Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Roma

As part of our studies here, we are working with a cultural group called the Roma. They are the descendants of the group commonly known as the ‘gypsies’. They are heavily discriminated against here, living in ‘camps’ that the government sets up for them. These camps are heavily guarded by the Italian police force. Last week, we visited one of these camps and met with local Roma who lived there. I didn’t take any pictures because I didn’t think it was appropriate, but let me just say that the conditions were horrid. Dirty water was running through the streets, there was garbage everywhere, and there would be families of 6 living in a one room trailer. Our mission as a group is to break down barriers between us, Italians, and the Roma through photography. Tonight, we have our culminating project with them showing pictures we have taken over the past few weeks and our reflections on the visit to their camps. It will definitely be an interesting experience.

On another note, last night our group had a wine a cheese night, continuing to try the local cuisine. Leonardo even attended! It was a very fun and interesting night, even if we couldn’t read the name of the cheese we were eating!

Another fact about Italy is that there are no open container laws. Therefore, it is common to see people walking through the streets with an open beer or wine bottle! Definitely a cultural shock from what we see in America.

Arrivederci for now!

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The Vatican

Today our group visited Saint Peters Basilica, the Vatican Museum, and the Sistine Chapel. Walking into Saint Peters Basilica was astounding, the immensity of the structure can only be realized by walking through it. There were so many sculptures and paintings all over the Basilica. Mini-chapels lined the side of the Basilica. It was nice to visit Saint Peters Basilica when it wasn’t incredibly crowded, I couldn’t imagine going in the summer! The Vatican Museum was very interesting, housing many artifacts from the ancient Roman Empire and the Middle Ages. We saw many sculptures, paintings, tapestries, and most impressive: many beautiful ceilings. The museum ended in the Sistine Chapel, the site of the famous Michelangelo painting on the ceiling. The painting was very well preserved, and although pictures weren’t allowed, I couldn’t help it and snuck a couple :). We had a very full but exciting day!

During our time in Rome it has been the wettest January on record. I guess we brought the Seattle rain with us! The fun fact for today’s blog is that the Vatican has their own independent air space, therefore no one can fly over it.

Arrivederci for now!

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Naples/Pompeii

Today I had an extremely long but exciting day, visiting the city of Naples and the nearby site of Pompeii. Pompeii is an ancient city dating back to more than 2,000 years old. The city was buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and the ensuing 3 meters of ash. As a result of the almost instantaneous burial, the city is very well preserved to this day, giving us a very good insight as to what life was like in ancient times. To me, the city seemed as if it was frozen in time. We even saw real people that were preserved by the ash, frozen in the moment that it overtook them. The site of the ruins allowed for many picturesque views of Mount Vesuvius, Leonardo thoroughly enjoyed the views and walking around Pompeii!

The second part of my day was filled with walking around Naples. This Italian city is located on the Mediterranean Sea, so again there were many beautiful viewpoints! The city itself seemed a little less affluent than either Rome or Florence, and although I never felt endangered, I was happy to have travelled with a group of 4 other students. We walked all around the city, seeing the Duomo and walking along the Sea. Since pizza originated in Naples, the decision of what to eat for dinner was pretty easy! It definitely lived up to the hype. Of the three cities I have visited in Italy, my overall impression is that Rome is the most historically fascinating, Florence is the most comfortable/livable, and Naples is the most beautiful. I love all three cities for different reasons!

Finally, another fun fact about Italy is that there is no ice….anywhere! Ice is never served in drinks and we don’t even have an ice maker in our freezer. I must say, I miss being able to have a glass of nice ice water! Make sure to check out my Facebook album, as I took a lot of pictures today and didn’t want to overload my blog entry :).

Arrivederci for now!

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Gelato for days!

There is definitely not a lack of gelato shops here! Yesterday I went to a famous one near the Trevi fountain that has 150 flavors! Leonardo was thoroughly overwhelmed and we took a long time to figure out what we wanted!

This week we continued to learn about various aspects of the Roman Empire. We also finalized our topics for our midterm papers that are due in about a week. We all realized that we actually have to complete academic work while here! What madness….

This Saturday me and a small group of students from the program are going on a day trip to Naples to have the famous Napoli pizza and to visit the site of Pompeii. I’m excited to see yet another city in Italy. To finish my blog entry I’d like to tell you guys another cultural fact about Italy….you push the door to enter a place, and pull to get out! Exactly the opposite of America.

Arrivederci for now!

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Castel Sant’Angelo

Today we went to visit another museum for our class session. We visited the Castel Sant’Angelo, originally a tomb for the emperor Hadrian and his family. We saw the location of Hadrian’s burial site as well as the original ancient Roman architecture. Building elaborate structures for the burial of emperors and their family’s was common in the Roman Empire because when the emperors died they were revered then as Gods. The location of it is about a 15 minute walk from the Vatican, therefore it was later used as a fortress for the Pope in emergency situations. During the tour, we saw the elevator shaft that was used to transport the Pope to his apartments on the 5th floor and the apartments themselves where the Pope resided during emergency situations. We then went to the terrace on the 6th level and saw an amazing view of the Rome. Leonardo enjoyed the overall view and got a picture with the sculpture of Saint Angelo!

Another fact about Rome that was noticeable as soon as I arrived is the layout and design of their streets. Most are winding cobblestone roads that twist and turn in every direction, however there are a few major arterials that were built more recently to accommodate modern transportation. It is an interesting contrast between ancient design and modern design. As I walk through the streets, I feel as if the city is in limbo between old and new, wanting to keep its history alive while trying to be efficient and modern.

