Sunday, April 17, 2011

It's the Final Countdown…

3 days until final jury, 12 days until the final day of the program, and 3 weeks until my flight back to the states…

Once again I ask, "where has the time gone?" It literally seems like just yesterday I had taken my very first international flight and set foot on foreign soil for the very first time in my 20 and a half years of life. Italy. A place of diversity, culture, romance, beauty, and history. An exciting new world for those of us from the "new world." I have never fallen so quickly and deeply in love with a place in my life as I have with Italy… with Europe. I will always be an American and of course I hold the utmost pride and love for where I come from but where one comes from can sometimes be different from where they belong. And even in the term belonging there are periods of temporary belonging and permanent belonging. Whichever belonging Italy may be for me, it pains me to leave so soon and I will but count the days until I can return.

For the next three days we will all be wrapped up in our final projects and working on our next theory draft and it goes without question that those days will fly by. After Wednesday we begin Easter Break and while some of us are traveling far, some of us near, with a few remaining in Rome, everyone will be trying to see the rest of what they can and enjoy the last bits of Europe while we have the few days off. Before we all know it it'll be Tuesday, the start of our very last week together in Rome. Bittersweet.

I think almost everyone here has different feelings about leaving Rome; some are most excited to go home and see family, a few could spend many more weeks before returning home, and others wish to spend just a little time home and return to Europe afterwards… But I think it is commonly felt that it is about time that the semester does come to an end and that the 20 of us (22 with Eric and Marina) disperse from each other  for  a while… I personally have such mixed feelings; I am extremely excited to see my family and friends from home and to do all the typical summer things like BBQs, boating, suntanning, and even working my two jobs this summer. I am definitely ready to be back in my own bedroom and family home but at the same time I wish, after a few weeks at home, I could return to life here. I already know how much I am going to miss the sounds and smells and adventures of everyday living in Rome. I going to miss walking everywhere, passing by the Pantheon, the Colosseum, or the Vatican whenever I feel like it. I may even die without gelato… Ice cream (and dare I say it, Abbott's Custard) can't even begin to compare to Giolitti (best gelato in Roma) or any gelato for that matter. I've already decided to pack my bag full of the large jars of Nutella (and even some of the generic Clever kind because it is so much more delicious) so I don't have to give that up just yet (though lets be real, I'll probably go through a jar a day). Then there's the homemade pasta, the exceptional nightlife, the exceptional daylife, cornetti, cafe, cappuccini, hot chocolate, pizza, panini… Via del Corso, Parco della Musica, Tiber Island, the Tempieto, the Forum, Campidoglio, Vittorio Emanuele, Campo de Fiori, the Jewish Ghetto, Largo Argentina, and our beloved Trastevere, just to name a few things.

But truthfully, the thing I am going to miss the most is the language. Speaking and hearing italian along with bits of french, german, spanish, polish and who knows what else… I'm going to miss speaking italian (or trying to speak italian), I'm going to miss hearing the conversations around me and trying to understand them, I'm gong to miss listening to people speaking english not even realizing they're speaking english. The United States is going to seem so much less diverse and cultured and intriguing when I return…

When I was first preparing to leave for Italy, my parents were extremely worried that I would have the worst homesickness and a very uneasy transition. To this day I still have not longed uncontrollably for home. There have certainly been times when I thought of home and how nice it would be to be snuggled into my bed away from everything else but I think I can honestly say that I never really missed home. It goes without saying that I miss my family and friends but the adventure and joy I've been finding here has always made the sacrifice and distance worth it. I don't miss the physical place of home or the States either. I think the harder transition for me is going to be when I'm back in the States, wanting to and not knowing when I'll be able to return to Europe. It's true what our professors have said before us leaving for Italy about the inevitable changes we were all going to go through. Not one of us is going to come back the same person from this trip as we were when we left. I think mostly the change has been for the good but only the next years will tell for sure.

Indeed I think this turned out to be a decent ramble which means it is time to turn my attention to the final project that sits before me while I have a quiet and empty studio at my resource. Ciao for now.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

We may have gotten kicked out of Paradise but I think the way there is through the south of Italy

Five days, two train rides, a boat, a bus, two professors, and twenty architecture students. Napoli, Capri, Stabiae, Pompeii, Sorento... Paradise.

