Tag Archives: holiday

Skeers Family Fun

After returning from Barcelona, I had to scramble to clean my studio in time. My friend John would be there in just a few hours to photograph me in the intern apartment. He photographs people in their bedrooms (not creepy) for a series he’s working on. You can check out his work here and my photo below. Isn’t it awesome?! I will cherish it forever. The UWRC will use it to promote the internship! Thanks, John!

At Home in the Intern Apartment

Only a few days later, my apartment became a home for two. Maggie, my former roommate Chad’s sister, visited Italy for 18 days, mostly spent in Rome with a few weekends away in Pisa, Florence and Cinque Terre. More on that later. On her first evening in Rome, I took Maggie on my impress-people walk and we ended up at Castel Sant’Angelo, a frequent motif in my blog posts. The next day Maggie took a solo-trip to the Colosseum and had a run-in with a guido. She escaped by latching on to a tour guide who fed her false information about ancient Rome. Don’t worry, I cleared things up.

Maggie and Me at Castel Sant' Angelo

By the next day it was already time for our trip to Tuscany, but this is just a teaser. Look for the next post about shenanigans in Pisa and Florence. We came back from the trip loaded down with goods and ready to be home in our Roman beds. On Monday we decided to explore a different neighborhood of Rome, Trastevere. This neighborhood across the river ranks as one of the best Roman rione in my opinion. We wandered down the tiny streets stopping in boutiques and bookstores and ending up in Santa Maria in Trastevere.

Below the Pincio in Piazza del Popolo

Later that week we were yearning for some green and made plans to visit Villa Borghese. We began at the Pincio and wandered through the gardens to the gallery. I played tour guide in the museum and Maggie and I started to wonder why many of those mythological stories are so similar. There’s a whole lotta love, lust, rape, murder and suicide. Since we’re in the mood for mythology, my next post will contain a poem by Rebecca Hoogs, Creative Writing professor. It’s a modern spin on an old classic she presented during summer quarter.

Maggie in the Borghese Gardens

The next day brought us to the Spanish Steps. Finally some sun! Why was June so wintery anyway? We basked in the sun on the steps, got a little sweaty and then it was time to head home.

That night we invited our neighbors out to my favorite bar, Birreria Trilussa. You remember the giraffa, no? Me either. After we had finished TWO of those, we descended to the river where booths selling trinkets and grub are set up on the banks all summer for Estate Romana.

Giraffa!

I woke up a little fuzzy, but ready for our trip to Cinque Terre, one of the most beautiful spots in the world. So beautiful it warrants its own post. Check back later!

The day we came back from the Cinque, I spent running around arranging things for the faculty welcome dinner in the penthouse that night. Maggie cut bread and I scrounged up enough plates and glasses for all 16 attendees. Lucky us, the faculty dinner was the same day as Saints Peter and Paul holiday. That night we ran from dinner to Ponte Principe Amedeo di Savoia, which is pretty far, to catch the fireworks set off from Castel Sant’Angelo. We ran directly after eating so many courses that I thought I might puke; I managed to hold it in.

The next day Maggie and I tried to escape the heat with a trip to the beach. Not sure if it really worked. We spent the majority of our time on hot, sweaty public transportation, but we did make it to Lido di Ostia. We laid out on the black sand of the free beach and waded up to our knees in filthy water. It was then that I thought to myself, “Gee, I really need to see a nice Italian beach before I leave.” More on that later.

After we cooled off seaside, we heated back up in Ostia Antica, an ancient Roman port city. We climbed over ruins and through the grass rediscovering the empire of past days. It was a nice excursion, but it was over too soon. The site closed before we made it to the Casa di Diana. We did have fun in the amphitheater and temples though.

Fun in Ostia

The next day brought a walking tour of Rome. We made a checklist of all the things Maggie had left to see so that she wouldn’t miss anything. Our walking tour took us through the Ghetto, up to the Campidoglio, down beside the Forum and heading back towards home along Trajan’s forum. Check, check, check and check. The end of Skeers Family Fun came soon after. Maggie spent her last day buying goodies for the fam.

