The Institute at Palazzo Rucellai - Study Abroad in Florence, Italy
This web log documents the experiences of a few students currently studying at the Institute at Palazzo Rucellai. It is a by-the-students for-the-students account of their day-to-day experiences, the academic program, extra- and co-curricular activities and special events. By reading their accounts we hope you gain some insight about what it is like to be a student at Palazzo Rucellai, and find it to be interesting and enjoyable reading. Hope to see you in beautiful Florence!
LA DOLCE VITA
There is just so much going on! Now where do I begin?? Ah, yes the spontaneous trip to Barcelona. After the trip we went to a villa in Tuscany that Lacey's parents had rented for the week. I just can't say "Oh, for spring break I stayed in a villa in Tuscany," without pinching myself. It was just as idyllic as it sounds: nights spent by the cozy fireplace, bright blue shutters that sparkled like gems, exposed wood beams and terracotta tile floor that added warmth to the white walls, a spiral staircase lined with a whimsical blue iron railing. I could get used to this!
It was beautiful, but a majority of the week was spent out and about, taking in the sights of Italy. One day we went to Rome. We saw the Pantheon, Spanish steps, and the Trevi Fountain.
We also walked around and explored the city. The city is much larger than Florence, and many of the buildings are newer than those found in Florence.
Tuesday morning the Eitl's took me to the train station where I met my mother's first cousin, Angela and her family. The experience was amazing, but that description doesn't do it justice. Even though family is what inspired me to come here, I never thought in a million years that I would actually have the opportunity to meet relatives. Angela and her daughter Elena speak English very well. I got in touch with them on Facebook and they graciously invited me to stay with them for a couple days. I spent the first day seeing Viterbo, the city where Angela and her family live. The town is very old and small cobblestone streets create an intimate atmosphere. We had an amazing lunch which included the best lasagna I've ever had (sorry, Mom!) along with pork and potatoes. For dinner, we had homemade pizza made by Angela's husband, Renzo. At night I went to a costume party with Elena and her friends. They got up to sing karaoke and insisted I join them. They wanted to do an American song so I could join in so they chose what else? The YMCA. Can't say that I'm proud of the fact that's the song that comes to mind when Italians think of American music. I think I did more laughing than singing, but had fun nonetheless. Wednesday, Elena (who is my age) and I spent the day at the spa where Angela works. It was fabulous! We took a dip in the pool heated by hot springs, sweat our brains out in a natural grotto that reaches around 100 degrees, relaxed with a full body massage, and walked through a circulation pool. You’ve got to love any day you can spend in a bathrobe getting pampered! That night we went to Angela's sister's house and I met their mother, who is my great aunt. She doesn't speak English, but she welcomed me with a huge smile and hug. She showed me old pictures of my grandparents. I saw a picture I had never seen before of my Poppop in his military uniform. We had another amazing meal and I wished so badly that I could've understood more of what they were saying.
On Thursday morning I returned to the Eitl's. We went to Orvieto, a cute little town up on a hill with an elaborate cathedral and view to die for. Friday Mr. Eitl braved the crazy drivers and zigzag roads to take us to the Almafi Coast. We drove through a couple of cute towns built into cliffs. Basically picture a calendar of coasts and oceans, that's where we were.
It was hard to leave the villa and come back to Florence and classes, but I mean it really wasn't that hard. This place is great, and it's our home, so it was kinda nice to be back.
This week was the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy. Wednesday evening from 7pm to 1am museums were open for free, there were bands walking through the streets, artisans showing off beautiful ceramics and mosaics, and people packed in the narrow streets to enjoy the festivities. I enjoyed the excitement of the Italians as they waved flags and decorated their store fronts in green white and red.
Thursday evening we went with a group from school to a local pizzeria to make (and eat) our own pizzas. The dough was already made for us, but we rolled it out, added sauce, and whichever toppings we desired. I had sausage, eggplant, mushrooms, olives, spinach, and cheese. I almost dropped it moving it from the pizza oven to the plate, the pressure almost got to me! Luckily, it survived and successfully made it to my belly. We enjoyed eating our pizza along with a good glass of wine. Overall a good time.
