Monthly Archives: February 2011

Ferragamo and Dogs

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When I sat down to chose the courses I wanted to take while studying in Rome, I wanted a mix of subjects. I also wanted to study areas with which I wasn’t already familiar so I could grow and become a better-rounded individual. I considered Rome my classroom, and contemplated what courses would expose me to the most, and whose material would be amplified by the surrounding city and country. I came to the final conclusion that besides the required Italian language course, Italian Design, Chemical Photography, and Ancient Rome would suite me and the situation best. The material was varying, while still staying consistent with my interests. I have already talked about Ancient Rome, the 3000-level Classics course taught by Jan Gadeyne, which is super-intense! The one I want to talk about now is the Italian Design course that I take with Katherine Krizek. Going into it, I wasn’t sure on which aspect of Italian Design this course would focus; architecture, fashion, or other items. I found out on the first day that it was a general design course which would focus on all of these things. I liked this idea because I would get an all-encompassing education on what design is like in Italy. However, it has wound up being a little confusing and unclear at times because we don’t focus on one area or time period. The class is extremely different from any course I’ve ever taken at Main Campus because more than half of our class time is dedicated to site visits!

We’ve visited many of the museums and architectural masterpieces of Rome on the Thursday afternoons we spend with Katherine. Most notably, last weekend we spent three days in Milan! Milan….the design capital of the world. And we were able to visit with our professor who knows the city and has an extensive design education. I have to say that overall, Milan was somewhat of a disappointment. The city had a very bleak feel to it. The people were not friendly or the opposite, but just were present. However, by far the most intriguing thing about the city to me was the FASHION. I’ve never been to a city where people were so well-dressed. Of course, not all were dressed exquisitely, but a large majority of both men and women looked fabulous. It also came to my attention and really hit home for me in Milan how much more money Italians spend on their clothing and looks than Americans. Milan is a very expensive city in general and a place where many wealthy people live, as shown by the numerous Lamborghinis we spotted, but even those who weren’t screaming of wealth and riches were in the stores spending MOLTI SOLDI. I thought their mall, The Galleria, right by the breath-taking Duomo, would be a cheaper place where I could snag a good buy in the last days of the Italian sales. But, even there, the people seemed to be casually spending upwards of 90 euro on a pair of jeans. Also notable, when Katherine took us into the famous Ferragamo store, there were actually normally-dressed locals inside purchasing shoes and scarves for 500 euro! What tickled me the most was that in these extremely expensive showrooms, studios, and stores, I saw so many dogs running around! This really stood out for me because in America, you can basically only bring your pets into Petsmart. But in Italy, and specifically in this case in Milan, they have a completely different mentality about animals. Overall, I’m certainly glad that I saw the city while here, but I wouldn’t spend the money to go there on my own and doubt I will find myself there again.

The Bare Bones of It

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The bare bones of it: studying abroad gives young people the opportunity to live in another country, in my case, Italy. We are 21 years old, give or take, and are living in Italy’s capital of Rome. There is so much history all around us, and a completely new culture in which we have become immersed. Here, people park their cars and Vespas on the sidewalk (and basically anywhere else they can fit), men wear scarves and handbags, and there is at least one Pizzeria on every block.  But more than that, the Pope sleeps a few blocks from the Residence, the Coliseum and Roman Forum are a short Metro-ride away, the churches are many and will take your breath away, and monumental obelisks and piazzas pack the city. Everything in this ancient city (and country) has a history and has significance. I think so often tourists breeze through Rome and Italy without knowing what exactly they are seeing and experiencing. Why do the people act the way they do? What events led the city to be set up the way it is geographically? Who were Italy and Rome’s main leaders who helped shape the city and country as a whole? For many, they come to Italy and see and enjoy its beauty, but their experience ends there. For this reason, I feel part of why studying abroad is so phenomenal and unique is the element of academics.

