Primavera (no, not Botticelli)

Penne Primavera, my way
Gluten free Penne Primavera

I’m still exhausted from yesterday- even with an hour’s late start, it’s going to take me a few days to recover. Even still, we had a great class meeting – discussing the Vatican, the Cortile del Belvedere and the new design for St. Peter’s basilica (Bramante’s, Michelangelo’s and ultimately, Bernini and Carlo Maderno’s) but most particularly Raphael’s Stanze, the rooms he frescoed for Pope Julius II c. 1510, including the ever famous School of Athens. All of this in preparation for our intense Vatican visit tomorrow – can’t wait!

Oh, the pasta? Right, that’s what I eat. Every day. Pasta + vegetables + pepper flakes + Pecorino Romano. Admittedly, I do mix up the veggies! Here, zucchini, red bell peppers, mushrooms, garlic and onions with the pepper flakes, a little bit of olive oil and some balsamic vinegar. Also notice how there is a 2:1 ration of veggie:pasta. That’s healthy, right? =/

Orvieto and Civita di Bagnoregio

Civita di Bagnoregio
Civita di Bagnoregio

Today was another long day in the field – but so amazing! We met our charter bus at 7h45 this morning, driving (albeit rather slowly) for almost three hours to Orvieto. We took the funicular from Orvieto Scalo to Orvieto proper and proceeded first to the most adorable artisan chocolaterie, then to the cathedral. Il Duomo (1290s-1310) is intense: a solidly Gothic cathedral, constructed from alternating layers of volcanic rock: black basalt and white-gold tufa, looking kind of like a Beetlejuice layer cake. Yeah. Anyway, it is one of few definitively Gothic churches in Italy and is utterly unique at that: the facade is decorated with bas reliefs, unbelievable mosaics, a large rose window with complex tracery and sculpted pilasters and columns inlaid with gold and marble tiles. The facade is most known for the aforementioned mosaics which shine brilliantly (some might argue blindingly) in the afternoon sun, making the cathedral glisten like a beacon on the hilltop.

Inside, the basalt/tufa construction continues, and you come to notice that the lancet windows are not glass (obvious from the outside) but they are not bricked over, either – they are outfitted with paper thin panels of marbled alabaster, which casts a gentle golden light on the side chapels and aisles. The late 16th-early 17th century design campaign, initiated by the Opera dell Duomo (a civic committee of laymen who have been in charge of the cathedral’s design since the 14th century) was a major art historical event, but the products are no longer in situ. The sculptures and altar were removed in the 19th-20th century when the interior was renovated back to its Late Medieval appearance. Thus, the 12 apostles (by various artists), Francesco Mochi’s Annunciation, and the highly architectural tabernacle have all been removed to local museums.

That being said, there is still much to see in the Duomo: the Cappella del Corporale (Chapel of the Corporal) which features the relic from the Miracle at Bolsena (which I am not going to get into, but do read it for yourself), as well as the Cappella Nuova which features frescoes by Luca Signorelli and Fra Angelico. Unfortunately, the Cappella del Corporale is really dark and has a rather odd fresco cycle depicting scenes from both the Miracle at Bolsena and the history of the Eucharist. The Cappella Nuova, from the 16th century, has intense frescoes by Signorelli of the Apocalypse/Book of Revelations, the Last Judgment and scenes of Heaven in the vaults, as well as Fra Angelico’s depiction and Christ with the Apostles over the altar. On the walls proper, there are portraits of poets and humanist scholars (like Dante) and tondos depicting scenes of historical violence and martyrdom, as well as a Lamentation which both quotes the Meleager sarcophagus and a miniature reproduction of the antique itself in the background.

We finished up at the cathedral then walked across town to the museum. Oh my goodness, my inner (okay, outer) art history nerd was in HEAVEN: Francesco Mochi’s Angel and Virgin Annunciate right there, in front of me. AH. I can’t even tell you how unbelievably amazing it is to see two of your favorite sculptures in person, without a huge crowd, not sequestered behind bulletproof glass or ten feet away behind a railing. AH. Okay, so the story of Francesco Mochi’s Annunciation is awesome – basically, the young artist, untried and untested, was suggested to the Opera del Duomo by Alessandro Farnese c. 1600. Now, the Farnese had a pretty big influence in Orvieto and the Opera conceded, granting Mochi the opportunity for his first major commission which produced what I consider to be the first sculpture of the Baroque. Look at the angel! His drapery is twisting, rustling, whirling – as if he is streaking down from heaven like a meteorite, about to crash land on the altar! Erm, ok maybe not, but it does look like he’s still in the process of racing to reach the Virgin. And the technique! The undercutting is so intense and the base so tiny, but the whole work is an unbelievably set of counterweights and the whole thing balances perfectly, but to obtain this, the draper is so thin in places, that if you get down on the floor and look up (which I totally did), you can see the light shining through. AH. Bernini-shermnini! (It’s ok Gian Lorenzo, I still love you).

