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Category Archives: Art

(Day 88) Buon Ringraziamento

Thursday, 9:00 pm

Happy Thanksgiving, American people : D

Finally made it back in, and what I would like to do now is provide some variation from the bullet-lists and make up for the posting delay with a giant picspam.

However, what my internet and available time will *allow* me to do is post a couple photos (with more to come as soon as the month rolls over on my internet key) and do a quick bullet list.  So.

  • ROME, from last Thursday to Sunday night.  Second wind, feels-like-vacation time.  A *LOT* of walking, and on very terrible cobble streets.  A *LOT* of museums, which were much more enjoyable.  An exclusive trip up to the very top level of the Coliseum, normally closed to the public.  A likewise exclusive trip to the Necropolis, the preserved ‘city of the dead’ under the Vatican.  An amazing, once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the Sistine Chapel almost emptied of people but all lit up — because we happened to be there around closing time when a famous soccer coach was getting a private tour.  (This also meant we could sneak photos, as the coach’s group was doing it and the guards were all lining up for photos with him anyway.)  Possibly the best gelato I have ever had (white chocolate and dark chocolate from a place called Giolitti’s) paid for by our professors after a walking tour.  And on Sunday, the Galleria Borghese found to be a new contender for favorite art museum: (A) I knew I had a good feeling about this place, and (B) Bernini’s sculptures are in actual fact better in person and I could not. stop. staring.  Oh, plus Raphael ❤

  

    Wait for it…

BAM. 

  • Got back into Florence late Sunday evening, and found that we now have a new house-mate.  The Brazilian girl who lived down the hall had departed Saturday (which we knew about), and in her place there is now a middle-aged Japanese woman who will be here for two weeks studying at Linguaviva.  She (Toshiko) already has a little Italian, but astonishingly mine is actually much better, so I’ve been helping her out at Gabriella’s request.  I like her, she’s friendly and enthusiastic and she gave me a Japanese keychain : )
  • Also, found out when we went into the city center Monday morning that Florence has officially switched over to Christmas.  Don’t know what the trigger was, but the grocery store is all decked out and so are most of the other retailers — and I know it’s all commercial, but Christmas lights!
  • Monday, Tuesday,  Wednesday — homework.  Now that we’re done with Italian class, all attention is turned to the paper I have to write for the Medici art history class (Raphael’s work as a reflection of Pope Leo X’s court), the final exam I have to take for the same class, the final project for Weaving the Tale (the creation of a visual narrative and a 2-page statement about it), and more sketches for the Studio class.  Two weeks, readysetgo.
  • Today, though, a little break in the form of a field trip.  It was still technically a class day, in that we visited a Medici villa (Poggio a Caiano) and talked about its signficance, but after that we got a tour of a little place that manufactures both wine and olive oil, and were then treated to a magnificent oil-based meal.  (And seriously, after all my time here I can say that Capazzano has hands-down the best olive oil I’ve ever tasted.)  It was a traditional harvest meal, and we were to think of it as our Italian Thanksgiving — there was wine, more wine, bread with spinach and beans, penne, slices of ham and mashed potatoes, and we ended on an apple tort (by special request of Jodie as a pseudo apple pie).*  Weather-wise it was a perfect day, and I think we all walked away pretty happy…and, in some cases, rather tipsy.  Made the bus ride interesting : )
  • Got back to Florence, did homework for a while, and geared up for dinner.  And I’m very glad I went a little light on lunch, because Gabriella had prepared bread, slices of turkey, peas, corn (which she is unfamiliar with, and apologized for making “with love but no experience”), and ultimately a very impressive apple crisp.  Yay non-English-speaking double Thanksgiving \o/
  • Tomorrow, of course, have to start walking off all the food, and then it’s back to work.  If there are any interesting developments I shall pass them along, and otherwise I’ll probably be back in Wednesday night or Thursday after we have gone to ~the opera~.
  • Buonanotte : )

*The names of all these foods sound so much better in Italian: crostini con cavolo nero e fagioli, penne ai tre cavoli, arista all’olio nuovo con puree di patate, torta di melee.  Italian changes the off-putting ‘eggplant’ into my favorite ‘melanzana’ (which I can and will keep talking about), turns the baffling ‘pineapple’ into the ever-fun ‘ananas,’ makes plain broth into ‘minestrina’, and even ‘broccoli’ can be softened into ‘broccolini’ (which, incidentally, is delicious and is weirdly *the* thing on which I am most likely to overeat).  It is the world’s unparalleled language at dinnertime.

…But then again, English does have snickerdoodles.  Tough call.

