travel

Matera

Matera Sassi Matera Sassi Sunset Matera Matera

Finally I had the chance to visit Matera and was not at all disappointed. Although I left more confused aout the history of Matera than I started, although it is one of the longest inhabited towns in the world, the only history the town was very interested in pushing was that of the early 1900’s and the poverty of the Sassi.

There are plenty opportunities in the town to see what the Sassi houses looked like, but the best part of the trip was a hike through the Murgia park, where there are many prehistoric caves and rock churches.

If you visit I definitely recommend staying in the Sassi, eating at Ristorante Francesca (greatest staff and ricotta cake ever)!

Rabat Coast waves

The Highlights of Morocco

This past Spring Break I finally got the chance to travel to Morocco! My friends and I traveled to Marrakech, Rabat and Fes, spending two days in each city. Overall I would have to say Rabat was my favorite, besides being the only place we weren’t harrased, it has the coast an beautiful gardens! Every city we went we visited the Medina, although full of life with plenty to see, it was very tiring. We were lucky enough to tag a long with a study group for a tour of Fes’ Medina and that was one of the best times. I would reccommend getting a guide, it makes the medinas seem just a bit more relaxed. I never got the chance to take an excursion into the desert, but it is at the top of my list for next time!

In Marrakech: don’t miss the Ben Youssef Madrasa, it is confusing to walk to but absolutely stunning! All the mosques in Morocco are closed to non-muslims, but the Madrasa’s are open, usually for a price of 10dh (that is only about 1$).

Rabat: the Casbah gardens, and be sure to grab something at the cafe inside the gardens which look over the coast.

Fes: Try to find the Foondooq, where the weavers make scarves and tapestries. The word literally means hotel, but this is an open building where you can see massive looms set up and buy some beautiful cloth!

The details of Michelangelo’s David

052    On March 6th, the anniversary of Michelangelo Buonarrotti’s birthday I had the chance to finally visit the David. Upon walking into the Accademia there is no excitement, the first room is yellow tinted with unappealing lighting. In the center stands an early cast of Rape of the Sabines by Giambologna, the walls carry scattered paintings. Turn left and you enter a long hallway where suddenly the David strikes you. The hallway includes a number of statues by Michelangelo as well but they are impossible to focus on when there is the beacon of natural light meeting marble at then end of the hall.

It is impossible not to rush straight ahead to the David. He stands on a pediment, and although I have seen the one in Piazza della Signoria, I thought the real statue was smaller. This massive larger than life statue holds your attention. A large part of this is due to its position.  A jewel of the museum it is almost as if the museum was built around this statue, rather than having it moved there later.

Michelangelo David Florence

 

When I imagined David smaller, I imagined the viewer could meet his gaze, whereas in reality Michelangelo’s ability to create moving emotion shows through and David intently looks up to his left, as if meeting the gaze of Goliath.  In reality, it originally looked to Rome, a message sent from the Medici Democracy to the Papal State.

While his gaze does not meet the views, the strong aspect of his hand and his overall presence within the space is enough to complete a sense of awe.

Michelangelo's David Gaze Michelangelo's David, Hand detail

Once the viewer can pull themselves back into the moment, away from the statue, the other statues in the hall become clearer. Of these 6 other statues, 4 are Michelangelo’s unfinished Slaves, meant to be placed on the Pope Julius II tomb. While they may not seem “beautiful” in our eyes that are trained to see finished works as beautiful, they reveal a new part of the process. How does a block of marble become an inspiring work of art? Michelangelo carved from the front back, having the figures emerge. When looking at these however, it appears the reverse, that the figures are slowly melting back into the marble.

Bar, Food, Grilled Cheese, Tomato Soup, Rome,

Trying something new: Tales of the Table

As this is my last semester, I decided to jump out of my normal zone, also somewhat as a way of distancing myself from Archaeology and more Roman history. So, I took Online Journalism, still a little nervous as I am bad at talking to people, but I thought it would be fun and another great way to use my photos. So I chose to focus on Food, but more than that, how food is in our culture and what it means to people. It won’t be a constant line of reviews, or recipes, but more of individual stories surrounding food.

My first story was about Michele Ferrero‘s death, as it was meant to be a “hard news” story, you can read it, and future posts on Food here: www.talesofthetable.weebly.com

I hope this new blog will be able to push my comfort zone and get out there talking to more people throughout Rome!

Side note: weebly is so frustrating, I wish we could just use WordPress.

My next piece will focus on the culture of Aperitivo in Rome, and hopefully further through Italy. If you have any great aperitivo spots or stories let me know and I will include them!

London, Further Adventures into the British Museum

Here is a fun fact: The British Museum only received about 12 million in donations 3 years ago, last year, that number was 44 million. There is what my thesis is based on, and why I traveled to finally visit the Museum I had always dreamed about. I will be honest, I was still picturing it a bit like the Museum in The Mummy, which it was not.  There is such an impressive collection, but nothing really follows a path, it seems to mixed, not leading a visitor down any chronological path (even the Cairo Museum does at least that). Maybe there is one, but it was not very clear (note: i didn’t bother to buy the guide to the museum so maybe I missed something). One of the most interesting rooms of the museum was The Enlightenment, this room leads you through the ideals and philosophies of the period of the Enlightenment, all in a long corridor like room which is decorated as a library and “Cabinet of Curiosities“, it really is amazing, but unfortunately also dark, so I have no pictures.

