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(no subject) [Oct. 1st, 2006|06:10 am]
I was supposed to go to Pisa today, but that didn't work out because I've been in bed with a bad cold all weekend. I probably still would have gone and been miserable, but I was supposed to go with Mary but she didn't realize our history paper was due on Monday, so we couldn't go because of that.

BUT I am going to Barcelona next weekend and Mary and I booked our trip to Dublin for Oct. 20-22, which should be an amazing trip.
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(no subject) [Sep. 27th, 2006|07:17 am]
Since I don’t have class until 5 on Wednesdays, I decided to do some more sightseeing today. I did the four major churches that are near the Pantheon: San Luigi dei Francesi, Gesu Church, Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, and St. Ignazio.
I went to San Luigi dei Francesi first because it was the farthest away. It has the Calling of St. Matthew by Carravaggio, which I really wanted to see. It’s a spectacular painting, but it’s in a chapel that is really dark, so you have to put coins in to have the lights turned on.
Then I went to Santa Maria Sopra Minerva which was my favorite of the four. It’s the only Gothic church in Rome and its absolutely beautiful inside. It also has a statue of a nude Jesus by Michelangelo which is beautiful. Galileo visited this church before his trial in front of the Inquisition. The body of St. Catherine of Siena is under the main altar and Fra Angelico is buried near by.
Next was St. Ignazio which is cool because it has a fake dome! It looks completely real as you approach it, but then when you are under it and past it, you can see that it is completely flat.
My last stop was the Gesu Church, which is a Jesuit church. It has the tomb of St. Ignatius of Loyola which is topped by the world’s largest lapis lazuli globe. It also has the right arm of St. Francis Xavier which is just chilling behind glass in his chapel. Kind of creepy, but neat. There were also some nice frescos of the life of St. Francis. A Bernini bust of Cardinal Robert Bellarmine ended the visit. According to Rick Steves there is also a manger scene that moves around with the push of a button, but I couldn’t find it.

Last night I had the most frustrating dining experience of my life. Mary and I decided we wanted a nice steak dinner, so we went to one of our favorite restaurants. First it took 15 minutes to get our wine and water. Then we waited and waited and waited for our food. The people next to us had sat down at the same time and were on their coffee, so they asked us what we had ordered and informed the waitress that we hadn’t been fed yet. She finally apologized because there had been a mistake with the kitchen. But it finally came out and was delicious, I had steak in a pecorino cheese sauce and we got roasted potatoes on the side that were fabulous.
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Long entry about this weekend [Sep. 25th, 2006|02:34 am]
This weekend my friends were on a sailing trip, so I decided to do some heavy duty sightseeing.

Saturday morning I woke up very early to go to the Vatican Museum. I had planned to be there when they opened at 8:45, but I managed to get on the wrong bus and ended up some place that was off of my map. Luckily, I decided to get off the bus before I ended up somewhere really far away and when I did I saw a metro stop that connected to the Vatican Museum stop, so I got on and wasn’t lost anymore. But I get to the entrance of the museum at 9:45 and I start walking down the line. And keep walking. And keep walking. The line is literally a mile and a half long. So I decide to nix the museum and to go back on Monday afternoon (my only class is from 5-6:30 and it was canceled!) when crowds are reputed to be at the lowest. It turned out to be a good idea to go straight to St. Peter’s because I had only allowed a half hour for it but I needed much more time. First I walked around the square a little and then I noticed that the line to go through security was growing steadily, so I got in line and waited about a half hour to go through security. I finally get through and pull out my handy Rick Steve’s guide and start my tour. Walking into the building is a big wow experience. It’s so big! And crowded, boo. But I see all the sights: the dome, the statue of St. Peter, the dead Pope under glass, and Michelangelo’s Pieta (smaller than I imagined). I didn’t get to go into the Crypt because although I found the staircase, it was behind a gate, and I didn’t know if I could go down. But I’ll come back another day and take the extensive underground tour and see it then. I also decided that going to the top of the dome could wait for another day.