 

(Day 79) Grazie

Tuesday, 9:33 pm

Shouldn’t be here, because I’m in the middle of studying for my Italian final (which is already tomorrow, and could someone please explain what happened there), but real quick:

  • Early class this morning, just bitingly nastily cold, and we actually ended up spending a half hour standing *outside* Palazzo Vecchio to discuss Donatello’s statue of Judith and Holofernes.  Great location, great statue, and I love being out in the morning more than just about anybody on this trip, but the enthusiasm does start to waver when toes go numb.
  • However, we then headed over to the Uffizi, and our professor was amazing and treated all of us to something warm to drink — and thus we ended the morning with a round of cioccolata calda, sitting by the window in a rooftop cafe that is, by the way, not cheap.  It was perfectly magnificent of her and way more than generous, so thanks again!
  • Had our last actual Italian class, went to an exhibit in Palazzo Strozzi, finally got our midterms back (went well, in case you were curious : ), and then our Rome orientation meeting.  Busy afternoon, but entirely enjoyable start to finish.
  • And back at the apartment, spaghetti carbonara!  Followed by melanzana, also known as ‘my new addiction’ and ‘eggplant’!  I’m still of the opinion that we get a bit too much food pushed on us, but on days like this I can also easily admit that the burden is bearable ❤
  • And following the excellent dinner, Gabriella actually went through her cupboards to find me another bag for Rome, because she knew I was going to have a little trouble making it work with what I had.  This is indeed way more convenient and it was remarkably kind of her to do that for me.
–And that’s Tuesday.  Basically nothing going on, but people were being nice all over the place and I guess I felt it was worth mentioning : )
Also, since this is likely the last time I’ll be in until Monday, one last randomly-chosen pic:

Just a corner of the interior courtyard of Palazzo Vecchio, right as you walk in the tall front doors (I’m literally standing in the doorway).  The courtyard opens up to a way more spacious chamber beyond, and all of this is only a tiny fraction of the palace as a whole, but this right here is the first thing important visitors would have seen when walking into the grand state palace / civic heart of Florence…and I think I kinda like it.  Makes me want to scrawl all over a hallway a little bit, and even though I never eat them it somehow reminds me pleasantly of Twinkies.

…Anyway, I really should be studying, so I’ll see you after Rome.  Great weeks, everybody!

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2011 in Art, Classes, Family, Food, Persons & Peoples

 

(Day 77)

Sunday, 9:54 pm

Alright, we’re going to try this; I’m approaching the data limit on my internet key, but I feel like you guys deserve an update and some nice sunshine-filled pictures before we up and leave for most of a week.

Thursday, my art history/Medici class took us to Casa Buonarroti, the museum housing many of Michelangelo’s early works.  It became an automatic favorite because it’s just fun to look at; for one thing, it’s fascinating to get to see the drawings and sculpture studies that fed Michelangelo’s development, but quite independent of that is that it turns out that even Michelangelo’s quick-study early work is wonderful, all twisty torsos and floaty figures and everywhere that dynamic BAM quality that made him a legend.  Good stuff : )

Oh, also, they had another Renaissance architectural model!  *Obviously* you guys all remember those, because I mentioned them maybe once in an offhand footnote ages ago, but bottom line is that Michelangelo was once commissioned to design the facade of a church and he did and he built one of those models I love:

The rest of Thursday was just more school stuff, blah blah, and then this weekend was sunny and gorgeous and I got out of the apartment for a while:

 (Piazza Santa Croce)

 (Lower eastern side of the Duomo)

 (Lucky boar : )

 (Street artists working on a Raphael Madonna)

 (Random intersection)

(^ Piazzale Michelangelo, which I apparently really like.)

 

Traipsed around for a good long while doing errands, came back to a roommate-less room (reason being that she betook herself off to Amsterdam for the weekend, in case I haven’t mentioned), and have since experienced an utterly astonishing productivity streak; it’s been a little interrupted because of all the internet/list-making/stare-at-the-wall breaks, but I’ve had out-of-nowhere ideas for all my ongoing projects, roughed out outlines, done readings, made plans for personal work, and even got in some of those quick sketches we’re supposed to be doing.

 [~Per Esempio~ ]

Such a novelty to be actually on top of things : )

 

So, that was this weekend, and for this week we’re looking at a bunch of classes, work study, two on-site visits, an oral report, an orientation meeting, and our Italian final, all by Wednesday.  Thursday morning, off for Rome by 8:00 am.*

I may be back in prior to that, but if not, I’ll definitely be seeing you soon after.  In the meantime, happy rest-of-Sunday!

