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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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Winter Wrap

So, winter quarter has ended and it’s now starting to feel a bit like spring in Rome, which both exciting and terrifying. I love Rome when it’s sunny, but I hate Rome when it’s hot. Sadly, these things often come hand in hand. Anyway, this is how winter quarter ended!

Damon picked me up from the train station and then we took his friend Bjorn to Bar Trilussa, an establishment that has been featured in my blog many a time. (I should be getting some sort of kick-back.) I have to say, however, that Bjorn appreciated the giraffa far more than any other guest I’ve taken to Trilussa.

Damon and Bjorn at Bar Trilussa with the infamous giraffe

The next day the three of us went to Abbey Theatre (kick-back?) to see a live rockabilly band, the Da Silva Trio. To be honest, my expectations were quite low. I mean think about it: Italians playing rockabilly. Uh, yeah… To my surprise, I was completely blown away! They were amazing. i knew almost every song and the three of us were very enthusiastic throughout their entire performance. Here’s a video I recorded of a Johnny Cash cover in which you can witness some of Bjorn’s excitement:

On Friday I took Bjorn to the Capuchin crypt. That’s the one where it looks like they used the grim reaper as an interior decorator. I’ll never forget Bjorn’s face when he first walked in. I didn’t know anyone’s eyes could get that huge. I’ve sort of forgotten how creepy that place is when you first visit. I’ve taken so many people there that I seem to be desensitized to its, um, subject matter.

Anyway, Bjorn left on Saturday and it was free Sunday at the Vatican Museums the next day. So, Damon and I drug ourselves out of bed way too early and waited in line. Despite attempts at being cut in line by nuns (that’s right, NUNS!), we made it in early and Damon saw all the things he missed when he went with his class. I also did a bit of research in the Sala dei rotundi (see below). I hope to make it to another four free Sundays before I say arrivaderci to Roma!

Vatican Museums

It was a short work week after that because I was invited on the Communications program field trip to Pompeii on Friday. After the field trip, Damon and I stayed in Naples for the weekend, but you can read about that in my next blog post.

It was only a few short days after we said goodbye to Bjorn that it was time to say hello to Josh, another one of Damon’s friends. He joined us on the field trip to Pompeii on Friday. We also managed to do the obligatory trip to the Capuchin crypt and Bar Trilussa con giraffa. On Monday Josh and I accompanied Damon to Abbey Theatre to support him at open mic night. After our rockabilly experience, I only had positive feelings toward the pub. Unfortunately, this night Abbey Theatre was filled with annoying girls who would not shut up. I could barely hear Damon and he had a microphone. Argh. As frustrating as it was, Damon still put on a great show. 🙂

The weekend after our trip south, Jocelyn came to Rome to visit me. She has been living and working in southern Spain, so it wasn’t too long of a trip for her. She arrived late Thursday night and we only had time for a few drinks before bedtime. On Friday Jocelyn visited the Vatican while I was at work. We met up later for a bit of shopping mixed with sightseeing. We managed to see the Spanish Steps before meeting up with Josh and Damon at a restaurant we found while Bjorn was in town. It was very chill the first time around, but this time it was filled with a huge group of tourists celebrating someone’s birthday. They may have had a lot to drink and they were certainly enjoying the atmosphere. I think this put us in a goofy mood as we mowed down with tambourine baby watching over us.

Dinner Party with Tambourine Baby: Jocelyn, Josh, Damon and me

Saturday morning Damon and Josh left for England. (Don’t worry! Damon’s coming back to Rome tomorrow before he heads back to Seattle for good.) In the afternoon I took Jocelyn on a tour of the Campidoglio, the forum, the colosseum, Trajan’s Forum and other goodies. It was sunny, so we were in a good mood. It was a wonderful day for sightseeing.

Jocelyn and the Arch of Constantine

On Sunday night I took Jocelyn to aperitivo jazz at Charity Cafe (another kick-back, please). However, it didn’t really turn out to be jazz. The band had a singer, drummer, bassist (with both standard and upright bass) and pianist, but they played a cover of Norah Jones and Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror. Weird. Anyway, it was good food and drinks and there was music. I can’t really complain.