From St. Peter’s I got on the Metro and was whisked to the Piazza della Repubblica, where I went back to the National Museum of Rome because my ticket from class on Thursday was still valid. The museum is great if you love busts of old Romans, which I do, so it was good. They have a statue of Augustus that I really liked from my Roman Art class last semester and a couple other busts that I recognized. The busts and statues were nice, but I thought the collection of floor mosaics and wall paintings was the best part. They had whole slabs of mosaics from excavated villas. They had little rooms with the wall paintings set up like they would be in a villa and you could walk in and feel like you were in an ancient room. A very cool experience. In the basement they had some Roman luxury items like jewelry and house stuff. They jewelry was absolutely amazing! There was this ring that had a blue stone that was probably the size of a pencil eraser, and on the stone was a tiny black camel. Then there was a huge room chronicling Roman coins, all in order up to the euro. It was interesting at first, there was so much that I ended up breezing through most of it.

After the National Museum I got a yummy cannoli from “the best Sicilian pastry shop in Rome” according to one of my professors. Then I went to Santa Maria Vittoria to see Bernini’s Santa Teresa in Ecstasy but I got there at 3 and it didn’t reopen until 3:30. So I reversed my plans and went to see the Cappuccin Crypt because it opened at 3. The crypt was definitely worth seeing. The crypt is decorated with the bones of 4,000 monks who died between 1528 and 1870 as well as a couple of Barberini children. The bones are all separated and arranged into patterns on the ceilings and the walls. The skulls make up some altars and shelves. There are even several whole skeletons hanging out in niches. I especially liked the “winged” skulls, with the wings made out of hip bones. Unfortunately, they don’t allow photography, so I had to settle for a postcard.

When I was finished with the Cappuccins, I went back to Santa Maria Vittoria which was open. It’s a pretty little church, with tons of Baroque decoration. The Bernini was beautiful, just what I expected, although I thought it was a little high up. They also had a realistic, colored statue of St. Victoria in a “coffin” under one of the altars. I thought that was cool.

Then I got on the bus to go home, and there were ticket inspectors! Of course I had a valid ticket, but I had never seen anyone checking tickets before. I think I even saw them giving a couple of people tickets for not having them. The fine is 100 euro. Then I got home and collapsed from exhaustion.

Sunday, I got up early again and went to the Roman Forum. I learned a lot about it in my Roman Art class last semester, but being there is amazing. What’s left of the Basilica of Constantine is so huge, it’s hard to imagine it was even bigger. The whole site is so big, it’s incredible that it was all filled with public buildings and people walking around. I had meant to go to the Capitoline Museums first and the forum after, but I decided it would be better to go earlier so it would be cooler. So I went to the Capitoline Museums after the Forum (they are connected). For some reason, which I still don’t know, the Capitoline museums were free that day, so that was most excellent. I saw all the important sites: the statue of Marcus Aurelius, the dying Gaul, the boy extracting a thorn, the She-Wolf nursing Romulus and Remus, Bernini’s Medusa, and Commodus as Hercules. There were also tons of other statues which tend to run together and a lovely painting gallery with lots of Venetian medieval and Renaissance paintings. The coolest thing about the museum is that it used to be some sort of government building and the rooms are all still decorated with frescos on the walls and everything. The least cool part was the horribly confusing layout with bad signs. I had lunch in the museum café, the food was eh, but the view was beautiful.

Then I caught a bus to the Via del Corso, which is the main shopping area. I wanted to go to Zara, which is a kind of Spain-based H&M. I thought the clothes were really cool and reasonably priced, but nothing particularly stuck out at me, so I left empty-handed. Then I walked to the Parthenon, got some gelato from a place the Rick Steve’s recommended (rose and zablione, interesting combination), sat on a column base of the Parthenon porch and people watched. I even had a short conversation with the people advertising for the opera, which was interesting.

