Tuesday, April 27, 2010

l'amor che move il sole e l'altre stelle.

I have finished the Commedia.

If there was going to be one thing I read while I was living in this country I was determined to have it be that.
While I would have loved to steal the copy from 1908 from the library and have it sit on my shelf forever, I just couldn't handle having my grades with held. So I went outside to read the last canto of Paradisio in the courtyard.
I had been saving it for weeks, wanting to have it be the last piece of anything great that I read before leaving the country.

And so, tonight, it is just another thing to add to the list of the great things that I discovered in the Spring.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Roma is amor spelt backwards

So it seems like that time is finally approaching.
It is my last 42 hours in the Eternal City, and studying is pretty much the last thing on my mind.
As we all are frantically packing our suitcases, hoping that they zip closed for the long trips that will scatter us all around the country, trying to pull all nighters, and running around the city to see everything that we haven't managed to in the last 4 months.

Weeks ago it felt like this wednesday night would never come, and now here it is, the monday before and we're all feeling a little bit melancholic for home sweet Roma, and we're still all right here.

Rather than trying to cram everything I need to put down about Roma on Wednesday I'm going to start now.

I can't even try to explain what an amazing and beautiful experience this has been.
I have learned more, seen more, and eaten more than I have in my lifetime.
Wonderful friends have been made, ones that will last beyond this little experience that we had together.

It seems like it wasn't too long ago when I walked in my front door in Houston at 3 am from a night out dancing to jump in the shower, cram the last of whatever in my suitcases, and be driven to the airport for a 6 am flight that would only be the jumping point for what has been the most beautiful Spring.

Rome happened just when I needed it to. I got on a plane with two packed suitcases, an empty notebook, and a broken heart just waiting for something huge life changing experience. Well, I certainly got what I wanted. I even got snow.

I've worn out three pairs of jeans, and two pairs of shoes (they need to be taken to the Houston Shoe Hospital ASAP).
My hair has grown 4 inches and can be put in a bun without a bobby pin.
I have seen three operas, one ballet, and Cats in Italian.
I've developed a love for ex-patriot literature and Italian cinema- I probably could give you a biography about Vittorio deSica right now.
I even can blind taste test wine, and tell you all about it.
I learned how to make crochette, and learned numerous Italian swear words and gestures.
Apparently according to the Neopolitans I can die because I have seen Naples, and eaten at the original pizza place.
I randomly took a trip to Belgium.
I danced at Carnivale in Venezia.
Ate macarons beneath the Eiffel Tower.
Teared up a little at Botticelli's finest works at the Uffizi.
Oh yea, I saw the Pope.
My feet have walked in the same places as Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Caesar, Marcus Agrippa, and so many others.
My feet have walked hundreds of miles.
I want to become a member of the Caravaggisti.
I've chosen my soccer team, and am a devotee to the school of Italian Opera (sorry, Wagner)
I think I love art history even more than I did 4 months ago, if that's possible.
I've eaten pounds of pasta and tomatoes...and oh, so much gelati.
I've seen the sun rise in every city that i've slept in.

I've made 5 of the best friends I could ever ask for.

I have spent the last 4 months living in one of the most beautiful places on this Earth.
And now I go home, with the same 2 suitcases, bursting at the seams.
A journal filled. And the only reason my may be heart could be broken this time is because it is too full.

Roma, or even these past months can't even be completely explained with words or with photos.
It was just something you had to be there for.

Sto facendo le mi ossa.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

food for thought

In my Renaissance and Mannerist class we were looking at this "Last Supper" by Tintoretto. No one could find Judas, we decided he's not there. What do you think?

It's the Venetian version of "Where's Waldo?".

ceci n'est pas une voyage...

So this past weekend marked my 20th flight since August, which is crazy. More so what is crazier is the next time I will be on an airplane will be on my way back to home, sweet Texas. The last few months have been incredible, but this past weekend was absolutely one for the books.

I randomly decided, along with some encouragement from Alana, Carolyn, and Mackenzie, that I should book a trip to Brussels.
Good thing I listened to them and dealt with a pretty empty bank account for a while. I think I have found my new New York. Before I moved to San Francisco I was determined to go to school in New York, it was my "goal" city, the one place I would choose to live if I could go anywhere. Well, now, that place is Brussels. I absolutely loved it. It reminded me a lot of New York. A lot of Greenwich Village, minus Magnolia plus waffle and frite, with a bit more history. It was so beautiful, and the weather was absolutely wonderful.

We lucked out finding an apartment that was a rent-by-night a few blocks off of Le Grande Place, with an absolutely incredible view.

Right downstairs was the Holy Grail of frite stands. With a mountain of hand cut potatoes and a list of 20 sauce choices, I was in absolute heaven. There are three foods I love without any question and could eat any time at all- my mom's Tortilla Soup, yogurt, and french fries. I made it a point to make at least one trip a day down to the stand. We became loyal to Brasil Sauce, which was some sort of honey mustardy-curry-sweet deliciousness. Of course there was plenty of waffle (gaufre) eaten, as well as the most incredible chocolate, and it wouldn't have been Belgium without beer, of which we had plenty.

Aside from being the home of the Mannekin Pis, Belgium also is home to the largest collection of Magritte's works, only larger to the collection at the Menil Collection, in Houston. I always wondered why the Menil housed so many pieces, but learned that MFAH was the first place outside of Europe to showcase him...pretty cool, huh?