And the Virgin! Here she is, her profile modeled, first of all, after the sybil a 13th century Tuscan sculptor, Giovanni Pisano (Mochi was all about the Tuscan tradition and saw himself as part of the legacy of Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo). Anyway, the Virgin – this sculpture was super controversial at the time – not that you would ever know it now. The Bishop of Orvieto* refused to allow it to be installed on the high altar because he found it extremely inappropriate – why? Well, two reasons: first of all, he argued that her drapery was too clingy and, albeit not revealing, but evocative – of the wrong sort of idea. Second, he felt that it was not the kind of moment we wanted to represent – here she is, grabbing her dress, and looking totally startled/annoyed/frightened – she stood up from her reading (as the text goes) so quickly that her drapery is tangled on the chair and the chair itself is rocking off the floor – but then, if a speeding angel appeared in your bedroom, bearing news that you were at this very moment conceiving the son of G-d, wouldn’t you freak out too? Anyway, after three years of stonewalling, the Opera won out and the pair was installed.

Okay, okay I’ll stop. After the museum, we wandered around Orvieto for a few hours, souvenir shopping and grabbing lunch before meeting back up, taking the funicular back down the mountain and hailing our charter bus – next stop, Civita di Bagnoregio!

Civita, an hour or so from Orvieto, is a teeny little town in two parts: the more modern part, and across a canyon, the more famous medieval hilltop town. We walked down the mountain, then back up on that teeny little footbridge in the lower right of the picture. Uh huh. But our efforts were rewarded! The most amazing bruschetta (so I was told) with wonderful cheese and house-made olive oil and wine. The family who owns the osteria has been producing olive oil in Civita for 500 years and now also produces red wine and honey – and they’re amazing. The olive oil is light and olive-y and almost garlicky, but delicious. Oh wow.

We left Civita around 19h15 and didn’t get back to Rome until 22h00… yeah, just a little bit later than our professori had anticipated, so they’re cutting us a bit of a break tomorrow, giving us a late start. Thank goodn

* Oh did I mention that this bishop also collected paintings by Caravaggio? Yeah. Triumphant Love is totally cool, but this Virgin is ALL WRONG.

Orvieto - Guitarist
Guitarist performing near il Duomo

Orvieto - Il Duomo (Exterior)
Il Duomo (Orvieto Cathedral) henceforth known as the Beetlejuice Basilica

Orvieto - Il Duomo (Exterior Detail)
Detail of the intricate Gothic facade

Orvieto - Il Duomo (Nave)
Il Duomo – Nave

Chiese Orvieto
Two churches and rooftops, en route to the museum

Orvieto - Giardino
Arcaded atrium (I love arcades in sharp lighting)

Mochi's Annunciation
Mochi’s Virgin Annunciate (1608-09)

Mochi's Annunciation
Mochi’s Angel of the Annunciation (1603-05)

Mochi's Annunciation
Detail of Mochi’s Angel

Ah, Roma!

Il Stazione
Stazione Roma Tiburtina

Today was beautifully, remarkably uneventful. We woke up early and caught the 9h39 train as we had planned, arriving back in Rome around 13h15. Unfortunately, we arrived back at Roma Tiburtina at 13h15 and couldn’t catch a local commuter to Stazione Termini until 14h00. Ah well, the sun was warm and there were wildflowers growing between the tracks that were begging for a portrait! Alas, nothing was open and we were unable to restock our sadly, sadly depleted refrigerator, but we all have pasta, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and garlic as well as peanut butter and jelly, so we’ll be just fine.

On a side note, I am fairly certain that I am, in fact, allergic to Rome. Every time I leave the city, my nose stops running and I stop sneezing – as soon as we come back, 20 minutes later, I’m sneezing, my eyes are itching and my nose is starting to drip. Attractive, no? Oh, Roma.


Vasto - Pier
Pier out over the Adriatic Sea

Happy May Day! I’ll be honest, it was a little more (or less) happy here! In Italy, May 1st is also Labor Day and everyone takes the day off to be with their families, hit the beach, whatever. On the down side, everyone takes the day off and practically nothing is open – you’ll be lucky to find an open bar for your morning espresso!