I also saw 3 brides and a baby ready for Christening this weekend.
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(no subject) [Sep. 21st, 2006|09:44 am]
[Current Mood |excitedexcited]

I finally got my Capri sandals. They're very pretty, although they are breaking in right now, so not very comfortable. I also signed up to go to the Perguia chocolate festival in mid-October, which is pretty exciting

In my Medieval Rome class today we went to the Baths of Diocletian, which was the largest Roman bath and is now a church that was designed by Michaelangelo. It was enormous and if you use your imagination, you can almost feel like you are in a Roman bath. There was also a cool meridian which the church used to use to calculate dates like Easter. Then we went to one of the national musuems. The school pays for the tickets, but they are good for 3 days, so hopefully on Saturday I will be able to go to one of the other branches and check some stuff out. I also rode the Metro for the first time to get from class to the Spanish Steps to buy my last textbook.

I went to dinner with Mary last night and we were in a wine mood. So we ordered a 375 mL bottle, which was really cute and small and the perfect size to split between 2 people. I also got to do the taste it first thing which was fun.
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Pompeii and Tuscany [Sep. 18th, 2006|02:48 am]
[Current Mood |relaxedrelaxed]

Saturday was my trip to Pompeii. Another very early morning, we were on the road by 7:15. We drive to Naples, where our bus driver makes some sort of wrong turn. We go on a 40 minute detour around Naples, which is not a very pretty city to look at. Someone said that it looked like the Detroit of Italy. Just rundown apartment block after apartment block. We finally get to Pompeii around 11:30.

We go on a tour with the same guide that we had in Capri. Fortunately, this time my headset worked, so I was able to hear what she was saying. Our tour was only about two hours long, so we only hit the highlights that we in a smallish area. We saw the exercise area with the cubiculum (i.e. cubicles) where the slave-gladiators were locked up at night. We saw the small theatre, which was very impressive. It’s sooooo steep and you really can hear what the people at the bottom are saying because of the acoustics. Then we saw the “snack shops” which still have the marble countertops and inset bowls where the food and drinks were kept. Then we went into the Lupanare, which was a brothel. I read in one of my guide books that women weren’t allowed in this area until the 70s! There were frescos on the wall that depicted the various acts that the women could perform, so that visiting merchants and sailors that didn’t speak Latin could just point. Then we saw a couple of houses and some mosaics, some of which were well preserved and very impressive. I was even able to identify some of the various levels of Pompeian painting styles that I learned about last semester. But a lot of the famous frescos and mosaics that I learned about had either been removed to the museum in Naples or were in areas that we didn’t get to visit, so that was a bit disappointing. We also got to see the bakery where they discovered carbonized bread in the ovens, which told archeologists that the explosion happened sometime in the morning. We ended our tour at the Forum. The area that was formerly the marketplace had lots of amphora and statues that had been recovered. It also had a few of the plaster molds that early excavators had made in the hollows left by the decayed Pompeiians. They were really interesting, but it was hard to comprehend that what you were looking at was a person in the exact pose that they died in. The Forum also had a Temple of Jupiter and a view of Mount Vesuvius on clear days, which it was not. I really liked the ruins, but I felt that we were rushed through it a little fast and I might have enjoyed it more if I could have just wandered around with a guide book, and visited the Villa of the Mysteries.

Then we had a mediocre tourist-type lunch of a choice of pizza or spaghetti. Then we went out and braved the souvenir-sharks. I got slightly ripped off buying postcards, because the price wasn’t marked, so I gave the lady a 2 euro coin expecting change back, but she didn’t give me any. Then as I was wandering around another stall, the guy running it asked me if I was Australian (?) and I said no I was American and he ended up giving me a postcard for free, so I guess that made up for getting ripped off earlier. The souvenir stands actually had some pretty cool stuff, like animals and stuff carved out of the lava from Vesuvius.

