What an exciting day! First we rushed over to the Galleria Borghese in order to make our reservations. It was… wow. Simply breathtaking. There aren’t enough adjectives to describe how thrilling it was. One of my main points of interest where the wall and ceiling paintings of each room. It was just as extravagant as the paintings hanging on them. The marble was all painted on, but you would never be able to tell. We got to see great pieces like “Rape of Persephone” and “Sacred and Profane Love.” After that we went to the Pantheon again for some more detailed viewing. This evening, however, was the highlight of the day. After going to a nice little supermarket, we went to the Piazza Navona and set up a picnic on one of the benches. It was such a delightful time. After a wonderful dinner and varied conversation, we searched the streets for shoes for Dana, as hers had broken. We ended up fixing them with safety pins and just went to our Hotel, but the evening was still charming as ever.
We are currently sitting on the train to Florence. What better time to reflect on the past two days? We went to Vatican City on the 29th. We travelled through the very, very crowded halls, with each wall covered in beautiful artwork. Unfortunately, the massive amount of people really took away from the loveliness. Even in the Sistine Chapel, we all were rather under whelmed by it all. The art was beautiful, the constant shouting of “No Foto!” and “Silence!” was not. Yesterday was our last day in Rome. I spent most of the day just wandering and stumbling upon landmark after landmark with Josh and Katy. In the evening we all went out to dinner and then spent one last night in the Pantheon. It’s funny to think that our “hang out spot” while we were in Italy was one of the most remarkable manmade monuments of all of Italy.
We arrived in Florence yesterday! The train ride was really nice. There was an obvious difference in atmosphere comparing Florence to Rome. For one, there’s finally lush visible. Not only are parks plentiful, but the beautiful countryside can be seen billowing past the skyline. It also feels like a friendlier city. Rome seemed so geared towards tourists, whereas when I’m in Florence I feel like a local. Then again, they say that this is the worst place for pickpockets, so maybe making me feel comfortable is their evil plan. Our hotel is right by the Dome of Florence Cathedral, which we visited today after going to a museum. This evening, I was going stir-crazy just sitting in this shabby hotel room, so I stepped outside and ran into the professors Mark, Rhett, and Jim. They were going to go out to eat and then afterwards go to the opera. They were very nice and invited me along, which I was happy to accept. The dinner wasn’t particularly memorable, but the opera… My goodness. I had been wanting to go to an opera since we arrived in Rome. It wasn’t necessarily an opera, per se, more of a mix tape play list from an opera that one woman (who I think I fell in love with, by the by) and a pianist performed. It was… beautiful. Simply… Aaahhh… Right. Anyway. That’s what happened these past two days.
We all went out into the square and listened to a street performing opera singer and accordionist. Then we rode the Carousel. Johan paid for my ticket and I told him I’d wave to him as it went around, but he snuck off. Needless to say, I was devastated. We then went to the infamous bridge with all the shops. Of course the shops were closed at this point, but the view made for a great hang out spot. Well, it did… until three Albanian boys came up and started talking to us. They didn’t speak any English but it was clear they wanted to party with us. It was very uncomfortable, so we left. Anyhow, that’s that.
(No date on this one and I also don't think it's even going to go into the final journal to be perfectly honest)
We left Florence by train yesterday and arrived in Perugia. I know, I know, I didn’t write a whole lot in Florence. I hate to say something like this about such a wonderful trip, but it just didn’t spark me as I much as it initially did. Museum after museum, old church after old church… The artwork is beautiful but it’s so unfortunate that after a week and a half we were already numb to it’s splendour. At any rate, here we are in Perugia and the magic is fresh again. We were greeted at the train station by Richard. Me and two others were taken to the Villa by Roberto, who seems very nice. He gave the entire group a tour after we had gotten situated in our rooms. The villa is beautiful and I cannot believe I’m going to be spending a school term here. Somehow the word “school” doesn’t seem fitting. The two weeks of travelling and paying for our own things was worth it, because now we can truly appreciate our new accommodations. We are living like royalty here. We’re eating like royalty as well! We had a feast of black truffle pasta (a speciality dish of Umbria), beef and pea stew (with a hint of onion), and lemon bar pie. We begin classes on Monday and I can hardly wait!
We explored our surroundings yesterday. Today we began classes! We started off with some early Art History in the auditorium-type conference room. After that we had lunch, and then in the evening Roberto, the assistant director of the Villa, and Marina, an intern language student from Perugia, took us into town. We stopped by the bike rental (which was far too expensive for my tastes), supermarket (where I got some crisps), and a couple of art stores. I got a lined notebook for my Italian course and asked Roberto what the cover said. He laughed when he read it. “Oh dear, what did I just buy?” I thought. It just means “Let’s turn it on” roughly though. On the way back our bus broke down so we had to walk down the very steep hill from Corciano to the Vila. I walked with Roberto and we had an entertaining conversation about differences in British English and American English.
