Monday, July 3rd (Finally, the last word)

Well, finally I have come to wrap everything up.  A friend of mine reminded me that I had promised to finish things up after I returned home (Thanks Krista!).  It only took me 2 weeks.  I will attribute that to jet lag and reintroducing myself into regular life again.  

I will pick up where I left off on Sunday night the 18th.  Andrea and I both got up bright and early Monday morning at 5:15 am in order to get the last things packed and make sure we had a taxi to the airport.  We left the JFRC right around 6 am.  Everything went pretty smoothly through ticketing and security.  I even made it to my gate with more than enough time and was able to relax a little.  My flight took off on time and was expected to arrive at JFK a little early.  I was even hoping to try and get an earlier flight home so that I wouldn't have such a short layover in DC.  I was thinking that seeing the Pope was my miracle travel elixir.  Unfortunately, it was not to be.  Because of an impending storm coming from the midwest and heading towards the east coast, all flights to the midwest had been canceled.  Just my luck.  Just after landing I found out that American had automatically rebooked me to fly to Charlotte and then to Cincinnati.  I just had to wait a few more hours.  That seemed ok.  So I proceeded to go through security where my 3 bars of soap that I was bringing back prompted a full security search of my carry on (Andrea will appreciate that aspect).  There's nothing like your stuff getting rooted through in front of a lot of people.  I should have known that was only the beginning of the downfall...  To summarize the next 11 hours in JFK- flight delayed, flight delayed, flight delayed, waited in line for possible rebooking for 2 hours, flight finally cancelled.  And this is where the Pope came through for me (or at least I like to believe so).  I got one of the last seats on a flight going to Charlotte that had been set to leave at 1 pm that afternoon, but didn't leave until 12:15 am that night.  Very long story on that one.  If you ever want to know it I would be glad to relay it in person.  Needless to say the majority of the people in the plane had been trying to leave for the past 11 hours.  There was actual cheering from the plane when we took off.  I arrived in Charlotte at 1:42 am (26.5 hours after I woke up in Rome).  My flight left Charlotte at 7:25 am and arrived in Cincinnati around 8:45 am.  I have never felt so happy to be home!  I would have kissed the ground if I could have without looking like a lunatic.  At that point, I had been traveling for 33 hours.  It will be a VERY long time before I think I can get myself on another airplane.  If you have been reading my blog you will know that I said my hell/purgatory would be riding the 913 bus in Rome forever.  Well, I think being stuck at JFK airport may give that one a run for its money.  All I could picture is never being able to that would be a great horror movie that I would never want to see.

Enough with my travel woes.  In the end I made it home and have readjusted to normal suburban life again.  I will say it took me a good week not to start nodding off at around 7:30, but I have made it.  I was trying to think how I could put this opportunity into a nice tidy summary, but I'm afraid I'm pretty wordy so I will do my best.  The things that I saw and experienced will last my lifetime.  The opportunities to travel, see amazing artwork and architecture have only broadened my own education as well as inspired me to make art.  It has been far too long since I made art and it is a part of me that has been missing for quite awhile.  I truly believe in the end this has made me a better teacher and person.  

On the lighter side, I learned that walking on cobblestones kills people my age.  I may have complained about all the walking (and fast walking), but I was in great shape when I got home. (Notice how I said "when".  It's amazing what 2 weeks will do to you)  Italians sure know how to eat well.  You can exist without a ton of caffeine.  Always wear sunscreen on your feet.  The amount of putti in churches is unbelievable and somewhat unnerving. I'm still not a fan of cats.  And most importantly, I don't believe I will be getting on any kind of mass transit vehicle in a very long time!

Thank you all for reading my lengthy blogs.  I hope you enjoyed them.  I know that I really enjoyed putting my thoughts down as I was in the moment.  Ciao!    

Sunday, June 18th (Happy Father's Day!)

What a really great day it was today!  We left Florence at 9:00 am to go via charter bus to Siena.  It is only about an hour away from Florence.  The landscape of the area is very different from Assisi or even Sperlonga.  It has more rolling hills (like Rome) and in a lot of areas reminded me of Cincinnati- more deciduous trees and wooded areas.  Siena is a walled city set on the top of a hill.  It was a beautiful 82 degrees today with barely a cloud in the sky.  The weather couldn't have been better.  I can't believe it happened, but it did not rain the entire 21 days that I have been here.  It was great for me, but unfortunate for the area. The only use my umbrella played was to shade me from the sun.

I think peaceful and contemplative would be the best words to describe today.  Right off the bus Professor Colella gave us a brief history of Siena.  I had no idea how interesting the history of the city is.  We started by walking up the hill (the first of many, many steep hills) to the Church dedicated to Saint Catherine of Siena, where both her head and finger are displayed.  Remember her body is in Rome.  I visited that one this past Thursday.  I was lucky enough to be able to go to mass at noon in the crypt of the church.  The mass was all in Italian, but I was able to follow along and respond because they had a paper that had everything in Italian.  After all the running we have been doing it was really lovely to just sit and reflect and quietly take in the last three weeks.

After the mass I was able to wander the streets and alleys of Siena.  The winding and very steep alleyways and panoramic views seemed to be everywhere.  Please see the pictures under the AP Studio Art tab.  I came across a flea market where they were selling old antiques, jewelry and old postcards; a variety of really cool shops and one very cool surprise.  Prof. Colella told us that if we hear drums to follow them.  I did hear drums, so I did follow them and this is what I found...see pictures.  A contrada (plural: contrade) is a district, or a ward, within an Italian city. The most well-known contrade are probably the 17 contrade of Siena. Each is named after an animal or symbol, and each has a long history and complicated heraldic and semi-mythological associations.  They also celebrate births, marriages, and even deaths by marching through their neighborhood in traditional garb with a drum line and the family following behind in a procession.  I was lucky enough to see one today.  It was fantastic!  

Before I knew it, it was time to leave.  It took about 3 hours to get back to Rome.  I have started to pack, but I wanted to finish this last post before I got everything together.  I can't believe I am leaving tomorrow morning.  I have had the most wonderful experience here.  It has broadened my own worldview and reignited my creative mind.  Now I have to start thinking about venturing into the next step of the process.  I have quite a few sketches and tons of pictures.  Over the next two months I will complete 6-9 pieces that will be part of the "Art in Rome" gallery show at Xavier in the late fall.  I'm nervous and excited at the same time.   So much inspiration has come from the trip.  I just need to decide how to pick what inspiration to use.

I probably will have one more post after I get home to wrap up with some final thoughts.  Hopefully, none of them will be about missing my connections on the way home!  I won't deny that was one of the things I was praying for today at church.   

Thanks so much for following me on this wonderful adventure!  I hope you got something out of it, other than not to ride the 913 bus while in Rome!  Buona Notte!

Saturday, June 17th (a day late)

Sorry this was delayed,  but I didn't have much time in Florence to keep up.  Think of it as a tv time lapse...

A number of us woke up bright and early Saturday morning to climb the bell tower of the Duomo.  We were hoping to beat the heat and the crowds.  We had hoped to climb the Duomo, but we found out Friday that all the tickets were sold out this weekend.  The next best option was to climb the bell tower.  So, instead of 463 steps in a spiral pattern we had to accept only doing 413 in nice even flights of steps (until the very end where it becomes spiral,  but nothing like the spiral steps at St. Peter's Basilica that needed a rope hanging down the middle to hold onto).  It was worth every step I took.  The view from the top was spectacular- a 360 degree view of the entire city and the surrounding hills.  Please see pictures on the AP Studio Art tab.  I do think the walking down this time was harder for two reasons:  the first was because the going up staircase is also the going down staircase.  It made it a little tight in places.  The second reason was because the steps were pretty steep.  My legs were shaking by the time I got down.  There's nothing like starting out your day with 826 steps.  We then visited the Baptistry and the inside of the Duomo.  I have also posted pictures of both of those places on the AP Studio tab.  