Friday we went to Rome with our Villa and Garden class. I enjoyed seeing the villas and how much they differed from those around Florence. The rest of the weekend was spent mostly relaxing, even though I had planned on doing some school work. I guess I will do some work today, that is, only after we go for our weekly crepes ;)
Submitted by Jessi Manion, Spring 2011
Everyday Adventures! - November 17th 2010
I spent some time this week reflecting on all the things I’ve done here, and all the things I still want to do. With no big plans, it seemed as though I was wasting time. Shouldn’t I be jetting off to Paris, or London? Comparatively, this week was some what bland… No trips to other countries, or even other cities. Just a regular week of classes. But have I really grown so accustomed to living here that I can’t still get a thrill out of a week in Florence? And do I really think I have enough time here to take a single day for granted? I don’t think so.
While this week wasn’t quite as notable as others, I took special care to enjoy my everyday adventures in Florence. With the second half of the semester well underway, I had class each day in the still-breathtaking Palazzo Rucellai. On Monday night I went out with friends for dinner, and on Tuesday I went to the movies. The days are shorter now, so I often find myself walking in the dark. The city is beautiful at night, and soon they’ll be turning on the Christmas lights being strung along the streets. Right after class on Wednesday, I went on a special tour of the Secret Passageways of Palazzo Vecchio. This palace was once the home of Florence’s ruling family, the Medici, and is still a traditional symbol of Florentine government. It contains important art works by Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, as well as other artists who contributed to the palace’s decoration. Beginning with Cosimo I, special apartments were constructed for the ruling Medici. Within these apartments were private rooms, designed to house the treasures of the family. The rooms were carefully decorated, with painted doors disguising secret passageways and cabinets. Even with our behind-the-scenes tour, it was sometimes difficult to understand the secrets of the apartments.
Unfortunately I had to devote most of my weekend to catching up on homework and laundry, but I also took some time to get out and enjoy the city. I spent some time at my favorite bakery, ate some delicious Italian pizza, and bought myself a new leather purse. There was a special market in Piazza Republica for the weekend, where I spent the better part of my day on Saturday. Most of the vendors were selling things typical of the autumn season, including fresh olive oil, wine, apples, and cheese. I wandered through the booths with my friend Sarah, and we took advantage of the opportunity to enjoy some gelato and do a little people-watching. It was a beautiful fall day, and I was happy to be able to quietly enjoy yet another day in Florence.
Submitted by Anne Hartman, Fall 2010
Pistoia - October 13th 2010
Today our Italian professor, Prof. David Marini met us at the train station in Pistoia.
In Italian class one day, we had been talking about the towns we were born in (“Di dove sei?”), and he mentioned he was born in Pistoia, which is a town not too far away from Florence. Some of us had just traveled to Lucca over the weekend, and were talking nonstop about how beautiful and peaceful it had been. David wasn’t so impressed. He, to be blunt, hated Lucca because he was from Pistoia. There was a long-standing rivalry between the two cities; like football teams or universities in America, the rivalry was kept alive for little reason besides as an excuse to BE rivals. David decided we should see for ourselves which city was better – all to increase our cultural understanding, of course.
Barely two hours after we finished our last midterm, we were on a train from Florence towards Pistoia. It took a little more than an hour and a half to arrive, but that was taking the slow train. We had tickets for the fast train – we just boarded the wrong one! Always make sure to triple-check the time and station of your transportation. David was surprised how we were able to get lost on a train, but we arrived with plenty of time to explore.
As we walked through the streets and cobblestone walkways of the park, he gave us a brief review of the monuments and history of his hometown (tutto in italiano). Compared to the narrow roads, busy streets and tourist-filled city of Florence, this seemed like a different world. The streets and sidewalks were twice as wide; the sun was shining and there were no tourists. There was an atmosphere of simple tranquility and unhurriedness that struck us as instantly reassuring. Sure, there were still people ranging from purple-haired punk teens to ‘living statue’ performers to old couples on afternoon strolls, but no one seemed rushed to get anywhere. Despite the open space, it was much smaller of a community than Florence as well: it wouldn’t be difficult to speed-walk from one side of the Pistoia to the other in 20 minutes – but one Italian truism remained: navigating the streets is impossible!
David gave us a list of tasks as a way to have us explore and speak Italian to the people of the town. We first hunted for a bookstore (libreria) called EDISON. We asked for directions three times before we found someone who first knew of the store and could direct us there; we still had to ask a fourth time on the way. Between alleys, streets, piazzas, and roads that split and curved in three directions, it’s difficult to decipher in a language you know let alone a foreign one! We finally found it and read the backs of the new novels, then rewriting the back cover’s synopsis in Italian. I smiled when I saw a copy of Eat Pray Love (“Mangia Prega Ama”) on the shelves. I wonder what Italians think of her ‘Mangia’ part of the adventure?...
