Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Final Days: Monday-Thursday

This week has been so filled with exams. Exams and final Christmas shopping! I've been re-visiting my favorite places in between shopping and studying.

Today I FINALLY finished my exams! It was the best feeling ever. I came home and had a dance party to Jump (For My Love). Then I threw ALL My notes away and it was great. This semester's over! I can't believe it.

We had the arrivederci dinner for our API program tonight. And now it's packing and hanging out with the roomies before our big Final Day tomorrow.

Sorry I have nothing exciting to say for myself for the past four days!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Final Days: Saturday and Sunday

Saturday I went out with one of my roommates to film her for one of her finals. We walked past Castel Sant'Angelo, along the Tevere there, then over to Piazza del Popolo and up to Villa Borghese. Here, we went to the Chocolate festival and watched the old man rollerblading (he's good!). There are always little cones set up where people rollerblade. This old man (probably late 60s?) drops into the splits to go under a rope probably a foot and a half off the ground. That's impressive.
We saw old people PDA behind some trees (typical) and ate popcorn. Then we went to the Billa to buy dinner for a couple friends we had over.
And studying in between.

Sunday morning I woke up and went to mass in St. Peter's Basilica. When we first entered the square, Pope Benedict was speaking so we watched him for a bit. I've seen the Pope in real life with my own two eyes three times in the past month. How crazy is that?
Then we went inside for mass in THE APSE in St. Peter's. It was a "drive-through mass" as my roommate Taylor put it; there was no homily or gospel reading. Just the basics, communion, and the end. This was fine with me because it was in Italian. Any extra words added in would only have been more I didn't understand.
Regardless, this was one of the most beautiful church services I've ever attended. It's hard to NOT feel God's presence when you're at mass in one of the most beautiful churches in the world. The singing during the offering and communion was so beautiful. I loved it.

And now I'm locked inside, once again, to study.
Thanks to school, my last memories of Rome will largely consist of me sitting in my room surrounded by books and papers. Not fair!

The very next Sunday when I wake up it will be in Cincinnati. And it will be the weirdest feeling ever. Here's something about me: I dread change but I adapt quickly. I'd rather stay here and be happy than go home. But once I get home I'll be glad to be back. Once I'm eating Chipotle I'll never want to leave again. Until the very next opportunity to go overseas arises, in which case I'll be back!

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Final Days: Thursday and Friday

UNFORTUNATELY, my life in Rome is coming to an end. I'm trying not to think about it too much yet because I know it's going to make me sad. If I was ever going to see some of the people I have met again, I think we would be great friends for a long time. But we've come together because of Rome, and soon we'll go back to our normal lives.
I think I like my Roman life more!
It's hard to balance seeing the sights I want to see in Rome before I leave and finishing my school work before the end of the quarter. However, I have a checklist for both and I've been working on them daily. The school checklist is really boring, so I'll just keep you informed about the Roman one.

On Thursday, December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the Pope gets to go to Piazza di Spagna to help place a wreath of flowers on top of the column there. The entire area was flooded with people--the streets were blocked off with security guards, that metro stop was closed, and hundreds of Italians were crowded all around. The papal helicopter was flying overhead and the news cameras were out. All of a sudden, Pope Benedict XVI came around the corner in some type of carriage. 

The previously very quiet, patiently waiting Italians started to get excited. I did too! Like I've said before, I'm not Catholic, which means that the Pope isn't a part of my religious infrastructure. However, I definitely regard him as a holy man that has the difficult and powerful job of seeking after God's will in the name of an entire sect of Christianity. That must mean that that man has a lot of virtue and faith. Therefore, I respect him a good deal.
After he came down the street, her circled around the fountain that you can't see, then went to the left, where he gave a speech from somewhere. Despite our most intense efforts, we couldn't see that part at all.
I do know that the wreath of flowers around her arm was the end product of this ceremony. There was a mess of people, then we made our way to Piazza Navona, which is entirely set up with Christmas markets right now. That was also a mess of people. Even during peak tourist season, I never saw this many people in one place in Rome. These things must be major family events for Romans because EVERYONE was out. We ate dinner in Piazza Navona, then made our way to Trastevere, where there is a Christmas market that donates proceeds to the EMERGENCY foundation. Then I got the biggest gelato cone of my life (when in Rome?) and headed home, away from the hoards of people.

