The Galleria Borghese and Ovid’s Metamorphoses

This week has been an exhausting and exciting addition to my study abroad experience. My parents arrived in Rome on Tuesday, and we will be exploring the city together for the next two weeks. This is their first time travelling outside of the United States, and I am so excited to show them around this incredible city. After spending the entirety of Wednesday recovering from jet lag, they celebrated their arrival with a homemade Italian dinner on Thanksgiving. I had the chance to show off my recently acquired culinary skills, and my mom learned that I am capable of using a kitchen without starting any fires. I took them to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum on Friday, which gave me the opportunity to pretend that I’m a professional tour guide.

Unfortunately, when we returned to our apartments on Friday afternoon I suddenly came down with the worst cold I have had in years. I could not stop sneezing and coughing for most of the weekend. Of course this sickness attacked at the worst possible time, the week before final exams and paper deadlines. I am finally feeling like a human again today (barely), and I have mustered up enough strength to drink some warm tea and work on this blog post. I have a research paper to finish tomorrow, a Latin final to study for, and an amazing city to share with my family, so I refuse to let this cold bring me down. This week I’m thankful for my parents who bought me orange juice, the heater in this apartment, and the cold medicine I brought from home.

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My parents have also lived in San Diego for the majority of their lives, so the cold weather here has been a difficult adjustment. They had the time of their lives walking through the Roman Forum. My dad has wanted to see the Colosseum since he was a kid, and he was so happy to cross that experience off his bucket list.

On Thursday afternoon, I visited the Galleria Borghese with the two other students in my Latin class and our lovely teacher, Tessa. This semester we have been translating pieces of Book 1 from Livy’s “Ab Urbe Condita” and several famous stories from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The theme of our class is mythology, and we have analyzed our translations of these mythological stories to understand their significance in the Roman world.

Although Latin is not a very large or popular subject, it is certainly a worthwhile topic to study. Reading classical literature in the language in which it was written is such a rewarding experience. In our small class, we spend plenty of time discussing the importance of individual Latin words and trying to understand how complex sentences express ideas. We try to imagine the scenes depicted in the texts and understand the motives of the authors and mythological characters. We have a lot of fun in our little class, and our visit to the Galleria Borghese was great! We went from room to room searching for mythological characters, recognizable gods, and familiar stories from our translations of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

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The sculptures in the Galleria Borghese were breathtaking; I stood in awe of this particular piece, amazed by the detailed creases in the mattress.
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This statue shows the god Pluto (Hades in Greek mythology) capturing the young girl Prosperina and taking her to the underworld. This was the first statue we saw at the museum, and it was absolutely amazing.
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In this statue, the Trojan warrior Aeneas carries his aged father on his shoulders as his son follows behind them. In Virgil’s Aeneid, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita, the story of Aeneas is told. The line of Aeneas eventually leads to Romulus and Remus, the twins who are said to have founded the city of Rome.
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This altar (originally from Ostia Antica and now housed in the Palazzo Massimo museum) shows the twins Romulus and Remus being suckled by the she-wolf. It is said that Romulus murdered his twin brother because Remus was mocking him by leaping over the newly built city walls.

Before continuing with photos from the Galleria Borghese, I would like to introduce some of the speeches written by my Latin class. On our last quiz, we were asked to write a speech persuading a mythological character to make a certain decision. I wrote a speech convincing Romulus to kill his brother Remus called “In Favor of Fratricide” and my classmates both wrote speeches to Lucretia, a woman who committed suicide after being raped by the son of the last king of Rome. This activity was a fun way to express our opinions on the mythology we have studied so far, and insert our own ideas into the ancient texts. At this point, I would like to share the three speeches with my readers, and we hope that you enjoy them!

To Romulus: his brother Remus is mocking him by jumping over the new city walls.

“Look at Remus over there, teasing you and romping around like a fool. If you cannot control your brother now, then how will you be able to control this city together? This city does not need two leaders, one who ridicules and the other who resents. This city cannot be built on such an unstable foundation. This city will never grow strong if one of its leaders believes it is laughably weak. You must eliminate the problem and erase the precedent that your brother is trying to establish. Kill your brother. Show the world that no one who jumps over your city walls will live to tell the tale!”

To Lucretia: she has just been raped by Sextus Tarquinius and is left alone in her room.

“No part of you is culpable for the rape and nothing about you is less honorable than it was before. In fact, you can continue to be a most admirable wife by encouraging your husband in his seeking revenge promptly, and living to express your gratitude when he returns. Do not add to his suffering (that is, the suffering of learning that his wife has been threatened and desecrated by another man) by making him a widower. You may think it is honorable to kill yourself but, in fact, it is more honorable to endure your pain and be there for your husband.”

“Although what happened to you is truely horrible, your death wil solve nothing. It will only serve to further hurt those who care for you. You have a loving husbund, a caring father, and other close friends which you can rely on. Ask for their help. They will listen. If you seek vengeance, then have your friends join you, and kill the man who destroyed your life. Enter his home in a similar manner and slit his throat as he sleeps. If he threatened you with humiliation, then you should humiliate him. In any case, these are suggestions, not orders. Make of it what you will…”

After writing our speeches on mythological scenes and translating these scenes into English from Latin, it was really rewarding to explore the museum searching for images of Lucretia. These are three of the paintings that we found of Lucretia on the walls of the Galleria Borghese.

