8 Aug

Well, my time in Rome has come to a close. This week I’ve been eating as much as I can – gelato and all those good carbs! I’ve also been thinking about packing (rather than actually doing it) and finishing up on quite a bit of school work. I took my last weekend trip to Siena which was nice and relaxed and a calm way to end my travels.

Before I left for Siena, I climbed the dome of St. Peter’s – just one of those touristy things I wanted to say I’d done. It was pretty trecherous but it led to great views.

I didn’t plan anything for my time in Siena, but I knew I had to see the Campo, which seems to be a staple in all architecture classes at Oregon, and Siena’s Duomo, the sister but far less grand than Florence’s. I traveled with Michelle, but we split up during the day to do our own thing. After dropping our stuff off at the hostel, I meandered through the steep streets of Siena. It was small and easy to get around. I visited a few churches, window shopped and drooled over Siena’s specialty meat and bakery shops. By 6pm or so I had swung back around to the campo where I sat and people watched, and also sketched. I must have improved, because I got a “molto bella” comment! I feel very self-conscious when I sketch in a public place and people sometimes pause over my shoulder to watch…kinda nerve-wracking!

Seeing the Campo was another one of those special architectural moments for me. “It’s architecture lectures come to life!” I said to Michelle.

Siena's Duomo

We ate a delicious four course meal including Siena’s specialty wild boar pasta, and leek and saffron risotto. I eat well in Rome, but it was nice to splurge and make it special.

The next morning Michelle and I walked around early and found a beautiful overlook where we had some fun doing a mock photoshoot. We felt pretty ridiculous, but it was funny. I don’t think I’m cut out for a modeling career, but I can always pretend!

  We nearly had a disastrous trip back when we got on the wrong train. At our transfer station there were two trains leaving for Rome, one in the next ten minutes, one in three hours. Naturally we took the sooner one. We failed to notice that this was a high speed train which you needed reserve tickets for. Our regional train tickets weren’t going to cut it. We should have noticed something was fishy when we got on the train and exclaimed how much nicer the seats were than normal. Shortly into the ride, we got a wake up call when a ticket-checker declared our tickets useless. We had to pay for the tickets we should have gotten – which was better than a notoriously high fine which I thought we might receive! Then at a stop about halfway through, a couple came on and said we were in their seats. As the train was full, there was nowhere for us to go but the gangway outside of the car. We sure felt like stowaways!

The school week began full steam with my architecture studio review on Tuesday. It was my first review with a panel of judges (rather than just one on one), and my first review in a team, as Kristin and I worked together. Unfortunately, it was also my first review in which I understood the feeling of near tears. It was by far the harshest critique I’ve recieved and at some points it just felt cruel. I don’t think the reviewers (two of our guest lecture-ers and also architects living in Rome) understood that we were given less than two weeks for design. Had I put a whole terms worth of effort into my project I would have really been upset. However, since not that much had been invested in it, I came away with an experience I can be glad to say I’ve had once, and hopefully only once. It almost feels like a right of passage in architecture school to get one awful review.

Here’s the final results of Kristin’s and my work. You can make your own judgements:

I also collected my previous two media assignments, both of which I am reasonably proud of:

In my own defiant celebration, I didn’t work on any homework that night (even though a hefty media and core class final was still on my plate), and instead I took one more stroll through Rome at night. We hit up, as Kristin aptly named it, “The Fantastic Four”: Campo de Fiori, Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, and the Trevi Fountain.

On Thursday, an evening of hors d’oeuvres, prosecco, and end-of-the-term celebration took place at the apartment of one of the student’s parents. It was a wonderful set-up on a rooftop terrace in the Monti neighborhood, and a splendid way to finish finals and say goodbye to my fellow study abroad students.

I had a 6:20 am flight on Friday, which meant I needed to leave for the airport a little after 3am, which meant I did not plan on sleeping! It was my last night in Rome, and I was going to fill it to the brim. After the dinner reception, I quickly finished packing, and met up with several other students to hit up the bars and clubs for the last time. Hey, it’ll be a whole year and a half until I can legally drink again! The crazy thing about Rome’s nightlife is that it is just getting started at midnight, and doesn’t get into full swing until 2 or so. That meant that leaving around 2:45 was cutting it short! I couldn’t have asked for a better way to go out though.

