I know it's really long, but Sunday and Saturday have the best stories and pictures, so you should definitely try to make it through the whole thing.
Tonight we decided to roam around the city at night, especially because it had been constantly raining throughout the day and it looked like it had stopped--at least for the moment. We metro-ed all the way to a stop called Pyramide, where the only pyramid in Rome is. It's really random, but hey, it was a random and fun site to see. After the pyramid, we went to the Colosseum. It wasn't as lit up as I thought it would be but we still had some fun and took some cool pictures there.
Gelato Flavor of the day: Fiore de latte (milk)
In the morning,m we headed out to the AIRC to watch over the Italian Republic Day festivities--mainly a big parade. It was amusing. Their jets flew overhead and streaked the sky with red, white, and green--the colors of the italian flag. Then it turned into a funny brown color, but they also had a marching band and truckloads of their army went by. I'm pretty sure it would have been a good time to attack Italy because the army took forever to parade around, and we're quite sure it was every single member of the army. We also figured out our plans--the skies looked pretty promising--so we took pout first day trip out to Tivoli. It's this little town about 40 minutes away and it's home to two famous sites: the Villa d'Este and Hadrian's Villa. Since Hadrian's villa is a 3 km hike away from the train station, we decided to forgo it and just spent the afternoon at the Villa D'Este instead. When we arrived at the station, we were instantly heroes in Tivoli! We had to put out a fire caused by someone throwing their cigarette into some hole near a phone booth. (Super success--there was an SPQR fountain right there!) Tivoli was SPECTACULAR. We were really crossing out fingers and hoping that the fountains would be on--they occasionally turn them off to conserve water. We were so incredibly lucky--the weather was gorgeous and the fountains were on! The estate was huge with sprawling gardens, amazing views of the town, and even in the distance you could make out St. Peter's dome all the way in Rome. If there was one place in Rome I'd recommend you to go to, this is for sure one of them. There are over a 100 fountains at this place. Big, small, ones that sound like birds, ones that play an organ, etc. After our afternoon at the gardens, we dinnered and headed back to Rome. On the way home, we had quite an adventure on the metro. One of our friends, Harvey, as he tried to get on, got his drawstring backpack caught in the sliding doors! Usually these doors re-open to get things unstuck, but that didn't happen. So harvey quite literally held on to his bag for dear life!
We started the morning with a look at the Imperial Fora! There have been 5 Imperial forums built and they were built because the original Roman Forum (where we went Monday) ran out of space. Albert was our lecturer that day and he's really quite cool. He looks like my uncle (if he was White) and has similar mannerisms. After walking around what remained of the forum, we went into a museum that tries to reconstruct and preserve the forum to the best of their abilities. It only opened in 2007, so its pretty new too. After this, we headed over to the Colosseum so we could hear Adam give us the mechanical engineer's perspective on its construction. The Colosseum was used for naval battles, but once the hypogium was added (all the stuff you see down there now, including the tunnels and pathways) there was no longer a flat base to fill up the Colosseum tub with. (Queastion: how do you think they got the ships in there?) After this, we had lunch with Eric--it was his last day here. He was off to catch a plane back to England then head back to the States the following day. On our train ride back home, I ran into a fellow Plan II-er in my class! Laura Tucker is actually working in Rome for the month of June, so we're definitely going to catch up sometime when we're both here! We then went back to the AIRC to get a quick preview on Etruscans for our entire day field lesson tomorrow! That night I had to work on the presentation I was going to give the next day.
Gelato Flavor(s) of the day: Yogurt (it tasted exactly like vanilla yogurt!) and Pesca-Mango (Peach Mango--way to sweet)
OMG--we were going to actual Etruscan tombs today. For those who don't know, the Etruscans were the culture other than the Greeks that really influenced and formed what we know today as the Romans of the Roman Empire. Not much is known about the Etruscans, but what we do know about them comes from their tombs. I studied them in high school and so it was really cool to see the stuff from my text book in front of my eyes! I went Tomb of the Leopards! I have picture there too! After exploring the tombs in Tarquinia, we went to a museum there, I gave my presentation (which went well!), had lunch, then went off to Cerveteri--another Etruscan stronghold at one point. The drive there and back was beautiful because we were along the coastline a lot. The museum there had some pretty cool artifacts in it, including dice! It looked like the Etruscans loved Yatzee, haha. That afternoon we all went to the AIRC with Dr. Galinsky to use the library and the internet to get research done. That night I worked till about 1am to finish at least one of my papers before my weekend in Tuscany!
Albert! Our HUM350 professor
Me and the TOMB OF THE LEOPARDS!!!! (my favorite Etruscan tomb)
This way to see dead people!
