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Posts Tagged ‘architecture’

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

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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

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Rose from the atrium at S. Cecilia

Santa Cecilia
Stefano Maderno’s recumbent Saint Cecilia, 1599

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Villa Capra, La Rotonda, Villa La Rotonda, villa Italy Italia Vicenza
Villa Capra “La Rotonda”

Woke up early this morning and booked it to the train station, intending to take the 9h05 train to Desenzano on Lago di Garda. Unfortunately, “The best intentions…” and all that – our train was full and the next one didn’t leave until 11h35, so what are we to do at 8h45? We walked to Villa Capra “La Rotonda”, that’s what. It was a half-hour walk through the outskirts of Vicenza, up a long, gentle hill but there we were. We had some time before it officially opened at 10h00, so we walked down a serpentine dirt road to the mysterious Villa Valmarana ai Nani – the Villa of the Dwarves. Although we did not enter to the villa itself (€8/person just to fill some time seemed unnecessary), the gardens were gorgeous, the dwarf statues charming and personable, and as luck would have it, there was a sordid legend. The plot thickens.

Legend has it that one of the Valmarana daughters was afflicted with dwarfism. To disguise her disability, her parents only hired other dwarves to staff the villa and its property so that their daughter would never realize her handicap. Of course, one day a handsome prince rode by and, falling madly in love with him, the daughter professes her feelings. The prince, certainly not Charming, was so offended that someone so afflicted would speak to him, he immediately rejected her and fled the scene. The daughter was so devastated, she committed suicide and, in their horrified and grief-stricken state, all of her servants turned to stone.

I told you it was sordid.

Anyway, 10h00 rolled around and we ventured over to Villa Capra – it was amazing. I have studied this work in every architecture course I’ve ever taken, in several art history classes and even in landscape design, it is that cool. So lucky to see it in person – I can’t even tell you. The villa itself was designed by Andrea Palladio and built in 1565 for Paolo Almerico, a Vatican priest and secretary to Pope Paul IV, as a retirement villa in the antique style – that is, based on the writings of Pliny the Younger, the villa was meant to be a country pleasure palace for leisurely (intellectual) activities. Inspired by the Pantheon, the house is perfectly symmetrical. Perfectly. And while it inspired countless structures since its completion, the most notable descendent is Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello outside of Charlottesville, VA, built between 1809-1826.

We wandered our way back to the stazione and caught our train to Desenzano, one of a dozen small towns on the shores of Lago di Garda (Lake Garda) at the foot of the Alps. Fairly touristy but absolutely gorgeous (it was a beautiful 70F with blue skies and bright sunshine all day), I was reminded of California. The sidewalks bordering the lake are edged with palm trees and there is even a cute hotel called the ‘Imbarcadero’.

The lake itself is huge and turquoise and edged with roughly hewn blocks of white quartz and lovely. The cool air blows in from the north, providing a brief respite from the heat of the blazing sun. I would have perhaps enjoyed the city more if I ate seafood – an obvious local specialty – but alas, this is not the case and I enjoyed a creamy wild mushroom soup for lunch instead.

The train ride back was uneventful and we returned to Vicenza exhausted, sun-kissed and thrilled. We crashed at the hostel, sent e-mails, changed clothes and went out to the restaurant from last night, the Antica Casa della Malvasia, and it was fabulous, again. Tonight’s selection was insalata Greca (I bet you can figure that one out) with crisp chunks of cucumber, crunchy bell peppers, tasty kalamata olives, thinly sliced onion and fresh, salty feta cheese – with a combination of a local spinach-like green and radicchio (it’s everywhere I tell you!) topped with aceto balsamico and olive oil. Delicious!

Villa Valmarana ai Nani, Vicenza, Italy, Italia, dwarves, villa
Villa Valmarana ai Nani

Villa Valmarana ai Nani, Vicenza, Italy, Italia, villa, architecture, dwarves
Villa Valmarana ai Nani – Detail

Villa Capra, La Rotonda, Andrea Palladio, Villa La Rotonda, Italy Italia Vicenza
Villa Capra “La Rotonda”

Lago di Garda - Desenzano
Desenzano on the shores of Lago di Garda

Lago di Garda - Desenzano
Desenzano

Desenzano Swan

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Oh, Mantova

Mantova Street urban Italy Italia Mantua architecture
Urban Mantova

Woke up early and took the train to Mantova (Mantua), arriving just in the middle of siesta (a long lunch break during the Italian work day, usually sometime between 12h30 and 14h00, sometimes going as late as 16h00), so we meandered through the sun-baked streets, looking for lunch. We finally stopped at a small cafe/restaurant near the historic center where the Girls enjoyed Pizza con Buffala (pizza with tomatoes, basil and traditional water buffalo-milk mozzarella) and myself, a salad with melon slices, cottage cheese, radicchio (an Italian staple, I swear) and sweet corn – all in all, pretty good, but I probably would not choose to repeat it at home.