Today was gorgeous – we took the train from Chieti to Pescara and from Pescara to Vasto, a small seaside town an hour or so away. We arrived just after 11h00 and immediately hit the beach, walking along the shallows for over an hour before deciding to head up to the town itself. Now, we were too cheap/lazy to find a bus, buy a ticket and deal with all of that so we elected to walk up the mountain. Yes, mountain. It took us an hour, in sundresses, sandals and 75F sun-shining weather, but we did make it, and only mildly dehydrated/sunburnt at that. We walked around Old Vasto for a few hours, grabbing lunch at a charming local restaurant (okay, it was our only choice – nothing was open) where we feasted (okay, not really) on local Pecorino cheese and a balsamic reduction, a salad for myself and pasta for the girls. This not-quite-epic lunch was, however, followed by the most amazing gelato ever (not to mention cheap! €1.80/medium aka 3 flavors mounded into a giant cup). Of course, I got hazelnut, coffee and dark chocolate — how can you go wrong! — but the vanilla, coconut/dark chocolate as well as lemon and cherry/cream were apparently excellent as well.

We meandered our way down the mountain, past orange trees and farms, along the highway, through the new part of town, past the old train station and back to the beach. We walked the boardwalk on our way back to the (new) train station, picking up some souvenirs along the way (I found adorable wood earrings and Gina found a bouquet of 15 hand-woven silk flowers). We headed back to the train station, walking past restaurants and hotels we had passed that morning, enjoying the cool breeze and warm afternoon sun. We ended up taking the 18h41 train back to Pescara – no big deal, there were two more that ran that night, one at 20h00 and one at 22h00. However, in the process of booking our tickets from Pescara to Chieti, we were confronted with the realization that there were no more trains that evening – the last one left Pescara at 18h00 and there would not be any more until tomorrow morning. We were a little concerned, but Pescara is not far from Chieti and our hosts had encouraged us to just take the bus anyway – so we would do that.

An hour and a half later, we pull into Pescara Centrale – pleasantly sunburnt (I daresay) and ready to head home for dinner. We visit the newsstand/bus-ticket-purveyor in the lobby only to hear that there are also no more buses tonight. Great. We had to call Tony. 20 minutes later, Tony pulls up in the rickety (albeit stable) Fiat Punto we have become so accustomed to and we take off, once again at breakneck speed, through Pescara, along the turnpike and back to Chieti. Fortunately, we leave early tomorrow morning (9h39) and will be back in Rome in the afternoon, just in time for… oh wait. It will be Sunday. Like good roommates, we cleaned out all of our perishables before leaving the apartment for three days; like unadvised foreigners, we didn’t set anything aside because we didn’t know any better. At least there’s Monday!

Vasto - View to the Beach
View of the Adriatic Sea and the Beach from Old Vasto – see that skinny little dock? That’s the pier in the previous photograph.

Vasto - Carousel
Carousel on the Vasto Boardwalk

Taranta Peligna

Taranta Peligna
Window + balcony of another abandoned building in Taranta Peligna

Well, as it were, Tony’s friend ended up not being able to go with us this morning, so Tony drove us himself. It’s roughly an hour and a half drive from Chieti Scalo to Taranta Peligna, the small mountain town where Maria’s great grandmother, Maria DiNardo is originally from. The country is beautiful, and the route took us along sharply winding roads through the Maiella mountains, through Fara San Martino (where the best spaghetti in the world is produced- according to Tony- using water from a mountain spring) and Casoli.

Taranta Peligna (the name has something to do with tarantulas – fantastic, no?) is a small, small town (population c. 500), nestled into the side of the Maiella mountains in the Aventino River valley. We rolled into town in Tony’s cobalt blue Fiat around noon and, in true Italian form, immediately pulled over to talk to someone. It turns out, Tony spotted three aging gentleman and immediately began explaining to them the whole situation: we’re three American girls, studying in Rome, staying in Chieti Scalo at his B&B and that Maria is trying to find her roots, here, in this town. He asked about Maria DiNardo, Maria’s great grandmother, and the three gentlemen hopped into their respective cars and we wagon trained 1/4 mile down the road to a small house on the hill. One of the gentlemen introduced us to the family – two aging siblings (in their 80s), and their daughter, explaining that these are the DiNardo’s and that they must be Maria’s distant cousins. After trying to sort through names and relationships from c. 1920, we were invited in for cookies and juice, and met the granddaughter and great-granddaughter of the siblings who might be Maria DiNardo’s brother’s children. We spent an hour trying to sort the whole thing out, to little success but great excitement. It was amazing to just show up at someone’s home as a long lost relative and be well-received, even invited in for an afternoon snack.