 

*Also, we got our itinerary for Rome, and YAY because we’re going to the Galleria Borghese *\o/*  …That is all  : )

 

(Day 63) I Aten’t Dead

Sunday, 5:34 pm

Hokay, so it’s been a week.  Don’t actually have a ton to report yet, but I was starting to feel bad about the lack of updates so here it goes anyway:

  • Visiting professors this past week were uniformly excellent, or at least all the ones whose lectures I attended.  Learned about mythology, Etruscan banquets, art theft in WWII, and 16th/17th century musical hijinx; at that last lecture, got to watch a woman play a spinnet, examine a hurdy-gurdy, and ponder over the great unrealized potential of the piano-guitar.*
  • Extra-lecture-induced business ended Thursday night, and then I immediately had to switch over and start studying for our Medici class midterm.  Still working on that, so art history ahoy.
  • Yesterday night, turned the clocks back for Daylight Savings Time…which means that I will now be attending my 5:00 drawing class in complete darkness.  I think that deserves a *facepalm.*
  • Woke up this morning and realized that we are down to six weeks.  Or, more precisely, 39 days.  Am still not entirely sure how to feel about that.
  • On the other hand, definitely already excited about getting home again, and starting to make plans.  SOOO many plans.  (Also, while I remember, any home-people should let me know if they want anything from here.  Or more specifically if they want a scarf, mask, or tasteful statue of a nude man [David, other David, or angry-classical-youth-with-severed-head], because that’s what I’ve got access to.)
  • Also getting good and pumped for our trip to Rome on the 17th, for reasons mainly inclining to the nerdy.**
  • Have to get back to studying now, but have some random photos taken while walking to classes:
 
 
Catch you soon : )
*Not a keytar, but rather just a guitar with piano keys on it that were apparently responsible for pulling the strings taut.  The experts with us couldn’t tell how it would have been tuned (or played, for that matter), and refer to it as a failed experiment…which of course just means that we were one successful experiment away from well-bred citizens of the 18th century twanging away on keyboards to prove their musical prowess.  For all those pianoforte scenes in Austen…*sigh,* what could have been.
**My secret wish, which will probably not happen, is to get the chance to go see the Galleria Borghese.  It seems just a bit too off-the-beaten-path for a group that’s only going to be there for four days, but I keep hoping I’m wrong and I’ll finally get to see my Bernini.  Lord but I do love Bernini.
 
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Posted by on October 30, 2011 in Art, Classes, Family, History, The City

 

(Day 55) Lazy Days

Saturday, 2:34 pm

Break is winding down (noooooo), and I’m spending the last couple days going nowhere near homework and enjoying the hell out of free time.  Observe:

  • Yesterday, went to Palazzo Pitti (an enormous palace with about 6 mini-museums in it) and the adjoining Boboli Gardens.  This is one of the big historical sites that we haven’t been to yet for class, and as our museum passes get us in for free, figured there was no harm in checking it out.
  • Recommendation: CHECK IT OUT.  The building itself has a great back story,* the art in the Palatine Gallery constitutes (for me) a much better collection than found in the Uffizi, and it’s so weirdly large and twisty that it’s just a ball to wander around in there.

  (<– the back side of one wing : )

  • After a while in the house, out the back door to the Boboli Gardens.  The gardens are essentially a park filled with trees and hedge-lined walkways, and yes, it was very pretty — but far and away the best part of the gardens was just the chance to be way up on a secluded patch of hill at noon.  Florence has a lot of churches and a lot of bells, and getting out into the open where you can actually hear them all ringing together?  Awesome.

  

  • At this point I was done with Palazzo Pitti but still not ready to head back to the apartment, so walked back a ways along the river.  And this was very nice right up until I started realizing that the scarf wasn’t really cutting it anymore and the wind was kind of slapping me in the face repeatedly.