 

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This statue was my favorite in the Galleria Borghese because we had just finished translating this scene with Apollo and Daphne. After Apollo mocks Cupid, he is stricken by one of Cupid’s arrows that makes him fall madly in love with Daphne. Meanwhile, Daphne is stricken with an arrow that makes her resist Apollo’s advances. When Apollo persists, Daphne begs her father (a river god) for help and is transformed into a tree.
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The detail on this statue was incredible. Her toes are turning into roots, her fingers are transforming into leaves, and her torso is covered by a realistic textured bark. It was absolutely beautiful, and definitely reminiscent of the scene in Ovid’s Metamorphoses that narrates this story.
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We also found two other familiar stories from our recent translations. The painting on the bottom shows the young girl Europa being carried off by Jupiter disguised as a bull. The top painting shows Actaeon being transformed into a deer after accidentally seeing Diana naked.
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In this scene the hero Perseus is flying in on Pegasus in order to save the beautiful Andromeda from a sea monster.
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We also encountered plenty of depictions of Leda, a woman who was seduced by Jupiter disguised as a swan. Leda was supposedly the mother of Helen of Troy, and her story inspired a common motif in Renaissance art.
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Another Leda above this doorway–we almost missed this one!
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This was my favorite depiction of Leda and the swan.
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In this painting, the mother of Perseus, Danae, is about to be visited by Jupiter (Zeus) in the form of a golden rain.
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When Jupiter wasn’t busy cheating on his wife with other women in the form of animals and minerals, he occasionally spent some time with Juno.
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Oh, and here is one of my favorite pictures from the Galleria Borghese: a chubby little Cupid. Look at that belly. Isn’t he cute?

Our visit to the Galleria Borghese was one of my favorite site visits of the year, and I was so happy to spend that day with my Latin class looking for various mythological references. The more I learn about Roman religion and Latin literature, the more I understand the classical references that are so prevalent today. The Roman world influences our world in innumerable ways, and studying Classics is a wonderful way to appreciate these influences. Spending a semester in Rome has reminded me that my decision to study Classics was one of the best decisions I’ve made, and I am always learning new things.

I am going to wrap up this blog post, make some more tea, take some nighttime cold medicine, and attempt to sleep. As much as I hate being sick, I will not let this terrible cold keep me from studying and writing during this final week. Thanks for reading this week’s post! Arrivederci!

 

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The Art of the Brick- A LEGO Art Exhibit in Rome

I must admit that this week has been difficult for me. With essay deadlines and final exams approaching rapidly, I dedicated every day to translating, researching, and reading. Today I had a site visit at the Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum, and roaming around this dense historical center was the most relaxing part of my week. This weekend I plan to drink a few gallons of coffee, skim through several books on Hadrian and Nero, and produce the first draft of my research paper. I am finally understanding that this experience will be over in less than one month, and this realization is stressful. To make matters slightly worse, my boyfriend flew home to San Diego on Wednesday morning. Although I was upset at first, I am incredibly grateful that he was able to spend all of this time with me while I studied abroad. He would still be here with me if it weren’t for the mandatory 90 day restriction on travel without a visa.

We arrived in Rome on August 21st, celebrated our second anniversary and my twentieth birthday here, lived in a beautiful apartment in Trastevere, and explored this magnificent city together for several months. I cannot imagine what this experience would have been like without Tyler by my side, and I am happy to have made so many memories with him during these past months. I feel so lucky to have someone in my life who is willing to drop everything to accompany me on an adventure abroad. Even though he is home in San Diego once again, it feels like he is still here in Rome with me because everything reminds me of the time that we spent together (and also because we are constantly using the video chat feature on Google Hangouts. In fact, I’m chatting with him and my dogs while typing this post tonight).

Since I did not have much time during the last few days to explore Rome by myself, I am going to share some pictures from an adventure that Tyler and I shared last week. After one of my classes, we walked from the Accent Center in Piazza Dell’Orologio through Piazza Navona to the Pantheon, past the Trevi Fountain, to the Piazza di Spagna, around the Spanish Steps because they were closed, through the Villa Borghese, and finally arrived at a LEGO art exhibit at the Spazio Eventi Tirso. When we first saw the posters and advertisements for The Art of the Brick exhibit, Tyler told me that he needed to see the LEGO art before he left Rome. He didn’t care about seeing the Sistine Chapel, or the Galleria Borghese, or the Pantheon; he only wanted to see the collection of LEGO sculptures. Of course I was more than willing to go to this exhibit, not only because I love Tyler, but also because I love everything LEGO.

My boyfriend and I are LEGO brand fanatics, and I am not ashamed to admit that. We visit Legoland at least twice a month, we are always in the process of building new sets, and in our free time we have been known to scroll through pages of LEGO related websites. Last Halloween we were the among the only adults without children to spend the day at Legoland. Where did we celebrate my boyfriend’s 21st birthday? Legoland. We have an entire room filled with our LEGO sets, and we recently needed to have shelves installed because we ran out of storage space. I am not bragging about our LEGO fixation; this is just the reality of the situation. So when we saw a LEGO art exhibit was in Rome, we dedicated an entire day to visiting it. It was one of the best days that I have had in Rome so far, and even though this blog post has nothing to do with history, I still wanted to share the magic of this art exhibit with my readers.

 

