Select Study Abroad June 2015: Rome & Tivoli!

Our weekend trip to the Eternal City was epic! Rome is a must on any Italy itinerary. But we don’t just see Rome, we LIVE IT! We spend our first evening in Vatican City. We begin with a visit the gorgeous and enormous Saint Peter’s Basilica to relish in its massive architecture and also pay homage to the amazing Pietà by Michelangelo. We follow that up with a special (and MUCH less crowded) nighttime tour of the Vatican museums, including the Sistine Chapel! Saturday afternoon we headed out for a tour of some of downtown Rome’s best sites, Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, and the famous Caffè Sant’Eustachio. Saturday night we ended with a bang, a private evening tour of the colosseum, which included visiting the subterranean tunnels of the amphitheater. Everything is better at night, but this was a dream come true for us. We can’t imagine seeing that amazing structure any other way. We ended the evening as any self-respecting Roman would, with a massive pasta dinner. Sunday we headed out of Rome to the nearby town of Tivoli to visit one of the most extensive Renaissance gardens in Italy, the Villa d’Este! We may or may not have also brought along some useful props. I am sure Renaissance ladies had parasols JUST like ours. What a trip. Still dreaming of the colosseum and the Villa waterfalls.
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Photo of the Week: Florence Street Art

Photo of the Week: Florence Street Art

As the waves of summer tourists begin to roll in, the few authorized spaces for street art in Florence become highly competitive. Works of art that can take up to 48 hours to finish have, at most, 24 hours to enjoy the light of day before they are washed away and the next artist has a turn at painting their own masterpiece. It’s the ultimate ephemeral art of the city. If you don’t grab a photo (and leave some change!) right then and there, it will likely be gone the next day.
 
The two smooth patches of pavement near the Mercato Nuovo (in front of Zara) are the most popular and highly coveted exhibition spaces in the city. They get a huge amount of foot traffic and, hence, the highest turnover of artworks. Because there are two spaces near each other, artists often work in pairs to paint two images that somehow relate. For example, opposite this image of the face of Botticelli’s Venus is Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa; two stunning examples of Italian beauty that couldn’t be more different. I wonder what will be there tomorrow.
 
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Photo of the Week: Accidental Art

Photo of the Week: Accidental Art

Staring out from a door near Piazza Santissima Annunziata is the image of what might be the face of a lion or a bear. But this is no painting or sculpture. It’s not even art at all. It is simply the ghostly remnants of an old door knocker that was removed only to reveal something so much better.
 
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Photo of the Week: Milan’s Cathedral Facade

Photo of the Week: Milan’s Cathedral Facade

Last week I took a train to Milan for the day to see some friends who were visiting. Neither had been to Milan before and while site-seeing was not their top priority, I insisted we at least see the cathedral. “It’s one of the largest cathedrals in the world and the only Gothic cathedral in Italy!” I told them. But I didn’t follow the very advice I have given students hundreds of times for countless summers. It was so nice that day that I left my shawl at my friend’s hotel and arrived at the cathedral in a skirt with nothing to cover my legs. Milan is rather strict about who enters their cathedral (a police guard checks each person’s attire before letting them in). Unlike other churches, however, they do not provide a little cape to wear (the cape or poncho of shame, as we call it). So I walked up to the door, got the look over, and that was it. I couldn’t go in. I sent my friend inside and stood outside to wait. Then a funny thing happened: I looked up at the facade. And I mean really looked, maybe for the first time.
 
While the building itself was begun at the end of the 14th century, the facade, like many church facades in Italy, was not started until much later. Though a series of attempts and design competitions were held, the final version was not begun until the 17th century and wasn’t finished until the 19th, and only then by order of Napoleon. Due to the extensive length of time it took to complete this building and its facade, there were many architectural visions involved that, at times, also clashed. For example, under the archbishop Carlo Borromeo in the 16th century, there was an attempt at a Classical Roman redesign of the gothic structure. A Baroque design for the facade was begun but quickly interrupted by the archbishop’s death. The new patron and his chosen architect opted to return it to its original Gothic splendor. As late as the 20th century, some of these less Gothic elements on the facade were replaced to make it fit more accurately within traditional Gothic style. However, in this photograph we continue to see the unusual blend of Gothic architectural details, as seen in the pointed arches and decorative elements, with figures, such as the two men supporting the base of the two piers, that are clearly Baroque. It may be this uncommon combination of styles over centuries that give the facade such an enduringly unique appearance. One that I am so glad I had the opportunity to fully take in.
 
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Novità: The Bardini Museum

All things new.
They may not be new to Florence, but they’re news to me.
bardini_museumIt can be increasingly difficult to see and do new things in Florence when you’re constantly taking visiting friends and family to the same ten places that they “can’t miss” and, unsurprisingly, feeling less inclined to play the tourist by yourself once they’ve left. There are so many things I still haven’t seen. It’s as if every time I’m motivated, another friend is passing through and I’m visiting the same old haunts again*. In an effort to never say, “I still haven’t seen that” again, I made a list of places in Florence that, pitifully, would all still warrant the above response and I made a promise to start seeing them. That is how I finally made my way to a lesser-known (but wonderfully charming) museum known as the Bardini. I hope with this post I can motivate others – veterans and newbies alike – who, like me, may have not found the time or felt the inclination to add the Museo Bardini to their lists.
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