Saturday, January 21, 2017

Arrivederci Italy!

Sadly, today was our last day in Italy. We spent our final day exploring Venice, specifically the San Marco Basilica and the Doge's Palace. 
The basilica is in the San Marco Piazza near the Adriatic sea. It was originally covered in brick until it burned down in the 9th century. As time passed, the building continually underwent changes as different imperial influences blended into its architecture and style. Beginning in the 12th century, Venice became a major trading port and naval power mostly due to its mutualistic relationship with the Byzantine empire in the East. The rich republic eventually grew more powerful than the Byzantine empire which led to their conquest of Constantinople in 1205. During the time of the crusades, people in the West used Venice as a taxi to the Middle East. When they came back, it was required for them to present a gift to Saint Mark. In this way, pillars, marble, and mosaics were added to the space over time. The large chandeliers displayed the Byzantine's influence, the cross shaped domes were a popular Greek model, and the stone window grilles match an Arab design. 
Until 1807, the San Marco basilica was a private chapel for the Doge's Palace. The Palace was founded in the 9th century. The Palace's halls were difficult to navigate. (It was a maze inside the Venice Maze!) We saw a grand council chamber, the council of ten room, a prison cell, another prison cell and another one...(I am pretty sure we were walking in circles at this point). In each room, excluding the prison cells of course, the walls and ceilings were covered in beautiful paintings. Many of them depicted battle scenes to carry the theme of victory throughout the palace. Like the basilica, we found many different architecture and design styles at the Palace, including the gothic pointed arches and the Roman pink marble.
Once we finally found our way out, some of the group rode a water taxi to Murano. The island of Murano is well known for glass making. We curiously watched a master glass maker demonstrate the blowing technique and the molding technique. The glass, which started as a powder, turned into a moldable substance after 8 hours in 1207 degree temperatures. The master collected some glass on the end of a hollow iron rod. Then, he alternated between blowing through the rod and using tools to manipulate the glass. In the molding technique, he only used his tools. He quickly worked on the piece for about 2 minutes before the glass became to cold to mold, so he placed it back into the oven to reheat. It was captivating to watch him stretch, bend, mold and connect pieces of glass together. We were BLOWN away by the result, a unicorn and a vase! 
Afterwards, we wandered around 17 show rooms with large and magnificent glass pieces costing anywhere from 20 to 50,000 euros! We continued to walk around the rest of the island; everyone had some free time to get their gift shopping done and enjoy one last scoop of gelato! 
As our train quickly approaches Milan, the fact that we are leaving Italy tomorrow becomes more of a reality. I know I can speak for everyone when I say this course has been an experience of a lifetime. 

Wish us safe travels! We are looking forward to sleep and free water! 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Another bucket of pictures

Alyssa improvises a writing desk in the Coliseum

S-T spots a gladiator

V for Victory at a triumphal arch.

We rock the temple of the Vestial Virgins

Garibaldi is an imposing figure on the Janiculum,

whom we've grown to love.

Michela introduces us to the Roman Jewish Quarter 

We like her a lot.

Guess who's under the hat.

I spot Bailee and Mara in the vast transept of St. Peter's

Bing finally finds a comfortable place to sit.

Julia finally takes a picture of the photographer

Bucket of Pictures

We are welcomed to the Royal Palace of Naples

This makes Erin's head duplicate itself.

Lynn loves her a baptistery, especially a very old
one like this at the Naples Duomo

Lousia and Kylee ponder...

then note.

Erin and Mary have found something interest in a secret cabinet

"Are those my pant? Could you hand those to me?"

It was cold at Pompeii

Isabel wishes Vesuvius would send a stream of hot lava through the city once again.

Now THIS is what Erin looks like when she's sad.

Our Last Day In VenICE

Today we got an early start to our day at 7:40 (ouch) and began our hour and a half drive to the city of Aquileia. Aquileia was an ancient Roman colony and once served as a port city. Our first stop was the Basilica of Aquileia. The structure was built starting in the 4th century but wasn't completed until the 11th century. The basilica had a multitude of influences including Roman and Gothic architecture, which was not surprising given how long it was under construction. When we first arrived in the basilica, we were given free time to explore the space and formulate questions and eventually a hypothesis about how the space was used and what its purpose might have been. 

The mosaics covering the floor were very similar to the Roman Villa we visited while in Sicily, which made it hard to tell if the space was Christian or simply Roman. After a group discussion, we realized the basilica was an assertion of identity with subtle Christian symbolism and a range of other influences. This was different than other basilicas we had visited because it was a hybrid of identities as opposed to a blatant Christian space. The basilica was built right around Constantine's Edict of Milan, in 313 AD, which was early enough that there was little distinction between Roman and Christian spaces. It was one of the earliest purpose built Christian spaces that we know about. 