  • Solution = bus hopping, one of my very favorite time-wasters.  Go to random bus stop, board bus, get a little tour through new parts of the city, hop off whenever, board new bus.  Repeat until sick of violent vehicular bouncing.
  • End of Friday was just a lot of reading + internet, and then we get to this morning, where I have to get myself out of the house again because Saturday is cleaning day.  Another windy walk down through the city center, and I end up in Piazza della Signoria, parking it in the open-air sculpture gallery and doing a quick doodle for the sketchbook we have to keep for the drawing class.  Hooray for scribbling in public!
  • When I’ve been sitting on cold stone long enough to make my legs numb, over to Rivoire.  Rivoire is a fancy cafe that looks out over the piazza, and it is rumored to have some of the best hot chocolate in Florence*** — which is great, because for the month and a half remaining to us I have made it my mission to find the best hot chocolate here.  Go in, order at the bar, receive cup and keep standing at the bar (this place in particular is notorious for outrageous price hikes if you sit down), and finally decide that this is probably what it tastes like to drink a molten candy bar.  Wow.
  • Back to the house, more internet.
Over to you guys : )
*You know the famous Medici family?  Well Cosimo de’ Medici (basically the founder of the family’s wealth and position) decided to build a grand new house, a palazzo, in the middle of town.  Brunelleschi, THE architect of the Renaissance and the mind behind the dome of the Cathedral, created a design.  But this design was, in fact, a little too grand for Cosimo; he rejected it, and Brunelleschi supposedly pitched a fit and smashed the model.**  But then the rejected design is picked up by another Florentine banker, Luca Pitti — and generations later, when the Medici have become actual nobility, they buy the place and double its size and fancify it like you wouldn’t believe, ultimately building a private elevated walkway (the Vasari Corridor) all the way from the palace to their offices (now the Uffizi Gallery) on the other side of the river.  Just…wikipedia.
**Architects at the time apparently depended more on models than plans; that is, they actually built little wood mock-ups of their buildings to show what the final project would look like, and this was what got presented to their patrons.  For some reason I find this really fantastic.  In fact, one of my favorite parts of the museums here (and especially the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo) is getting to look at these models…and if I ever get bored and need a new hobby, building replicas of these seems like it might be more fun than ships in a bottle.
***Hot chocolate in Italy is called cioccolata calda, and it is not *actually* hot chocolate in the way we think of it — that is, its richness goes way beyond the taste of a liquid with powder, and it’s so thick that it’s almost like drinking hot pudding.
…But that sounds gross, so just know that I mean it in a good way.
 
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Posted by on October 22, 2011 in Art, Classes, Food, History, The City

 

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(Day 53) Pro-Procrastination

Thursday, 9:56 pm

It only took me most of my break, but I’m finally feeling good and productive; spent most of today tearing back and forth between readings for class and a couple sketches and lots and lots of notes about ideas for my senior art show, and while I have *finished* nothing, I have put an admirable amount of energy into getting things kinda-started.

So that’s good : )

But now, while I still have a bit more I’d like to get done tonight, I would really like to waste some time first.  So quick run-down of the last couple days:

  • Tuesday involved some readings and some skype time and an embarrassing number of naps.  But, woke up in the evening and was rewarded by a very nice dinner out with another student and his parents; Alex is one of the few ACM-ers staying in Florence over break, and he and his family were kind enough to have me join them.  All three incredibly nice people, and English speakers to boot hallelujah* — so once again a very big thank you : )
  • Speaking of that dinner, though, it did have its sinister side; this would be because we had wine and bread and ravioli and gnocchi and salad and legumes and steak and sweet potatoes and meatballs, and the next day I STILL WOKE UP HUNGRY.  Be warned, people, this program does seriously warped things to your stomach.
  • Wednesday morning I finally worked up the fit of energy needed to haul myself over to the Uffizi Gallery, so we can now cross that off the ‘to do’ list.  A wonderful museum and well worth the time (especially when you actually get to skip the wait time because you’ve got a free pass \o/), but the trouble is that so many of the really heartstopping works by Italy’s great artists wound up making their way into France’s Musee du Louvre that I feel spoiled by having seen that museum first.  …And this is probably blasphemy but I still prefer the Venetian Accademia.
  • Some random Italian man is right this minute singing out in the middle of the street.  One presumes drunkenly, but ?
  • Today, woke up to storms, which is always fantastic.  Kept my pedestrian self in out of the rain all day, plowed through a ridiculous amount of academic article material, took internet breaks as necessary,** found a totally demented faux-American-English song recorded by an Italian in 1973 (which, hip thrusts aside, gives a pretty nice idea of what this language sounds like to everyone else), and…well, here we are.
Back to work : )
———————————[For reasons unknown this thing is eating lines between paragraphs.  Sorry]——————-
*Still loving Italian, and I am dead set on getting the hang of it eventually, but by this time I can readily admit that having to attempt it every single day is a bit exhausting.  And frustrating, especially at dinner; between Nino, Gabriella and Alessandra, there’s pretty much always adult-level conversation going on (not to mention the times when Nino and Gabriella’s grown children are over), and I can’t really add to it without immediately dragging the whole exchange back down to grade school and feeling like an idiot.
———
The revelation of the moment being, I think, that I just miss talking.  After all, even as a typically non-talkative person one still gets attacks of loquacity, and I think that what I could really use at the moment is just the opportunity for a good old-fashioned rant delivered at high speed and drawing on a superfluously complicated vocabulary somewhere south of the vernacular.
———
Guess I’m just not a fan of baby steps.
————————————————————————————————————————————
**Not at all related to anything study abroad, but I really enjoyed this, and if it is not the nerdiest thing you have seen all day then I owe you an apology cookie:  The Dance Your PhD Competition
 
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Posted by on October 20, 2011 in Art, Family, Food, Language, Persons & Peoples, The City

 

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(Day 48) BREAK

Apologies due again, apparently, because it is very clearly Saturday and not Friday 😦

SO, crazy week — between all that end-of-class stuff going on, my epic two-weeks-and-counting cold got way worse, and I ended up having to go to the doctor and start the dreaded antibiotics.  But none of that matters now, because we’ve made it; I took my test, I went to the last on-site visit, I did the readings, I (cut it very close but I) finished my paper, and I’ve accidentally gone and gotten about 14 hours of sleep so we’re finally good to go.