Everything about the city was perfect to me. I frequently was heard saying that if I had to become an expat I would HAPPILY pack up and move to Brussels.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

-Mary Oliver

Thursday, April 1, 2010


I am going to miss walking through the hallways decorated with the works that occupied Caravaggio's years. "Bacchus" next to the computer lab, "Medusa" hanging in the stacks, but especially eating dinner underneath "The Supper at Emmaus". It is my own private gallery to visit whenever I feel like it. No admission fees, no hassle of the Metro, MUNI, or the L, but just there, part of my everyday life. Half the time totally un-acknowledged, once in a while completely ignored, but always there- constantly lending themselves to my eyes at my own discretion.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

vedi Napoli e poi mori

Taking a break from the massive amount of Art History piling at the corner of my table in the library to write a little about the wonderful day spent in Napoli on Saturday.

It seems everyone has something to say about Naples, either about it being huge, or incredibly dirty, dangerous, "a little rough", or absolutely fantastic (that coming from my friend, Joe, who thinks it is the best place in the world), there is one thing for sure- the Neopolitans know food.

Our tour de force started off with an 8:15 am train from Termini, which, I will admit, included some McDonald's breakfast, we set some ground rules.

-two meals AT LEAST
-no complaining (about tired feet or about the crazy amount of calories we were going to consume)

The rest of the day was up to chance.

Once we arrived we strolled through the area surrounding the train station, immediately we realized some of the ideas that had been put into our head about Naples might be right- we laughed a little and kept walking. Following about 15 "CIAO, BELLA!" and a proposal to Alana (we got about 40 more), we stumbled upon Piazza Dante, and through the cutest alley of used bookstores, grocery stores, and gelaterias- this was the Naples I was waiting for.

The first place we stopped at was a recommendation from Joe (the one who LOVES naples), called Gino Sorbillo's. We got here just in time, because as we started eating the line outside was growing. I stuck to the traditional Margherita, while Mackenzie got some sort of Pesto delight, Carolyn with something including sausage, and Alana with her Diavola. It was all FANTASTIC and all completely eaten. We of course, walked down the street and had gelato sitting on the steps of a church afterwards.
Let me tell you, this was the best Nocciolla I have EVER tasted. Blew Old Bridge out of the water.

After round one of eating, we started to make our way towards the beach- there was NO WAY I was going to be in Naples, right on the coast and NOT sit next to the sea. After a few detours and some direction by the police...we arrived sea side.

From where we were we had this stunning view of Vesuvius, and just miles and miles of water.
Soon enough, we were cold, were getting tired, and needed coffee before trekking back towards the train station and our last pizzeria.

Now, while everyone else seemed to favor Gino's over Da Michele, I can't even begin to explain how much better my Doppio at Da Michele was.

First of all, they keep it simple there, 2 types of pizza served two ways.
Margherita + Marinara.
Regulare o doppio (double mozzarella).
Secondly, it was the ORIGINAL pizza "place".

Let me set it straight, though. There is no such thing as bad pizza in Naples, probably not in all of Italy, but if you have to go to one place, and one only, go to Da Michele.

I was not a fan of pizza for the longest time (following an incident after a night of Papa John's) and refused to eat it for a few years. Since this trip I am a loyal convert to the glory that is a good pizza.

The best pizza is found in Italy, and the best pizza in Italy is found in Naples.

Friday, March 19, 2010

stripes are not just for zebras

It's almost a week since break has ended and finally I am getting to the end of the pile of clothes I bought in Paris...I ended up coming back with 3 striped mariner tees...one of which was already my own, but still two more to add to the collection.

This sailor stripe, which is in incredibly high demand for the spring are popping up everywhere. It's in every magazine and on every main display in ever department store here, and popping up in the "spring essentials" for every major store back in the US.

In Venezia it is how we recognize the gondaliers, though the origins of the fisherman's sweater are to be found in Brittany the stripes on the item of clothing are what made them recognizable from a distance. Finding this nautical wear was not terribly hard to find in France. Though striped sweaters seem to be a fairly simple concept, it's far more complicated than that. There are different patterns, different types, cloth weight, and everything else that goes into a true mariner t-shirt.

"MERIDIEN" made out of heavy cotton were worn at sea aboard fishing boats under a fisherman smock, a reefer jacket and the heavy oilskins with their fishy smell.

"MINQUIERS" and "LEVANT" are made out of a very fine thin cotton.

"NAVAL" National Navy service men shirt was and is still worn on special occasions by sailors manoevering on deck of war ships together with the "BACHI" with its red pompon.

"GARDE COTE" women mariner shirts are in stretchy cotton adding softness, cotton touch and elasticity or out of an anti-UV material.

It goes a little further than the 4.50 euro cotton smock that I picked up at H+M...probably lasts a bit longer, too.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

out and about in paris

paris, j'taime

So finally I have returned from my very long weekend in Paris (Tuesday-Saturday)...
There are a few things that I must share, and with that a few hi-lights of the trip.

Flying RyanAir is never a good or fun idea (even when you are on a college student and zero income budget, it still sucks) though it is totally necessary. Ciampino airport is a good 45 miles OUTSIDE of the city limits of Rome, 2 buses, a subway ride, and a shuttle later I finally arrived...I walked out my door at 2:15 and got to the aiport at 5:30, I spent more time in transit than on the actual plane. Beauvais (the Paris airport) is also ridiculously outside of Paris. Also, they have a ridiculous baggage policy. Now I am not hating on Ryan Air...it got me where I needed to be, but I do miss the days of hopping in a taxi to SFO and arriving in 20 minutes.

Complaints aside, being greeted by a familiar face, macarons and a bottle of Rose in the freezing Paris spring is always a nice feeling. As are finally putting your suitcases down and watching John Hughes movies in the early hours of the morning.