Today we had our second Italian lesson. This one was a bit more difficult for some reason, but still fun. I’m optimistic and hopeful about learning this language. I think it will definitely be a challenge, but I think it’s one I can overcome. Speaking of challenges, tonight was the Italian Bowl. It was a game show style quiz. There were four teams and we all answered questions. We all had been stressing out about it for so long that when it finally came about, it was such a relief and really wasn’t that bad. I feel kind of guilty because I didn’t know a lot of the questions (art history is not my forte), but I tried to be the good morale booster. If singing loudly “Gaaaabriel! Gaaaabriel!” doesn’t boost morale, I don’t know what does. But now I’m feeling a bit ill, so I’ve retired to my bed whilst the rest of the company drinks wine and shouts loudly.
Chapter Five. The Gusty Island. It was a very exciting day for being our “relaxing” first day of the weekend. Several of us gathered to go to Lago Maggiore. I was feeling rather ill this morning, but thankfully started to feel better as the time dwindled down to our departure. We drove to the graffiti covered train station and got our tickets. We arrived at (a town) where we stopped at Troical Gelato, evidently Roberto’s favourite gelato place, before purchasing our tickets to the ferry across the lake and to an island. The ferry ride was enjoyable. We took very silly photographs on the top deck and sang off-key together. We arrived at the island and immediately noticed that all the shops were closed and there seemed to be no human life… only cats… Did the cats kill off humanity? Or perhaps the human inhabitants had themselves turned INTO cats? We walked up around the island, making a full circle to the windy side where several of us (not including myself) went bathing in the freezing water. After that, we got some snacks at the now opened shops (still covered in cats, however) and then left on the ferry.
We went to the Chocolate Festival in Perugia on the 16th. It was windy, cold, and crowded. It wasn’t super spectactular. Especially since I don’t really like chocolate anyway. But since that was all the way in Perugia, we spent most of the day doing that. Yesterday, after lunch I was in the office trying to exchange money, when I heard some beautiful piano music drifting from the nearby room. I peaked in and there was Michele Vasta, the son of the Vasta family I had previously met at lunch, playing beautiful video game music. After brief conversation, I invited him to join our “convoy” to the other chocolate festival in Corciano that Roberto told us about. So we walk all the way up to deserted Corciano… only to discover that the festival is next week.
Today we travelled to Assisi. We boarded a charter bus specifically just for us and rode it into town. The night before Rosella gave a nice lecture about Giotto’s paintings of St. Francis that we would see today, since in the churches silence is required. On the motorway there, there were several tunnels and we all played a game where we had to hold our breath the whole length of the tunnel. It kept us entertained, and surely gave the bus driver a few moments of peace. Before Assisi, we stopped and saw “the church within a church.” There was a service going on within the small church, which was the first time that had ever happened when they took a group of students over according to Roberto. After the service we were allowed to filter in and we got to see St. Claire’s hair. Then we went to Assisi and saw the Francis of Assisi church. Afterwards, we were free to travel around. Roberto joined two others and me to a castle on the top of the hill. The climb was worth it for the isolate and beautiful view. I couldn’t talk Roberto into climbing up the castle wall with me though.
Whew. I’m exhausted. We went to Sienna today, which was quite a drive. But the drive was nothing compared to how long we spent there. We were there for roughly seven hours with no real plan. Johan, Melissa, Becca, Caitlin, Lauren, Katy, and I roamed around at first. We found a playground that we played at. My favourite was the rocking spring horse. We shopped various stores. I’m searching for some red trousers as my souvenir to take home, as they seem to be the fashion trend that I’ve noticed most (or at least the one that appeals to me most), but I unfortunately didn’t find any today. We met up with Roberto and we wondered around with him a bit. After we got back I met up with Michele who was playing piano. We ate dinner together and he followed us to the studio. We drew and played video games a bit before he had to go home. With Michele, it sort of feels like being a child with the neighbourhood best friend again.
Alright. Travel week. Go. What a lousy beginning. I was going to be travelling with Becca, Melissa, and Lauren from Perugia to Rome. First off, I overslept and was rushed that morning, but when we finally got there, we waited around for the train on the platform… to only find that the ticket I had ordered online was for two days later. So I had to purchase a new ticket. Upon arriving in Rome, we quickly found that we all should have planned this travel week better. Most of the overnight tickets cost far too much and the place I was wanting to go was completely booked until Monday. We spent the night in the train station, first sleeping in the waiting room until we were kicked out promptly at midnight. That’s when we migrated to a bench on the platform where some very loud conspiracy theorists began preaching to us. But here we are, day two of travel week in Pisa. Things have calmed down a bit as we sit peacefully in the park, watching two dogs fight over a pinecone. Hopefully I’ll be able to make it to where I’m wanting to go on Monday. Oh, by the by, the number of people posing to “hold up the Leaning Tower of Pisa” is hilarious. I bet they think they’re so clever.
