loan at another museum meaning I gave a presentation on a picture of the statue. It was a little disappointing, to say the least.

And speaking of things that are missing, I think my memory of what it is like to be American is lost. I've noticed that fewer of my blog posts have to do with the differences between Americans and Italians...and I think it's because I just don't notice them anymore. Either I can't remember what they are or I've become so used to Italians I've just grown numb to the differences.

I only have one month left here in Rome and this might be one of the hardest months. Sure, the first month had its trials, but now we've settled in and we have to try and figure out how we are going to re-adapt to life in America when we leave. Not to mention we have to say goodbye to this place that has become our home. This place where we learned so much about not just Europe or Italy or even Rome, but about each other and about ourselves.

I'm getting sappy now, but it's hard not to when I can hear the Italians in our courtyard singing songs slightly off key (it's someone's birthday) and the motorini zipping up our one-way out front. It's going to be weird not hearing the garbage truck every night, watching life happen from my balcony, smelling my neighbors cooking a floor below us.

I think what I'm trying to say is, this is not the study abroad experience I imagined. It's so much more.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Buona Pasqua!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter (Pasqua) yesterday! Today is Pasquetta in Italy (literally, "Little Easter") which is basically a day of eating leftovers and enjoying another little holiday. All of the stores were closed, even our grocery store, which meant we were forced to eat leftovers here!

That's okay, though, because we made an amazing meal for Easter which only got better after sitting in our fridge overnight. We roasted chicken and potatoes with olive oil, garlic, rosemary and lemon and then we made breaded artichoke hearts. We also had our now famous gelato sundaes with almonds, bananas and our homemade chocolate sauce.

Before we sat down for our Easter dinner, though, we had to of course check out the Easter service at the Vatican. Let me tell you, it was crazy!! There were so many people from so many different countries. It was pretty much standing room only in St. Peter's Square, except in the parts where they did set up a few chairs (unfortunately, not having tickets left us in the standing crowd). It was cool to see how many people were there, all dressed up for Easter.

Again, the earthquake was a major topic of prayer as was the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Here is a link to Pope Benedict's "Urbi et Orbi" (To the City and to the World) Message, which shows more of the things he talked about. He gave this address after the mass; it's a tradition every Easter.

With all of the happenings this week it's a wonder he had the energy for Easter Sunday--we're talking about a man who turns 82 this Thursday!!

I added in the few pictures I took in the Vatican album!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

Today was Good Friday, and in Rome that's a big deal. Tourists have been flooding Rome ever since Holy Week started last Sunday and tonight I saw a good number of them at the annual Way of the Cross (Via Crucis) procession at the Colosseum.

The theme this year was prayer for the persecution of Christians in India, but there was also a lot of focus on the earthquake victims. Even though there is traditionally no mass held on Good Friday, they made an exception this year for the funeral of the victims.

The Way of the Cross started tonight at 9:15 and I got back to my apartment at 12:15--but it didn't seem like it took that long. When I got to the Colosseum I squeezed my way through the crowd trying to find a place that gave me a good view but wasn't too crowded. As I was doing this, I saw two people faint--the crowd was so dense and the air was stifling at times.

Most of the procession was in Italian, but when they announced each station they did it in Italian, French, English, German, Spanish and Portuguese. At the end of each station the crowd said an Our Father (in Italian). At the very end, Pope Benedict XVI gave an address to which the crowd responded with much applause.

The amount of people there was unbelievable--priests and nuns, families, old people, young people. And people speaking all sorts of languages. The atmosphere was somber, yet charged. As everyone was leaving I found myself in front of some girls with British accents. One of them was talking on the phone and I overheard her say, "Well, it was nearly two hours and there were no fireworks, but it was cool." I'm not sure exactly what she was expecting at a ceremony held on the day Jesus was nailed to the cross...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Ostia Antica part II

We went back to Ostia Antica today for class (pictures are uploaded, at the end of the Ancient Roma-Art History album like the others). We saw more baths, which is kind of funny because I'm starting to think ancient peoples must have smelled better than the Romans of today. We also saw the ancient world's equivalent of a laundromat and fire department. It was cool to see something that wasn't another temple, forum, theater, or marketplace (though we did see those too).