I completely enjoyed my first afternoon walking around the city, croque-monsieur in hand, sun and blue skies above. I crossed over the Siene and wandered through the side of Paris that I knew, feeling like a sort of grown-up Madeline in my blue coat and black ballet flats. Stumbling upon a tent at fashion week also added to the greatness of that day, along with my lipstick stained venti Starbucks coffee cup...yes, FINALLY I got my Starbucks. Following my afternoon stroll, I met up with Haley and we wandered around belle Paris in the dark, returning to her apartment only to get ready for a night of dancing...until 5 in the morning, which is apparently normal there. The last time I stayed out until 5 in the morning was on New Year's Eve, and it wasn't spent dancing...even Numbers closes at 2:30, and I am always totally exhausted by the time they kick us out.

The next day I spent wandering through the D'Orsay, which is my favourite museum in the city. The Louvre is wonderful, do not get me wrong there, but for me...when I think of France I think of Impressionism. I think vanGogh and Gauguin, Matisse, Monet, Degas, Manet, Seurat, and so,so many more. While the Art Institute Chicago has such an incredible collection of Impressionism, there is still nothing like seeing it on it's own turf, in its own terms. Currently the museum (formerly a train station) is under construction and they have re-arranged the collection. As of late the pieces are hung by artist and next to or near another artist who encouraged, influenced, or competed with the first...of course vanGough and Gauguin are in the same gallery. That is a relationship I would like to explore a little more.

Speaking of Vincent, there was nothing in the world like standing there, looking him right in the eye. Finally I saw his self portrait in blue. I can't remember if I saw it the first time I went (knowing my mother I probably did), but this time, there was something that just kept me standing there. I always have loved Degas' dancers, I used to always say they were my favourite piece of Impressionist work, but now, that really isn't true anymore. This one work is one of the most beautiful, and yet the most haunting that I have ever seen. I think I could have sat in that one room for the entire afternoon.

The remainder of my time in Paris was spent shopping and eating, of course.
Friday brought me to wandering through Le Bon Marche, The Galleries Lafayette, and strolling up and down Rue Saint-Honore.
As night fell we wandered through Mont Martre eating crepes and laughing. In the mood to see where the night took us, we ended up in Pigalle, which is NOT somewhere two cute girls want to be in pretty dresses. Hands down the TRASHY side of Paris no one ever dares to bring up when they are talking about how fabulously chic is it (though I did get some amazing photos).

My last afternoon was spent getting to the Marais to enjoy some falafel and playing tourist.
No trip to Paris would have been complete without a baguette...90 cents in total, and it was the best bread I had tasted in my entire life.

Friday, March 5, 2010


In Rinaldo's after hours. Campus is empty, it's wonderfully quiet.

la primavera.

It's been what seems like a century since I have last posted anything...things got busy here really quickly.
It is now officially Spring Break, the first friday of, as we all are stuck inside with a massive downpour of rain coming down, bundled in sweaters deciding over coffee if it is worth it to try to do anything today.
Most likely it will be an evening of movies and chinese food (some things just don't change) and more being lazy before we all go off on our separate trips. Alana and Carolyn both have their families here for the week, Garrison is off on a tour of Greece, MacKenzie to Tunisia, and I am bound for a long weekend in Paris starting next tuesday.
It is a little ridiculous to think that it is already spring break, that midterms are over, and that in six short weeks I will be on another plane headed for the warmth of Texas and familiar faces.

In the last two weeks the majority of my time has been spent living in the library in the stacks of the great poets, best known as the Dante cave, flipping through pages and pages of art text books, italian grammar lessons, and the history and development of opera with very few breaks between.

But now the books are to be put away for a while....HOORAY!

On the rare occasion that I wasn't living in the library we got out in Roma a bit, and once a little further outside to the hilltop town of Orvieto-best known for the wine made in the vineyards surrounding the city and the massive cathedral that dominates the main square. We couldn't have wished for a more gorgeous day to be wandering around Umbria.

Following the few hours of wandering through winding cobblestone streets we sat down to a four course lunch, which was just absolutely ridiculous to say the least...so much food. The food and the wine made for a very good nap the entire way back to Roma, though.

Aside from Orvieto I spent a few weekday afternoons wandering through the Vatican Museums, finally seeing the Raphael rooms and once more sitting in the Sistine Chapel. Dropping out of my philosophy class might have been the best choice I could have possibly made- leaving my wednesday afternoons free to go out and explore following my onsite class and usually involve gelato of sorts.

I am making it a point of my trip to have gelato as much as I possibly can. Once in every city I go to, and of course multiple times in Roma. Currently my favourite gelateria is "Old Bridge" which is located right by the 990 bus stop on across the street from the Vatican walls. Not only is it the best, but it is the cheapest. Some classmates of mine are making it a goal of theirs to try every flavour offered at Old Bridge (100 in total) while mine is to see which place makes the best Nocciola which is hazelnut and my personal preference. While some flavors come in a close second, I will never pay for anything but Nocciola, or in a worst case scenario a version of it. Nutella gelato is not very good- a swirl of Nutella in crema gelato, so basically vanilla with a ribbon of Nutella...eh. Bacio comes in as a pretty good runner up. Baci is a candy made in Perugia, also the Italian word for "kiss", it is a hazelnut surrounded by chocolate hazelnut ganache in a wafer shell covered in chocolate which is then covered with mashed hazelnuts. By far my favourite candy here- even compared to Kinder, which is another experience in itself. But then again, this is coming from the girl who eats Nutella off of a spoon and believes whole heartedly that it is good on absolutely anything.

And the best part is that Italians think it is healthy...

Friday, February 26, 2010

the sun is up, the sky is blue. it's beautiful...

Not having friday class was always wonderful, it meant I could go to work and spend the afternoon getting things done.
Now in Roma I never have friday class, and I don't have a job, so the afternoon is spent wandering, watching movies, and just laying around.

