Monday, July 11, 2011


This weekend we went to Rome - it was incredible, we went to St. Peter's basilica, the Vatican Museum, the Villa Borghese, and some other places.  I know pictures are worth a thousand words, so without further ado here are a bunch:

Piazza Navona

at the Pantheon

 inside the Pantheon.  It's amazing how big the thing is - how they built it 
without machinery, computers, or cranes is way beyond me.

 view overlooking the Roman Forum in the foreground 
and the Coliseum in the background

 il Foro Romano - the Roman Forum

 la Piazza San Pietro 

 in the Vatican Museum, in Le Stanze di Raphaelo (Raphael's Rooms).  It's really cool
to stand in front of so many of these sculptures and paintings that I've read about and seen
pictures of for years.

 in the Cappella Sistina

 If I could go back in time, I would want to see a gladiator fight in the 
Coliseum.  Seeing a picture of this building doesn't do it justice - at the height of
Imperial Rome's power, people (60,000 or so, at max capacity) would flood
this huge arena to scream themselves hoarse over gladiator fights that give
new meaning to the word "competition".

So that's a few pictures of what I did and saw this past weekend.  Some of the best art was at the Villa Borghese, where unfortunately cameras are not allowed.  I was a few feet away from Michelangelo, Bernini, and many others.  It is amazing how real and lifelike they could make stone appear.  Bernini's sculpture of David (just as he was about to sling the rock that killed Goliath, not the more-famous David that Michelangelo sculpted) was my personal favorite.  It was almost as if someone snapped a photo just as he was about to sling the rock - you can see the emotion on his face, how tense his muscles are, how heavy the rock is in the sling, how taut the sling is.  I was blown away at the detail and the precision, and I realized that every picture ever taken of it (and countless other works of art) just doesn't do it justice.

Rome is amazing, I obviously recommend everyone go there.  The amount and the scope of the history everywhere I visited in the city was incredible.

A presto,

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Il Palio / Firenze

This past week was the Palio, Siena's horse race in the Piazza del Campo, the main square in the center of town.  It was incredible - there must have been 50,000 people, probably more, crammed into the Piazza last Saturday to see the race.  There was a procession beforehand, like a parade, and each contrada was represented with drummers, horsemen, flags, knights, and trumpets.  It was like something straight out of medieval times.  Really cool.  Really long, but still cool.

Then after the procession was the race itself.  I've never seen anything like it.  I took a lot of cool pictures, but they were with someone else's camera so as soon as I get them I'll post them.

This is from one of the prove, the four days of test races before the real Palio.  

Also from the prove.  The real Palio is like this on steroids.  See how the Piazza is packed, and you can only see less than half of the whole crowd.  Plus, this wasn't even the day of the real race. 

After the prove, each competing contrada walks a lap around the Palio with their horse.

Also, a week or so ago we went to Firenze (Florence) as a class.  Like everything else here, it was incredible.  Saw the Ponte Vecchio, the Duomo, and the Uffizi.  Didn't have time to see the David, but I'm planning on going back sometime in the next week or so so I can see the David and see the inside of the Duomo (the line was pretty long last time).  Here's some Florence pictures:

Il Duomo

Florentine architecture

The Birth of Venus, at the Uffizi Gallery

the Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio

This weekend we're going to Rome, we'll see the Coliseum, the Borghese, the Vatican, and a few other things.

Ci vediamo,

Monday, June 27, 2011

Cinque Terre

Sorry it's been a few days since I've posted, my internet isn't very accessible because my host family doesn't have wifi and my university hasn't set up my wireless account yet.

This past weekend a few of us went to Cinque Terre, a group of five small cities right on the Mediterranean west of Siena.  They're called Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso.  They're absolutely stunning! The six of us stayed at a small hostel in Riomaggiore on Friday night, then the next morning we did the hike from Riomaggiore to Manarola, then from Corniglia to Vernazza.  The views along the hike are incredible, huge cliffs going straight down into the ocean with small beaches tucked in between the, and the hills are covered in terraced vineyards.  It's easily the most beautiful place I've ever seen in my life.  I've included pictures. 

Tomorrow my entire class is going to Florence, about an hour-long bus ride away, but a few of us are going to go tonight instead so we can see more of the city.  We'll stay the night in a hostel there and then come back tomorrow night with the rest of the class.  I've heard amazing things about Florence, I'm sure it'll be incredible.

The Torre da Mangia, in the center of Siena.

 Vernazza, the fourth of the five Cinque Terre

 View looking down at one of the beaches we stopped at.

 In Riomaggiore, the first of the five Cinque Terre.


 A street in Siena.  The red and white flag is one of the contrada flags of Siena - each contrada (neighborhood) has its own history, flag, shield, and enters its own horse into the semiannual Palio (horse race) in the main square (part of the main square can be seen in the picture of the Torre above).

 Arriving in Vernazza.  In the distance is the fifth of the Cinque Terre, Monterosso.

 The view outside our hostel in Riomaggiore.

Monday, June 20, 2011

First few days in Siena

I got here a few days ago, and it's incredible.  My host family picked us up at the bus station in Siena (a 3-hour drive from Rome, where I flew to).  They're great - the parents are Fabrizio and Letizia, and they have two children in their 30s and a granddaughter.  They host foreign exchange students all the time; they actually have the entire second floor of their apartment set up to host students - there are five of us living there right now, the three of us from my program plus two others from Montana State that are also studying abroad in Siena for the next couple of months.

We have classes at an old psychiatric hospital near the city walls.  It was converted to the Universit√° degli Studi di Siena a while ago, and now it's Siena's main university.  The campus, however, is spread out throughout the city.

In the afternoons we're free to do whatever we want.  A few of us are thinking about doing a few day trips to nearby cities like Florence, Pisa, and some others that Letizia told me about but I forget the names of.  Right now I'm sitting in a bedroom with the balcony doors open and a light breeze coming through, and the sky is cloudless.  I see the Tuscan hillside out the window, rolling green hills of vineyards and brick villas.  It's amazing that people actually live like this!

I'll put up some pictures later.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Off to Italy today!

Hey everyone,

Welcome to my blog!  I set this up because many people have asked me what I will be doing this summer.  When I told people I am lucky enough to be studying Italian in Siena, Italy, they were always interested in what I would be doing there.  So I figured the easiest way to let people know what I'm doing would be to make a blog.

Let me tell you a little bit about Siena.  It's in Tuscany, about 45 miles south of Florence.  Those who have visited or studied Italy may know of Siena, but it isn't a household name like tourist hotspots Rome, Milan, Venice, Naples, or Florence.  A town of about 60,000 people, it is probably most famous for its semi-annual Palio.  The Palio is a horse race in the center of the main town square (pictured in the background of the blog) that thousands of thousands of people turn out to watch, tourists (both foreign and Italian) and locals alike.  10 of Siena's 17 contrade, or districts, enter a horse in the race, with bragging rights and contrada pride on the line.  We will be in Siena for the Palio in early July, and I'll be sure to post pictures here.

So I leave tonight, flying overnight to Rome and then taking a bus to Siena tomorrow afternoon.  I'll be staying with a host family a little ways outside of the city.  I've talked to my host mother by email, and I'm excited to meet her and the rest of her family soon!

More pictures and info to come.

A dopo!