Thursday, March 26, 2009

Beautiful, Enchanting, Wonderful ROME - Day 1

Ah. Rome, Rome, Rome.
My favorite (and third and final) stop of our first ten day trip.

We arrived in Rome on February 3rd from Siena around 7:15PM and took a bus from the train station directly to our hotel. One major bonus that came from our stint in Rome was our accomodations while visiting. Apparently, students from the previous semester stayed in a different hotel, one that the administrative assistant is convinced gave them bed bugs, which followed all the way back to the Villa here in Genoa. BIG aftermath as you can imagine. From their demise comes our favor. Due to this unfortunate happening, our administrative assistant booked us in one classy, fancy hotel. Albergo Santa Chiara definitely played a role in our excellent Rome experience!! Directly behind our hotel (and in full view from our room) was the Pantheon. Yeah. :)

Albergo Santa Chiara

That evening, we settled in our fabulous room (by the SO pays off to be married while traveling on these trips; you and your hubby get SUPER nice rooms ALONE while everyone else has to share like back in the college dorm days!!! YAY!!) then headed out to find a relatively cheap, local bite to eat. It was fairly close to the hotel and turned out to be pretty good!! They had a deal where you got an appetizer, entree, and your drink for 11 euros. Not bad, not bad. I opted for the spaghetti, which really wasn't that bad, but the hubby got lasagna and it was delicious!!! Of course afterwards, we got some gelato at a gelateria that was close by the hotel and on our walk home. Shortly after, it was to bed so that we could be up bright and early to discover Roma!!!!

Me and my love, with Bernhard, the professor for the Genoa program.

Day 1 in Roma:
For our first day in Rome, we weren't to meet with our guest professor, Terry Kirk until 1PM that day. So very nice of our professors to give us some free time!! So, being incredibly exhausted from going, going, going.....Jonny and I took advantage of the morning and slept in. ;) We finally awoke and decided to hit the ground running by making a visit to none other than THE Colosseum. For whatever reason, I have NO idea why, a visit to the Colosseum as a class was actually NOT on our itenirary for our time spent in Rome...I know. I was floored.

Anywho, we actually ended up taking the long walk there, so it by the time we arrived, we only had the chance to walk around the outside of the Colosseum but couldn't spare the time to buy tickets and go in. We spent about 30 or so minutes taking pictures before we met up with a Derrick, Heather N., Lura, Heather B., Po, Amy, and Harrison to grab lunch and head to our meeting place, Piazza Del Campidoglio, for our time with Professor Kirk.

Professor Terry Kirk

Upon meeting up with the rest of the group we then spent the remainder of the afternoon and into the late evening with Professor Kirk. We started at Piazza del Campidoglio, by Michelangelo, a center with several government buildings and a present day area where people gather to sit and read, have lunch, or just enjoy the day and people watch. It dates back to 1535, and was very pretty.

Piazza Del Campidoglio

Afterwards, we headed to Piazza Venezia/Palazzo Venezia.It was actually originally built for one of the popes, Paulus II, in the mid to late 15th century. It's located in central Rome, and also includes a Museum which houses galleries of art from the early Christian era up to the Renaissance.

Piazza Del Quirinale

From the piazza we headed to Chiesa Di Sant'Andrea Del Quirinale. This church was very small in comparison to previous churches that we have seen so far. It had a distinct circular, cylinder shape and the atmosphere was very intimate. We spent about half an hour inside while Professor Kirk shared some background information with us, we took photographs, and the the arch kids sketched a bit. What the church lacked (assuming some might think so) in size it made up for in detail. Beautiful.