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One of our first stops was the recently refinished Trevi Fountain. This picture is zoomed in to block out the massive crowd of people that were surrounding us. The lighting was perfect for taking a picture of the fountain itself, but it was terrible for taking any selfies.
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And here is a LEGO Trevi Fountain that is sitting in our LEGO themed room at home. Photo credit to Tyler who so kindly got out of his chair to take this picture for me when I asked.
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Although we could have taken a taxi or a bus to the Villa Borghese, I always prefer to walk while I’m in Rome. Walking gives you the opportunity to appreciate the beautiful scenery and observe other people who are exploring Rome as well. It is also the best exercise, which is necessary if you want to feel less guilty about indulging in so much gelato.
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The Villa Borghese was so lovely! Next week I have an excursion with my Latin class to the Galleria Borghese, and I am so excited to return to this beautiful place. Next week I’ll have more photos to share of the wonderful sculptures and artwork inspired by mythological stories.
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We accidentally walked the wrong way in the Villa Borghese when we were trying to navigate to the LEGO exhibit. To be fair, there are no wrong turns when you’re strolling through such a pretty park. Our mistake allowed us to see some fountains and visit a free museum.
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In the free museum that we stumbled upon while looking for a bathroom, we found this awesome sculpture of a man wearing a toga with the head of Vespasian. Roman portraiture often used the same style of bodies while only adapting the heads, so it was common for a toga covered body to have its head replaced over and over again. So efficient!
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This picture shows another lovely scene from our accidental walk in the wrong direction. To me, this is further evidence that you shouldn’t be afraid of getting a little bit lost when wandering around. The fall colors are so beautiful! After living in San Diego my entire life, it is strange to live in a place that experiences the changing of the seasons.
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I do not have much context about what is shown in this picture, but from the inscription it appears to be dedicated to the Divine Emperor Antoninus and his wife Faustina. I do not know if this is an original or a replica.
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This is another example of the beautiful fountains in the Villa Borghese. I loved the water horses that are holding up the center of the fountain.
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We also found an area that functioned as an off-leash dog park, so we spent some time on this bench watching dogs romp around in the leaves. When Tyler was taking this photo of me, I realized that I never know what to do with my arms and hands in photos. This pose was my solution.
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And then we entered the art exhibit composed entirely of LEGO bricks. The artist, Nathan Sawaya, an American artist who left his job at a law firm to pursue his dream of crafting LEGO sculptures.
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Each piece had a comment from the artist beside it, and the comment on this piece was that “everyone insists on sitting next to the blue man and imitating his pose.” Tyler wasn’t planning on doing that, but since everyone does it, we felt that it was required.
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This was the piece that has been used to advertise the exhibit, and it was one of my favorites that we saw that afternoon.
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We entered a room that was filled with LEGO replicas of famous pieces of art. In the background you can see the Scream, American Gothic, and the Discobolus. It was outstanding.
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The Mona Lisa in LEGO bricks.
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The Creation of Adam reproduced in LEGO bricks.
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The LEGO version of Van Gogh’s Starry Night.
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The LEGO version of The Great Wave Off Kanagawa was interesting because the wave in the foreground was three-dimensional and set off the flat background. The picture doesn’t depict this aspect very well.

 

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This LEGO version of The Kiss by Gustav Klimt was also three-dimensional.
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When I saw the LEGO version of The Kiss, I thought to myself “Why does that look so familiar?” Then I remembered that I have been sleeping under a canvas copy of this painting the entire time that I have been in Rome. I took this photo in my apartment earlier this evening.
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This LEGO statue of the Venus de Milo was the most impressive piece in the collection. I cannot fathom his ability to replicate the folded pieces of cloth and the curves of her figure with little bricks.
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Here I am with my favorite historical figure once again, but this time he is made of LEGO bricks! This replica of the Augustus of Prima Porta made the long trek to this exhibit completely worthwhile.
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Another impressive example of the artist’s ability to create almost any famous piece of art from LEGO bricks. He said in one of his quotes that he would love for children to learn about art history through LEGO models, and I think that is a fantastic idea.
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If I remember correctly, this piece was called “Swimming”
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I may not have had enough time to visit Greece during this trip to Europe, but at least I got to see a LEGO Parthenon. Also, three months later and we still cannot take a decent selfie to save our lives.
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This massive LEGO head was called “Sing” I loved all of the monochromatic pieces in this collection.
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These sculptures represent not only the three primary shapes but also the three primary colors.
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This sculpture of a couple kissing was also one of my favorites; feel free to ignore the collection of brightly colored skulls in the background.
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The final sculpture in the exhibit was this colossal dinosaur.

The Art of the Brick exhibit was one of the coolest experiences that I have had so far in Rome. All of these pictures truly do not show how massive, intricate, and impressive the sculptures are. I also only included a fraction of the photos that I took because there were too many pictures to share them all in this blog post. The exhibit will take place until the middle of February, and I definitely recommend taking the time to check it out. Even if you aren’t a LEGO fanatic like me and Tyler, I think that everyone will appreciate the amount of detail and effort that Nathan Sawaya puts into his art. If you have ever played with LEGO bricks, you can understand how difficult it must be to craft a six foot tall dinosaur or a life sized statue of Venus from these tiny rectangular bricks. I know that this blog post isn’t historical (aside from the LEGO examples of famous artwork), but I could not resist sharing this awesome experience.

Thanks for reading, ci vediamo!

Feeding an Empire at the Ara Pacis, The Baths of Caracalla, Ostia Antica, and Beyond!

I have learned a new trick for slowing down my time in Rome: fill every day with activities to make each day seem longer. My Ancient Roman Civilization course kept me busy this week with three different site visits, and this weekend I ran around the city with Tyler trying to see as many sites as possible together before he flies home on Wednesday. On Monday my class visited the Ara Pacis museum to check out an exhibit on the diet of the ancient world called “Feeding an Empire.” Unfortunately we were crammed into the small exhibit with several classes of elementary school students, which is basically my worst nightmare. After tutoring students of all ages throughout college, I’ve realized that I really do not like being around kids. Despite the crowding and the screams of exhausted elementary school students, the exhibit was still amazing. I loved looking at loaves of carbonized bread and collections of Roman silverware.

