Thursday, June 26, 2008

Retrospective

During my stay here in Rome I decided to really become familiar with three aspects of the Eternal City.
My first theme was Piazzas. I chose this because there are so many in Rome, and also many other places in Italy. The piazzas are a place for people to come together and social, eat, and find entertainment. In most Piazzas there are people who are performing musical instruments, painting, or selling merchandise. Hanging out in the Piazzas is something that I am definitely going to miss when I go back to the United States in a couple of days.
I also wanted to try all of the different kinds of pasta that are offered in the place where the food originated. I found out how Italians eat their meals including pasta in the first course following a meat dish. There are many products sold here that are also used everyday in the United States like the Barilla product. I have tried red, cream, and seafood sauces. In the apartment some of the girls and I have attempted to make dishes like Cannelloni. I have surely eaten my fair share of pasta since I have been in Italy. A lot of people have said that they are so sick of eating pasta that they don’t want to have it again for a while. I think that I may be the only person who is dying to have my mom’s homemade pasta sauce on Sunday for dinner with my entire family.
Last but not least I chose to learn about the different types of things people were selling on the side of the street and in tiny shops along hidden alleyways. I have come across a variety of different vendors. There are handcrafted paintings, jewelry, and shoes. I have seen people selling counterfeited purses to tourists and gathering them quickly from the ground when police come into sight. Depending on what town you are in the vendors will change according to their particular trademark, such as the Venetian festival masks in water-filled northern city. The vendors served as a great place to buy cheap t-shirts as souvenirs for friends back home.

A little bit of Pasta History

Most believe that it was the legendary Marco Polo who brought pasta to Italy from China, but the truth is that it has been around long before h ever left for the orient. It is most likely that during the 8th century as invasions into Arab lands occurred, pasta was returned to Sicily. There the word macaroni originated meaning, making dough forcefully, which is how it was originally created. Dry hard pasta as we know of today did not become popular until the 14th century when its ability to last a long time and its nutritional value made it more common for Italians. Furthermore, advancements to the production of pasta made it an easier task than just an all day work task. Pasta continued to grow and become more popular in the Mediterranean diet. But after the discovery of tomatoes in the Americas, pasta was paired with the sauce that is still used today.

Demetri, Justin. “History of Pasta.” Pasta History. Life in Italy. 6/25/08.<http://www.lifeinitaly.com/food/pasta-history.asp>

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bibbiena Tuscany




This is the villa where my parents stayed in Bibbiena, Tuscany. I was so excited to get away from the busy city and run around in a grassy field. There were two different covered patios to eat and hangout that were decorated with millions of tiny red flowers. Each of the bedrooms in the villa had themes with the colors red, pink, blue and green. The furniture consisted of dark antique wood to match the Tuscan atmosphere. The d├ęcor was exactly what I had always imagined an Italian villa would look like. Terra-cotta tiles covered every inch of the floor. The villa was split into two sections with the family owners living in the one side. The villa has been passed down through generations.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The square in Positano


There was a little square in Positano called Piazza Dei Mulini. The piazza was different than all of the other squares that I have seen in Italy. There were ceramic pottery shops and clothing boutiques lining both sides of the premises. The square had a hilly street coming off of it that appeared to be a tunnel because of all the purple flowers that were covering the distance between the walls of the alley.

Along the way there were tables set up against the wall filled with beaded jewelry and paintings for sale. The small road led you down to another piazza where there were artists painting scenic pictures in pastels or watercolors. There were lithographs available for a reasonable price, but I really wanted to buy an original copy even though they started at 100 euro a piece for the smallest size. The piazza overlooks a beach with vacationers laying under the sun or swimming in the Mediterranean Sea. There was another small street that stemmed in the opposite direction that led you to the Positano Bell Tower. Since it only takes ten minutes to walk the entire length of the town, the loud chime of the bells can be heard every morning from any location.

While we were in Positano there was a big annual festival that was going on. It was a celebration of San Vito, the protector of the small southern town. There were different performances throughout the day. There were young men dressed in skirts dancing with large red and white flags to entertain the guests at the piazza. At one point during the day there was also a band that marched through the town playing trumpets and clarinets.