Then it started raining as we got back on the bus to go up to Vesuvius. It was a bit of a scary trip because it was a long, windy road and the bus was a big tourist type bus. But it had some really pretty views of Naples and we got to see some of the lava flows. We get up towards the top when we find out that the trail to the crater is too foggy to walk on. I was disappointed because I would have liked to see the crater, buuuut it was raining really hard and even though I had an umbrella, I was only wearing jeans and a tee-shirt and it was really cold on the bus, so I wasn’t THAT disappointed. So we go back down the mountain and back to Rome. One of the guys on the bus had accidentally bought chocolate at the rest stop that had chili peppers in it, since he didn’t want it, we all tried a piece, and it was a different combination.

On Sunday, I went to Tuscany. It was definitely my favorite trip so far. We actually got to sleep in a little and didn’t have to be at the bus until 7:30. The drive north was much much more scenic than the drive to Naples, so it was nice to look out the window. Exactly what you think of when you think of the Italian countryside. We saw lots of sheep and castle-looking things. We went first to Pienza which is the only Renaissance hilltop town in Italy. It was also used to film Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet, so I will have to rent that sometime and compare. First we went to walk along the outside wall and see lots of pretty countryside, which was rainy, but still nice. Then we split up and Mary and I went to some of the little shops and bought some stuff. Then we were cold and damp so we went into a café to have a croissant because we knew we wouldn’t be getting lunch until late. Then we walked around some more before getting back on the bus. Then we went to a medieval town whose name I can’t remember.

At the medieval town we got to have a tour of a winery and a wine tasting. The house that the winery is in used to be a palace and the former dungeons are used to store the wine. They also have a collection of torture devices that we in the dungeons. There were way too many people in too small a space to really hear what the guy was saying about how the wines were made, but it was interesting to see the barrels and walk around the “dungeon”. Then we sampled a number of wines as well as some cheese and sausage. I also tried grappa for the first time and it was not really to my liking. Since Mary and I were at the head of the line, we finished our tastings a half hour before we had to meet the group, so we wandered around the town, but most of the shops were closed because it was lunch-time. We were starving by now and were excited to go to lunch.

We had lunch at a family-run restaurant near the medieval town. When we came in, all our places were set with a piece of bruschetta with tomatoes. The tables also had a bottle of wine for every two people. After the bruschetta, there was an amazing pasta dish. The noodles were almost the diameter of a pencil and had a really nice texture. The sauce tasted a lot like my mom’s spaghetti sauce, so it was delicious. Then there was a penne pasta dish that I didn’t like as much. Then we had a selection of cured meats with some pecorino cheese, which is a specialty of the region. Then we had some biscotti and panettone with vino santo (which is a dessert wine). I think I was the only person at my table that actually drank the vino santo, but it was really good. Then there was a rowdy group of (we think) Belgians who were singing and clapping, so we clapped along with them.

The only bad part of the trip was the bus ride home with a bunch of the kids acting like 16 year olds who had just had their first drink. Like jumping over the seats and screeching to each other.
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(no subject) [Sep. 14th, 2006|06:35 pm]
Just a quick update...

My onsite, Medieval art class went to visit some early Christian church/houses today. They are mostly whole and have a lot of frescos to look at. It's one thing to go to a really old, big public monument and another to walk around in a house that someone lived in in 200 AD. It was very intense and very interesting.

I also went into the church near my apartment which is a very old church. It was really impressive and beautiful. I'm going to write a paper on it, so it was good to go on a preliminary visit.

It's absolutely pouring outside right now, which is not too fun. I walked halfway to school before I saw a street vendor selling umbrellas, I've never been so happy to see one of these pesky people. He only charged me 5 euro for it too, I was expecting a lot more.