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I arrived early on Monday and sat next to this beautiful fountain outside of the Ara Pacis. Rome is filled with fountains, and I am going to miss all of the fountains dearly when I leave next month.
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Our class had a lecture in the shade by the Mausoleum of Augustus before entering the exhibit. We could hear the children shouting from outside the museum, and our professor decided that it would be best to get the serious lecturing out of the way before we went into the madness.
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The Ara Pacis museum was rebuilt by Richard Meier to house Augustus’ altar of peace. One of the unique aspects of his design is the inclusion of the Res Gestae on the back wall of the museum.
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This reconstructed map of Rome has provided historians with useful insights on the port of the Tiber river. Our professor was ecstatic that this famous piece of archaeological evidence was on display in this exhibit. Once again, I am always impressed by the ability to reconstruct ancient sources with fragmented physical remains.
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This particular fragment “LIA” was believed to be the last three letters of the label “Porticus Aemilia.” However, recent research in 2006 has led to the conclusion that this might actually be a fragment of the word “Navalia” (shipyard). If the “LIA” represents the word “Navalia” this would explain this building’s placement on the Tiber, its size, shape, and purpose. The prior explanation created many unresolved questions that the new explanation seems to explain. Why does this matter? To me, this research is fascinating because it shows how seemingly resolved matters can always change, even in the field of Classical Studies.
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Roman cheese grater. Are you loving it? Because I’m loving it.
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Ladles, bowls, and colanders!
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Look at all of the pans!
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Spoons, plates, bowls, and decanters! Ancient spoons are amazing!
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This contraption is a chafing dish that would be used to keep dishes warm during a banquet.
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One of the main attractions at this exhibit was the collection of carbonized food from Pompeii and Herculaneum. Here we have some miscellaneous beans and nuts.
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Carbonized peas, nuts, beans, and other scarcely recognizable food-stuff.
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My personal favorite was the carbonized loaves of bread. I know that all of this ancient, blackened food is probably making you hungry.
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The main reason that I took a picture of this Dionysus food tray is because I really want something like this in my dining room one day. Obviously it wouldn’t be an original, but it would make a great conversation piece. I don’t think they sell these at IKEA. Where can I find an artist who will sculpt a bronze Dionysus serving tray? 
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This fresco depicts the luxurious banquets that were common among the aristocrats in Rome. I was particularly amused by the man in the lower right corner, who appears to be so intoxicated that his buddy is having to hold him up. Maybe that’s not the case, but that is what I see in this image.
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My favorite pieces in this entire collection were the bronze pig and rabbit molds that could be used to shape loaves of bread or meat. It reminded me of the Satyricon by Petronius when the tacky host Trimalchio makes his cook produce lavish and disgusting meals that are in the shape of animals.
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After we escaped the madness at the Ara Pacis exhibit, I wandered to the Pantheon to have a quick snack and watch crowds of people walk around in confusion. I attempted to take a decent picture that captured how busy this piazza can be, especially around lunchtime.
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Inside of the Pantheon it is almost impossible to take a good panorama with everyone moving around. If you load the full size of this picture you will see a few people with elongated heads and bodies as the result of walking through the panoramic picture.
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I love popping into the Pantheon for short periods of time during the day. The architecture is incredible, the decor is breathtaking, and it is my favorite place to observe tour groups.

On Wednesday I hurried to the Circus Maximus where my Ancient Roman Civilization class was meeting for another exciting site visit. We left promptly at 11:30 (even though some students had not arrived yet) and walked a short distance to the Baths of Caracalla for a lecture on bathing in the Roman world. Bathing was an important aspect of daily life in the Roman world, and it was expected that all civilized Romans visit the bathhouses every day. Bathhouses were abundant in Roman cities; some bathhouses in individual neighborhoods were small, while other bathing complexes in the center of the city were grand, elaborate, and built by the emperor for his people. The Baths of Caracalla is an imperial bath complex donated to the Roman people in the year 217 AD. It was the second largest bathhouse in the city of Rome, and it provided a place for the people to bath, exercise, dine, shop, and socialize.

In the early afternoon, every Roman man was expected to go to the baths to conduct his daily business. He would not only exercise at the gym, lifting weights and wrestling in the nude, he would also clean himself and relax in the various rooms of the bath complex for several hours. These rooms were either heated or chilled; some rooms included warm or cool plunge baths, while other rooms were solely for relaxing in the warm air or sunbathing. Imperial bath complexes also included Olympic sized swimming pools, several palestra for exercising, and shaded walkways for strolling around the lush gardens. The bath complexes would also contain various shops, fast food restaurants, wine sellers, libraries, apartments, and meeting spaces. You could get your hair cut, have your toe nails clipped, or even have your armpit hairs plucked out. If you were thirsty, you could get drunk! If you felt like getting a prostitute, you could find a prostitute there as well! Bathhouses were the place to be. All of your friends and acquaintances would be at the bathhouse, and if you weren’t there, then you weren’t civilized or sanitary. I wish that it was still socially acceptable to walk around gardens, exercise, drink wine, socialize, shop, and relax for the entire afternoon. That would be nice.

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The mosaic floors at the Baths of Caracalla are some of the most beautiful examples of mosaics that I have seen. I cannot even imagine what this complex would have looked like when it was first constructed. I am sure that it was a luxurious place to spend the afternoon.
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Here is another beautiful example of the mosaic floors found in the Baths of Caracalla.
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This is a game board to play a game similar to mancala. I forgot to mention that it would also be common for Romans to play board games while they socialized at the bath complexes.
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The complex itself was very peaceful. It seemed that most tourists ignore this destination in favor of the Colosseum or the Roman Forum. The Baths of Caracalla are definitely not something that you should overlook if you plan on taking a trip to Rome. The location is so quiet and green that it is easy to forget that you’re in a crowded city.
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Unfortunately, many of the mosaic floors are being deteriorated by harsh weather and rain. It is a shame to see these priceless examples of Roman art being worn away by the weather.
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Our professor shared an interesting fact about a strategy used to prevent damage to ancient Roman monuments. Rome has been invaded by hordes of pigeons and seagulls. These birds have highly acidic poop, which can cause irreparable damage to the ancient monuments. To prevent this problem, falcon keepers are being allowed to release their birds for short periods of time to scare off the pigeons and seagulls. The falcons are well-fed, so they do not eat the smaller birds, but their presence is enough to rid Rome of its unwanted flying guests. It has been working well so far!

My final site visit this week was on Friday, and it was my favorite site visit of the entire semester. We set out to Ostia Antica, a beautifully preserved Roman town about thirty kilometers outside of Rome. During the late Republic and the early Roman Empire, Ostia was the primary port city of Rome. Ostia, which means “mouth” in Latin, was originally on the Tiber and next to the Mediterranean sea. The sea has moved several kilometers since anquity, and Ostia Antica is no longer directly on the beach. Unlike Pompeii or Herculaneum, Ostia was not destroyed by a natural disaster. The city was abandoned over time as a new port developed, and was eventually deserted when the Western Roman Empire fell.

As a port city, Ostia supported maritime trade and assisted those who participated in commerce. Therefore, the city of Ostia not only had the features of a standard Roman city (bathhouses, a theater, and a Forum), but it also possessed hotels, commercial outlets, and other shops that catered to travelers. Ostia is a wonderful archaeological site that should not be ignored by those who plan to visit Rome. Ostia is larger and less crowded than Pompeii, and it allows visitors to explore the entire city freely without many restrictions.