The next morning it was time to say goodbye to Jocelyn and she hopped on a plane headed back to Spain. Hopefully my mom and I will be able to visit her in Cadiz in May. Here’s hopin!

The last few days I’ve just been relaxing and getting things ready for the conference, which starts next week. After that it’s time for spring quarter to start. A fresh batch of kids (including the art history group), a fresh batch of visitors (including, but not limited to Paige and Momma) and fresh, spring weather! I have good feelings about next quarter.

In conclusion, I am fond of parenthetical statements. Thank you.

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Six months left to live…

As of yesterday, I have exactly six months left to live in Rome. This has really hit me pretty hard. I have so much that I still want to do here. So, how could I not draw on my OCD qualities and make a list?! Here it is (the most boring post you’ll ever read):

Actually, I should start with some of the things I did this week, so that you can see how dedicated I am.

This week I waited in line for two hours to see the unimpressive Saints exhibition. It did have Leonardo da Vinci’s St. John the Baptist on loan from the Louvre though. The accompanying video showed the painting under infrared lights, ultraviolet, et cetera, which was cool. And also on display was this disturbing medieval painting of a child literally coughing up demons. Eww.

Leonardo da Vinci, St. John the Baptist, 1513-1516.

On Monday I joined the honors program on their art history field trip to Trajan’s Forum and the Pantheon. On Tuesday I ventured over to the Ara Pacis (free for Art History students! Woo!) and saw their Italian design exhibition. I just loved the schematic drawings of pasta noodles. It’s a shame I can’t find an example online. After the museum, Jennifer, Lisa, Carisa and I went to see Tom Ford’s first movie, A Single Man. It was such a beautiful film. On Wednesday I had the intention of visiting Sant’Ivo, but it was closed for the millionth time. So, I walked over to Santa Maria sopra Minerva and looked at the Filippo Lippi frescoes there. Reminded me of Hallie’s wonderful presentation three years ago!

I also took a walk over to St. Peter’s and the life-sized nativity scene is still up! It’s so ridiculous. It looks like the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland. There’s even a rowboat included because everyone knows that the wise men came by sea to pay their respects to baby Jesus.

Nativity/Christmas Tree in Piazza San Pietro in MID-JANUARY

Close-up on the boat

Okay, enough of that. Here’s my list:

In Rome:
Galleria Doria Pamphili
Galleria Borghese
San Paolo Fuori le Mure
St. Peter’s Catacombs
SS. Giovanni and Paolo w/ Roman Houses
Sant’Ivo
Castel Sant’Angelo
Monti- Boutiques and Arch of Gallienus
Santa Francesca Romana (Mar. 9)
Santa Maria in Trastevere
Gesu’
SS. Cosmas and Damian
Villa Torlonia
San Pietro in Vincoli
Pigneto
Garbatella
San Lorenzo
Go to the top of Vittorio Emanuele
Testaccio
Opera
Casa del Jazz
Palazzo Altemps
La Bocca della Verita’
Santa Costanza

Exhibitions:
Caravaggio/Bacon-Villa Borghese
Caravaggio-Quirnale
Hopper-Museo del Corso
Dada-Palazzo Vittorio

In Italy:
Sicily
Assisi
Cinque Terre
Orte
Sperlonga
Siena
Fiesole
Napoli
Bologna/Rimini
Venice/Murano
Viareggio
Frascati
Tivoli-Villa d’Este
Positano

In Europe:
Visit Jocelyn in Cadiz, Spain
Brussels
Visit Diana in Vienna
Croatia

I’m open to suggestions!

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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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Turning Acquaintances into Friends

For those of you who have been dying for an update (Mom, Hallie, Liv?), I sincerely apologize! I don’t know why it has taken so long.