We ventured to the historic center and ran around for a few hours, seeing Alberti’s Basilica di S. Maria di Mantova, the Rotonda di San Lorenzo, the Palazzo Ducale (including a public topiary park) and the Duomo di Mantova (Mantua Cathedral). We took the slightly longer walk back through town to the train station and arrived back in Vicenza just in time to enjoy (a late) dinner at the restaurant Antica Casa della Malvasia, a cute little hole in the wall just a few minutes from our hostel. Even at 21h00 there was a half hour wait for a table, but it was so worth it. Eclectic, rustic design – the walls are rough plaster, arches trimmed in brick, a heavy brick fireplace sat at the center and random art objects adorned furniture, mantles, shelves and tables. The food was delicious, the wine excellent, the cover charge reasonable – we escaped for €12 each for a liter of water, half liter of vino rosso for the table and a secondi (meat dish – I ordered a Ginger Chicken over warm Wild Rice and it was unbelievable!) Can’t wait to try it again tomorrow!

Mantova
Medieval structure spanning the river

Basilica di Santa Maria di Mantova
Basilica di Santa Maria di Mantova

Basilica di Santa Maria di Mantova
Interior of the Basilica

Rotonda di San Lorenzo
Rotonda di San Lorenzo

Mantova - Piazza Erbe
Piazza Erbe

Piazza Ducale
Piazza Ducale with the dome of S. Maria in the background

Duomo di Mantova
Duomo di Mantova (Mantova Cathedral)

Stazione Verona Porta Nuova
On the platform at Stazione Verona (Porta Nuova)

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Ciao Vicenza!

Querini park, Tempietto, Vicenza, Veneto, Italy, Italia, architecture, park
Tempietto in Vicenza’s Querini Park

Oh wow – what a day!

Dabney, Gina, Maria and I decided to spend the long weekend (today-Sunday) up north in the Veneto region, so we packed up and took a train this morning from Roma (Termini) to Verona (Porta Nuova), leaving at 10h36 and arriving at 16h24. Now, just getting to the train station is half the fun: we followed our usual route to the Campo de Fiori at 9h15, took a bus from the Campo to the Colosseum and the subway from the Colosseum to Stazione Termini. Whew.

We get to the station early (10h15) so Dabney can buy her ticket, but due to the silliness of the Biglietti-Veloce! machines, she wasn’t able to book into our cabin anyway. As it were, European train stations don’t post/announce the platform of a given train until the train is physically present in the station – usually 10 or so minutes before departure. This gives me an anxiety attack. There are 24 platforms at Termini – what if my train leaves from platform 24 and I’m all the way over by platform 1? What if I’m in the middle at 12, but I don’t see the announcement right away? On top of the distance between platforms, the second class cabins (4-10 usually) are a long trek down the platform, and it certainly doesn’t help that everyone is in a panic the whole time! But these trains are prompt and do not wait around for anyone. Alas, our train ended up being 20 minutes late (thank goodness!) so we grabbed soft serve sundaes at McDonald’s (barf. but there were clean seats… don’t hate me.) and waited.

Our platform posted, we made it to the train, I fought my way down the platform to Carozza 4, compartment 6 and — ! There’s a strange, middle-aged Vietnamese woman sitting in my seat, sandwiched between Maria and an older gentleman. On the opposite side, the gentleman’s wife is also at the window with Gina in the center and a young man on her right. What the hell am I supposed to do? I look at Maria expectantly and she explains that they’ve been trying to get this woman to find her own seat (Carozza 4, seat 24) but apparently she speaks no English, no Italian, and no French or Spanish either. Great. We show her our tickets, we point to the numbers on the cabin and she sits, blissfully blank, holding her purse in her lap. Ugh. So we wait, the four of us: the Neapolitan gentleman (as we soon found out), this strange, mute woman, Maria and myself. It was not particularly uncomfortable, for the first hour, but we figured as soon as the attendant came by to check our tickets, he would assist.

Wrong. The train attendant came by sometime into hour two in the crazy cabin and, after looking curiously at the seven people in the cabin meant for six, and punching all of our tickets which clearly indicate that this woman does not belong, he walks away with an unenthusiastic “Buon giorno”. Are you kidding me?

We pass Orvieto when I finally flag another attendant down and, between Gina, the Neapolitan gentleman and myself, explain the situation. After trying to get the woman to come with him, the attendant’s ultimate solution is to make the poor Neapolitan gentleman leave his wife and luggage for the remainder of their journey (Prato, just past Firenze [Florence] but another hour away). Great, no? So the strange woman curls up in the corner against the window, basking in the sun, and closes her eyes. We’re all somewhat stunned, and more than a little irritated, when she sits up and pulls out her phone – a standard Nokia POS – and dials a friend. Until this point, we sort of assumed she was perhaps ignorant or illiterate and really did not know what was going on and, in her gentle muteness, was simply scared of the group of foreigners. But no, as soon as she dialed her friend, we knew that – if nothing else – she understood that she was sitting in the wrong seat and was just that rude. Fortunately, it was not long before both she, the Neapolitan couple and the young Italian man disembarked at Prato and the cabin belonged to us.

