Fall Break… What a (Re)Treat!

Last Friday, I embarked on my first visit to the Joyce Contemplative Center for a five-day silent retreat modeled on St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises. It was an incredible experience… honestly, I’m at a loss for words on how to describe it (especially since I couldn’t say anything while I was there)! I will say that it was both so freeing and relaxing to completely disconnect from the world and be fully immersed in my thoughts and God’s presence. I did lots of spiritual reading, went on multiple walks on the trail and in the little labyrinth, and even picked up a new hobby… embroidery! I have lots of experience with cross-stitching, but it was great to put those skills to something new.

My favorite sunrise during the retreat. The chapel has the best view by far!

The retreat was a much-needed opportunity to slow down, and it’s safe to say that I not only feel more rested and energized, but I find myself enjoying the company of my friends that much more. As the weather starts to turn, I’m gleefully anticipating all the things to come—especially more new experiences! I hope one of those will be visiting the JCC in the snow!

Feeling A Little “Romesick”

As I’ve settled into my senior year on Mount St. James, I’ve found myself constantly comparing the transformative experiences I had last year abroad with this semester’s new beginnings. It seems just yesterday I was reflecting on similar musings as I strolled along the Tiber River in its full autumn glory, only now I’m hurrying to my various classes and clubs on the Hill as the air begins to chill and the leaves show their first signs of changing color.

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Mary and I am a Classics major extremely excited about spending my first full year on campus. I am a member of the Manuscripts, Inscriptions, and Documents Club, the Classics Student Advisory Committee, the Society of Saints Peter and Paul, and the Goodtime Marching Band. As if those weren’t enough commitments, I’m also a Study Abroad Ambassador, a member of Alpha Sigma Nu and I’m writing a thesis as a member of the Honors Program!

It’s been both amazing and a bit overwhelming to slowly figure out my place on campus as a “not-so-senior.” I find myself missing the familiarity and confidence I built in Rome, but I also know that I am more than equipped with the skills to make the most out of my final year (especially since I won’t be doing it with rudimentary Italian!).

While my everyday life in Worcester may not be as exciting as it was in Rome, I sincerely look forward to sharing it all with you. To quote Aristotle in his Historia Animalium, ἀεὶ Λιβύη φέρει τι καινόν: “Libya always bears something new.” There are so many new places to explore and experiences to have here at Holy Cross, and I can’t wait to discover them as I go!

Class Excursions: Florence and Ravenna

As March quickly comes to a close, I finally have a moment to update you on the two academic highlights of this month: two-day weekend excursions to Florence and Ravenna. At Temple Rome, Fridays are no-class days so that excursions can take place on Fridays and Saturdays. While this usually means I get to enjoy a three-day weekend exploring Rome, these two excursions were so much fun, especially since I didn’t have any last semester.

My visit to Florence for my class Women, Literature, and Art: Artemisia Gentileschi and Anna Banti primarily focused on the places Artemisia frequented during her Florentine period and the beginning of Banti’s novel Artemisia. Most of what we saw as a class I visited during my winter break, which you can read about in this post.

One of my favorite shots of Santa Maria del Fiore.
Artemisia Gentileschi’s Allegory of Inclination in Casa Buonarroti.

A week later, my class From Constantine to Mohammed: Art and Architecture of the Mediterranean from the 4th to 8th Century AD went to Ravenna to study the 5th and 6th century Christian mosaics. I believe even this small selection of photos will speak for itself!

And of course… The Church of San Vitale. I’ll say that by now I’ve gotten pretty good at photographing ceilings!

One of the greatest pleasures of these excursions, and studying abroad in Italy overall, has been seeing these incredible works of art outside of the busy tourist seasons and giving them a full academic appreciation. I have one last excursion coming up in April, where I’ll be off to Naples again to explore Pompeii and a few other nearby areas for my Ancient Roman Historians class.

With April just around the corner, it’s now time for me begin planning my last few weeks in Rome (and prepare for final exams) after a busy academic year. Until then… Arrivederci!


Five Days In Turin

By now I’m sure you all know that I’m the type of person who likes to take things slow. I love getting to know the places I see, and so I knew I wanted my time in Turin to be special. I went to see one place in particular, but I found that despite the ghost town-like atmosphere I encountered, I had a great time in one of Italy’s northernmost cities.

After arriving and checking in to my hotel, I spend the remainder of my daylight (thankfully, gradually increasing) exploring my immediate surroundings. Funnily enough, the abundance of overhead lines and Baroque architecture vaguely reminded me of my own big city back home, San Francisco. Of course, that was until I saw the Porta Palatina!

The Porta Palatina, one of the best preserved 1st century BCE Roman gateways in the world.
The Monumento al Conte Verde in Piazza Palazzo di Città.