We made our way down to City Hall to speak to another DiNardo and check the ledgers of all the people and families in Taranta Peligna who emigrated to America. Not much luck, but we were pointed in the direction of a local man – Enrico Rosato – who was just returning from Rome this very afternoon and whose hobby it is to catalogue the family histories of Taranta Peligna. We stopped in at a small bar and got ice cream (oh Magnum bars, how I will miss you!), before the amateur biographer arrived, at which point, Gina and I wandered off in search of adventure.

And did we find adventure… We found the medieval castle/church/fortress near the Aventino River, and behind it, a small abandoned house. Technically, there was no breaking, only entering, but we definitely had to duck under construction fencing… oh well. The house itself was small (four rooms between two storeys, maybe 200 square feet in all) and was obviously used, at some point, as a local after hours hang out spot for high school kids. We were poking around, looking at things when Gina found a Rolling Stones album and I found the box of an original Diana+ camera…from the 1970s. Upon further investigation, all of the magazines and newspapers still on the floor also seemed to hail from this period and it was a little disturbing, this cute little house in the shadow of a church would be abandoned for 40 years.

We wandered our way back to the bar/cafe, only to find a half-dozen people crowded around the table with Maria, Tony and the biographer. They had found Maria Vincenza DiNardo, born in the 1890s. After another few hours and much discussion (during which time Gina and I ended up falling asleep in the shade by the river…oops.) it seems as though we may have found the right family. Maria (and Gina and myself) were introduced to another pair of aging siblings (also in their mid-late 80s), a granddaughter, a grandson and a great-grandson (although he was only two or three) and were able to see the ruined foundations of the house in which they think Maria DiNardo was born, way back when. All in all, it was a fruitful day, and the hour and a half car ride home seemed much less anxious in the fading afternoon sun.

Tony’s wife and our gracious hostess, Amina, offered to make us dinner – much easier than trying to find another open and nearby restaurant, we were thrilled at the offer. She made whole roasted spigola, a type of white fish about the size of trout, but which tastes more like mahi mahi or tilapia, with roasted potatoes, a green salad with sliced heirloom tomatoes, a local cheese (with bread), imported walnuts and a fruit salad for dessert. It was lovely and, if you know my eating habits well, you’ll be shocked and amazed that I dealt with a whole fish (admittedly, headless) on my own and actually ate almost all of it.

Tomorrow we’re off to beautiful, coastal Vasto for a day at the beach!

Taranta Peligna
Small masonry building just outside Taranta Peligna

Taranta Peligna
Houses in Taranta Peligna

Vineyards in Chieti
Afternoon view from our B&B towards a neighbor’s vineyard

From Palazzi to Chieti

San Marco at Palazzo Venezia
The Nave of San Marco, part of Palazzo Venezia

What a day! We started off with a class on Renaissance palazzi in Rome, primarily cardinals’ residences built in the mid-14th century. We began at Palazzo Venezia and examined the courtyard (albeit from a distance, as the palazzo now houses the office of the superintendent of monuments) and the interior, which is a unique juxtaposition of Classical forms (exterior) with Gothic elements (interior). In light of our reading, this juxtaposition seems to be a formal expression of the relationship between secular and religious spaces.

We next visited Palazzo Mattei in the Sant’Angelo neighborhood (right next to the Fontana della Tartarughe that I spent so much time trying to find a few weeks ago) just to briefly see another Renaissance palace – this one is outfitted with antique sculptures and busts, as well as parts of friezes and grave markers that have been incorporated into the architecture of the courtyard. Afterwards, we took a brief break at the Campo before walking over to the Cancelleria, another cardinal’s palace which incidentally abuts the Campo. One of the largest palazzi in Rome, the Cancelleria also juxtaposes Classical forms (used in the courtyard and exterior, although according to an Albertian ideology) with Gothic and Early Christian elements of the titular church enclosed therein.

After class broke up for the weekend, Gina, Maria and I grabbed a quick lunch and ran some errands before heading over to Stazione Termini to catch our train to Chieti. As it turns out, we had to connect in Tiburtina, which is the smaller train station on the outskirts of Rome, and then took a 2 1/2 hour train to Chieti where the wonderful owner of the B&B we’re staying came to pick us up! Tony and his wife, Amina, are a wonderful couple and incredibly hospitable hosts. Because of increased traffic this weekend (May Day and there’s a military event nearby), Tony and Amina ended up giving us their bedroom for the weekend – talk about above and beyond! Tony, evidently, was born and raised in Chieti but moved to Philadelphia when he was in his 20s and lived there for 35 years before marrying a childhood sweetheart and returning to Italy. They are the sweetest couple, driving us the short way into town to a restaurant for dinner and picking us up again so that we would not have to walk in the dark. Tomorrow, we’re heading to Taranta Peligna, a small town about an hour and a half away where Maria’s great grandparents are originally from – more details then!