From there, we met up with the rest of the Xavier group at the Uffizi Art Gallery.  We spent the next 4 hours looking at the 1500 or so masterpieces that are housed in the former offices of the Medici family.  It has the world's greatest collection of Italian Renaissance art.  We saw works by Caravaggio, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli and many more.  It was an overwhelming day.  We ended the tour around 3:30 and I was able to go visit the markets one last time.  Apparently I am a glutton for punishment.  Actually, it was a little better this time around.  It was very nice to be off on my own just taking in the sights and sounds of Florence.  And the best part, I was able to find my way back to the hotel on my home!   

We all got a short rest before we had to be ready for the anxiously awaited banquet held for the Xavier Rome program.  We had a heard a lot about it.  It had a lot to live up too.  We walked to the restaurant.  It was about 40 minutes from our hotel.  Here I was hoping to have one meal that I wasn't sweating to death by the time I got to a restaurant.  Oh well!  SIDE NOTE:  It was a good thing that we had to walk that much because we had not hit our average mileage that day yet.  I will say that Andrea is keeping the mileage for me and she did not go to the bell tower and Baptistry with us, so I think we probably were there.  Talk about a dinner!  The food, the water and wine just kept coming.  I think we ended up with at least 4 or 5 appetizers, 3 different pastas (one being an unbelievable butter and sage ravioli- WOW!), chicken in lemon and butter sauce and then finally, the biggest serving of tiramisu that I think I have ever seen.  Along with good company and several bottles of their house red wine, it was a really lovely evening.  I think it was the most hydrated I have been in three weeks!  The meal ended at 11:30 pm-yes, it really did last 3 and half hours.  Good thing we had to walk home (or roll)!  It seems fitting that we end our time here in Italy with an authentic Italian meal- great food, great wine and great company!

Friday, June 16th

Today we left at 7:30 am from the Loyola Center in Rome- not on mass transit, but by a charter bus.  It was pretty serendipitous that our trip was scheduled to Florence for this weekend because we found out late Thursday night that there was going to be a mass transit strike today.  We wouldn't have been able to get anywhere at all.  It took us roughly 3-4 hours to get to Florence where we started by stopping at the overlook of the city.  Please see those pictures on the AP Studio Art tab.  It was a rude awakening when we got off the bus to 90 degree heat and barely a cloud in the sky. The view was wonderful.  It is pretty warm here in Florence.  But at least we have air conditioning!

Andrea (my roommate) and I had a conversation on Thursday night about how we were both ready to go home.  We knew Florence and Siena would be great, but we both miss our families, friends and ice cubes!

Once we got here it was pretty nonstop.  We started by going to the Galleria di Accademia where the David statue by Michelangelo is on display (all 17 ft. of him).  I have had the opportunity to see him once before, but the second time is no less impressive.  The statue was carved out of a single block of marble that had been left by previous artists.  It is one of the most iconic images in the art world and the world in general.  We had the unique opportunity to draw from the statue for quite awhile.  The one side down side was that the gallery is not air conditioned and there were A LOT of people in that space.  I'm pretty sure I sweated out every last bit of fluid in that hour.  Does this give you an idea why I hate riding the bus so much?

After we left the Accademia we visited the markets located near the Duomo.  There are areas around the city that are set up as "temporary" stores for leather goods, Murano glass, souvenirs and all sorts of other things- think of Trader's World, just international.  I'm not a huge fan of it.  I'm not someone who likes to haggle on prices.  I like to know what things cost and not make a guess and then see where it goes.  I would be a HORRIBLE gambler.  I will say there were a number of the girls from Xavier who were loving the back and forth of it.  If you like to talk people down for prices, go to the markets in Florence.  If you're like me, go to a nice little cafe and have a spritz and watch the craziness happen.  It does pay to be a young blond girl in the markets though...

Shannon graciously made dinner reservations at a restaurant in Florence called Osteria Santo Spirito.  Shannon, Andrea, Calvin and I made the 30 minute trek across Florence to get there in time.  Calvin and I were having issues because we were looking for more CLET street art on traffic signs in the city.  We were lagging behind.  To say that the walk was worth it would be an understatement.  We all ordered Gnocchi with cheese and pepper.  Think of the most decadent mac and cheese you have ever eaten...  When they brought our plates out to us they were still bubbling hot.  I think I burned off half of my taste buds because I couldn't wait to eat.  It was SO good!  However, I did feel like I was oozing cheese out of my pores, but I was ok with that.  That's why we do the 30 minute walks to dinner.

Mileage by Andrea:  9.1 miles (Not bad for a day when we spent nearly 4 hours in a bus)

Thursday, June 15th (Night Addendum)

Night Walk in Rome

Because last night was our official last night (that we would have time to do something) in Rome Shannon took us on a night walking tour of some of the most historical parts of the city.  We started with what would be my second to last bus ride, which I am terribly upset by.  It was far better than our afternoon ride-not nearly as many clowns in this ride.  It dropped us near the Pantheon where we started at Giolitti.  It seemed a good way to end there since that's where we began almost 3 weeks ago.  It seems hard to believe it has been that long.  My last Giolitti gelato was dark chocolate, orange and coconut with creme on top (of course).  It was delicious!  We then walked to the Pantheon where we took in the sights and ate our gelato.  I got one last chance to stand in the portico of the Pantheon amidst the enormous columns.  It is amazing to me that no matter how much is going on in the piazza out front there still seems to be a stillness and sacredness in that space.  The enveloping feeling of time starts to overtake you.

It was hard to move on from that space, but we eventually had too.  We wondered through the winding alleyways and made our way to the illuminated Monument of Victor Emmanuel II.  As we passed the monument we turned towards Trajan's Column, Trajan's Market and the Roman Forum.  Not only were the remains lit up, which was incredibly beautiful (Please see the pictures under the AP Studio Art tab), but we noticed that they were projecting pictures and video on many of the ruins depicting the history of Rome.  It reminded me a lot of Lumenocity in Cincinnati, just certainly more on a grander scale.  We were able to sit for awhile and watch the earthquake of Rome and the fires that burned the city.  It was really remarkable how it brought the history to life once again in that space.  

We continued our walk a little further onto the Colosseum which looks even more impressive at night.  I cannot think of a better way to end my time in Rome.  The weather was comfortable (it was also 10:00 at night) and the crowds were far less than during the day.  I believe that dusk and evening are some of the best times to visit most areas of the city (as long as you don't want to go into any them).  I feel like this has been an opportunity of a lifetime and I have done my very best to fully embrace it.  I intend to keep this experience close to me so that I can let it spread to all the areas of my life.

Thursday, June 15th

Today we got to sleep in a little and get a later start than the last couple of days.  I'm not so sure that it helped all that much because I woke up at 6:30 anyway.  Plus it is definitely getting more humid here and it was not as comfortable at night as it has been since I have been here.  There is great excitement because we are heading to Florence tomorrow morning for the weekend and get to stay in an air conditioned hotel!  I'm not sure that living without air conditioning will change my habits back home though.  I will say that I am grateful to be leaving on Monday because it is only getting hotter.  Today was a sticky 87 degrees (I personally think it felt a lot warmer than that, but that was because I was smashed on a bus...more to come on that one)

Today we visited a part of Rome that I haven't been able to get too yet, so I was excited about that.  The area is called Trastevere.  While we were there we visited two different churches.  The first one was the Basilica of St. Mary in Trastevere.  This is one of Rome's oldest churches.  It was made a  basilica in the 4th century AD, when Christianity was legalized.  It is said to have been the first church in Rome dedicated to the Virgin Mary.  The entire area behind the altar is covered in a extraordinary mosaic that is fully intact.  I have included several pictures of the basilica under the AP Studio Art tab under Student Work.  I was able to draw from the mosaic while we were there.  I really love the elongated figures of both Jesus and Mary.  

