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Italy Study Abroad Trip 2011 - Jared Newman

Day Twenty-Two

June 4th, 2011

With the plane leaving Roma internationally at 9:50, our group of six students returning on the same flights had to be at the airport way early.  I woke up before six, which meant five hours of sleep and a long, twenty-four hour day ahead of me.  Jeff had arranged a bus for us to get to the airport, and that left at 6:30.  We arrived, got checked in and all that jazz, and I found two chocolate muffins for breakfast, the last things I would pay for in euros.

We boarded a little late, but I was doing fine, so I was happy.  Whenever we were on the plane coming to Italy, all I did was ask for water whenever the attendants walked by so I wouldn’t get a headache, and as long as that didn’t happen, I was good to fly.  The plane took off, then I listened to music on the personal sound system for most of the flight.  When I used my own headphones, the quality was perfectly fine.

The flight was long, but each one got shorter.  The layover from Newark to Chicago was perfect, and customs didn’t take all that long, and I got a solid lunch, even though we had been served a meal and snack on the international flight.  I think I fell asleep for a half hour on the second flight, which was helpful.  Then, the Chicago to Omaha flight was the fastest and easiest, knowing that it was the last flight I’d have to take in a long while.

All in all, I have to think that I’ll return to Italy some day, for however long.  We may have explored the entire country, but there were a few places left to see.  They’d be of less architectural and historical significance, of course, but I find it hard to believe that I’ll never go back.  It’s just too perfect of a place to forget.

Day Twenty-One

June 3rd, 2011

We woke up early and were ready to leave on the bus by nine.  We needed the early start in order to have more time to re-wander Rome, one last time.  A few people wanted to buy things specifically, such as shirts or other souvenirs, or go to restaurants again.  When we got back to Rome in the afternoon and unpacked at the new hotel, the Cicierone, I left with a small group to find souvenirs.  I ended up getting a small model of the Coliseum and Tower of Pisa for a generous price.  We passed by a market near the Tiber River that we had never seen before, but it started to rain after we had been there for nearly an hour.

It didn’t rain for long, so later in the evening, after I had finally finished reading Tilt, I went out with some of the students and we found a quick dinner near the Piazza del Fiore.  It was nice to be back in Rome, since we had been there the longest.  By now, it really felt like we almost lived in Italy, and out of all the places we had been, Rome was our home.

Day Twenty

June 2nd, 2011

Today was a long day at Pompeii.  I had been to an exhibit in the science museum in my home town back in eighth grade that was designed specifically for Pompeii.  It had replicas of casts found on site, information on the history of the city and the events leading up to the eruption of Vesuvius – so I knew quite a bit about how much ash had fallen.  To see it in person, however, was remarkable, since the city was enormous and many square miles had been completlely uncovered from meters of ash.

I never knew, however, that there were multiple amphiteaters, though on a smaller scale than the Coliseum, of course, but one of them was still covered in overgrown grass on the stadium seats.  It was a unique place in that it had been entirely kept secret from the world for centuries, whereas all other cities we had been to had kept living people on its surface for the past two thousand years.

There was one mosaic on the floor beneath an arched ceiling that caught my eye.  It was about fifteen by twenty feet and taped off so poeple wouldn’t step on it.  It was a graphic, very detailed depiction of a war.  There was also a brothel was passed through; it was one of the more popular places for tourists to visit, however small.  It showed one of the important aspects of the culture back in the first century.

After Pompeii, we rode the bus back to Paestum, which was only a little more than an hour, and stopped at the temples.  There are three temples in Paestum, just a few minutes from our hotel.  It is a less popular site, but I thought it was one of the best.  There were remnants of the ancient city with stone blocks here and there; it was like Pompeii, but it hadn’t been preserved by ash.  Instead, it was even more ruinous, except for the temples.  They were each larger than I had expected; well-kept and devoid of ceilings, but the columns were massive and the rectangular interiors of each were enormous.  It made sense that they had survived, honestly, since an earthquake would have done little to the heavy material.  Two of the temples were dedicated to Hera, and the other, to Athena.  All three temples were of Doric style, the same used on the lower columns for the Coliseum.