I'm going to Pompeii/Vesuvius and Tuscany this weekend, very exciting!
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Notte Bianca and the Beach [Sep. 11th, 2006|03:45 am]
[Current Mood |relaxedrelaxed]

Saturday night was Rome's Notte Bianca, which means White Night. Basically there was tons of stuff going on all night, musuems open and free and everyone out. Mary and I intended to go to the Capitoline Museum, but we get there, and ther piazza is completely pack because I guess they are having a concert or something on the steps. So we find an entrance to the museum and go in and a gaurd stops us and tells us to go get tickets. So we try going outside to get tickets but its super crowded and we can't find where to get tickets. So we decide to just walk around instead. We walk around the Capitoline Hill and past the Vittorio Emanuale Monument and down the big road to the Colesseum. We run up and touch the Colesseum, because we can't get over how old it is. Then we walk up the Palatine Hill because I thought maybe we could walk through the Forum, but it was closed. So then we were really tired and it was like 1 in the morning and we'd been walking for hours so we went home.

Then Sunday morning, Mary's roommate Kristen calls me at 8:30 and says that we are going to the beach NOW and they will call me when they get to my apartment. So I get up and dressed and wait and wait. Then I call them because its been an hour and a half and they said they called me a bunch of times and I didn't answer. Sometimes my phone doesn't get service in my apartment and that morning was one of those times. So they are already at the train station, so I get directions and power walk half an hour across Rome to meet up with them. I get there right before the train is supposed to leave, so we hop on and head to the beach.

The beach here is much much different than what I'm used to in Northern California, but some of the girls from the east coast said it was kind of like the Jersey Shore. While there are public beaches, they were super crowded, so we decided to pay 3 euro to go to a private on, Mary and Kristen we also able to rent beach chairs, so we used them to stash our stuff under. I was relieved to find that the beach was sandy, because the beach I saw in Capri was all rocky. The water is so flat and clear, there is almost no surf unless a big boat goes by. The water was kind of chilly but it was so hot that it felt nice to go in. The most annoying part was there are all these people who walk around and try to sell stuff to you, jewelry, sunglass, towels, etc. You have to ignore them or they won't go away. We had a terrible, expensive lunch, but we didn't know any better and next time we'll try to do something else. I only got minorly sunburned and everyone else got a nice tan, so a good time was had by all.

On the way back, we still had time left on our 75 minute transportation ticket, so I managed to figure out how to get us home on the bus so we didn't have to walk too far in our sandy flip flops.

I was so exhausted, I got home, watched Roman Holiday and was excited that I recognized everything and went to sleep.
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Capri! [Sep. 9th, 2006|06:51 am]
[Current Mood |lazylazy]

On Friday I had my first trip out of Rome: Capri!

It was a trip organized through JCU, so there were about 50 of us on the trip. We met at one of the piazzas near school at 7 in the morning to get on the bus. Fortunately, it was a nice tour bus and we were able to sleep for most of the 3 hour drive to Naples. Naples is a dirty and dangerous city, so we were there only briefly before boarding the ferry to Capri. Then we had an hour long ferry ride to the island.

Once on Capri, we got on the train that goes to the town of Capri at the top of the island. The city of Capri is very ritzy; they have Valentino, Prada, Ferragamo, etc. Before looking around, we went to eat lunch. We had a choice of three entrees and I ended having pizza that I thought was good but no one else liked. They also gave us gelato that wasn’t very good. Then we had about half an hour to look around before going on a walking tour. I couldn’t tell you what the guide said about Capri because my headset wasn’t working, but it was so beautiful it didn’t matter. We walked to the gardens of Tiberius where there are great views of the sheer cliffs and the rocks in the ocean. We had a chance to take some pictures and then we had to go back to the train to go back down to the marina.