Us in Piazza Navona

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Mama in Roma

(and also Assisi)

Shortly after I regained my composure following Rome’s birthday week, it was time to pick Momma up from the airport! She arrived early in the morning and although I was exhausted, it was time to celebrate. My mom planned the timing of her visit carefully so that we could spend Mother’s Day together for the first time in five years. Yes, I know. I’m a horrible daughter. But what am I supposed to do when I live in another state and it’s not the kind of holiday you get days off for?

Anyway, Momma and I spent some quality time together in the city, but also in bed watching the Mentalist, a TV show to which she introduced me. Our first venture into the city took us to the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain, you know, my usual impress-people walk around the neighborhood. The next day we stopped for a little gelato (of course) on our way to Castel Sant’Angelo, a favorite monument of mine. It’s a place that I keep returning to, so look for it to pop up in future (and past) posts.

Momma double-fisting gelato at Castel Sant'Angelo

Momma and I decided to spend that weekend in Assisi, a hill-top town in Umbria. However, we nearly missed the train because May 1st is Labor Day in Italy and the busses weren’t running. So, after our short jog to the short tracks to catch our train, my mom and I were panting and quickly realizing just how out of shape we were. Maybe something should be done about this… Jane Fonda? Jazzercise? More on that later. So, we arrived in Assisi a few hours later only and hopped the bus to Piazza Matteotti. Word to the wise: Do NOT take the bus to San Francesco, you’ll have to walk uphill to see the rest of the town. We started at the top, Piazza Matteotti, and walked downhill while sight-seeing since we are so out of shape.

At the top we met a cute, little old man walking his dog who gave us some tips on touring the city. The first stop was the Roman amphitheater where I found out that my camera battery was dead. So, here is one of the only three photos from the day. At least it’s a cute one.

Momma and me at the Roman Amphitheater in Assisi

After the sting of a dead camera battery wore off, my mom and I trotted about the city admiring hues of pink and yellow limestone and spectacular views of the valley. Actually, we did pick up some disposable cameras, which were kind of fun to use. Not immediately knowing how your photo turned out is kind of a novelty. Dad took them in to be developed, so we’ll see how they look soon. We might be pleasantly surprised!

After visiting San Francesco, the church built in St. Francis’ honor, we tried to go to the restaurant recommended by my old friend, Rick Steves, but apparently some other tourists had heard about it, too. So, we ended up at a trattoria down the street dining on a terrace overlooking the entire Umbrian valley. The region of Umbria is known as the “green heart” of Italy and I can certainly understand why.

After lunch we bought tickets to see the chapel painted by Giotto in San Francesco and we were two of only four people on this tour. All the tourists were still eating at Rick Steves’ restaurant. The chapel is in the process of being restored, so there are three flights of scaffolding set up that you can visit with an entrance ticket, a hard hat and a god-awful audio guide. It was so amazing nearly having the chapel all to ourselves and being able to walk right up next to 700-year-old frescos adorning the 1st, 2nd and 3rd “floors”. But again, no camera. I think this calls for another trip to Assisi real soon…

Back in Rome, my mom and I used Sunday to rest before hitting the cobblestone streets again. Later in the week we took a huge trek around the city that took us through the Jewish ghetto. (Ghetto is Italian is a little different than the English version of the word. See here for info.) We checked out the Portico d’Ottavia, the theater of Marcellus where Sophia Loren used to live and ended up at La Bocca della Verità. In case you don’t know what this is, look at the very end of this clip from the movie Roman Holiday.

Legend has it that this sculpture will bite off the hand of anyone who does not tell the truth. Scary! My mom and I made it out unscathed.

Our recreation of Roman Holiday

Can you believe that I have lived in Rome for a year and have never seen this? Situation remedied.

After our encounter with the mouth of truth, Momma and I wandered over to the Forum and the Capitoline Museums. We just did a quick run though because it was getting late and we were exhausted (Remember, out of shape!) from our walk already.

