Thursday, February 25, 2010

Siena day two (cont)

So, to give a super general idea what a contrade is (i kept mentioning when talking of the horse races) A Contrade is sort of like a guild that your family belongs too. and a lot of which contrade you belong to depends on where your born (like what sector of Siena). Whether born or brought in, one is baptized (in the contrade's fountain) into the Contrade. We were told that the Contrade is like a family, they take care of you if you get sick, if family dies, when you get old; they look out for you. There are get togethers and out -door picnics where they have rows and rows of tables set up, shade for having drinks, a barbecue sort of set up.
While searching for the Contrade Museum (which really looks like any other building except for a flag out front, and somewhere nearby a statue of that contrade's animal) Each contrade has an animal symbol that means something. The 6 that we tried to see were the Snail(Chiocciola), Eagle(Aquila), Owl (Civetta), Unicorn (Leocorno), Caterpillar (Bruco), and Dragon(Drago). Eagle was closed, and we didn't make it to Dragon.
Thank God,when we were meandering in front of the first museum a guy heard us, and switched from talking italian to English. He is part of a group of students from Massachusetts studying here in Siena! a group of four of them were trying to see all 6 Contrade museums open today as well...and we ended up joining them. They, thankfully, knew their way around the city rather well so we made it to each one speedily and efficiently!!! They also knew more about the contrade's and were able to give us little hints and tips on what we were looking at.
The museums were structured pretty much the same. A church or chapel, each with a patron saint, usually small but beautifully decorated. A museum which held a banners of Palios (those horse races) previously won, outfits worn from centuries past (including suits of armor!) On display were the costumes that people, today, will wear for Palio celebrations. Some winning banners from the 1700s were hung, the colored designs still visible. There are banners leading all the way up to present day. This whole aspect is still very much alive and active there today!
At the Buco (caterpillar) a guide there was a woman moved from San Francisco. She led us through the contrade explaining things in such detail with wonderful descriptions and a sort of story-teller/historian way. It was awesome! (That's where I got all that i have posted on the subject from. We were pretty much in the dark about the symbolism and meaning behind all the things we were seeing).
It started in the chapel...where she told us how the Horse that will run in the Palio is brought into the church (with a rubber mat layed down to keep the hooves from slipping) and is blessed. Everybody gathered in the chapel (and out on the street to) will sing a song in unison..our guide explained how it is beautiful with everyone singing and echoing off the walls of the church with all their voices.
She explained how the Buco is actually a silk worm, since this contrade was originally for the workers in the silk fields that used to be everywhere around here. There are sort of the symbol for being strong and hard working (i think..i can't remember exactly) but are very welcoming.
The time spent there was completely worth it, and we learned SO much!! It truly is a remarkable tradition that is so functioning, alive, and active today. It didn't feel like it was in a wierd way though and seems very much like a honoring of the past and continuing of traditions.

Ate with the other students here in Siena, it was nice chatting and just talking over a cheap, but delicious, calzone. Before we parted they took us to the Piazzo il Campo where there was a wooden hut they said was set up for the festivities going on this month. They are called Fritelle. we shall refer to them as Rice Balls. They are taken from a flat platter of dough, and the edge is scooped off a little ball and dropped into the oil to fry. Once pulled out, they are rolled in just a little bit of sugar and given hot to the next person in line (since there was always a line, sometimes you had to wait for the next batch to be ready)

Off to the Duomo Cathedral next! The outside was so impressive and large, with the different shades of marble, statues, and decoration. Yet the inside was crazy!. The alternating black and white marble continued on the inside. On either side of the church were large and beautiful, intricate stain glass windows. The floor, which was mostly covered in a protective layer of plastic for people to walk on..had areas revealing the designs inlayed in the marble. Telling stories from the Bible (i think) itwas just beautiful, the depictions. The main alter had animal figures holding it up in the dark wood. Above, the ceiling (wayyy above) was colored a navy blue, and bronze stars were placed all over the ceiling, giving the effect of the heavens at night. By the time we left, I had a "crick" in my neck from looking up at everything.
Super cool room off to the side. the library..with song books on display under lovely paintings. Under the glass were these thick books, with just a page on display. Each page had to have been a couple feet high and a food wide. (give or take) There were notes on the pages..and usually an embellished letter, sometimes with a small picture or image depicted in the corner of the page. In vivid colors along with some gold ink as well.

Becky wanted to see the lookout from the first we took a break, walked to that was pretty awesome seeing Siena under the blue sky and sunshine.

Then backtracked over the same MILE (it seemed) back to the Duomo to go to the museum. Actually (because of shortness of time) we kinda blew past the museums to go up the tower.
The tower (i think) is the highest point in all of Siena...and you can see everything from up there! The very very narrow stairs spiraled upwards, with each stair angled towards the center..and the widest part just barely wide enough for my whole foot to rest on. Arrived at the tippy top, feeling the burn (and me thanking the Lord that I run, or else I would have stopped halfway up for a coffee and cake break) and if your wernt breathless from the climb, then one look out of the view would have done it!!!
To quote Jill "I could pitch a tent up here, make a small fire in a transportable stove live up here" (the trips down those stairs would keep me in stunning shape..and i would only descend from my perch above Siena for more food and the bathroom) no shoes, no shirt, no problem!
We could see down into el campo's shell shaped piazza, the tower. We could see down on the domed roof of the Duomo (which gave perspective since I was just IN there looking UP!)
The wind buffeted our clothes and made each unfastened strand of hair fly in every direction (most especially eyes, nose, and mouth it seemed). But we could see the red tiled roofs of Siena, the tops of all those tall buildings. Then beyond it, the land of Tuscany, smooth in some areas, but mostly with little, smoothly sculpted hills. Farther away, some mountains lurked on the horizon... To one side of the tower, it was all blue skies and sunshine, while on the other, the rain clouds rolled in, streaming grey rain behind them.
Shall I stretch out my arms and let my fabulous clothes (that were not worn) stream out behind me in the wind and sing out "I'm flying! (Jack)"? (Titanic..come on..not all bad!) why yes of course I did! ( we wernt moving, but when your high enough; those fine details are irrelevant)
Getting down , we had to get past a group of people. Passed down the bulky backpack, then, clinging to the center post that the stone stairs narrowed to..we each edged past. laughing the whole way while we squeezed past one another.