British Museum Roof Assyrian British Museum London Assyrian Religion London British Museum British Museum Asia 149

 

I only managed to visit one other museum which was The National Gallery. However, after hearing rumors they have attempted to cut their staff, they also closed more than half the halls due to “lack of staff”, as the staff has since gone on strike. I missed the impressionists, but at least caught the famous Van Eyck.

London, The First Day: Covenant Garden

It may be a little late, but if you didn’t know, last week I went to London. I never planned on going, I have never really wanted to. But I went for my thesis (which will be on the marketing and finances of the British Museum), and found out I actually really liked it! Love is too strong a word for someone who was raised by a politically active, Sinn Fein, Irish American mother, so lets stick with really like.

Covnant Garden Food

Althoughit was cold, I managed quite a bit of exploring, my favorite spot being Covenant Garden by far. I found I loved being in a city that functioned, unlike Rome, but of course after 3 days I did miss my old city.

London Telephone Booth Vespa in London Corner Double Decker Bus in London Golden Eagle overlooking London Eye

The first day was spent learning to understand the tube (why can’t you all just call it the metro, like everyone else) and finding Shake Shack, as our goal with trip was to try all the food we can never get in Italy. The only thing that was disappointing was the 6 pounds for a small burger… go ahead and put that into a conversion, it will make you cry.

Shake Shack then turned into all the amazing food in Covenant Garden, and a walk over to Big Ben, and an attempt at Westminster Abbey.

Big Ben London Big Ben and London Eye Westminster Abbey, London

I was most excited to see Westminster Abbey, as I find it hard to visit any country without going into any church, and well this is the church of London. Unfortunately it costs 20 pounds to see the inside. Yep, 20 pounds… I will convert that for you 30.80 USD, per person, for a church. For a country that gives access to free culture through museums, apparently churches didn’t make that deal. I may be a bit spoiled though, being in Rome, where all churches (and water) is free. The fact that I didn’t get to see this church was probably my biggest regret of the trip, but I am a student and was not about to hand that money over. The outside though is absolutely stunning.

Note on photos: I decided only to bring my 35mm lens and was so happy with the results, I shot entirely in Manual for the first trip ever and I have never been prouder of my photos!

Avoiding the Vatican Museums

The last Sunday of every month, the Vatican Museums are free, if you are planning a trip on a budget you might want to think about that. But, there is also no limit to the amount of people going in. So while you may be able to get in, passing through the line which reaches all the way to Colonnade, after only a 40 minute wait, the museum will be so packed you really won’t be able to see much. Instead, I just waited for our students to be done, but had a look around the Vatican City while waiting. Carabinieri Vatican Capes Vatican Street Black and white Vatican Street Peek into Saint Peter's 026

Hey Berlin, I guess you’re pretty awesome.

011Though I was meant to travel to Berlin as part of a class trip, I decided last minute I would more enjoy the freedom and still went with the class, however not for credit. I stayed in Berlin only from Thursday afternoon to Sunday, and,  well I liked it, but it wasn’t very special. Berlin isn’t like Italy where suddenly you feel in love and can’t stop thinking about anything else. But it was beautiful, it had chai lattes and foliage, it had cute cafes with free wifi, fries with jalapeno cheddar sauce and delicious Indian food. Also, let us not forget,  4euro cocktails at every restaurant and great beer. So yeah, mix all that with the fact that Germany now is offering FREE college tuition, including many a MA program in English, I can do that.

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I stayed in Mitte, on a street surrounded by prostitutes, who look like that girl who turned herself into a Barbie. They all wear knee high heeled boots (with laces), corsets that make their waist the size of my arm, yet somehow huge breasts… all long straight hair, either totally blonde or totally black. These ladies are also apparently not easy. Our first night we bought two 6-packs of delicious Berliner Beer, along with salads and hummus, oh and some fancy wine coolers. Side note: whenever visiting a new country, just buy everything you have never seen before.  Restaurants in Berlin apparently all close by 10:30 so we sat at a closed one and observed the ladies of the night. Well they do say no, quite often, or they try to do that little put up a fight thing for interest, not sure. It was closing in on 1am and only two girls were left, one kept approaching men straight up, but always only if they were in two. She never got a client. Another just turned away everyone. I have never been so amused it takes people watching to a whole new level.297