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If the beauty of this picture doesn’t convince you to visit Ostia, then I don’t know what else to say.
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This unique mosaic functioned as an advertisement for a local wine seller. It reads “Fortunatus says: if you’re thirsty, then drink!” Notice how there is also a large image of a wine cup, which would allow visitors who were unfamiliar with the Latin language to understand what was being sold at this shop.
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This is one of my favorite pictures because it shows how the “damnatio memoriae” works. Although the name “damnation of remembrance” implies that no one should try to remember those who are punished with this sentence, this image demonstrates the reality of this punishment. The damnatio memoriae was a reminder that you were supposed to forget someone who was terrible, like a particularly bad emperor. Instead of taking down this entire pillar, they just crossed out the name. Don’t forget to forget the terrible emperor!
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Another beautiful image of the quiet and verdant areas within the ruins of Ostia Antica.
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Unlike Pompeii, it is possible to wander down the streets of Ostia without bumping into countless tourists.
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The theater in Ostia is one of the best preserved examples of Roman theaters that remains today. It is currently being restored so that it can continue to function as a theater during the summertime.
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These mosaics were used to advertise the businesses that took place inside of various shops on this road. For example, this person may have traded exotic animals for public shows and circuses. 
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This counter would have been used to serve “fast-food.” Another example of this type of shop exists in Pompeii, but visitors in Ostia can explore the inside of the store and stand behind the counter.
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Our professor said that this fresco serves as another advertisement for the services provided in this store. She said that carrots are being steamed on the far left, a type of meal is being presented in the middle, and the image to the right is either “cheese or a musical instrument.” I think that this is a hilarious toss-up. Well, it’s either cheese or a musical instrument. Maybe both, who knows?
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From the rooftops of Ostia, we were able to take in this magnificent view of the ruins.
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This is another view from a rooftop in Ostia; in the background you can see Ostia’s museum.
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Pigeons are the worst. They always act like they own the place.
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After enjoying the views from the rooftops, we went to Ostia’s Forum and tried to imagine what each of these structures may have looked like before the city was abandoned.
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The road pictured here is the decumanus (east-west) road. Ostia was originally a military camp for Rome, so it was laid out in a perfect orthogonal plan, in which the Forum is at the crossroads of the decumanus (east-west) and cardo (north-south) streets.
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The remains of the temple to Jupiter Optimus Maximus, the central deity of the Roman World. The temple to Jupiter would always be found at the northern end of the Forum in a Roman town.
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The most disgusting and amazing thing about Ostia: well-preserved Roman latrines!!! Here you could gather with your closest companions to do your business together! The hole in the top of the latrines is obviously for excreting waste, but you might be wondering what the holes in the front of the latrines are for. Even if you weren’t wondering that, I’m going to tell you anyway because it is terrible. Romans didn’t have toilet paper, so they used sponges on sticks. The front hole would be used for dipping your toilet sponge into the water to clean it off! Don’t worry, if you forgot your sponge or didn’t like to use your own sponge, there were communal poop sponges available as well.
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If you are still disgusted by the thought of communal poop sponges, here are some pictures of the friendly cats that wander around Ostia during the day.
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This one was being adorable and climbing all over the walls. If I didn’t have an allergy and a fear of cats, I would have been tempted to approach these cuties.
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Ostia is also the home to these outstanding Roman mosaics that can be found in most art history textbooks. Bathhouses often had mosaics that depicted aquatic scenes, like sea creatures.
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This famous mosaic depicts Neptune with his trident riding in his chariot of aquatic horses. The sun was beginning to set when I took this picture, so the lighting is not ideal. It is incredible in person.
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Ostia was too beautiful to describe with words or depict in photos. I wish I could have explored the rest of the city on Friday, but I will have to return as soon as possible to finish my adventure there.

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the eighth week of core courses in my study abroad program. Only three full weeks remain, and then I will face my final exams. Even though my time here is coming to a close, I can look back on my blog posts and feel satisfied by how much I have seen and the amount of new information I have learned. To all of my professors, friends, and family who encouraged me to step outside of my comfort zone and visit Rome, thank you. Being here has changed my understanding of the ancient world, and I can’t wait to come home and share my stories with everyone. Now it’s time for me to make a late night trip to a gelateria with Tyler because I’m addicted to gelato.

Thanks for reading, arrivederci!

Five of My Favorite Emperors

The first week back in class was a frightening reminder that the end of this program is imminent. The amount of reading in my history class is slowly dwindling down, I have finished more than half of the material in my Italian book, and we are finally translating Ovid’s Metamorphoses in my Latin course. The next three weeks in my Ancient Roman Civilization course consist of site visits that I remember excitedly reading about on the syllabus six weeks ago. Tyler is leaving Italy in less than ten days so that he can return to his classes in California, and I’m trying to squeeze as many activities as possible into our last days together. This week we are going to eat dinner at the pizzeria Dar Poeta, which my friend Jared recommended to me several months ago. I’m certain that he is reading this post and feeling amazed that I still haven’t gone to the pizzeria he once described as “mystical.” On the bright side, my careful financial planning has allowed me to afford nice dinners, souvenirs, and museum tickets in November. Hurray for not spending all of my cash in two months!

In one of my blog posts a few weeks ago, I discussed my Roma Pass museum adventures and shared some of my favorite photos from those days. I took over 300 photos during those three days, and today I wanted to share some pictures of amazing Roman portraiture from the Palazzo Massimo. Every statue that I saw was incredible, and I probably have photos of the majority of the museum’s collection. However, I wanted to focus on the statues of my favorite Roman emperors and take some time to share their stories. The transition from the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire has always fascinated me.

If I had to choose a single historical figure to study for the rest of my life, I would choose Augustus without any hesitation. I cannot imagine what sort of hypothetical situation would require me to make that strange decision, but I think that I could sacrifice my entire life to studying the age of Augustus. I had originally planned to write this post entirely about Augustus, but I cannot resist discussing the rest of the Julio-Claudian and the Flavian dynasties as well. I love terrible emperors like Nero and Caligula just as much as I love great leaders like Augustus. I truly hope that these stories about my five favorite Roman emperors are enjoyable to read. Keep in mind that these emperors are listed based on my personal favoritism, and this is not a list of the best emperors, or even “good” emperors. I’m a student, not Machiavelli.