Off to the Baptistry, with the paintings on the ceiling (again! curse this heavy hair!) depicting God the Father, Jesus and apostles, washing their feet, some patron, The Ascension into Hell, paradise. Behind the alter and were more paintings, of Jesus in Gethsemane and other decorative images.

We also got to see the recently uncovered crypts. (discovered just a few years ago. Though excavation is at standby because it could compromise the foundation of the building). They think that the space was not actually used to hold the dead... The paintings on walls have been exquisitely preserved, because it was unopened for so long and filled with sand too.
you can still see the gold paint outlining the other colors. There was a a scene across a couple walls with detail visible. of Judas betraying Jesus with the kiss, of the crucifixion, and the burial. The others I could not make out...but just those depictions sent prickling shivers up my spine and across my arms. (the same way music feels when a strong, dissonant chord is followed by a soft, sweet resolute-ing cadence).

Everything pretty much closed after that, so we walked around, checking out a few shops (including one of handmade paper and embellishments! with the shop keeper from the states who had moved there with her husband. ) Found a super cheap place to eat. Bought some more Rice balls for the ride back. No,I will not disclose how many I ate!

Back at the convent (getting reading for class done on the bus ;). Tired from two days of being on our feet..and especially the last day with all the tromping around the city. Totally worth it! Learned lots and got to experience Dolce Siena (sweet siena)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Siena! Friday and Saturday the 19 and 20th


Jill and I woke up at 6:30 am (leaving a couple hours before the rest of the group to take advantage of the trip as much as possible), packed our lunches, and feeling a great deal like turtles , left by 7:20. We practically bounced to the bus stop in excitement , despite the pouring rain, and blustering winds. The excitement of going to Seina is in no way something to be depleted by some damp weather!

One bus and just two metro stops later we got to the train station over half an hour early, which gave us the confidence in finding the bus in plenty of time…. Oh my, with under 20 minutes left, and having been across the street, down the road, around the corner and back again, we finally stopped our manly ways and asked for directions from a very nice little Italian lady who spoke next to no english. She helped us with much gesturing and led us from ticket booth to ticket booth, talking to each person there where our bas was located at. (meanwhile I was frantically trying to get someone on the phone from our group who knew where the bus was and panicking because I could not for the life of me remember collecting two tickets). She finally stopped triumphantly in front of our bus, number 5 , stop. (just a year yards from the area we had been to and fro searching through. Blind American girls. Thank God for being happily helped by extremely nice Italian ladies J how awesome.

On the 3 hours bus ride, nibbled on some snacks, and (like usual) slept curled up in a seat. (I’m travel size for convenience!) Until the bus stopped and we lept off, completely disoriented, without an idea or plan or sense of direction. It took us a few minutes of standing there, gripping each others arms and quietly squealing in excitement at actually being in Siena!!!!!! We snagged some maps and went in look for a cafĂ© somewhere dry…picked a direction and started off!

We ended up going through a gate of red looking so we banked on being able to use “unknowing Americans” as our excuse and ventured down the graveled path. It lead to the outside edge of these walls around a park like area with benches and trees. It was a large fortress type building we dfound out later it is called____. When we reached the side, the view overlooked all of old Siena on one side, and houses layered on top and beside each other..until the hill country settled lower and we could see the valleys. Tracks of gardens with rows leaving imprints where spring would come and fill. Farther hills rose and fell, and on the edge, just the suggestion of mountains smudging the horizion. Clouds raced and hurried by, while close to the earth, while tendrils of rain could be seen brushing the ground.

While up there we took pictures while the wind buffeted our hair (obviously fashionably ) and we unwrapped our sandwiches, carrots, apples etc. (followed by chocolate bar).

Three turns later, down little allies and narrow streets while we paused to look in every other window we passed. Open markets with vegetables, oranges, grapes (one at which we bought big sweet grapes and white grapes) Little restaurants with their menus out, under the awnings. Peering in the windows we could see softly lit rooms with little tables set.

Shops of clothes. Shops with colorful scarves, hats..and a weaving loom set up (taking up most of the space) with a little old lady who asked us where we were from and what we are studying, how long we are staying. She was nice even when we realized we couldnt afford a gosh darn thing.

Met up with the rest of the group at the bus station. it was pouring rain we hustled off to a nearby restaurant. Found a close-by comparatively large place...busy! a line all the way to the door! Moved fast though (Jill and I held the few seats we found). Figured it must be a good place to be packed with all the local Italians (I felt very obvious, like some people knew who usually came, and were accustomed to the sort of people who frequently ate there...and so our presence was not overlooked. Not in a negative way at all though...simply a feeling).

Walked just a little farther and found the Hotel we were spending the night at. albergo- Cannon D'oro! Despite the shady tunnel leading to the entrance, the rooms were large (very comfortably fit the 3 of us) with high ceilings, and big windows. 3 rooms for the group total. Each had our own bathroom (complete with bidet!) and shower. there is a picture of what the view was outside our tiny bathroom window. Another of the three of us (Me, Jill and Becky) plotting and planning..circling and finding routes to where we wanted to go the following day.

For the rest of the evening we walked around old Siena, getting an idea of the lay out, and scrambling to see as much as possible before dark. (many places were closed for the evening, or only open a little longer; which would not leave enough time for the proper amount of head-tilted wandering.

first area we came to was Il Campo, with the Palazzo Pubblico. It was shaped like a shell, higher on one side, and sloping downward to the Palazzo and its belltower (which, along with two of the churches, can be seen nearly anywhere in the city)

Twice a year, in July and August the Il Palio is held! They bring in dirt and pack a track around the Il Campo and hold horse races. It is one of the last bareback horse races left in the world! The shape of the Il Campo (as a shell) has tight corners, sharp angles at the edges and unlevel ground as well. Therefore, along the outer edge they put up padding mattress type barricades. This is so when the horses don't make the turn and fall, they slam into these "soft padding" and are okay.