It was not long before our cabin was refilled by a boisterous Irish family, father, mother and sulking teenage son, from Kells. We had a pleasant chat about my time in Letterkenny and Dublin in 2005, the ScoilEigse and the Fleadh Cheoil. The couple was quite talkative and it was an altogether pleasant experience. They disembarked at Bologna Centrale and we were left in peace.

Our train finally arrived in Padova (Padua), grabbed snacks at a convenience store and hopped our final train to Vicenza. It was after 17h15 and the countryside was bathed in golden afternoon sunlight, giving even the most dilapidated train stations a romantic glow.

After arriving in Vicenza, we walked two miles or so along Viale Roma, down Corso Andrea Palladio, past monuments to Garibaldi and Vittorio Emmanuele II, designed shoe stores, and countless gelaterias before arriving at our hostel: Ostello Olimpico, aptly named for its close proximity to the Teatro Olimpico, designed by Andrea Palladio in the late 16th century. I hate to admit it, but the Rick Steves’ recommendation was spot on: clean, friendly, free wifi and the room for six was given just to us four, a pleasant surprise indeed.

We dropped our things off and went for a walk, exploring our new surroundings. The river winds its way through Vicenza, creating a confusing situation of curving streets, dead ends and a twisting waterway which you can cross twice walking along a given road. We first found Querini Park which backs up to the Church of Santa Maria di Aracoeli (Virgin Mary in Heaven) and contains a gorgeous tempietto surrounded by a spiral of boxwood hedges and contained within a small island, isolated by a moat-like stream, fed by local springs and filled with turtles, large koi-like fish and different type of ducks and geese. A processional walkway leads up to the tempietto, lined with reproductions of antique and Renaissance figures.

After heading back into town in search of food, we explore the historic area and discover, in short order, why Vicenza is known as “Venice on dry land”: Palladio recreated the iconic elements of the Venetian Piazza di San Marco in Vicenza. In addition, many of the buildings feature architectural and decorative elements which are reminiscent of Venetian architecture, particularly the Doge’s Palace on the Piazza S. Marco.

water, fountain, spigot, pump, spout, iron, Italy, Italia, spring
Water spigot in Querini Park

Vicenza, Venice on dry land, Andrea Palladio, architecture, San Marco, piazzo, square, column, Basilica Palladiana
Andrea Palladio’s recreation of Venetian Piazza di S. Marco, in Vicenza

Vicenza, Palazzo del Capitaniato, Andrea Palladio, architecture, Renaissance, 16th century, Italy, Italia, Veneto
Andrea Palladio’s loggia of the Palazzo del Capitaniato in Vicenza

Vicenza, Basilica Palladiana Clocktower, Andrea Palladio, Veneto, clocktower, tower, Renaissance, architecture, Italy, Italia
Clocktower of Palladio’s Basilica Palladiana in Vicenza

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Monument Marathon

Theater of Marcellus
Theater of Marcellus

Today was unbelievable -another monument marathon: Jewish ghetto, Theater of Marcellus, Campidoglio, Santa Maria di Aracoeli, Roman Forum (more details in 2 weeks), Column and Forum of Trajan, the Colosseum (smaller than you expect, somehow), and the Arch of Constantine – including a full seminar discussion, two site presentations (Trajan and Constantine), and a brief siesta – all by 1:30 this afternoon. WHEW.

Heading home to cook dinner; wifi at the apartment is still under construction… I went to return the damn thing, but apparently, the Wind store couldn’t activate my minutes purchased last night because their internal server was down (sound familiar, Verizon customers?) They apologized and told me that it should be working otnight… Anyway I couldn’t establish a connection because I exhausted the pittance provided with the SIM card. So, hopefully tonight it will work – if not, I’m returning it tomorrow, for real.

Oh yeah, did I mention that every weekend is a three-day weekend? =) This weekend, plans include midnight Mass at Santa Maria di Trastevere and the complicated trek to the Vatican for Easter Mass and the benediction from the papal apartments. For now, enjoy some pictures of Roman ruins…

Campidoglio

Santa Maria di Aracoeli

Italian National Museum (I think?)

Roman Forum

Column and Forum of Trajan

Colosseum

Arch of Constantine

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So close! And yet so far…

Spent most of the day studying for my Rome exam, wrote my American Art paper on Maurer’s At the Shore (1901), so we’ll see how it goes tomorrow… Almost…to.. Thanksgiving…

Also, scanned, signed and uploaded some of my film prints from this past spring, check them out: here

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