Getting into the taxi was incredibly bittersweet. I was excited to go home to see my family and friends and beloved bay area, but at the same time, I felt like I was leaving home. Rome had become my home this summer – with new friends, and new sights which became familiar and loved. I will surely miss it.


Thank you all for reading my blog, it has been a great thing for me to keep up, and something fun to look back on. Ciao!

A little bit of Modern. And a lot bit of architecture nerdiness.

27 Jul

Monday morning we began our tour of Fascist architecture in Rome. If we ignore all of Mussolini’s reign of terror and atrocities along with it, you can really appreciate the architecture. The change in style was a nice change, I must admit. We visited the train station and post-office which utilized the modern techniques of a simple, paired back decorative program, yet still laid out in Classical form and proportion. The train station was simple and clean, but unfortunately geared at welcoming Hitler when he came to visit in 1938. I liked the post-office less, although many classmates disagreed. It covered 4 of the 5 of Corbusier’s elements: piloti, ribbon window, free plan, and free facade. Hello ARH 315!…

We will continue our Fascist architecture tour in the E.U.R. on Monday, which I am very much looking forward to. Ancient ruins and seventeenth century churches can get…well, old. Ha.

The best part of the day was visiting the fire station!! It was like my fourth birthday all over again! I honestly don’t remember why we went there, I was too distracted by the shiny red trucks. Oh yeah, and the macho firemen. And the delicious smelling kitchen! I felt like a little kid again, I wanted to jump in the truck and slide down the fireman pole so badly! But all I got to do was compose myself for a group shot.

Wednesday proved to be the best core class walking tour yet! I’ll preface what I’m about to say with that I do have a lot of appreciation and respect for everything I have seen so far. I mean, Bernini and Borromini are pretty boss at what they do. But by god, it was a wonderful breath of fresh air to land in the 21st century, and with the geniuses Renzo Piano, and Zaha Hadid! On Tuesday I was discouraged and stuck in my work for studio. I was uninterested anymore and had a major lack of motivation. But leave it to crazy contemporary design to turn me around and inspire and excite me. Unlike the usual “death marches” of core class, my eyes and ears were open all day. I may have even been seen to have a grin on my face from time to time. Ok enough talk, here’s some photos to start you off:


Italian architect, Renzo Piano designed the Parco della Musica Auditorium in 2000 outside of Villagio Olympico. He called them his three “beetles” each one is a concert venue, and they form an outdoor music hall in the middle. The exterior is lead (one of the downfalls, if you think about water run-off), and supported by an impressive wooden truss system. We weren’t able to go inside, but I was in awe just viewing it from the outside. The shell has a beautiful form, and I like the effects of weathering, despite the flaws.

Next went to the San Valentino church, designed by Berarducci in 1986. I know I talked up St. Peter’s and Quattro Fontane, but if I had to pick, this would be my favorite of all. I loved the steel trusses, and the lightness from the use of glass. I thought the modern materials and construction combined with the warm bricks and wood gave it the perfect atmosphere. A little bit arts and crafts-y, a little bit Alvar Aalto-esque. It was my kind of design. As I said to Kristin, don’t be surprised if this is used as a precedent study for every studio project I have for the rest of my career!

As if I wasn’t architecturally high enough, we visited the MAXXI Museum of Contemporary Art next and everything else got totally shown up. Zaha Hadid is magic. Her work is definitely outstanding but I hadn’t seen anything to really attract me to her. Then I got to MAXXI and realized I couldn’t read or look at anything compelling enough to make me feel the way I did when I was actually under the expansive concrete and hugging the massive pilotis (columns). It was really something to be experienced. Yeah, there’s the whole controversy of architecture as object, and right, how does this correspond to context?, and they spend how much to maintain it every year? Oh, one million euro because the costs of lighting, ventilation, and heating/cooling weren’t really a factor… But just look at it! That is awesome! I dug it.

The interiors were if possible, even more crazy than the exterior. I swear this is a place I have dreamt of. Zig-zagging floating staircases? Mysterious light sources? A mechanical buzz which begins to numb your whole body? Slanted walls and floors and angled hallway upon angled hallway making your eyes roll back in your head? A sense of dizziness, perhaps even nausea? Yep! This is a world I want to live in. I was in architectural heaven. I ate it all up. I truly felt like I was walking through one of my dreams. It was better than Inception. The photos look like freaking renderings! But no! It’s reality! Okay, okay, too much?