Ten of the seventeen Contrade have horses in this race (with selection of the 7 who did not participate the year before automatically in the race and then the other 3 drawn at random)

The Il Palio is a big deal here! Something like four days of celebration beforehand. For the winning contrade, ten days of celebration afterwards. Parades with the Contrade getting dressed up in costumes on their horses.

The horses are bought in at three in the morning in the week before the races. and for a few days, are simply run around the track while the judges watch. The certain mixed breed horse is used for this race. Short and sturdy so they have the endurance and low center of gravity to make the fast, sharp turns. The judges finally pick the 10 best from the many that are brought in, and each contrade picks the name of the horse from a hat. If they draw a good horse, they will spend big bucks for a really good jockey.

The horse is more valued then the jockey. Because if a jockey falls off (which happens frequently because of the race being bareback) a horse can still go on and win the race. There is such a strong competitive spirit among the contrade. Wayyyyyyy back in the day (like 17th century?ish??? earlier probably too...) there was poisoning of the horses going on, making them sick, injuring so they couldnt race. Today there are bribes and deals made to keep enemy contrade from winning, or to hinder a horse during the race (some would rather an enemy lose then themselves win). Nobody knows which side anyone is on, and all sorts of money is exchanged. But on the day of the race, no one knows if it was worth it or if jockeys (or whomever) will keep their word.

Due to all this commotion and festivities: wherever the horse is kept will be so silent, you could hear a pin drop. But so many people come to pet the horse, see it, get their pictures taken with the horse. (which makes me pretty happy that this is totally acceptable to be this horse friendly happy over here) At ALL times (night and day) there are no less then four people gaurding the horse. I think it is a tradition that is continued...but also for the money and value put into the horse racing. Following the race, these 3 year old horses are turned out into pasture, or used for pleasure riding. The race is the height of their career, and so strenuous and intense, that they are considered deserving of their pampered and serene retirement to the country.

(think I could join them to such a life following these years of college science?haha "just kidding", i have a horse to give me weekend therapy!)

Met up with the rest of the group for pizza..walked around a little more (found a mint gelato! tasted like mint-ting-a-ling of home, and summertime, and the Lake with family and lots of loving everywhere!) The "main street"leading to el campo was busy even when the stores were closed and there was nothing to do. We were told that people walk the street just to be seen, or to meet with friends.

Curled up, and slept for 7 and a half (ish) hours straight without any dreams for the first time the whole trip! These weekend trips are healthy on so many levels!


Woke up for the breakfast at the hotel at 8. Yes they had a coffee/expresso machine right next to the cereal. and (unlike America) it was gooooood strong coffee too!Today, Let me tell you we did some serious hoofing it! and this weekend I sat down a total of 6 times? including meals and sleeping...

Back to St. Domenico basilica (St. Catherine's). We had stepped in real quick yesterday...during a particularly bad drenching. It was colder inside where it was dry then outside in the rain!

After a quick pow-wow on the outside steps we handed the map around, then set out in a direction to get to the first contrade museum by opening time.

...okay...not done with Siena yet..but whew i figure that's several evenings worth of literature to slog through on a rainy day to take a pause between posts.

sorry about the pictures not showing up. I think if you click the empty space a window will pop up showing a big version. Working on fixing that. Things like this tend to happen when technology is involved...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tuesday, February 16

The skipping around of days is simply due to the enthusiasm I am exhibiting toward my studies. Plus, it's been raining everyday (with only a few exeptions) at least at some point. So on the particularly damp and overcast tends to snuggle up on the floor with some blankets next to the radiator and get through some assignments. oh wait..that's just me.

Well today was one of the raining days that we had something scheduled to do.
ilovegortexilovegortexilovegortex, and my Merrell hiking books and my waterproof-rain-jacket. and if one more person with their cute shoes, and teeny umbrella with their cute sweater complains (no one in paticular! just in general)...i will no longer keep the laughter to myself. Umbrellas are weapons. with people crammed onto sidewalks, each with an umbrella with pointy ends..who designed those? honestly.

We met with Dr. Szabo at the Pantheon :) I don't even care that it was raining...because for class I went to the Pantheon. *jaw drop*
Standing there in just the entryway was incredible. The pillars (maybe 40ft?) were brought here to Rome from Egypt. So was the obilisk outside the pantheon in the piazza.
Walking inside of the building gave me chills (and not from it having too much airflow... the only natural light that comes in is from the doors or the oculus, which is 142 feet above you! and the opening is 27 feet across. Though looking up you would never know!) The rain came sprinkling down, seemingly misting by the time it made it to the floor where the water was drained into the original pipes of Rome.
Initially the Pantheon was a temple to all the gods. and a massive statue of Jupiter sat at the far side which, at a certain point in the day, the sun would shine directly on the statue, lighting it up. It then became the first pagan temple to be used as a church for Christians.
Also there was Raphael's tomb!!!! This italian painter from the high Renaissance was one of the great masters. I think my heart skipped a few beats when I realized who was buried there. His paintings are everywhere, even today! (yes, i will be seeing some in real life! and i will have a tissue for when I either drool over the beauty of it..or perhaps cry from excitement) Engraved on his marble sarcophagus in elegiac distich reads: "Ille hic est Raffael, timuit quo sospite vinci, rerum magna parens et moriente mori." which means "Here lies that famous Raphael by whom Nature feared to be conquered while he lived, and when he was dying, feared herself to die."
Maybe I was just hopping off that cappuccino...but it seems so divinely worded..
The Pantheon was a ridiculously awesome architectual achievment for it's time. The proportions are perfect. It also used a technique with heavier building materials poured into the super thick walls (xx feet)at the bottom, and they higher the building,the lighter the materials use.

The non-structure aware side of me is totally enthralled.....

Could not get the picture from the outside of the Pantheon due to the small monsoon..and these few pictures inside,of course, do not capture it. The one to the left and the center pictures is where the statue of Jupiter once was, and is now the alter for the church services. and the stunning facial expression can only be explained as "silently screaming in excitement" it was so dark in the pic you can mainly just see the oculus and not the rest of the ceiling.

I highly recommend standing there, or just walking slowly around. Without a heavy bag or anything because it will just hurt more with all the twisting around to get a look at everything and bending halfway backwards to see the majority of the building above eye level.