If you were to walk up the steps to the right of the piazza there was a port that had ferries available to take tourists to the island of Capri and the Amalfi Coast. There were even private boats that offered excursion tours through the grottos of Capri. My parents and I walked around piazza all day browsing around the different shops and sitting by the dock watching the boats drive by filled with passengers. The town closes its hotels in the winter because not many tourists usually come to visit, but the stores and restaurants in the piazza normally stay open for local residents of towns close by.

A walk through the piazzas

Yesterday I went on a walk with my small group through the piazzas in the northern part of the city. We started by taking the metro to Piazza Della Repubblica where the group was assigned to meet. We walked up through the Pinico Gardens trying to walk on the side of the street that had the most shade because it was such a hot day.

While we were walking through the gardens we noticed a movie set but hadn’t stopped because we didn’t think anything of it. Suddenly a staff crew had stopped us on the side of the road indicating that they were about to shoot a scene from the upcoming movie Angels and Demons. The scene involved various cars and vespas speeding down the street. The first car had a camera tied onto the back of it to catch the action shot. Tom Hanks was supposedly at the shoot but he was nowhere in sight. After we got the signal that it was okay to pass we walked down the Spanish Steps to Bernini’s Fountain of the Barcaccia where the water was safe to use for hydration. The Spanish Steps are supposed to be decorated with beautiful flowers during the springtime but I haven’t seen them yet since I have been in Rome.

We continued walking straight through Piazza Barberini where there stood Bernini’s Fountain of Triton. From here I was nervous where exactly to lead the group because it was difficult to find the street signs in the smaller alleyways. When we arrived at Piazza Della Repubblica I was proud to say that the hand sketched map I had drawn and planned out directions through the piazzas were a success.

Activities in Positano

Something different that I also came across while I was in Positano was the activities available for everyone to partake in. Along the side of the beach was an area set up with a few carnival games. The games consisted of throwing a ball to knock over the bottle and another one with the same idea only this one you would use a gun to shoot over the object. The targets were a close distance from where you would stand to make your attempt at hitting the bottles. This made it easier to win a small prize. It wasn’t like at the carnivals or boardwalk games where they make it almost impossible to win. Almost everyone walked away with a souvenir. Most of the mementos offered were stuffed animals or little sand toys.

Painted ceramic pottery was also a huge deal in the small town. Many of the little shops contained hand decorated household items. There were mugs, plates, salt and pepper shakers, ash trays, and tea pots. Everything was priced at varying costs according to the size and detail of the piece. They were great gift ideas for my family and friends at home!

My visit to the Sistine Chapel

The Vatican museums took hours to get through and I didn’t even get to look at every piece of art. Some of the masterpieces that I passed while in the museum that I really enjoyed were the Laocoon, and the School of Athens. When I finally got to the Sistine Chapel there were crowds of people taking sitting along the sides of the room admiring all of frescoes that covered the walls. The Last Judgment consumed the entire back wall behind the altar. After seeing the elaborately detailed paintings it was no surprise to me that it took Michelangelo seven years to complete the project. The entire length of the wall was covered in souls of the dead floating up to face God. They were drawn with such detail in their facial features and muscular tones. Even though the painting didn’t reflect the faith of Michelangelo, it was ordered by Pope Paul III Farnese to warn all Catholics to remain faithful during the reformation.

When I looked up to the ceiling of the chapel I noticed the Creation of the Sun and Moon on the side of the painting closest to The Last Judgment. The whole picture was colored in black and white except for the sun and God’s sash clothing. Michelangelo did a great job of displaying the terrifying face of God as he is commanding the sun to light up the earth. I kept looking up at each individual painting and stopped for a couple minutes when I reached the Adam and Eve. In this picture God is reaching out his finger to Adam to pass on the spark of life. Another famous painting in the Chapel is The Original Sin. It was painted to demonstrate a woman whose legs turned into the snake of Satan after Adam and Eve tasted the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. There was so much to look at in the Sistine Chapel I could have been there for hours examining the detail of the famous paintings. I’m so happy that I didn’t leave Rome without getting to see the legendary site.