Sicilia Prima

Ah, where to begin?! It’s been ever so long since I updated. It’s strange to think that in this past month I’ve spent a week in Sicily, a week in Venice and Florence, and a week in midterm mode! I had decided to try to stick to the highlights for brevity, but an inability to condense an entire week of pretty much nonstop insane experiences into one post might has caused me to expand my bounds. Here is the first installment of who knows how many on our week in Sicily.

We left Rome for our first day in Paestum (in Calabria) in a bit of a downpour. It poured harder than I’d ever seen it in Rome all through that day, which is funny because I had only gone back up and grabbed my real raincoat at the last minute. Usually if I’m prepared for the rain, as I’ve come to realize, it will inevitably clear up to become a roasty 80 degrees.

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Paestum was really an amazing site, however, we were all soaked through and shivering and just desperate to go inside rather than gawk at the amazing temples all around us; I felt a bit guilty about that. Once were inside the museum it was really nice. I saw the Tomb of the Diver there!

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I was impressed enough just at the museum itself and hey! Tomb of the diver, wow, but then our 60 year old professor in charge wove some heartbreakingly sad story about how maybe you can see evidence of some romance in the frescoes. Perhaps the young man died and is now going to rejoin his comrades and lover who have been waiting in death at the banquet for him to come to them. All the sobs.

He’s like, I’m here guys-I finally made it.

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And then his dear comrade is seated alone waiting for him, looking up when he approaches…

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It was so worth the rain.

That night, at our hotel, we experienced our first “Franco Surprise!” Franco is our program director and one of the most well-connected people I know. His surprises happened at least once a day over the trip and usually included swimming or wine of some sort. This first night, he showed us to this wondrous beach.

It was all the best of Italian beaches-warm, so salty, and with spectacular views. It extended so far out without dropping off. Franco had to keep telling us to come back in because it was so tempting to just keep going. The mermaid in me was pleased.

After a delicious dinner pairing the freshest local seafood, homemade pasta, and the worst house wine I’ve tasted in a while, a bunch of us played cards and ventured down to the water in the moonlight (a tradition I practiced almost every night of our trip). While we were by the water, fireworks began going off in the distance.

Day two was a bit of a snooze except for the part when we SAW THE RIACE FREAKING BRONZES!

AH

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For those who aren’t art history/classics geeks, these are two bronze statues that were dug out of the sea. They date from 460-450 BC (prime dates for Greek sculpture) and contain clay that places their creation in Argos. They were found off the coast of Calabria perhaps sailing from Greece to Rome. They show an artistic transitional period between the archaic and classical styles called severe. They have inlaid eyes of ivory and limestone, silver teeth, copper nipples and lips;). It’s just amazing that they’ve survived!

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Image(I like the restorers in this one-they’re all thinking ‘how fancy is this moment?!’)

Day three began with a trip on the ferry from the mainland to Sicily. I love the ferry!

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Monday was also the day in which we got to visit the prettiest place ever-Taormina!

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019 021(what a DREADful hotel!)

I went for a few days in high school as part of the Italy trip and I was so happy to go back. Just. Ugh. How is any place this beautiful every day? I know I’ve already mentioned that for my Latin text, we’ve been reading the Thyestes. Well, in honor of the lovely theater in Taormina, we performed selections from the Latin and English translations.

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We began on the stage itself until we were kicked off and finished in the orchestra pit. A surprising number of people also in the theater stuck around and sat just to watch us which was pretty cool. It’s good (and surprising) to know that love of the classics lives on enough for random strangers to sit and listen to something they don’t understand in the baking sun for over half an hour.

For lunch we were on our own in the town. I had been speaking to the professors as we started wandering and ended up eating with them. We had one of the best meals EVER. We started with octopus salad and raw swordfish sliced with olive oil and Sicilian lemons. I had the traditional pasta norma and out of all the pasta norma I was served in Sicily (I swear it comprised about 5 meals), this was hands down the absolute best. They had this special dried ricotta cheese to sprinkle on it…so good. For dessert we had the local version of this delicious desert that translates to “cheesecake.” We had the same thing at dinner that night 50 miles away and it was completely different. After we had finished, Franco told us that he knew we weren’t going to drink at lunch, but it’s Taormina after all so why not some grappa? Thus grappa we drank.

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We finished our sites for the day in Syracuse mountain-goating at the above-pictured Castle of Euryalus! This site was never  actually a castle, but a really cool fort.

The hotel we stayed at this night was all new and big and pretty. The rooms were separate villa houses and it had a pool! There was also only three other people there so it looked like a weird cult. At first I was disappointed that we had a pool and not the beach, but late that night while sitting beside the quite excitingly lit up pool, we found out that the beach was only a ten minute walk away! Hooray for every night at the beach!

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Thus ends Part One of the Sicily Saga.

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The Capitoline

My most recent Art History exploration was truly wonderful. First we went to the Castel San Angelo and then briefly visited the wonderful Capitoline Museums.

Our class is supposed to meet at 9:30, but breakfast is served at 8 so we usually set out really early. Even then, with the state of public transport here we’re often late. This particular morning though, we actually got there about half an hour early and just chilled in front of the Castel. While Castel sounds pretty grand on its own, when you say Castle instead I just get even more impressed and excited!

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As observable in the picture, the ninth hour in Rome is something of a phenomenon. I’ve been here for a month and a half now and I can only think of one or two mornings that did not fit the trend: every day, whether it is gorgeous or groggy later on, is always just dreamily lovely at and around nine a.m.. The sun is glowing, the sky is clear and brilliant, and the breezes that flow through the alleyways make your skirts and scarves billow out behind you as you stride down the still streets.

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While breathing in the crisp morning air, we sat on the bridge leading up to the Castel and saw some weird statues. The bridge is lined with Bernini angels holding the items with which Christ was tortured in his last moments. Although, religiously speaking, I was not completely overwhelmed, I did think it was pretty cool. These are a few of my favorites:

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Vinegar sponge, ew!

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This was my favorite angel-with the lash.

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Seagull hat!

I would venture to say that the Castel is pretty cool too. It was built as Emperor Hadrian’s Mausoleum, but has worn many hats over the years including that of a papal palace and a papal prison!  We saw the Pope’s Mannerist apartments and that was cool and all, but the coolest thing was that we got special permission to go inside the prisoner’s cells into the worst depths you could be thrown!

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After our jaunt around the Castel, we departed to the Capitoline Museums. These museums always amaze me and I decided that after the few select paintings we focused on in the Pinacotecca, I’d stay for a few hours on my own. These “few hours” turned into the rest of the day spent in awe at the beauty. I always say I’m not really a sculpture person, but just look at these!

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(She was my favorite.)

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The museum is connected with the Tabullarium from the Forum and you can see the cement archways and this lovely view down into the Forum. 

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The museums are in separate buildings on the Capitoline Hill and you can get access between them through underground tunnels.

Even if it is a route I take all the time, I was proud that I made it back pretty quickly and without any hitches. Sometimes you’ll have to wait an hour for the bus just to get there, but including the ride and walking it only took me 20 minutes! I had stayed at the museum until around 5ish. It was so nice to have hours in a row just spend on my own. We go to so so many sites and museums with our classes, but we’re in a big group and time is always short.