May 22, 2012
Jess Eccher, a rising senior on the Vanderbilt swimming team, is participating in the University's Maymester program, studying in Perugia, Italy. Eccher will provide periodic updates of her experience for VUCommodores.com. Eccher is majoring in History of Art with a minor in History of Architecture and Corporate Strategy. She is in Perugia to study History of Art and Raphael and the Renaissance.
Ciao! This second post marks the end of my second week living in the wonderful city of Perugia! I have been a tad more successful in my endeavor of dissolving the language barrier by picking up some of the essential Italian terms and phrases along the way. Despite our glaringly noticeable "American Clothing" (Italians rarely wear any color or shorts/skirts), my classmates and I are determined to master some more phrases in an attempt to diminish our appearance as complete outsiders. During our two weeks here, we have also befriended many of the owners of our favorite pizzerias and gelateries, most definitely a direct result our frequent and predictable nightly visits. This brings me to my Italian bucket list. While many visitors to Europe compose a bucket list of things to accomplish and see during their stay abroad, after receiving a punch card for gelato (buy 11 get 1 free), a few of my classmates and I have made it our mission to achieve that coveted free gelato. We are most definitely preparing for this task, strategically figuring out how many days we will have double up on our gelato intake due to travel and other constraints. With our eyes on the prize, we are making our way towards the finish line.
Monday, May 14
Via a hired tour bus, my classmates and I, guided by our professor, embarked on our second "day-trip", this time to the city of Urbino, a walled city with history dating back to the 6th century which became a center for Renaissance Art. Here we visited the grand Palazzo Ducale and then the house of the famous artist Raphael. I was blown away by not only by the magnitude of the Palazzo Ducale, but also by its ornate décor and attention to detail despite its massive size. While the palace had many grand rooms filled with tapestries and frescoes, I would have to say my favorite spot in the entire complex was the Studiolo or "Little Study." This tiny, but absolutely magnificent room is easily the gem of the entire palace as its wall panels consist of patterns and figural scenes from a composition of 40+ woods, in a process known as "Intarsia." Had it not been such a small room where photography was prohibited, I would have most definitely taken pictures of this astonishing study to share. After the visiting the Palazzo Ducale, we climbed a VERY steep hill to get a view of the city of Urbino. I may have failed to mention this in my last blog post but due to a stress fracture, I am in a walking boot here in Italy. My "beloved" and now well-traveled boot has made navigating the cobblestone streets a bit cumbersome and the hills quite a workout, to say the least. This trip to the "hill town" of Urbino was definitely a challenge due to all the steep inclines and uneven surfaces, but despite the tiring trek to the top of the hill, it was completely worth it because the views of the city and its architecture were incredible. After our trip back from Urbino, my roommates and I decided to hit up our favorite gelatery. Today marked the receipt of our punch cards and thus the first step in completing our Italian bucket list.
Tuesday, May 15
After a normal class session at the Umbra Institute, my roommates and I began to prepare our own Italian feast for our 17 other classmates and Professor Shaneyfelt. Since we have been privileged to receive the largest of the townhomes, we wanted to invite everyone over for a night of food and fun. All afternoon we cooked and cleaned while dancing and singing to traditional Italian music. I have to say it made me feel rather adult and very cultured to prepare a dinner celebration while living in this foreign country. I can't think of a better way to really enjoy being in Italy than to prepare an authentic Italian meal while hanging out with friends.
Wednesday, May 16
After another "normal" class at the Umbra Institute, my roommates and I began the task of doing laundry. While typically the act of laundry would not warrant mentioning in a blog post, I feel as though it is completely necessary as it is no easy feat here in Italy. You see some of the many "luxuries" we take for granted in the United States do not exist here in Italy - there are no spacious washers (where you can fit more than two towels) but also, there are no clothes dryers! Yet when living in Italy, you must do as the Italians do (okay, we really didn't have a choice), so my roommates and I embarked on the "foreign" method of doing laundry without our American machines and familiar procedures. After hand washing our clothes in the sink, we made our way out to the balcony where we made sure to take extra precautions not to launch ourselves off the ledge as we attached all our clothes by clothespins to the clotheslines. All that was left was to wait for the clothes to dry (in some cases, hours, in others, a few days....it all depends on the weather). As we watched our clothes dangle in mid air, three stories over the streets of Perugia, we definitely realized how grateful we are for the amenities we take for granted back home in America.
Thursday, May 17
Today was the last of our sessions touring the Galleria Nazionale dell Umbria and The Sala dell'Udienza (Assembly Hall) at the Collegio del Cambio, right here at our home base in Perugia. Within the museum, we studied the selections from the famous Renaissance painter Perugino and the additional works he completed in collaboration with those in his artist workshop. Located on the "main drag" of the city, my classmates and I have must have passed by the Assembly Hall countless times and despite its central location, we were ignorant of what it housed inside. It is so weird to think that just beyond its walls lay valuable Renaissance masterpieces that go unacknowledged everyday. The Chapel dedicated to St. John the Baptist (located inside the Assembly Hall) was definitely my favorite as it was composed of the extensive gilding and richly carved walnut wainscoting surrounding the religious frescoes. After the trip to the "Studiolo" in Urbino and this particular chapel in Perugia, I have confirmed that I am most definitely a sucker for the "intarsia" method of wood paneling (sorry for the nerd moment).