It was a twenty minute walk to Basilica Maria Ausiliatrice, a beautiful Neoclassical church that holds the relics of Saints Don Bosco, Maria Domenica Mazzarello, and Dominic Savio. I received a Salesian education from first grade through high school, and I was lucky enough to see Saint Don Bosco’s relics once before when they visited my local parish back in 2010. Dominic Savio, one of Don Bosco’s students, was my Confirmation saint, and so it was especially satisfying to be so close to him.

The statue of Don Bosco just outside of Basilica Maria Ausiliatrice.
The tomb of St. Dominic Savio.

I went to the Teatro Regio di Torino, Turin’s opera house and company, for the final performance of La bohème. Coincidentally, this opera made its world premiere in that theatre in 1896, and is now considered one of the most widely performed operas in the world! The singers, orchestra, costumes, and staging were all amazing, and the best part was that there was a screen just above the stage that broadcasted what was being sung both in English and Italian.

You could say I had pretty a great seat!
The Po River.

The collection of the Musei Reali di Torino was unbelievable. Formerly the royal palace of the House of Savoy, it now holds an extensive collection of weapons, paintings, and ancient archaeological finds.

My favorite horse in the Royal Armory.
The dome of the Chapel of the Holy Shroud.
A view of the famous Mole Antonelliana from the Royal Gardens.

For my final visit I made the 45 minute walk to the Borgo Medievale, a model medieval village built in 1884 for the Italian General Exhibition. Unfortunately, most of the attraction was not open to the public, but it was still great to enjoy the crisp air as I walked through Parco del Valentino.

Just one example of some of the beautiful art in the Borgo Medievale.

Planning my own trip and enjoying my own company certainly involved many hiccups and challenges, but I am proud of myself for taking on such a challenge—I never would have imagined I’d try such a thing when I first arrived back in September! Lucky for me, I have a handful of travel opportunities still coming up, two of which are coming up these next two weekends! I will update you all soon on… Florence (once again!) and Ravenna!

February, Flying By…

Before settling on my bed to write this blog post, I took one of my favorite walks: I exit the Barberini metro stop, weave through the crowds at the Trevi Fountain, cross the Via del Corso, pass by the remains of the Temple of Deified Hadrian, and stop in front of the Pantheon (where, conveniently, my favorite boba tea place is located).

And I quickly realized just how much time has gone by!

A beautiful flower stand I encountered on one of my strolls.

What I have loved most about my year in Rome is that even in my sixth month here, these sights fill me with as much joy and amazement as when I first saw them. One of the privileges of studying abroad, especially for more than one semester, is incorporating these incredible landmarks into your daily routine.

Although I have midterms coming up in a week (yikes! already?!), I realize I have yet to update you all on how my “ordinary” life has adjusted. I live a four minute walk away from last semester’s apartment, but that four minutes makes a world of difference! St. Peter’s Basilica is less than ten minutes away, so I enjoy Mass in Italian on Tuesday and Friday mornings. I am privileged to know St. Peter’s as a quiet place without any lines!

What a privilege it is to call St. Peter’s my “local parish” this semester!

This month, I also had my appointment at the questura (the state police headquarters) to complete my permesso di soggiorno (residency permit). As they scanned my fingers and palms, I couldn’t help but think about just how much I’ve changed since I went to the post office to receive my appointment date at the start of the fall semester. Of course, my transformation won’t be complete until I leave in April… which I’m trying not to think about just yet.

One of my more artful shots of the Colosseum. Rome has not been without its winter rain!

In the meantime, March holds a lot in store for me (and this blog)! The end of February marks the beginning of my mid-semester break, and in March I have two class excursions outside of Rome. Rather than prematurely spoiling the amazing places I’ll be seeing solo and with my classmates… I’ll say a presto and prepare for the busy weeks ahead!

A Second Christmas…?

Christmas, again? At the end of January?

Absolutely! That’s how it felt anxiously awaiting for the time Temple Rome’s darkroom opened for the semester and I could finally develop the four rolls of film I shot over the break. What I especially love about film photography is that I’m more inclined to take adventurous photos—I’m sure that’s not what you’d expect to hear when each roll costs five or six euros and you’re limited to 36 shots! Whereas I take more documentary style photographs with my phone, I love that black and white film encourages me to play with the depth of field, lighting, and texture. So… Let me share some of my favorite shots!

A sculpture in the Uffizi Gallery.
The shadow of the Duomo from the top.
The Benedictine monastery at Subiaco.
The film’s grainy quality makes a rainy day at Civita di Bagnoregio especially picturesque.
Sunlight on the grand staircase at Caserta.
Some great texture in Herculaneum.
A conservator in Pompeii.
Of course, I had to photograph one of Pompeii’s special residents.
Documenting those who left their mark on Mount Vesuvius.
And last but not least, what I would consider my dream house in Positano.