I admittedly did not have a tremendous amount of knowledge regarding Rome and Italy when I arrived here. I was aware of general knowledge about the country’s political system and of course had taken classes involving Greek and Roman mythology, but that was basically all. With that being said, part of the reason I wanted to study in Rome was because I knew there was so much history that I could learn while actually living in the city. So, I chose to take Ancient Rome, a class with Professor Gadeyne, the intense and witty Flemish archeologist who teaches a plethora of Roman history classes at different universities throughout Rome.

When I walked into Professor Gadeyne’s class that Monday in mid January, I felt enthusiastic and excited about learning the profound history of the city I would call home for the next four months. When I exited an hour and 30 minutes later, I felt exhausted, overwhelmed, and unsure about this class for which I had been so eager to begin. I was intimidated by Jan’s passion for the subject and his seemingly endless amounts of knowledge, and was surprised to hear we would be writing a 10-page paper. I thought that perhaps without much previous knowledge, this Classics course would be too much for me. But, it would take A LOT for me to switch out of a class due to reservations about course material, so naturally, I stuck with it.

The class has continued to be challenging and Professor Gadeyne’s passion never dwindles. The amazing thing about being at Temple Rome is, not only do we have exemplary professors, but the curriculum is extremely hands-on. For our Ancient Rome class, we actually took a weekend-long “academic excursion” to many sites south of Rome, namely Paestum, Pompei, and Naples. What a great opportunity to be able to actually do on-site visits with a professional archaeologist in Pompei! I am so pleased that I saw Pompei for the first time with someone so knowledgeable because it really gave me a solid academic grasp on the history of the ancient city, rather than simply walking around and only appreciating the city for aesthetic reasons. To actually SEE the buildings, cities, monuments etc. that we learn about in class is such a moving and memorable experience and such a unique way to learn. The bare bones of it: taking these courses while in Rome and literally seeing the history right in front of us undoubtedly the experience of a lifetime.

Il cuore, parte 2

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Now that all the philosophical, mythological whose and whatnots about love are out of the way, let’s get real and talk about love in the 21st Century Rome, and love while studying abroad.

Let it first be known that when I was skyping with my family last night, my Uncle asked me “so what are the Italian women like? Are you studying-broads?” Get it? I told him they were in hibernation. Seriously, I’m convinced. The proportion of Italian men to women here, at least our age, is much more on the male side. Doesn’t matter either way, I’m taken.

But just because one is taken in Rome does not mean that other shenanigans do not go on in a study abroad program. That’s all I’ll say. To each his or her own. Just a word of advice if you do plan on studying abroad while in a relationship based on friendships I’ve seen (and this is not at all to be preachy, seriously, I’m not judging); talk about it with your boyfriend or girlfriend before you go. Talk about how you feel, good or bad about the whole thing. I don’t know, it helped my relationship at least, it may not work for everyone. Also know that because you’re traveling, there might be a heigtened sense of dreaminess or idealization. Your feelings might be true, but remember to keep yourself in reality and not to get swept up in the romance of it all.

You would think that a program of 250 people is large enough so that not everyone knows everyone else’s business or love life. False. This is not necessarily a bad thing, just know what you’re getting yourself into. Hooking up happens, if someone were to draw a map of everyone in the program, there would probably be a good deal of overlapping. Some of this has caused some drama. If it does, whatever, don’t let it ruin your trip. So what if you made out with your roommate’s cousin’s second ex boyfriend? Talk about it to your roommate. If it’s a huge problem, ignore it and let it be water under the bridge.

This seems to be how the Romans do love: extremely openly. There is absolutely no shame, it’s hilarious. It’s somewhat disturbing on the one hand, and cool that they’re so open on the other. I can tell you one place I will not be venturing tonight: Villa Borgehse. This is the Central Park of Rome, and is probably even bigger. I’ve only been there twice, but both times there was a couple every 10 feet along the wall. I’ll leave it all to your imagination, but it seems that on Valentine’s Day, there will be enough raunchiness in the park to satisfy both Tiger Woods and Prime Minister Berlusconi together. Too soon?