Also have I mentioned that I am on ~*BREAK*~.

Think I’ll just go ahead and do a brief run-down of pretty much everything that’s been up lately, but first I’d just like to say that I realize that I have answered basically no emails since around Tuesday or Wednesday.  That would be on account of me running back and forth between homework and passed-out-sleeping, so please know that I was not ignoring you and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

  •  Last Friday: This would be the first real fall day we had, and a day full of drizzles to boot.  Went in to work on the library for a bit, got a haircut (negotiated all in Italian, btw — and everything went just fine, but I am *so* glad it was just hair and not dental work or something), went to the ATM, and walked over to the nearby San Lorenzo market.  This would be the outdoor street market famous for its leather stalls (which are set up in front of actual leather stores), but you can also find notebooks, scarves, random touristy souvenir stuff, etc.  Started to downpour while I was there, and it was pretty fun to watch — shoppers scatter to the sides, stall cover extensions are pulled out and up, shoppers sidle back out, business resumes as usual with a lot more bobbing umbrellas.
  • Also Friday, another bus strike.  Italian unions, I have found, like strikes very much but don’t really seem to get how they work.  For example, they announce in advance that they’re going to have one, but they also announce when the strike (the ‘sciopero’) is going to end and at what points during the strike they will not actually be striking.  It is not terribly efficient, but at least I got to take the bus both ways.

  • Saturday: The trip to Lucca with Alex, Kari, Katie and Willi.  We went to just have a nice relaxing time in a quiet country town, and that’s exactly what we did — on what turned out to be just a really perfect fall day, cool and crisp and colorful.  Mainly we just walked around and looked at churches, because we are creatures of art historical habit and we couldn’t help ourselves.  Saw another saint’s corpse, and the churches themselves were beautiful, but there were two highlights of our visit and they had nothing to do with that: 1) The Caffe Di Simo, a beautiful old-fashioned cafe that was once frequented by the composer Puccini and which we were drawn to on account of its jaw-dropping pastry display, plus  2) The medieval city walls.  The nice thing about these is that they encircle the whole city and have had wide tree-lined paths put in, so you can actually walk up there with the city on one side and fields and mountains on the other.  Bellissima ^_^

  

  • Monday: Italian class and figure drawing.  The very first week of the drawing class, half of us did a drawing from a live (and nude — that seems to surprise some people) model, and then we switched with the other half and went downstairs to work on cast drawings in charcoal, and this last week we were back to figure drawing.  And no pictures to show you yet, but I think I may be improving a bit : )
  • Tuesday: Italian class, a literary discussion in the Weaving the Tale class, and then straight over to an on-site visit to the San Marco religious complex.  Fascinating place — but you will be spared the earful because I am tired.  (However, we *are* going back in a couple weeks to talk about the crazy-intense preacher who was arrested there, so maybe later?)
  • Wednesday: A lot of work on my paper for the Medici class, Italian in the afternoon, figure drawing in the evening.  And this would be the night that got my host mom really concerned, because the mutant cold was Very Not Good at this point.  Early bed times all around!
  • Thursday:  Had to be at the Bargello (a sculpture gallery with a pretty twisted history) by 9:00 am, and almost had a heart attack because my bus stop was ‘temporarily abolished.’  But that turned out to be alright, so just spent an hour and a half walking around the Bargello discussing Donatello, then a walk back to the school for another hour of class, a quick lunch, and our Italian class + quiz at  1:00.  Booked it over to the doctor to get there before the clinic closed, over to the pharmacy, over to the other side of the river for the final drawing class, dinner, and then a very sincere attempt to get my Medici paper done — which failed, because I fell asleep.
  • Friday: Up early in the morning to *finally* finish that paper, caught a bus downtown to turn it in, shared a great deal of confusion with other students over where to turn it in, figured something out, went over to the grocery store for lunch, ate lunch, back to the apartment…and at this point we get the 14-hour nap interrupted only by dinner.  And it was amazing you guys ❤
  • Today, Saturday, is the day Gabriella’s cleaning-assistant-man comes in, so I had to actually get up and shower in order to be able to vacate the house for a couple hours.  And finding a way to waste the time turned out to not be a problem, because a snafu with the buses turned what was supposed to be a quick trip to the store and ATM into a 3-hour sit-and-wait nightmare of hanging around various bus stops cursing #12 and making like a turtle to try to block the extremely bitter wind we had today.*

And I had other stuff I was hoping to say, which I will hopefully still remember tomorrow, but I have just this second gone exhausted again and I think we’re going to have to call it a night.  But I can promise that, for the next week, I’ll be able to get something on the blog each and every day, so hold on to your hats because here comes postage.