The second church we visited was Santa Cecilia in Trastevere.  We had a very nice surprise when we entered the church.  There was actually a wedding going on.  It was really lovely to see one of the churches that we have been looking at for its art and architecture still being used for its original purpose.  We were still able to visit the crypt under the church where the remains of St. Cecilia's house have been partially excavated.  She was killed in her home.  And the church is built the remains of her home.  Her story is a pretty gruesome story.  If you are so inclined, I would recommend looking into it.  We were able to go up to the church when the wedding ended and I was able to get a few pictures that are also under the AP Studio Art tab. One of the pictures is of the graphic altar sculpture of St. Cecilia (1600) by the late-Renaissance sculptor Stefano Maderno. The pavement in front of the statue encloses a marble slab with Maderno's sworn statement that he has recorded the body as he saw it when the tomb was opened in 1599.  It is a very moving image.  And certainly another reminder of the strength that those early Christians must have had.  

After the church we were able to have an Art in Rome class lunch at a lovely restaurant just steps away from St. Cecilia.  (first and last...)  The name of the restaurant was Roma Sparita. This is the place Anthony Bourdain went to on his No Reservations show to have the cacio e pepe in a cheese bowl.  I have to agree with Anthony Bourdain.  It was fantastic!  How can anything be bad when you put it in a cheese bowl?! 

Everything was lovely until we headed back to the JFRC...public transit.  If you remember how I mentioned one time last week how I felt like I was in a cattle car?  Today was worse than that. It probably didn't help that it was 87 degrees or more outside and I was really thirsty after all that cheese and garlic- normally I wouldn't say that was a bad thing.  I think I would like to describe today's bus ride as closer to a clown car from hell.   I don't think anyone was actually on the ceiling,  but it sure felt like that.  I was lucky enough to get a seat for the second half so it was not nearly as bad as most people's experiences today.  I believe the air conditioning was working, but there were so may people shoved into the bus it didn't matter.  At one stop there was quite a bit of yelling in Italian because we think (not always sure) that people thought more people were trying to get in and that was an impossibility.  When we all got off of the bus at our stop it looked like we had all been in some sort of a fight.  This is definitely not something I will miss when I get home.  Did I mention that it took 2 buses and almost an hour and a half to get home?  I know what my purgatory/hell would be- riding the 913 in Rome over and over again...

We came home to rest and recuperate before heading out this evening which hopefully will be occurring soon.  I will get back to you with some photos later because I think it will be great.  More to come!  

Just got back.  It is after 1 in the morning so I will fill in tomorrow night!  I did update the pictures though.  See you in Florence!

Mileage by Andrea:  9.89 miles! 


Wednesday, June 14th

When I woke up this morning I couldn't believe that I have been here for 12 days already.  In some ways it feels like forever (meaning I can actually recognize places and feel as if I get lost I probably would be able to figure out how to find my way) and then I feel like it has been no time at all.  This has already been such an incredible experience for me personally and professionally. And who doesn't want to live in a dorm again after 20 years?!  

It was another day of blue skies and increasing temperatures and humidity.  I'm somewhat happy that I am heading for home on Monday because it looks like it is only going to keep getting hotter and more humid...did I forget to tell you there is no air conditioning in the dorm rooms?  It honestly hasn't been too bad because it does cool down at night.  We do keep our windows open all the time and the ceiling fan has been running for the last 12 days.  

We started out this morning going to the Monument of Victor Emmanuel II in the Piazza Venezia.  I have rode by it multiple times on the bus so it was nice to be able to walk up into it.  Professor Colella gave us a great presentation on the meaning of the different parts of the monument and a brief summary of Italian history.  It was really helpful.  You will see several pictures of the monument under AP Studio Art tab in Student Work.

We then split up from the other class and we headed out to see some churches.  We started at San Ignazio (Church of St. Ignatius).  Please see the incredible picture of the ceiling fresco done by Andrea Pozzo, who was also a Jesuit.  He created the quadratura technique.  "The term quadratura describes a form of illusionistic mural painting in which images of architectural features are painted onto walls or ceilings so that they seem to extend the real architecture of the room into an imaginary space beyond the confines of the actual wall or ceiling. Although the term can apply to the illusionistic "opening up" of walls, it is mainly associated with Italian church fresco painting, notably that of the Baroque era...Among the greatest paintings ever and certainly the finest example of Baroque quadratura decorative art, is The Triumph and Apotheosis of St Ignatius of Loyola (1691-4, San Ignazio, Rome) by Andrea Pozzo (1642-1709). Painted on the 95-feet high ceiling of the Jesuit church in Rome, the massed figures soar into the heavens in a stunning glorification of the Jesuit Order." The fresco opened up the ceiling so that you felt as if it kept going on and on.  I think it is one of my favorite frescoes that I have seen yet.  He also painted the "dome" (see picture).  Funds were lacking and they were unable to build the intended dome for the church.  Instead of foregoing the dome entirely, Andrea Pozzo proposed that he paint a life-sized illusion of a dome that would fool the eyes of visitors (as long as they looked up from the proper angle).  It is a masterpiece of trompe-l'oeil.  

We then walked to the Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva where St. Catherine of Siena's head is buried.  We then walked to the courtyard outside of  Sant'Ivo.  The church is considered Borromini's masterpiece.  Unfortunately, we were only able to look at it from the outside because it is only open to the public on Sunday mornings.    From there we made our way into the wide open Piazza Navona where the Pamphilj Palace stands along most of the side of the piazza.  Connected to the palace is the church of Sant'Agnese in Agone.  (There are 2 pictures in the AP Studio Art tab) It is believed that the church was erected on the spot where St. Agnes was beheaded in 304 AD at the age of 12 or 13.  Her skull is preserved in the church in a special side chapel.  We have seen the remains of martyrs during this trip, but for some reason seeing the tiny skull really hit me hard.  How could a young girl of 12 or 13 have the resolve to stand up to the prefects of Rome?  As an adult I can't fathom what that would take.  And if you read more about the story of St. Agnes you will find out that she took more than just the beheading.  At the very least it makes me think about what am I doing to honor God?

After some time to be able to sit and really see the church we walked out onto the Piazza to see Bernini's Fountain of Four Rivers.   The fountain is built around a slender Egyptian obelisk surmounted by a dove, a symbol both of the church and the Pamphilij (the papal family). The surrounding sculptures represent the four major rivers of the four continents that were recognized at that time;  the Ganges in Asia, the Río de la Plata in America, the Danube in Europe, and the Nile in Africa. (You Angels and Demons fans should recognize this fountain)

 From there we went to our last church of the day, Santa Maria della Pace (St. Mary of Peace).  This small church holds one of Raphael's frescoes.  After one monument and 5 churches our class for the day came to a close.  Even though it sounds like a lot, it really was a good day.  In each of the churches we were really able to sit and soak up the art and the sacredness of each of the churches.  

I would like to add a few items onto the

Mrs. Plagge's Random Thoughts on Rome, art, etc. section...

1)  New one today-Instead of duct tape I saw a car that was using zip ties to hold its bumper together...what a genius idea!  I'm not sure that I have mentioned it yet that it is perfectly acceptable here to bump the car in front and behind you when trying to parallel park.  It really does explain the duct tape and scratches that are on almost all cars.

2)  It only took me 2 weeks to figure this out (I know, pretty sad) but many of the sinks in restaurants, etc. have sinks without knobs.  There are mysterious pedals under the sink to press your foot on to make the water run!  Who knew?!  If you ever come to Rome, hopefully this will help you.