Travel Week is officially over and we are back at the villa. It was a fun week, apart from sleeping with tramps in the streets of Paris. I also think the taxi from Perugia to Corciano (which is still a whole hill away from the villa) ripped me off though. But we’re back! And Eva, the printmaking professor, is here. She’s intimidating, as we all thought she would be, but so far she seems wonderful. We actually have structure, which is so refreshing from the last professor who was treating this as her personal holiday. I’m excited to start printmaking as I’ve never done it before. I’m still trying to come up with some ideas on what to do though. Right now I’m thinking of redoing one of the fairytale illustrations I did for my last project, as I grew quite fond of them. However, that may seem like cheating and trying to get out of doing more work. We shall see!
I really should be carving into my linoleum and working on my print… but instead, today I went to Florence with River, Katy, and the professor, Eva. It was a lot of fun. We searched everywhere for red trousers, but sadly did not find any (or at least any in the right shade). We had kabab at Olie Donner’s, allegedly the best kabab place in Florence, if not the world. Then we got back, a bit later than expected and we had dinner with Roberto and Marina. Marina is an intern at the Villa studying language. She’s very sweet and she’s beginning to open up around us. Tonight was also the first night of the belly dancing festival. We all got free tickets. I sat in the back and Marianne and I gave our own commentary to the performance. Near the end of the show there was a burlesque act themed around the 1950’s pinups. Roxy Rose. Wow.
Today, after nearly a week of carving out linoleum, we finished our second day of actually printing. The first day, yesterday, was rather stressful for me. The ink on the print ended up being rather hazey because I didn’t use enough. And although the ink didn’t properly cover the paper, it did fill nearly all my small details! To top it off, my linoleum plate sucked up all the ink and was near impossible to wash off. So I had to carve out all the fine lines all over again today after it had dried overnight. The intensive washing ended up curling my plate though. So anyhow, today a did a couple more prints, but they were still pretty washed out. I just wasn’t having an amusing time with the whole process until I decided to have a bit of fun with it and start painting backgrounds and crazy colours on the plate instead of just inking it normally. I was mostly just having fun painting quickly, trying to hurry before it dried, and didn’t really care what the finished product looked like. However, it looked surprisingly nice! Not up to the professor’s standards since I didn’t just roll ink, but eh, I can live. I think I’ll make another one tomorrow in colour.
I GOT THEM! I GOT THEM! I GOT THEM! Okay, first things first: I went to Lucca today. Which is the most beautiful city in Italy. By far. The whole city is surrounded by a wall full of gardens and parks that you can walk about freely. It was lovely. And in the town centre there was a considerably massive antique flea market. Everything was so beautiful and authentic. Several hours were spent antiquing. Although this was a beautiful and wonderful time, the highlight of the day was the realisation of a goal I’ve had nearly the entire trip being in Italy… I finally found and purchased some red trousers. I’m so excited! I’ve never been this excited about clothing before, but this is something truly, remarkably… Wonderful. On a somewhat related note, I also purchased an Italian video game. Since all the dialogue is in Italian, I hope that it will help me with my learning, even outside Italy. Also, another benefit is that I can play the game while wearing my red trousers.
Tonight was a pretty big night. We had our gala tonight in celebration of our trip here. The wonderful staff here at the Villa were all at the gala and we had turkey in honour of America’s Thanksgiving Day. We were surrounded by friends, both new and old, and all our art proudly displayed on the walls. I feel particularly grateful, because two art credits (one an art professor, one an artist) were there and selected their favourite pieces. They selected both of my pieces! I’m so honoured! After the dinner, which I spent mostly goofing around with Michele, we watched a slide show of our trip. I cannot believe that this chapter in my life is coming to a close. It honestly only seems like a week ago we arrived in Rome!
On our last day in Italy, Rosella Vasta graciously taught us how to make authentic Italian tiramisu. After which, we said goodbye to Roberto. I’m going to miss Roberto very much. We’ve decided that we are now and forevermore fratelli (brothers). He’s my fratellone and I’m his fratellini. That night, I just hung out with Michele for one final time. It was so fun. We played guitar and piano, we played Pokemon, we watched internet memes. We just had a lot of fun. Then, when it was time for him to go home, Bebe let us go with him to drop him off at his house. It was pretty sad saying goodbye since Michele has become such a good friend. But now I can go home, able to say I went to Italy and aquired a brother and some very special friends. The car ride home was amusing because Bebe doesn’t speak a word of English, but I still tried to communicate with her. I found out her favourite musical artist is Frank Sinatra. We sang a little bit together! The next morning, we all woke up very early and loaded the charter bus one last time and drove to the airport. And… Well… I’m home. It’s over. I can hardly believe it. It’s so sad to think of this time and how quickly it has passed. It truly is a reflection on life and how we need to live each day to the fullest and enjoy it. Go enjoy life. Go hike. Go explore. Go speak. Go listen. Go paint. Go dance. Go worship. Go laugh. Go play. Go pose. Go sing. And when you’re done, go jot down a journal entry to remember it all.