Our next target was a small produce market in Piazza della Sala, one of Pistoia’s oldest squares, built back in the beginning of the ninth century! We interviewed one of the fruit vendors – a woman named Anita. She wasn’t Italian at all, but Albanian! She told us that she moved to Pistoia to raise her family, and has lived there now for 10 years. Anita’s favorite fruit (cherries) wasn’t available, but we each bought a peach in appreciation for her time.
We accomplished our last two goals by total accident. We were hunting down l’Ospedale del Ceppo, which depicts the Seven Works of Mercy and the Cardinal Virtues. We asked for directions and walked every alley but couldn’t find it. At the end of the town, we turned around, defeated, and asked in Italian for directions yet again how to get to the church where we were to meet David. Two italians told us entirely different directions. Fortunately, the ones we followed happened to walk us right through the Ospedale!
As we still didn’t know the right direction, I ventured into one more shop to ask for how to get to San Giovanni.
“La Chiesa di San Giovanni?” the ceramics shopkeeper asked.
“Si! La conosci?”
While my rudimentary Italian left others we asked confused or unsure of how to explain, he surprised us with a big smile as he walked outside and into the street with us to give us proper directions. His shop’s employee even ran back into the shop to get us a map! As he explained our path, she drew us the proper course for us to follow as well – and gave us the map for free! We told him we were Americans studying in Florence, and he told us how to get to every place on our list and answered any questions we hadn’t yet solved – why one statue was titled Il Globo (I won’t take all the fun away, you’ll have to find that answer for yourself!). It’s too bad we met him at the end, but meeting them was the highlight of my trip. With many ‘grazie mille’s and a map, we quickly found our wawy back. In fact, we were the first group to complete the tasks!
After our adventures, we ate in a small cafe that David used to go to with his grandmother as a young child. We sipped on ‘acqua naturale’ and ‘caffe’ as we spoke of our day and Kim Kardashian. Three fresh pizzas came out of the oven towards our table and vanished within minutes of the wooden plates being placed on our tables. It was delicious! We meant to leave a slice behind as a sign of respect, but I couldn’t resist! Old habits (and hungry stomachs) die hard. :)
David grinned as we walked back to the train station. “Now you understand why Pistoia is better than Lucca?” It was certainly a memorable day... I still like Lucca, but I wouldn’t tell that to a Pistoian.
Submitted by Nicole O'Block. Fall 2010
Celebrating Autumn - October 4th 2010
This week was our final week of classes before midterms, a sure sign that autumn is coming. It’s hard to believe that we’re almost half-way through our time here! Preparing for midterms in Italy is pretty much the same as preparing for midterms at home: review sessions, note shuffling, and a bit of stress. Thankfully we have plenty of time to study, as we still have a full week of day trips before we take our midterms the following week.
On Wednesday night we squeezed in an extra class, learning to make pizza at a small pizzeria right here in Florence. The dough was prepared for us, but we learned how to shape the crust by hand and cook the pizza in a bake oven. We even got to choose our own toppings, which of course included fresh mozzarella cheese!
Over the weekend we made a pilgrimage to Munich, Germany, in order to celebrate the final week of Oktoberfest. The weather there definitely felt more like fall! We stayed at a campground in the Botanical Gardens of Munich, just a short distance from the central train station. Oktoberfest itself was a cultural experience, to say the least! People from all over the world were gathered in celebration, crowding into the tents to have a taste of German food and drink. I have to say, it was nice to have a break from pasta and panini to enjoy some sausage and strudel!
While in Munich we also did some sightseeing, visiting the Dachau Concentration Camp memorial and taking a tour of Munich’s historic city-center. We were glad we took the time to visit Dachau, as it was a very moving experience. Our tour of Munich on Sunday morning was a nice way to end the trip. We saw the Glockenspiel, the Old and New Town Halls, and learned a bit about the history of the city. We ended the tour at Viktualienmarkt, the famous outdoor market, where I enjoyed my final German meal of sausage and sauerkraut. Even the drive home was enjoyable, as we weaved our way through the snow-topped Alps.
submitted by Anne Hartman, Fall 2010
Siena and San Gimignano - September 4th 2010
Today I went to Siena & San Gimignano with my roommate Mike.