3)  This only took me about a week to figure out (or be shown).  Remember all those amazing fountains throughout the city where you can fill your water bottles up?  Well, quite a few of them have a small hole halfway up the pipe and if you put your fingers on the main part where the water comes out (think of a hose when you go to squirt it using your finger) it will make a drinking fountain!  Genius!!  I actually got to teach someone today in the Piazza Navona how to do it.  Boy, did I feel pretty smart.  It's always a good thing every once in awhile.

 Mileage by Andrea: 7.98 miles

I only have a few more days to soak up the La Dolce Vita.  Ci vediamo!

Tuesday, June 13th

Today was a pretty laid back class day.  The only place we visited was the National Gallery of Modern Art which is located in the Villa Borghese Gardens.  The building (See pictures in the AP Studio Art tab under Artworks)  is a beautiful facility to see work.  There is a ton of natural light to really showcase the work. The majority of work is by Italian artists. There are some other very well known names - Van Gogh, Klimt, Cezanne, Miro, Monet, Courbet, Pollock, Kandisnky, etc.  There were two floors that were open to us today and the second floor was by far my favorite.  The collection has a Kees von Dongen painting that I have always really loved.  I was able to draw from it today so that was a real treat.  They also had one of Monet's many water lily paintings which I always love to see.  We were able to spend a couple of hours in the museum and really got a chance to explore.  It was a good morning/early afternoon.  

So, I've been trying to think about some things that I haven't mentioned yet about Rome.  One of the big things that is very different for me to see is the amount of armed (by that I mean machine gun armed) poilcemen and military who are at almost every tourist site and in and outside of all the metro stations throughout the city.  At first I was concerned by their presence, but I have come to think of it more in a comforting sense.  They really have just become part of the world we live in.  I'm not sure that I feel good that is what I have become comfortable with, but it is what it is.  Their presence did increase dramatically after the most recent attacks in London.  I like to think that the Italian government is doing their best to be proactive.  

This thought is much more light-hearted than the one before, but I want to say that the bus drivers in Rome are like rock stars!  They can drive that bus through and around anything.  Between the amount of cars that double park on the streets and the multitudes of Vespas and motorcycles that weave in and out of cars and lanes, there is NO way I would want to drive in this city, let alone drive a bus. I only have the utmost respect for all those Roman bus drivers. 

This one might go into Mrs. Plagge's Random Thoughts on Rome, art and life in general...

 It really appears that Italians like to use their duct tape with repairing their cars.  I have seen some pretty good examples of this over the past 2 weeks.  It really is not shocking when you see how tight some of the parking spaces in the city are.  I think my favorite form of parking is pulling in between 2 cars vertically if they are both parked horizontally against the curb.  It seems like the only car that can pull that one off is the Smart car, but they do it.  I'm pretty sure I won't be able to get away with that one when I come back to the states.  

I feel like this post has not been the most exciting, but who knows, maybe something will happen this evening.  If it does, I will certainly get back to you.  Ciao!

Mileage by Andrea: 4.27 miles (very light day today)

Monday, June 12th

We started out the day early because they were predicting the temperature in the 90's.  On the syllabus for today was to climb the dome in St. Peter's Basilica and then visit the church and the crypt.  After our experience with the crowds at the Vatican Museum last week, we all decided that it was worth leaving at 6:30 in the morning to go climb the dome before the heat and the crowds multiplied.  It was the best choice ever.  The bus in the morning was pleasant.  And if you have been reading any of my other entries you will know that I typically don't use the word "pleasant" and "bus" in the same sentence.  There was no line for the climb so we all bought our tickets.  We went with the 8 Euro ticket which gave us an elevator ride for the first 330 steps (don't be judgmental, we have been averaging 7 miles of walking every day).  We then started the last of the climb-221 steps.  Please see my pictures of the hallways under the AP Studio Art tab in Artworks.  At one point I felt like I was in some crazy reenactment of Alice in Wonderland.  I promise I didn't have any "Drink Me" potion before we started!  The last set was a spiral staircase that was so tight there was a rope hanging down the center to act as the railing.  Once I walked out of the entryway it was all worth it.  The 360 degree view of Rome was INCREDIBLE.  I posted 2 of the pictures of the view.  We were able to spend about 20 minutes on top just taking in the views.

On the way down you are able to stop at the roof line where you can mail a postcard from the dome or even have a cappuccino.  I've also posted a few of those pictures.  I was at the same level with the statues that line the top of the Basilica.  They don't look quite as large when you are standing down in the plaza, but at this level you can see their massive scale.  

We continued down where we were let out into the interior of the Basilica.  I have had the opportunity years ago to come to St. Peter's, but the enormity of the space took me again by surprise.  The light floats into the space with such a soft quality.  We were able to explore the different areas of the Basilica.  You will see some interior pictures as well as the "Pieta" by Michelangelo.  This was the only sculpture that Michelangelo signed. He later regretted the vanity of this act, and resolved never to sign another piece of his work.  He was only 24 years old when he sculpted it.  It was commissioned specifically to be put in the Basilica.  He was able to convey the unbearable sadness in Mary's face when a mother loses a child.  I believe that is why so many people are able to connect with the piece.  It is one of my favorite sculptures.  

We were also able to go down into the crypt under the altar where there is a shrine to mark where St. Peter is buried.  There are also a number of other popes and dignitaries that also have their sarcophagi in the crypt area.  I was hoping to see St. John Paul II's tomb, but that area of the crypt was roped off.  

The day ended earlier than normal because we started so early, but that gives me time to finish up visiting all the sites of the Path of Illumination tonight...  I will hopefully have something to post later...  Ciao for now!  

Part Two:  Tonight we went out for gelato at Caffe Portofino because they have special gelato creations.  See pictures in the AP Art Studio tab under Artwork.  We ended up with 4 very delicious creations- 2 that actually smoked because of dry ice under the gelato- how cool is that?!  We justified eating them because we shared them, that makes it all even out, right?  From there we walked over to the Castel Sant'Angelo and the last stop on my path to Illumination  for Angels and Demons fans.  We even ran across the bridge just like Robert Langdon did in the movie (imagine Rocky going up the steps in Philadelphia-we looked just that good).  I've posted a number of images of the Castle and the Angel Bridge that runs across to it.  The 10 angel statues on the bridge were designed by Bernini...Illuminati confirmed?  

We did end the night walking down the street from the Castel Sant'Angelo towards St. Peter's Basilica.  We got to spend some time standing in the square.  It definitely is one of the most peaceful places at night.  It was a great end to a really lovely day in Rome.

So, I discovered today that my roommate has a function on her phone that tracks how many miles we walk during the day.  I'm going to add a new piece of information onto the blog.  I'm going to call it "Mileage by Andrea".  The plan is to go back to all the blogs and add it onto it over the next day. I hope you enjoy (or at least feel a little sympathy for us!)  We tend to be averaging around 7 miles every day.  We do need to walk off all those carbs and gelato though.

Mileage by Andrea:  7.7 miles

Sunday, June 11th

So I am going to come right out and say, "I'm a Pope Francis junkie."  I went again this Sunday in hopes that I could see Pope Francis again.  It looks as if all the planets must have aligned last Sunday when we got to here him say mass outside and then ride around in the crowds.  I was not as lucky today, however, he still addressed the crowds from his window.  I feel lucky to have heard him speak again.  This time I was able to understand a bit of what he was saying thanks to the translation skills of one of Xavier's Italian professors who translated for us.  I do know that he blessed us all.  I feel so grateful that I have been blessed twice by Pope Francis in the past 2 weeks.  I think that already makes it a great trip!

One of the things that I asked my professor when we first got here was if there was any way we could go to the catacombs?  I got an email late last night after we got home from Sperlonga saying she had reserved spots to go to the Catacombs of Priscilla this afternoon.  Thank you Suzanne!  So we headed out to the catacombs after the Papal address.  These catacombs are not as famous as some, but are far less commercialized and have frescoes that are still preserved from the 2nd century through the 5th century.  One of the frescoes that it contains is considered the earliest known depiction of Mary nursing the baby Jesus.  I was able to see this fresco.  It is mind boggling to me to know that I was looking at a fresco that was painted in the early 200's and it is where it was originally painted AND still in pretty good shape.