We had a little free time, and then our last group dinner.  It was another wonderful Italian meal – meaning that it truly was native.  The local specialty, however, the buffalo mozzarella, in the shape of eggs that spewed liquid milk upon cutting, were somewhat tasteless with a pleasant texture.  Even so, I found the rest of the meal above my standards.

Day Nineteen

June 1st, 2011

We made it to the Teatro Massimo just after it opened around ten in the morning.  Like the Temple of Minerva in Assisi, it mimicked the Pantheon in its exterior.  On the inside, once again, it was rather different.  The Teatro is a theater that still does plays, which would have been wonderful to see, but there wasn’t anything showing in our timeframe.  It was a typical opera theater, though a big larger, with inset risers on the sides and a single level of seats in the center, in front of the stage.  I believe it was said that the stage was one of the largest in Italy.  There was also a circular room in the building that, when you spoke – or sang – in the center of it, you would hear yourself amplified to the tenth degree, or at least noticeably.  I tried it out and was surprised at how loud I got.

The plane ride back to the mainland was much easier than the one going to Palermo, since there weren’t any delays.  We got on the same bus as before and prepared for the five hour ride to Paestum…  But I managed, with reading more of Tilt.

The views on the sides of the road were breathtaking.  Mountains and valleys in every direction, farmlands as far as the eye could see.  It was perfect, just driving through Italy.

We got to Paestum when it was dark outside.  We were shown our rooms, which were quaint while still being perfectly nice.  We had been told it was called ‘the farmhouse,’ when it was actually just fine.  There was a beautiful yard full of flowers and trees, dogs roaming around, as well as lizards.  We were welcomed to the place, being half of its inhabitants, with a traditional meal.  It involved courses that I had no idea what to call, but I got pictures of the food.  It was all extremely satisfying.

Day Eighteen

May 31st, 2011

There was a rather long walk to the Palazzo dei Normanni and the Cappella Palatina, but it was once again worth it, with the beautiful mosaic I saw and the famous altar in the Cappella Palatina, which was a small church or perhaps a chapel by itself, whatever the true meaning might be.

Next was the Palermo Cathedral, by far the most different than any other cathedrals in Italy that we had seen.  I knew from the book about the tower of Pisa that the Saracens – Muslims – had once controlled Palermo, thus changing the style when this cathedral would have been built.  There was a great deal of influence from the Saracens in that time.  But the exterior of the Palermo Cathedral truly was of a more Arabic feeling, whilst the inside proved to reciprocate many other Italian masterpieces of architecture.

After that, we walked to the Mediterranean after finding some quick food to eat on the way.  The shore was rocky – meaning huge boulders stacked against the cement walkway, but it gave us something to climb for a while.  The waters were relatively peaceful, though they were blocked by a pier.  On the left side of us, on the coast, was a very steep cliff, almost a completely vertical wall.  Before it was a large marina full of boats and small ships.

We tried to get into the Teatro Massimo, but by the time we had gotten there, it was past closing time, even though it was only 3:30 or so.  We decided to come back early in the morning before our plane ride off the island.  We then had free time until a group dinner, which was what we would be having for the next three nights.  I stayed back at the hotel to rest and write a little, since the day had involved even more walking than normal.

Dinner was probably my favorite of the whole trip.  It was called Ristorante Cin Cin and Jeff, our travel agent, knew the owner.  We were served by the friendliest of managers and quite the dishes, too!  Octopus and an exotic casserole for appetizers, followed by a moist rice that I’ve already forgotten the name to, and delicious native pasta.  It was my favorite meal probably because not only the excuisite cuisine, but the newness of the food and the local dish that it was.

Day Seventeen

May 30th, 2011

We started out the day by walking to the Basilica of Saint Francis.  The entrance was basically a large courtyard surrounded by small, simple columns.  There was not only a large cathedral in the Basilica, but a museum of paintings collected and placed there relatively recently, along with a blocked off area for further rooms.  The actual church part of the basilica was somewhat dark and gloomy, but it was full of vast history through its paintings commemmorating Saint Francis.