It was spectacular - both cities. The small alleyways, the cobble stone steps, the medieval architecture, and of course, the vineyards upon vineyards that scattered the countryside.
Siena was gorgeous. An enormous piazza shaped like a half moon served as the city’s center. Surrounding it were shops, ristoranti, and cafe's selling pasta, panini, gelati…and the list continues. During some free-time, Mike and I “adventured” off alone, eventually getting lost, but coming across a peak of the city where we captured some magnificent views. On our hike back, we stopped in a small restaurant and split a primo piatto course of the city’s famous handmade “pici” pasta. It was like a thick spaghetti in wild boar and mushroom sauce. Accompanying it was the most unbelievable olive oil I’ve ever tasted. I cried. Afterwards, we left for San Gimignano.
We climbed to the peak of the church tower in San Gimignano, as depicted by the photo above, and the view was truly breathtaking - though it’s impossible to capture it’s essence through a camera.
In comparison, while both cities were truly amazing, I think I preferred the quaintness of San Gimignano. The untouched 13th century medieval architecture made me feel like I was back in time. I have to admit however, the Cathedral in Siena was surreal. Gothic black and white pillars and golden ceilings depicting the popes' ascensions was right out of “Alice in Wonderland.” Hmm, maybe it’s a toss-up.
In any event so much walking and too little sleep. Time to restore the balance.
Night & ciao,
Submitted by Matthew Castanho, Fall 2010
Settling In - August 27th 2010
I left my home and the familiar on Tuesday, only to arrive on Wednesday in a completely new and different place. For the next four months, I will be living and studying in Florence, Italy, at the Institute at Palazzo Rucellai. I will be participating in an Agricultural program focused on the Italian food system and sustainability.
In my first few days in Italy, I have been settling into a new apartment and completing the Institute at Palazzo Rucellai orientation program. I’m sharing the apartment with three other girls from the Agriculture program. We’re living in the heart of Florence, and just a short walk from the school. The school itself is located within a refurbished palace, with several classrooms and study areas. It seems to be just about perfect for housing the school’s 100-200 American students.
There are so many new things around every corner… and lots of settling in still to do!
submitted by Anne Hartman, Fall 2010
Vai Vai Rucellai! - April 28, 2010
Every year Palazzo Rucellai plays in a soccer tournament, the “Fiorenza International School Cup” against other American students who are studying abroad in Florence. Because of the overwhelming interest in playing on the team this semester, Palazzo Rucellai had two teams that played in the tournament; Palazzo Rucellai 1 and Palazzo Rucellai 2. While Palazzo Rucellai 2 gave the tournament their best efforts, and won quite a few games of their own, Palazzo Rucellai 1 dominated the field and eliminated any competition that stood before them making it all the way to the playoff rounds.
Into playoff week Palazzo Rucellai had back to back games that tested their skills and strength as a team, but they always came out on top winning game after game. Going into the semi-finals they had to play a really tough team from another American University. With an overwhelming number of supporters and fans from the school, the team kicked into gear and dominated the playing field scoring goal after goal. It was an intense game with fans from both sides screaming on the sides lines; from our side the cheering “Vai Vai Rucellai!” roared throughout the playing field. The team could feel the energy and became an unstoppable force. From the sidelines you could tell the game was getting intense but in the final minutes of the game, Palazzo Rucellai managed to hang on to the lead and win, securing their spot in the Finals.
The Final Game would be played only 30 minutes later on the next field over against a team that had proven in the past to be tough. Having played the team before, the Palazzo Rucellai players knew what to expect and were ready to take on the team. At the end of the first half the other team had lived up to its expectations and taken the lead early. Nervous and excited, fans from Palazzo Rucellai jeered and cheered on the players to keep their spirits up and their minds focused on the game. When the second half started the crowd was going wild! Quickly, Palazzo Rucellai picked up their game and scored two goals, tying up the game. The game was so intense; players were getting fouls here and there, fans and players screaming back and forth “Vai Vai Rucellai!!”, showing their support for the school and the players on the team, and as the game continued into the last few minutes, Syracuse once again took the lead. It didn’t look good for our players from Palazzo Rucellai, they were tired and getting restless; they needed to score a goal. And in the next few plays, they did! The sidelines and the fans went wild as the players celebrated the tied score. The game wasn’t over yet though, with a few minutes left to go the players had to keep the ball out of their goal and try their best for a game winning shot. The game ended a few minutes later with a tie score and only one solution to resolving the winner and overall champion of the tournament: penalty kicks to decide their fate.