From there it was to Chiesa Di San Carlino Alle Quattro Fontane. This church was a tad bit bigger in size but didn't stand out to me as much in detail. Standing on a corner of an intersection, Quattro Fontane refers to the four corner fountains at this intersection. This church was larger in size although similar in shape (outwardly appearance gave off a vertical shape) this church extended more horizontally giving a broader leeway for other rooms and areas to the church. We toured through these spaces, one of which was a crypt area that was very cool. We also spent some time photographing and sketching, but my favorite part of this church was the interior ceiling, which include a clean, oval shaped picture of a symbolic white dove. It was so very, very pretty!!! From the second church we visited we headed to Palazzo Barberini. We didn't spend much time here and began by getting a good deal of historical background from Professor Kirk on the outside and then did a very quick walkthrough. We had a lot on our agenda with Professor Kirk and towards the end of the day, we had to pick up the pace to finish up by dinner time.

The dove at Chiesa di San Carlino

Crypts at Palazzo Barberini

Next it was off to one more church, Chiesa Di Santa Susanna. Another older Roman church; very pretty and very detailed. We ended up skipping a couple of things on our itinerary for the day because we just couldn't squeeze it all in!! We had 2 places to hit at this point and it was close to 7PM. Both were fairly famous, so there was no skipping out on either one. The first was the famous Trevi Fountain. I remember this site mostly from studying about it in school and seeing it in history books. We ended up getting there at nightfall, so it was a real treat to see it all lit up at night. There were tons of people there; you could tell it didn't matter the time of day, that this was always a hot spot for tourists. We took some photographs, stuck to Roman tradition and tossed some pennies over our backs for good luck, then we were off to our last stop of the day. We ended the afternoon well at Scalinata Di Trinita Dei Monti, otherwise known as the Spanish steps. They are the longest and widest staircase in all of Europe and contains 138 steps. A beautiful, elaborately exteriorated church hails at the very top. It was originally split between the Spanish and the French being that both had to do with it's contstruction, and remains a controversy even today between the two. The two groups of course, joke more than anything about it today. Professor Kirk was very passionate about these stairs. I mean, very passionate. He knew a lot of history about them and firmly believed that if you took them just right, you could simply glide and ascend the stairs feeling every moment surge through your body. Whew. Thankfully I was able to capture his love for the Spanish Steps to share with all of you.

Video 1

More to come!!

Chiesa di Santa Susanna

The Trevi Fountain

The Spanish Steps

After we finally finished up, it was pretty late, so we were all pretty hungry. Professor Kirk had made a suggestion of a non-touristy, very good, inexpensive restaurant, but we opted to try it later during our stay. We went back to the hotel and freshened up, then headed to a Piazza very close to our hotel that was a square of all sorts of restaurants with seating outside for all of them. It was a matter of just picking one that looked good!! They all seemed to be considerably inexpensive and filled with locals. So we basically just sat at one that had a table available outside (they were all fairly crowded...always a good sign!!) and took our chances. It was pretty cold that night, but all the restaurants had these tall, amazingly outdoor heaters so we ended up at a table right by one so we never felt the chill. The food was DE-LICIOUS; we ended up having an appetizer of these fried green olives filled with some kind of meat and they were AMAZING!! I've only found them once more since then, and definitely took up the opportunity to enjoy some. We ended up sitting out and enjoying the night air until about 12AM before we headed back to the hotel to get a good night's rest to hit Rome again the next day....but only to stop on the way back for a quick gelato at a great gelateria close by the hotel!! ;)

Walking back from dinner.

Day 2 was just as action packed and filled to the brim!!! 

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tate Modern

I HAVE to share this HILARIOUS video with ya'll that we made while in London. We were at the Tate Modern Museum, a museum housing modern works of art and installations, and they had this stellar video system in the lobby where you could make a short video and email it to friends and family. It was so simple and easy, so we made several and this one just for our faithful blog readers!!!! :) :)


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Athens and Berlin and DUBLIN and London.....OH MY!!

That's right folks....SPRING BREAK 2009 is HERE!!!!