As the group was walking, we paused briefly at Piazza Di Sant'Ignazio, a church with absolutly amazing paintings decorating the walls and ceilings. The building was meant to have a dome but ran out of funds and instead has one of the best illusions of a dome known. When we go back and visit, there WILL be pictures. unless your standing directly under the ceiling...for all appearences there is a dome raising in the center of that ceiling. mad-whoa illusion!


Basilica Papale Santa Maria Maggiore! When it was first built it was called "Santa Maria ad Nives" ...St. Mary of the Snow. Because on August 5th in the..fourteenth(?) century two people had a dream (or something) of St.Mary telling them to build her a church where the snow falls. and the next morning the top of Esquiline Hill (one of the major 7 here in Roma) was covered in snow. The name was changed by a later pope due to lack of proof of this event, but I thought it was pretty rad. Snow in August!!

Walking inside was, like all the churches here it seems, breathtaking!

The first picture is from near the alter looking back. Notice the circular stainglass?and there are paintings and mosaics under and around those windows! the ceiling..looks like just squares of shiney paint si? THE CEILING IS MADE WITH GOLD BROUGHT BACK BY COLUMBUS FROM AMERICA TO QUEEN ISABELLA! let that thought sink in... the second picture shows the ceiling area behind the alter (in the apse) which has a mosaic (with gold coated pieces) of Jesus annointing Mary (i think) and all sorts of beautiful elaborate designs around it. including angels with wings colorfully tipped! and on the walls surrounding were different stories of Jesus and the disciples. The third picture is just another area in the church (I think St. Matthew's body was there too!!!)

I did not get a good picture of the alter, made of a rare, red marble. Below that was a (supposed) piece of the Holy Crib. Since a good part of the reason behind building this church was to remind people that Jesus was born by a human mother, a reminder that He was not just divine by human as well.

Also buried there is Bernini...a master Italian artist! ( I run past one of his fountains each morning. and it still puts a bounce of excitement in my step to see the figures shapes with the spouting water) His work is everywhere, he was primarily a sculptor as well as an architect and painter. He was part of the intro into Roman Baroque style... Anyways, despite all this greatness, he is buried in this church under an engraved slab of stone in the floor. That is all. I almost liked him better for it... though was still shocked at the simplicity and humbleness.

Headed "home" for some quick food and a thaw out time under the blankets before going to church for english classes. It was fun :) with level 3 again, and we stayed for dinner afterwards with the teachers/missionaries! so worth facing the damp and chill for! (and I'm not only saying that because we stopped for gelato on the way home) <3

Monday, February 15, 2010

Saturday, February 13th

So about that last post...sorry the pics are all out of order with the referencing. But I'm hoping with a little big of guessing it won't be too hard to figure out which picture is what description...

Saturday I dragged my tired rear end out of bed (8 hours total yesterday of trains and buses... just a smidge glazed) and met up with one of the people from the Rome Baptist church (that we attended sunday as a group, and went to tuesday for the english classes) and we went to the church/kitchen set up where the meals were being made for the Afghan refugees. Down a little ally, in a nook at the green painted door (bottom buzzer!! or else they won't hear!)

It was a tiny kitchen, with a little stove the required pots to be artfully placed to get full surface use. two women (both names elizabeth) were in charge organizing and cooking. Rice, lintles, and a vegetable mix. The way they worked together was amazing...i mean, they have been doing it for a while...but honestly it was seamless. There wasnt one in charge over the other, both shared ideas, comments, suggestions, questioning, checking each other. Role models for real.

I felt a little inept you know? trying to cut onions quickly (until my eyes stung and watered so much that i just took it slow). Did dishes, handed things when asked...basically desperately attempting to be more of a help than a hinderance.

Took a break while things were cooking with a couple people and went across the road to a caffe where i had a divine cappaccino..with foam on top. It was strong and great by itself. but add 3/4 a packet of suger and let me say..I'm ruined for life. There will be no returning home after this experience with coffee. Also got a little breakfast "pasta con cioccolato" which is like a pastry with cholocate in it. Only it's fresh and the sugary flakes that make it melt in your mouth like a dessert.
Every morning should start just so.

To the park to distribute the food... all men (I stuck like glue to one of the church friend's side. Apologized, thankfully he was totally cool about it, saying he remembered what it was like his first time).
I passed out spoons and napkins. each person said thank you (mostly in italian, but some in english) it didnt feel like much. It didnt feel like much in the slightest. There was so much more need present then what was being met. and there was nothing else left to be done, not by me.
I don't know where the refugees came from or where they stayed, or where they returned to following the food distribution. I don't know how this system is set up. I don't know the "plan". but it seems a little bit flawed

Before leaving Elizabeth gave me a great big hug. you know, just like a best-friend's mom or your aunt would give you, or a sunday school or piano teacher.. both arms and a big squeeze :) She asked me how I was doing, processing it all... and shared that I shouldnt feel guilty, it's something they all struggle with. We can't feel bad for them, because that wont make things any better for anybody and will just make us feel worse. So we simply have to remind ourselves that we are doing what we can. (God has the power). Stellar.

For Valentine's day the whole group of us got dressed up and went out to the Hard Rock Cafe a Roma! It was ridiculously expensive. 14,75 euros for a hamburger (that's like $20 something) psh. I am not missing burgers that badly (YET). so I got the maccaroni with 4 cheeses. :) needless to say... if mac and cheese had that sort of would not be restricted to the kraft brand at shop n' save.
Some went out afterwards, just to relax and keep hanging. Ended up being a really fun, chill evening. Not too shabby considering about half the group were moping around because of our valentine's being back home... **blows kiss**

the group pic from left to right is Frank/Willie, Jill Miser, Moi, Becky Ainsworth and Monica Miller. then there was the "stain glass" of none other than The King or Rock and Roll. and the darker pic is the three amici..three friends. Becky, moi, and Jill :) ohh..and yeah.. that is the new shirt! ...We had an hour to wait before getting a seat. lots of photo posing and bulbs flashing.

Friday, Feb 12..POMPEI!