After a gelato break, which did nothing to bring me down from my elation as it was indescribably delicious, we went back to the museum for our media assignment. We were all caught in a rainstorm, but even that didn’t dampen my spirits, as it became a great opportunity for some artsy photography.

I realize this post might make me sound like a architecture maniac, but I hope you can all love me for it. If you hate all the buildings I’ve posted today, I do apologize for ranting and perhaps going a bit overboard. Actually no, I don’t. I’m getting all worked up and in a frenzy just recounting the day. It was that good. My architecture depression is over, and I am going back to studio inspired! If you did like the buildings, pictures can’t do it justice, but I always post more on my facebook, so check’em out!

Thanks for reading and taking a trip inside the 21st century works that Rome has to offer with me!


“There’s no combination of words I can put on the back of a postcard…”

24 Jul

…to describe Jack Johnson in concert…or the thrill of riding a vespa!

On Saturday evening Katarina, Cortney, Michelle and I went to the much anticipated Jack Johnson concert at the “Rock in Roma” outdoor concert venue. He put on a great show. He was very smiley, which was contagious, and you could tell he loved what he did. Besides the annoyingly loud American’s behind us, we enjoyed the concert very much.


Earlier that day I revisited the Pantheon and also went to the National Gallery of Modern Art. There were a few Van Gogh’s and Monet’s and another Italian artist, Giacomo Balla, whose geometric paintings I really liked.

On Sunday, I caught up on sleep, but made it out to the Trastevere Flea Market in the late morning. There were a lot of cheap-o vendors but it was still fun to stroll the streets. I bought a AS Roma soccer jersey and Italia Dance music mix cd.

In the afternoon I lazed around the apartment and skyped with my family. At 9:30 I had a dinner date with a Roman I had met while I was at Vittorio Emanuel Monument on my own earlier in the week. He is much older than me but very well-mannered and well-traveled. He had been to Portland and SF and many other places in the US, so his English was perfect. He was kind enough to offer to show me around Rome on his vespa, so how could I say no!?

He took me to a unique neighborhood with interesting architecture and a pizzeria for dinner. We got chocolate mousse to share, but I think he ate about two bites of it before I finished it off, it was so good. Whoops…

Afterwards we rode on his vespa (actually it was a motorcycle with much more power than a Vespa) by the Olympic Stadium, and up to Zodiac Hill where he claimed the best view of Rome was. There were two terraces, the upper one was populated by couples and diners from a nearby restaurant, but the lower one seemed hidden and there were only two or three other people on the trail. The lower terrace also gave a better view, as St. Peter’s dome was visible.

It was a pretty exciting night, but I ended it early enough for me to get some sleep before my 8:30 am class the next day. Besides, if going home meant getting back on his scooter, I couldn’t wait!

Week 6: Rome’s water, Quirinale, and Frascati villas.

22 Jul

This week has been full of history (like always). I’ll try to recount it briefly and with many photos!


We began the week with a guest speaker from California College of the Arts, who led us through the history of Rome’s water. In ancient history (since 19 BC) there were 11 aqueducts serving the city, but after sieges only one was left. It was Acqua Vergo which was underground so naturally the most protected. The most astounding thing is that this served all of Rome’s water supply and the source was only 6 meters above its official arrival point (the Trevi Fountain). This means that the water pressure is very low which is why there are very few gushing fountains, more just trickling fountains.

We began our walk on top of Piazza del Popolo, directly about the ancient Acqua Vergo. It proved to provide great views of the city.


Today’s core course walk was on the historic Quirinale. Pope Sixtus V re-planned the streets of Rome by widening them and strategically placing obelisks at important sites. We went in three churches, the last two of which have been focused on in my architecture history classes in Oregon.

Quattro Fontane, by Borromini:

    The famous dome was just as incredible in reality than on a lecture slide. This was probably my favorite church of all. I prefer the more minimalist stark white interiors to the gaudy frescos and statuary because the architecture itself can be appreciated so much more and the play of light is much more dramatic.

St. Andrea al Quirinale, by Bernini:



Our program field trip was to the Frascati countryside, about 20 miles outside of Rome. The shape of the day was VILLAS, VILLAS, VILLAS!!

Villa Aldobrandini:

Technically we were denied entrance into the villa grounds, but since our professors were only notified of this 48 hours earlier, we pretended to ignore that, and went right on in anyway. There’s something about architects that give them the right to trespass…

The exedra, grounds, and views of the city were pretty astounding.