Momma and I at the Forum

The next night we took a walk in the opposite direction out to the Spanish Steps. If you have ever seen a photo of Piazza di Spagna, the stairs probably had pots of beautiful pink flowers on them. I have a feeling that many tourists are disappointed when they find out that those flowers aren’t always there. BUT the azaleas are there for a couple weeks every spring and it happened to coincide with my mom’s visit. So, we took a few glamour shots and then laughed at ourselves. Check the facebook album for those.

Before long, it was time for our weekend trip to Vienna (featured in the next post) and then time to say goodbye. See you in a few months, Momma!

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Rae + Paige = RAGE!

Excepting my rant about hating Naples, my last post was about the end of winter quarter! Looky here, it’s already the end of spring quarter. What have I been doing with myself, you might ask. Well, hopefully this post (and the following ones) will help to answer that!

RAGE at the Trevi

Shortly after working my butt off for the CPAC convention during Spring break, my ex-classmate/ex-coworker/ex-neighbor/fellow art history-lover Paige came to Rome with her good friend/buddy/pal/fellow art history-lover Ryan. It was Ryan’s first time in Rome and he would be starting the Art History Rome program in just a few days. It was Paige’s second visit to Rome because she was on the program last year. One of the first things we did was run around the city exploring. You know, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Trajan’s Forum and the like. Just your average romp in the eternal city.

In the evening we headed to my favorite spot to watch live jazz in the Monti district of Rome, Charity Cafe. It was actually a blast because it was such a small group of people that the musicians had us all sit together, taught us the songs and had us sing along. We even made friends with some of the other people there… or so I thought. They wanted to invite us to another concert, so I gave them my email address. Turns out they are not interested in friendship and now I’m on a lame list-serve to receive spam emails in Italian. Yay. Italy, you’ve done it again.

Jazz at Charity Cafe

Paige spent the days doing research for her honors paper on the Saint Helen sculpture in the crossing at St. Peter’s. Most of the time I was working while she was researching, but I did join her to the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s (where we waited in line forever).

RAGE at St. Peter's

In the evenings we got up to no good, going dancing, finishing a whole giraffa with just the two of us… Just the two of us, we can make it if we try! Just the two of us, you and I. Sorry, I’ve run away with myself. Back to the story!

Giraffa for two!

We had some grandiose plans for Easter, which were foiled in two ways. 1. We made the mistake of buying chocolate eggs a little too early knowing full well how little will power I possess. A few days before Easter while Paige was out gallivanting about the city, I decided to tear a small hole in the packaging of my chocolate egg just so I could have a little taste to satisfy my chocolate craving. The plan was to put the egg back inside the packaging before Paige returned and she would be none the wiser. Unfortunately she returned home to find me sitting in bed with half a chocolate egg on my lap and shiny Easter packaging strewn about the bed. Whoops! So, we didn’t open our eggs on Easter, we feasted a few days early. 2. We also had plans to rent a Vespa and tour around the city while the whole town was in Piazza San Pietro. It was going to be our “Roman Holiday” re-enactment and it was going to be glorious! However, we couldn’t find a Vespa that would fit two people and it poured down rain all day, but the real reason why it didn’t work out was because Paige and I went dancing in Testaccio the night before and needed a full day to recover in bed with the aid of a few good films and the rest of our chocolate eggs.

View of St. Peter's from the Quirinal Hill

Later that week Paige and I (after one failed attempt) made it to the Caravaggio exhibition at the Quirinal hill. It is the most complete exhibition of his  paintings ever. Wow! It really was spectacular… and crowded, but we were the last people there waiting for everyone else to clear out so that we could actually see the paintings. It was a really beautiful exhibition, but the organization of the paintings could use improvement. Every floor ended on a weak point with a painting of questionable attribution. Words of wisdom: Always end with a bang when possible! Despite that, it was still a beautiful collection of works and I took home a copy of the catalog.

One of the many Caravaggio works on display!