  1. Augustus: the Princeps, the Pater Patriae, the legend

Why do I love Augustus? I have too many reasons to count. Having acquired power at the age of eighteen after the assassination of Julius Caesar, Octavian proved to be capable of almost anything. From eliminating the conspirators who killed his adoptive uncle to reestablishing an era of peace in Rome, Augustus was responsible for countless major changes in Roman history. It has been said that he found Rome made of mud and left it as a city made of marble. He was a master of propaganda, and he manipulated his public image with great success. Perhaps the reason that I speak so positively of Augustus in 2015 is because of how well he crafted his public image between 44 BC and 14 AD.

Another outstanding aspect of the Augustan era is its length; while most Romans were lucky to live to the age of forty, Augustus reigned for forty years and lived to be seventy-six years old. It is hard to imagine how Roman history might have changed if this leader’s reign had not lasted for so long. During his forty years in power, Augustus took possession of Egypt as a Roman province, revitalized Roman religion, assumed many of the primary positions in the Roman government, established a new form of coinage, built new roads throughout his Empire, and adorned the capital city of Rome with monumental buildings. He was the first among citizens (princeps), the father of the fatherland (pater patriae), the chief priest of Roman religion (pontifex maximus), and many other honorary positions as well.

Augustus is awesome, and despite some of his actions that I don’t approve of (like banishing Ovid from Rome), he is still my favorite Roman leader.

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Hanging out with my favorite Roman at the Palazzo Massimo.
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The wife of Augustus, Livia, who popularized the hairstyle seen in these busts.
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Statues of Augustus are everywhere in Rome. It seemed like every museum has at least one depiction of Augustus.

2. Hadrian:

Maybe my fascination with Hadrian has been slightly exaggerated on this blog. Before I came to Rome I did not know a lot about Trajan or Hadrian, but I have learned so much about them in my time here that I feel the need to share all of these facts in my blog. Hadrian is my second favorite emperor because I adore his construction projects, many of which still exist today. He rebuilt the Pantheon, constructed his mausoleum (The Castel Sant’Angelo), and designed the Temple of Venus and Roma, which is thought to have been the largest temple during his time. Perhaps one of the reasons that I love Hadrian is because I associate him with the design of the Pantheon, which has been replicated endlessly in the United States. In fact, many government buildings and monuments are modeled on Roman and Greek architecture. Whenever I think of Roman architecture, I’m reminded of the Emperor Hadrian.

The Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C. bears a striking resemblance to the Pantheon.
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Hadrian was also a lover of Greek culture, and he brought the beard back into style in the Roman world.
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Hadrian was also a lover of having Greek lovers. Pictured in this relief is his favorite young boy, Antinous, whom Hadrian adored. After Antinous died under mysterious circumstances, Hadrian had the boy deified and founded a cult dedicated to the worship of Antinous. This cult spread through the Empire and became wildly popular. Some scholars claim that Hadrian was unhappy in his marriage to Sabina, and that throughout his life he seemed to express a preference for young men. Nevertheless, Hadrian’s pederasty and love of Antinous symbolizes his connection to Greek culture.

3. Tiberius

Tiberius is my third favorite Roman emperor because his reputation in Roman history is simply unfair. It must have been difficult to live up to the expectations with Augustus as his predecessor. As both the step-son and inherited son of Augustus, he became Roman Emperor around the age of 56 in 14 AD. Tiberius did not desire to be princeps, but he reluctantly accepted the titles bestowed upon him. Tacitus and Suetonius claim that Tiberius refused the titles of pater patriae, imperator, and augustus. Although he tried to act as Augustus had acted, he could never be as beloved as Augustus was. Tiberius allowed the Senate to make decisions, but the Senate still resented him.

After the death of his son in 23 AD, Tiberius seemed to have grown sick of politics. He gave authority to the Praetorian Prefect, Sejanus, and retired to the island of Capri in 26 AD. When Sejanus plotted against Tiberius and attempted to seize power violently, he was condemned by the emperor and sentenced to execution. This situation led to drawn out treason trials against those who had joined Sejanus and conspired against Tiberius. Although Tacitus and Suetonius portray Tiberius as a blood-thirsty and vengeful emperor who took pleasure in eliminating the conspirators, modern historians have found these claims to be misleading. The treason trials seriously changed the reputation of Tiberius, and he lived out his final days in Capri. Tiberius left power to Caligula and his own grandson, Gemellus, but Caligula had Gemellus executed.

Maybe my favorite thing about Tiberius is his association with Caligula; without Tiberius, we wouldn’t have Caligula! Without Caligula, there would be no stories of widespread terror, sadism, murder, horses elected as consuls, and brigades of soldiers being told to collect seashells on the beach. The entire reign of Caligula was a disaster, and we have Tiberius to thank for that disaster.

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A bust of Tiberius as a young man.

4. Nero

Nero is another one of the emperors whom I love to hate. Like Caligula, Nero was an insane combination of a narcissist and a megalomaniac. To be honest, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero are wonderful examples of men who did not belong in power. After Caligula was assassinated, his uncle Claudius (whose partial deafness and limp had caused him to be excluded throughout his life) was declared the new emperor. Although Claudius was a surprisingly talented leader despite his lack of experience, he was often perceived as vulnerable and weak. His niece, Agrippina the Younger, convinced Claudius to marry her and adopt her young son, Nero. Claudius accepted, adopted Nero, and made him joint heirs with his own son Britannicus. In 54 AD, Claudius was poisoned by Agrippina, and the following year Britannicus was also poisoned, presumably by the wishes of Agrippina as well.