As I said, public display of affection is practically encouraged by the Romans. Age makes no difference. Last week, my friends and I went to the top of one of the seven hills of Rome, and I saw people that were practically my parents age full on making out in public. But hey, it’s cool that they’re so open and that the relationship is so strong. Three of my friends and I were also invited to an Italian friend’s birthday party last week. So much fun, but in the car on the way back, I was forced to listen to the smacking sounds of huge wet kisses from the back seat. Not even my broken Italinglish conversation with my friend Andrea and the blasting of the Black Eyed Peas could drown it out.

But you know what? It’s cool. It’s encouraging to know that in a time with so much divorce, there is so much love around. Watch out for Cupid, he’s well known in these parts.

Il cuore, parte I

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There’s nothing quite as fitting as spending Valentine’s Day in Roma. Except for the fact that my significant other is in the United States…

Oh well, at least I’m saving money. 🙂 Really though, it’s ok. Valentine’s Day seems to be a much bigger deal in the United States than in Italy. The origin of the holiday, in a nutshell, happened originally during a pagan festival known as Lupercalia, celebrated in Ancient Rome. The Catholics took over the holiday and substituted Valentine’s Day. Both, in ways, celebrate fertility and love. If you want to know more about the entire history; I featured it in my religion column in the Temple News.

Of course I wrote that article based on my own research; it seems only fitting I learned about Aphrodite (goddess of love) in mythology class today. Now I know much more about how the ancient Greeks and Romans interpreted love. The chapter was filled with stories (many of which could be made into a very good, or bad, romantic comedy. Some could even be, or already have been, made into tragedy films) that deal with the goddess and her offspring.

The first thing to know about Aphrodite (Venus) is that she has two stories of where she came from. The first story basically says that she came from Uranus’ (sky) castrated testicles. These fell to the sea, and the semen turned into foam. There’s a lot of strange family history there and a perfectly good reason why he was castrated, but you can do that research on your own. Anyway, Aphrodite rose out of the foam of the sea. That’s why we have this picture, The Birth of Venus. This creates a “Uranian” love. It is older, pure, and sacred.

Venus being born out of the sea, according to the story.

The other story says that Zeus and Dione (some lesser diety) mated and had Aphrodite, obviously through intercourse. This demonstrates a second kind of love called “Pandemos.” This means literally for all demographics. This is the commoner’s love: basic, physical, and even profane.

Both of these kinds of love have existed over the course of history, and are obviously very relevant to the 21st century. But I’ll get to that in the second part of this post. It should be pointed out that our popular culture, from films, to popular songs, to epic novels, poems, short stories…revolves 90% of the time around some sort of love story. Here are some of my favorites from class, alla fairy-tale.

Pygmalion: There once lived a man who hated all the women of Cyprus, where he lived. And so he decided to sculpt the perfect woman out of ivory. Once he had finished with her, he saw she was beautiful, and began to fall in love with her. He brought her gifts, and dressed her in jewels and gowns, and made her a bed. But she could not respond to his touch or his love. And so, during the festival of Aphrodite, he asked the goddess if he could find a love as perfect as his sculpture; he was too ashamed and embarassed to ask that the ivory itself be made real. When he returned to his home, he found that the ivory had begun to turn flesh colored. When he touched her, the skin began to warm and melt. Gradually, she became a woman, named Galatea. Pygmalion and Galatea were happy, and gave birth to a child named Paphos.

To be analytical, this obviously derives from Pandemos Aphrodite. You kind of have to wonder if this story is a good thing or a bad thing. On the one hand, it’s good because it tells us that we can create what we believe to be perfection. It can be argued that the gods, or God, fell in love (whether platonic or not) with their creation. In that way we are like them. The story also helps to give us faith in true miracles. It somehow lets us know that the gods (or God), hears and answers our prayers, not matter how far-fetched they may seem. On the other hand, it’s a tragic and sad story, de-humanizing women by making none of them worthy of Pygmalion. It further relates to the idea of plastic surgery today; our own way of sculpting the body to achieve perfection, merely to impress or conform to the society that has created it.