The trip started off just like all the others; meet at 8 am by Largo Argentina to catch the bus to termini to catch our train to Napoli. This time however, we had David Shove-Brown, visiting us from Washington DC, accompanying us with Eric on the trip while Marina stayed in Rome for the week. We arrived in Napoli by 10 am, right on schedule, and made our way to the taxi line where we assembled our army of about 5 or 6 taxis and then held on for dear life as they weaved recklessly through the streets of Napoli. Motorini drove towards oncoming traffic in order to pass slow moving cars in their lane, taxi drivers and other cars dodged pedestrians courageously crossing the street, and I cannot recall one traffic light or sign (at least one that was being obeyed)...

We finally arrived at the hotel, quite happy to get out of the taxi and off of the roads. The hotel we stayed at was exquisite; complete with plush bedding, mouth watering breakfast, and a beautiful view from the roof terrace over the city. After meeting on the roof to take in the view and orient ourselves briefly with the city we headed off, with Dave in the lead, to the Spanish Quarter. The Spanish Quarter was an area with narrow streets that were densely populated and the buildings were organized so that restaurants, shops, cafes, etc. were located on the bottom floor with living on the levels above. The building facades were decorated with plants, clothes racks, and drying laundry while the allies and streets were draped with clothes lines, more drying laundry, and flags... American flags, Italian flags, soccer flags, and all other kinds of flags. Cars were parked any which way making the narrow streets even narrower, many cars couldn't even fit down the roads but those that could moved slowly through trying to avoid scraping or hitting up against anything while the motorini zoomed effortlessly, squeezing past obstacles.

We, ourselves, became obstacles when we stopped for a while to sketch and examine the street section but I think some of us had to put more effort into avoiding getting hit than they did trying to avoid hitting us. We also became entertainment or muse for some of the residents - one man told us how much he loved America and even started to sing to us a bit. After spending sometime exploring the Spanish Quarter we ventured to the near by Galleria Umberto, which if treated as a covered street was much different in comparison to the streets of the Spanish Quarter. Comparing the two, we once again looked at the section of the Galleria and spent time sketching. The scale of the Galleria was much larger than that of the Spanish Quarter; the building heights were about equal but the floor to height seemed much greater and the widths of the streets were about twice the size. Being the architect nerds that we are, we followed the floor patterns beneath the dome of the galleria and positioned ourselves to form the dome... since there were only 20 of us we were not able to complete the circle but some curious bystanders decided to join in and help us (though I'm pretty sure some of them had no idea what we were doing, or why). Even a group of old men that had been standing near the circle bickering in italian the whole time we were sketching, suspended their discussion long enough to jump into the circle and get their picture taken. Oh the things we do for architecture…

Spanish Quarter

Galleria Umberto

After creating the circle of life with the locals we broke for lunch in the area of the galleria. Some of us ended up eating at a place full of pre-made treats including sandwiches, quiche, pasta, pizza, fried pizza, and other things I don't know the name or contents of. Lunch was both delicious and quite inexpensive compared to Roma. I shamefully topped off my lunch with a sicilian cannolo (known to americans as cannoli which is actually plural... I only had one) but it was necessary. After lunch, Dave lead us throughout the city stopping at Piazza Plebiscito passing by the teatro and lingering at Castel Nuovo. 

Piazza Plebiscito

Piazza Plebiscito

Castel Nuovo

We also passed by and briefly discussed  multiple examples of fascist architecture on our way to Cathedral di Napoli where we stopped to sketch for a while… The Cathedral of Napoli is actually 3 separated church structures joined under one church; there is a small rectangular plan church to the left of the main church and a small centralized church with a dome to the right of the main church. 