The fate of the game now rested upon the hands of the goalie and the players who would be taking shots at the goal. The fans and the players on the sideline were all screaming; the cheers could be heard throughout the streets of Florence. As one by one the players lined up to take their shots, our goalie saved a few, their goalie saved a few, we made a few, they made a few, all the while the fans went wild. When it came down to the final two shots everyone held their breath. Our player lined up to take his shot at the goal. A different kind of anxiety filled the air now, all with hopes and prayers to just get the ball in the goal. And finally with the anticipation building … GOAL! The team celebrated the goal, but not for too long because now it was left up to one last penalty kick that would define the outcome of the game.
The kicker lined up to shoot, the whistle blew, the crowd went silent, the player booted the ball and for a split second while the ball was hurdling through the air towards the goal every single person surrounding the playing field was tense and anxiously watching. We held our breaths and watched as our goalie reached into the air and blocked the shot for the final time. They had done it! Palazzo Rucellai was the Fiorenza International School Cup Champions for the first time!
As the team cheered and rejoiced in their win, fans on the sidelines cheered them on. Pictures were taken, players shook hands, and in the end the players from Palazzo Rucellai walked away from the playing field with a victory both for themselves and in representation of our school, Palazzo Rucellai.
Later that night we all headed to the big awards ceremony. Palazzo Rucellai 2 got an honorable mention, and the teams that had played in the playoffs were all given medals to wear around their necks. Amongst the crowd people were congratulating each other on their good efforts and games well played. When they announced the award for Best Coach, our very own Daniele Forlino was awarded the title and everyone from Palazzo Rucellai screamed and cheered his name! Next, Best Player of the tournament was announced, and that also went to a Palazzo Rucellai member, Jeff Stanton, who had proved to be a key member of the team for Palazzo Rucellai. As the third place and second place teams were announced the players and the fans sat in anticipation. Finally, the winners, the champions, Palazzo Rucellai were announced and as they came up to receive their medals and their Gold Cup Trophy the entire place was echoing “Vai Vai Rucellai, Vai Vai Rucellai!” It was a moment we’ll never forget. The team passed around the Gold Cup Trophy, kissing it and admiring it, and celebrating all the hard work they had put in to win the tournament. The team celebrated their win well into the night wearing their medals, while other players and people from everywhere congratulated them on a great tournament and a solid victory.
Submitted by Erin Wingert. Spring 2010.
Cinque Terre = Perfection
April 11, 2010. Cinque Terre: by far the most amazing and breathtaking weekend in Italy yet. It has finally been starting to warm up in Florence and we have had some really amazing weather [after school sometimes we go lay out in the piazza in front of Santa Marie Novella Church]. On Friday, a few of us decided that we wanted to take a day trip to Cinque Terre, five towns [Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare] in the Italian Riviera that people go trekking through the coastal mountainside from town to town. We wound up with seven of us going on what turned out to be one of the coolest trips and craziest adventures I have ever been on.
We met at the train station around 6ish in the morning. The train ride was pretty long, about 2 and a half hours to La Spezia, which is a city to the east of Cinque Terre in the Liguria Region of Italy. From there we took a 7 minute train ride to the first town in Riomaggiore; and thus began our hiking journey. The mountainside, the water, and trails that you hike through in Cinque Terre were all declared to be National Parks so we had to buy a ticket for €8.50 to hike through the towns. The path you take to get to the second town is called Via dell’ Amore and at the end there is a railing with locks on it next to a ‘statue’ that is supposed to represent people being in love. I cannot explain in words or in pictures how amazing the hike was. It was so surreal. I also could not have asked for a better, more beautiful day to do this trip on. It was gorgeous outside, probably around 70°F and not a cloud in the sky.
Anyway, the hike from Riomaggiore to Manarola only took about 25 minutes but it was full of beautiful views of the coast line and lots of Kodak moments. I think one of the cool parts about the trails is that once you get to one town you actually have to walk through it to get to the next trail and you get to see how cute and breathtaking the little towns are. Manarola was cute and there were sailboats & fishing boats everywhere. Thus far, the “hiking” part of this trip wasn’t at all difficult. It had been mostly just walking paths, kind of like a sidewalk. We wanted to keep up the pace and were excited to see what was in store for us on the next trail and in the next town so we kept on with it on the way to the next town, Corniglia.
