Across the Atlantic and back in time…

Reflections on Sorrento, Ostia, and the Bourghese.

Well this should have been typed up at LEAST a few days ago… oops!

So, Sorrento, home of the ferry to Capri, Limoncello, and of what maybe looks like a bigger tourist trap then Rome.

Main things for that week:  Capri, Pompeii, and Herculanium (did I spell that right?).

First, short words about Capri:  beautiful, but too touristy.  I liked the Sicilian beaches better regardless, but the tourists and results of tourists made it 10 times worse.  Not that it wasn’t beautiful, and not that I wouldn’t want my experience, but if it weren’t for the totally unlegitimate private boat tour, it would not have been worth it (I swear that isn’t as sketchy as it sounds… it was fun!).

More important things now:  Pompeii!  Due to Vesuvius vomiting up a rather large amount of lava and ash, Pompeii had the pleasure of its inhabitants either

A) Take refuge far from the city.

B) Die there.

Fun right?  For them, not so much. But it is for classical studies students who want to see what a sizable Roman City looked like!  I could say that it looked amazing-amazing-amazing, but that’s really it.  You have to see it for yourselves.  It was incredible to see the city layout though, SO much better then Rome (honestly, the people who built Rome were the WORST city planners who’s work I’ve ever had to experience. ITS CALLED A GRID!).  The frescos were beautiful! (I think in my future home, SOME part of it will be a Pompeiian red).  Also, for the record, the beds in the brothel were most uncomfortable.  How the harlots worked I have NO idea.  Kudos to you ladies.

Herculaneum was MUCH smaller, and for richer people and their summer homes (imagine the Hamptons).  What is interesting about this place is, unlike Pompeii and its ash, Herculaneum was buried by MUD.  This allowed for much more to be preserved.  There was even WOOD preserved– Something I have not seen in any other site thus far.  There were almost no frescos, but the buildings, for the most part, were they most intact buildings I’ve seen yet!  It was very interesting!

After getting back to Rome, we went to Ostia, and had the privilege of seeing a dig and mosaic restoration in action, due to Hunter’s very own Professor Spurza.  It was nice to see the layout of this once port city (better then Rome’s terrible layout).  Also, Ostia is a town that isn’t preserved by destruction, but by its own simple dying out and people abandoning it.  Therefore, we see the growth and decline of the city through its architecture.  I have to say, the Mosaics there (which is one of the things its famous for) are astounding.  Definitely my favorite part.

Also, non-ancient related (sort of), yesterday, we went to the Bourghese gallery.  This place, was one of the most amazing places I’ve ever seen!  I’ve heard that, but I always thought “Well I guess possibly.  We’ll see.”  I’ve never seen something so beautiful that it almost brought me to tears, and anyone who knows me knows I don’t cry at anything.  Way to go with Apollo and Daphne Bernini. Way. To. Go.

I leave now, to go finish buying soccer jerseys for friends, figure out how to get my souvenirs through customs (not familiar with the process), get ready for the last dinner of Italia, and to enjoy this last, and hopefully wonderful night.

Peace, love, and Dy-no-mite, (don’t ask),


Siracusa! Taormina! Cefalù!….. e Ciao a Sicilia; Boun Mattina a Napoli!

Well the past few days have been long and tiring, and thus, I have not blogged (I have tended to go back to our hotels and immediately crash).


Our first day at Siracusa was very interesting. We started the afternoon off looking at a 4th century C.E. Villa with amazing mosaics! (again, no wifi, so no pictures, yet).  It had scenes of  gladiatorial fights, animal fights, giants, Hercules and the 12 labors, and 10 bikini girls!  What really struck me though, was not the mosaics themselves, but something that came after.

We were made our way back to the bus, and were waiting for some latecomers.  I decided to eat one of the apples I stole from the breakfast, and then went outside to throw out the core. As I was walking back, I passed this man, who proceeded to get my attention.  He started asking, in Italian of course (unlike in many restaurants we’ve been in, this entire conversation took place in Italian), where I was from.  When I told him I was from America, he had this look of shock on his face, then proceeded to debate with me how this didn’t make any sense, because I looked like I was Sicilian.  I can’t really describe it more than that, but his reaction really surprised me.  I proceeded to describe why this half Sicilian was not an Italian native, specifying “sono italiana-americana,” and where my grandparents were from, which cleared it up for him.  Afterward, he told me his name, Angelo, I told him mine, and then I said my goodbyes and left.  A very pleasant conversation.  (Its also funny to note that, once we came south, people have been mistaking me left and right for a native based on looks (which I may have said, but I keep thinking about it.  I’m finding it slightly hysterical)).

It was very interesting in terms of identity.  I have been told by some that I’m Italian.  I’ve been told by some that I’m American.  Identity is something that one ascribes to, or so I’ve been taught, and that’s something I believe.  But its difficult to figure that out sometimes.  I remember in freshmen year of high school, in English, my teacher explained how she went to Scotland (I can’t remember why), but how here she’d say she’s Scottish, but in Scotland, she’s American, because her family has been here for a while.  My family has been here for about a century—what do I ascribe to.  Being at Queens, I’m surrounded everyday by immigrants or children of immigrants, unlike me, who’s the child of children, of children of immigrants; this is the reason some people don’t like when I ascribe to any identity that has the word “Italian” in it.  I swear, sometimes I feel like people are trying to make me go through a freaking identity crisis, and it just makes me want to scream.