Oh Fascist Architecture

Cathedral di Napoli

Main part of the church

Church One

Church Two

As the conclusion to the day, we visited 

Naples National Archaeological Museum where we spend a short time admiring the paintings, statues, and artifacts in each room until each of us decided our legs and feet were too tired to stand or walk any longer. We were able to see some artifacts and other displays from Pompei which was a good preface for our trip there later in the week. After we dragged ourselves back to the hotel to collapse for a brief second and regather, Dave (and the program) treated us to a nice meal at Pizzeria Brandi (the supposed birthplace of the margarita Pizza). I ordered a variation on the margarita pizza which included vegetables and was so delicious I had to finish the whole thing (of course). Everyone really seemed to enjoy the meal and the company was as fine as ever. We enjoyed a little dessert to ensure our stomachs were stuffed to their limit.

Day 2:
So before we arrived in Southern Italy, Dave informed us of the amazing breakfast served at our hotel and suggested we get up extra early to enjoy it. All I have to say is I'm glad I listened to him. It was the first time since we got to Europe that I personally have had eggs for breakfast that I didn't cook myself and bacon. There was also three different types of juice, an assortment of pasties/cornetti (chocolate or cream filled is the best), fruits, cereals, and of course all you can drink (essentially) cappuccino, cafe, or tea. The hotel's breakfast was just what we needed to start the day with good food and fuel for the day. 

Our day started with a short walk to the harbor where we picked up the ferry to Capri which was roughly 45 minutes to an hour. Our way there was pretty smooth sailing and, I must admit, perfect napping time. We arrived in the Marina Grande of Capri. As we filed of off the boat we couldn't believe how beautiful the whole area was. To get up the mountains from the Marina Grande to the city center of Capri we took the funiculare, which is sort of like an inclined tram that moves up the mountain at a steep slope. 

Me in Capri :)
(View once arriving at the City Center via the funiculare)

Our activities for the day required a bit of a hike so we did not linger too long initially in the city center of Capri. We stopped off at a local place to pick up our sandwiches and snacks for the day and then began our long walk through the island. Throughout our walk the weather became much warmer and the sites and views seemed to get more beautiful the further we went. Eventually we no longer passed houses or businesses and followed the single path through the natural landscape. Our final destination; Casa Malaparte.

The view along our walk to Casa Malaparte

We were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit and spend the day at Casa Malaparte, a house rich with architectural and cultural history. Our school has connections with the owners and foundation which runs the house and I believe that CUArch donates to the house. We are the only school currently allowed to visit. Photographs within the property gates are only allowed to be taken by approved individuals so we were not allowed any private photos within the property except for Dave, our professor and Assistant Dean, who has a long history with the family. We were allowed to take photos from just outside the gate looking down towards the house.

First glimpse of Casa Malaparte

So Picturesque

The views the whole way to Casa Malaparte were beyond breathtaking and once we got to the place where we could finally see the house it seemed like true paradise. The views from the house themselves were even better and I concluded to myself that God must vacation at Casa Malaparte… you can quote me. The roof of the house seems to stretch out from the mountain landscape and over the crystal blue water and gets lost in the clear blue sky. Accessible by the stairs that make up the whole side elevation, the roof was the most amazing place to sit or lay sketching and soaking up the warm sun. Pretty much any place on the property greeted guests with beyond beautiful views and colors always thought only to exist in one's imagination. Even within the house this remains true; Malaparte decided where windows and openings should be based on views he wished to frame. Windows hang in the house like frames, bordering the living art of the surrounding landscape. 

Sketching on the roof overlooking the water
(Photo Courtesy of David Shove-Brown)

After a magical day spent at Casa Malaparte it was time to return to the city center where we were allowed about an hour to explore or shop before returning down the hill and on to another ferry to bring us back to the mainland. We were fortunate enough to have dazzling clear blue skies the whole day we were at Casa Malaparte but upon our return to the city center gray skies rolled in from across the water in the most eerie way. Soon after the rain began; at first soft and then much heavier but thankfully it wasn't long until our ferry back to Napoli. Needless to say the ferry ride back was much rougher than the initial voyage of the day and it was probably a good thing we didn't consume large amounts of food prior. Unfortunately we had to endure the sound of a large buoy that had become loose and fell down from the top of the ferry getting violently tossed against the window closest to us the whole. ride. home.