Today, Friday, my roommates and I went to St. Peter's square to see the Christmas tree and manger scene (and to finally mail postcards for my mom..sorry, mommy!) . Unfortunately, the tree wasn't finished being decorated yet and the manger scene (behind the curtain) hasn't yet been revealed.
A trip to Piazza di San Pietro is never a wasted trip, though. I absolutely love being there. Today, there was the longest line I've ever seen to get inside the basilica (maybe the decorate it for Christmas?) We got lunch at a recommended pizza place nearby which was actually really delicious. We did a little bit of Christmas shopping on the way home.

Now, unfortunately, it's back to the boring part of my list!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Weekend Trip #5: Paris

This weekend I took my last weekend trip to Paris. While packing, I prepared by watching my favorite movie centered around Paris, Moulin Rouge. I went directly with 4 other people, but there were 10 of us total in the same hostel. The flight was about 2 hours, and it was night time when we first got there. Our hostel wasn't far from the Moulin Rouge itself, so we spent the evening walking around a bit. Call me naive, or biased because of Ewan McGregor's smooth crooning in Moulin Rouge, but I thought the area was going to be way classier than it was. I'm not going to lie, the Moulin Rouge was a little trashier than I was expecting.
However, it was still fun to walk around the neighborhood, which was very lively. The first thing that struck me was how colorful Paris is. There are so many fluorescent lights, which Rome completely lacks. The chairs outside restaurants were all different colors, the metro stops were each brightly colored, and the buildings were painted differently. I made some French friends and some British friends that were making fun of my hiccups. The French people only laughed and hiccuped back at me, but the British man told me my hiccups were "exceptional." Thank you, sir!
We got up early the next morning and first went to the Louvre. The building itself is really beautiful, even more so with a stormy sky behind it. As a fine arts major this may be considered a sin, but I didn't want to stay in the Louvre for very long. The museum is enormous. Someone in our hostel told us they "saw some of it pretty quickly in about 6 hours." Looking at that much art all at once 1) makes you sick and 2) makes you forget everything you saw. I had never been to Paris before, so I wanted to see more things and experience the city rather than staying in one building for an entire day. Some day when I'm particularly interested in certain pieces in the Louvre, I will go back to Paris and study them. Don't think you got rid of me just yet, Paris--I'll be back sometime. So anyway, I basically went to the Louvre just to say I've been there. Sue me. I saw some Renaissance art, some Mantegnas which were interesting to me right now because I've been studying that period in my art history class. I saw the Mona Lisa in person, which really isn't interesting to me right now (not that I don't hold Leonardo in the highest regard, but the Mona Lisa, to me, has more cultural significance than visual significance. Leonardo da Vinci was a genius, and the Mona Lisa helped modernize portraits of women in the time period. But he's done more impressive paintings, drawings, inventions, sketches, etc... which make Mona Lisa overrated to me.) I also saw some awesome statues, such as the Nike statue and a beautiful wooden Madonna and Michelangelo's Slaves and a veiled lady.

It was actually a very powerful building to be in. There's SO much art and history in there, much of which is incredibly monumental. My heart was beating while I was inside. Afterwards we set off for some churches. We saw Place Sainte Germain des Prés, which was a little underwhelming but it was undergoing some renovations. It did have beautiful stained glass though.

Then we saw Notre Dame, which was really beautiful!

It had this lush manger scene inside, as well as this intricate round stained glass window. Rome is mostly dominated by ancient architecture and decorations, and Renaissance architecture and decorations (which is a revival of ancient styles anyway). The Gothic architecture in Paris is so different from what I've become used to in Rome. The stained glass is a welcome improvement, in my opinion. I love the color and delicacy it adds to churches. The fan vaults are exciting, as are the added details in the facades. We saw all this again in Sainte-Chapelle, a chapel I remember seeing in my freshman year art history books. Picture don't do it justice, but it was actually breathtaking. 

After this we hiked up the Eiffel Tower. I told everyone I was pretty used to it because we have an Eiffel Tower at King's Island. (Just kidding. But it really does look the same, only a bit bigger and with a way better view). It was 704 steps to the 2nd platform (the smaller one towards the middle), from which we had to take an elevator to the very top. We were in line while the sun was setting, so we got to see the tower transform from day to night. We also got to see a nice sunset from the first platform (the big one near the bottom). From the top we could see all the colors of the city, as well as the Louvre, the river, and lots of other things I probably couldn't identify.