But I’ve realized something while I’m here.  There’s still a sort of mix to my own personal culture, one that some say doesn’t exist.  I may not speak Italian very well, and my dialects may have been blocked from my learning, but culturally, there’s still something there that does come from this place.  Obviously its not “pure,” but after speaking to people, I think I’ve come to realize that we’re not so different, even though a difference is there.  It’s all kind of mixed up and jumbled together in my brain, but then again, so am I.  Italian-American I stay.  I thank Angelo for that conversation.

In other news, the rest of Siracusa was AMAZING! The theater and the ampitheather.  The largest altar in the Greek world (450 oxen sacrificed at a time!  That’s one big BBQ! NOMMY!).  By the way, I would like to comment on this:  A lot of the biggest “______” in the Greek world à IN SICILY! And we didn’t STEAL IT.  On the contrary, the Greeks came here and gave it to us freely, and OBVIOUSLY we made it better (size matters).  I say this for certain Greek friends of mine who find it in their hearts to start arguments with me about who’s better, Greeks or Italians.  I think, once again, I’ve won this round.

Okay, back to more serious blogging, they really were amazing.  That altar was bigger than at least one football field- American or actual football.  And the theater—it was HUGE! AND NOT EVEN IN ONE PIECE!  As our expert archeological professor for the class told us for so many of the sights in Siracusa, the Spanish quarried in the 16th century… they quarried A LOT.  It was to build up Siracusa’s port, but in the process, they proceeded to destroy these sights a bit.  Its really a shame, but that’s how the ancient cookie crumbles I suppose (I apologize for these bad jokes by the way).

Its easy to see how Syracuse was the superior city compared to the rest we’d seen in Sicily from the ancient world.  And ancient histories we read speak no differently.  We’re talking about, not an impressive city-state, but just a city that came about due to a good port that fought off the Athenians, won with ease and proceeded to make them suffered (they did win after all, by a lot), and with this took down Athens, basically forever, as a fighting power.  I mean, why would Athens try again when the Syracusians were able to round up over 7000 POWs and make them suffer the way they did (no, seriously, very cruel.  Hot sun at some points, stuck in a cave with dying/dead bodies—this is what happens when you invade Syracuse for no other reason than to tick off the Spartans (and the Spartans didn’t even have anything to do with this little expedition.  Failures.)) It took the Roman army to take these guys down and turn them into a real colony (oooooo did I just take a stab again?  Okay, really, I’ll stop now…. FORZA SICILIA (okay seriously I’m stopping)).

Taormina was our next stop—SO PRETTY! THE BEACHES WERE PRETTY! EVERYTHING WAS PRETTY! Such a tourist trap, but so worth it (not normally something I’d go for).  The water was actually blue! And there wasn’t a lot of sand in the water.  I’m used to New York beaches.  You know, where the water is green and sandy, and the land is sandy, and eventually your entire body is sandy, even if you didn’t do anything.  Those beaches.  But I have to say, the best part was the World Cup Final.  Spain versus, Netherlands, and I was cheering for Spain.  I was in a bar,  where the was a huge downstairs and small upstairs. Down for Netherlands, upstairs for Spain.  I squeezed upstairs, so as not to be punched or something when I screamed at a ridiculous Netherlands foul (seriously! What the hell?!  WHAT SPORT ARE YOU PLAYING YOU DUTCH BARBARIANS?!?!?! (karate kick to the chest? Really?! REALLY?!?!?!))  Anyways, the environment was friendly, and my roommate and I became friendly with this man from Barcelona next to us, who nicknamed us “New York” (A.  We never exchanged names. B.  Such bad timing to plan a vacation!).  Spain’s goal in the over time was amazing.  I knew it was coming, because the only reason the Dutch were getting by was because they were playing to kill the Spaniards, not play football.  Spain had, you know, skill. The entire upstairs JUMPED up and started going nuts, and then we all started singing “oleeeee ole ole oleeee oleeeeeeeeeeee oleeeeeeeeeee” (why WOULDN’T I join in) and some other song, I caught on to the words quickly (one liner kind of song), but the lyrics escape me now.  It was truly amazing.  4 years ago I was cheering for Italy in the final, who did eventually win, but the win consisted of me jumping around my living room alone – not as much fun.  After the game ended, the same situation ensue.  My roommate and I left, and as we walked down the stairs, I waved goodbye to our new friend. “GOOD BYE NEW YORK!”—“GOOD BYE BARCELONA!”  (I found it too funny that this is what we ended up calling each other).  Spain it was an excellent win, and you deserved it.  Congrats on your first cup.  Netherlands…. Meh….