When we were back at the marina, all of us girls rushed to the sandal maker. Capri is famous for its artisan sandals. You tell the guy what style you want and what size your feet are, then he pulls out a shoe sole, and you stand on it and he marks where all the straps should go to fit your feet. Then you leave for an hour and come back and have new sandals made especially for you. Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to work. Most of the other people wandered off to the beach, but I walked around the tourist shops a little more while I was waiting for my sandals. We get back to the sandal shop an hour later (about 20 minutes before we need to catch the ferry back to Naples) to find our tour organizer has spoken to the sandal maker and since there were so many of us ordering sandals at once, he hadn’t finished them. So the sandal guy is going to mail our finished sandals to our tour organizer and she will let us know when they come in. Mine are so cute I want them now, but they are definitely worth the wait.

Then we ferried and bused back to Rome. The country on either side of the Autostrada is so much like California, that when I wasn’t paying attention, I’d look outside and forget I was in Italy. The Autostrada has a really good system of pit stops with a large convenience-type store with a cafeteria. I guess I didn’t realize that Italy had a major highway, but now I know. We drove past the Colesseum just as the sun was rising behind it, it was so beautiful.
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(no subject) [Sep. 7th, 2006|07:24 am]
[Current Mood |happyhappy]

I had spaghetti carbonara for dinner last night and it was amazing. My new favorite pizza topping is potato. I wonder if you can get potato on pizza at home? Cinnamon and chocolate gelato together is heaven.

I finally had my on-site art history class today. I think it will quickly become my favorite class. The professor seems really interesting and it's nice that she's American, so I can understand what she is saying. We went to Santa Cecilia in Trastevere today. We got to go into the convent area and up into the nuns choir of the church to see a very famous and very old fresco by Pietro Cavallini. It was cool because we got to stand about 4 feet away from the fresco, which I guess is a rare experience. A lot of it was chipped away, but it was interesting to see how thick the plaster that they used was. We also went into the main part of the church to see the mosaic in the apse which was very beautiful. Our research paper is going to be fun to do because you write it like a guide book for someone going to see your monument during the middle ages, so it will be a little more fun than writing a dry paper.

I finally braved the washing machine last night. The wash cycle takes almost 2 hours! My clothes weren't as crispy when they air dried as I thought they were going to be, which was nice.

I'm off to Capri for the day tomarrow. I'm hoping to find a cute pair of their famous sandals for under 30 euro, fingers crossed. I'm looking forward to the drive through the Italian countryside.
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(no subject) [Sep. 6th, 2006|09:25 am]
[Current Mood |tiredtired]

School started on Monday (no Labor Day for us). My classes seem good so far but they might turn out to be harder than we all expected. I'm taking Medieval Rome and its Monuments (On-Site), Venetian Art, Politics and Philosophies of the Italian Renaissance, and Children of Abraham: Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

I went with my friend Mary to buy books today. The American Bookstore that JCU uses is wayyyy far away by the Spainish Steps. We took the bus to get there, and it was pretty easy to use the bus although we had a hard time finding the correct street once we got off the bus. They had 3 of the 4 books I need, which is pretty good. A lot of people had all their books sold out. Then I had looked online for instructions on how to find the bus going the other way. We get to the stop and the bus comes and he shakes his head at us a keeps driving. So we just go back to the stop we got off at to make the round trip of the bus. It was kind of helpful because now I know how to get to the Borghese gallery, but it took like an hour and it was really hot. We also found the stop that we should have been waiting at which was about 20 yds up the road from where we had been standing.

I did some laundry in the sink today because the washing machine intimidates me. Also it takes like an hour and fifeteen minutes per load and is really noisy. My apartment-mate was doing it late last night and I was worried we would get complaints from the neighbors because it was so loud.

Even though my apartment is kind of dreary, at least its in a good location. A couple of my friends live in a building that is across the street from a prison. One of the rooms in their apt overlooks the prison exercise yard and they can hear the inmates yelling at each other. They were walking me back to JCU last night so I wouldn't have to walk alone and a car of Italian guys drove by and yelled "Hey Spice Girls" at us, which we thought was hilarious. I also had amazing cinnamon gelato.

And thats about it for now.
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