Oh, and in other news – we got our midterms back today and my grade was a pleasant confirmation of how I was feeling afterwards AND I was featured on Everyday Intensity as one of Five Young People to Inspire You! Very excited! Thanks Lisa!

Palazzo Venezia
Staircase inside Palazzo Venezia

Palazzo Mattei - Busts
Busts along the Balustrade in the Courtyard of Palazzo Mattei

Palazzo Mattei - Windows
Windows into the Courtyard of Palazzo Mattei

Chiesa Nuova: A New Church

Federico Barocci’s The Visitation altarpiece in Chiesa Nuova

UGH. Okay, today had some serious problems. First of all, I slept really poorly and had really strange and creepy dreams (think tarantulas and Redmond Town Center, but in Italy. Yeah.) Next, we got to Chiesa Nuova and the Borromini facade of the Oratory that I was so unbelievably excited to see? Under construction. Completely covered in scaffolding, further wrapped in plastic – just to make sure you that I couldn’t see it! Serious disappointment here. We get inside and – lo and behold – the Caravaggio Entombment altarpiece is missing. MISSING. Okay, so it’s only a copy because the Vatican Museum has a death grip on the original -but still!

On the up side, we did get to see the amazing Visitation altarpiece by Federico Barocci, and the totally awesome Rubens altarpiece (for the high altar) which is painted on slate and contains a painted copper panel which slides away by some nifty mechanism to reveal a 13th century icon – but only on feast days. Barocci, as I have said in the past, is my favorite painter. I love Raphael, don’t get me wrong, but Barocci is where it’s at. One of my favorite things about Barocci’s paintings are the unbelievable details and layers of meaning embedded within each piece. Honestly, I could come back to this altarpiece day after day and – if my Christian theology/imagery were up to par for a Renaissance/Baroque art historian – still find something new each time. My favorite piece thus far, however, is his Madonna del Popolo, seen here:

In any case, after our class ended, Maria, Gina and I caught a bus to Termini to buy our train ticket to Chieti for tomorrow! I’m terribly excited to spend the weekend with these girls, away from Rome – and on the Adriatic Sea, no less! We’re staying at a cute B&B run by a man and his wife who both, evidently, used to live in Philadelphia and can’t wait to practice their English with us – oh, and he thinks my name is Sophia… you win some, you lose some. Speaking of, not sure about the wifi access this weekend so I may not be back until Sunday night – ciao!

Detail of Barocci’s Visitation

Polychromatic Marble Inlay of a Funerary Emblem/Tomb Marker

One of Chiesa Nuova’s Twin Pipe Organs – so cool!


Chicken Cacciatore
Chicken Cacciatore

Second midterm was defeated, destroyed maybe even obliterated. Admittedly, I don’t feel quite as good about this one as I did about last week’s (the difference between ancient art and Renaissance, I suppose) but I still feel pretty good.

Came home after the exam, took a nap, went to work at the library, came home and made myself penne pasta with pesto and grated pulverized Pecorino (a lot of ps, no?) while the girls made the chicken cacciatore, featured above. I’m not a big fan of dark meat, so I chose not to join them, but the stew itself tasted (and smelled!) amazing!

We’re heading to Chiesa Nuova tomorrow and I am so excited. Not for the Federico Barocci, or the Rubens altarpiece, or even the Caravaggio – no. I’m excited because next door (attached, really) is the oratory of the Oratorians of St. Philip Neri with the facade redesigned by Borromini! Cannot wait to see it!

Pink tea rose from the atrium at S. Cecilia in Trastevere

Today we had another long-ish day in the field – we met at the Gesù to discuss both the original 16th century structure and facade, designed by Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola and Giacomo della Porta between 1568-1575. The Gesù, used as an architectural template for many future churches in the late 16th and 17th centuries, was designed and built for the Jesuits as their “home church” in Rome. The Jesuits, founded by Ignatius of Loyola, were confirmed into an Order in the 1540 under Pope Paul III (Alessandro Farnese) and it was Paul III’s grandson, also Alessandro Farnese*, who was the driving force behind the Gesù project.