Villa Grazioli:

This villa has been converted into a five star hotel, so as one would expect there were some pretty nice things.

Like cars:

And fire stairs:

Villa Borghese, Mondragone:

This villa was also private, so we were only allowed in because of Jamie’s connections. The villa was originally built for the Borghese family to host and impress the Pope. However, the Pope enjoyed his stays so much that his frequent visits and depletion of the wine cellars became quite costly for the family. They turned to removing all furniture to make it less comfortable for him hoping he’d get the hint he was no longer welcome quite so often!

The residency had a secret garden overlooking Rome and the countryside, and another private garden.


Then we stopped for lunch at Castel Gandolfo, the Pope’s summer residency, at the top of a caldera (the Crater Lake of Italy).

Our last stop of the day was Palazzo Chigi. The Chigi is one huge powerful family! We went through rooms and rooms in their Palazzo covered with family portraits. The younger (and/or least attractive) of the girls were sent to nunneries because it was very expensive to marry women off. Those were the saddest looking portraits. The last room displayed an incredible model of the Palazzo. It was designed to appear as a Palace and place of government on the facade facing the town, but as a villa on the facade facing the countryside. The model sure set the bar for my next studio project!

With only two weeks left I feel the clock ticking down! I’m trying to get in as much local italian food as possible and soak up life in Rome to the fullest. In two weeks I will be ready to leave, I think. Rome is tiring and I miss friends, family, and “Home” home.

Ciao Tutti!

Cinque Terre

19 Jul

Before I gush about how great Cinque Terre was, I’ll make a quick note to say I SAW HARRY POTTER TWO DAYS BEFORE EVERYONE IN THE US! Haha! We would have gone to the midnight showing but apparently they don’t do that in Rome. Nonetheless, we found a theater showing it in english (with italian subtitles) on Wednesday, July 13th. Going down in history.

Ok, so now onto my weekend excursion…


We woke up at 4:15 am to taxi over to the train station, where we were catching a 6 am and 50 euro (!) train to Riomaggiore, the first town in Cinque Terre. We got into our hostel at around 11 and took full advantage of our early arrival. We had all packed lunches so we brought those down to the harbor where we settled on some rocks with our first view of the Ligurian Sea and pastel towns.


Cinque Terre National Park is a series of 5 towns all linked together through hiking paths as well as train and boat routes. They are usually numbered beginning with Riomaggiore furthest east, and ending in the fifth town of Monterosso, furthest west. All towns are set in the steep coastal cliffs, with beautiful terraced vineyards cascading down into the turquoise sea.

After lunch we took the first and easiest path from Riomaggiore to Manorola. It is commonly called the Via Dell’ Amore because in history it was a meeting place of lovers between the two towns. Today the path begins and ends with gates with two heart shaped wires where if you and your lover put a lock around them, you seal your relationship.

The typical trail between Manorola and Corniglia was closed due to landslides, but we explored the town of Manorola a bit and discovered that we could still hike to Corniglia in a more round about way. The trail was more strenuous than we expected as it took us way up into the vineyards and through groves of olive trees. Minus our sweat and panting breaths it was a gorgeous trail with some of the most picturesque views. Here’s me and my roommates at the bottom of the trail still looking fresh. Manorola is in the background.At the top of our trail we got a view way down to Corniglia. It’s known to be the town at the top of the hill. I guess if we had taken the normal way we would be climbing up to the village not down to it.

After a refreshing mimosa and snacks we took the short but steep walk down to the water access in Corniglia and lazed in the sun, relaxing our sore legs.

Night was beginning to fall so we caught the train from Corniglia back to our hostel in Riomaggiore.

We had a very late dinner and chatted with our hostel roommate Hammish from New Zealand. He was taking a gap year and had been traveling alone for three weeks, but would end up in London where he was auditioning for musical theater! He was fun to talk to (and listen to with the accent!).


Hammish and Katarina and Cortney were checking out that morning, while Michelle, Naomi and I were staying one more night. All of us however took the train to Monterosso to get in some real beach time. Like Sorrento, the combination of sun and cool clear water was perfect!

Around lunch time we said our goodbyes, and Naomi, Michelle and I carried on to the fourth town, Vernazza. The hike was again a strenuous one with quite a bit of elevation change. Just when the trail flattened out and you thought you’d reached the top, you’d turn a corner and there was another endless set of stairs! Fortunately this guy had set up a fresh squeezed lemonade stand in the cliff so we had an easy excuse for a break!Finally we reached Vernazza, with a view that’s probably most postcard worthy.