Why do I love Nero? I think the stories that surround his personality and his time in power are hilariously ridiculous. He supposedly played his musical instrument with glee as he watched Rome burn to the ground in the fire of 64 AD. He loved to sing, play instruments, recite poetry, and act in other ways that the Romans considered to be shameful. He competed in the Olympic Games and nearly died racing a chariot. It has been said that he would bribe judges at poetry competitions in order to win, and eventually he would just have the prizes sent to Rome because he knew that his victory would be certain. He was the first emperor to actively persecute Christians, and he even blamed Christians for starting the fire of 64.

When a vast region of Rome was destroyed by that fire, he used the land to build himself a palatial mansion, the Domus Aurea (Golden House). This mansion had a zoo, an artificial lake, several bathhouses, private villas, vineyards, groves of fruit trees, area for private flocks to roam, and endless rooms for entertainment. It has been said that when the construction was completed that Nero snidely commented “Finally, I can live like a human.” Rome was recovering from a terrible disaster, but Nero was happy to finally have the mansion he always wanted. Isn’t he the greatest? After a rebellion arose, Nero committed suicide and his memory was erased through the damnatio memoriae. Suetonius tells the story of how Nero couldn’t even muster up the nerve to kill himself correctly. After pacing back and forth muttering “What an artist dies in me!” Nero begged one of his companions to set an example and commit suicide first. As a shameless narcissist, Nero couldn’t kill himself, so he had another companion do the deed for him.

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Nero probably doesn’t deserve to be on this list of my favorite emperors, but I fell in love with his terrible character after reading the gossipy tales in “The Lives of the Twelve Caesars” by Suetonius.

5. Vespasian

Vespasian is the most recent addition to my list of favorite emperors because for the last few weeks I have been researching his reign and the construction of the Colosseum. Perhaps the reason that I like Vespasian is because he was the general who acquired power after the tumultuous year of the four emperors. He founded the Flavian Dynasty, and he was left with the difficult task of cleaning up the mess left by Nero. After returning the land from the Domus Aurea to the Roman people, he started projects of his own. Vespasian started construction on the Flavian Amphitheater, better known as the Colosseum, on top of area that was once Nero’s artificial lake. He was also the first Roman emperor to be succeeded by his biological son. Thanks to Vespasian, we have the Colosseum today, and that makes him one of my favorite emperors.

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Vespasian looks so grumpy and wise in this depiction.
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Thanks for building one of my favorite things in Rome, Vespasian!

Maybe with my talent for writing irrelevant lists full of pictures I could land a job at BuzzFeed one day! Just kidding, I like to write about history, not pander to random trends. Also, I’m too tired to continue writing coherently, so I think that I should get some sleep. Thanks for reading! Arrivederci!

Pisa, Florence, and Venice

I’m typing this week’s blog post on the train from Venice to Rome; this is my fourth time on a high speed train in the past three days, but it’s my first time that I have ever attempted to write while on public transportation. Typically I prefer to sleep uncomfortably, stare aimlessly out the window, or read a book. Focusing on my laptop to write this post is proving to be a more nausea inducing experience than I had originally imagined. I have a feeling that this post will be shorter and less history-packed than usual because it’s dedicated to my brief vacation to Pisa, Florence, and Venice. I spent only three days of my ten day vacation to travelling through Italy, and it has been exhausting and stressful. I couldn’t imagine how dead I would feel right now if I had ventured outside of Italy for an extravagant weeklong trip to five countries like some of my peers. Kudos to anyone who can travel without becoming easily exhausted.

We left Rome on Thursday at 5:00 AM so that we could be the first group to climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa at 9:00 in the morning. I am not a morning person, and almost every time I have to wake up early I consider cancelling my plans for the day and sleeping for the rest of my life. (To be brutally honest, I’m not really a night person either. Maybe I’m a mid-afternoon after two cups of coffee person?) So I consumed as much coffee as possible, packed my bags, and cursed the gods for making me wake up before the sun was in the sky. When we arrived at Pisa it was raining heavily, which made our Leaning Tower ascent a death-defying adventure. After a worker swept all of the rainwater down the 296 steps of the tower, we were allowed to start climbing the slippery stairs to the top. I definitely recommend this experience for anyone who wants to visit Pisa. The climb was literally intoxicating; I have never felt more tipsy in my life without having consumed any alcohol. Several other climbers were commenting how it felt like a fun-house, and the climb really alters your perception of what is leaning and what is not. Try to choose a day with better weather than we did!

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There is a beautiful view from the top of the Leaning Tower, and we were happy to have survived the climb. Stairs are my nemesis, and I was so afraid of tumbling down the flight of slippery stairs.
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We caught this rainbow peeking out from behind the clouds as we ascended. Maybe going to Pisa on a rainy day wasn’t too bad of an idea.

Although it was raining and the tower was wet, I am definitely glad that I didn’t allow my hatred for waking up in the morning to prevent me from going to Pisa. We did not have much time to walk through the town, but seeing the brightly colored houses along the Arno River even for even a few minutes was worth the trip. Also, the Leaning Tower and the Piazza dei Miracoli might be the best people-watching location in the entire world. If you want to see hordes of people acting like fools and performing imaginary Tai Chi in public, then the Piazza dei Miracoli is the place to be. After buying a few souvenirs and watching the police chase away flocks of illegal street vendors, we went to McDonalds.

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People watching is one of my favorite hobbies, and Piazza dei Miracoli was the perfect place to watch people of all cultures gather together to put their arms up in the air and block pathways. It was a joyous occasion.
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I decided to hold up the Pisa Cathedral. Isn’t that the point? You’re supposed to just choose a monument in Pisa and support it with your hands in a picture, right? I don’t know. Everyone else was posing like this, so I had to join the fun.

You might be asking, why in the world would you go to a McDonald’s when you’re in a country with such amazing cuisine? The answer is simple: my boyfriend and I are huge fans of the TV show “The Simpsons,” and we wanted to replicate one of our favorite scenes from an episode when the family visited Pisa. I can’t link the video to my blog because of copyright infringement issues, but in our favorite scene, Homer is facing away from the actual Leaning Tower when he says “Wow, I’ve seen photos of this but you can’t really experience it until you’re here! A McDonald’s that serves booze!” Despite the fact that neither of us eat fast food when we are in America, we were determined to order some beers at McDonald’s. We have been joking about doing for more than a year, and it was just as satisfying as we had always imagined. The beer was okay.