The whole group woke up early to catch a train (8am departure). To my credit, I uncharacteristically did NOT sleep. bought a capaccino and dug into the assignments for the weekend. oh, so on this!!
When we were leaving, the snow started coming down in those big, wet chunks of snowflakes!! Jill and I were excited: but everyone seemed a bit melancholy (which is understandable since the plan is to be outside checking out pompei for the day). Not as good as 3 feet of snow.... but beggers can't be choosers lol. Outside the window, for a bit we could see the earth with a light dusting covering the grass. It soon dissapeared... but then we could see the fields that (despite being January) were GREEN! different shades. Some deep green, some faded and with a little blue. Some fields had empty orchards and vineyards, with quiet empty trees and trellises. (spring is going to be sweeeeet here)
During the over 2 hours on train let us see some of italy's countryside! First mountains!!! not impressive to peope who live around real-deal Mountains. but for Pennsylvania was jazzed. The farther south we went the bigger and and higher the mountains rose. You can see the liittle villages perched on the sides of the steep hills! (i sort of wanted to just drive up there and unroll my sleeping bag in some little old lady's bed and breakfast... I could take online classes right?)
As we got closer to naples (connecting train) the ocean came into view on the opposite side of the train. (Mountains and ocean!!! ocean and mountains! studying stopped about then..i was way too distracted by the windows. sort of like a little kid with her nose pressed against the window, breath fogging up the glass)

Pompei was incredible. we walked with Dr. Szabo for a little bit, snapping off pictures while she pointed out what various structures were.She is like a tour guide in herself. and ridiculously hilarious. molto amore (much love)

(above) tombs! (in the center) Dr. Szabo (purple scarf) and Kristin! they are at what would be like like a "fast food" style restaurant. It was called a Thermopolium. Please notice the different types of marble used as a "countertop"! (second to the right) here is one of the more narrow side streets in Pompei. with mt. Vesuvius in the background! the streets are made of big, giant, smooth (but uneven) rocks. The large rocks that are bigger in the center of the street (on the larger wider roads there would sometimes be two or three of these) are stepping stones so that when the roads were muddy or flooded so you could cross the street without getting your dainty feet wet. (farthest right) Jill standing at the bakery, next to her is where the grain was poured and a donkey would walk around and grind it. Behind her is the wood-burning oven.

(above left) one of the many arches over the street. (note the two goddesses on either side of the road. Oh, wait, that's Jill and me!). Arches are still standing after 2000 years!!! They were over the roads, and inside houses, and other buildings. The arch was more exciting than sliced bread. (center) is a little alter fountain (with statues on either side) made completely of colored pieces to make these mosaic designs. Also throughout the city are mosaics on the floors/entryways of wealthy people's homes, onthe walls! (above right) Jill standing by the pillars in one of the wealthy people's homes. This house even had a bath/pool thing in the atria/entryway...the one at this dude's house was wayy deeper/bigger than most. why yes i would bathe outdoors while inside my house with pillars and a garden about me! e tu? and you??

Above left is me in front of the remains of a fresca painting. The colors and details are STILL VISIBLE ON THE WALLS (did i already mention from 2000 years ago!? ok, i know i did, but i still find that incredible. I can't even get my nailpolish to stay on for a week...) Center is me, in a tomb. It was dark and creepy inside. But it's about the experience of doing it, right? ugh. The inside had hallows carved out in the stone, perhaps so the urns of the whole family could rest together? The right is just a pic (Jill and I took some seriously artistic ones among the ruins) of me on an ancient stair. Feelin the wisdom of ages as I sit on the stoop thinking...

above left is the whole group striking a stunning pose by the temple of Jupiter (Roman version of Zeus!) In the center pic is the Lupanare (*ahem* brothel )painted decorations above the doors. 5 rooms on the ground floor and an upper floor (what a business to have two story revenue.) The beds were stone, and a matress would have been on top. Most prostitutes (in latin.."lupa") were slaves of greek or oriental origin. Earnings went to the owner (Pimp) since the women there were without legal standing. Only giving this historical information so I can, hence, freely rant and rave about the injustices of women throughout history and how the sex trade is such a serious issue, even now, in modern day America. Some things don't change and, dangit, they should!
Far right picture is of me and Jill (do try to appreciate our flexing, strong, stances!) in front of the auditorium. (much like the colosseum) where inside were games and gladiatorial fights (among other things, occasionally somewhat nasty too).

above left is a whole series of archs...i know i know...enough of the arches anna! but for real, if they are boring...just look at the bricks! and the ultimate coolness that this stuff is still standing. I also have a almost aeriel pic taken from a corner of a house that had enough dirt packed that one could see above the ruins a little (with a little bit of manuvering and climbing). but it doesnt really look like much in the pic. It was awesome to see from that vantage point The pic on the right is the forum, which was the city's main square (no cart traffic!) surrounding it were political, religious,and business buildings. The first monumental arrangement there dates back to 2nd century B.C. Also, the city's administrative buildings were located in this area. Statues were most likely placed around the forum. Twas the hub. (like what penn state has...only with more power)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Tuesday, February 9

This afternoon, the group went to Musei Capitolini Roma. From the street below we walked up stairs, DESIGNED MY MICHELANGELO!!!!!!! he also made the two sculptors representing two rivers (Tiber and Nile...depicted as men, they are symbolic of the rivers.) on either side of the top of the stairs that were the enterance to a palizia (that he also designed). The "stairs" were stones, layed together at an angle and at intervals, going horizontally across this sort of slope-ing ramp were little raised stones...hence creating a sort of step-the whole way up the hill!
In the center was the (replica) of the bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius victorious on a horse. Standing next to it, the monument looms above your head, but you can see the veins on the horse's body, and details of the man's armor and counenance. One of his hands is outreached to show protection to his people, and power in his speaking and addressing of the people (also frequently seen on ceaser augustus' statues). The other hand has two fingers slightly bent to show piety or blessings (later became really popular in depictions of Jesus and Saints.)
The buildings themselves were very interesting, with a few giant sculptors of men lounging on either side of the central one, and the goddess minerva at the center. The same central building had stairs on both sides leading all the way up to the door. they said that was the mayors palazzo. We went into the museum on the otherside.
The first couryard held the remaining marble pieces of what was once a GIANT statue of Constantine. I didnt get many pictures of his head, or hand, and i wanted to "flex" my arm in a curl next to the remianing piece of his bicep and elbow(but my camera's battery blinked off) Did, however, get a pic in front of his foot! because it was hilarious. just.a big...foot!
Walking to the next gallery had frescos all over the walls depicting Roman populace life, daily activities, wars, and functions. In one room On the celing, which was divided into squares, there was midevil/ renaissance scenes depicted with knights and ladies and such.