Round of emails tomorrow to everyone who’s sent me one lately, and ttys anyway to everyone else : )

 

*Because Florence is in a valley, wind is pretty rare here, because it takes more than a light breeze to make it past the hills and down into the city.  But this apparently means that the winds that *do* make it down are real thugs, so that’s fun.
 

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(Day 40) Wrap on Venice

In the midst of a rather lovely day, and I want to talk about that, so here’s the quick version of the rest of Venice:

We’re now up to day 2, Saturday morning, and after walking around a little in the cool of the morning, it’s back to the hotel for breakfast and then on to a 9:15 walking tour.  The tour’s an optional thing, so only 7 (and ultimately 6) students actually go, but it’s led by Professor Mariotti — who, like all of our professors, knows a simply staggering amount about everything.  Seriously, I think we’ve started asking questions about random doorknobs and chimney pieces just to test the limits of her stored trivia, and after a month and a half I think we’ve only stumped her twice O.O

 

So yes, out we go for about 2 hours, first to San Zaccaria for a stroll through the church (but also taking a special look at the S. Zaccaria nunnery, which was apparently packed with nuns who didn’t want to be nuns and who filled up the nearby orphanage to prove it), and then on to a little building some 15 minutes away for a series of really great narrative paintings by Carpaccio — and may I just say that I don’t think I’ve ever seen quite that combination of sweetness and horrible gore.

Walking tour takes us back to the hotel, and we now switch out Professor Mariotti for Professor Solberg and keep right on walking.  This time, we (i.e. Professor Solberg’s “Decorative Complexes” class plus any interested tag-alongs like myself) are headed all the way across Venice to the train station up in the northwest part of the city, and from there it’s a hop onto a train and then off to Padua.

 

If you’ve heard of Padua, it’s probably because Shakespeare uses it as the setting for “The Taming of the Shrew.”  But what we were there for was the Arena Chapel, this fantastic little box of a chapel which has an interior completely covered in paintings by Giotto.  And the really great thing about this was that I’d actually learned about the Arena (aka Scrovegni) Chapel in my very first class in college, but had forgotten what it was called — so as our professor is explaining to us what we’re about to see, it starts coming back to me and then I can just get excited all at once instead of having to deal with some sort of tamped-down, drawn-out anticipation.  Ignoring the horrendous hassle of actually getting in there, that chapel is incredible : D

Back on a train to return to Venice, and we’ve got about 3 hours free until dinner.  Kari and I set off to go souvenir shopping, and basically it’s just a very nice and restful time spent wandering around and poking through shops and wending our way through tangles of small streets and side alleys.

And by the way, this is as good a place as any to mention that Venice, since we were only there for 3 days, really did feel like vacation in a way that being in Florence never does anymore.  Florence is, in a certain sense, home and school and the daily grind, but Venice…Venice is pretty much hands down the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen.

But actually, more on that in a minute.

So after souvenir shopping, it’s back to the hotel for an 8:00 dinner which starts out with — wait for it — pasto al pesto, which is *the* favorite dish of many many people at this point and is indeed amazing.  And in any case, dinner this time around comes with the company of Kari, Katie, and Alex, all of whom are just incredibly nice/funny/wonderful people.  (And, if plans hold, I get to go to Lucca with all of them + Willi tomorrow, so \o/)

After dinner, back out with Kari for another walk to get a sense of the city at night.

And the city at night is, shockingly, incredibly quiet; Venice goes to bed very early in the evening, and there’s a very strong small-town feel to the dark and the stillness of all those teeny-tiny alleys and little piazzas.  Except, of course, that it’s never fully dark and never quite still; lamps up, down and overhead keep everything from water to windowsill flowers gently illuminated, you’re always within earshot of the lapping of the water, and the water + the closeness of the buildings sends the sounds of families at dinner faintly echoing everywhere.

The word I’m looking for is probably ‘pleasant.’

But never too much of a good thing, so ultimately we wandered out of the closed-for-the-day residential areas and back to the ever-busy main piazza of San Marco, where we headed over to the water’s edge and just sat for awhile.

And, as luck would have it, turns out we showed up at just the right time and sat down in exactly the right place to catch a fireworks display right across the canal.  Did not see that coming at all, but it made my night : D

Back to the hotel, and up early again the next morning because I’ve decided that I love sunrise here.  And this time, Kari accompanies, because of the seven people who said they wanted to go she was the one and only who actually managed to roll out of bed at 6:00 on a Sunday morning.