Sidenote: I apologize....I am going to have to take a break from catching you up on our 10 day trip and stop with Rome because there just isn't enough time to blog about it before leaving. Sounds crazy, right?! Because that just means that coming back from Spring Break, I'm going to have DOUBLE the adventures that I will have to blog about!!
But this week has been MEGA packed and we're running out and just about OUT OF TIME!!! So much has went on -
Jonathan getting oh so very sick, migraines, HUGE, HUGE presentation/review that was due/occurred today (if you only knew the preparations that have been going into the projects, everyone has worked SO hard), Silvia, the administrative assistant of Genoa has had me helping her out like crazy- that I couldn't fit everything on my to-do list in. And yes I have one and yes it's very long. I only checked off the absolute necessary this week.

And then of course, when you're about to take such a monumental trip as we, there's so much to do before leaving. Washing clothes, packing, cell phone minutes, itineraries, maps, flight info, hostel info, where are you going to go, what are you going to do, necessary personal papers when traveling. I'm telling's a lot....but it will SO be worth it come next Monday, March 23rd!!!

So, anywho...........
Here's what's going down:
Basically, my fellow independent travelers and I have gone completely NUTS and have booked a
10 day trip to 4 different countries completely spread across Europe. It's literally like: BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM....if that makes ANY sense!!! :)

We're starting off by leaving TODAY (btw -I'm SCREAMING OUT LOUD, GOING CRAZY as I type this because I am SO EXCITED about this's going to be the trip of a lifetime!!), Friday, March 13th and taking a train from
Genoa to Milan. We'll spend the night in Milan, taking it easy with a cheap dinner and getting some rest.

Then it's up EARLY Saturday morning, March 14th, hopping a plane, and we're off to
Athens, Greece. GREECE PEOPLE!! :) :) We plan to primarily see the Acropolis, among other things, have some kebabs (new obsession; LOVE these things) and baklava, and stay in town for 1 night. We'll spend most of Sunday in Athens doing some more mingling with the Greeks.

That evening will jump another flight to
Berlin, Germany where we'll stay for 2 nights. While there we hope to visit the Jewish and Holocaust Museum, which we have been told is very realistic and touching. I'm pretty excited to be able to visit this museum.

So that get us to Tuesday, March 17th.
ST. PATRICK'S DAY ya'll!!! And what better place to spend the Irish born holiday then with the DUBLIN, IRELAND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sidenote: It's only been my dream since I was about 12 years old to visit Ireland, and more specifically to see the lush, green countryside. One of my all time favorite movies is PS-I love you. If you haven't seen it. Go. Go now and rent. You will NOT be disappointed. So anyways, dream being fulfilled here people. BIG DEAL!!

Back to DUBLIN........
Needless to say, I am so pumped. Ireland for not only St. Patty's Day, but also an additional 2 more days. So it's Ireland for 3 nights while seeing the popular Book of Kells and Trinity College among many other things. Oh man. I'm SO excited that this is happening, I'm on the brink of nervousness that I'm not truly prepared for all that Ireland has to offer!!! ;)

We're almost through our 11 days...what better place to end than by grabbing that jet with our fannies on Friday, March 20th and setting out to
London, England!!! Another 3 night place, we'll be seeing all the typical touristy places; Westminster Abbey, The Palace of Westminster and Big Ben, The London Eye, Buckingham get the picture, right??? Yeah. :)

So then on Monday morning, we're jetset on the last flight from
London and back home to Genoa just making studio at 3 PM by the hair on our chinny chin chins!!!

I'd say it's probably the most
ridiculous (and I mean ridiculous in a good way like the kids are using that word these days) Spring Break I have ever had planned. I can't believe we're seeing so much and in such a short time period!! WHOA!!

My traveling partners will consistently be throught the entire trip my precious, precious love, Jonny and of course our Dupree (you know the movie....You, Me, and Dupree....but OH how we LOVE our Dupree!!) Derrick. We'll have some additional friends on various parts of the trip; Heather B. will join us in Milan and Athens and Heather N. and Lura will join us in London.

You, Me, and Dupree :) 

The ONLY downside to this trip is this:
The flights we're taking are on
very small jets....therefore, the size of your carry-on is limited AND it's 15euro for EVERY checked bag. Well, we don't have that kind of money AND when you're hopping from city to city, you don't leave a lot of time for lost luggage because by the time it is found, you might be 2 cities gone!!
So what does that leave us with???
That's right. You guessed it.
We have to pack in a
very small carry on. 10 days worth. That's it. Yeah. What??!