This statue (to the left) is a well known bronze sculptor with amazing detail including the curve of the figures spine, the muscles, shoulder blades, arch of his neck. in bronze!oh ridiclously awesome. I can't imagine the work it took to get the block of metal worked down and then sanded and edged to the human form. i get little goosebumps (people bumps?) all up and down my arms. Also the capitoline wolf was at the museum. she is from 500 B.C. and the two babies added in the Renaissance. Can you see the different textures on her mane? she's really rather fierce looking in real life (when your nose is at the same level of her jaw). Images of this she wolf is seen all over Rome, as a symbol for the famous tale of Romulus and Remus (the two babies) . Abandoned on the Tiber River, and sons of the god Mars. A female wolf suckled them until they were taken in by a shepherd.When the grew up and founded the city of Rome. In a competition to see which would be the ruler, Romulous ended up killing his brother. The story is considered the starting point for the history of Rome.

Sorry for the long drawn out descriptions and little pictures. I'm begining to feel like a boring textbook with my museum photos. My camera died after this, so there's a lot less. Which was prob good because then i was able to just wander around..mouth attractively agape at all these pieces of art.

it is really insane to think about. That these artists, and people formed these pieces of pottery, or marble, or paintings so many hundreds of years ago. Many made before America was even discovered!
The basement floor was all fragments of stone tablets with laws and codes inscribed on them, games, and such. To think that everything was carved in stone, and was uncovered to still exist today!
I am so very happy with paper and a pen. Or the computer... my illegible handwriting is kept unrevealed. (plus i can type faster then i can write...keeping this pages full of ramblings)

On another level was a courtyard with statues for the Roman gods and goddesses, as well more inside. For some reason I used to totally dig Greek mythology (which is the same thing only different names) something about the stories of these immortal figures that governed people lives and inspired these amazing, massive temples.

I like the stories of the gods and goddesses, something about how long the myths lasted through time...though, while reading the Aeneid..i'm starting to find them more and more...well, annoying. Some of them are unfailingly cool. but others sound like whiney little busy-bodies who go around being selfish about this, and angry over that,proud and plotting.
Either way, i was totally jazzed to take a pic by Minerva, goddess of warriors, wisdom, poetry, medicine etc. (aka Athena: the grey eyed goddess who was with Odysseus for that whole epic).
Top floor was paintings! Midevil (with the figures a little unproportioned and flat scenery), Renaissance (more depth, more shadows. More realism in the proportions) etc. etc. Saints, and angels and Madonna and Child, and the Trinity, more stories from mythology. All painted and preserved on these canvases that I can look at today. *sighs with happiness* by the time I got to the top i kinda wanted to sit down and stare ( eventually did the sitting bit), the colors and shapes the emotions that the painter depicted. The symbology that I am so very oblivious to... but wish i wasnt. Managed to pick up a little bit, thanks to humanities 203 last summer. Oh well, not a waste after all.
That night most of the group went to the Roman Baptist church we attended for Sunday because English classes are held there...and they need help. Different rooms had different levels. I ended up in Level a tiny sunday school classroom with the majority of the students old enough to be my grandparents...but fully capable of asking questions and talking in english (more than i think i will ever be able to do in Italian). The teacher of this class was a stylish older man, who explained with his hands and laughed often with a clear"HaHaHa" (like him more just for that) said he has been in Italy for 2 years working in the missions. He went back to the states for a month this past year, and will never ever return for that long ever again because of how much he dislikes the culture there. I really wanted to talk to him about why, and the things he notices, the differences. Will I be able to notice these after a few short months here?
English lesson was on prepositions. (at, to,in,on) I don't know HOW he explained it all because i have come to the conclusion that the english language has more exceptions than rules.
Afterwards they made pasta (with basil, and tomato sauce) for us all, and we sat around talking with the people who taught english. It was such a tiny little community, but strong and welcoming. Maybe it's a real-christian thing. Maybe it's just that feeling I have been missing from church back home.But I really and truly enjoyed the comradity around that table. They just wecomed our group for the evening, talking and asking us questions, giving us tips.
and Jill and I found a piano we are allowed to play on <3
the perfect ending to the long day. Gelato,of course! Bacio (chocolate nut type) and Noce (black Walnut).
ciao mi amici!
(by, my friends!)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sunday, February 7th

Went to a english speaking service at the Roman Baptist church Kristen (the director of our clan) goes to. I have never been to a Roman Baptist church at home, so i really have nothing to compare it to.

But the chapel was pretty small...yet absolutly full of people :) lots of kids too..which for some reason made it just that much better.

and the hymms! were the same ones we sing in the Big ol' hymnal back home for early *yawns* traditional service. the ones i remember when i was short...-er... so it felt a little bit like home. Only, the pianist did a great job and all... but it wasn't like Beth Wehr plays it, nor her pretty face. And a tiny little lady greeted us at the door... not Rob Wehr with a hand warmer for cold days and a big busy mustache.

well, all the reading assignments are pile-ing up. The Aeneid!!! (which has a bunch of similarities to the Odessey!!! :) and Culture book..with a couple pages of response. the roman art and culture book. and a 3 page (double spaced) review of the movie we watched. Been working on them, but will never find it obscenely painful or stressful. It's in english. It's not science. I understand it. and I'm a pro BS-er at papers (thank you AP english). *happy sigh* what a wonderful semester class schedule!!!! still....don't let me change my major when i get back!