From Manarola to Corniglia I would guess probably would have taken a little more than an hour, but we stopped a few times for people to get some trailside gifts and to go exploring down by the water for a while. This path led to an area where there were all these little bungalows lined up in rows overlooking the coast. I’m not sure if they are completely abandoned or just only used during the summer months, but they were closed off for us to see. To get to town #3, Corniglia, which is situated on the top of a promontory 100 meters high, we had the pleasure of walking up [struggling up] 382 stairs. At the top of the stairs there is a sign to congratulate you on your accomplishment; Thank You town of Corniglia, I needed that!! It was around lunchtime when we were walking through the “touristy” parts of the town and as we walked past the ristorantes the aroma of fresh cooked seafood wafted into our noses and smelled absolutely delicious. I wanted to stop and eat so bad at this point but none of us were really that hungry and hadn’t quite yet worked up an appetite. Little did we know that the next trail was brutal and we would all be starving by the time we got to town #4.
In Corniglia we stopped for a bathroom break and headed on our way to the next town. The trails finally started to turn into actual hiking trails at this point. A lot of the Cinque Terre region is known for wine-making so we started hiking through vineyards and woodlands on the mountain side. And up and up and up we went until we climbed higher, higher, higher; so high that at one point I have pictures looking down on Corniglia, which was pretty high up to begin with. Like I said before there really is no way for me to explain in words or show in pictures how beautiful the scenery really was, all I can say is that it was breathtaking and a place I could never dream up because it was so beautiful. We stopped to take a break for a couple minutes and get some water at one point, and we all just sat staring out at the open sea taking in the view and talking about how this place can’t be real. It is unimaginable how beautiful these coastal towns are. Definitely a must see place in Italy.
As we continued onward the trails got a little rougher. Steep slopes and steps for us to climb down or climb up, walking along the narrow coastal paths with only a railing separating you from what is sure to be imminent [but a most spectacularly, beautiful] death. And up and down we go hiking along, straining our muscles, trying to catch our breath for the next 2 hours until we reach the most beautiful, and my favorite, town #4… Vernazza.
The trail into Vernazza takes you right into the heart of the town where at this point we can’t ignore our stomachs or our noses and it’s definitely time to eat. We took kind of a long lunch break, got some pizza and ate it sea side just enjoying the little town and being able to look across the sea, around the cove to admire the next town we’d be coming to where tiny little ant people were sprawled out across the beach. Vernazza was by far the coolest town. It remains one of the truest fishing villages on the Italian Riviera in that there is no car traffic, a road only leads to a parking lot of the edge of town where from there you have a choice between walking and biking. I think it was probably one of the bigger towns too, and definitely one of the bigger tourist attractions. There were people everywhere. There was a ferry boat bringing people to and from the towns which we contemplated taking for a while but us being the good little hikers that we were decided to finish out the hike, no matter how difficult it would be.
After eating and taking in the beauty of Vernazza we mapped out our last trail and kept on our way. This hike was supposed to be 2 hours long and pretty difficult. After having eaten and rested we thought we were ready to take on the trail, little did we know what was in store for us. This hike was by far the most strenuous hike of all. The trails were narrower, it was a constant battle between legs and stairs, and it was around 4pm so it was the hottest part of the day. During this hike we had to stop several times for water breaks [when you do this hike make sure you have lots of water!!] and periods of rest to catch our breaths. When we finally cleared the treacherous trails and could see the beach and Monterosso, town #5, in sight there was so much relief and excitement. We had done it! 9 kilometers of hiking through a coastal mountainside, 7 hours of sun blazing down on us, and taking in the most beautiful sites there ever was to see; we had the most amazing and accomplished day.
We rewarded ourselves by relaxing on the beach in Monterosso al Mare, puting our feet in the [cold!] water, and just enjoying the moment. Shortly thereafter we headed back to Florence on the train where the tiredness finaly crept into me [after being awake since 4:30 in the morning] and I drifted off. It really was the most accomplished feeling having finished the trails and seen the beauty of the Italian Riviera like I will never see anything again in my life. I had just had the most amazing day and made new friends all while on an adventure of a lifetime. It was truly spectacular; words cannot describe. When we got home I showered and fell right to sleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. It was the epitome of a perfect day. :)
Submitted by Erin Wingert. Spring 2010.