Day 3:
After starting off the morning as the day previous with a delicious breakfast at the hotel, it was time to move out of the hotel and head onto the next destination. We were met in the lobby by Audrey from Vesuvian International Institute, the coordinator for their Restoring Ancient Stabiae Foundation. Audrey would be our go to person for the last part of our trip while we stayed in Stabiae. We all followed Audrey down a couple streets were we met our tour bus for the day. The day consisted of three stops on our way to Stabiae; Cumae, Baia, and Pozzuoli. 


Temple of Jupiter

Ancient jacuzzi?

Arches at Temple of Jupiter
(also good for sitting and sketching)


Cave of the Cumaean Sibyl
(Where the Sibyl was thought to have prophesied)

Walking back down from Temple of Jupiter
(Photo Courtesy of David Shove-Brown)




Flavian Amphitheater (Pozzuoli)

Under the Amphitheater
(Gladiator and animal level)

After spending the day exploring and sketching at the ruins, we continued our way to Castellammare di Stabia (or Stabiae) where we were to stay at the Vesuvian International Institute. The institute occupies a curved building that opens up towards the water which incredible views over the city. Behind the building are a couple "fields" where local kids meet to play soccer. The "fields" are actually more like paved courts or parking lot minus the cars…

View from our housing in Stabiae

After getting settled in a couple of us went on one of the smaller fields to play basketball and soccer while others went exploring through Stabiae or down by the water. Dinner was served at the institute at 8 and then the group went out for a round of drinks with our two professors before calling it a night and returning to the institute. Unfortunately, some of us decided to fill the elevator with one person more than the elevators limit and found ourselves stuck in a hot, cramped elevator for about 20 minutes until Dave was able to get staff from the institute to bring the elevator back down to the ground floor and let us out. Horrible experience. Never again did I get in that elevator when there was more than about 3 people in it. But looking back it is definitely a humorous story.

Day 4:
My survival from the elevator was well rewarded when we headed to catch the metro in the morning to Pompeii (or Pompei - depending on the language I guess…). First we stopped at a little placed called Cafe 2000 where the most delicious cafe drink exists; cappuccino freddo (thanks Dave!) and then it was onward to Pompeii. The day in Pompeii was beautiful (a bit repetitive, I know, but I guess that's just what it's like in Paradise… I mean Southern Italy). It was extremely crowded but we were able to get around easily enough and saw a lot as a group. At about lunch time we were given a sketching assignment and then broke to eat and go off on our own.


Merchant store in Pompei

Rich Family's Courtyard

Amphitheater in Pompeii

Details in the baths

Baths at Pompei


For the end of the day we were given the option of spending more time in Pompeii, visiting Sorrento, climbing Mount Vitruvius or visiting recently excavated villas in Stabiae. I chose to visit Sorrento which, once again, was beautiful. We were extremely lucky with the weather the whole trip but I'm pretty sure even in the rain everything would still look incredible. We followed Dave to a spot in Sorrento overlooking the water where you could look back towards Pompeii and Mount Vitruvius and then followed him past some of the important architectural pieces of Sorrento and down the good shopping streets. Eventually we all parted ways and did exploring or shopping of our own before calling it a day and deriving our way back to the station to catch our train to Stabiae.

Good Afternoon Sorrento


Outside Cafe 2000 after ordering
the delicious cappuccino freddo

Even though we had spent the whole day on our feet some of us upon returning to the institute quickly changed and made our way out to the soccer courts. I quickly ended up retrieving the balls that a couple of the local hits kept hitting over the fence to our court and was asked if I played soccer and invited to play with them. After a while of doing corner kicks, throw ins, and shooting with the pre-teen italian boys, the coach of the young italian boys (probably about 7 year olds…the players, not the coach) stole me 

