2.22.2009

Naples

To begin, here are two pictures from this past week: on Tuesday the 17th we went to St Andrea della Valle to look at the dome and apse frescoes by Lanfranco and Domenichino. They are pretty impressive; here are two not-very-good photos.



Then on Friday morning I left for Naples (Napoli) with my Baroque Art class! Here's what we saw:

Day 1 (Friday)
We left Rome at 7am and arrived around 10:30 at the Capodimonte Museum up above the city. This is an extremely large museum so we only saw a small part of it; unfortunately, I have no photos since we weren't allowed to take pictures. We saw works by the Carracci brothers, Caravaggio, Artemisia Gentileschi, and other northern and southern Baroque painters.

Then in the afternoon the bus took us into the city where we took a funicular and a series of public escalators up to see the Monastery of San Martino, a Carthusian monastery, situated on a hill above the city. The views from there were amazing, and the monastery's chapel was decorated in the Neapolitan Baroque style with lots of floral marble revetment and outrageously ornamental sculptural decoration. Here you can see the escalators and Mt Vesuvius. We happened to be in Naples during the coldest week of the year, the one week when Vesuvius has snow on top!





Day 2 (Saturday)
On Saturday we spent the entire day walking around the city, mostly in the downtown historic district. We saw several churches, including the Duomo (Cathedral) dedicated to San Gennaro, the patron saint of the city. The chapel of the Treasury in the cathedral is amazing, full of solid-silver reliquaries and paintings. Other churches we visited included San Gregorio Armeno, San Lorenzo Maggiore (a French Gothic church), the Cappella San Severo with a famous statue of the Veiled Christ, and the convent of Santa Chiara, with a cloister tiled in majolica, hand-painted ceramics. We ended the day in the Royal Center, in the square in front of the Royal Palace and Opera House. Naples has had a series of foreign rulers, including the French and Spanish, which explains the presence of French Gothic churches and Spanish-influenced art.


Above: San Gregorio; Santa Chiara cloister with majolica pillars


Above: Royal Palace; view from the square of Vesuvius across the bay

Cultural notes: Naples is pretty different from Rome and Northern Italy because of its Spanish/French background. They have their own types of pastries, sfogliatelle and baba', and their pizzas are round instead of square with softer crusts. Roman pizza is rectangular and has a crunchy crust. Personally I like Roman pizza better, but Neapolitan pizza is closer to American pizza. Another big deal in Naples is the creche scene; there is a whole street of artisans who make the figures for creches. We visited this street and looked at all the little figures. Neapolitans are also notoriously superstitious, and all around the city you could buy little ceramic charms that looked like red chili peppers but were supposed to be "horns," to protect against the evil eye. However, you can't buy these for yourself-you must give them to someone else, and the only way to get one is to be given one.





Naples was much nicer and safer than I had been led to believe; we walked down the Spaccanapoli, supposedly a street known for theft and poverty, but it was actually pretty quaint. The shopkeepers weren't aggressive at all, although we'd been led to believe otherwise. Maybe since it's the off-season (neither Christmas nor the summertime) it's not as bad as other times. At any rate, Naples isn't such a bad place to visit after all!

Valentine's Day

Hello everyone! Sorry for the delay in posting, but it's been a busy week. Here are the photos as promised from last weekend (Valentine's Day).

I started out my walk by visiting some early Renaissance palazzi, including the Palazzo Cancelleria, Palazzo Farnese (now the French Embassy and closed to the public), and Palazzo Spada. On my way I saw the market at Campo dei Fiori, a fruit and vegetable market by day, popular hang-out for college students at the bars at night. There was also a really cute fountain with turtles! Apparently during WWII the locals were afraid the turtles might get stolen, so they were removed during the occupation and then put back afterward.





Then I ventured southward toward the former Jewish Ghetto with the Synagogue (it has an aluminum roof), the Theater of Marcellus and other ancient ruins, and Trastevere (the area of town across the river, Tevere being the Italian word for the Tiber River). In Trastevere I saw some churches, including San Francesco a Ripa, where a famous chapel by Bernini is located, and Santa Maria in Trastevere, with a beautiful medieval apse mosaic.







Cooking notes: This week we decided to make cookies! We got oatmeal from the imported food store (apparently Italians don't eat oatmeal); found sugar and eggs, converted the butter from tablespoons to grams, found the Italian equivalent of Craisins and baking soda (bicarbonato di sodio). And then, we had a problem: we needed a cookie sheet. Sara went to the ferramenta (hardware store that also sells soap, kitchen supplies, spray paint, etc) and asked them for a pan to bake cookies, biscotti, in. They were very confused, since she wanted something flat and Italian biscotti is baked in little loafs. So they just kept showing her various pans, until she saw the right one; it's called a pizza pan here, because Roman pizza is rectangular and bakes in what we would call a cookie sheet with a lip. So if you want to make American-style cookies here, be sure to find a pizza pan!