Although it was chillier in Paris than it has been in Rome, we didn't realize how nice the weather had been the first day until it was rainy and really cold the second day. 
We saved only the best activities (a ferris wheel ride and shopping around at the outdoor Christmas markets all day) for the day with bad weather. The ferris wheel was pretty fun, and gave us a nice view of the city by day. 
The Christmas markets were located all the way down Champs Elyssee, a fancy shopping street. We walked up and down, ate crepes, bought hats and gloves (it was freezing!), sampled cheeses and tea, and bought Christmas presents. We passed the location of a new Banana Republic opening December 8th on Champs Elyssee! I peeked inside and it looked super fancy.
At the end of the street is the Arc de Triomphe, which we walked around to look at. It's big and all, but too modern to be as cool as the arches in Rome. We stumbled upon a little restaurant (that turned out to be giant inside) that looked like a Christmas cabin from the outside. The porch was decorated with wood and spoons and christmas lights. The inside looked like a fancy garden party, also decorated with silver spoons everywhere! I had the most delicious, belly-warming meal of mashed potatoes and carrots, a pork chop, and brussel sprouts. Paris is nice because it gives you free water. Actually, everywhere except Rome seems to give you free water, which is ironic because Rome HAS free water in fountains every 5 minutes on the streets. I'm paying 3 euro for a bottle of water in a Roman restaurant while staring at the free-flowing drinking fountain outside the restaurant window.

That night all 10 of us went out to dinner at a fondue restaurant that got half of us sick. Unfortunately, we had to be out of the hostel early the next day, which made for a pretty bad Sunday. I kind of saw the Pére Lachaise Cemetery, which has the tombs of Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison in it. We didn't quite make it all the way to those tombs before we were too exhausted to keep walking. However, the cemetery was really beautiful and would have been better enjoyed in more ideal circumstances! Then my friends did some souvenir shopping while I sat on the street trying not to let my food poisoning get the best of me.
We hiked up another hundred stairs to Sacré-Coeur (Sacred Heart), another beautiful church on top of a hill. Then I got dropped off at the hostel so I could sleep in a lobby chair until we had to go to the airport (which I ended up being at for hours and hours because they wouldn't let me on the plane. Then I had to fly home by myself and didn't get to bed for another 12 hours. I had to recover from this before I could bring myself to write anything good about Paris.)
What I found about Paris was that it's easier to love than Rome. Paris is fashionable and up-to-date. The metros are convenient and modern; the architecture is absolutely beautiful; the shopping is posh; the products are international. Paris has Starbucks and romantic towers and famous stained glass and five story Louis Vuittons. It's clean and big and colorful and fun. Paris is asking you to love it, and it's easy to say yes. Rome, on the other hand, has architecture that only appeals to certain tastes. It doesn't have international products or restaurants, save a few things. Its metro system is extremely limited. Rome isn't asking you to love it. Rome is just being itself, and accepting whoever happens to fall in love with it anyway. Paris is fun, but Rome is more genuine, which makes me love it so much more.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Past Weeks

A week ago today, my family got here!
Two weeks from Saturday I leave Rome!

I haven't had time to say much the past few weeks because I've been so busy!

I saw the Pope! This is Pope Benedict XVI. Every Sunday at noon, he comes out this little window to bless the crowd that has gathered in St. Peter's Square. There was a call and response portion, then he greeted everyone in the square in multiple languages. I'm not Catholic, but it was still an awesome experience to be able to see him and be blessed by him. My favorite part was a group of really hip priests behind us that were waving a banner and singing some really upbeat songs in Italian. I wish I knew what they were so that I could learn them and introduce them to churches in America. Viva il Papa!

Taylor and I bought a Christmas tree. We named him Leo and took him home via bus and metro. Then we crowned him with a Burger King crown and decorated him with Kinder chocolate and our collection of Kinder toys. Only the classiest of alberi di natale for this apartment!

 I celebrated mio compleanno with my roommates! We went out for Mexican (any ethnic food [American included] is now our top pick for a nice dinner out). It included a delicious burrito, a super strong blue margarita, and some birthday cheesecake!

Then I got to meet up with my family at the airport and take them around Rome!
We saw:
Il colosseo
 Forum Romanum, including Nero's old gym, which is especially beautiful:
e Basilica di San Pietro, finally. I finally got to go in again!
 Including Michelangelo's Pietá. Which is just so beautiful.

My dad went to Rome's Comedy Club with me one night. Renee, a friend a work, gave me her friend Marsha's contact information. Marsha helps run this English comedy club and has been inviting me to all her shows. I finally got to go which I was really happy about. They had 9 different comedians doing some standup. Some of them were definitely funny. Some of them were over my head. Marsha definitely had the smartest bit out of all of them.