The day is absolutely beautiful again. We are sitting outside drinking coffee and eating oranges we have climbed the tree to get.
Another round of midterms is on the calendar for next week, so I'm planning on laying around for the afternoon and tomorrow a trip to Oriveto.

Monday, February 22, 2010

50 Special

We are having to learn this song for Italian class.
Beware, it's incredibly catchy...I am looking forward to driving around Houston with this on the stereo.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

terra firma

Finally I get around to posting something new about the happenings in Roma.
This week has been crazy to say the absolute least.
It's already midterm here, which is ridiculous to me...Spring Break starts the weekend after next and the days are flying by like they never have before.

My days are spent looking at the most incredible art, listening to amazing operas, watching movies that changed the face of the Italian film industry, and going to see the most beautiful ballets. While all of those things are ways I am glad to spoil myself with, they are also work. That being said, I enjoy them absolutely, but it isn't all fun and games. All of those enriching experiences have to be written about, studied, analyzed, and then turned in for a grade (hopefully a good one).

This week we were shown "La Nozze di Figaro" (The Marriage of Figaro) which I loved loved loved...the music is outstanding, and the libretto is amazing. While Tosca is still my favourite, this one is currently standing at second. While it is a sequel to "Il Barbier de Sevilla", Mozart wrote "Figaro" before Rossini's "Barber" was even composed.

That will show you the opening duetto, which is one of the best in the opera, also Figaro's aria "Non più andrai" is very well known, and a prime example of the Rondo Aria, where the refrain is repeated more than once (in this case A-B-A-C-A-D) versus the more standard DaCapo form (A-B-A).

The majority of the week was spent studying in the library amongst the stacks, specifically in the Dante section, which has now gained many names, depending on the day or one of our moods corresponding to one of the circles. For once I feel like I am doing an incredibly amount of work, I have never studied this hard or prepared this much for an exam or paper. Maybe it is the level of demand that is being put forth by our professors at Loyola or maybe it's the fact that I am in classes all above 300 level, but the point is that it is hard. And I love it. Being challenged makes me want to work that much harder. I would rather spend hours pouring over books, hi-lighting, marking, analyzing, and obsessing than just have it come easily. I feel like I am actually learning, not just retaining and then repeating information.

I took a break Wednesday, braved the ever too common Roman downpour, and went to the ballet at the Teatro dell'Opera to see "Il Papavero Rosso". Which was a hardcore Russian ballet- incredible scenery, costumes, and such strong character roles. Very long, but well worth the three hours and two intermissions.

After my "Art in Rome" exam and "High Renaissance and Mannerist Art" exams, I was free as of Thursday night, and spent Friday afternoon in sweatpants, watching movies and drinking coffee, relaxing for a night out in Roma. We wandered around Trastevere, which is a really happening and hip neighbourhood full of bars and restaurants. Winding cobblestone street turning into another winding cobblestone street, it is easy to get turned around, but has some of the best tucked away bars. Our favourite is Cafe Gauguin (go figure), very comfortable with good music, good drinks and not too crazy of a scene. Evenings that take us into the heart of the city usually end in very early hours of the morning, and this was no exception. Rome lit up at night is something everyone must see once in their lives. While Paris is beautiful at all times, and Roma incredible no matter, the dark of the night against the lighted bridges crossing the Tiber and the rest of glory of Rome is absolutely indescribable, pictures can't even sum it up. It is just something you have to see with your own two eyes.

Just like everything else- like art, like love, like the entire world.
It is all incredible on paper, all wonderful to hear about,
but there is nothing like experiencing it on your own terms and in your own time.

"Much sweet love in the light.
That in the dark, the city shone bright."

(fanny pack count =32)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

when I dream of Michelangelo.

While I get the weather of the world on CNN here- I know about the massive snows in the midwest, and about whatever storm system is moving across Asia- I doubt you hear about the first snow in 25 years in Roma.
Waking up on Friday morning to snow on my window was quite the unexpected treat.

Saturday here was absolutely beautiful, the snow melted away, and the sky was the bluest of blue.
I put on a sweater and some sunglasses and walked the three and one half miles to the Vatican and stood under one of the most beautiful of ceilings.
I completely forgot what it felt like to stand in the Sistine Chapel.
Standing among what could arguably be the greatest works of the greatest artists, not just of the Renaissance, but of any time period, I couldn't manage to get the goofy smile that I get when I look at art off of my face.
Not having to deal with the hustle and bustle of crowds was also very, very nice.

Having stood there at 10, which I remember my thoughts being "WOW! This is ALOT of paint." and "WOW! I wonder if Michelangelo could have stood EXACTLY where I am standing?"...and then again at 20 where thoughts couldn't even surface in my brain, I am curious to see what my reaction at 30 will be.

From the Vatican I wandered to Old Bridge Gelateria which is the best gelati Roma has to offer...not to mention 1.50 euro gets you plenty of a serving. Old Bridge is right outside of the Vatican wall and apparently has the best flavours, though I will always go for nocciola. Gelato in hand I then wandered to the church of San Pietro in Vincoli on the Esquiline hill where Pope Julius II tomb is...

Pope Julius was elected to pope in 1503 and is most famous for being a great patron of the arts, he wanted to restore Rome and the Papacy through art and architecture. He ordered the rebuilding of St. Peter's, the painting of the Sistine Chapel, and ordered one of the most extravagant and intricate tombs one could imagine. The tomb of Julius II, was supposed to be a colossal structure of 44 sculptures, both in the round and relief, that would have given Michelangelo the room he needed for his superhuman, tragic being to come to life, ended up becoming one of the great disappointments, best known as "the tragedy of the tomb", of Michelangelo's life when the pope, for unexplained reasons, interrupted the commission.

The tomb was finished with only 22 figures...most famously it is known for the sculpture of Moses.