Adonis and Aphrodite: From the offspring of Pygmalion came Paphos. From the offspring of Paphos came Cinyrous. Cinyrous fathered a daughter, Myrrah. She took him secretly as a lover, and from their offspring came Adonis. (that was more alla Bible…whatever. I try.)

Before the story of Adonis and Aphrodite is told, it must be known that Aphrodite had the power to sway anyone with the exception of three goddesses: Artemis, Hestia, and Athena. When Zeus created her, he allowed even Aphrodite herself to be swayed by love. And so, she fell in love with Adonis, a very handsome man, and a hunter. Aphrodite feared for Adonis’ life, constantly warning him not to hunt. But he did not listen. One day he was attacked and mauled by a wild boar. Hearing his cries, Aphrodite went to him, and held him in her arms as he lay dying. She sprinked nectar onto him, and from this came a flower called the anemone. Today, this flower blooms every spring, and is a symbol of rebirth, ressurection and love for Adonis.

Anemone

This theme of a dominant woman and the ressurection of a fragile lover that returns in the spring is constantly recurring in mythology. There are many parallels between the image of Adonis dying in Aphrodite’s arms to Jesus dying in Mary’s arms. This kind of love is obviously platonic, and very much relating to a mother and son. The term “adoration” (such as in Adoration of the Magi, or in the words Come let us adore him) may very well stem from Adonis. This heartache is arguably the most powerful love that exists in this world.

Pieta di Michelangelo, Basilica di San Pietro

Socrates’ speech (from Plato’s Symposium)- A symposium is a gathering, especially after dinner, where the greeks would drink and talk. It’s awesome to know that over the course of 2000 years, this idea has not changed. There was a certain symposium that Plato wrote, both as a philosophical document and a story, set at a cast party. This particular philosophical myth (used to explain human emotion), has to do with love. The following is by Socrates, again, loosely written by me.

At the beginning of the world, there existed three sexes. The first sex, whose realm was the Sun, was formed by two men attached back to back, with two sets of arms, two sets of legs, and two heads. The second sex, whose realm was the Earth, was formed by two women attached in the same way. The third sex, whose realm was the Moon, was formed by a man and a woman in the same position. Zeus grew angry that these gods disregarded him, and so he severed and separated them all with the strike of a lightning bolt. Since then, each has spent his or her life searching the world for its other half.

This is a powerful message, and the first true story of mythology that supports homosexual love. In today’s society, we thrive and search for this love, no matter who it is between. Plato believede that there were two kinds of love, much like Aphrodite’s two kinds of love. The first is physical, erotic, with the possibility of producing children. While this kind of love mostly, but not entirely supports homosexual relationships, the second one does. Through this physical love, a couple can attain this philosophical, or Platonic love. This is abstract, a union of thoughts and ideas, considered the highest form. The lessons from this highest love, no matter what genders it exists between, are passed on to the children of the couple. Love was extremely important and powerful to the Greeks, perhaps even moreso than it is to many people today.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Le mani

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There is something truly great in Italia that I have fully learned to appreciate…the use of the hands. It’s very exciting because it isn’t one of the cultural differences I had thought about before leaving. Many know that the Italians use their hands to talk and to communicate; that stereotype is pretty accurate. But there is something so awesome about taking the times to do things by hand. It lets you take your time, have good conversation, and appreciate the work much more.

Water is “free” in our apartment. So why use 2 euro for the washing machine? I decided to do what the Romans do and wash by hand. We don’t use the bidet for anything else, so why not just fill that with cold water, detergent, let it soak, and then let it dry on the porch? The clothes are very stiff when they dry but once you put them on they’re back to normal after 2 minutes. It’s actually extremely simple. I may do this when I get back to Philly, can’t be sure yet. I feel like hanging my clothes out to dry in Philly would make them reek of four loco and cigarette smoke.