(yes stole, didn't feel I really had a choice) 
to come play in the scrimmage for their practice. I got the position of defense while Dave Shove-Brown got the task of the opposing team goalie to make the teams a little more fair. I have to admit, I have never been bossed around on the soccer field so much in my life. My little goal keeper Daniel (Daniele in Italian) spoke better english than I spoke italian and always told me right where he wanted to me be or who he wanted me to be guarding. These little boys are tough too. Now I know why Italians are so good at soccer; first of all in the US we don't have our little kids play soccer on pavement, grass is softer when they fall. If they fall in the US, coaches or parents generally fawn and fuss over the child even if they don't even have a scratch. To start off, this little boys were essentially playing on pavement covered with loose rocks and whenever they fell they either got right back up or the coach told them (nicely of course) to get back up. If they got kicked or fell they only acted hurt for a second and if they sat out the attention they received was as if their team needed them. I watched the little boys push, elbow, and kick each other. If another boy fouled they they didn't cry they just got angry and played harder. One little boy got a bloody nose stopped long enough to stop the bleeding and then ended up with another one not long after and looked more upset about having to stop playing for a little bit then about his nose. This was like a whole different breed of kids compared to american children… Maybe that explains why Dave ended up with two dislocated fingers by the end of the first half which I almost vomited when I saw move once the kids pulled off his goalie gloves (hope your hand is better Dave!).

After finishing the scrimmage with the younger kids with a fun little shoot off (my team won by the way) , I moved to the adjacent field where a couple of our guys were playing a full field game with the pre-teen/teenage italians. I was allowed to join the game but quickly it became obvious that I was somewhat their joke or entertainment even though I'm just as good at soccer/athletic as our guys that were playing. Naturally this pissed me off a little bit, especially when the italian guys were trying to show off against me with ball tricks and showboating. So I decided to give them a taste of their own medicine; shutting down their tricks with patience and seeming little effort, knocking down one of their own at one point (not necessarily on purpose), launching the goal kick more than halfway down the field, and showing some muscle on the throw ins. Slowly the boys started to just embarrass themselves against me and eventually Bridget rallied a little fan club complete with local italian boys by my goal. I understand that Italy is much different from the US and they're not used to girls playing sports with or against them but it was certainly frustrating having to prove myself to them when I shouldn't have to. Kicking their butts was pretty fun though too and their reaction to me playing aggressive or to their tricks getting stopped by me was well worth the initial frustration.

After dinner we all decided to stay at the institute for the night and spent most of it on the balcony watching the sunset, enjoying the fresh air, and gazing at the stars. We had a lot of "family bonding time" and many laughs playing the ha-ha game and talking. There was even a short dance off before retiring to our rooms for the night.

Day 5:
Our last day of the trip found ourselves with the option of spending the day in Stabiae or heading to Herculaneum. I chose to spend the day in Stabiae which started off with another delicious cappuccino freddo, a little sketching, and some exploring. Many of us had intended on spending the second part of the day going up the mountain on the gondola lift and looking over the city. When we went to buy tickets we were told the gondola was closed which we thought was really strange until we went outside, looked up at the gondola cables, and saw the gondola dangling somewhere in the middle of the cable as if it wasn't attached quite right. As disappointed as we were not to get to go up the mountain, we're just happy we weren't dangling from the gondola somewhere in the middle or that they didn't try to test run it with us. Instead of journeying up the mountain, we decided to browse our way passed the shops, stopped into the cathedral and then stopped at the park benches to eat lunch and enjoy the sunshine. 

Cathedral of Castellammare

 Interior of the dome

 Side aisle

Angel in the church

Before we knew it it was time to grab our luggage from the institute, head to the metro and catch the other group on our way to the Napoli train station. The day finished with some down time in the station waiting for our train back to Rome, a smooth train ride, and dinner out at a pizzeria in Trastevere for whoever wanted to come.

Dave ended his trip with us the next night with a group/program dinner at a restaurant near Piazza Navona called Old Bear. We were reunited with Marina who didn't accompany us on the trip, had a delicious dinner, and a nice farewell for Dave as he continued on his journey to Barcelona. Then it was back to studio on Monday...

Monday, April 11, 2011

AS Roma Game vs. Juventus

Got to the game nice and early…
Row 11, not too shabby

The girls pumped for the game

Billy and Me excited for the game!

Stadium starting to get crowded

Look to the left...

and look to the right...

Almost game time

AS Roma colored smoke

Stands are full

with Roma fans!

More smoke during the game