The next stop was the Temple of Minerva.  From the outside, it looked like the Pantheon, but on the inside, is was solely a small chapel decorated with the most wondrous altar and a ceiling depicting God and other biblical scenes.

We still had another city to go to yet before the day was done, and it was in Sicily.  We had an evening plane ride to Palermo, where we would sleep two nights, for a change.  We got to the airport early and relaxed for a while, then the plane ride was only fifty minutes or so.  We found the hotel, a nice four star called the Crystal Palace.  Before going to bed, we ate at the Rossopomodoro, where I had only a dessert.  It was three donuts topped with nutella, and the donuts were simply amazing.  I had eaten dinner already, so I figured that I could throw out nutrition for the rest of the night.

Day Sixteen

May 29th, 2011

The first thing we did as a group was walk across the market square next to our hotel and climb the nearby tower.  There were currently thirteen towers in San Gimignano and, at one point in time, roughly sixty, since it was a place of defense in the past.

After the descent, we went to the torture museum, where there were graphic depictions of the devices used to torture people in the past.  It wasn’t a particularly frightening place, to be honest, but there was a figure of a man with a dark cloak that covered his entire body in the shape of a coffin, almost, making him seem like an evil priest or something of that sort.  We disbanded after the museum and had a short period of free time.  We had to leave San Gimignano by bus around noon.  I walked around a few nice shops with elegant small sculptures, then most of us got some gelato from the ‘world famous’ gelato shop in the market square.

The ride to Siena really didn’t take all that long, especially after getting used to the bus each time.  We started with the Piazza del Campo, stayed there for a while and wandered, then eventually climbed the tower.  This one was quite a bit taller than the campanile in Pisa, so we had nice views of Siena.  In one direction, there was farmland, and in another, a beautiful city.

The Duomo of Siena was magnificent and had much interesting history behind it, including its incompletion.  Once again, the columns possessed the alternating green-white pattern as in Florence.

We stayed in Siena only for a few hours, but it seemed like longer, since we were able to see the most significant structures and areas in the city.  We then headed off to the third city of the day, Assisi, where we would stay the night.  From outside our hotel, we could see the Basilica of Saint Francis, the person who was most well known here and one of the greatest reasons for tourists.  It was already evening by the time we arrived, but we had enough time to wander and find a welcoming, secluded restuarant that gave us an extra pizza for free!

Day Fifteen

May 28th, 2011

We woke up, packed, and got onto our personal –  as a group – coach bus.  It would be taking us to the rest of our destinations, since there were so many cities in the next week.  Stop number one was Pisa.

After entering the walled area that comprised the Campo dei Miracoli, we were able to see the whole set of monuments.  The cathedral was massive compared to the campanile, or the leaning tower, and the baptistery, a circular building adjacent to the cathedral.  The field around the three structures was perfect.  It was a beautiful sight – and all I had expected was the leaning tower to catch my eye.

Our group eventually entered the tower after a history the Campo and the tower by Dr. Erdogmus.  The tower had a narrow stairway, though it was easy enough to ascend it.  There was an occasional opening that was a perfect window towards the beautiful Pisan landscape.  At the top of the tower, which was obvious to tell which side was higher, for it was a matter of feet even at the smaller summit, we had a 360 view of Pisa.  There were mountains in the distance, and all around the Campo dei Miracoli, red-roofed houses and old buildings.  The tower itself seemed slightly tall for its diameter, so I believe that even in more stable subsoil, it would have been risky.

We then entered the cathedral, which I thought of as one of my favorites, however similar it was to others.  It employed heavy use of stones and was adorned with paintings at the side chapels, along with majestic altars.  I found a similarity in that of a Florentine church – some of the arches of both cathedrals had alternating blocks between white marble and green, indicating a similar time period for construction.