Perhaps the best part of living here is making the food, again all by hand. Last weekend, 15 of us went to a professor’s house and made gnocchi from scratch. There is something truly remarkable about food here in that people actually take time to make it. After grinding up the patate (potatoes) for the gnocchi, you have to sprinkle flour over it and make it with an egg. Then you knead it into a ball of dough, cut off a sliver, roll it, cut that into little pieces and you have your gnocchi. The kneading and making a mess is the best part of the whole thing.

Then of course there’s the art. Sculptures, paintings, architecture. All done by tools and hands over hundreds of thousands of years. There is absolute perfection in these priceless sculptures, and it would most likely be difficult even for a machine to replicate the details in the folds of fabric and the hairs on the heads. In Italy, seeing all the art around me, I’m reminded that there’s great unified spirit that all humans have, a desire to create. The Michelangelo’s ceiling of the Sistine Chapel displays this perfectly.

And finally, of course, there is the appreciation of writing by hand and taking notes. In my Museum Theory and History class, we learned about something called the Grand Tour. This is in the 17oos, when sons of aristocrats (and eventually others), just college-aged would travel around Europe, making Italy their final destination. To keep records, they would write in “tagebuchs,” or journals. Writing by hand, not a journal, but simply a list of things I did that day, has been awesome. I’ve been lacking in it a bit and I’d like to be doing it more. I still spend a lot of time on the computer.

Try doing some of those things by hand. It lets you slow down and really appreciate the task at hand, literally.

Rome Versus….the Rest of Italy

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Last weekend was yet another amazing experience. Sometimes I can’t grasp the fact that I am actually in Italy doing amazing and unique things that so many people never even have the opportunity to do. We are so fortunate to be here and having such opportunities! Friday I attended the business trip to Umbria where we went olive oil and wine tasting. We visited two extraordinary facilities. Part of the charm of these visits was the authenticity. We were in the Italian countryside, and the presentations were translated between the expert, speaking Italian, and Aldo, our professor, translating to English for us. Watching these people share their area of work, expertise, and clear passion, in their own beautiful Italian tongue definitely added to the experience. We finished the day in Derut, a small town in Umbria that is known world-wide for their ceramics. Ceramics studios and specialty stores lined the streets. Aldo told us that children are taught ceramics from grade school on in the town, and there are special institutes and even high schools that teach the students how to become true experts in the craft.

One of my favorite parts of these trips to the countryside is the drive there and back. Along the way, you don’t go without passing a spectacular hill town or array of mountains that take your breath away. When we pass these little towns, or see a random home perched on one of the many hills, I often put myself in the spot of someone living that way. I can’t imagine the seeming simplicity of their lives, perhaps being detached from the big cities of Italy and living amongst the natural beauty of the country. I wonder how far the children have to travel to school, are there many other children for them to befriend, what the adults do for work, do they commute to the city, if they drink wine every night with dinner, and what it would be like to have the lifestyle I envision as we pass. It is so different from what I am experiencing in Rome, and I’m so glad I’ve been able to see these places.

The next day, I rose before the sun to catch a train. We were off to Firenze for the night! I was excited to see what this other Italian metropolis had to offer. It turned out to be a city that was my pace. It was much smaller than Rome, and I would say less overwhelming in that way. After walking around for one day, I felt like I had a decent grasp on the city itself. With this, I was honestly shocked at how touristy the city was. EVERYONE spoke English. I can’t lie; this was a little comforting to me when we arrived.  Besides campus, I hadn’t been in a place where I walked around hearing English being spoken in close to three weeks, so I appreciated this break from my current reality. People in Firenze were also colossally nicer than Romans. They seemed much more used-to and accepting of Americans. Perhaps they like us because we bring a lot of business to their (many, many) shops? Regardless, their congeniality also came as a relief. I don’t find Romans particularly nasty to Americans, but I don’t find that they’re extremely nice either. It was undoubtedly pleasant to visit a city where they seemed to like me as an American. The trip gave me a good feel of the city, and I would definitely go back to see more of the museums and enjoy shopping when the weather is warm and agreeable.