After more beach time and the most delicious meal I’ve had in Italy yet (cheese and vegetable ravioli with crazy good walnut sauce, finished with chocolate cake and hot fudge) we opted out of completing the hiking loop and took the train home again. Actually we got on a train in which we didn’t quite know if it was the right destination (last time we ended up waiting an hour) so we jumped on while we had the chance but without a ticket. Of course, Murphy’s Law, about a minute into the ride we saw a ticket-checker! We busted out of our seats and made a beeline for the end of the train in the opposite direction from him, hoping he wouldn’t catch up to us before our stop (we’ve heard of fines up to 500 euro!). Earlier we were considering getting off at Manorla and walking the Via dell’ Amore again. With the ticket checker there, if we weren’t getting off early before, well by golly we were now!

We made it smoothly into Manorola and came home to Riomaggiore to find a dance party happening on the central plaza. We quickly showered and joined the party. It was a great atmosphere because there were children and teenagers, young parents and even older couples. They played a mix of American and Italian music which was really fun. Then they brought out the foam blaster and it turned into a foam dance party. So much for taking a shower! The whole party was a real surprise and a great way to end our trip.


We had time for a leisurely breakfast and a nice pause at a Riomaggiore lookout before we left Cinque Terre. This time we took the 21 euro train but it took considerably longer.

When we pulled into Rome, I noticed that after my 5 week stay here it actually had that old familiar feeling of returning home after a trip.

Vivo d’Amore!












Visit to Venice, Villas, and… Il Pronto Soccorso?

12 Jul

“Pronto Soccorso”, for those who have not google translated it, is the emergency room. SO. As you might guess, my long weekend was a tad different than my classmates’. We left for Vicenza, our home base for our four day field trip, early on Friday morning. I woke up excited and feeling great, minus a sore throat which I figured would go away quickly enough. The bus drivers are the kind of people that assume everyone is so hot that they turn on the air conditioning to negative a thousand degrees until you are huddled in your seat shivering and trying to get as close to your neighbor as possible without it becoming awkward. The rides are not comfortable to say the least. But this 5 hour ride became increasingly miserable as my sore throat got worse and my fever went back on the rise.

By the time we got to Vicenza I was hoping to crash in the hotel bed, but Professor Jamie had other plans… We visited Teatro Olimpico, a theater for drama, and intellectual debate and banter, designed by none other than protagonist of the trip, Andrea Palladio. It was cool because there were three aisles on stage with crazy perspective and stage sets so it looked like it went on for blocks, but in reality it was about 30′ deep. I wish I could have appreciated it more but I was feeling so poor that most of my focus was going to staying on my feet and conscious.

Vicenza was cute so I wish I could have explored more, but after I got some food in me I hit the sack hoping I would feel better for our big day of Palladio Villa tours. When I woke up it was apparent that was not the case and it was about time I saw a doctor. Roxi recommended a doctor in town but when I went to the front desk to get a taxi they said it was unlikely anyone would speak english. Instead they said I should go to the hospital at the American Military base, there would be an english desk. I do that, the taxi drops me off at the front and I walk in…and there’s nothing in english and only one desk. I ask the woman at the window if she speaks english, and she says no. Greeaaat. Fortunately she called over a guy who spoke some english so I could at least explain why I was there. Then, it took them two hours to call my name!! I guess that should be expected for emergency rooms, but it was small and didn’t seem busy, and I was barely holding up, so making me wait two hours just seemed rude. When they finally called my name it was just to bring me to another waiting room where I waited about another half hour. At last I saw a doctor, who was perfectly friendly, and a nurse who could speak english. They diagnosed me with tonsillitis, and drugged me up with three prescriptions to pick up at the farmacia across the street from my hotel.

The plan for Sunday was to go to Venice so I was praying that I could make the trip. Fortunately, Italian drugs work wonders! I woke up a bit shaky on Sunday, but with much more strength than the previous two days. I improved throughout the day and feel like I got a full experience out of Venice!

The first stop of the day was of course some churches that Jamie had to take us to. They all begin to blend together but I got a kick out of this one:

The trick was that some sort of vapor would rise and the fans and hideous duct would suck it up symbolizing the ascension to heaven. I thought it was pretty hilarious.

Luckily, the profs let us loose after three churches and Venice was ours to explore! I first went to Murano, the island where all the glass is blown. It was fun to watch a demo after taking glassblowing classes and knowing what it’s really like!