Arrivederci for now!

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Florence 2.0

To finish up our trip to Florence, we climbed the Duomo, visited the Galleria Accademia and the Uffizi Museums, walked around the local outdoor market, and ate a lot! Although it is a small museum, The Galleria Accademia was one of my favorite museums of all time. It houses many ancient sculptures, Roman and non-Roman, a small musical instrument exhibit, a few pieces of art from the Middle Ages, and most impressive: the original statue of David. Even though I have seen many replicas, there is something indescribable about being in the same room as the original work of art. The Uffizi museum was enormous, housing the worlds finest Collection of Renaissance art. The most famous piece at the museum is the original Birth of Venus painting. Florence is definitely a city known for it’s art!! To finish off the trip, six of us from the program went to the Hard Rock Cafe to eat good old American food! We all had burgers and fries while listening to ACDC music, it was nice to feel a little bit of home. Leonardo even got a baby bib as a souvenir!

Each city in Italy is known to have its own unique personality. It is said that an Italian can tell where another Italian is from without even speaking to them! After spending time in another city other than Rome, I can definitely relate to this. There is simply a different feel when walking around the city of Florence versus Rome.

Arrivederci for now!

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Florence

We arrived in Florence today around 9 a.m after catching a 7:20 train ride. It was beautiful to see the Tuscany hillside as we travelled, Leonardo thoroughly enjoyed looking out the window! It rained all day here, but that didn’t stop us from seeing some of the top spots in Florence, including the Piazza del Duomo, or Cathedral Square. Here we saw the Santa Maria Basilica, the main Church of Rome, climbed the adjacent tower to get a beautiful panorama view of the city, and toured the museum. The ceilings of the churches we visited were what struck me the most, as they were so ornate and spectacular. We also walked around the city and experienced the personality of Florence as well as seeing a few sculptures in seemingly endless piazzas, or squares. I found it to be cleaner, smaller, and more fashion centered than Rome. The food here is also slightly different than that of Rome’s, focusing more on meats, beans, and speciality pastas that are unique to the Tuscan region.

Tomorrow we will continue to tour, visiting the top museums and other highlights of Florence. Boy is the wine here in Tuscany benissimo!

Arrivederci for now!

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Yes, I do have class

For today’s post I would like to talk about the classes I am taking while abroad. Although it may not seem like it, I do in fact attend classes! Monday-Wednesday our group has class about the history of ancient empires in Europe. Since we are in Rome, we are currently learning about the Roman Empire. We have learned about the various emperors, the layout of the empire, the customs of the citizens, and much more. The most interesting thing I have learned thus far is how segregated daily life was in the Empire by class. Your perceived importance determined how you ate, where you lived, where you sat for sporting events, who you associated with, etc. Once your family was determined to be in a specific social class, it was almost impossible to change that for future generations.

On Thursday we have a completely different activity involving the social injustice of the Roma people. The Roma people have been discriminated against for hundreds of years. Today, they are put in ‘camps’ where they live as a community because the Italian government will not give them public housing. There are many parallels between the Roma and the Native Americans in the U.S. In class we meet with young Roma teenagers to work on photography projects with them. It is interesting to hear about their lives and work with the language barrier.

Early tomorrow morning (7 a.m my time) I will leave to travel to Florence with a group of people from my program. I’m so excited to see another part of Italy!

Arrivederci for now

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The Capitoline Museum

Today as a group we went to the Capitoline Museum, the first created museum on the planet! It was built in 1471 and marked the first time in human history that historical artifacts were shared with the public for their enjoyment. Today, it houses a group of art and archaeological artifacts from ancient eras. We focused on sculptures and other pieces from the Roman Empire. It amazed me how well preserved these artifacts were considering they have been around for over 2,000 years! The detail in some of the sculptures was absolutely astounding. Sculptures in ancient times were so detail oriented, every vein in a human face was visible. The picture of the emperor (Marcus Aurelius) on the horse below is one of the biggest un-harmed relics of the Roman Empire in the world. Leonardo also came along for the ride and was the centerpiece between two sculptures of babies from the Roman Empire! :)

I have continued my quest of trying every gelato flavor at our local shop, and today I tried the flavor biscotti, which rivaled my favorite! Everywhere you look on the street there seems to be a gelato or panini shop, molto bene!

Arrivederci for now!

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Goal, Roma!

For my first full weekend in Rome, I decided to stay in the
city and enjoy watching a few sporting events. For those of you who
know me well, this is probably not a shock :)! Yesterday night a
group of us went to an Irish pub to watch the Seahawks game, a very
worldly experience! The bar was packed with Americans rooting on
their respective teams, so the atmosphere was electric. Although I
am loving living in Rome, it was nice to have a little taste of
home; beer, burgers, and football! As for the second sporting event
of the weekend, we all went to an AS Roma (soccer) game today.
Rome’s team is currently in second place in the Italian league, and
today they won 4-0. The stadium holds 80,000 fans and although it
wasn’t sold out, the atmosphere was crazy! In each horseshoe of the
stadium there were many fans waving massive flags throughout the
entire match. They must have been so strong! Europeans are
definitely passionate about their soccer teams. Leonardo was able
to make the trip to the stadium, in fact, he was very popular with
the locals sitting around us!

As for another cultural custom of
Rome, apparently it is perfectly normal to set off explosive
devices and flares at soccer games! An occasional BOOM during play
was all part of the game. Boy would the security at Century Link
have a hay day with this one.

Arrivederci for now!

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