The next day, we woke up—It was time to head back to Palermo to catch a ferry to Napoli.  But first, we were going to stop in another kind of tourist trap area—Cefalù.  The beaches were, again, very pretty, but I didn’t have my swim suit this time.  Not much to say.  We walked around, found some tasty lunch, saw a church, and I bought a souvenir for my dad (which is going to torture him now cause I’m not saying what it is).  And I take it back, there is one thing definitely worth mentioning. There was a Cathedral there, and when we walked inside, the artwork was IDENTICAL to that which was in Mon Reale.  The two places are very close to one another, so them being similar isn’t surprising, but you’d think the French would get a little more creative with their churches when they take over a place (seriously, because it was the same, we knew the Normans built it, because they built the one in Mon Reale.  I’m not just blaming the French to be a jerk or to be funny—this is legitimately their fault… Teehee).

We made our way to Palermo, where I walked around with a friend for a little bit to a St. Mark’s kind of area, and got some cool earrings for really cheap! (Not gold obviously/unfortunately, but I have ways around that hahahahaha).  Next, we got onto the ferry to Napoli.  These ferries are things that I had heard about in Italian class many times, so I was excited to be able to ride on one.  We walked in, and it was like a fancy hotel (which was extra surprising because the outside was kind of ugly to be quite honest).  It was an overnight ferry, so, instead of doing the fun thing, which was staying up late and experiencing this wonderful ride, I slept.  All this moving around has been interesting, but not being grounded easily makes one very tired.

We woke up right outside Napoli, almost got lost getting off the boat (it was big and confusing and I SWEAR they moved the elevators), and then got on a bus to our hotel in Sorrento, where I am now, typing this blog.  I wasn’t completely awake for the whole ride, but I did manage to catch a glimpse of Mt. Vesuvius through the cloudy morning.  Its big.  We shall see it up close later in the week I think, so I’ll say more then.

Sorrento is very nice, and very peaceful, compared to Rome, thought bigger than other places we’ve stayed, (which makes me happy).  I’m half way into this trip, and I have to say that I’m not really all that homesick.  The only thing I can’t get used to is the siestas in the middle of the day!  I think it’s a wonderful idea, but I’m so used to stores being open the entire day.  So its interesting when you want to, say, go food shopping so you don’t have eat out all the time, and the store is close (regardless of the hours it posts… seriously, the other stores do it, please say you’re closing).  Business wise, I’m still American I guess, but that doesn’t stop me from envying that nap they have.

That’s about it.  I’m going to pit some fierce plants against some killer zombies (nick, this game you put on my computer is addicting.  I CAN’T STOP) so with that, I bid you all CIAO!!!!

Peace, love, and Signor Barcelona (our new friend from Espana :D),


More Palermo and Agrigento (7/8)

So after going into Palermo, its definitely not as good as Rome, but it has its moments.  It’s the type of place I think needs to grow on somebody, if they are not used to it.  The city itself is actually pretty cool, but the walk there from our hotel was… shall we say… less than desirable.  In laymen’s terms, “It was so sketch!” (I may or may not have just quoted something I said to my roommate.)

We spent yesterday at Segesta and Seliente, both great for viewing temples!  There are a lot of temples in Sicily, thanks to the Greeks (proof we Italians did NOT steal from the Greeks… they freely gave them to us to improve! (I kid, I kid… maybe… teehee).

The temples at these places—huge! And a couple not even finished!  Others fallen down.   An amazing additional professor who just knows everything about the architecture—it really helps to enhance the experience, even if its just slight knowledge.  Learning about how temples were built, what exactly was in them (no sacrificial altars by the way.  Sacrificial BBQs must be held OUTSIDE (where else would you BBQ?)).  I’m so glad that many of these temples have been restored, because it truly, along with the professor’s enhancing lectures, help to envision how the temples truly looked, what pieces were modernly made to help reconstruct it, and what’s missing.

However, this isn’t to say that the fallen temple weren’t awesome as well.  I have successfully learned how to climb and scramble about giant piles of old fallen temples in a skirt.  Definitely a skill everyone should learn—it makes life a little more fun.  I wasn’t on the top of a built up temple, just its ruins!  But this pile, this temple, it just kept going, and at the top it was so high with a ridiculous view!  I’m glad we were able to climb about, it really helped to make an impact of how much stone was really needed for these buildings, which makes it the more impressive that a people with no technology near ours could build such things.

Seliente also had the foundations for a whole town by the temples we looked at there, and they were in pretty good shape as well.  It was amazing to see the foundations of the places that whole families would live.  An early Levittown was built in Seliente.  There was also the remains of the city walls, which, when built, made Seliente a city that went from being a defenseless city in the midst of swamps, to one of the most defendable cities in Sicily (not enough to keep out the Carthaginians but we’ll let that slide).

Segesta also had an amphitheater, which is one of the best preserved that we can find.  It was really cool to be able to sit in an actual ampitheater, even if it was missing some parts (just the stage building really).