Oh, and we had Frigidarium on the regular.

Paige's fave gelato place, Frigidarium!

After Paige left *sad face*, I had to prepare for more even more guests! Check back soon for posts about my other spring-time visitors!

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A Tuscan Weekend

Okay, I have waited way too long to post this, but here I am, sitting in Paris, blogging when I should be researching. Prepare yourself for lots of photos.

Damon and I got up before the sun on a Saturday to catch a train to Florence. This was my fourth trip to the beautiful city, which is a welcome change of pace from Rome. We started out the trip with the inevitable climb up Brunelleschi’s dome. How can you visit Florence without it? So, four-hundred and sixty-three steps later and we were on top of the world.

Damon and I on top of Brunelleschi's Dome in Florence

After our visit to the Duomo, we hadn’t quite had enough of churches, so I took Damon to Orsanmichele. This is hands down my favorite church in Florence. It looks nothing like any other church. It’s a big brick square with fourteen niches around the outside. The different guilds in Florence commissioned artists to decorate each of the niches. Damon and I had fun trying to guess which niche went with which guild. Some of them were pretty hard to figure out. Click on the link above to look at all the individual niches. Afterwards we wandered down to Piazza della Signoria and ate some lunch. On our way to check in to our teeny, tiny hostel we happened upon a miniature Florentine foods festival. There were vendors selling wine, cheese, olive oil, biscotti and dried meats. In one corner an old couple was making these weird, nut-flour pancake/tortillas filled with ricotta cheese and Damon and I decided to try them. Not the best thing I’ve ever had, but it was certainly worth the experience.

Eating that nut-flour ricotta wrap.

After checking in to the hostel, we did a little obligatory shopping at the leather market outside of San Lorenzo church. Damon bought a hat, scarf and a tie and I bought nothing. Unbelievable. We did a little bit of wandering, crossed the Ponte Vecchio and ended up at Santa Croce where there just happened to be a chocolate festival. Oh darn. I ran around all the booths like a crazy person getting a sugar high just from looking at all of it. After scoping out all the goods, Damon and I settled on a certain vendor who sold some sugar-free delicacies he could enjoy. (He’s hypoglycemic.)

On a suggestion from my friend Candidate Steve Bunn, we had a before-dinner drink at Lochness Lounge before heading on to dinner. The end of our night was filled with multiple unsuccessful attempts to find a jazz cafe. Oh well.

The next morning we swung by Ponte Vecchio before we caught a train to a little coastal town in Tuscany called Viareggio. Viareggio is second only to Venice for its Carnevale festivities. As soon as we arrived we heard a guy singing this random song that went a little something like this: “La da da da da Carnevale! La da da da da Carnevale!”  Or that’s how Damon remembers it, anyway.

After lunch we paid our 15 euro to get into the parade area and I was completely blown away. In all honesty, I was a little tipsy and I think that helped, but this was the most impressive parade I have ever seen. The floats were beautiful. Everyone, absolutely everyone was dressed up. Damon and I had bought masks just before leaving Venice. Here’s a photo of our Carnevale costumes:

Damon and I in our Carnevale Masks

The floats were absolutely breath-taking. They were gigantic and had all these moving parts. Damon and I were surprised to find that many of the floats had political or social messages. For example, this one is about budget cuts to education:

Edward Scissorhands Float

This one was about violence towards women:

Scary Warewolf Float

And last but not least, this one was about Michael Jackson dying. Notice the people dressed in skeleton costumes… There were also people dancing on the float who were dressed like Michael Jackson. In fact, the one wearing a fedora pointed out Damon in the crowd, who was also wearing a fedora. It was very exciting for Damon and it seemed to be pretty exciting for the dude on the float, too.

MJ Float

And then there was this one, which I liked for no particular reason:

Another Float

As the parade was coming to a close and dusk was settling in, Damon and I decided to ride the ferris wheel. It was then that we realized just how close to the sea we were. So, naturally we made our way out to the beach. We ran around in the sand a little and Damon took his shoes off, stood in the freezing water and yelled thank you to his family and friends. It was the perfect way to end the perfect day.