In the baptistery, which was last, we could climb to the second floor.  It was probably fifty feet above the first, so I was much closer to the dome up above.  I found it interesting that the baptistery, however ornate and massive, served the sole purpose of baptism, when in modern churches, even a full immersion baptism would only take up the front of the sanctuary near the altar.  It was apparently a bigger deal back in history.  Also, every fifteen minutes or so, they have a person come out and do a vocal.  This person made sounds as if he was in a choir, but the sound was amazing.  The acoustics of the baptistery made it echo with power and resonance unlike any other place imaginable.

After leaving Pisa, we took the bus to San Gimignano, a mountainside village in Tuscany.  It was probably the most beautiful landscape of the trip, and the city really was representative of Tuscan Italy.  The streets were all made of stone, with a city center surrounded by four storied buildings and residential structures.  There were many small alleys and narrow streets, all lined with restaurants or shops.  We didn’t have too much time to explore before going to bed, since we arrived in San Gimignano in the late evening, but Dr. Erdogmus led a group of willing students out in the nighttime to go to the top of the hill for a good night view of the landscape.

Day Fourteen

May 27th, 2011

Only four of the students had stayed the night in Venice, but the rest of the group had returned to Milan.  I didn’t wake up until ten or eleven, and the rest of the day progressed likewise.  It was a day of cards, blogging, going to the supermarket, eating a homemade pasta dinner, more cards, and then early to bed.  I did, however, venture into the rainy streets of Milan in the early afternoon to find a Panini to eat and simply to explore the city on my own.  It was much like an American city in that the buildings were, on average, four stories tall, and the streets constantly occupied by moving vehicles.  We were staying at a hostel that wasn’t near anything like the downtown area or even a large market, so everyone stayed in all day.  It would’ve been a lot worse without Internet.  It was the most easygoing day of the entire trip, including the rest of it, since I walked the least and sat around the most.  It was much needed.

Day Thirteen

May 26th, 2011

It was an early day, but that barely mattered with all the traveling and random waking times we’d had.  The train ride to Venice was almost routine by now, but this time we had to buy the tickets ourselves at the train station, so we allowed extra time for that.  Even then, we were once again early for the train, but that was fine.

I was able to see Venice from the bridge, as we approached, and I could tell from the arrival that it was surrounded by water.  Once we got off the train, we split up into our smaller groups and simply wandered.  We all had maps of the city, and it proved to be smaller than the map implied.  I took pictures of every bridge and canal for the first half hour so that I knew I had gotten some nice pictures of the historic city.  Our only real destination for the day was the church of San Marco, but we figured we’d pass close to it eventually.

At the largest bridge in the city, there was a large marketplace both on the bridge and on both sides.  We ate sandwiches there and searched the shops to find and infinite supply of Murano glassware.  The prices really ranged, and you could tell which the fancier stores were and which were cheap simply by the smallest piece they had.  I saw a pair of dolphins, not
extremely large, for 15,000 euro, whereas a similar figure of a smaller size could have been 15 euro.  We once asked one of the store managers why the prices were like this, and he explained that it was based on the artist.  Apparently some of the glass artists were famous here while others, students, perhaps, might have only made small figurines that sold for a regular price.

At the coast of Venice, there was another island with a large white, columned structure about a mile or two out.  It looked like there were ferries that took tourists there, but also it might have been for church services.  I never found out much about it.  It was hot by midday, so we went back into the city where the buildings provided shade.

The Basilica di San Marco was of a different style than I had seen before now in Italy.  It possessed both a dome and multiple arches, but the columns themselves were strange in that they were composed – at least on the exterior – of smaller columns.  It was a beautiful structure, especially on the inside, which had thousands of square feet of mosaics.

The rest of the day was shopping and getting lost, finding the Ghetto, where some Jewish residents in the 1930’s and during that time were sent to camps, only eight returning.  The area today is small, but lively, mostly comprising a single area surrounded by residential buildings.  We didn’t give ourselves enough time for a gondola ride, but I managed to get some good pictures of the gondoliers.

I was rather tired by the time we got back toMilan.  The train ride seemed longer, but they’re always comfortable.  I wasn’t up for much longer before going to bed and waiting for tomorrow’s free day.