There are some 40,000 burial niches that have been carved out of the volcanic tuff stone that lies beneath a convent, which historically was the home of the noblewoman Priscilla.  It began as a series of underground burial chambers, of which the most important are the “arenarium” or sand-quarry, the cryptoporticus, (an underground area to get away from the summer heat), and the hypogeum with the tombs of the Acilius Glabrio family of which Priscilla was a member. Priscilla granted the Church use of the property. 

This cemetery was lost like all the others after the entrances were blocked to protect it from thievery; however, it was also one of the first to be rediscovered, in the sixteenth-century. A large portion of the funerary inscription, sarcophagi, stone and bodies (presumed to be those of martyrs) were subsequently taken away.  It was very sad to know that all the tombs had been ransacked.  I couldn't help thinking of all the people who had lived as Christians, but were unable to practice their beliefs in public and had to bury their dead in places that were hidden.  I can't imagine the strength of those early Christians.  It truly was a humbling experience today.  Unfortunately, you are not able to take pictures in the catacombs, so I don't have any to share with you.  However, if it is something that interests you, I found a number of websites that have good images of the catacombs if you would like to see what they look like. 

Mileage by Andrea: 5.85 miles

Saturday, June 10th (Uno giorno tardi)

All I knew about Sperlonga was what I had read in my guide book..."The pick of Lazio's southern coastal towns, Sperlonga is a fashionable summer spot with a steeply stacked medieval centre and two sandy beaches either side of a rocky promontory."  I also knew that the Villa of Tiberius was located there, which just happened to surround a sea cave used by Tiberius.  Honestly, I was in when I heard there was sea cave.  What was even better is that is a nice day trip from Rome via the rail system.  What we found at Sperlonga was even better than what I could have imagined.    

We took the regional train out of the Termini station and rode for about an hour and a half southeast of the city.  I was even able to see the remains of some of the still standing ancient Roman aqueduct structures that lead out of the city.  As we left the outskirts of Rome behind the landscape began to change.  Instead of rolling hills like on our way to Assisi yesterday the landscape became flatter that gradually evolved into valleys next to larger and larger hills and then mountains.  Periodically nestled in the hills and mountains were villages and sometimes even what appeared to be medieval fortresses and walls.  Olive tree groves and grapevines became more and more prevalent.  I then started to see more palm trees and even cacti along the rails.  I will say things seem very dry.  The fields are golden because it looks like a lot of the grass has died.  Since I have been here it has not rained at all (which is great for me, but not so much for this area). And it looks like the temperatures are starting to climb.  Sorry about that tangent.  Let's get back on track- get the railway humor-I know Mr. Klusman would!  

When we pulled into the Fondi-Sperlonga station we were directed to a bus that would take us directly to Sperlonga.  At this point, all we could see was mountains and quite a bit of industrial buildings.  I was starting to question why we had come here.  And then we turned a corner and pulled into a beautiful medieval town that was nestled into a cliff and walked across the street...Please see the view that opened up before us under the AP Studio Art tab under Artworks.  This amazing expansive view of the sea and the cliffs took my breath away.  

After a short lunch break we were off to find the Villa of Tiberius.  We walked down the rambling steps and alleyways of the city to lead us down the cliff side towards the beach.  I have posted a number of pictures of the city (It was very hard for me to pick which ones to post.  I have quite a few).  We were unsure of exactly how far away the Villa was in comparison to where we started, but we knew it was along the stretch of beach, so we just started walking.  Honestly, I don't think there is ever a bad time to walk on the beach, so none of us saw it as a hardship even if we were going the wrong way.  As we curved around one of the sea walls the stretch of beach opened up again and revealed a large crevice in the cliff a distance away.  It turned out that it was the Sea Cave that Tiberius built his villa around and in.  I really don't think I have adequate words to describe the massive cave space that was carved into the hillside.  So, I will say I totally geeked out over the space and couldn't stop taking pictures.  Therefore, I will let the pictures do the talking for me.  See them at the AP Studio Art tab.  This space is definitely one of my top places that I have seen so far on this trip.  We were able to explore the area and the museum connected to it for at least an hour.  The crazy thing is that this space was not even discovered until 1954 when the Italian government was trying to build a road.  They believe that most of it isn't even excavated yet.

Afterwards we were able to spend a couple of hours relaxing in the unbelievably clear water of the Tyrrhenian Sea.  See the view that I had from our cabana in the posted pictures. The waves were gently rolling, perfect for floating on your back to look at the cliffs and mountains surrounding the water, which is precisely what I did.  The only downside was that I completely forgot to put sunscreen on the tops of my feet...  As most of you know, I am not a tanner, never was, never will be.  Let's just say my feet are a little red today with flip flop lines on them.  I'm am sure that my kids will make sure that I remember this one.

This was one Italian memory that I will truly treasure.  I feel so blessed to have these experiences.  Ciao!

Mileage By Andrea: 9.8 miles

Fri., June 9th

Today was a day without entering the mass transit population, so it definitely started out good.   We left this morning at 7:30 and took a chartered bus to Assisi.  It took about 2 hours to get there.  It is amazing how the landscape changes as you leave Rome.  The hills become rolling  fields covered with hay bales and few houses.  It gradually changes over to larger hills that outline the whole view.  When I got the first view of Assisi, I was at ground level looking up at the city perched on top of the hill.  We had to weave through streets to get up to the town.  One of the first things you see is the Basilica of St. Francis perched on the edge of the hill overlooking the valley below.  I think Assisi is one of my favorite places to go because of the medieval feeling of the city, the beautiful churches that appear all throughout the town and the overall peaceful atmosphere of the town.  

We were able to visit the Basilica of St. Francis, but you were not allowed to take pictures on the inside, so, unfortunately, I only have ones from the outside.  See the AP Studio Art tab for those pictures and more from the town.  Inside the Basilica there are beautiful frescoes painted by Giotto.  Every inch of the church was painted in colors and patterns. It was very different from the churches we have been seeing in Rome- far less gold and marble.  There is an Upper Basilica, a Lower Basilica (where they were having a mass in one of the side chapels) and the lower crypt where I was able to see the stone sarcophagus with St. Francis' remains.  I was also able to visit the Basilica of St. Clare which is located on the other end of Assisi.  I was able to go into the crypt below the basilica to see St. Clare's remains as well as the Byzantine cross before which St. Francis was praying when he heard from God in 1205 which is buried alongside St. Clare.

Other than the 2 churches, we were on our own today and were able to explore the winding streets and alleyways of Assisi.  It was amazing that if you turned a corner, you would step into a beautiful courtyard or a panoramic view of the entire valley.  You never knew what you were going to encounter around the next turn.  It is a beautiful place to explore.

So, I really haven't mentioned much about the food so far (that is not to say that I haven't had some pretty great food and great gelato), but I really need to tell you that we stumbled upon a truly great restaurant today where we had lunch.  The name of the restaurant is Il Frantonio Ristorante.  It had one of the most amazing views of the valley below Assisi.  We were lucky enough to get a table right by the large windows that opened up to a small balcony.  Please see the view in the AP Studio Art tab.  The area is know for a number of things, two of those being truffles and wild mushrooms. I ordered hand made pasta with wild mushrooms.  The pasta was close to a fettuccine thickness.  It was delicious!  I got to have it with an Assisi made white wine with olives, sun dried tomatoes and bread.   I had a lovely afternoon.  It was a very nice change from our fast pace of seeing galleries and churches all week.