Damon and I on the Beach

We took the last train back to Rome and I slept in Damon’s lap the whole way.

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Dada, Jazz and Snowstorms

On Friday I woke up early (gasp!) and Damon, Bailey and I walked over to the Vittore Emanuele II monument. Bailey headed onto the Colosseum, but Damon and I went to an exhibition on Dada and Surrealism at the Museo di Risogimento inside the monument. Initially I was outraged at some of the things they included. There was a list of artists underneath the heading “Dada e Surrealismo” and many of them had nothing to do with either movement. In any case, the exhibition was huge. One of my favorite pieces was a work by Francis Picabia entitled L’Ombre. It’s much more impressive in person because of the opposing textures. The entire painting was matte save for the glossy blue figure. I like the idea of a shadow preceding its figure.

Francis Picabia, L'Ombre, 1927.

I also really enjoyed this woodcut by Alberto Martini. This is the only photo I could find of it online. It’s a shame that the top is cut off.

Alberto Martini, La Venere Dissepolta (Venus Disinterred), 1902.

After the special exhibition, I climbed up to the terrace on top of the monument to look out over the city. I’ve never seen the forum of Trajan from this perspective. There’s another thing I can mark off my list of things to do! Progress, that’s what I’m making.

Vittore Emanuele II Monument

A few days later Damon and I were off to Tuscany for the weekend. We spent one day in Florence and one day in Viareggio for the Carnevale festivities, but you can read about that in my next post.

I was surprised by the weather a few days after our return to Rome. I awoke one morning to a snowstorm! The last substantial snowfall in Rome was in 1986, before I was even born! I don’t think this counts as a substantial amount, but it was fun for a few hours before the sun came out and melted the wonderland away.

Snow in my backyard/Campo de' Fiori

Damon and I spent the following weekend in Monti, a rione of Rome. On Saturday we walked to Santa Maria Maggiore, checked out the under-whelming Arch of Gallienus, and purchased some goodies at an Asian grocery store. We were back in Monti on Sunday for a jazz concert with aperitivo and buffet. Yum to both the music and the food. We saw Marta Capponi sing and, since it was San Valentino and all, she only sang songs about love. What a perfect way to spend Valentine’s Day. It’s possible that I will spend every Sunday at Charity Cafe soaking up aperitivo jazz for only 10 euro.

Now I just have to get myself ready to go to Paris! Piece of cake… not.

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Check that one off the list.

On Sunday Damon and I took a train out to Frascati, a hilltop town just outside of Rome. Frascati is known for two things: white wine and its famous Villa Aldobrandini. It’s not a very touristy place in the winter and it’s a refreshing break from life in Rome.

We arrived pretty early in the day and the whole town was dead. Well, that’s not entirely true. Everyone was in church and none of the stores or restaurants were open yet. Damon and I wandered around the empty cobblestone streets and happened upon beautiful piazzas, a colorful tower and a large park.

Tower in Frascati

We just happened to walk into the main square in front of San Pietro Apostolo right as church was letting out. I had completely forgotten that it was the first day of Carnevale and children in costumes starting pouring out the church’s doors with handfuls of confetti, with the occasional kid wielding a can of silly string. Damon and I watched the confetti war for a good 15 minutes.

Confetti War in Piazza San Pietro Apostolo

I had a different mental image of Carnevale than what we actually saw. In Italian class we learned about all the traditional Carnevale characters and I guess I expected to see everyone dressed up as Pantalone or something. Instead it looked like the parents raided the Halloween aisle of a Walmart or something. Our favorite two-some was a little prince and your friendly neighborhood Spiderman.

A serious conversation between Spiderman and the Prince.