We then visited the basilica's baptistery, which was at the same location but in a different building because at this time people were not officially members of the church until they were baptized. The baptistery was a six sided structure. Six is an important number within Christianity, and there are numerous theories as to why it had six sides including God's creation of the world in six days or that it could symbolize two trinities (2x3=6). Another interesting observation about the baptistery was that it held aspects from many religions because it was built before Catholic domination in the region. 

On our way to our next stop, we walked through the ancient port, and then we ended up at the National Archeological Museum. We were given free time to explore the museum, which housed varying sculptures. We were able to see funerary elements, examples of common men and women's clothing, and traditional military attire as well as ancient jewels and ceramics. 

We then took a much needed break for our last ( :( ) group lunch. We had an amazing three course meal, including pasta full of carbs and cheese, a meat dish, and dessert. Not only was it an escape from the cold, but we were also able to enjoy great conversation. 

Our last activity of the day was a visit to what Mike refers to as the "Fascist Mountain", which serves as a World War I monument. The monument was commissioned by Mussolini in 1929. It was meant to commemorate the lost lives of WWI and took ten years to complete. It is a pyramid-like structure that looks like a staircase where each stair is about ten feet high. Names of 40,000 Italian soldiers were listed in alphabetical order on the structure, and remains of another 60,000 unknown soldiers were located at the top of the monument in two tombs. 

As we made our way up Fascist Mountain, we made a similar trek as the soldiers would have taken while fighting during WWI. Right away the monument was different than others that we have visited because we not only got to see the structure, but we also got to walk up the mountain and interacted with the monument. At the top of the monument, we had a beautiful view of Italy. The monument matched the typical fascist style with a simple linear structure, which housed a chapel at the top, only visible after ascending the mountain. 

The names on the structure were below the word "presente" which mimics the soldiers performing roll call, highlighting how the soldiers listed went above and beyond their duty. Adding the names made the monument more powerful and emotional by adding a personal touch and allowing visitors a possible personal connection to the monument. This made us all consider how each name listed was made equal and gave the monument a sense of unity. We also speculated that each name listed gave Italians a sense of pride that the people before them had sacrificed for their nation. 

Despite the early wake up call, we had a wonderful second day in Venice. We're all excited to travel to Milan tomorrow but a little less excited for the trip home on Sunday.

Kelsey and Vanessa 

Thursday, January 19, 2017


Today, we left the Eternal City and made our way to Venice. Once we arrived, we were given a choice to go see the Jewish ghetto or to explore Venice on our own. 

Those of us who went to the ghetto got to take a tour of the five synagogues that are in the three different parts of the ghetto. We saw the differences between the Ashkenazi and the Sephardic synagogues and also learned the history of the ghetto itself. The word "ghetto" comes from the Venetian word "getto" which means foundry, as the first ghetto was placed on the site of a former foundry in Venice.  However, the original Jews could not pronounce "getto" correctly, and instead said "ghetto". The two Sephardic synagogues were a lot larger and more extravagant than the Ashkenazi ones, as the Sephardic Jews were wealthier and were willing to pay more in order to have marble in their synagogue, which was outlawed by the Church. It was really interesting to see the differences between the two different sects of Judaism. In addition to the different decor, all of the synagogues had separate areas for the women, as these were Orthodox synagogues, where men and women do not sit side by side. 

Those of us who choose to not go to the ghetto wandered around exploring Venice and many of us shopped for leather, Murano glass and Venetian masks! We are excited to explore more tomorrow! 


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Our Unshaken Day at the Vatican