Now I could go on for a few paragraphs talking about this particular work, but I will spare you.

Most people are curious as to why Moses was the particular figure chosen to be a main point of this piece. Throughout the entire work there is an underlying theme of deliverance serving as an allusion to the promise of everlasting life. Moses, most famous for being the leader of his people and delivering them out of Egypt, is symbolic of the deliverance of the Catholic Church under Pope Julius.

The pose of Moses and the pose of David are very similar, though David is standing in contrapossto and Moses is sitting, you notice that from the waist up the movement is almost the same, especially the arms.

The right side is closed, while the left is open...this apparently is derived from the saying "at the right hand of the Father"...having the right side of the body closed off and protected by God and the left open to the world ready to defend against opposing forces. In the case of David his slingshot is in his left hand, ready to fight Goliath and Moses holds the tablets with the Commandments on them in his right.

Another big point of interest are what seem to be horns coming out of the top of his head...now, there are many explanations for this floating around, but the one that seems to be most correct is to be blamed on a mistranslation from Hebrew to Latin text. The word for "rays of light" is apparently very similar to the one for "horns"...so in this case we take it that the horns are symbolic of the rays of light coming off of Moses' face after his encounter on Mount Sinai.

Michelangelo is known for never putting non-human characteristics on human figures. In fact, he refused to paint angels with wings, and only did so once.

Most famously though is the beard, which is said to be "the greatest beard in all of the history of art", a statement which I completely agree with.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

rain, rain go away

Getting up before the sun rises is something I hate to admit I am getting used to...especially when the night before was spent singing and dancing into the early hours with the rest of my classmates.

"Art in Rome", one of my on site art classes usually requires me to be somewhere across town at 9 in the morning. While it is wonderful to be given lessons inside amazing churches or standing in the forum, on rainy days such as this one was, a six o'clock alarm is not something wonderful to wake up to.

Today, we dragged our freezing and soaking selves to the churches of Santa Maria Maggiore, Santa Pudenziana, and Santa Prassede to look at the mosaics and some of the architecture. All three were absolutely breathtaking, though I really loved Santa Pudenziana the most- one of the side chapels, which served as a tomb, was covered completely in glittering tiles. It would certainly have been something to see when illuminating with oil lamps, even so it was still incredible lit with bulbs (that I had to pay 1 euro to turn on). Robert Browning penned the poem posted at the bottom after visiting Santa Pudenziana.

Following my cross town trek I spent the afternoon reading Anna Karenina in the library (which is super cozy and really small). While I should be reading Kant or a textbook, rainy days are the best of any to take a time out from craziness and just enjoy something other than work. Tomorrow we are scheduled to get snow, tonight I am enjoying my Nutella and banana panino, fresh from the stove.

Robert Browning

Rome, 15 -
Vanity, saith the preacher, vanity!
Draw round my bed: is Anselm keeping back?
Nephews - sons mine... ah God, I know not! Well -
She, men would have to be your mother once,
Old Gandolf envied me, so fair she was!
What's done is done, and she is dead beside,
Dead long ago, and I am Bishop since,
And as she died so must we die ourselves,
and thence ye may perceive the world's a dream.
Life, how and what is it? As here I lie
In this state-chamber, dying by degrees,
Hours and long hours in the dead night, I ask
"Do I live, am I dead?" Peace, peace seems all.
Saint Praxed's ever was the church for peace;
And so, about this tomb of mine. I fought
With tooth and nail to save my niche, ye know:
- Old Gandolf cozened me, despite my care;
Shrewd was that snatch from out the corner South
He graced his carrion with, God curse the same!
Yet still my niche is not so cramped but thence
One sees the pulpit o' the epistle-side,
And somewhat of the choir, those silent seats,
And up into the airy dome where live
The angels, and a sunbeam's sure to lurk:
And I shall fill my slab of basalt there,
And 'neath my tabernacle take my rest,
With those nine columns round me, two and two,
The odd one at my feet where Anselm stands:
Peach-blossom marble (1) all, the rare, the ripe
As fresh-poured red wine of a mighty pulse.
- Old Gandolf with his paltry onion-stone (2),
Put me where I may look at him! True peach,
Rosy and flawless: how I earned the prize!
Draw close: that conflagration of my church
- What then? So much was saved if aught were
My sons, ye would not be my death? Go dig
The white-graped vineyard where the oil-press stood,
Drop water gently till the surface sink,
And if ye find... Ah God, I know not, I!..
Bedded in store of rotten fig-leaves soft,
And corded up in a tight olive-frail,
Some lump, ah God, of lapis lazuli,
Big as a Jew's head cut off at the nape,
Blue as a vein o'er the Madonna's breast...
Sons, all I have bequeathed you, villas, all,
That brave Frascati villa with its bath,
So, let the blue lump poise between my knees,
Like God the Father's globe on both his hands
Ye worship in the Jesu Church so gay,
For Gandolf shall not choose but see and burst!
Swift as a weaver's shuttle fleet our years:
Man goeth to the grave, and where is he?
Did I say basalt for my slab, sons? Black -
'Twas ever antique-black I meant! How else
Shall ye contrast my frieze to come beneath?
The bas-relief in bronze ye promised me,
Those Pans and Nymphs you wot of, and perchance
Some tripod, thyrsus, with a vase or so,
The Saviour at his sermon on the mount
Saint Praxed in a glory, and one Pan
Ready to twitch the Nymph's last garment off,
And Moses with the tables... but I know
Ye mark me not! What do they whisper thee,
Child of my bowels, Anselm? Ah, ye hope
To revel down my villas while I gasp
Bricked o'er with beggar's mouldy travertine
Which Gandolf from his tomb-top chuckles at!
Nay. boys, ye love me - all of jasper (3) then!
'Tis jasper ye stand pledged to, lest I grieve.
My bath must needs be left behind, alas!
One block, pure green as a pistachio-nut,
There's plenty jasper somewhere in the world -
And have I not Saint Praxed's ear to pray
Horses for ye, and brown Greek manuscripts,
And mistresses with great smooth marbly limbs?
- that's if ye carve my epitaph aright,
Choice Latin, picked phrase, Tully's every word,
No gaudy ware like Gandolf's second line -
Tully, my masters? Ulpian serves his need!
And then how I shall lie through centuries,
And hear the blessed mutter of the mass,
And see God made and eaten all day long,
And feel the steady candle-flame, and taste
Good strong thick stupefying incense-smoke!
For as I lie here, hours of the dead night,
Dying in state and by such slow degrees,
I fold my arms as if they clasped a crook,
And stretch my feet forth straight as stone can point,
And let the bedclothes, for a morthcloth, drop
Into great laps and folds of sculptor's-work:
And as yon tapers dwindle, and strange thoughts
Grow, with a certain humming in my ears,
About the life before I lived this life,
And this life too, popes, cardinals and priests,
Saint Praxed at his sermon on the mount,
Your tall pale mother with her talking eyes,
And new-found agate urns as fresh as day,
And marble's language, Latin pure, discreet,
- Aha, ELUSCEBAT quoth our friend?
No Tully, said I, Ulpian at the best!
Evil and brief hath been my pilgrimage.
All lapis, all, sons! Else I give the Pope
My villas! Will ye ever eat my heart?
Ever your eyes were as a lizard's quick,
They glitter like your mother's for my soul,
Or ye would heighten my impoverished frieze,
Piece out its starved design, and fill my vase
With grapes, and add a vizor and a Term,
And to the tripod ye would tie a lynx
That in his struggle throws the tyrsus down,
To comfort me on my entablature
Whereon I am to lie till I must ask
"Do I live?, am I dead?" There, leave me, there!
For ye have stabbed me with ingratitude
To death - ye wish it - God ye wish it! Stone -
Gritstone, a-crumble! Clammy squares which swear
As if the corpse they keep were oozing through -
And no more lapis to delight the world!
Well, go! I bless ye. Fewer tapers there,
But in a row: and, going, turn your backs
- Ay, like departing altar-ministrants,
And leave me in my church, the church for peace,
That I may watch at leisure if he leers -
Old Gandolf, at me, from his onion-stone,
As still he envied me, so fair she was!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