After the celebration, we wandered around trying to find a restaurant that was open at the normal American time to eat lunch. It proved slightly difficult, but meant that we scouted out nearly every restaurant Frascati has to offer and ended up at what I believe to be its best. It was a cute, hole-in-the-wall type rustic Italian trattoria with a hand-written menu and a welcome fireplace. Damon and I hung our coats in the glow of the fire and shared the best meal of our lives:

A bottle of the local red wine (even though Frascati is famous for white. Oops!)

A complimentary ginger grappa drink with an olive and a slice of orange

Four different kinds of bread

Porcini mushroom soup

Savory crepes filled with ricotta and spinach

Gnocchi with a pumpkin cream sauce (Well, actually that was Damon’s, but I tried it and it was delicious.)

Grilled vegetables

Pork filet with chestnut sauce

The best tiramisu ever because instead of soaking the sponge cake part in brandy, it had a few chestnuts on top which had been soaked in brandy. I had been craving tiramisu all week and now nothing will ever compare!

I wish I had taken some photos of the meal, but my stomach was more powerful than my brain at the time.

After lunch we had plans to go and visit the famous Villa, but alas, it was closed. I had been there once three years ago with my study abroad program. It was the end of spring and we wandered around the gardens in the sunshine. Villa Aldobrandini looks so different in the dead of winter. The fountains are dry, the labyrinth is overgrown and the gray skies and color of the mansion combine to create a eerie mood. I feel like this villa should be haunted or something. The tall gates locked with a rusty chain didn’t help.

Damon outside of Villa Aldobrandini

Anyway, Frascati was awesome and I hope to go back this summer to escape Rome’s heat and catch the breeze on top of this hill outside the city.

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EPIPHANY!

Carnival for La Befana in Piazza Navona

So, after I got back to Rome, I had to work my ass off to get things ready for the students who arrived the next day. Luckily, I was able to get everything done and check-in went off without a hitch. On Tuesday,  when I was getting ready to head to Piazza Navona, I ran into Damon, the teaching assistant who lives on my floor. So, together we headed out to the carnival in Piazza Navona. According to Italian legend, on the night of the fifth of January (the night before the Epiphany), children hang their stockings above their beds and la befana (literally a witch on a broomstick) puts candy in the stockings of children who have been good and coal for those who have been bad. So, at the carnival people were selling witches hats, riding the carousel, eating candied apples and over-sized doughnuts. It was so cool! After wandering through the piazza, Damon and I decided to have an evening passagiata (walk) and we happened upon an ice skating rink near Castel Sant’Angelo. As we were renting skates, Damon told me about how he won first place in an ice skating race when he was six years old. Unfortunately, he lacks the blue-ribbon skills he once had. So, we fumbled around the rink for a while before continuing our walk and having a beer. Yay for spontaneity! And yet, I paid for it. Apparently, you get a cold from ice skating in the rain at 11:00pm. My bad. So, I spent the next few days recovering.

On Saturday, I had intended to see a massive pillow fight in Piazza del Popolo, but it was raining and only a few sad souls showed up with pillows in tow. Instead I went on a walk through the Villa Borghese and saw grass again. Living in the PNW you tend to forget how much the presence of plant life really increases your quality of life. Villa Borghese is one of the few places in Rome that I can get my “fix” when it comes to that sort of thing.

Tempietto Diana at Villa Borghese

Today I got my fix for something else I can’t live without: Art. Yes, I know I’m a dork, but I think I’ve kept the sausaging about art to a minimum so far. Bear with me or dare to enjoy it! After work I headed over to Museo di Roma in Trastevere because I saw a sign for a Marianne Werefkin exhibition the other day. I was especially excited for Werefkin because I wrote a paper a few years ago about the self-portraiture of female expressionists. She, like many of the other artists I researched, has very few books written in English about her. If she is in an English book, she’s often just a footnote to Kandinsky or Jawlensky. Most of the books are in German or French; it’s great to know that Italy is catching on to her talent. Next step: America! Here are a few photos from the exhibition: Full album can be found here.

Anyway, I have plans to go to Ostia Antica this weekend. So, stay tuned, I suppose. There’s bound to be a post about my adventures in Rome’s little Pompeii.

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