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“A McDonald’s that serves booze!”
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I love this guy. All he wanted during our trip to Italy was the chance to drink a beer at the McDonald’s in Pisa, and the smile on his face shows how much this experience meant to him.

From Pisa we hopped on another train and went to Florence, a city that I wish I could have explored for longer than eight hours. Unfortunately we didn’t have the time or the energy to visit the Uffizi or the Galleria Academia, so we settled on walking around without a map and seeing some beautiful architecture along the way. I have embraced the idea of being lost in Italy, and wandering has become my new favorite mode of transportation. In the time that I have lived here, I have learned how much I enjoy walking from place to place. I have a feeling that when I return to San Diego I will not want to drive to the taco shops and parks that are less than five minutes away from my house anymore.

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Somehow this picture of the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella is the only picture that I took during my time in Florence. My phone died after a long day at Pisa, and I was too busy enjoying my vacation to worry about photographing it.

After checking into our hotel room, we walked to a quaint Irish-style pub and had the most delicious and affordable meal. We also sampled some home-brewed beers, which were certainly preferable to the McDonald’s beers from earlier that day. The bartender was friendly, and she made all of the food by herself. Feeling impressed by her recipes and intrigued by the Mexican food on the menu, we tried her rendition of nachos, which were freshly seasoned and coated with a combination of mozzarella and ricotta cheese. I don’t know if I’ll ever want to eat regular nachos again; the superiority of Italian cheeses made this version of nachos the best that I had ever tried. Although we had already eaten too much for dinner, my friend Jared recommended that we get some organic gelato from his favorite gelateria in Florence, so we walked to the Piazza Duomo to try it. Jared, I know that I’ve already thanked you for this recommendation, but I feel obligated to thank you again. Anyone who plans to visit Florence must go to the Edoardo gelateria. This gelato changes lives.

The next morning we had a lovely complimentary breakfast at the cafe next to our hotel, and then we hurried to catch another train to Venice. We disembarked at the main train station in Venice, but we stayed in an apartment in Murano, one of the islands in the Venetian lagoon. After spending a long day surrounded by tourists in Pisa and Florence, I wanted to stay somewhere a little less crowded on Friday and Saturday. Murano was the ideal place to spend the last two days of our vacation. I was pleased to learn that Murano was originally settled by the Romans, and it became famous during the Venetian Republic for its glass making techniques. In 1291 AD all of the Venetian glass foundries were moved to Murano in order to prevent fires and destruction in the city of Venice. Murano was once the main producer of glass throughout Europe, and its glass is still renowned for its quality, beauty, and creativity.

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Murano was gorgeous, and I wish I could have spent more time there as well. It was like a mini-Venice with canals, gondolas, and beautiful artwork.
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A panorama of Murano that I took before dinner on our first night in the city.

I love glass artwork and the process of glassblowing, so strolling through Murano was a relaxing and enjoyable experience after two days of rushing to catch trains on time. We spent several hours poking our heads into shops, admiring the trinkets in the windows of each store, and watching the artists work. Of course, I ended up acquiring a huge bag of Christmas gifts for my family and myself. Each piece of Murano glass was so beautiful that it was difficult to decide what I wanted to add to my collection. Our apartment also boasted a beautiful collection of glass that the owner’s son had made in his workshop, and the walls were adorned with authentic Murano glass as well.

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All of these pictures are examples of the glass artwork that decorated our apartment in Murano.

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Even the bathroom door was inlaid with Murano glass.

Yesterday was also Halloween, and we were surprised to see how many children were trick or treating in Murano. We spoke to a shop owner who said that in the last two years Halloween has gained popularity, particularly in Murano, because of the large population of kids. The kids loved it, and they were running wild throughout the town, popping into shops and yelling “Dolcetto o Scherzetto!” Tyler and I chatted with the shop owner for a while about American Halloween traditions and Italian holidays, and we answered some of his questions about the origin of Halloween traditions like trick or treating. The adults in Murano seemed to enjoy the holiday as much as the children; they handed out huge handfuls of candy, treats, and toys. One shop owner even gave a glass necklace to a mom whose newborn was being carried around in a pumpkin costume. The kid’s costumes were mostly homemade, and all of the kids dressed as traditional Halloween characters like zombies, witches, ghosts, and vampires. There wasn’t a Princess Elsa, Walter White, Batman, or Chewbacca in sight. Tyler and I celebrated Halloween by indulging in some prosecco, opening two Kinder Sorpresa Eggs, and watching the fourth season of American Horror Story. I couldn’t imagine a better party! I’m boring, I know.

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A bag of Lindt chocolate truffles that made our Halloween spectacular.
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Kinder Sorpresa Eggs are illegal in the United States because for some reason we believe that our children are not intelligent enough to avoid choking on the toys inside the chocolate. I was curious to see what all the fuss was about, so we bought two for Halloween. Don’t worry, we survived without impaling ourselves on the toys.
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Wait a second, the toy is enclosed in an interior plastic egg that is too large to fit down an esophagus. There is no way that anyone could accidentally consume the plastic part of the Kinder Egg. In fact, that would be an incredible feat.
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Toys! My egg contained a pirate Minion and Tyler’s egg contained this…lizard paintbrush? I’m not sure what it is, but it certainly shouldn’t be illegal in the US. Give kids some credit; having toys inside chocolate isn’t going to kill anyone.

This has been one of the longest, most exciting, and most memorable weekends of my life. The ten day break in my study abroad program really refreshed my spirits after the stress of midterms, and now I feel ready to tackle the last half of this quarter. Above all, I’m ready to return to a normal diet of home cooked meals and take a break from eating ridiculous vacation food like nachos and fried mozzarella bites. Next week I will also return to writing blog posts with some historical substance, rather than recounting the tales of my vacation. My train should be arriving at Roma Termini shortly, so it’s time for me to shut down my laptop and sign off. Thanks for reading, ci vediamo!