Below are some of the shots of picturesque Murano and Venice!

We were told to meet outside the train station at 8:50, and the train was leaving at 9:03. At 9:00, all us students were there, but our professors were nowhere in sight. We moved onto the platform and anxiously awaited for the woman with the tickets! At 9:02, from the end of the station we could make out Roxi and Jamie, equipped with Ellie on his shoulders, sprinting down the platform. It was a classic moment.


Our route took us through Tuscany to the Villas of Medici and Gamberaia. The Medici villa was a private residence in use so we weren’t allowed in or to some parts of the property, but the terracing, and spectacular views of Florence made it one of my favorite villas so far.

We spent enough time for me to play around with my camera and enjoy my growing hobby of photography. All my photos are taken on my NIKON D3100 with a 18-55 mm lens, no filters or effects, and only minimal photoshop touch up on a few of them.

Below is a green house for lemon trees! It was my favorite spot at Villa Gamberaia.For all of you still with me, thanks for reading! I’m more than halfway through my time here and it goes by quicker and quicker!


July 5-7

7 Jul

This week has been a good one 🙂


Woke up to major thunderstorms which was fun. I am sort of kicking myself for not jumping out of bed and running to see the Pantheon in the rain. But by the time I had showered and eaten it was starting to clear up, and I headed into studio to get some work done instead. After studio, we all got ready to celebrate Michelle’s 21st birthday! No crazy bar hops though because we had to get to St. Peter’s at 8am the next morning. We planned to go to Roma Sparita, a restaurant claiming to serve the best macaroni and cheese in the world, and eat gelato cake at home afterwards. The dinner was incredible! I’m already craving to go back. What made the mac and cheese so good was the edible parmesan bowl it was served in! The gelato cake was good, but unknown to us when we bought it, it was soaked in whiskey. I mostly ended up eating the chocolate gelato and leaving the alcohol drenched cake. We ate to Harry Potter 7 part 1 in preparation for part 2 “tutto finisce”, only 6 days for us!!!



When I visited Rome four years ago, St. Peter’s Basilica blew my mind. It was the strongest connection I had to a site we visited. I knew it probably wouldn’t fulfill those expectations again. And something about seeing it in lecture slides at Oregon ruins it. It was still a great experience the second time around though. I thought the light was better when I saw it in the afternoon the first time, unlike this visit in the morning. The light came from behind you when you entered rather than through the golden sculpture at the apse during western sun. Kristin brought up a point that it can be hard to appreciate something so unnecessarily extravagant, especially when religion is supposed to be so humbling. I try to just take in the awe of such impressive architecture. It still gets me that the letters in the band at the top of the nave are 7 ft tall!


After St. Peter’s and the casual Italian class final, media met at Castel Sant’Angelo / Hadrian’s Mausoleum and got to explore the inside this time. Between the Mausoleum, military base, and Papal residences it’s a pretty interesting architectural space. I enjoyed a shady and breezy spot to sketch with Kristin.

We got the day off on Thursday to give us a break before our long weekend trip to Vicenza and Venezia, so with no early wake up call this time, we joined almost everyone else from the program for a night at the bars. With my health back in tact, I fully enjoyed myself!


It was a bit strange getting a vacation today, I kept feeling like I had something to do or somewhere to be. The morning was lazy, so I took the time to make a real breakfast. After researching other places to travel on weekends, I went out for a gelato run, boutique shopping spree and a search for Harry Potter tickets with Kristin, Cortney, and Naomi. Success on gelato, success on shopping, but the cinema in english that we know of was closed, so struck out on movie tickets. I don’t even know if they do presale here, but it is my intention to go to the midnight showing!

Gelato tip: if you are a chocolate lover, look for cioccolato fondente, instead of just cioccolato. It’s super rich and extra extra dark 🙂

I was in a good mood and finding a fancy dress and leather bag put me in an even better one.

After leftovers of a Giada de Laurentiis pasta recipe I wandered along the Tiber, but was paranoid about mosquitoes the whole time so ended up making a bee line for home once I walked along the strip of food, clothes, jewelry, and souvenir stands.


Tomorrow we are off north to our program excursion to Vicenza where we will probably see so many of Palladios villas our eyes will fall out. Hopefully not before our day trip to Venezia though! I’m very excited for the trip as a whole, we’ll get back late on Monday, and I won’t be bringing my computer, so don’t look for another post until later next week!