Easter Weekend in Florence, April 5th
We wound up in Viareggio on Saturday. It was about an hour and a half train ride to
Viareggio and it was absolutely beautiful outside. When we got into the train station, we had to make our way through the quaint little beach town down to the actual beach. It was so cute! It had a lot of really cute shops and stores and it wasn’t at all crowded or touristy which was surprising. We got food and went and ate on the beach to enjoy the beautiful beach weather. Unfortunately the beach was very polluted, but it was nice being able to lie out in the sun again. When we finally started to relax [and some of us fell asleep] the clouds came and took the sun away and it got pretty cold. We decided to head back but not before I got myself a crepe. We headed back and relaxed for the rest of the night. Sunday morning we got up early to go watch the big Easter celebration at the Duomo called lo Scoppio del Carro [explosion of the cart]. I’m unsure of the full history but basically, lo Scoppio del Carro is a Florentine tradition that is held every year on Easter Sunday. People gather around the Piazza del Duomo to witness this explosion, which takes place at 11AM. Thisannual event has a long standing tradition that dates back to the first Crusade in 1099. History tells us of a Florentine nobleman by the name of Pazzino de Pazzi who was the first to climb the walls of Jerusalem carrying the flag of the crusaders. For his courage Goffredo di Buglione, the commander and chief of the crusade, rewarded Pazzino with stone splinters from the Holy Sepulchre. When he returned to Florence he donated these splinters to the city. Every Easter morning a procession is held in the city of Florence. Starting at the church of the SS Apostoli an elaborate cart, which is called the Brindellone, is pulled by oxen decorated with flowers. The oxen pull the cart through the city until it reaches the Piazza del Duomo. Once it reaches the Piazza the oxen are unhooked from the cart and a wire is attached to it. The wire extends from the cart all the way to the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. On the wire in the Cathedral is a rocket that has the appearance of a white dove, which is referred to as the Colombina. During the celebration of Easter mass the fuse is lit by a fire that was created by the vary same splinters that Pazzino donated to the city and the dove is sent on its way to ignite the cart setting off a spectacular explosion. According to popular legend if all goes well and the cart is exploded it will mean a very prosperous year for the Florentines. (some text taken from www.italiansrus.com). So we went to see the celebration and to watch the cart explode. Fireworks and purple and red smoke; it was spectacular! Everyone cheered and was yelling “Buona Pasqua”! It was a really fun event to be a part of in Florence. After the explosion scene ended we walked back home and on the way watched a parade of people walking through the streets back to the Piazza della Reppublica, beating drums dressed in crazy costumes. After that we went home and got ready for Easter dinner! My roommate and I were hosting Easter dinner for our friends that live in the building in an apartment above of us. We weren’t able to make a traditional [American] Easter, although I attempted to try and make a traditional Italian Easter dinner with a roast lamb [but unfortunately didn’t get to the market in time to get any sort of lamb dish]. So instead we just made pasta with meatballs, vegertarian pasta with white sauce, and rice balls. Of course we drank wine and had bread with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. For dessert we feasted on homemade cookies. Everything was delicious, and overall we had a great time just laughing with our friends and enjoying each other’s presence on Easter Sunday.
Submitted by Erin Wingert. Spring 2010.
ROMA! - February 28, 2010
On February 28th my Anicent Rome class took our field trip to Rome. Rome was amazing and I am completely in love with the city, although I’m glad I chose to study and live in Florence because Rome is so huge. I would to try and go back another weekend to visit more of the city and get to the Vatican, which I didn’t get to on this class field trip. Very early on Saturday morning we met at the train station and took the fast train to Rome. When we got there we checked into the hotel and headed straight to our first site visit, The Ara Pacis. The Ara Pacis, the Altar of Peace, was built during the age of Augustus, was used only once a year for performing sacrifices to the Roman Gods. The significance of the Ara Pacis is the decorative carvings on the short and long sides of the altar. They signify peace and safety during the time of Augustus. The procession of the long sides show members of Augustus’ family including Tiberius who would become Emperor after Augustus died in 14AD. The Ara Pacis is enclosed in a building that was designed by an American, Richard Meier.