Oh! And I finally got to see my mom's book in real life!
It's so beautiful! I made all my roommates read it and they loved it even though they're not from Cincinnati. I told them they would love it even more if they were from Cincinnati. My mouth started watering when I saw those paintings of Skyline Chili (cheddar cheese, miss it). And my eyes teared up when I finished it. I'm so proud of their hard work and I'm excited to be surrounded by all these familiar Christmas things when I return home.

We went out to really nice dinners, which is something I don't always get to do. We also had a relaxing Italian-American thanksgiving dinner with turkey breast, grilled vegetables, bread, mashed potatoes, and of course vino and chocolate.
We saw Campo di Fiori, I showed them around my neighborhood and my school. We tracked down car stores and shopped and ate gelato and pizza and pasta. Even though three days is nowhere near enough time in Rome, I'm glad they got to see a little glimpse of the life I've had the pleasure to be living the past three months.
It was a strange feeling having my family come here. It made it seem more concrete now that my old "real" life has merged with my new "fake" life.

Some mornings I still wake up and say, "Wow, I'm in Rome." Some days I can't believe that I'm casually walking through St. Peter's Square or on top of ruins that are thousands of years old.
I love it here and I'm not ready to leave in two and a half weeks!!

Tonight I have to finish my 15 page Art History paper.
Tomorrow I go to Paris.
Then the next two weeks are crunch time before final exams (can't wait for school to be over) PLUS crunch time for absorbing as much of Rome as I can before I get sent home.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The best part about a birthday abroad: My birthday started at midnight my time and ends at midnight Ohio time (of course). Which means I have a 30 hour long birthday!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Weekend Trip #4: Florence

Last weekend we went on our final API trip to Firenze. We took a bus and it was about 3 or so hours. Here's what we saw:

The Arno River. They have beautiful bridges and beautiful buildings lining the banks. One of the bridges has buildings on it, which almost makes it look like Venice. People were playing sports on the banks, and rowing down the river. It was so much more beautiful than the Tiber here in Rome. I think the Tiber has way more potential!

On a walking tour, I learned that these buildings (and all other buildings with brick at the base) were originally used as tower houses. For safety reasons, there were no entrances from street level. Instead, they used ladders to climb up to the doors, and the buildings were connected to each other with ladders systems across the roofs.

The Florence Cathedral, designed by Brunelleschi. The duomo is painted on the inside by Vasari, a late Mannerist/Broque-influencing artist. I love how ornate the cathedral is on the outside. It includes a bell tower and baptistry, but it has elaborate doors, windows, and niches with sculptures in them. It's much more breathtaking than many churches in Rome from the outside, although the inside is underwhelming (in my opinion).

These are the bronze doors from the cathedral's baptistry from the competition of 1401! This is a big deal, and it's mentioned in every art history course, because the competition is basically what kicked off the Renaissance. Basically, Ghiberti and Brunelleschi (and others, but they were the main men) were asked to design a panel of the sacrifice of Isaac for the baptistry doors. Even though Brunelleschi's panel was more emotional (and preferred by some people..), Ghiberti won, mostly because his panel used less bronze, and was therefore cheaper. Even though Brunelleschi lost, he became one of the first leading Renaissance architects.
This is Brunelleschi's on the left and Ghiberti's on the right. I still say Brunelleschi should have won, but I guess he did in the end because he got commissioned for awesome things like the duomo. And who's really heard of Ghiberti anyway? The only thing he won was also getting to design the doors on the other side of the baptistry.

We climbed the stairs of the bell tower. It was about 414 stairs (that's what they advertised, but I counted a few more). There were lots of views of Firenze through little windows on the way up, as well as a great view of the duomo and the city behind from the top. You can see the little people that climbed to the top of the duomo. We waved to them. I love how all the roofs are the exact same in the whole city. Brunelleschi's duomo was kind of a big deal at the time, although Michelangelo came along and did it better later (in my opinion):

I know you feel really fooled by this optical illusion. It's okay, it happens to everybody. One day this will be a big thing, just like Pisa. Someone had to do that for the first time too!

p.s.-In case you were wondering, today is the 81st birthday of Gió Pomodoro, according to Google (assuming the Google logo changes the same way in every country). He's the guy who made this sculpture, which is located in the Vatican Museums!:
I get it!