Cardinal Farnese called upon the family architect, Vignola, to design and build for him (erm, I mean, the Jesuits) a great, impressive church with no aisles and a barrel vaulted nave. Now, this may sound like a great deal – the Pope confirms your order, then his wealthy grandson offers to build for you a church – unfortunately, the style of the Gesù wasn’t really their taste. Until this point, the Jesuits had favored more traditional church plans: long nave, a pair of side aisles and a flat timber roof. As we can see, the Gesù is not of that persuasion. Admittedly, all of the gilding of the dome and the ridiculous trompe l’oeil frescoes were later additions, even the basic structure of the church (essentially a Greek cross plan with an elongated nave) is very different from the basic basilica form.

After finishing up at the Gesù, we made our way to Trastevere, crossing the Isola Tiburtina (Tiber Island) and stopping at a bar for coffee along the way.We wound our way through Trastevere, back to Santa Cecilia, this time to see Stefano Maderno’s 16th century sculpture of the recumbent Cecilia. First, a brief recap of Cecilia’s story: she was a Roman noblewoman, living in Trastevere, martyred in the 3rd century (along with her husband, Valerian, his brother, Tiburtius and a soldier, Maximus). Evidently, she married Valerian but never consummated the marriage, and instead, converted him to Christianity – along with his brother. When the soldier Maximus was sent by Emperor Marcus Aurelius Severus Alexander to execute her, he too was converted to Christianity and was quickly martyred himself. Another soldier was sent after Cecilia and they apparently decided to boil her to death in her own caldarium, restraining her in the tub and stoking the fires for 24 hours – naturally, she emerged, dry as a bone, and totally unharmed. At this point, the emperor has had quite enough and decided to have her decapitated – unfortunately, Roman law has a “three strikes” contingency and if, after three blows, the victim is still alive – oh well. This was the case with Cecilia – three blows to the neck, and she was still alive – and continued to be for three days, during which time she gave away all of her worldly possessions, blessed her house and her family and died singing the praises of God – thus, in the 16th century, she became the patron saint of music.

Now, legend has it that in 821, Pope Paschal I was called – in a dream – by Cecilia to go recover her remains from the catacombs outside the city and bring them to a place in Trastevere (the location of her former home) and there, build for her a church. So he did. In 1599, Cardinal Sfondrato (I don’t know why, but I always think of Dracula when I hear his name) wanted to renovate the church and, in seeking to establish a stronger connection to its Early Christian past, began excavations in hopes of finding St. Cecilia’s relics. Well, he was successful – and then some. He found the relic/bodies of Valerian, Tiburtius, Maximums and Pope Urban I (who baptized Cecilia) all beneath the altar – and of course, he also found Ceclia: “entire and uncorrupt…more than 1,307 years after her death” wrote Sfrondrato. Unfortunately, in all of their excitement at finding her body, they were too afraid to violate her modesty by touching the veils covering her body, so no one actually verified this claim – or even whether or not the body had a head. Oh, I didn’t mention it? Right, well, when Pope Paschal I interred Cecilia’s body in this new church, he apparently put her head in a separate reliquary and sent it to Santi Quattro Coronati – but if it ever was there, none of the nuns know anything about it today. So yes, the body/relic of S. Cecilia may have been headless – but Cardinal Sfrondrato and Pope Clement VIII were too concerned with Cecilia’s modesty to check. Um, yeah… about that… But it gets better: apparently, Stefano Maderno’s sculpture is said to be an exact rendering of the exhumed body/relic, as it was recovered in December of 1599 and before it was reinterred in January of 1600, complete with head and turban-veil, the first representation of its time.

Here’s where the art history gets interesting: in order to represent the exhumed body as it was recovered such that it could be present at the altar, the Maderno had to sculpt a recumbent Cecilia. This could have been a problem – because obviously, any prostrate female figure is an instant sexual object, didn’t you know? So in order to desexualize this representation, Maderno twists Cecilia’s head around at an unnatural angle, present the viewer with the back of her turban-covered head and the three wounds in her neck (which are still dripping blood, FYI). So, that’s the story of Santa Cecilia.

After S. Cecilia, Kristin and Lori took me to the Indian restaurant nearby and, I have to say, it was pretty good. It wasn’t great, but it was gluten friendly, fairly tasty (if not what I’m used to) and on the cheaper side. Breaking up after lunch, we parted ways to begin more test prep – I tell you, this has been just the longest week. Our second midterm (ART H 397 – Roman Art & Architecture, Ancient-Present) which covers everything from 6th century BCE Etruscan Tombs to the Column of Trajan to the apse mosaics of Santa Pudenziana – yikes. Wish me luck!