Today, we walked around the ancient city of Agrigento, to see more Temple (four, though there were 10 around.  The heat probably would have killed us past 5, though its not nearly as bad as New York… We’re all laughing and thankful we’re here, if only for the “cool” weather).  It was interesting to realize that all temples were put on the outside of the cities they were built in.  An impressive welcome to visitors, and proof of protection from foes.  Not surprising, but nothing I ever thought about.  When visiting the temple of Heracles, it was disappointing that the statue of Heracles was missing.  Not due to any modern temple robber, but due to an ancient Governor, Veres.  Cicero was able to get him removed from his post and exiled, but the pieces he stole from private citizens and from the nearby temples, including the Temple of Heracles.

When I think of past acts taking away physical objects to help us study the past, I tend to think of things like quarrying in the Colosseum, destroying it for stone and iron.  I don’t tend to think of greedy governors stealing from the people for their own delight.  It’s a pity that it was stolen, because it was suppose to be gorgeous, the most beautiful statue Cicero had ever seen.

I sincerely hope that when we get to Siracusa, or, Syracuse, that we are able to find more complete sets of things.  It’s a pity to only know about a statue from writings, and not from seeing.

Peace, love, and Italian fruit drinks (Amita Pear juice is very nommy.  More of a puree than a juice, and it was quite delectable!)


Non Ancient Reflections thus far (7/6)

So we have thus far spent a week in Rome, and one full day in Palermo, and am currently watching Futurama in Italian in my Palermo Hotel, while typing this blog in Microsoft Word, due to me not wanting to pay the €3 an HOUR (yes, hour) for internet.  Before I go into the city of Palermo, I thought I would write a little on my adventures thus far, from just an observational perspective of the people. (By the way, I just saw a commercial for Toy Story 3. HYSTERICAL!)

Rome was interesting, and kind of like a cleaner and smaller version of New York.  The subway, or “metro,” stops at 11:30.  The sirens for ambulances and police cars are different—much more annoying.  The drivers confuse me:  they stop for pedestrians.  When there’s no light, its hard to know if you should cross, because one keeps thinking the drivers will keep going, but then they don’t, and its all very strange to me.  Very different from the Sicilian drivers I’ve seen thus far.  Thus far, though again, only a day in Sicily, some of the motorcyclists and vespa drivers here are… creative…

The fruit here is delicious!  (I promised myself I wouldn’t go back to food, but I can’t help it!).  If it’s healthy, its reletivily inexpensive.  Its nice to see that a salad isn’t as expensive as a full on meat dish (honestly, it shouldn’t be.  It makes sense!)  My breakfast for most of my time in Rome was fruit I bought from the local grocery store.  It was inexpensive so I could buy a significant amount.  I’ll probably do the same for the Uruguay/Netherland game tonight (GO NETHERLANDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!)  (By the way, I think that show where the mermaid wants to be human (not “The Little Mermaid,” its live action) came on.  I HATE live actions dubbs… It looks so weird!)

Speaking of the games, its very interesting to see soccer here, regardless of Italy being knocked out of the cup so early.  They are still watching and finding their own sides to take.  Watching parts of the Ghana/Uruguay game in a Piazza Friday night was AWESOME!  Apparently, Romans were crazy for Ghana.  Later, speaking to some Italian fellows (they spoke English pretty well; most in Rome do), for the next game, people were split between Argentina and Germany.  Leading up to that disappointing game that may or may not have put a lump in my throat near the end (why Argentina….. WHY?!) (By the way, commercial for Gatorade that started with Track (Usain Bolt for that part) street soccer, and beach volley ball.  My life is a little more complete. Yay soccer and track!)

Anyways, there are A LOT of Germans visiting Rome (I’ve heard they come here for vacation, but, I still didn’t expect to hear German that much).  Also, for the Spain/Portugal game, a bunch of us went to the FIFA event near the Piazza di Popolo (big field, big screen), and if I didn’t know any better I would have thought we were in Spain.  Thank god I was with them—cheering for Portugal would have been a HUGE mistake (Sorry Ronaldo, maybe next time (NOT)).  I can’t wait for the Final in Siracusa, or even the next semifinal game tomorrow night! (Palermo isn’t really safe at night, so much so that our professors are actually just short of making it mandatory to stay in the hotel after dark, so I have to watch the game in my room tonight.)

Palermo is actually a tad surprising.  It looks a lot more run down then I would have thought.  It kind of reminds me of a poorer part of Brooklyn or Queens, at least compared to Rome (not too bad, but the streets are smaller and more crowded, the houses are a little more run down, and the driving, like I said, is a little more creative.  Also, the food thus far is less expensive. (Ok, so this show just had a pretty cool music number, but then it got really cheesy and the guy’s running after the girl who’s a mermaid saying he loves her…. Its weird besides being a dub… now they’re making out: WHO GETS TO MAKE OUT WITH A MERMAID?! )

Speaking of music, ALMOST ALL MUSIC IS AMERICAN!  I, for the most part, don’t like what ends up coming on to American Radio stations, and I can’t escape it.  I’m actually a tad annoyed when I walk up to the nice vendor and the sun is shining and the air is beautiful and I can see the gorgeous Sicilian landscape as far as the eye can see, and Ke$ha comes on (by the way, more than one mermaid?! Does anyone know this show? What IS this?)