This is one of those days where I feel incredibly blessed that I have this opportunity.  I hope you all have as lovely an evening as I have had today!  Ciao!   

Mileage by Andrea: 5.97 miles

Thurs., June 8th

Today was a much calmer day than yesterday, so you don't need to hear me rant about crowded buses.  Even though we did have to ride home in a bus that was packed to the max. But thanks to the genius thinking of our student assistant, we got on the bus at the first stop so we all got seats-not nearly as much violation of personal space AND the air conditioning appeared to be working at least a little bit in this bus, so it was a good day!  

We started out the morning by visiting 3 churches.  The first one that we visited was S. Maria Della Vittoria (St. Mary of Victory).  Carlo Maderno designed the inside of the church as well as the facade of St. Peter's Basilica.  He is remembered as one of the fathers of Baroque architecture.  Inside the church is generally considered to be one of the sculptural masterpieces of the High Roman Baroque. It is the "Ecstasy of St. Teresa".  Please see pictures for all the churches under AP Studio Art tab under Works.  We then visited San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane (San Carlo of the 4 Fountains).  It is the first church that Borromini designed.  It is considered a petite church. The whole church could fit into one column at St. Peter's.  It was the first church designed on an oval plan, which makes it much more dynamic.  Borromini actually designed the church for free because he wanted to get his foot in the door in Rome.  The final church that we visited was Sant'Andrea al Quirinale (St. Andrew's of the Quirinal).  This was the last architectural work of Bernini before he died.  He borrowed the use of the oval floor plan from Borromini except he turned it on a horizontal access instead of vertical.  

We then walked a little bit to get to the Palazzo Barberini Gallery.  I think this is one of my favorite places (palaces) that I have seen so far.  Architecturally speaking, it is impressive, but it also had a manageable number of artwork that is displayed in a way that is not completely overwhelming.  Back to the architecture- Carlo Maderno designed the palace and he hired both Bernini and Borromini to create areas within the palace.  See the picture of Borromini's spiral staircase (It was also based on the oval) under the AP tab.  The collection has works from Raphael, El Greco, Carravaggio, Guido Reni and even Hans Holbein's very well known portrait of Henry VIII (It's the one you see in most history textbooks).  The best part of today was that we were able to draw form the paintings from over an hour.  It was not overly crowded and it was a relaxing exercise after the last few days.  One of the more surprising things that came up today happened when we were in the Barberini.  The Gallery was hosting the Rome Chamber Music Festival this week and several of the groups were rehearsing when we were there.  So, on top of all the beautiful artwork we were able to sit in on an open rehearsal to hear Beethoven played by some world renowned musicians.  I really feel like we have had some incredible luck so far in this trip. Hopefully, it will continue!   

I did add a picture at the end of today's pictures that really has nothing to do with the art or churches that we saw.  It has more to do with the incredible amount of motorcycles in Rome.  This picture is just one small section of the city where people park their motorcycles.  Today we watched a man in a full suit on a motorcycle with a lady in a business suit/skirt  and heels drive by us when we were waiting for the bus.   There is no way I would want to drive in this city.  The motorcycles weave in and out and in between the 2 lanes of traffic!  It stresses me out!  But amazingly, we have not seen any accidents.  That reminds me that there is a Random thought that I haven't posted yet...

There are crosswalks in Rome, but very few actual lights that say to go or not.  The pedestrians pretty much always have the right of way and most cars, buses and motorcycles will stop for you to cross.  I really need to pay attention when I come home or I may be flattened!  I'm getting in a very bad habit of just stepping out in the street.  I really need to pay attention when I come home or I may be flattened!

 I am going to sign off so that I can work on my sketches.  Have a wonderful evening (in a couple of hours for you!)!

Mileage by Andrea: 7.35 miles

Wed., June 7th

I'm going to start this one out backwards and I promise you it will improve as I go on.  We just got back from our day around 30 minutes ago.  It is now 4:30 pm.  We were packed in like sardines on our bus trip back to Loyola.  There is no air conditioning and the windows were not open.  We were probably on the bus for about 35 minutes.  I am questioning if I have ever sweated like that before.  I actually contemplated walking up the hill, which may have taken about an may very well have been worth it.  I took a photo since I was shoved in the back so you can get a brief idea of what it was like.  Check it out on the AP Studio tab under works.  And, yes, I did get quite a few "Crazy Americans" look, but it was worth it.  I really don't think I can explain the smell, the heat and the intense violation of personal space.  I just drank an entire bottle of water because I think I just sweated it out!

The amount of people at the Vatican Museum towards the end was UNBELIEVABLE.  See the photo of that one and I'm pretty sure that doesn't give it justice.  In order to get out we had to go back through the whole museum against the flow of traffic.  All we wanted to do was leave and we were questioning if that was ever going to happen!!!  

So, now I will start at the beginning, because it was AMAZING!  We got into the museum around 8:45 and there was hardly anyone there.  We walked through the Hall of Maps and tapestries with only the guards around.  Please see additional pictures of the interior of the museum.  We saw so may significantly important pieces of work there is no way I can name them all.  We saw frescoes, tapestries, paintings, sculptures, altar pieces, Etruscan artifacts and even ancient Roman sculpture.   I think hands down this was my favorite museum and I haven't even got to the best part yet.  We got to see the "School of Athens" fresco by Raphael which is directly across from his fresco "The Disputa".  These are 2 prominent pieces.  I have put my picture of "The School of Athens" with my pictures so you can see it.  Raphael (like Michelangelo) likes to put himself and other people he knows within his paintings.  I will put in a close up of him (he is wearing the black beret looking over the shoulders of the two other men) and Michelangelo with the pictures as well.  Raphael inserted Michelangelo after the painting was finished to show him homage.  He put him front and center.  Chances are you have seen the paintng before.  There is also an unfinished painting by Leonardo da Vinci.  He does not have a lot of paintings that exist, so this was an unexpected surprise for me to see.  They also have Raphael's "Transfiguration" painting which was commissioned by Cardinal Giulio de’Medici (who later became Pope Clement VII) and was the last work that he did before his premature death at age 37.  I'm going to stop it there to talk about my favorite part of the museum.

My professor was smart enough to know that since we got in there early we should go almost directly to the Sistine Chapel and not follow the normal route.  Thank you Suzanne!  For that, we were able to sit in the Sistine Chapel for an hour just looking at all the truly iconic images that Michelangelo painted on his back on scaffolding for 3 years.  There are so many figures on the ceiling and within "The Last Judgement" that I was able to keep looking the whole time.  I have had the wonderful opportunity to go through the Chapel once years ago, but it was very crowded and it felt as if you were somewhat going through on a conveyor belt.  There was never time to really look at it.  There was time today.  I cannot tell you what a unique opportunity it was to sit in the presence of that holy space and see the images that you and I see in books in real life.  About 20 minutes into our being in the Chapel, a priest came into the space and asked us to be silent and to pray with him.  At this point, there were quite a few people there, but the silence was powerful.  He then allowed anyone who would like to come up and be blessed to do that.  I was able to go up with a group of the students that I am traveling with to be blessed by this young priest.  He asked that we lead dynamic and progressive lives that are full with the presence of Jesus.  It really was a very powerful moment for me that I will not soon forget.  Between the Pope on Sunday and a blessing in the Sistine Chapel I hope that I am good for awhile!

I hope you can see why I wanted to work backwards today because I wanted to reflect on the greatness of what I saw and experienced today.  

Additions to my Random Thoughts for Rome, traveling and art...

1)  The Renaissance masters really like to putti into their paintings and to be honest they are really creepy.  If you don't know what putti are, they are figures in a work of art depicted as a chubby children, usually naked and sometimes winged.  Today there were a number of ones that were only heads and wings.  I find them unsettling.