"La vita è troppo breve... per bere vini cattivi" -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

I have returned from carnivale in one piece following a lot of dancing, very little sleep and two overnight trains.
While it was fun, I think it was one of those things that you have to do once in your lifetime and then never again. It was just too many people in a too small of a space. While there were some moments that absolutely made the trip.

The city is beautiful, especially in the hours when the streets are empty...wandering around at 6 am following my arrival was probably one of my favourite moments I have spent here. Also, I got to stand in the center of a completely deserted piazza San Marco, which is incredible, huge, and very very rarely empty. But Venezia is something that is best seen in the quiet, at sunrise or eating nutella sandwiches on a beautiful sunday.

We started Saturday night early and starving first with pizza and then wine at Naranzaria (where the polenta is really AMAZING) which is a restaurant and bar owned by a family friend (http://www.naranzaria.it/eng-home.htm) and like everyone should do when they are in Venezia we also enjoyed Bellini- "the drink of Venice".

Monday, February 8, 2010

Il Papa

So...My mom sent me the picture she took of JPII when she went to Roma.
Cool, huh?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Pope wears red shoes

5 AM alarm clocks are something I am becoming more and more used to...

This morning we wandered to the Vatican before the sun came up to ensure our seats at the Papal Audience, what a cool experience! While waiting outside in the cold for hours, and then sitting around for a few more hours was at the very least very annoying, it was well worth it in the end...It's kinda cool when the Pope specifically comes to greet your university.

I also think it's a neat thing that both my mom and I have gotten to see up close two popes in Rome when we were both twenty, I wish I had the picture of Pope John Paul II to put up next to mine on here. Speaking of JPII, visiting his tomb in St. Peter's was incredibly eerie and at the same time just incredible.

St. Peter's Basilica was just something else. The absolute definition of so many different words.
Incredible. Other worldly. Overwhelming. Awe-some. Beautiful.

And then I saw this...

I am still completely dumbfounded at the amount of things I have been able to see, do, and just experience in the last three weeks. There are still three months left to pass, and I already have done things that some never will get to do in their entire lives.

Sto facendo le mi ossa.

"If you speak bad Italian Dante WILL hear you"

Finally, I am updating this.

The weekend brought me to bella Firenze, where we spent the days wandering the cobblestone streets, eating panini and gelato, looking at the most beautiful art in the world, and of course shopping.

Alana was brave enough to wander the Uffizi for hours with me on Saturday morning, I think of all places that I have visited and all the museums I have wandered it is by far the one that is the most important to me.
Of course I cried (for the first time since I have been here), Botticelli's "Annunciation" did it to me. The room it hangs in has "The Birth of Venus" to the wall on the right (sinestra) and "La Primavera" on the wall across, while all the other spaces are covered with some of the most marvelous examples of high Renaissance Botticelli, and DaVinci in the the gallery over. There was just something about it- something about the expressions, the weightlessness of the fabrics, the way the light was rendered. It was beautiful.

I also saw so many other incredible pieces, not just at the Uffizi either. After stepping off the train at Santa Maria Novella, the girls I was traveling with immediately went into the little market to browse, while I walked around the corner into the church to see Masaccio's "Trinita"- something that I have been waiting such a long time to see. Wow.

We spent the rest of the time wandering through the cobblestone streets, climbing to the top of the cuopola at the duomo, getting lost and finding things including leather gloves, belts, and bags.