Finally, one last food section, along with people.  The people we’ve spoken to in Palermo today were extremely friendly (and not just people trying to sell us stuff, but even then, in Rome some of vendors were creepy and/or not so desirable).  The food that we’ve had thus far, in my opinion, is superior! NOM NOM NOM is what I have to say.  Last night we had a HUGE dinner at the hotel we’re staying at, and all of it was just so good! Waiters walked around with trays for every course and just spooned food onto our plate (all of which was delicious!) and they just piled it on.

During dessert, we had this strawberry ice cream cake type thing (it was so good! The gelato-y part was incredible!) but THEN we saw that they brought out a chocolate one, and we were slightly upset (shown by my exclamation “ARE YOU KIDDING ME THERE’S CHOCOLATE?! I WANTED THE CHOCOLATE!”… I know, subtle (actually the waiter didn’t hear me, I just made a few people at my table laugh) When the waiter came to give the last person his dessert, we kind of just stared and mentally drooled, so the waiter just gave us chocolate ones on the spot!  Our waiter was also really funny and friendly, more so then anyone in Rome.  In fact, they all were.  A couple of the girls think they may have been flirty by nature because they were so nice (which would be weird cause they’re all middle age and we’re just a TAD younger), but to be honest they were just being nice.  The same during breakfast too (where they didn’t have to do a THING because it was continental, but they still came over and helped everyone with the coffee machines and stuff.  Even in really nice American hotels, I’ve never seen that.  Its usually just a mob of people and food)  Also, the Nutella filled croissant was AMAZING! (I want them at home.  Someone find a recipe for it NOW!…. Dad, Ariana, etc, why are you waiting, GO!!!!!).

I also find it hysterical that since we came to Sicily, if I wear the right clothes, I blend.  Like, blend.  I was wearing nice tan sandals, a black and white checkered skirt from just below the waist to the knees, and a plain but nice white short sleeved shirt (for those of you concerned, no, it wasn’t a tee-shirt).  Also my hair was down.  Yes, about my hair—For those of you who keep saying it makes me look Jewish, there must be a TON of Jews here if that is the case.  I’m pretty sure I saw a couple of possible doppelgangers today, and a few people started speaking in Italian or Sicilian on the spot, and didn’t realize till I opened my mouth that maybe they should speak English (which they did on the spot as best they could, even though I probably didn’t need it for basic things (Unless it was Sicilian, something that didn’t really get passed on)).  I found it most humorous.

By the way, the majority of the day out today was fun, and I got Sicilian playing cards (FINALLY!) and an Italia shirt (VP of Italian-American Club and I lost my one Italian shirt.  Thank god I finally found something inexpensive!)

Also, quick note, the beaches are BEAUTIFUL! But swimming in this water is apparently like swimming in the Hudson.  Hopefully we’ll have something before we leave Sicily.

Well, that’s it.  I must prepare to go into Palermo so I can go back before dark.

Peace, love, and midnight pool jumping (I won’t explain it, I will just say that I did not participate.  I just laughed when I heard about it).


About this delay in posting…

So I went two weeks without internet, until getting back to Rome.  While I have been trying to keep up with blog posts on Word, I obviously could not upload them to the internet.  I’m going upload them all now, and write some new ones.  Since I’ve been back in Rome, its been crazy, which is why I’m only uploading them now.



The Vatican: Religion is Power

(Religion is a touchy topic, so if you’re sensative, you may want to either skip certain parts of this, take it with a grain of salt, or just flat out not read it.  Anyone who dares to critize my opinons in an unintelligent manner will regret it.  Certainty, confusion, annoyance, analysis, intimidation– They are all a part of the discussion here, not just faith.  I simply ask you to respect that fact.  *End of disclaimer*)

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” – Seneca.

The Roman Cathoilc Church and I, what a strange relationship we have.  So many times have I tried to express my opinion about the religion I was raised with, and never once has it come out clear.  Its a beautiful religion, and yet its a horrid one.  I accept and embrace the fact that it exists, but I personally think its a load of garbage.  I think its incredibly useful on some levels, and a waste of time for the majority involved on others.  The institution that is the Vatican and the Papacy is a blessing, and yet, it is also a curse.  And while it has does nothing in more recent times (you know, except failing to handle those scandals sufficiently (Good job Benny 16…)), it has a past that I cannot forgive.  It is the reason that I don’t understand how history majors can be relgious. 

This doesn’t cover it at all, but I’m trying.

As we walked toward the Vatican, my head was actually rather clear (I don’t really think about any of this unless I’m discussing religion).  We waited on the line for the Cathedral, in our modest dress where (nothing above the knee and shoulders covered), and we went in.  We saw two main things before trudging through the heat to the Vatican Museum (location of the Sistene Chapel).