Grillin’ in Italy. Happy 4th of July.

4 Jul

Monday morning began as any others. The afternoon followed in the typical fashion. No flags, bbq smoke, or melodies of the star-spangled banner drifting through the air. The only reason it felt like 4th of July at all was the expectation of an american burger and hot dog bbq dinner in a park with the grad students and local Italians. Hints of the holiday were also found at restaurants which advertised hamburger + beer! specials, and a few stands at the Campo hung red, white and blue streamers.

During class in the morning, we visited several interesting churches. The first was San Clemente, which I especially liked because there were three layers one on top of the other. The church you enter was built in the 12th century, and had later improvements and alterations done in the 18th century. Below that was a 4th century church, and below that was the first century Mithreum. Unfortunately no photos were allowed, but it felt sort of like a well-structured cave, and crypt-like. It was also very smelly because natural spring water flows through that level, making the air very damp. The Mithreum used to be aristocratic housing, but eventually rich neighbors would buy each others properties, essentially forming cult religious gathering areas. The 4th century level was made of brick but now had concrete reinforcing. When the third, topmost church was built, the foundations had been destroyed to a pile a rubble, so they built on that rather than building up again, so the ceilings of the 4th century church were much lower than originally. The nave and side aisles remained fairly constant overtime, so columns and support lined up continuously in many cases. Another case of Roman sustainability!

The next church we visited has been one of my favorite places in Rome. A strict nunery is on site, and had so little interaction with other people that our tickets were passed to us in a rotating wood barrel. The interior is very modest and humble, but unique because the side aisles were double height for the nuns to practice and remain removed from outside life. Normally the side aisles are lowered ceilings with windows above. The place that was special was the courtyard off to the side of the church. It was very peaceful, and the beautiful small double columns made the place feel delicate and sacred. Rather than express the importance of religion through exaggerating scale, this place felt important because of its reduction of scale.


Finally classes were over and it was time to bbq for a guilty pleasure. The grad students organized the dinner at a park quite a distance away because a few locals they know were gathering there. I came with a basket of corn to grill and Michelle and Naomi brought burgers and watermelon. It took us nearly an hour to find the park, and we were starving by the time we got there. It was also dark by the time we were eating (just on picnic blankets under woods), I really couldn’t see my food, so it was a challenge trying to squeeze the ketchup onto the burger and not my lap, and to squeeze a dollop and not a flood. In the end the food was great, as well as the conversation among all the groups.

Maybe an unconventional 4th of July (I did miss the fireworks) but one I’ll remember nonetheless.

Villas, Monsters and Shopping, Oh My!

3 Jul


Outside of Viterbo. Yay for overcast days!

Viterbo is a small city about an hour north of Rome. Our three destinations were the Renaissance villas of the Farnese family and Villa Lante, and the Baroque mannerist Park of Monsters.

Villa Farnese:

I found this villa to be most interesting because it’s plan was pentagonal, but there was a round courtyard in the center. The geometries actually complemented each other though.


There were also some great views of the town and beautiful frescos. Below is my favorite fresco of the dream of Jacob’s Ladder.


Villa Lante:

The premise of the design for Villa Lante is a progression of the three orders of Nature. The golden age is wild nature, where everyone fended for themselves. This is embodied in a natural public park outside of the Villa grounds where the original entrance was. The second order, Silver Age, is bringing nature more into man’s control, represented at the top of the gardens with rough grotto-like caves of waterfalls. The Bronze Age, is the time where man interferes the most with nature, and this is represented at the lowest portion of the grounds where fountains and hedges are highly manicured.

The coolest part of this villa was the dinning table, which was outdoors in the middle of the grounds and had a pool running down the middle. This way, the dishes were served to you by floating them down the water. And you could chill your wine at the same time. Genius!

Our media project was to look at Villa Lante through a lens such as water features, topography, the orders of nature, etc. I chose my media theme to be that of boundaries. Below are some of the images I used.


Park of Monsters:

The park of monsters is so called because of the sculptures made out of the natural stone. The commissioner apparently had a vivid imagination and such creatures came out of the rock to him. Also, he probably liked to poke fun at the previous two formal gardens nearby. We liked to have fun in his garden too.