And again, gorgeous:

   

The presence of a professional photographer confirms that we’ve got the right idea —

and then we just get to sit on the edge of the canal like so and watch the magic:

   

    

So worth it ^^

Allora, back, breakfast, and then another optional tour led by Professor Mariotti, this time through the Galleria dell’Accademia (aka another fancy art museum).  I cannot adequately express how much I loved this place, but I LOVED it.  ❤

 

And after that…free for four hours.  And it’s a beautiful day, and try as I might I’ve still got zero interest in going to see the contemporary art exhibits that most students are headed out to, so I decide to just seize my Sunday and take one last super-long stroll through Venice. 

  More impossible homes…

  …impossibly small alleys…

       …and abrupt dead ends where you can just sit and watch the tide come in.

So ultimate verdict on Venice: again, undoubtedly beautiful, totally charming, occasionally magical, absolutely in agreement with everything that I have ever heard said about it.  But, on the other hand, it is definitely not a place that I could stay for any considerable amount of time.  The tourists (and the PIGEONS) are one thing, but to be always penned in like that?  Give it two weeks and living in the maze would get exhausting, and there’d be nothing but the same small patches of ground over and over again and not a single open field anywhere.  Not a chance.

It would appear then, that in accordance with the fine and long-standing tradition of Italian partisanship, I’ve chosen sides.  I still prefer Florence ; )

And there we go!  Venice is done, and another week’s worth of blogging activity is getting pounded out on this keyboard before dinner so help me God, so stick around and I’ll have that for you in just a (very metaphorical) sec.

 
 

(Day 29) Bouncing Brevity

Monday, 9:50 pm

*sigh*, Venice talk is now on the back-burner, because apparently classes starting today means that I am actually (despicably!) required to do work.  It’ll be a little bit of a sprint to keep on top of everything for the next couple days, so I would say that you could expect more Venice-vacation rambles Wednesday morning, or Friday at the latest.

In the meantime, here’s the ho-hum daily updates, of interest only to my immediate family.  Everyone else can feel free to avert their eyes.

  • Like I mentioned yesterday, first library shift this morning.  And it was nice and I enjoyed it, but…well.  The students who started the cataloging ACM’s library in the spring seem to have left for us incomers all the books that don’t have call numbers, and which are therefore impossible to catalog.  So, having discovered this little setback, the ever-so-brilliant idea I came up with was to *give* them call numbers — as in actual ones, in accordance with the Library of Congress cataloging system.  And Kari and I started on that this morning, but since there are actually two parts to the LC classification system that make it a really slick system for browsing (letters for the subject + numbers for the sub-category of the subject) and because I only just now found a way to accomplish *both*, we’re probably going to have to go back to refine the work we’ve already done.  AND I still have to spend tonight typing up ridiculously detailed fail-proof instructions for the other work study students, so that they too can do the impossible and catalog an un-catalogable library.
  • TLDR: We now have absolutely guaranteed work for everyone and this whole thing is going to look awesome on a resume.
  • Following that fiasco, a really fast lunch and then on to Italian, which we now have Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:30 to 2:45.  Like everyone else, I walked in perfectly awake and content but stumbled out sleepy and starving — mainly because there’s just no explaining Mondays.  Oh, and we also got more homework than usual, so that’s awesome.
  • Walked down with Willi and Katie to buy art supplies, and it was a beautiful afternoon so actually a quite pleasant time out and about.
  • Drawing class at 5:00.  The ACM group has been split into two, with half the group starting on cast drawings and the other half working on studies of a live model.  I’m in the figure drawing group, and I already know I’m going to love spending my evenings here.  They’ve got things to show me and I’m ready to learn, and the only homework *they* ever give is to draw more — which I think I can handle.
  • Finally got back to the house at 8:00, waited for Ellie, then dinner 8:20 to 9:15.  Start the homework, stare mournfully at the schedule for the days to come, and here we are.

But cool thing is, I do love all my classes so far (even though we have to give that oral presentation tomorrow in the Medici class), and we’ve actually got a couple events coming up that I’m really excited for.  Wednesday night, after figure drawing, most of the ACM group is heading out for a Wayne Marshall concert (performing Gershwin), and this upcoming Saturday I’ll be heading out with Kari, Willi, Katie and Leah for a 13-mile bike tour through the Chianti region.  And that will be a healthful and ever-so-fancy activity that I will just have to make up for on Sunday by bumming around the house all day in my pajamas.  I am a firm believer in balance, you know   : )