The first of these were the halls where previous Popes were buried.  The coffins, made of stone, and extremely decorated, were lined up for all to see, as we passed them one by one.  For someone like me, its hard not to think of the gluttony and greed of the church back in the day. (64 course meals, indulgences because you spend so much money beautifying your home that you run the church’s bank account into the red, prada shoes (oh wait that’s not back in the day that’s good-old-benny), all the things necessary in the life of a priest, who definitely should be spending money like there’s no tomorrow… no helping the poor or anything (no, I’m not bitter at all). This isn’t to say that they don’t do ANYTHING good, but let’s be real…)

However, then we come across a road block of people.  Immediatley, I knew what it was, and when I came to the source, I was proven correct.  The tomb of Pope John Paul II, Giovanni Paolo II, JP2, whatever you’d like to call him; the road block was for people praying. It was nice to see his little plot, for it was modest.  Just a slab of marble with an engraving saying who was underneath it.  Modest, but pretty.

The other thing we saw was much more… awesome?  Its the only word I can think of to describe it.  If there is proof of the awesome power of any god, (part of the reason they made it so crazy), it is the Cathedral itself.  If there is one thing I cannot describe properly of the things I’ve seen thus far, this is it.  Its so big! ……..

I’m pausing right now, attempting to think of something to write, and I just can’t do it.  The architecture is beautiful.  The paintings were amazing.  The ceiling was beautiful, and if you looked to long you might get dizzy (there were things in circles), and, as per usual, the statues were my favorite (statues are just awesome!).  But this does not describe it.  To understand, you must go yourself.  I forgot my camera, but it almost doesn’t matter, because like everything else, pictures can’t capture it (though I will get pictures from my friends so its not like I’ll have nothing).

There was one room in particular in there that I remember (not that I don’t remember the rest).  It was a small chapel, with thick curtains in the doorway.  They were to block sound, because it was for praying only.  The three of us, went inside, to see what it looked like.  Why not?

We got inside, and I ended up sitting by myself, because of how the seats were taken up.  I sat, and did my usual “kneel, make sign of the cross, and at least look like I’m praying,” ritual.  But it is amazing what power shiny and beautiful things have.  It wasn’t so much the beauty of the church, but the intimidation that came of it.  I consider myself agnostic, I don’t know who or what is right.  But walking into that church made me sort of feel like I was being yelled at, or at least, that’s the only way I can think to describe it.  All of these powerful looking paintings, ceilings, status, floors, walls– the very aura of the place breathed power.  Next thing you know, I’m having an argument with God about God-knows-what (yea, he OR SHE knows exactly what I’m talking about)… this is when someone lets me think for too long I suppose.  But, it is obvious that this place can have strange effects on a person.

The release that a church offers to us, even if it is in anger and confusion, and even if it from a hellish oliogarchy, is very interesting indeed…

Religion, is interesting.  Faith.  Power.  What starts where?  Is it good, or bad?  Who is truly in control.  Religion is most definitely interesting…

Peace, love, and holy wafers (not that I got one.  I have once again missed Mass).


(P.S.:  I have been to the Sistene Chapel.  As per usual, I, for some reason, am not liking Michaelangelo’s work as much as I think I’m supposed to.  The map room the was a little before it rocked my socks though 🙂 )

So back to my boys Trajan and Hadrian… Along with some Forum talk!

To finish up my last post (its late… I know… I blame lack of wireless! (That’s right, I still don’t have it…)), we have Trajans Pillar and Hadrians tomb left to discuss.

Trajan’s Pillar.  Well, its a pillar.  A giant pillar.  But this is no ordinary pillar.  This work of art depicts the Roman conquest of Dacian under Emperor Trajan (an excellent general and an emperor remembered favorably).

I’m very glad that I saw pictures of the pillar in my Roman Empire class before seeing it in person.  There was a gate around it (just like there are around so many of these artifacts), so we couldn’t get up close and study it.  A couple of pictures (which I can’t put up because I STILL don’t have wireless) I have capture travelling armies and the like, and of course, a statue of Trajan at the top.  It is truely an awesome sight to behold, especially when you know what you’re seeing.  (Something I found amusing is that there is a COPY (if we’re not mistaken) in a different place in Rome, and we thought that was the original, origially.)  This is something I recommend seeing, but binoculars are a must!  There’s nothing quite like an ancient comic strip on a pillar.

We also have Hadrian’s tomb.  Or, Il Castello di San Angelo (The Castle of Saint Angelo).  Again, this is one of the reasons this castle survived– the Catholics decided to remake it instead of destroying it.  However, there were still a lot of original artifacts from Hadrian’s time in the palace; I guess there was a lot of value placed on it.  Not saying there weren’t Christian figures all over the place though; there were PLENTY!  However, it was still amazing to just see the sheer size of this tomb/castle.  I think that was what made it all the better– it was a grave and a giant house! 

I have to say though, the most memorable view is from the top.  If you get to the top of this building, the view is amazing.  I’m not going to try to describe it, but its breaking-taking.  Just like many other things on this trip, it made me gasp and stare for a minute because it was just that beautiful.  I only wish I could imagine it in ancient times.  Now we see modern Rome, the Vatican, cars driving, tourists walking.  Its very hard to think about what the ancient Roman who climbed that building would have seen, at least for me.  Here’s where I would like a little History Channel CGI magic!