There were a few aftershocks from the earthquake again today, but nothing major has happened in Rome. It's strange because some people felt next to nothing (like me) while others said their beds shook or they could see the ceiling moving back and forth.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Happy Birthday Raphael!

Today marks another important date in Italian/Roman history as both the birth and death date of the painter Raphael. When I researched Raphael to see what works of his I could find in Rome, I was pleased to see I have already seen most of them.

One of the first things I saw in Rome, the Pantheon, houses the tomb of Raphael, who died in Rome in 1520.

The Villa Borghese houses a few portraits and the Palazzo Barberini houses "La Fornarina" (the bakers daughter), a portrait of Raphael's lover and a model for many of his portraits. Raphael was also the one to suggest the "Latin Cross" design for St. Peter's.

Still on my list of things to do in Rome is see the Vatican Museum, where one can walk through the Raphael Rooms and admire other paintings by Raphael. He also painted the frescoes in the Villa Farnesina.

It's just the beginning of an eventful week in Rome: yesterday was the start of Holy Week with Palm Sunday and the Pope's blessing in St. Peter's Square and today saw the biggest earthquake to hit Italy since 2002 plus the anniversary of Raphael's death and birth. Passover begins at sundown on Wednesday and continues on Thurdsday--and even though Rome is traditionally seen as Roman Catholic, there is an area called the Jewish ghetto and Jews are actually quite numerous in Rome. Holy Week festivities continue Thursday through Sunday, beginning with the Mass of the Chrism Thursday morning then the Mass of the Lord's Supper in the evening and going until the final event, mass on Easter Sunday.

It's all enough to keep me busy! Not to mention now I have to work my way through crowds of tourists just to get to school--and they will only become more and more numerous as the weather gets better and we find ourselves in the midst of high season.

Earthquake in Italy

Good Morning everyone! I don't know if you've seen/heard/read the news yet, but Italy was hit with an earthquake earlier this morning. The story is on msnbc.com but I first found out from my roommates, who have class earlier than I do on Mondays.

I was still in bed when I heard them talking about something that happened last night--something that scared Ro so much she couldn't sleep. Apparently she felt the earthquake, just little tremors. The rest of us slept right through it.

Anyways, just wanted to let you know everything is okay here--my study abroad advisor emailed this morning to check up on us so I figured I should let others know as well, in case you saw the news already!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Small Worlds, Close Friends

It's such a small world! Marina's mom has a friend in California who in turn has a friend who lives here in Rome, which is why Marina and I spent Friday walking all around the south part of Rome with a short Filipino nun named Rosalie.

When we met Rosalie she immediately greeted us with the traditional Italian baci (those cheek kisses you see), grabbed our hands, and said "Now we will walk."

Rosalie, who is in her 60s, has been living in Rome for about four years now and wanted to show us some of her favorite churches--and by some I mean about six. That woman took us up and down so many streets, in and out of churches and chapels...and she never got tired!

She always had something to show us in each of the churches. A painting in a small side chapel, the way certain candles were lit and others weren't, stained glass windows high above the doors, in one chapel she even showed us a chapel in one church holding relics from Jesus' passion.

At each church Rosalie made sure we took time to sit or kneel and pray quietly. She was so grateful for the opportunity to show us around and kept repeating how lucky we all were. "If you two did not come to Rome, you would not have met each other! You would not have met me! But look at us, we are all friends now because of this miracle," she would say, clasping our hands in hers.

Yes indeed, we are all friends now. And it's getting to that point where we realize our time in Rome is dwindling. Already Marina and I are planning a reunion because we don't like to think of a time when we won't be making dinner or exploring Rome together!

It really was a miracle that we met here and not in the United States--who knows if we would have become such close friends. And now we are like an old married couple with our routines. After we make dinner she washes the dishes and I dry them and put them away. Her boyfriend is here visiting this week and I've already been over for dinner at the apartment they are staying in. "I miss you already!" she said when she called to invite me. It had been all of five hours since we saw each other last (when we had breakfast together).