2.14.2009

Everyday Life in Rome

I realized that I never posted any pictures of my apartment, so today's post includes the stuff of everyday life here in Rome. You've already seen how I eat, now you can learn where I live! Here's a photo of my apartment building: we're on the third floor, which is the fourth row of windows up from the bottom. There's a gym in the basement of our building that isn't part of our apartment complex. And here's our kitchen! It's actually a closet: the door (flat against the wall) on the right can be closed to hide the kitchen area completely. Very strange.




This magical sight? It's from our bathroom, next to the light switch for the mirror! I'm not sure if this is a socket of some kind for an unusual appliance; it doesn't seem to have any metal parts to supply electricity. At any rate, it's nice to have some magic in the apartment.

Another common sight in Rome: cats! And you all know how much I like cats. Here are three I've managed to take pictures of so far. One is in the Forum Romanum; one is in the Vatican Museums (in a courtyard); and one is from the day-trip to the Via Cassia (near the amphitheater). Added 2/22: a cat from the Spada Gallery.




And, last but not least, funny sights around the city.


These first two are courtesy of the Vatican. The first image: The Death Star? A good guess, but this is actually a modern sculpture of some kind for the Vatican Museums. The second: Yes, that's Saint Peter of St. Peter's Basilica fame. This is the statue of him right outside the basilica. It's also a convenient perch for the numerous seagulls. Rome has both seagulls and pigeons.


This is a bunch of locks. Why locks? Apparently there was a popular teen movie a couple years ago that showed the main characters putting a lock on one of the bridges of Rome to symbolize their love. So now all the teenagers in Rome put padlocks on the bridges. Apparently there were so many locks on the original bridge (the one used in the movie) that the grating on which all the locks were hung fell off into the river! Now there are special posts installed on that bridge for the locks. The other bridges, however, don't have any posts, so locks get put wherever they can possibly go.

Rome also has some of the best graffiti:

Most graffiti in the city is political (you'll see a lot of anarchist and fascist symbols, since those political parties are pretty active), but the rest seems to be sentimental. On the left: "Federica, I love you, from Gianni" on a street on the Aventine Hill; on the right, "I love you from here on... until the end of the world... here again... until infinity, L+N". This kind of thing is everywhere. The one on the right is written on the reinforcement wall for the Tiber River, and is visible from several different bridges. It's extremely large.

More tomorrow on my weekend walks.

2.13.2009

Birthday and Peregrinations

Hello readers! First of all, thank you to everyone for the numerous kind birthday wishes I received on Wednesday (my 21st birthday). Although I didn't do much to celebrate, we did bake a pear crisp that only burned a little bit, and went out for dinner to a Mexican restaurant, a rarity in Rome. It was great to have some salsa for a change!

This week (Feb. 9-12): I didn't have any class on-site trips, so I don't have any photos from that, but I do have good news! I'm definitely going to Tunisia for spring break, and I now have train reservations for all but one of the trips I'm planning to take. Sara and I are going to Pisa, Sicily (Palermo, Agrigento, Catania, Syracuse), Venice, Milan, and Florence for sure, and are planning to go to Orvieto but we couldn't make the reservations so far ahead. Also this week I made my first drypoint engraving. It's not finished yet so I don't have a photo of that, either.

What I do have photos of is my walk around the Aventine Hill today! Both of my roommates are in Naples this weekend so I have three days on my own to explore. Today I toured the Aventine Hill, starting at the Circus Maximus and walking all the way up and around it then down to the Pyramid of Cestius. On the way I saw several churches, including Sta. Maria in Cosmedin, home of the apparently famous Bocca della Verita from the movie "Roman Holiday" (I haven't seen it). It's actually a Roman sewer cover. The photos below are the Circus Maximus, Pyramid of Gaius Cestius, Sta. Sabina (an early Christian basilica), and the Bocca della Verita from the portico of Sta. Maria in Cosmedin.





I also saw two Roman Republican temples (in the background of the photo below) and the Protestant Cemetary where Keats and Shelley are buried. Here's a picture of Keat's grave. I really wanted to find the tomb of Richard Krautheimer, a medievalist who wrote the book on medieval architecture that I studied freshman year, but I didn't see it.