(*These names may be familiar to you if you’ve been keeping up with my thesis: Paul III began work on Villa Farnese at Caprarola and his same grandson, Alessandro, hired Vignola to complete it in the 1550s-60s).

Gesù Ceiling
A look at the barrel vault in Il Gesù

Il Gesù - Capella di S. Maria della Strada
Fresco of the Annunciation from the Capella di S. Maria della Strada in the Gesù – so beautifully rendered, check out the detail of the veil around Gabriel’s wings!

Sant'Angelo Window Box
Window Box in Rione Sant’Angelo

Rose from the atrium at S. Cecilia

Santa Cecilia
Stefano Maderno’s recumbent Saint Cecilia, 1599

Culinary diversity

Gnocchi con Pancetta e Salvia
Gluten free Gnocchi with Pancetta and Sage, baked in a Pecorino Romano-Cream Sauce

Today was another gloriously lazy day- we started studying for our second midterm on Tuesday, this time emphasizing ancient art and architecture. Gina and I both needed a few things from the market, so we ventured downstairs in the early afternoon – returning home quite successfully. I may not have mentioned it, but Maria bought a basil (bay-sel) plant last week and named in Basil (bah-zil), a popular 19th century British name. As it were, I needed sage to make my gnocchi recipe for tonight, and the cheapest way to go about it was actually to buy the plant – so I did, and now Basil has a friend: Sergio the Serbian Sage (It. Salvia). That’s right, we’re personifying our herbs – is that a problem?

Oh this gnocchi recipe. It was wonderful, amazing, delicious – I can’t stop thinking about it. And better yet, I don’t have to because I have leftovers (sometimes there are serious advantages to cooking for one). Now, I have never cooked gnocchi before and, as much as I would love to tell you that I made it from scratch, that would be a terrible, terrible lie. I bought it from a Norcineria of all places, and it is guaranteed gluten free and, in my excitement at seeing senza glutine I bought the small bag of larvae-like dumplings without a recipe in mind. Fortunately for me, my roommate brought not one, not two, but three Italian cookbooks with her and they are available for public consumption – thus, my gnocchi was reborn after weeks of sitting in the pantry.

This particular recipe calls for boiling the gnocchi, then baking with crispy pancetta matchsticks, sage, heavy cream and freshly grated Pecorino Romano or parmesan cheese. It is to die for – I mean really, with pancetta, cream, cheese and herbs, how can you possibly go wrong?

I’ll post the recipe soon, so check in at GlutenFree Seattle next week and I’ll see what I can do (once I finish my leftovers, of course!). And, I’ll warn you, the pictures are unfortunately deceptive – I hate our octagonal black plates, but with nothing else to work with, this is all I can do. So, the gnocchi did not photograph well (not for lack of talent on their part) but I shall endeavor to try again with better results in the future.

Gnocchi con Pancetta e Salvia

Material Girls

Fontana dell'Acqua Paolo
Fontana dell’Acqua Paolo on the Janiculum

Well, not really, but today, we shopped.

Honestly (as a non-shopper perhaps this doesn’t count for much but), I’m not thrilled with the Roman shopping situation – it seems like there are two options: touristy crap or over-priced psuedo-designer wear – obviously not ideal for a student on a budget! In any case, we walked up and down Via Nazionale, along Largo Argentina and around Via dei Giubbonari – to limited success. I did find a nice pair of loafer-esque shoes (no, Becky, they aren’t penny loafers) and a hot pair of black leather boots, handmade by the shop owner and super comfortable. On my “to-buy” list still remains a canvas-colored trench and a leather jacket – but I’m holding out on the leather until Florence at the end of the program, kill me though it may.

Cecilia, you’re breakin’ my heart

S. Maria di Trastevere
An altar in Santa Maria di Trastevere, covered with notes, prayers and offerings – reminding me of the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

We met at S. Maria di Trastevere, a nice change of pace as the basilica is only two or three minutes from our apartment (whereas the Campo is almost 2km away). The basilica was founded in the 340s CE (built on the site of a 2nd century church) and is one of the oldest churches in Rome. The basilica has undergone several remodels, including a 17th century renovation by Carlo Fontana and 19th century interior renovation under Pope Pius IX.