          Today we spent our second day in Rome exploring the Vatican, over and under (literally)! Although our day remained unshaken, parts of Rome were hit by multiple earthquakes, ranking up to 5.9 magnitudes, around 10:30 am, ending around 2 pm. We were fortunate to be unaffected and hope the rest of Rome shared our luck. Beginning our day by catching the bus, we first traveled to the mausoleum of Hadrian, a Roman emperor, before going into the city-state of Vatican City. Also known as Castel Sant'Angelo, the mausoleum of the ancient emperor once served as a fortress of defense, repurposed by the popes, and today it is more of a castle. Supposedly, there is a secret passageway within this structure that leads to underneath St. Peter's Square--unfortunately, we were not granted access. We took the stairs up to the top of the Mausoleum and were offered an amazing view of Rome. After some free time to explore for ourselves, we met back up and headed straight for the main event: the Vatican City.
          Arriving in the middle of St. Peter's Square was breathtaking. The colonnade that surrounds it shows 140 saints all facing the obelisk, or the vertical structure in the center. From a historical standpoint, we learned that there was once a circus held in this very square, not the kind that we are familiar with, but a horse race. Many architects, over time, came in to assist with the construction and design; one being the famous Michelangelo who created the dome structure. The shape and architecture of the square is very important to the welcoming aspect to pilgrims and visitors worldwide. The shape conveys open arms, almost beckoning brothers and sisters to come forth and symbolizes that they are indeed, home. The space's structure is more important than one may think in the way it gives off a friendly and welcoming presence. St. Peter's Basilica holds around 60,000 people and is one of the largest churches in the world. After congregating in the square to discuss the logistics of the day, we were set free to explore on our own and get a feel for this marvel.
          Inside, there were various important relics of Christianity, such as the towel that Jesus wiped his sweaty brow on and the tombs of multiple popes. We also got to see Michelangelo's pieta, a famous statue of Mary holding Jesus after he is taken down from the cross. The ceiling was breathtaking and many of us touched the foot of the statue of Peter, a symbol of reaching the final destination or the end of your pilgrimage. Although it was crowded with people from different nations all around, you could somehow feel the presence of a uniting force under the sunshine and domed ceiling today in the basilica.
          After a quick lunch break, we headed towards the Vatican necropolis. This is an ancient cemetery that lies underneath the vatican. It is only accessible by an exclusive tour that we were lucky enough to take part in. Necropolis literally translates to city of death, or cemetery. This sector underground was buried by Emperor Constantine I when he wished to construct a basilica. While underground, we were able to view multiple family tombs and ancient Roman roads. We ducked through carved out doorways and braved the artificial humidity they create to help preserve the site. One of the biggest controversies surrounding this part of the Vatican is the argument over the location of St. Peter's bones. Peter was, according to tradition, buried here originally, however his casket was destroyed and his bones were moved at a later time. According to our tour guide, he was reburied here, however there is no way of knowing the truth that lies behind this theory. As our professor Lynn taught us, faith is a great thing and powerful enough to put belief in something even when there is no evidential proof. It is what holds this theory so firmly and keeps the tradition (and tours) alive and convincing.
          Today was an incredible day that not even an earthquake could interrupt. We are glad that we made it to and from these holy sites unscathed and are ready for our departure to Venezia, bright and early, tomorrow!

Mara Walters

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Just Rome-ing Around

We started out the day by taking a bus and then walking to the Janiculum Hill. We saw multiple monuments, including one of Garibaldi and one of his wife, Anita. Anita taught Garibaldi how to fight and gave him his first Red Shirt. On this hill, Anita and Garibaldi fought in a siege against the papacy. Garibaldi lost the siege, but they brokered a treaty in which Garibaldi was forced to leave Rome. In the late 1890s, Italy was trying to invent itself, so the country commemorated Garibaldi through the monument as a gesture of appreciation for him fighting for the Italian people. This statue shows the curated connection between Ancient Rome and modern-day Rome through the use of the image of Romulus and Remus. In 1920, the papacy decided that they didn't like the statue to Garibaldi and asked Mussolini, ruler at the time, to take it down. However, he said no and chose to also build a statue to his wife, Anita. We discussed how the baby in Anita's arms represents Italy and her carrying Italy through the war. Both of these statues illustrate what Garibaldi and Anita did for Italy and how Italy wants us to view their history. In addition, the hill provided amazing views of the city!
Later, we went to Santa Maria. It was built during the 3rd century and is one of the oldest churches in Rome. The main rebuild in the 13th century was under Pope Innocent II because the anti-pope, who insulted Roger II of Sicily, was buried there and he wanted to erase all memories of him. The portico of the church has become a site of Early Christian sarcophagi that were taken from catacombs. The mosaic in the church depicts a betrothal scene in which Mary represents the church. Jesus is sitting next to Mary and holding a book that says to come and sit on his throne. In this way, the mosaic was like a love story between the church and Christ.
We had the amazing opportunity of walking through the most ancient Jewish community with our guide and former resident, Micaela. The pope, who created laws to control the Jews, gave them this land because it was prone to flooding. Early Christians believed that the only way for Jews to save themselves was to convert to Christianity, which is also why there are churches on every corner of the ghetto. Few people converted and there was distrust between the Jews and the Christians. The area was extremely crowded - 9000 people were squeezed into two blocks of land. Micaela walked us through the history of Jews in Rome, including personal stories from members of the community and her family. The Jewish quarter was so fascinating and we are so thankful Micaela shared her experiences and knowledge with us.