The Roman Countryside

Felice Anno Nuovo (or, in Latin: Annum Novum Felicem)! I was so busy having fun traveling outside of the major cities that I am lumping together my experiences of several small towns outside of Rome with what I saw in the Naples area.

Tivoli. I visited Villa d’Este, a 16th century villa with frescoed rooms reminiscent of Pompeii and an incredible fountain garden.

My favorite fountain? The Fountain of Rometta. It is a miniature of ancient Rome!
Tivoli, with a view of the Temple of Vesta.

Subiaco. I braved the winding path up the mountain to the Sacro Speco (Sacred Cave) of St. Benedict. The frescoes were outstanding, ranging from the mid-13th century to the 15th century, and it was amazing to sit and pray in the very cave of St. Benedict’s hermitage. This was by far my favorite destination!

One of the monastery’s outstanding ceiling frescoes.
A view of the sacred cave from the top of the stairwell.

Civita di Bagnoregio. Despite the rain, it was great to see the hilltop village that was the source of inspiration for Laputa in the Studio Ghibli movie Castle in the Sky.

My view of the village from the bottom of the path.

Caserta. During the drive south I visited the Royal Palace, which was the residence of the the Bourbon kings of Naples and Sicily.

The main stairway leading to the palace’s many rooms.
My favorite ceiling fresco, depicting the marriage between Alexander the Macedonian and Roxane to celebrate the marriage between Ferdinand IV of Bourbon and Maria Carolina of Habsburg in 1768.

Naples. I managed the chaos of the Naples metro system to visit the Naples National Archaeological Museum. It was great to see so many of the frescoes from Pompeii and Herculaneum!

A fresco of Chiron teaching the young Achilles to play the lyre, from Herculaneum.

Herculaneum. I visited Herculaneum before Pompeii, and I am so glad I did! It is much smaller and much easier to explore every nook and cranny of the city.

My first few of Herculaneum. It’s shocking to see how far below the city was compared to now… and even more surprising that it used to be just above sea level!
The beautifully preserved wall mosaic of Neptune and Salacia.

Pompeii. I hardly have the words to describe how exciting it was to wander the streets of Pompeii. The Etruscan Temple of Apollo, the House of the Faun, the Villa dei Misteri, the cave canem mosaic, even the Lupanar… This was one of those visits where I hope I can come back more than once.

Outside the amphitheatre of Pompeii.
One of the many ruins of Pompeii’s villas. I especially love the still-preserved lararium (household shrine) on the wall.
The odeon of Pompeii. I loved the multicolored marble flooring of the orchestra.

Mount Vesuvius. Hiking from the base of the volcano up to the crater was awesome! I was lucky enough to catch the amazing view of the Bay of Naples on a clear day.

My view of the Bay of Naples during my hike to the crater.
The crater of Vesuvius!

The Amalfi Coast. Driving along the Amalfi Coast reminded me of road trips through Big Sur. After seeing Positano and Maiori for myself, I saw why they are such popular destinations. I was lucky to see them on such a beautiful day, even in late December!

The Amalfi Coast, with my first glimpse of Positano.
The black sand beach in Maiori.

Now it’s time to prepare for a new apartment, new classes, and new experiences! With one semester under my belt, I am looking forward to feeling more confident as I seek new places and experiences. If anyone is interested in a more detailed post about any of these visits, I have plenty of photos to share!

A Few Days In Florence

With my finals now over, I can appreciate the month of winter break and share with you all a bit of variety in my experience of Italy. I am visiting three places: Florence, Zagarolo and the surrounding countryside, and Naples.

I just finished my four days in Florence, and I loved every day I spent there. Maybe it was the Christmas atmosphere or the greater Renaissance influence, but as much as I love Rome (and as much as I found myself missing the familiarity of it once in a while), it was great to visit another major city and to feel how different it was from the place I have been calling home for the past four months.

My first view of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.

I arrived in Florence on Saturday through a bullet train from Termini station; the journey took a little under two hours, leaving me plenty of time to wander the streets and situate myself. I decided to spend my afternoon at the Palazzo Medici Riccardi, the primary residential palace of the Medici family when it was built between 1444 and 1484 until 1494. The Magi Chapel is probably the most famous section of the palace, and after seeing it, I’m not surprised why. For such a small and private chapel, the frescoes were unbelievably detailed, combining biblical allusions with depictions of the Medici family.

A portion of Benozzo Gozzoli’s frescoes within the Magi Chapel.
The Apotheosis of the Medici Dynasty, a ceiling fresco by Luca Giordano.