We convened to discuss both the use of spolia (the column capitals were taken from the Baths of Caracalla) and the 13th century mosaics by Pietro Cavallini. According to Paul Hetherington, this particular mosaic cycle (Scenes from the Life of the Virgin, including six narrative scenes and a donor panel) is preeminently important as it shows the stylistic evolution in Cavallini’s work. Hetherington established a chronology of Cavallini’s works, situating the S. Maria mosaics between Cavallini’s fresco of The Last Judgment for S. Cecilia and the apse paintings in S. Giorgio al Velabro. Based on some high-quality detective work, Hetherington arrived at a new date for the S. Maria mosaics (1298 vs. 1291) based on Cavallini’s progression as well as period specific (1300-1308) minutia present in the donor panel.

Afterwards, we grabbed coffee and headed over to the basilica of S. Cecilia. On the way, we passed this amazing little pasticceria (confectionary) and I couldn’t help but stop and take a few pictures. Anyway, back to S. Cecilia: we were there to view the remains of Cavallini’s partially destroyed Last Judgment, accessible from the nun’s choir loft at the back of the basilica. The frescoes were amazing, and Hetherington’s argument about Cavallini’s maturation was apparent, but the highlight of our visit was definitely the wedding. That’s right, this week we have seen a funeral (S. Pudenziana last Tuesday) and a wedding – featuring a young bride decked out in a classic cake-topper dress. Seriously, this girl was sporting at least 30 yards of train – she had to have six (6!) cute little girls walk her down the aisle and, I’ll admit, watching her stand, sit, kneel at the altar was almost amusing – in a beautiful, sentimental kind of way.

Pasticceria Trastevere
Pasticceria in Trastevere

S. Cecilia - Cavallini Fresco
An angel from Cavallini’s Last Judgment in S. Cecilia

Buon compleanno, Roma!

Fireworks from Piazza del Popolo

Well, we had our first midterm this morning – the hard one (ART H 497), we think. Unlike most art history exams, there were no slides/images to identify, no “compare and contrast these artists/works/periods/styles” questions and nothing unexpected. The exam was structured in the form of three short answer and two essay questions, and a time limit of an hour and a half. Because of my learning disabilities, I take my exams separately from the rest of the class, but because there are no faculty offices or broom closets to lock me in, you know what that means? I got to take my exam in a 13th century fortified brick tower. That’s right. The test went very well, I’m feeling really really great about it and it’s apparent (to me, at least) that all of my studying over the weekend paid off, and then some.

In other news, today is Rome’s 2,763rd birthday! Every year Rome’s birthday is celebrated during settimana della cultura (Italian Culture Week) with a city-sponsored fireworks display at Piazza del Popolo (Piazza of the People, appropriately). Have some fireworks pictures!

Roman Fireworks

Roman Fireworks

Roman Fireworks

Early Christian Art: 5th Century Mosaics

Santa Prassede Courtyard
Courtyard of the Basilica di Santa Prassede

We spent today in the 5th century, visiting Santa Maria Maggiore (430 CE) and Santa Pudenziana (422-432 CE), both basilicas built after the time of Constantine, with a pitstop at the Basilica of Santa Prassede (780-822 CE) which contains the Chapel of St. Zeno and the Column of the Flagellation. Our focus today was 5th century mosaic and representations in Early Christian art – examining the nave mosaics of Old Testament scenes at S. Maria Maggiore and the apse mosaics in S. Pudenziana.

We were especially fortunate at S. Pudenziana to be afforded a privileged view of the mosaics from the choir/organ loft – an area not open to tourists, but the gentleman – Mario – in charge of the historical aspects of the basilica, led us up the narrow, winding stairs to this unbelievable space – we were less than a meter from 5th century mosaics – how cool is that? Admittedly, our discussion went a bit over time (…by almost two hours) leaving us less time to study for tomorrow’s impending midterm exam. By the time we finished up, everyone was exhausted, hungry and more concerned about the exam than ever.

As it stands, our apartment took a collective (albeit staggered) nap and we have been diligently studying since this afternoon. One of the many things I love about the Profs. Lingo is their exam style: no slide ideas, just three short answer and two essay questions based on the scholastic articles we have read, the discussions which we have had, and the themes which we have covered. It’s super intense and extremely difficult to study for, but at the same time, you really have to know your stuff in order to succeed – I always remember much more from their courses than from those in which I just have to memorize a bunch of flashcards.

5th Century Mosaics in the Apse of Santa Maria Maggiore

Basilica di Santa Prassede
Funerary Monument in S. Prassede

Basilica di Santa Pudenziana, mosaics
5th Century Mosaics in the Apse of the Basilica di Santa Pudenziana

2nd Century Brick Stamp
2nd Century Imperial Brick Used to build S. Pudenziana