In Firenze they have these things called "waffel" which is basically two belgian waffles with a huge glob of nutella im between. YUM! Sitting on the steps of the duomo in the sunshine was probably my favourite moment of the weekend with Ghiberti's gates in front of me, just watching people pass.

Also, another observation we made was that the Florentines dress much better than the Romans. In Roma "wet look" puffer jackets seem to be all the rage, funny stuff...and currently the fanny pack count is at 21.

Sto facendo le mi ossa.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

If a body catch a body comin' through the rye...

I just got an instant message from my sister about the sad news of J.D. Salinger's death. Personally, this is a big deal. At the risk of sounding like every other voice of multiple generations, if I had to have one book to read for the rest of my life it would be "The Catcher in the Rye"...there is just something about it, something to it that makes it and every other work of Salinger's so easy to relate to. There is just something in the way he captured humanity in every single subject.

Since the first time I read "Catcher in the Rye", in February 2003, I have picked it up, on the same date every year since then. No matter what else I am reading or all the other things going on...it is something I always go back to. Among the three books I brought with me, it was one. My Italy has to have it's own bit of Holden Morrisey Caulfield mixed in.

"I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around - nobody big, I mean - except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff - I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be."
-Holden Caulfield

Terra Firma

It is still grey in Roma, though in a few hours I am hopping the train to Firenze for the weekend. Not having class on Friday is WONDERFUL because it allows us to take long weekends to explore a little bit. I have only ever spent the afternoon in Firenze and from all the stories from my sister and friends from their study abroad trips I absolutely cannot wait.

Last night we had Mass of the Holy Spirit to formally open term. While...I was already excited because it is usually in a really beautiful church (well, in Italy, is there such a thing as an unfortunate looking one?) but when we pulled up to Sant'Ignazio, I jumped out of the taxi, and started telling everyone that this was THE church...while, no one understood what I meant and my pure excitement prevented me from explaining.

This is Sant'Ignazio (or St. Ignatius) which is so totally appropriate to celebrate opening of term in while attending a Jesuit school...

The photo does no justice to the absolute beauty of this place.
While the ceiling looks like it has a duomo and a very high vaulted ceiling it is all just a trick of the eye...totally flat turned into totally magnificent. Andrea Pozzo's genius is absolutely undeniable.

It celebrates the work of Saint Ignatius and the Society of Jesus in the world presenting the saint welcomed into paradise by Christ and the Virgin Mary and surrounded by allegorical representations of all four continents. Pozzo worked to open up, even dissolve the actual surface of the nave's barrel vault illusionistically, arranging a perspectival projection to make an observer see a huge and lofty cupola, open to the bright sky, and filled with upward floating figures. A marble disk set into the middle of the nave floor marks the ideal spot from which observers might fully experience the illusion.

Sitting through mass was incredibly difficult because I couldn't help but stare upward, getting lost in the work, in the trick of they eye. I wanted to walk around, to lay on the floor, and explain to my friends WHY this was such a big deal to me.
I got to see with my own eyes, something that I teared up at while seeing it on a slide projection. I got to stand under the works of the masters who have lighted a fire beneath my feet...and only to wake up tomorrow to see Ghiberti's Gates, and Michelangelo's David. To wander the halls of the Uffizi...to return to the very first place (standing in front of Botticelli's "La Primavera") that struck the match all those years ago.

Bella Italia.

Sto facendo le mi ossa.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sonnet On Approaching Italy

I reached the Alps: the soul within me burned,
Italia, my Italia, at thy name:
And when from out the mountain's heart I came
And saw the land for which my life had yearned,
I laughed as one who some great prize had earned:
And musing on the marvel of thy fame
I watched the day, till marked with wounds of flame
The turquoise sky to burnished gold was turned.
The pine-trees waved as waves a woman's hair,
And in the orchards every twining spray
Was breaking into flakes of blossoming foam:
But when I knew that far away at Rome
In evil bonds a second Peter lay,
I wept to see the land so very fair.


-Oscar Wilde

Roman Rain


It is a rainy day in Roma to say the least...cold, windy, and completely grey. The wind here rivals San Francisco, and dare I say what I have experienced in Chicago, as well. My umbrella was turned inside out this morning and my hair looked stunning when I walked into school. If I can help it I am not leaving campus until tonight, and my hair will remain in this messy pony I have fashioned it into.

I need wellies, and my bubble umbrella ASAP.

Speaking of scuola, this is what parts of campus look like...the big white thing is in the courtyard, and was once upon a time a lot prettier, until December when some lighting struck a tree, and well...you can guess what happened.

These photos were clearly not taken this morning, the gloom reminds me of my last days spent in northern California, though in San Francisco I can't walk by a tree, stick my hand up and instantly have breakfast. The citrus trees are one of my favourite things here, and my goal is to pick a fruit off of everyone and eat it by the end of the semester...yes, I'll have to eat grapefruit.

Due to the weather there are noticeably fewer cats wandering the streets and campus...Monte Mario is the home to about 1 million stray cats, I feel like I have fallen into Andrew Lloyd Weber's "Heavyside Layer"...Jellicle. Though some are cute, and like to follow us around, there are of course the mean ones, but really, I have never seen so many in one place.

Another fun fact for you, in Italian the alphabet is missing the letters "J, K, Y, X, and W" and in turn they have made up ways to pronounce them incase one would be asked "come si scrive?" (how do you spell?)

J= i lunga (said E lunga)
K= kappa (imagine that!)
Y= ipsilon (not Epsilon, but said with a hard e)
X= ics (imagine saying ICK with an s on the end)
W= doppia vu (and when you write a W, you literally write two letter v interlaced...vu is the way you pronounce v)

Looking forward to Firenze on friday.