This update requires a little history. Rewind four years: I was inspired by an MXPX song (can’t believe I just admitted that!) and joined my friend Jon on a day trip to his hometown of Bremerton, Washington. It was there that Jon first introduced me to his friend Meghan Rowley. Afterwards, Meghan and I hung out a few times and went to a few concerts together, but unfortunately she went to Western and we didn’t keep in touch. Fast forward four years: I find out via facebook stalking that Meghan is backpacking around Europe and invite her to stay with me in Rome. This is the story of our whirlwind weekend of rekindling our acquaintanceship and feeding the fire of friendship.

meg bec

Travel Buddies: Meghan and Becca by Trajan's Forum

Meghan and her travel buddy Becca arrived on a Friday night and I met them (with a few complications) at the train station. They were very exhausted from their day of travel and after our night walk/passagiata through the neighborhood (Campo, Pantheon, gelato, Piazza Navona), we all called it an early night. On Saturday, we woke up early and made the trek out to St. Peter’s, where they were setting up for a canonizing event the following day. Apparently, the first Hawaiian ever was canonized that Sunday. (Leisha attended the festivities.) We also walked by Castel Sant’ Angelo before heading back to the market in Campo de’ Fiori for some snacks. A little siesta was in order and then the girls did a little solo sightseeing until we met up for dinner with Leisha and Mia at one of our favorite restaurants, Bar Trilussa.

fausto

One piece from Fausto delle Chiaie's sidewalk exhibition

On Sunday, we did a little shopping before sightseeing. We visited the Trevi fountain, the forum and the Colosseum. In the evening we took a walk up to Piazza del Popolo and ran into the infamous Roman street artist, Fausto delle Chiaie. He had set up a small “exhibition” of works just outside the Ara Pacis. It was so cool to see Rome’s less-ancient, less-pretentious art scene. We took a detour via the Spanish steps before our glorious five-course Chinese dinner. Yum! After dinner we dragged our mattresses into the conference room and watched the wedding episode of The Office on the big screen. Pam + Jim 4ever.

big screen

Big Screen Fun

I had to work on Monday, but Becca and Meghan tried real Italian coffee and visited the monuments from our night walk in the daytime, such as the Pantheon. Monday was the first really cold day in Rome. I’m talking coat, scarf, gloves kind of 55 degree weather. 🙂 While it was pouring down rain, we stayed inside. Leisha and I taught the girls how to play Briscola, an Italian card game. We also whipped out the Phase Ten cards and I lost miserably. When the rain died down, we headed out to Bar Trilussa again, only this time we ordered a 4.5 liter giraffa of beer and it went to our heads. The walk home was quite fun and Meghan and Becca were a little tipsy when they caught their midnight train to southern Italy.

After Meghan and Becca left, Leisha and I spent the next week trying to get pumped for our upcoming trip to Paris. We watched one movie every day that takes place in Paris (or just France in some cases). Here’s the list: Night on Earth, Paris, je t’aime, Before Sunset, Ratatouille, Two Days in Paris, Beauty and the Beast, Last Tango in Paris, Frantic and Amelie. I think it worked! We leave tomorrow for Paris and we’ll be staying with Elyse, a friend from high school. She is a nanny in a suburb called Asnieres, which is only 15 minutes from Paris.

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Drum Sticks and Chicken Wings

This last week or two has been devoted to transitioning from the Early Fall programs to the Fall Quarter ones. It was hard to say goodbye to the friends I’ve made, but new programs mean free welcome dinners and that definitely softens the blow. Here’s hoping I make some new friends among the Fall Quarter students!

These weeks have also turned me into a culture sponge. On Sunday, St. Francis day, I was awoken by the sounds of trumpets and trombones in the Campo. Lying in bed, I opened one eye until I figured out that it must be a band playing near by. Then I mustered up enough strength to get out of bed and throw some clothes on to check it out. When I got outside, I found a military marching band playing in Campo de’ Fiori. I stood and listened to a few songs, including the National Anthem, of course. My favorite part was the band’s exit. It was so dramatic. They got into formation and placed their horns at their lips and the second they played the first note, they all starting running out of the piazza. It was so bizarre. They’re not a marching band, but a sprinting band. Oh, Italian quirks.

Later that same day Leisha and I met up with Sam, one of the art students, and a few of his friends for a cultural expedition. We took a train out to a small suburb of Rome called Marino for their annual grape festival. Marino is a beautiful, pedestrian-friendly, hill-top town a half an hour’s train ride outside of Rome.