On Sunday I woke up early for my 8:30 tickets to the Uffizi Gallery and spent a long but enriching three hours there. Seeing some of the most famous works of art from the Italian Renaissance, among the rest of its extensive collection, was definitely worth exploring all 101 rooms.

Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus. After seeing this painting in person, I see now why it’s such a beloved work of art. Photographs and reprints don’t do it justice!

When I left the Uffizi, there was about an hour before my tickets to climb the Duomo. Despite my slight fear of heights, I was the first to climb up all 463 stairs and drink in the breathtaking view. I apparently climbed up so fast that I had the top all to myself for a few minutes—thanks for the leg training, Holy Cross! Though… climbing down those steep stairs felt much more treacherous than the labor of going up them!

The painted interior of the Duomo…
And the view of Florence outside from the very top!

On Monday I spent my morning in the Boboli Gardens and enjoyed their peace and quiet. With the cold weather, there wasn’t much greenery and many of the fountains were turned off, but it was still a great place to bring my film camera and enjoy a few near-silent hours taking photographs.

A view from one of the many terraces in the Boboli Gardens.

I then decided to visit the Museo Galileo and its massive collection of scientific instruments ranging from the 15th to the 19th century. They not only had terrestrial and celestial globes, but various instruments for chemistry, electromagnetism, and electricity. The museum owns two of Galileo’s telescopes, as well as the objective lens he used to discover the four largest moons of Jupiter (the Galilean moons).

Antonio Santucci’s massive armillary sphere, 1588-1593.

Unfortunately, many of the famous museums in Florence are closed on Mondays. I will just have to make another trip to visit the Galleria dell’Accademia and the Bargello. After all, who would want to miss out on Michelangelo and Donatello’s David?

Now I am taking a break from the hustle and bustle of city life to enjoy the days before Christmas in the Italian countryside. I look forward to experiencing an Italian Christmas and sharing it with you all!

Finishing the Fall

My fall semester is rapidly coming to a close: I have finals next week, and yet I’ve also done so much between my last post and now!

The rainy November weather here in Rome creates the perfect atmosphere for visiting museums. While my MIC card grants me access to so many amazing museums, it’s impossible to deny that some of the greatest museums cost a few euros to visit. I finally made my first visit to the Vatican Museums and after seeing everything, I know I need to keep coming back (especially since the student discount makes it that much easier)! I could have an entire blog post of just photos from here, but I plan to make a more comprehensive post after a few more visits.

A portion of the ceiling of the Room of Eliodorus with the Liberation of Saint Peter, both painted by Raphael.

I also visited the Museo di Roma, which is hosting the temporary exhibit “Klimt: La Secessione e l’Italia” (“Klimt: The Secession and Italy”) until March. While ancient and Neoclassical art has always been my favorite, this exhibition felt outside of my usual aesthetic comfort zone while still sparking my curiosity.

Judith I by Gustav Klimt.
Portrait of a Lady by Gustav Klimt.

I’ll be honest and say I’ve spent more time preparing for the end of the semester than seeking more adventures. However, in that mundanity, I’ve noticed just how far I’ve come since I first settled down back in September. I made a handful of friends and I’ve grown more confident with my Italian. Both of those combined have helped me enjoy all of the great food Rome has to offer, such as:

Bubble tea in front of the Pantheon,
A gyro from one of my favorite restaurants in Prati,
And crêpes and hot chocolate with friends after a long day of classes.

The end of the semester also meant that I had an opportunity to share the prints I made in my Darkroom Photography class with the rest of the student body in the Student Showcase.

The five prints I selected for the Student Showcase. It was so great to share a semester of hard work with all of the other study abroad students!

I also finalized my course schedule for the spring semester: Latin and Greek, Ancient Roman Historians, From Constantine to Mohammed: Art & Architecture of the Mediterranean from the 4th to 8th Century AD, and Women, Literature, and Art: Artemesia Gentilesci and Anna Banti. I am already thrilled about these classes, but first… I have to enjoy my winter break! I cannot wait to share it with you all once it finally begins!

“Blogging” the Positive

This semester, I had the pleasure of taking a black and white film photography class to satisfy my studio course credit for my Art History major. In the class, we not only learned photography fundamentals (composition, choosing a subject, lighting, etc.), but also how to develop our negatives and make our own prints.

I just finished shooting my twentieth roll this weekend, meaning I’ve taken 720 photos this semester! Now that I’ve completed the required number of rolls for the course, I thought I should share some of my favorite photos (thank you digital scanners!):

I look forward to sharing more photos in another post if anyone is interested! In the meantime, it’s time for me to prepare for the end of the semester! Arrivederci!