After the Ara Pacis we broke for lunch and a couple of us walked to the Spanish Steps to take pictures before going to lunch. After lunch we walked through the streets of Rome on our way to the Pantheon. We saw remnants of Tempio Adriano which has been restored and turned into a bank. Around the corner stands The Pantheon in all of its glory. It really is an amazing site to see. The Pantheon is the best preserved building from Ancient Rome. It used to be a pagan temple which was later turned into a Catholic Church. It was originally built by Agrippa in 27 BC but after burning down twice, the Pantheon we see today was commissioned and restored by Hadrian in 120 AD. The oculus in the top of the dome is 9 meters in diameter and even though it looks small, a school bus could fit through it. The dome is the 4th largest in the world in and it was largest until Brunelleschi built the Duomo [here in Florence!].
After the Pantheon we walked backed to our hotel through Piazza Navona which used to be a stadium where they would hold chariot races, etc. The only remains of the stadium are of a single arch that was used as the entrance way. From 4 pm on we had the rest of the night to ourselves so a couple of friends and I decided to explore the streets of Rome. We ate dinner and walked around for a while. There happened to be a Rugby match in Rome the previous day against the Scotland so there were men dressed in kilts EVERYWHERE. We ran into and chatted with some Scottish people for a while, but we could barely understand them because of their accents. After Campo di Fuori we headed to the Fontana di Trevi. We hung out there for about an hour until we decided to make the walk back and get to bed because we had to be up early for the site visits the next day.
On Sunday morning we got up and were out of the hotel by 9am. We headed to Via del Fiori Imperiali which is where Mussolini built his fascist capitol building and covered up most of the Imperial Forum. The Imperial Forum is a continuation of the Roman Forum [which was built between the Palatine and Capitol hills] and it was a series of private squares built by five Ancient Roman Emperors: Caesar [who was in actuality not an Emperor], Augustus, Vespasian, Nerva, and Trajan. The Imperial Forum were built between 42 BC and 112 AD. The forum is a contiguous series of enclosed areas, each with a temple placed axially at the back and flanked by porticoes on each side. Part of the Imperial Forum was covered by the street when Mussolini decided that he wanted to connect his building directly to the Colosseum. What we saw that was left of the Forum was Trajan’s Forum, which was the biggest and most extensively excavated. It was built by Apollodorus of Damascus [who also built the Pantheon] and it had Trajan’s statue, two exedras, the Basilica Ulpia, two libraries on either side of Tranjan’s column and Trajan’s markets, which was the first mall in the world. We also saw the Forum of Augustus and the Forum of Caesar.
After the Imperial Forum we went to the Colosseum which was amazing to see. The Colosseum actually has an interesting history of why it was built. When Nero was Emperor, the city of Rome burned down in a huge fire in 64 AD and instead of rebuilding the city for the people, Nero built himself a huge GoldenPalace. Inside of the golden palace was a huge lake that Nero used to “play” naval battles, etc. When Vespasian became Emperor and the Flavian dynasty took over, he buried Nero’s golden house underground and drained the lake. He then built the Flavian Amphitheater in its place [that’s how big this lake was!]. Later the Colosseum got its name because it was built next to a huge statue of Nero dressed as Apollo the Sun God which the Romans referred to as “The Colossal Statue of Nero”, and thus the building next to the Colossal became The Colosseum. Another interesting fact about the Colosseum is that the cut in stone that you see today wasn’t always like that. Slowly overtime bricks of marble were taken from the Colosseum to build churches and other important buildings.
After The Colosseum we went to the Palatine Hill, which was the foundation of the city of Rome; then down into The Roman Forum. It was so interesting to see all the ruins of Ancient Rome and how preserved they were. I was in awe just standing in the middle of it all trying to picture what it must have been like to live there during the times, and also how old the ruins were and how long they have survived for. In the Roman Forum we saw The Curia – the meeting place of the Senate, The Temple of Vesta and The House of the Vestal Virgins – the temple where the vestal virgins kept the sacred fire going continuously [if it went out the vestal virgins, who were bound to a life of chastity, were accused of disobeying their vow and were executed by being buried alive, which was considered the worst form of punishment], The Basilica of Massentius, the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, The Arch of Titus, and the burial site of Julius Caesar [among many other ruins].
The last place we visited before heading back to Florence was The Theater of Marcellus and the Jewish Ghetto. Pictures really don’t do Rome justice at all. I can definitely say that it is one of my favorite places so far, but I feel like I have been saying that about everywhere I’ve been! I am definitely going to try my hardest to make it back there though and I highly recommend that you go and see it because it really is a beautiful and amazing city!