So, I've decided 2 things:
1) This trip will NOT be about fashion or looking good. It will be about necessity. And getting by. So when I share pictures when we return, don't you DARE comment on my shabbyness unless it's to make me feel better, k?? ;) Haha!! Because I can promise you, packing THAT light for 10 days, I'm bound to look
rough AND wear the same thing AT LEAST 3 times!! HA!!

2) By the end of our stint of living in Europe, I'm convinced that I can take on ANYTHING when it comes to packing light or by necessity. I also think that I will know all sorts of traveling/packing secrets that help you get by ever so minimallistically. I will be a traveling/packing/necessity pro. And, I wll know how to suck up and WALK more than I've ever walked before, just simply put, "ROUGHING" it!!! ;)

So that's it. We're off!! Please keep us in your PRAYERS as we'll be traveling MANY miles during the next 10 days. We truly do appreciate them, and can feel them as well when times may get hairy.

Until next time as the
Greeks, Germans, Irish, and English would say:
αντίο, Auf Wiedersehen, goodbye (in some fun accent I'm sure), and goodbye!!! :)


Oh me. What is there to say about Siena??
Well, to be honest....not a whole lot. Sorry (or NOT sorry because I usually end up typing/sharing WAY too much info), but this one is gonna be brief. 
After leaving Florence around 2PM we arrived after a short train ride to Siena around 3:40PM on Monday, February 2nd and stayed one short night (OH, THANK GOODNESS) until Tuesday, February 3rd. 

One thing that I failed to mention about Florence is that it RAINED, AND RAINED, AND RAINED, AND RAINED......and then RAINED SOME MORE. It rained the ENTIRE time in Florence....and didn't let up one bit. Regardless, we stuck to our itinerary, and still went to every last site. In the rain. Soaking wet. 
So, did the rain let up in Siena????
NO. It FOLLOWED us there from Florence. Except in Siena (imagine this) it got WORSE. I have never seen so much rain fall without ceasing. Needless to say, this is probably why I did not like Siena that much....because I associate it with a lot of RAIN. 

So, back to Siena. Blah.

Look at all those packs lined up on the train ready to go

After getting off the train, we hopped a bus, and by the time we reached our hotel, the sky had fallen out. My pants were completely soaked. Or should I say I was soaked from head to toe. Whatever....I really do just need to get over it. :) 
We spent our one night in Siena at Piccolo Hotel "Ill Palio. Ugh. Most ridiculous hotel ever....and not ridiculous in a good way like the young kids are using it these days. Basically it comes down to this:
Our room had no heat; so there was a MASSIVE, WELL LIT heater that had been placed there a couple of hours before arriving to get our room warmed up (you can imagine how much fun a cold room can be if your soaked from pouring down rain), the bathroom was the size of an airplane bathroom (except this bathroom also had a when you sat down on the toilet your chin actually could rest on the sink and the shower sprayed into the toilet...FUN!!), and basically that night after returning and still soaked, we undress, lay our clothes out to dry, get settled in bed, and the ceiling of our room begins to -not leak- POUR!!! All over the bed and the few dry clothes I had left to wear. HA!!! It's actually quite humorous. Actually. :) 

Our hotel in Siena

Our 1st bathroom...the shower head is on the wall to the left but you can't see it...I didn't even bother with a picture of our "airplane" know I was spent if I didn't bother to take a picture

Even better, we go to the front desk to ask to be moved to another room, and no one is there!! Closed up shop. So we go to get Heather N., one of the travel assistants, to see what we should do. Well, after about an hour of trying to reach SOMEONE and retreating to waking up Bernhard (the professor) for help, we were moved to another room. This room, as you can guess, was not planned to be occupied, so, no heater getting it warm and ready, and......get this.....the bathroom was being RENOVATED and there is no other way to describe the way it looked  but to say that it was the exact replica of an airplane bathroom....except it had a shower. 
Oh well. Needless to say, we kept the key to the first room and used that bathroom (we were only there for 1 night so it really wasn't a big deal) and had a place to lay our heads....together. :) 

So, aside from visiting the 2 major attractions of Siena - Piazza del Campo and the Siena Cathedral and Duomo - and having a slightly dull dinner at an overpriced restaurant recommended by the Ill Palio Hotel staff, the whole leaking ceiling/changing rooms was the highlight of our trip to Siena. 
That should tell you something, eh??? 