The whole group went out to eat at a place recommended being cheap and tasty by travel guru, Rick Steve's. It was nice, right near the Pantheon... and very spacious and large inside. which is rare, very rare. They had great salades, huge sandwhiches (hmm, suspicion..havnt seen those in a while) I just got a Corretto (expresso with a drop of..something that tasted like black liquorice) but a couple girls in the group couldnt finish their sandwhiches. The walls had all sorts of sport teams flags or signs or whatever up on the wall. it was a nice and almost home like. As guests, we each got a little half glass of sparkling strawberry wine. Very sweet. Very summertime!

After we broke up into smaller groups and went shopping. Okay, I had zero intention of buying anything in the center... unless some article or shoe or piece of jewlery was screaming my name..and i wanted to be screamed at in Italian. I swear, if someone read my thoughts and saw my actions: the laughter would never cease. After cruising through a few stores, we were strolling on the narrow sidewalk (store fronts on one side,cars and buses a scarce 3.4 ft away. ish) when I stopped and backstepped. There was no magical italian draw, but certainly cute!! (and not tooo expensive) and Jill suggesting to try it on. You know me, not about to argue with the roomie!

{if you do not care about fashion, a description of what i bought or the purchasing process (and i really can't blame youif that's so)..SKIP AHEAD TWO PARAGRAPHS.}

It's a ultra soft, light fabric,with italian stitched on the tag.Long shirt that can be used as a dress thing with leggings without looking skanky. Long sleeves, but easy to push up(not clingy or heavy) . Baggy in the upper arms and shoulders, making it drape nicely. Can't really descibe, but sort of horizontal cut V down the front and back, with a weaving tie that strings together the gaps. Deff suited my style (whatever that is) Casual, but could be dressed up with some high heels ;) I have seen the style start up in the U.S. (in high end stores, and Inked..) and I liked it there too, Not commonly found, and (even with the conversion rate) more expensive back home. [sorry for that long attempt at fashion description: it's for the Chic and inquisitive friends]
oh, I don't usually say this about myself.... but when I tried it on.. i looked pretty darn good!!! So i debated it, thought of pros and cons, talking it out with the logical and patient St. Jill.

[The whole time the lady who worked there was giving me leggings to try on, looping a belt around my waist, helping me into sweaters.*sighs* if-only-i-had-lots-and-lots-of-money ..i would buy lots of cute, pretty, soft clothes...but in all honesty, i know prob wouldnt. too many wells i want to dig in africa. A girl can dream hypothetically though]
see? this is why i don't shop. think way too much.
Bought the shirt!:) and headed triumphantly "home"

Later at night, a group of us went out to find an area in the city known to be our age group friendly. We got a little dressed up, me in low heels (bought to keep me from killing myself on the cobblestone roads) Lord bless the girls in the group who (looking fabulous) had on the high, skinny heels. I nearly fell 10 times and have no idea how they managed. one girl walked out of hers 3 times when they got caught in cracks)
The group got rather lost. and by that i mean, walked from Victor Emmanuals memorial to the bridge across the Vatican, and threw in a few circles there. (about an hour and a half).It was raining. It was chilly. Morale was just a bit low.
Finally made it to destination, and despite it being late, the crowds were just arriving it seemed. Wefound a nice restaurant and sat outside under the plastic tent set up (with warm gas type heating poles placed wonderfully around). Food was welcomed by our footsore, damp, and chilled group...even the guys... I got a little dessert type drink, clinking glasses in a toast all around :) and relaxed while we chattered away.

On our way back,we took a bus to Termini... discovering,much to your dismay... there were no more buses running to Nomentana after midnight! (it was minutes after) A couple of the guys, "needing" the bathroom broke off from the group, the rest of us picked a homeward-ish direction to start walking. Two stops later, asking "Di Dove sei (Where is)..via nomentana" and following the vague gesturing...after a few blocks i started to recognize a few things!! from the bus and from running (finally being useful!). I am just glad they trusted me enough on a few of the questionable turns. I shamelessly broke into a mini victory dance when we found porta pia.. a marker for the street where we live.
Standing at the last bus stop, we waited for the very last bus of the evening to take us back. (the poor guys didnt make it had to walk to the whole way back from termini. estimated time on foot: about an hour?) We finally arrived at the convent, bedraggled and tired. And (now home and thawing) we were able to find the humor in the evenings wanderings. The story will be laughed over and recounted at the lunch table, despite the great frustrations and discomfort people had, because the whole ordeal was so dissapointing and turned just has to laugh!!! Though, even with a bloody blister, i couldnt stop chuckling to myself the whole time.

Monday, February 8, 2010

THURSDAY (eek, behind i know)

Watched Cabiria in cinema class. it's a 3 hour long silent black and white film that was made in 1914. Not that bad, all things considering. Long. Dramatic. but easy to talk during...
that evening, the girls went out to eat at a pizzaria just down the street. Most restaurants do not open for dinner until 7pm. Have not adjusted to that completely we showed up promptly at 7:10 (trying to stall for time so as not to apear rude over anxious). Our lovely group were second to arrive.
A little older man, with neatly combed white hair and dressed very nicely was standing and greeted us. I'm assuming he was the owner..and spoke absolutly no english. We all smiled and were led to our seats by a english fluent waiter.
Dinner: thin crust pizza with buffalo milk cheese on top. *sighs with happpiness* I think it was a bit saltier tasting. but honestly, hard to tell. i will simply have to sample again once my taste is more cultivated.
Afterwards five of the girls (so all but two) went to the City Center. We used the buses this time..

Note: first time on the metro was the other day. Moment to describe? There was really nothing exceptional about it (like Moscow: the subway system had,in my unknowing opinion, some pretty nice architecture) except that when the subway pulled up it was so graffetied and painted that there was no original metal showing, all colors and shapes and designed in a blur that came speeding to the stop. We all shuffled on, smushed our way amidst people and help on tight to the nearest poll or bar. After several stops and several THOUSAND more people joined... Jill couldnt reach a bar to stablize herself, and had one hand in her pocket on her camera, the other holding a bag. I white knuckled it on the bar and wrapped an arm tight around her waist, so with each jerking and jolting start and stop we both managed to stay upright, instead of her hurtling into the mass of strange people (possibly never to be recovered, being so short in height). my theme song for that moment: "I'm Your Man"

Anyways, back to thursday night. We took the bus to the Colosseum. It was lit up, so all the arches and curves stood out in the night. I almost liked it better at didnt look like just another old building, but instead came to life with the shadows lurking behind the open arches...while those many arches seemed more noticable with the spotlights.
I wanted to grab a good friend, and sit on the giant curb nearby and talk about all its many great, confusing, happy, strange aspects. With a drink in hand (cappachino? or Corretta...expresso and liquor) or perhaps simply gelato! while staring at that big, crumbling...yet unyielding building.