Sto facendo le mi ossa

Sunday, January 24, 2010



So another 24 hours of my Roman holiday has passed...Sundays here are quite something- first of all EVERYTHING (I mean EVERYTHING, including the supermarket)is closed, secondly, there is a huge market where you can seriously get ANYTHING, and third any male between the age of 12 weeks to 120 years can be found sporting football jerseys, scarfs, t-shirts, socks...whatever (and by football, I don't mean the Colts or the Saints).

I also owe many thanks to Miss Blakeley for convincing me to pack my running shoes and track shorts at the last minute, I have used them on multiple occasions and today was convinced to suck it up and do the six miles to the Vatican and back. There was no better way to see my new neighbourhood in full function- it was slightly like a movie, getting to see everything in motion, in full swing before me. I ran down via Balduina and ended up in St. Peter's square tangled among the masses flooding out from mass or in to the next.

Part of the day was spent in Tivoli...a little outside of the city, home to villa after villa. I wandered around Hadrian's massive 300 acre one, 137 of which were gardens. Bella!

Everyone here is winding down...laying around waiting for 9pm mass. The majority of us figure that since we are here, we might as well attend to make up for the last 20 years of our lives. Plus the chapel is absolutely stunning, and it never hurts to spend time in the presence of beauty.

This afternoon I found this on my roommate's shampoo bottle, I thought it to be worth writing down, just something to keep in mind...

"How you climb up the mountain is just as important as how you get down the mountain, and so it is with life, which, for many of us becomes one gigantic test followed by one gigantic lesson. In the end it all comes down to one word, grace. It is how you accept winning and losing, good luck and bad luck, the darkness and the light."

Sto facendo le mi ossa.

Saturday, January 23, 2010



It has been a week since I arrived in the Eternal City...I am now finally getting settled in and have explored a bit. Classes have also started up, and I am really excited about all that the semester has to offer.

For now I am enrolled in Italian 101, Aesthetics, Intro to Opera (no that does not mean that I am learning how to sing...thank God), Art in Rome, Italian High Renaissance and Mannerist Art, and Italian Film.

For the film class we are only focusing on the work of Vittorio De Sica, which I cannot be more thrilled about...especially because that includes my favourite movie of all time- It Started in Naples. The professor also happens to be incredibly passionate about film and teaching, which in turn has me, and most of the class excited.

Both of the Art History classes are going to be great, especially because I nerd out for art, and for me being here looking at what I actually get to see with my own two eyes (well, four on the days I remember my specs) rather than just on slides. Art in Rome is all on site, and is more of a general less intense course that is open to all students. High Renaissance and Mannerist is really intense and really focused with a class of eight (all girls), seven of them Art History minors, and then the lone major (yours truly). That class is sure to be the one I enjoy the most, and probably the one I am most excited for.

Speaking of art...the walls of the school are covered in copies of Caravaggio. Every time our dean passes me in the hall, my eyes are fixed to one piece or another...I am starting to be known as being the "Art History girl from Texas, you know, the one always in her brown boots". My favourite spot to sit in at Mensa (where we eat) is under the replica of "The Supper at Emmaus", which is currently at the Art Institute of Chicago, which I happily stood in front of for twenty minutes on my last visit.

In other news, Roman night life is fun...when you avoid the places crawling with American students. I will try to avoid Campo di Fiori for the rest of my trip, in particular the one pub so classily named "The Drunken Ship" (one that I have never been to, and never plan to set foot in...don't worry, mom). My favourite part about night in Roma is the breakfast I wake up to the next morning...This trip is going to be measured in calories rather than steps, and I am completely okay with that.

This is my very own Eat, Pray, Love experience...actually, that is what I am using as my guidebook to Roma. Yesterday I rode the bus for the first time and walked around downtown...we stopped at the Spanish Steps and ate some gelato.

The girl with me in the photo is my friend Bits (Elizabeth). She is studying PR at James Madison and is fun to run around with...especially when she tries to speak Italian. Every local loves her- I blend in, where as B stands out, yelling in Italian and English and sometimes French.

Well, dinner is calling me...

Sto facendo le mi ossa.

Thursday, January 21, 2010



So I have been in Italia for almost one week, and I think I can safely say that I have seen more beautiful things here in that short time than I have in the last year and a half.

After being in Roma for less than a day, we headed out to Assisi...I haven't been back in years and it was everything I remembered it being, it was nice to get to experience it on my own time and terms- being able to wander aimlessly with no intention of a desired location is something I am looking forward to doing here...and I already have done a lot of it. Assisi is a nice, sleepy town, well-at least in the winter it is, and is home to the basilica and tomb of St. Francis. Aside from the church there are cafes, shops and not too much else. Since it is winter, most of Italia is quiet and not crawling with touristas, though once lent rolls around it will get busy.

That picture was taken on the last day we were in Assisi, the majority of the time it looked like this...

Now I am back in Roma for a while. Classes started yesterday, and I am settling into my new neighbourhood, Balduina which is really adorable, where every shop keeper and fruit stand owner refers to me as "bella" and always gives me an extra pear or two because I "need to grow". I seem to blend in pretty well here, and unless I am walking around with my blonde friends, or there is a group of us, I am never looked at as a foreigner, though when spoken to in Italiano, I am usually very embarrassed that the response I give is either really broken Italian or Spanish or I just have to say "no parla Italiano"...though in Assisi I was told that I spoke very good Italian for an American girl...though when we are out and about town the bartenders usually laugh at us, and tell us not to worry about it. Most Italians want to speak in English, while most Americans...well the ones living here, want to be speaking Italian...for only being here for 5 days, I am doing pretty well with the language.

Sto facendo le mi ossa.