Il Campo

Siena's Cathedral 

View from the top of the duomo including Il Campo

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Florence Gregorian Chants

Thought you might like to share in some of the amazing Gregorian Chants from our Florence trip. 

Video 1

Video 2



***Details may be vague considering the time lapse since returning home.***

Coming into this trip, I was most excited to visit Rome, because it was the city of the 3 that I (like most people) knew the most about. I had always heard about Florence as being a beautiful city to visit, but really didn't know too much about it. 
Needless to say, Florence was amazing, and held just as much significant art and architecture as Rome (especially for the European/Italian Renaissance). 

We were up bright and early to leave for our trip, imagine that. :) We headed out from the Genoa-Principe train station at about 7:45AM. We had a transfer in Pisa around 10:20AM and finally arrived at our first stop of the trip, Florence (or Firenze to the Italians) around 11:30 AM on Friday, January 30th and spent 4 days there, leaving early afternoon on Monday, February 2nd. 

For our stay in Florence, we were at Hostel Costantini. I believe it was family owned, and the man that was working each morning when we left was the sweetest man ever!! I really just wanted to bring him back to the Villa with us. It was quaint and cozy, and the entire length of our stay, we were pretty much the only ones there. And, it just happened to be right in front of the Florence Cathedral. Florence is known for the Cathedral, which is in the center of the city and includes the duomo as well; which hails the more widely known name, Brunelleschi's Dome. It stands at a total of 375 feet. And it was the direct view from our window. 

Hotel Costantini

Brunelleschi's Dome

After arriving, we settled into our rooms, and had about 1 hour to grab some lunch. 

Sidenote: Being the very popular Italian city that it is, Florence is quite expensive due to its high rate of tourists. Everything is WAY overpriced and more people are speaking English than Italian. It was kind of weird...we had hoped to take our very first big trip in Italy and take a stab at using our newly acquired Italian. But most wait staff in the restaurants we went into -after saying, "Hello, I'd like...." in Italian- would reply back to us in perfect English. So communicating while in Florence was not an issue nor making requests at restaurants. In fact, while sightseeing in Florence, we noticed such a wide range of languages and people being heard and seen. 

So anywho, lunch wasn't difficult to get, but it was a very expensive sandwich and Coke....that if I remember correctly cost 5 euro ($6.40 in American dollars). Eeesh. 


After lunch we headed to the famous museum of Florence, The Uffizi. Many famous works are housed here; some that I didn't even realize were as famous as they are, or that they even existed. Those that you might recognize include: The Birth of Venus, by Botticelli; Self Portrait as a Young Man, by Rembrandt; The Annuciation by da Vinci; and Diptych of Duke and Duchess Battista by Piero della Francesca

Me and my love with our Uffizi tickets...pretty pivotal moment :) 

The Uffizi...I have no pictures from inside or of the works of art...they are SUPER strict on the "No Foto" policy

We hit a pretty good, but expensive restaurant that night for dinner. Nothing worth writing home about though. :) 

On our 2nd day, we were given a tour with Professor Jane Zaloga in order to see specifically, works by Michelangelo and to gain more information about the Medici family. We gained a lot of knowledge about them (I wasn't actually aware of them prior to this trip) and visited where they are buried, but you can learn a lot more if you check out their link. :)
We went with Professor Zaloga for many, many hours until we finally took a short break for lunch. A group of us got some pizza at a little pizzeria, and then we were off again for the afternoon with Professor Zaloga to see Florence's fede politica (political faith) aspect. 