Friday, May 18
After an early morning departure (6am!), we arrived in FLORENCE!! I had been looking forward to this day since arriving in Italy. Our first stop in this wonderful city was the renowned Uffizi Gallery. Here we viewed some the works of the Renaissance masterminds like Giotto, Piero della Francesca, Botticelli, Perugino, Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Titian. Being in this "Mecca of Art" was most definitely a humbling experience when I thought about all the talent surrounding me, housed within the walls of the building. Because I was in the presence of these masterpieces, I felt as though capturing photographs of some key pieces was completely necessary. Unfortunately, photography is "discouraged", but my classmates and I were feeling a bit daring and decided to take some sniper shots of the art, being careful to use the buddy system to shield each other from the guards (don't worry though, we turned flashes off so as not to harm the works). Sadly, the pictures do not do the artwork justice. After a long morning of touring museums, we made our way to a well-suggested Italian sandwich place where we chowed down on the most delicious food. I can confidently say that my Eggplant and Gorgonzola Panini was the best 5 Euros I have spent this whole trip. With a bit of free time left in our lunch break, we accidently stumbled onto the Basilica of Santa Croce where we were able to marvel at the amazing architecture and specifically, the absolutely gigantic carved wooden doors. Our entire group then reconvened near the famous Ponte Vecchio where we crossed over the Arno River en route to the Church of the Santa Maria Del Carmine. We made the trek to this Church to view Masaccio and Masolino's Brancacci Chapel which houses a Petrine fresco cycle (one that contains scenes from the life of St. Peter). The viewing felt like a private tour as we pretty much had the entire chapel to ourselves. Next on our list of sights to visit was the Shrine of Orsanmichele, (located in the heart of Florence). This is a building we studied in class whose façade is composed of fourteen niches (a niche was assigned to each guild of Florence and they then commissioned artists to erect a statue of each guild's particular patron saint). While the original statues no longer occupy their niches, it was still exciting to see what they would have appeared as. From here, the rest of the night was on our own agenda, so my classmates and I headed out for another wonderful Italian dinner followed by mounds of gelato.
Saturday, May 19
Our second day in Florence began with a tour of the Bargello Museum where we once again saw crucial pieces to the Renaissance Art period. Post lunch, we travelled to the Galleria dell' Accademia ("The Academia") to see Michelangelo's David and the Slaves from Pope Julius' tomb. My classmates and I once again decided to be "rebellious" (if you consider the act of taking photos daring) by snapping pictures of this towering statue. Unfortunately, this time I was not as stealth-like in my approach as a museum worker spotted me and followed me after me yelling, "No Photos!" Since I am typically "a Follow the Rules Person ", the warning was enough for me to cease my photography. Reflecting back however, I feel my "rule breaking" was necessary as a way to both preserve my memories and to share these pieces with you, both of which are, after all, in the sake of art. Next on our sightseeing list for the day was the Florence Cathedral and Baptistery. It is here that Ghiberti's renowned "Gates of Paradise" are located. Despite how crowded it was in the surrounding area and the iron fence surrounding the gilded doors, I was not disappointed at all by the works. We definitely embraced our touristy side snapping countless photos in front of all the structures and works of art. After a completion of our tour of the perimeter of the Cathedral, a few of my classmates and I decided to attend an English church service held in the Florence Cathedral itself. WOW is all I can say. Listening to the service while being surrounded by biblical frescoes that encompassed Brunelleschi's landmark Dome of Florence was an unforgettable and intensely spiritual experience.
Sunday, May 20
Today was our free (and last) day in Florence. Our Sunday morning was kicked off early around 4 am when we felt the slight effects from the earthquake that occurred in the northern Italian town of Bologna. While we personally experienced no damage, we definitely felt the reverberating tremors from the incident in our shaking beds. Being from Florida, I'm only accustomed to hurricanes so this was the first time I had ever experienced anything earthquake related. After a hearty breakfast consisting of chocolate cornettis (an Italian breakfast staple) and multiple cappuccinos, my roommates and I embarked on our "Free Day" in the wonderful city of Florence. We decided to scour the streets in search of souvenirs for family and friends and were quite successful with our shopping endeavors. It was so much fun to poke around and explore the city. While Florence was much more "Touristy" than Perugia, it was kind of refreshing to hear and interact in English again with other Americans. After taking an early evening train, we arrived back in Perugia to begin our last week in the classroom.
Until next week......Arrivederci!