Leaving there, we walked back to Victor Emmanual's monument, then to the Trevi fountain. I will never get tired at looking at these buildings. It was still crowded there, despite the later hour and the dark. I noticed like twelve billion more details. The rocks and sea shells, the sculptled horses hooves and dredlocked manes.
The lights that illuminated the fountain also went streaming through the rest of the pool's clear water.
Needless to say, if there was ever no one around...without hesitation I would go skinny dipping in the Trevi fountain!

(ps: don't worry. that will never happen. there's always tourists around)
(pps: dangit!)

Friday, February 5, 2010

On wednesday the 3rd


Morning run...I sort of have a route down i'm getting lost less and less. Not too concerned about it getting boring though. Fairly certain that with a couple right turns I could bring THAT spark back into the "monotony"

to put your minds at ease (family who loves me and worries) people here (the director and my friends/students here :) know what time I leave. I run with a cell phone. I stay either on the main road or just a block or two away. It's the city, there are people and cars everywhere!

and, if someone wanted to stop the car and snatch me, the traffic here would NOT allow. (esp. in the morning) if a car even slows down or gets in the way... i would hear it 10 miles (km?) away because of all the horn honking that occurs. (it's like another language, or cars. There's even dissonant chorus, chords, harmonys, and conversations from the horns beeping.i can crack open the window and have the accompanyment).

Today, the group went to St. Celemente's Basilica. Look it up, the place is awesome. There's a LOT of mosaics inlayed on the walls, and throughout the chapel. The front part, behind the alter, high up wall in blue, and gold was a mosaic of Jesus on the cross, and at the base a bush that (we were told) is the tree of life. From it branched vines that encircled different images and people. beneath that were two deer (with antlers) peacocks, birds, and flowers. ALL IN MOSAIC. I have never done mosaic, for a very good reason. all the little colored chips fit in so perfectly, and the colors, up close, look random and scattered, but far away make a lovely image.

each corner, side, crevice, wall, and semi circular room to the side (whatever that is called) had paintings, sculptures. Designs wove up the sides of stairs, mouldings decorated edges. They don't do things like that anymore. Every inch of this church was designed and used.

paintings high on the upper part of the walls had different scenes depicted... some very clear with vivid colors. Some older and faded, with pieces of the wall fallen off.

Now here is when it got cool (literally and figurtively) below this church was a 4th century church. used by early Christians. The columns had walls built around them, for extra support (I think i read somewhere after an earthquake the pope had it built up? maybe??) There were Marble columns around where they put St. Clement's supposed body. There's a pretty interesting story in that... he was tied to an anchor and dropped into an ocean. Supposedly angels protected his body and one day someone else found it... Then there's another one, where once a year, the sea receded to leave his tomb exposed so people could see it and visit it. one of the paintings told of a little boy who was lost on one of these occasions and they found him the following year safe in the tomb.

okey dokey then.

Ready, this place gets even more awesome. Below the 4th century church was a 1st century structure as well. it started as a wealthy man's house, and then was converted into a Pagan Temple for the Bull god, Mithras. It was crazy walking through those halls, underground (still cold). One area had the alter, where a new member of the group (or whatever) was initiated, he stood under an grate in front of the alter. Overhead, a bull would be led and his throat slit so that the man below would be washed in the animals blood. *shudders* This sect only allowed male members...and was particularly popular among the roman soldiers and centurion. there was also a school room, (to teach future or new members all the rules and regulations of the game?) The floors were designed brick herring (i think that's how u spell it) making patterns on the floor,with the thin part of the brick side up, and layed close to each other.

We could hear the sound of rushing water, and in one room there was a spring that came down and splashed from the rocks, and made or joined the stream. The water was still good and Jill and I took a drink, cupping our hands under the earth warmed water, and taking a sip :) it tasted how the air smelled. almost. not musty and old though. the water was warm (i had expected it to be ice cold, becuase of how cold the air was) from how deep the spring came from, and it tasted like the dirt it had run through. almost like stream water, and without the flavor of iron like the well water at the barn.

Jill and I just kept looking at each other for the rest of the day, and saying "today, we drank spring water from a first century pagan temple!" sounds silly that we were so intregued by this. but if you were there, you would be too.


Back "home" Jill and I went to the grocery store for meal supplies. Here's some staples we have realized that we should be stocked on:

1. Nutella 2. crackers for the nutella and some for snacking 3. Cheese! all sorts of different kinds to try! 4. something green, or tomatoes 5. pasta. cheap, easy to make and tasty even in the cheap brands here 6. chicken, for protein 7. pesto!!!! 8. picked up some isnt very thick, light in color, and very sweet! 9. did i already say nutella?

for the group we are provided fresh bread each morning, with plenty to have throughout the day. some yogurt. Also fruit (currently in the fridge are apples, bannanas, kiwi!! and red oranges...but the juicy ripe flavorful delicious kind that we can't get in PA)

sorry for continuing to talk of food, but i figured people want to know what its like, eh? it IS different. and I'm learning to cook! or at least preparing it..that has to count right?

Oh, on the bus, Jill and I talked with a older gentleman with a British accent. Wished we didnt get to our stop so early, it was so completely awesome talking to him! He is here for business for six months, and talked to us about how "autrociously" they drive, and the city governement wouldnt ever do anthing about it, but they should Then he mentioned how something else was "brilliant" in that clear, ennunciated, educated accent. How i wish Americans retained some of that intelligence and ability to use language eloquently.

Laundry....washed it twice and it didnt CLEAN the clothes..they still smelled... so when i bought some detergent (with Jill), it ended up being lavender scented. like, the flower one would grow in the garden. plus it stayed on the clothes after drying (outside on the clothesline :)