Oh, and please to be noting that at that point we’ve hit October, and one full month is officially down \o/

~~~

WELL.  That’s probably as long as I can allow for desperate procrastination rambles, so I guess it’s time to dust off that old Helmet O’ Invincibility and be off to do homework etc.  Back as soon as may be, and as always hope everyone’s hanging in there.

But just because I’d feel bad not to, one more Venice pic:

…See you tomorrow : )

 
 

(Day 16) Odds-and-Ends

Otherwise known as ‘cianfrusaglie,’ which is a great word.

Internet went a little wonky again yesterday, so here’s the ultra-fast recap of Monday:

Went to Orsanmichele, a building that is (and indeed has traditionally been) confused about whether it is a grainery or a sculpture gallery or a kinda-sorta church.  Spent about an hour and a half there listening to a lecture given by one of the professors — and since the lectures are actually interesting, we once again got random tourists stalking our group.

Not a great shot, but here’s the floor where we were spending most of our time looking at the sculptures:

Today, all we had scheduled was Italian class.  Tomorrow is our third quiz (for which I still need to study), and after that we have just seven days of class until the month of intensive Italian is over and we’re off to Venice.

Doesn’t feel *at all* like we’ve been here two weeks already.  Not to say that there haven’t been periods of stress (or hunger, hunger’s a big one) that have made everything drag, but apparently time is whipping forward in spite of that.  Also it still feels like Monday.

Change of subject, but I’ve been keeping a list of everything that being in Italy makes me miss about the American/Iowan/non-study-abroader way of life, and I think I’m just going to throw it right here:

  • FOOD:
  • Peanut butter
  • Sandwiches on soft bread (PB&J, turkey, etc.)
  • Cereal that isn’t a strange granola-ish corn flake lookalike — and people who have heard of Froot Loops and/or Captain Crunch.
  • Breakfast foods in general (toast, waffles, pancakes, eggs)
  • Decent chips
  • Tap water
  • Milk.  I don’t know what specifically is different about the milk here, but it’s…not right.
  • AMENITIES:
  • AIR CONDITIONING
  • Television/movies
  • Internet and cell plans that actually let you use your internet and cell phone
  • Water bottles
  • Ziploc bags
  • Cheap tape
  • Cheap post-its
  • Cheap paper towels
  • Cheap toiletries (shampoo, body wash, etc.)
  • Uniformly sized outlets
  • Doorknobs that turn
  • Public bathrooms you don’t have to pay for
  • Toilet paper holders that both hold onto the roll *and* let you change it
  • OTHER:
  • Sunsets (a flat horizon and a great view)
  • Clouds
  • Driving (i.e. not having to depend on an always-late bus)
  • Walks/jogs where you can safely wear headphones
  • Doing my own laundry
  • Baking — or, more generally, having access to an oven, stove, and microwave
  • Having a word for ‘pie,’ and for ‘cupcake’
  • Walking around in socks
  • Being able to criticize the Papacy without automatically offending someone
  • A closer sense of community
  • Non-polluted air and not being constantly surrounded by smokers
  • Not having to keep windows shut/covered against traffic noise and potential delinquents
  • Lack of tourist swarms
  • Cheap books (and being able to read them)
  • English

And, because fair’s fair, here’s everything I know I’m going to miss about Italy:

  • FOOD:
  • All of it.  But specifically:
  • Hard rolls
  • Uber-fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Thin pizzas
  • Pasta done right
  • Eggplant dishes
  • Apricot spread on fresh croissants
  • Tea with biscotti every morning
  • Bigne (those cream puff pastry things, and vanilla please <3)
  • Lots of other pastries I don’t know the names of
  • Gelato (obviously)
  • Excellent panini (as in big sandwiches with thick bread and meat and melty cheese)
  • Open markets daily
  • 3-course sit-down dinners with the whole ‘family’ (although I could approximate this at home)
  • AMENITIES:
  • Public fountains
  • Public trash cans
  • Public transportation
  • OTHER:
  • Hills
  • Having everything in walking distance
  • Beautiful buildings, artworks and museums absolutely everywhere
  • Being in a place with such a long (and documented) history
  • Having multiple options for places to go every day
  • Riding the bus (especially when it picks up speed in the tunnel)
  • Being surrounded by so many different kinds of people
  • Having one word for *all* of one’s aunts and uncles, and for *all* of one’s nieces and nephews
  • Every building warmly colored (red, gold, etc.)
  • Being in a country whose inhabitants seem generally conscious that different countries and peoples are interconnected
  • Being so close to to so many other countries
  • Multi-language bookstores
  • Italian music
  • Italian

So there we are, and I’ll probably add on to these lists as the semester progresses.  There won’t be a ‘winner,’ as it’s next to impossible to call one place objectively better or worse than the other…but I will admit that the lack of peanut butter has become a real sticking point ; )

Have to go start taking care of business, but should be back tomorrow.  A domani : )

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2011 in Art, Culture, Food, History, Practicalities, The City

 

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