2)  Apparently every tour group in Rome decided to go to the Vatican Museum today.  If you see a bunch of groups following a person either in a bizarre hat and/or carrying a stick with some sort of flag or material on it talking into a microphone, RUN AWAY!  Or learn how to dodge around them while they are not forming a human blockade in a hallway.  Who knew that agility training could come in handy when in Rome?

3)  Walk the hour walk instead of getting onto an over packed bus unless you would like to shed off a couple extra gelato or pasta pounds.

I think I am out of thoughts for now.  Chow!!  A domani!

Mileage by Andrea: 6.94 miles

Tuesday, June 6th

We started out bright and early this morning because we had timed tickets for the Borghese Gallery.  And since it takes us nearly an hour to get almost anywhere via bus and metro we had to start at 7:30.  I am very lucky because we are staying at the John Felice Rome Center which is owned by Loyola University of Chicago.  It was at one time a convent, so it is very much like a dormitory, but the facility is very nice and there is a cafe onsite to eat breakfast, lunch or dinner if you don't feel like going out.  The only downside is that it is in the suburbs of Rome.  We are still within walking distance (remember what I said about Italian walking distances) to 2 buses that pretty much take us anywhere we want to go, but it does take a bit of travel time to get there.  And almost always, full to packed buses.  Today I actually got off the bus at a stop because it was so crowded I couldn't take it anymore.  So, I went to the grocery store to pick up a few things and then got on another, much less packed bus.  Sorry about that tangent...

The Borghese Gallery is located in the Villa Borghese Gardens which are in the more northern part of tourist Rome.  The Gardens are vast.  It is three square miles of what could be likened to Central Park in New York.  There are several museums and the zoo located within the gardens.  The Borghese is the villa that once belonged to the Borghese family of Rome.  Scipione Borghese (1577–1633) was an Italian cardinal, art collector and patron of the arts. He was the nephew of Pope Paul V.  He sounds like a very interesting person in many different ways.  I think he may be an excellent example of nepotism in the Church.  A member of the Borghese family, he was the patron of the painter Caravaggio and the artist Bernini. His legacy is the establishment of the art collection at the Villa Borghese.  The amount of significantly important work in this collection is inconceivable.  There is work by not only Caravaggio and Bernini, but by Raphael, Bronzino, Peter Paul Rubens, Titian, and many more.  Unfortunately, the Borghese only allows a certain amount of visitors in for a 2 hour period, so once your time is up you have to leave.  I could easily have spent several more hours looking and drawing from the pieces in the collection.

We then visited the church of S. Maria del Popolo.  For all you Angels and Demons fans, this is the church with the famous Chigi Chapel that Robert Langdon climbs down into the crypt, also known as Earth in the movie.  With any luck I have been told I will go to all the places in the Path to Illumination here in Rome.  Fingers crossed.

We then headed out on the metro to walk past the Trevi Fountain and onto the Pantheon.  I have seen the Pantheon from the outside several times on this trip already, but I have not had the opportunity to go inside yet.  Please check out some of the pictures on the AP Studio Art tab.  I have had the opportunity a number of years ago to go into the Pantheon, but I think no matter how much you do it, I don't think it is possible to not be in awe when you step through that massive door into the central space.  The way the light filters in through the oculus (the hole in the center of the dome) and radiates into the giant space is breathtaking.  To know that it has stood for almost 2000 years is truly remarkable.  This was another architectural masterpiece headed by Hadrian.  Hopefully, you may remember his name from my trip to Tivoli this past weekend to visit his villa.  The Pantheon dome remains the single largest, unreinforced concrete dome in the entire world.  Since the Renaissance the Pantheon has been the site of several important burials.  One of those is the great painter Raphael.  One of the things that I did not know is that the Pantheon is actually in use as a Catholic church. Masses are celebrated there on Sundays and holy days of obligation. How amazing would that be to go to mass in the Pantheon?  I may have to see if I can do that this Sunday.  

I'm going to call it for the night.  It's just about 5:00 pm, but I have a lot of sketching to do and we have the Vatican Museums tomorrow.  I only have one random fact for today.  If you are going to the Pantheon, it is a hotbed for pickpockets because everyone is looking up and not paying attention to their bags.  Good to know if you are planning on going there.  Tomorrow is going to be a long one, but I'm sure another amazing day.

Mileage by Andrea: 5.91 miles


Monday, June 5th (Uno giorno tardi)

Sorry this is coming a little late.  A long day yesterday wore me out and I didn't have the energy to get it together last night.  Yesterday we started the day off by visiting 2 churches:  Basilica of St. Augustine and the San Luigi de Francesci.  St. Monica, St. Augustine's mother, is buried at the Basilica of St. Augustine.  There are many famous pieces of art there including Caravaggio's painting called "Madonna of Loreto", a fresco by Raphael from 1512 showing the Prophet Isaiah and 2 kneeling angels on the altar sculpted by Bernini.  It is mind-boggling that we can walk into just one church (and believe me, there are way more than a few churches in Rome) and find so many pieces of work done by incredibly notable painters and sculptors.  

The second church we visited was San Luigi de Francesci.  It is the French national church in Rome.  See pictures of the inside of the church under AP Studio Art tab under Works.  The church houses Caravaggio's first public commission in 1602, which was to paint 3 paintings about the life of St. Matthew.  There are nods to one of Caravaggio's influences, Michelangelo.  He uses Michelangelo's "God creating man" gesture for Jesus pointing to Matthew to come and follow him.  Caravaggio would have seen the Sistine Chapel while he was in Rome.  One of the things that I think is so interesting is that most of the churches that we have gone too are still functioning churches that have mass.  I can't even imagine going to normal mass at a church so immense and grand.  These churches inspire you (or at least me) to see the power and enlightenment of what the true message of the church is.  They create an environment of sacredness that I am not always sure I feel at our churches in the States. 

The final stop of the day was at the Galleria Doria Pamphilj.  This gallery was and still is a noble family's lavish mansion tucked into the heart of the old city.  The family still lives on the site and the audioguide was narrated by the prince. The amount of work was overwhelming. Paintings were stacked 3 and 4 paintings high on the walls, sculptures lined the hallways, one of which was meant to replicate the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles-just in a smaller version.  There was work by Bernini, Lavinia Fontana (one of the few women painters during the Renaissance), Pieter Brueghel, Albrecht Durer, Bernini, Caravaggio and many more.  We had the opportunity to sketch for about an hour.  I think I finally hit the point yesterday when I had seen enough artwork...just for the day.

After a small siesta, we went out for dinner near the Piazza Navona.  The Four Rivers Fountain by Bernini is the center of the Piazza.  The piazza was filled with people last night, having dinner, eating gelato and just soaking up the cool evening after a warm day.  I did get to have lasagna for the first time last night.  That was pretty exciting and terribly good!  We capped off the night by getting gelato and walking to the Pantheon where we got to sit in the portico against the giant granite columns holding up the roof.  It was a beautiful evening to just hang out, people watch and enjoy the interesting choices of karaoke songs being sung at the local cafe looking out onto the piazza.  

Some additional Random Thoughts on Rome...

1) I know I'm not used to public transit (spoiled by the life of middle class America), but I have learned there is no sense or right to personal space while riding a bus or metro in Rome.  Yesterday I nearly face planted right into the gentleman standing next to me on the bus when we stopped suddenly.  That was fun.

2)  This connects to the first thought- deodorant and showering are a VERY good thing while traveling on the metro.  I'm not sure that a good majority of people subscribe to that policy...

3)  Strange fact:  Parakeets, Crows and Seagulls are all over the place in Rome.  They are VERY loud in the morning.

I think that is it for now.  Talk to you all soon!

Mileage by Andrea: 7.67 miles

Sunday, June 4th

So, it's only 5:45 pm here in Rome, a little earlier than my other posts because I think I am in for the evening.  I have to work on my homework.  I'm sure that most of you can appreciate that.  