A beautiful balcony in Marino, Italy

A beautiful balcony in Marino, Italy

I love small-town Italy. The beautiful colors, their vibrant festivals; a festival in a small town is the day that its residents wait for all year long. They go all-out. In this instance, Marino’s grape festival centers around wine, obviously. There was a fountain that poured sparkling white wine instead of water. Unfortunately, the town was so packed full of visitors and locals enjoying the festivities that we never found it! We did, however, watch the parade of B-list models and small-town Italian royalty dressed up in Renaissance garb. It was so fun to see the locals scream when a famous model would walk by. Coincidentally, we happened to be standing next to the guys that are coming to fix the hinges on my door next week! They were so nice and gave us their spots so we could see the parade better. After the parade, we had to rush back to the train station, but we managed to grab a glass of wine on our way out. It simply wouldn’t be a grape festival without it!

Sara, a B-list model in the parade

Sara, a B-list model in the parade

As of late, I have also (finally) been working on my research here in Rome. I commandeered a classroom to pin up photos of the sculptures I am investigating. Leisha and I visited the Column of Trajan to take some photos for study (and fun). Yesterday, I faxed the Louvre a letter requesting permission to study and photograph some sculptures and have access to documents regarding the artworks! Yes, I FAXED the LOUVRE. It makes me feel somewhat legit. I will be in Paris for a week later this month to do research. I am starting to get pretty excited because Elyse, a friend from high school, just arrived in Paris yesterday for a year abroad. It has been far too long since I’ve seen her and I will get to see her just two short weeks from now in Paris. In the mean time, I have another visitor to look forward to. Meghan Rowley and her friend Becca arrive in Rome tonight!

Researching at the Column of Trajan

Researching at the Column of Trajan

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Adding visitors to visitors.

On Saturday Joey and I took the bus out to Tivoli to visit Hadrian’s Villa. Joey had learned about the villa in sixth grade and has been dying to visit ever since. However, after we got there, Joey seemed confused. “Where are all the fountains and gardens?” Turns out he was thinking about Villa d’Este, also in Tivoli. We made the best of it in the heat, touring the ruins, looking at the cute turtles and stopping for a short nap on a bench.

Hadrian's Villa

Hadrian's Villa

On Sunday Leisha, Jenn and I went to Porto Portese, an open air flea market in Trastevere. There are vendors selling beautiful antiques, walmart-quality clothing and a charger for every cell phone ever made. Leisha was pricing Olivetti typewriters, I was pricing accordions and Jenn was just along for the ride. In the end, I left with a present for Joey, two original uncut prints of playing cards from Naples for only one euro each! One print is a card game called Briscola that we are utterly addicted to. It involves vying for points with four new suits, including one trump suit. It is so much fun!

While we were at the market, Joey was picking up his friend Patrick at the train station. Patrick will be staying with us/entertaining Joey all week.

That night I gave Joey a haircut and now he looks like he should be in the air force. Better or worse? You decide.

BEFORE

BEFORE

AFTER

AFTER


Monday night Leisha, Jenn, Joey, Patrick and I went to the festival on the river, Lungo il Tevere. We walked up and down the river looking at all the shops. We had dinner there and followed it up with gelato, of course. Afterwards we went to a famous pub in Trastevere for happy hour and shared a giraffa of Pilsner. A giraffa literally translated means giraffe, but it is a tall thin 4.5 liter container of beer with a faucet at the bottom for pouring drinks. We had a great time playing the celebrity name game Joey made up, although I probably named artists more often that celebrities.

Me, Joey, Leisha and Jenn with our empty girafa.

Me, Joey, Leisha and Jenn with our empty girafa.

Lately we have been absolutely addicted to the TV show LOST. Joey, Patrick and I cope with the day’s heat by huddling together in front of my laptop with an episode. Every once in a while Jenn or Leisha will join in the festivities.

Tomorrow after work Joey, Jenn and I will meet Patrick in Florence for the weekend. Leisha is staying in Rome because her parents will be in town!

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