More tomorrow and Sunday! I'm basing my walking trips on information from the excellent guidebook "Not Built in a Day: Exploring the Architecture of Rome" by George Sullivan (coincidentally this blog's title? Perhaps not...) and the Streetwise Rome map I take with me everywhere. I also use the Rome Moleskine notebook that has maps, etc in it, where I keep all my notes. Side story: I noticed an error on the Streetwise map, and also that the map company is from Sarasota, so I decided to contact them about the error and got a very nice e-mail back from the company's vice president! I recommend their maps, especially for Europe, since they're laminated so they don't get wet in the daily rain showers.

Time for homework!

2.08.2009

Forum and Colosseum

This weekend (Feb. 6-8) Sara and I made a point of going to visit the downtown area. On Friday, however, I visited the Instituto Nazionale per la Grafica behind the Trevi Fountain with my printmaking class. We saw original prints by Durer, Rembrandt, Piranesi, Goya, and others, as well as the original plates for a Piranesi print and a couple other artists. It was raining, though, so I didn't go see anything else that day.



Saturday we went to the Palatine Hill museum and the Forum Romanum (Roman Republican forum). I can't post all my pictures here because I took so many, but it was great to see all the buildings that I've been studying and can identify on sight by now. We spent several hours climbing all over the site looking at everything. One of the most impressive ruins is the Basilica of Maxentius, which is just immensely large. The Museo Palatino (Palatine Hill) isn't quite as interesting because it was just a lot of brick walls from houses--first the patricians and then the imperial family had their homes there, overlooking the valley of the Forum.




Today, Sunday, we got up early to go see the Colosseum. Note to anyone thinking about visiting Rome: Be sure to buy your ticket for the Colosseum in advance! The ticket is a combo ticket for the Colosseum, Palatine, and Forum, and lasts for two days, so I'd recommend doing what we did: spend one day in the Forum and Palatine, and go the next day to the Colosseum. The line for tickets at the Colosseum is extremely long and slow, while there was no line at all at the ticket office at the entrance to the Palatine. Since we already had tickets, we were able to walk right into the Colosseum without waiting! And go early, it gets crowded. Still, it's something that everyone has to see, and you can get great views of the Arch of Constantine from the upper level.



After the Colosseum we went to the Campidoglio, the piazza on top of the Capitoline Hill designed by Michelangelo (behind the Vittoriano monument), where the Capitoline Museums are now located. From behind this piazza you can really see the Forum well, and the piazza itself is very pretty. Tonight I'm making black bean soup and working on my new printmaking project, drypoint engraving!

2.05.2009

February 2-5

On Sunday the 31st we spent the early afternoon in Saint Peter's Square after taking it easy in the morning... sometimes you need to take the day off from sight-seeing! The line to get into the basilica was extremely long so we didn't even try to go in, especially since it was a Sunday so there was probably mass going on. We made meatball subs for lunch, which was an experience; we discovered that meatballs aren't just meatball-shaped pieces of ground beef but actually require seasoning. Next time we'll know better!


This week hasn't been too intense, although we have had a couple cooking failures. This week I printed a color relief print using plywood (see pictures below for pictures of my black and white linocut print also), saw five works by Caravaggio in-situ in churches around Rome (in Sta. Maria del Popolo, San Luigi dei Francesi, and Sant'Agostino), and with my Late Antique class, visited St. John in Lateran (the cathedral of Rome), and the remains of some Late Antique residences now underneath the church of SS. Giovanni e Paolo (Saints John and Paul). The Lateran was wonderful, especially since I've spent so long looking at images and plans of it; it was great to finally get to see it for myself. The original building is long gone but some important parts of it, the nave and aisle columns and columns from some of the interior decoration, have been incorporated into the current church building.



On the cooking front, we made a mushroom sauce that turned out well, and two things that didn't, something called a ricotta pie that's supposed to be a dessert but tasted more like a sweet quiche, and some white bean chicken chili that would have been good if I'd had all the necessary spices and had known that I needed to cook the beans in advance. We used dried cannellini beans that we had previously soaked, but I didn't realize that these beans need to be cooked for something like 2 hours before they're soft enough, while the recipe I was using called for canned beans. So I just put them in and had to wait for three or four times the amount of cooking time that the recipe called for before they were done; in the meantime I had to keep adding water so it didn't boil down to nothing. Oh well! It still tasted ok.

Some of the spices and foods I'm used to having around are hard to find here; we had to go to the outdoor market to find cumin, for example, and still haven't found oatmeal. That severely limits what things we can make! When all else fails, though, we can make pasta, because we're pretty good at that by now. I know my mom is worried that I'm not eating enough, so here's a photo of the results of one of our semiweekly shopping trips. We eat pretty well here!