I'm trying to figure out how I can put today into words for you all.  One of our professors took a group of us to St. Peter's today with the hope of seeing Pope Francis after he said the mass.  When we got there, we realized he was actually saying the mass outside in the square today, which doesn't always happen.  So we were able to be there for the mass said by Pope Francis.  There were thousands of people from different countries and nationalities spread out throughout all of St. Peter's Square.  Overwhelming seems like such a small word for what I experienced today.  Even though the mass was in Italian, I could at least follow along.  I will say I had to pull out my umbrella (which has not been used for rain, which I am extremely grateful for) in order to not bake in the sun.  Yes, I was one of those people in the crowd!  But, if you know me at all, there is no tanning, only burning and I was not up for that.  Luckily, the professor we were with, knew exactly where to stand in case Pope Francis came out in his pope mobile through the crowds.  Again, he doesn't always do this, but everything today must have been aligned for us, so I was able to be within 2 arm lengths of the Pope as he drove by us.  Please see the pictures under the AP Studio tab in Works.  I am so incredibly grateful that I was able to experience today.  The sense of community and peace and love after such a horrible night last night in London was a way to redeem humanity for me.  "Viva la papa!" is something that I will always remember.

Mileage by Andrea: 7.97 miles

Saturday, June 3rd

The word for the day today was patience.  We had a free day today and a large group decided to go visit a town west of Rome called Tivoli.  It is a good day's trip via a metro train and then a regional train taking about 2 hours one way.  Tivoli is known for 2 ancient villas, Villa Adrianna and the Villa d'Este.  The hope was that we were going to make it to both villas, but the bus system in Tivoli apparently does not always run on time... After 2 hours in a train we waited for the bus that would take us to Villa Adrianna (also known as Hadrian's Villa).  Unfortunately, we ended up waiting an hour and a half  before the bus came (somehow it completely missed one of the pick up times...more on that one)  We ended up making it to the villa quite a bit later than we hoped, however, it was definitely worth it.  The Villa Adrianna was built by Hadrian sometime between AD 118 and 138.  It was one of the largest in the ancient world, encompassing more than 120 hectacres- of which about 40 are open to the public.  

The immense size of the property is overwhelming.  It took us almost 3 hours just walking around to see most of the sites.  The fact that these structures are even partially standing after nearly 2,000 years is extremely difficult to wrap my head around.  I can't even imagine how grandiose it must have been when Hadrian was alive.  It must have been its own small city when he was there.  Please see the pictures on the AP Studio Art tab under Works.  I had to limit myself on these because I think I took almost 60 pictures of the ruins.

Mrs. Plagge's Random thoughts on Italy (more specifically Rome) after being here almost one week:    (I hope to add to this list as we enter the next 2 weeks)

1)  Even though it gets incredibly hot here during the day it cools off remarkably at night with the most awesome breezes.  I Love that!

2)  If an Italian tells you it's not that far, it probably is far- they have a twisted sense of distance

3)  This feeds into #3- It is no wonder that everyone here is skinny after eating pasta, bread, cheese and gelato everyday- they all walk it off.

4)  A dinner in Italy can easily take 2-3 hours with the waiter never once trying to get you to leave by giving you the check.  You have to ask for the check or you could sit there all night.

5)  Wine is cheaper in Rome than Coke typically is...

6)  If you are thirsty for water while you are walking all over Rome, no worries, there are random water pumps and/or fountains all over the city that are fed by the aqueducts that you can fill up your bottle for free.  And that water is usually cold and very good.  Boy, those Romans knew what they were doing.

7)  When walking around the city it is imperative that you pay attention to the sidewalks.  Between the cobblestones and the fact that people do not pick up their dog's poop makes it a pretty precarious situation most days.

8)  It appears that there is a large stray cat population that is all over the city.  More to come on this one.  I've heard word that there is some place called the Cat Forum where there are quite a lot of strays that live there.  I must be honest that the idea intrigues me immensely, yet I am not sure that I really need to see this place in person.  Maybe if I liked cats...

9)  The bus system outside of Rome works on its own timetable.  You should definitely not count on anything running on time.  Maybe that has something to do with the phrase "La Dolce Vita"?  For this American, it just stresses me out.  

10)  I LOVE that you can get on a train in Rome and pretty much end up anywhere in the country within a couple of hours.


I think that is it for now, but I am sure I will think of new ones to add as the next 2 weeks go on.  Buona Notte!  It is 10:45 pm here and I need to get to bed before 1 am tonight.  

Mileage by Andrea: 10.39 miles

Friday, June 2nd

Today was our first free day since I have been here.  I went with a group of 4 other people to Lake Bracciano, which is located about 45 minutes outside of Rome.  We took the regional train out of Rome where it left us off at the most beautiful village called Bracciano.  We followed the winding cobblestone streets until we turned the corner and saw this view... see photo under AP Studio Art Work tab.  We then followed the road up a hill to the 15th century Castle Odescalchi of Bracciano which sits on top of the highest hill overlooking Lake Bracciano.  It was a breathtaking sight!!  We took a tour of the castle.  It was once one of 126 fortresses of the different branches of the Orsini family which allowed them to control all roads to Rome and Naples.  

I had the opportunity to draw while I was there.  Even though my observational sketching is a little rusty, I ended up with a sketch I am pretty happy with from the castle.  Just a little more work on it to make it finished...  

After the tour we walked (or possibly could have easily log rolled...yes, it was that steep and long!) down the road to reach the beaches on Lake Bracciano.  It has some of the bluest lake water I have ever seen, and I have been in the northern part of Michigan.  We were able to take kayaks out on the water for an hour to explore the lake.  It was a good thing that I put on sunscreen because there was not a cloud in the sky, again.  I'm feeling pretty lucky and wondering when the tide is going to turn with the weather!  

We then took the train back to Rome and ended up eating right beside the Vatican at a great little restaurant called L'Insalata Ricca.  Of course, we had to save room because right around the corner from the restaurant is one of the other famous gelato places called Old Bridge.  I can't think of a better way to end my evening with a gelato after another wonderful day in Italy!  

Mileage by Andrea: 6.77 miles

Thursday, June 1st (just a day late)

Today was a LONG day!  We started out at 8:30 this morning with the bus and then the subway to get to the Colosseum stop where we walked past the Colosseum and the Roman Forum and then up Capitoline Hill to get to the Capitoline Museum.  The museum houses everything from ancient statues, mosaics, paintings by Caravaggio and other painters as well as the remains of Capitoline Hill's once-massive, Temple of Jupiter.  We saw the original and oldest known statue of the she-wolf with Romulus and Remus, the symbol of ancient Rome.  We also saw the original statue of Marcus Aurelius, the greatest surviving equestrian statue of antiquity, which amazingly was not melted down for its bronze. From the museum there is an amazing view of the Roman Forum (check out pictures under AP Studio Art Work tab).  We ended our visit viewing the Capitoline Venus that Nathaniel Hawthorne saw when he was in Italy and supposedly wrote The Marble Faun after seeing.  Mark Twain’s visit to the Capitoline Museum in 1867 prompted him to write a short story, “The Capitoline Venus,” in which he described the statue as the “most illustrious work of ancient art the world can boast of”. 

After looking at art for nearly 6 hours, I was pretty wiped out.  That's why this is coming a little late!  Sorry for that.  It was a great day, but very overwhelming- an unbelievable amount of all different kinds of work.  So after taking a short siesta we went to dinner.  I am learning that dinner  in Rome means starting dinner at 8 and having it last around 2-3 hours.  It's quite a change from Cincinnati standards.  No wonder I can't get over my jet lag and keep staying up until 1 or 2 in the morning!  I feel like as soon as I adjust to this it is going to be time to come home!

I will see you shortly!  

Mileage by Andrea: 7.3 miles