We also have seen the Roman Forum… Or what’s left of it.  It is truly in ruins.  Victory arches (such as Titus’s and Serverus’s) remain, but the majority look like one would think:  a place that’s been abandoned for 1000 or so years.  A temple turned church is in ruin, with the top half of Antonius Pius’s statue’s body chopped off (what was left of him was sitting in a chair at the top of the stairs; it was quite amusing).  The house of the Vestal Virgins was ok, but the place of the hearth they had to keep burning for Rome was all but gone (just down to a couple of pillars).  The Senate House is there, but has been refurbrished. 

However, while this place is, well, in ruins, it doesn’t make it any less amazing to behold.  As you walk through and see the foundations for everything, you start to rebuild it somewhat in your head.  Eventually, you might have some idea.  Some of these buildings were quite small, while others were enormous (such as the house for the Vestal Virgins– Best treated women get the best kind of house).  It’s only an idea, but that helps to make what you’re seeing so much greater.  You remember that this one city held 1,000,000 people, an enormous amount for the time and you just stand in more awe.  Awe for how big this place must have been, and awe for how much it has fallen apart and crumbled into pieces sizable enough that your professor can make a comfortable seat out of one and read during a lecture break.

Now I shall break until the next post (which could come in less than 20 minutes, more than 20 hours, WHO KNOWS! (but I’m trying to catch up…)

Peace, love, and football jerseys (Barcelona/Argentina!!!!! GO MESSI! Yes, I’m the one who comes to Italy and gets jersey of an Argentinean who plays for a spanish club… he’s half italian, does this count?)


Vespian… Trajan… Hadrian… ian… Ian?

I never noticed how many emperors names ended in “ian”… Domitian… Lot of ians, but also “ius”s… Augustus, Tiberius, Titus, Antoninus, Marcus Aurulius, Commodus, Severus… Very funny to me, but maybe that’s because its late at night and I just never recognized it before (for some reason hahaha).

Anyways, I stuck with the “ians” because they are what I have decided to rant to you about on this fine evening, the midnight of July 1st (or is it July 2nd.  I still don’t know..).

Vespian:  HIS/THE COLOSSEUM!  Very… Colossal.  This is where it get very hard to describe, like in my last post.  I guess I shall reveal the disappointments.  One might take from pictures that the Colosseum isn’t exactly in one piece.  Its been quarried by various people, so this with the test of time has taken a toll on the place.  This doesn’t, however, stop it from being beautiful inisde, and it was amazing to look at.  From what would be the stands, you could see the underground (for the fighting grounds had been ripped up); it looked like a maze.  The view across from one side to the other was amazing– This place was just large!  Lots of pictures of course (maybe I’ll get some up tomorrow!  I’m praying for my wireless) including a remake that I think my family would enjoy (yes, I attempted to retake grandpa’s picture… I look snazzy in my black tank top and purple skirt, throwing my fist in the air! hahahaha…).

I was originally going to talk about Trajan’s pillar and Hadrian’s Tomb/Il Castello di San Angelo (another thing taken over by Catholics that was Roman)… But, as per usual it is late and I need a shower stat!  Tomorrow, before lecture, I shall try again. 

Until then,

Peace, Love, and Pope Bobbleheads (about this… Someone’s getting an interesting gift when I get back home…)


I kind of want to live here, and I kind of want a Vespa…

So I’ve been in Roma for a few days now, and I must say this:  I approve of the pizza and gelato.  There are more types of each then I ever though of.  The fig gelato I had today: PHENOMONAL!  Also, the actually figs I had today:  Best I’ve ever had! (Today was a fig day I suppose hahahaha).  The food, overall, is pretty good.  I wish I could find these rice balls at home!

The only thing I dislike is actually kind of strange:  EVERYONE SPEAKS ENGLISH!  Maybe it will change when I leave Rome, but I was really looking forward to using Italian, but as soon as a let off an American vibe, people here, for the most part, start speaking fluent english.  Its odd on so many levels.  I need to get better at this, but obviously the practice is hard to find.

But enough of the food (I haven’t even gotten to Sicily yet, and that’s where I hear the food is at) and of the language non-barrier.

The sites are something that I cannot duplicate in any photos.  No painting can capture it.  No description of the greatest writer can capture it.  Seeing these sites, if nothing else, truely show the glory that once was the Roman empire, and also how that remnents of that glory have been changed, embellished, or desacrated.  For example, we have the pantheon.  On the outside, its old and brown, and lately has had scaffolding on the right side, so one cannot see the entirety of Marcus Agrippa’s inscription.  One of our professors mentioned that once we go inside, and see the marble, we’d see what the outside really looked like (it had something like marble tiles on the outside).  This Temple, renovated, then changed into a church (thus saving it from destruction) is this huge thing that, to be honest, just looks like another huge old ancient building on the outside (not that this isn’t cool because I still thought it was amazing to see).

Not knowing to expect more, we walked inside.  And that’s when my jaw would have hit the floor if it were physically possible.  It was the most beautiful place I think I’d ever seen.  The artwork, the marble, and the Oculus at the tome (a huge hole that lets in the sunlight).  This is Ancient Rome.  Well, actually, not really, because it was taken over by the Catholic Church.  None the less, it was still BEAUTIFUL! 

