So! One of the best parts of my trip to Italy were the weekends; we had them completely to ourselves and with the amazing railway system, nothing was really too far away. Rome was an hour and a half, Venice just two hours, Bologna a mere 35 minutes. We only had three weekends there so we made the most out of it and took a trip on each one. Each of these trips ended with lots of pictures, so I plan to write a post for each one.
The first weekend, we went to Rome. My group of nine friends stayed in an Airbnb apartment just outside of Vatican City. The first night we relaxed and planned our weekend. A huge part of studying abroad is planning, especially if you're on a short trip like mine, and especially for weekend trips. Rome is a huge city with tons of things to do and see. We basically had to do the Rome 101: Vatican, Coliseum, and (my personal favorite) Villa and Galleria Borghese. Since Sunday is a crazy day to go to the Vatican, we decided to get up early on Saturday and spend the whole day there. Vatican City is actually a small country within Italy, in fact the smallest country in the world. It has its own postal offices, but not its own jails. We started in the morning with the Vatican Museum, which is filled with priceless artworks.
You get the picture. We decided to wait on line to see the Sistine Chapel and then St. Peter's Basilica. Walking through the Vatican just to get to the Sistine Chapel, I kept thinking we had gotten there based on how beautiful the ceilings were.
Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of the Sistine Chapel, as they were very strict about cameras (and speaking). But suffice it to say it was breathtaking. St. Peter's Basilica was immense and impressive. It was about the size of 8 churches put together. I didn't know this, but apparently a lot of churches are actually shaped like a cross, with two chapels on the side of the main church to form the cross. Again, St. Peter's had a collection of priceless art, including the original Pietà by Michelangelo.
(It's much more impressive in person, since there's a wall of glass that makes pictures terrible)
On Sunday, we went to Galleria Borghese and the Coliseum. In the morning, we made our way over the neighborhood of the museum, right next to the park, and had some breakfast. One of my friends ordered a hot chocolate and we couldn't believe what came out: an entire cup of melted chocolate with a spoon. Apparently that's a common breakfast drink in Italy. How do these people stay so skinny and pretty??
Galleria Borghese is an art gallery located on the grounds of Villa Borghese grounds and gardens. It's filled with (you guessed it) Priceless Artworks. This is where some of the best Bernini sculptures are housed including Rape of Proserpine and Apollo and Daphne.
Rape of Prosepine
This sculpture refers to the myth of when Pluto, the god of the underworld, abducted Persephone, a vegetation goddess, from the earth and made her his queen of the underworld. Demeter, her mother, searched in grief to find her daughter for months, her despair driving the earth to keep from reproducing. Ultimately Zeus couldn't stand it anymore and told Pluto he had to give Persephone back, and Pluto agreed but he was tricky. He made Persephone eat some food from the underworld, some pomegranate seeds, which forced her to return there for a couple months each year, a time which we now call winter.
This sculpture is beautiful from every angle; you can actually see where his fingers indent the skin on her thigh. Her marble thigh that is. She's even crying tears. Bernini was a genius.
Apollo and Daphne
Again, you can see the amazing craftsmanship that went into making this sculpture. We actually studied this myth in my class. Apollo, the god of the sun, is struck by Cupid with the arrow of love, while Daphne, a nymph, is struck with the arrow of hatred. Apollo pursues Daphne until she turns into a laurel tree to escape his affections. This myth was a huge inspiration to Petrach's (inventor of the Petrarchan sonnet, and kind of the sonnet in general) tortured love poems about his unrequited lover Laura. But here's where it gets great: he talks about the air (l'aura in Italian) and her hair being like gold (l'oro) and her name itself being Laura. So lots of in-jokes and rhyming (creepy much?). But most importantly, poets are crowned with laurel once they achieve fame: Nobel Laureates. So Petrach was basically comparing himself and Laura to Apollo and Daphne, and in this way using the unrequited love to achieve fame as a poet. And it worked. The original nice guy, friendzoned into the eternal history of poetry.
We ended the weekend with a quick tour of the Coliseum, then we caught the train back to Florence.
But not before some gnocchi, of course.