Professor Jane Zaloga

Interior of Basilica Di San Lorenzo

A ministry card from Basilica di San Lorenzo 

Of course, as you've already probably read, a lot of sketching, primarily by the students takes place while here traveling in Europe. Before leaving, me and the hubby got a sketch book for myself so that I could dabble a bit in the sketching. I did my very first in one the churches we visited with Professor Zaloga. I was pretty excited and proud!! 

My very first sketch

One VERY cool thing did happen that day (actually probably one of the coolest things we saw on the entire trip). Professor Zaloga let us know of a church on the tip top of the mountain, overlooking all of Florence, that led actual Gregorian chants in the evenings around 5PM. She finished up with us quickly enough that we could hop a bus to the top and have the opportunity to see it. Truly awesome!! 

The church of the Gregorian Chants

The view from the top

All in all it was a good day, but filled with lots of information. 

On our 3rd day in the beautiful city of Florence, we were guided by our ever faithful and wonderful tour guide, Giuditta. We began our day like any other would want visiting Museo Dell'Accademia and seeing the one and only Michelangelo's David!!! Yeah, you read that correctly. I don't really know what to say, except that I can't believe I had the opportunity to see it. :) I will say, a man giving a private tour to another man (both around their mid to late 30's) approached me and said, "Mam'.....I'm so sorry to bother you, but, may I ask you a question?" I nervously replied, "Well....sure, I guess..." He goes on to ask, "Do you prefer a that??" He was of course, referring to the "enhancing" sculpture of David's manly physique. I didnt' know what to say!! I finally -through his explanation of asking- said, "Sure....I guess." It was quite hilarious. He then went on to tell the other man that he was giving the tour to that every time he and his wife visited the statue of David together, she always remarked, "Now THAT is the way a man was meant to look!!' Ha!!! :) 

THE David...with such a manly physique ;) 

Much after David doesn't really matter. Haha, jk!! We then headed off to Ponte Vecchio which is also another point that makes Florence famous. In addition, we visited some palazzo(s), chiesa(s), the Florence train station, and the stadium of Florence by Nervi (one of my LEAST favorite architects I'm quickly learning).

Ponte Vecchio

We did visit Chiesa Di Santa Maria Novella that day; which changed my world!! Even at this point in the semester, of all the churches we've seen before and since then, it is my absolute favorite. The churches of Europe are so elaborate in detail; interior as well as exterior. Although beautiful to look at, I can't help but think it takes away from the worship and true purpose of the church. It seems to be more about the outward appearance of the church rather than the inward experience. But this one was different. There was so little interior detail, I felt like the emphasis was finally appropriate. It's very hard to explain, but it's the first church we've visited that I could feel a true intimacy and reverence in. It was the most beautiful church I have ever been in. 

Chiesa Di Santa Maria Novella 

We finished up the day and had dinner at a quaint restaurant that we happened upon and seemed less toursity. Apparently reservations are highly recommended (we had a rather larger group of about 11) but to prove how awesome this place was, they welcomed us with open arms. I had pasta, ravioli to be exact, and it was DE-licious. 

For our 4th and final day in Florence, we saved the BEST for last -the aforementioned Florence Cathedral and Dome. Oh baby!!! Not only were we able to visit (and take pictures within the cathedral) but we willingly made the 463 steps through the cupola to the very top of the duomo. That's right, we went to the top of Brunelleschi's Dome. At this point in the semester, we have been to the top of a lot of domes and buildings. By far, Brunelleschi's is my 2nd favorite view (the 1st to come later while in Rome)!!! 

Florence Cathedral and Brunelleschi's Dome

The view from the top

Some of the group at the top of Brunelleschi's Dome

Good calzones make my bebeh pretty excited

After only about 3 or so hours of discovering the cathedral and dome, we grabbed a quick lunch at a fabulous pizzeria, went back to the hotel and got our things, and we were on the train headed to our second stop of the trip, Siena.