Another thing I noticed: German people are so unhappy, and mean. Seriously, except for the guy who owned (we think, or at least worked at) Espresso Ambulanz, who was so happy to explain every type of Chai to us. Listen if you are one of these grumpy Germans you need to stop taking what you have for granted. You have FREE education, do you understand? You have yummy beer and soup. You have legit cafes. You have bio stores on every block, and right next to that a delicious currywurst, kebab or fries place! See, there is something for everyone. You also don’t necessarily have to pay for your metro, oh yeah, you have a legit metro. You don’t have a gypsy problem (side story: the only gypsy was outside the monument to Roma people who died in the holocaust….she was attempting to trick  two guys next to me…hmmm). You have DUNKIN DONUTS AND BEN AND JERRYS. Ok so it is a lot about the food.  But also you have the potential for jobs, a functioning government and economy, fall weather, and lots of pretty museums, oh and great style by the way.  So please, cheer up.317

A few examples of grumpy Berlin residents, let us start with the Museum Workers. Listen, I am an archaeology and art history, I understand the fear of hurting your precious colonist trophies.  But the museums are hot, obviously I have a jacket which I want to take off, in fact it’s only a cardigan, I don’t think I can hurt anything by carrying it in my arm, so stop yelling at me. Also, you paid for that expensive  glass protection, I do believe my standing a little close in order to see the artifact, which is a foot behind glass, will hurt anyone. And I still say your Nefertiti is fake. And what is your obsession with taking whole buildings, can’t you be happy with a few artifacts. What would the Middle East be with the Ishtar Gate, the Temple of Inanna, or the Palace from Samarra?

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Next, The Old Lady on the Street: It was a quiet Sunday morning, no one on the giant sidewalk, when a friend and I stopped to admire a sign. At the same time a woman was walking in the same path of us, she stopped directly in front of my friend, sassed her in german, my friend then surprised moved to the side, to which the woman responded Danke, and continued walking in a straight path.

So although Germany was a bit strange, I think I could live there, and by that I mean if there is free education and jobs in English, at least I don’t have to go back to the States just yet.209

Oh and if you go, GO TO THE DDR MUSEUM, you will not regret it, but more on that later.

A Day with Dante

A few weeks ago I was staying in Riccione and had the chance to take a day exploring historic Rimini and Ravenna.  Both of these cities played an important role in the life of Dante, which is exactly why I wanted to visit.

Rimini, though more famously known as one of the best beach vacation spots actually has a fascinating historic center, which houses the Malatesta Temple, the official cathedral of the Malatesta family. The same Malatesta family included in Dante’s Inferno, Paolo Malatesta and his brothers wife Francesca da Polenta who found themselves committing adultery were both murdered by Giovanni Malatesta . The Malatesta family held power over Rimini for hundreds of years, beginning in 1295. They were a family of Guelphs and took power when their enemies the Ghibelline’s were run out of Rimini.

The Temple however was built in 1458 by architect Leon Battista Alberti, and  Matteo di Andrea de’ Pasti. The intent was for this to be a Mausoleam for Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta and his lover Isotta degli Atti. The temple was to have a dome based off the Pantheon and it would have been the largest in all of Italy, however, it was never built, as the family was running out of money. The building we see today is how it was left in 1466.

I had breakfast just around the corner (with a delicious cornetto based off chocolate rice krispies!) with a beautiful view of the Temple, on my right I could see straight down the street to the main historic square. It was around 9 and the city was busy, yet quite. Everyone rode bikes, in fact there was a three sided bike stand with bikes piled on each other, each bike with a basket that often contained if not a meal, a small child riding around with their family.

Malatesta Temple

Malatesta Temple

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Inside the Malatesta Temple

Inside the Malatesta Temple

Inside the Malatesta Temple

Inside the Malatesta Temple

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From Rimini I took the train to Ravenna, about a two hour ride. Ravenna was the capital of the Western Roman empire from 402 to 476, the entire city essentially is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Best known for it’s amazing Byzantine and Medieval mosaics, it also happens to have Dante’s tomb, where his actual remains rest (as opposed to his tomb in Florence), and be an amazing cultural center. I mainly visited due to the fact I had heard amazing things about the churches and mosaics but then when I found out Dante was laid to rest there, I couldn’t miss it.

Thankfully I was able to see his tomb, just before they closed it for cleaning. I spent some time in the courtyard just taking it all in. Suddenly this experience made me realize how real Dante was, how real all his characters and his words were. We study him so often as an example of literature or of politics but we think of all the characters as figments of a long distant history. Being in the spot he wrote, in and about, and being near to his last resting place suddenly the reality sinks in.

I was very happy to see all the mosaics and early churches, the most beautiful of which was San Vitale, but I was most happy to see the small tomb.

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Examples of some of the more interesting medieval mosaics of Ravenna.

Examples of some of the more interesting medieval mosaics of Ravenna.

The entire street Dante's tomb is on is a silent zone.

The entire street Dante’s tomb is on is a silent zone.

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The courtyard of Dante's tomb.

The courtyard of Dante’s tomb.

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San Vitale

San Vitale

San Vitale

San Vitale

Venice Collection

I have many photos of Venice, so I put together a little gallery! In Rome finals are just finishing up and I have been a little too busy to go out and do anything, but I will have new adventures soon I am sure!

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