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Ostia Antica

In my Ancient Rome & its Monuments course on Tuesday we traveled to the ancient harbor city of Ostia Antica. Ostia Antica literally means "old mouth" as it was located at the mouth of the Tiber River and was the first stop for goods headed to Rome. It's a cool site because all of the buildings and things are pretty well preserved and haven't been built over as they have in Rome.

We got to see some of the public and private baths and the market area, the main temple and other odd buildings. We also got to go inside a house with the best preserved frescoes in the city. Restoration is still going on in this house so it isn't open to the public yet, but our professor knows the woman in charge of the restoration so we got a sneak peek.

I posted more pictures in my ancient monuments course album so you can see some of the sites and the frescoes as well. Be sure to check back for more pictures after next Tuesday since we are going back for class again!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Final days of spring break: Greece

Okay, now for the part of spring break where we left Italy behind. We spent just over three days in Greece. Overall, it was great. The weather was gorgeous and the people were nicer than ones we've experienced in Italy. At first it was a little strange since Greece has an entirely different alphabet than English or Italian, but we soon realized that most people spoke at least some English and all of the street signs were in both Greek and English.

On Thursday we got up way early for our one-day, three-island cruise. The first leg of the trip took a long time, but finally we made it to Hydra. This island is your typical Greek island, though a bit touristy now. There are still no cars, only donkeys and carts, and the island is filled with quaint little shops, winding alleys, and the most breathtaking scenery.

After spending about an hour on Hydra, we boarded the ship again for lunch. It was a traditional Greek lunch, meatballs, a coleslaw type salad, and moussaka. We ate it because we were starving, but it was slightly disappointing. A far cry from the pasta dishes we were used to.

The other two islands, Poros and Aegina were more modern, with cars and paved roads. They were still beautiful though and relaxing. The ship itself was also a fun experience. We were probably the youngest ones aboard, not counting the children along with their families. Mostly the ship held Asian tourists of the 40 and above female variety. We also met a couple from Iran during lunch, which wouldn't be remarkable except for the fact that we saw them again the next day as we were both walking around Athens--quite the coincidence for a city of over three million people!

Our cruise lasted the entire day and when we got back to Athens we just wanted something to eat and our beds. And I have to admit, we wimped out and went to the McDonald's in one of the main squares of Athens. We were all craving chicken McNuggets and wanted to see if they were any different in Europe. Not so much--it was all the same. The menu board was a bit different; it offered regional foods as well as the typical Big Mac. They also have a Greek Mac, which is a Big Mac inside of a pita.

Anyways, the next day saw us waking up early once again, this time for a walking tour of Athens. Our guide, Walter, took us all over and showed us every major sight...in six hours. We were tired when that was done, but it was worth it to be able to see all the things we saw: the Parthenon, the ancient marketplace, the Olympic Stadium (from 1896), the Park...I have my pictures online here for you to see all of the sights as well! (Don't forget to check out Naples and Palermo as well!)

After the tour Walter took us to one of his favorite Greek restaurants so we could have authentic Greek food. I got the thanassis kebap--basically the Greek equivalent of a hamburger. It was so filling and after we were done eating we were reminded just why we loved Italy so much. As cool as Greece is, none of us could have studied there and survived with that food! We love our pasta way too much. Plus, I somehow picked up some sort of bug and I think it was food poisoning. Either way, something didn't sit right in my stomach!

On Saturday we just hung out in downtown Athens until it was time to head back to the airport for our flight back to Rome. We sat in a lovely cafe and enjoyed the free water along with our tall coffees and sandwiches (some things we actually can't get in Italy) as we people-watched. Our flight back to Rome was filled with Italian high-schoolers who sang the entire flight and clapped as we landed. I almost felt like clapping too, though--we made it back home!

After showers and some pasta it was nice to sleep in our own beds and wake up to our garbage truck like normal...but now it seems as though the fun is over as the final weeks of class get rolling!