There was also St. Ignatius’s Basilica.  The Pantheon does not compare to this basilica, it was enough to bring one to their knees, even me, who while raised Catholic is somewhat skeptical of the whole thing and isn’t observate.  (In that regard, I found the place rather intimidating (not something I’ve ever experience in a church in the states)).  Exquistite sculptures, beautiful paintings, and secret passageways (that were fun to explore but I don’t think we were allowed to go there… Next time- Flashlight!)  It was truly amazing.

Just the mere size of both of these things were awesome in a way I cannot describe.  I have attempted above, but nothing does them justice (not even the pictures that I can’t post yet but will do when I can even though it won’t make a difference because nothing but seeing it with your own eyes will do it justice).  Its amazing that the Romans, and later in the middle ages with the Roman Catholic Church, could make such amazing things.  As can be seen in the local museums, from the giant foot or hand or head of Constantine, to a bronze Marcus Aurelius (that was HUGE!) to the remains of the Roman forum, it starts to put things into perspective and actually give you a sense of the place, even though that probably cannot fully happen.

Not to mention Trajan’s Pillar.  I only wish the Italians hadn’t put a gate around it because seeing it from afar was not as fun.  I wanted to see the Dacian war clearly! (Its hard from far away.  Lucky, I saw it in history class.  But seeing it in person completed the effect.  Like I mentioned, its better to see it in person.  It was also nice to be around people who said almost in unison with myself “OH MY GOD THAT’S TRAJAN’S PILLAR!”–“OH MY GOD YOU’RE RIGHT!!!!!”– “DAMN IT THIS IS SO HUGE!!!!!”)

I’ve only been in Rome since Monday at around 10 AM here.  About halfway through these not even 3 days, I think I’ve actually made the descision of what I want to attempt with my life.  I want to know more about these things.  They’re just awesome in ways I can’t describe, and what they have resulted from are just as fascinating (I have not even mentioned my lectures, but if I do blog about them, its better to wait a little longer to compile them better).  Granted, I’m still brainstorming for a senior thesis idea, and maybe I would be better off at Hunter than Queens (due to department size… too bad I don’t want to switch), but somehow, I want to make this work.

I went to the Colosseum today, but I will write about that and my new Pope bobblehead in the next post (I couldn’t NOT! It was just a tad hysterical).

On a side note, I want to start a trend here in America.  I think Vespas are awesome.  Whoever invented it was a very awesome person.  I definitely think I’d like driving one.  Also, Roman drivers stop for pedistrians.  Its rather freakish, and I almost wish they wouldn’t do it because I find it so strange.  Since when does someone driving let a pedestrian walk?!

This post was long, ranty, confusing, and incredibly disorganized, and I congratulate those of you who got through it.  It is 12:38 in the morning here, so with this I sleep for lecture tomorrow, and our own non-class related excusion to Hadrians Tomb.

For those of you who made it this far and are not members of my family trying to make sure I’m alive (Hi Mom!)  I salute you and give you brownie points.  (I salute you too mom, but I know you’ll read the whole thing no matter what :P)

Peace, love, and gelato and rice balls and wine!


4 days left and counting… Just have to spread my wings and fly! (very far!)

Well, it is currently 10:39 on a Wednesday night, and 96 hours from now I will be most likely napping over the Atlantic.  It is kind of weird that this is so close.  It reminds me of how we all say “it would be awesome to do this” or “I wish I could do that,”  but the moments leading up the eventual action you were never sure you would take are nerve-racking for no reason that you can comprehend.  Some of my fellow study abroaders (is that a word? ) agree that the fact that we are leaving for Europe in less then a week is just completely unreal.

My suitcase is almost completely packed, I have all my clothes/accesories bought and assembled (except for that one shirt I have to return for the one I meant to buy.  Damn my inattentiveness at times!), books and readings collected, my Italian-English dictionary, thanks to Oxford and Barnes and Nobles, in my carry-on, the World Cup, which is one of the parts of this trip I’m most looking forward too, is almost half-way done (Argentina you are beautiful, USA you’ve made me very patriotic today and I love you for it… ITALIA PLEASE DON’T LET ME DOWN IN THE NEXT MATCH!) and my last goodbyes starting.  And, yet, I still don’t feel like I’m leaving.  This state (and a little bit of the surrounding ones), I have realized, basically holds my entire life, and I’ve barely left it (New York City has every culture, New York State has everyTHING).  This will indeed be interesting when I take off from Newark (and yes, I’m still baffeled as to WHY someone thought New Jersey was a good idea for a start to this trip (No offense, but you’re so far away (unlike Italy of course))).

I probably won’t blog again until I’m out of the the country, or at least until I’m sitting in Newark waiting to take off across the atlantic and back in time.

Peace, love, and Kimbob (Yes I’m aware that this is Korean and not Italian but I’m stuffed to the gills with it and can’t stop thinking about how full I am! (Thank you Ms. Agnes Eshak) (It is also interesting to note how the diversity of food will most definitely be different, but that is for a post or two in the future I think))


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