Posts Tagged ‘Italy’

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

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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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Today was exhausting; didn’t get enough sleep, left the house late (but still made it to my parking space and across campus in time for my graduate seminar at 9:30), didn’t write down the reading assignment/bring the textbook for 17th C Roman Art/Architecture (ART H 400) and a whole myriad of other annoyances. Anyway, everything was relatively fine – until I saw the program fees to study in Rome spring quarter… Now, first, you have to understand that this has been an integral part of my plan since January, and none of the specific information was available until a few days ago. All in all, including the program fees, estimated expenses and air fare, the who debacle is estimated to cost (are you ready for this?) $9,500.

I was speechless. And then I cried. The program itself costs $2,500 more than the summer in Amsterdam program I did last year (probably because the program is twice as long — almost 10 weeks instead of 4.5) but I was just shocked. Now, I’m sure you’re thinking “Oh, but there are scholarships!” Unfortunately, not for debt-free middle-class white girls who wish to study in western Europe. It’s kind of ridiculous. Anyway, I’m running about trying to find money somewhere so I can go; it’s such an exceptional experience, I’m afraid to try and do it during graduate school because there are so many variables: me attending UW, UW offering the program again, the program having the same professors, the professors including the same itinerary/themes, etc. It’s scary; and I really really want this to happen, so now I just have to find a way. Sigh.

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