July 2nd is national start-of-summer-sales-day, so we planned to hit up the Via del Corso to do some shopping! Believe it or not, I woke up at 7:45 just to get to stores early. Imagine, yes me, waking up practically before light do go shopping of all things. It must be living in a house with 5 other girls that has changed my structure of priorities and morals. Anyway, when I finally did drag my feet into the 5 story Zara, I had a lot of fun! We also went to Mango, which was sort of like Forever 21 in the fact that there were so many clothes in such a small space and WAY too many people trying to get to the racks. Just about everything in all of Rome is 50% off. My one purchase of the day was a nice, cream colored flowy top at Zara.

After siesta, I woke up with my fever back in full force! I had been feeling great so that was a disappointment. So back to a dependance on Tylenol, and more rest. It was really sad because I couldn’t go when some of my roommates lined up that evening to see the actors of Fred and George Weasely and Luna Lovegood, who by coincidence, were signing autographs in the same shopping district that we had visited! I did go out for dinner in Trastevere with Cortney, Katarina, and Michelle later that night though. We took pictures on the bridge because the Tiber is really active now with the street festival.


Our dreams of going to the beaches near Rome are still on hold as we keep ending up with too much homework by the end of the week. I slept in and the fever was gone again, and then spent nearly two hours fiddling with the printer which was giving me hell, and I’m just plain not good with technical stuff anyway! So that was super frustrating, and put me off to a later start than I wanted. A good skype session with the family, chile for dinner at the apartment, and media homework for the rest of the night. As soon as the project is returned from grading I’ll post a picture. It’s definitely an improvement from two weeks ago!

Ciao for now!

Hope you are enjoying my stories and making some good ones for yourself!

If You Don’t Believe I’m the Sweetest Thing in Rome, Just Ask the Mosquitoes!

30 Jun

Monday was a huge day for us! The original plan was to do the Forum, Palatine Hill, and the Colosseum in our morning walk. After two hours in the Forum and exhausted looks from everyone in the group it was clear that we were not going to make it to the Colosseum without some sort of break.

The biggest thing I took away from the Forum was Jamie’s quote: “Civilized people don’t wear pants.” Ok. Cool. I can go with that. Of course the context was how to determine Roman’s versus barbarians, but still, a valuable piece of advice for all of us today, I think. (And trust me, in 90 degree weather, it makes total sense.)

Jamie in action.

Anyway, it was great to hear Jamie’s take on the Forum in comparison to the tour I got four years ago from an extremely knowledgeable grad student. Some of the sites I remembered clearly, but others were so different that I had to wonder if I had actually visited the same site! Since research is always being done certain sites are closed off which may have been why I didn’t recognize many of the ruins. There was also a special exhibit on Nero, which allowed us to access one of the buildings rarely open to the public.

Infamous Nero

House of Vestal Virgins

Stadium at Palatine Hill

So we agreed to meet back at the Colosseum for the afternoon media class. Getting the hang of public transportation is a little tricky, and we’ve run into a few problems of course when we are most pressed for time!, but it’s pretty easy to use on the whole. So we had two hours to roam and sketch the Colosseum which was pleasant, but HOT.

I had an early dinner and spent the rest of the night working on studio.

MOSQUITOES. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. I want to kill every single one of them!!! I had a few bites but nothing too bad. Then over the course of Monday and Tuesday night I got about 15 more that swell up and drive me crazy. Let me tell you, the one on my forehead is real attractive. What was worse though, was that on Tuesday morning I woke up with a high fever, and various other unpleasant symptoms that you do not want! Especially when it is the morning before your first studio project presentation and when you are in Rome and supposed to be enjoying the sights. So a sad and boring next few days follow in which I am pathetically lying in bed unable to even walk to my own kitchen to get some fruit. We had a spider bite scare in the program, so I was worried about that because some of my bites look pretty frightening, but supposedly that’s unheard of in Rome, so for now I’m banking on just some really mean mosquitoes.

Alas, there is light at the end of the tunnel. On Thursday there was improvement and the fever was gone, so I mustered enough strength to go to studio. It was an important day because we were visiting the site for our final project. It is a villa in a public park with stunning views of Rome.

On our walk down we saw the Tempietto by Bramante, thought to be the most perfect building by many architects and historians. It is small and may seem unimpressive for such a statement, but I admit it was especially lovely. Supposedly the proportions are what make it so perfect and special. I really loved the way the light entered through rough glass windows.


So a week of ups and downs for me.

Keep posted for photos and stories of our field trip to Viterbo villas and the Monster Park!