Select Study Abroad & ADPi: Week two in Florence!

Rome_diamondsWeek two is coming to a close and we are looking forward to our weekend in Venice ahead! However, we are blown away, once again, at how much we were able to do in just seven days: Rome – three days of all the favorites from the Sistine Ceiling to the Colosseum and from Saint Peter’s Basilica to delicious Roman cuisine, a cooking class where we ate FOUR courses focused around different Italian cheeses (the fourth being tiramisu, which is made with mascarpone, a kind of sweet Italian cheese made from cream), we spent some time with the David (confirmed, he is NOT overrated), visited with one of the city’s oldest and most beloved shoes-makers extraordinaire, and watched a traditional Italian paper making demonstration. Of course, best of all was our visit to the Ronald McDonald house here in Florence, which, since we are already bursting at the seams this week, will have to wait to get its very own blog post (coming soon!).
Enjoy these highlights from week two: Continue reading…

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Highlights from Week Two: When in Rome…

Rome_Trip
Week two is always a special time. Classes are underway, jet lag has worn off, and Florence is starting to feel more and more like home. This always seems like a great time to shake things up by leaving our Tuscan home for a little southern Italy adventure. What other city could possibly give Florence a run for its money? Answer: Rome. However, we here at Select Study Abroad refuse to do Rome in a day (especially in the summer). That is a particularly awful form of torture reserved for one of Dante’s deepest levels of hell. We like to take our time. Over a three-day weekend we see as much of this gorgeous city as we can, we throw in a Pompeii visit, and we break it all up with gratuitous pizza and gelato stops. You know, when in Rome…

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Photo of the Week: Sphere Within a Sphere

Photo of the Week: Sphere Within a Sphere

While traveling in Dublin last week I walked onto the campus of Trinity College and was taken aback when I saw a very familiar sculpture sitting on raised platform in the school’s main courtyard. It was one of the well-known Sphere within a Sphere, or Sfera con Sfera, sculptures by Italian artist Arnaldo Pomodoro, considered one of the greatest contemporary Italian sculptors.

Sfera con Sfera in the Vatican Museums

Sfera con Sfera in the Vatican Museums

I had an instant flash back to the Cortile della Pigna at the Vatican where another version of this same sculpture is also on display. Though I knew other versions existed, for example, in front of the UN headquarters in New York, I had not heard of the one in Dublin. Having retuned home and done a bit more digging I’ve learned that there are in fact something like twelve other Sfera con Sfera sculptures scattered across the globe. Remarkably, almost half are in the United States. Including Dublin, the UN, and the Vatican, other versions can be found in the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C, Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio, de Young Museum, San Francisco, Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, Hakone Open-Air Museum, Hakone, University of California, Berkeley, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, and Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, Tehran.
 
While the two examples I have seen personally, in the Vatican and Trinity College, appear to be very similar in design (though Trinity’s is significantly smaller), many of the spheres appear quite different. However, all of them share some common features. They are all made of bronze and they have all been treated and polished in such a way as to give the bronze a gold appearance. In each, this smooth surface gives way to a view of the interior of the sphere; a world of a very different quality than its shining exterior. Suddenly we are peering into a complicated mesh of cogs or what some describe as the inner workings of a clock, piano keys, or the intricate components of an alien machine (our Trinity guide described it as looking akin to the Death Star from Star Wars or a Zombie Pac-Man, which, one must admit, it does). It will not surprise most that before becoming a sculptor, Pomodoro studied geometry. In fact, in many of his works we are confronted with seemingly simple shapes that then yield to much more complicated worlds within.
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Photo of the Week: Vatican from Castel Sant’Angelo

Photo of the Week: Vatican from Castel Sant’Angelo

We have been loving all the new Pope business in Rome. I love the little tidbits we catch about Pope Francis I and his choices in these pivotal first days of his Pontificate. For example, his choice to have a more modest fisherman’s ring (plated in gold rather than made 100% of the expensive metal) and cross necklace (his is made of lead). My favorite snippet was that after being elected, Francesco, though he had the right to stay in his new home at the Vatican, declined and chose to return to his hotel room with the other Cardinals. All three choices express his extreme humbleness. I mean, I think it would have been hard for me to give up my first night’s stay in the Vatican apartments. And that got me thinking about other premises over which new Popes once gained ownership upon their election, namely, the Castel Sant’Angelo.
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Photo of the Week: Michelangelo’s Love-Hate Relationship with Fresco Painting

Photo of the Week: Michelangelo’s Love-Hate Relationship with Fresco Painting

There are so many things in Italy that cannot be captured on film, in a picture, a book, by a poem, ode or interpretative dance. The Sistine Ceiling is one of them. Well, let’s be honest, it’s the one. The number of oversized books and posters with endless reproductions and diagrams dedicated to this one space still cannot even begin to communicate the feeling you experience when you’re physically standing in that room looking up at Michelangelo’s love-hate relationship with fresco painting. Many others, who worked their entire lives on painting (and did nothing else), didn’t come anywhere close to this masterpiece. Not even compared to the ceiling closest to the entrance wall of the chapel, where Mich is still figuring things out and is, perhaps, a hair short of his normal state of perfection.
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