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 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 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 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 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.