Apoorva and I started off the morning by walking past the place we were supposed to meet going to who know where, thankfully someone saw us and called us to inform us that we were going in the wrong direction--Ooopps! Anyways, today's Humanities class was lead by Dr. Arya. Dr. Arya is a pretty chill guy and he works with the History channel a lot doing documentaries and stuff. So maybe some of you will see him a show sometime. He has some really interesting stories too about Roman History. Class is very different here. Albert is a great lecturer and we can really understand where the lecture is going. With Dr. Galinsky, it's like listening to a gigantic story being unravelled, which is a way I'd never been taught history, and something I wish I had been offered before. I finally found history interesting only when I had the media of art to translate it for me. But now, it's definitely fun! After the forum and Santa Maria Antiqua (which is the first Christian landmark within the forum--we got to see art restorers at work!) we headed over to the Colosseum. We couldn't go on Monday because of the rain and on Tuesday thanks to the celebrations, it didn't open until 2pm, by which time we decided Tivoli was the better alternative. After the Colosseum, most of us (10 out of 15) got on the train and headed off to FIRENZE!
We got there in the evening, relaxed for a bit, and did dinner at quite a fancy place. Most everybody got the famous Florentine Steak, but luckily on this trip this vegetarian has a lot of other vegetarian company! On our way to dinner we saw the Duomo and the Baptistery doors and dinner took quite a while and we had a long day ahead of us tomorrow, so we were in bed soon after dinner. On the way back to the hostel (which was quite nice btw--Florence Plus, if you're interested!)--we definitely saw the worst of what Florence had to offer.There was a drunk man peeing in the middle of the road and we could the Florentine jewels in all their glory, if you get my drift....Anyways after getting that image out of my head, I was able to sleep peacefully.
Some of the remaining frescoes on the wall
Restoring and Cleaning
(fake) Baptistery Doors
Gelato Flavors of the day: Rice Pudding and Melon
Since I've been in Florence before and my parents are coming to Florence with me later on in the summer, I decided to skip the usual touristy places and explore a little bit more of the local art history. The day started with climbing Gitto's Tower (the bell tower of the Duomo) This climb was definitely worth it--instead of seeing the view from the Duomo like everybody else, we could see the aerial view of the dome. Harvey and I could see Vicki, Christopher, Meagan, and Ishanee on top of the Duomo! (They could see us too) After this, I made my way past the Medici Palace on the way to San Lorenzo/Medici Chapels. When I got to the Medici chapel, the ticket price made me do a double take and I decided to think it over--whether or not I wanted to spend that kind of money. So instead, I traipsed over to Santa Maria Novella, home to Massacio's Trinity and Giotto's Crucifixion. AFter that and wandering through the Florentine Leather markets, we made our way to Santa Croce, burial place of Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, and Rossini (the opera composer, you know, William Tell Overture)--woah I know, what a powerhouse of amazing people. Sadly, the wall that Machiavelli was buried in was covered by a huge scaffolding, so that was no fun. But the Pazzi chapel was open too, so that was nice. After this we made our way through the Uffizi walkway, Palazzo Vecchio (home of the fake David, Cellini's Perseus, and Giambologna's Rape of the Sabines), and came to the exterior or Orsanmichele--home to some of Donatello's most famous sculptures. After a quick walk around, we (Harvey and myself) met up with Ishanee and Vicki at H&M. I got a shirt from there and Vicki and Ishanee had a fun time playing "let's dress Shyam up" For more information, ask Ishanee, haha. We found a cheap panino place, went to the Ponte Vecchio, then I went into the Brancacci Chapel (this was a bit of a walk). But OMG, totally worth it. There it was Massacio's Tribute Money and Expulsion. The color was brilliant and the brushstrokes still are magnificent. The art history nerd in me was having a field day. I also rethought my decision and went back to the Medici Chapels. Totally worth it if you're a Michelangelo fan. The chapel exuded this minimalist grandeur and even the original chapel was brilliant. There were no pictures allowed in many of these places and I was really glad. It made me not be so much of a tourist or an impulsive photographer, but to really soak in and enjoy the surroundings. Most everything I studied in my high Renaissance class from this past semester was right in front of my eyes and it was definitely a surreal experience. FInally, I picked up some leather goods for myself and friends, walked around Piazza Della Republica and then took a nap. I grabbed dinner at this really random hole in the wall Indian place, then we went back to the hostel to chill. That night we convinced the other 5 boys (that only arrived in Florence that morning) to come over and we'd all walk over to the Piazzle Michelangelo and take a group picture. Sadly, due to the rain that didn't happen. We ended up taking a group picture on Vicki's ginormous bed in the Hostel. We then went downstairs to the dance/bar/food area of our hostel and chilled there for a while. We attempted to have a dance party but we were told that our music was too loud...then bedtime
Me and the Duomo
Favid AND Me (this one is for you, Davey!)
Me in front of Michelangelo's tomb
The famous Florentine Boar's snout (it's the equivalent of Rome's Trevi Fountain)
Mercato Centrale (the Florentine version of Central Market)
Piazza della Republica
Today we had to be up extra early to catch our train out to Cinque Terre! After making the 7:45 train, we had a 2.5 hour ride to try to sleep. Unfortunately we got stuck with the most uncomfortable train ever. ugh. Nevertheless the moment we got the first view of the coast the whole compartment gasped and went "WOAH!" Haha, we're such tourists. Anyways, we arrived at Riomaggiore (the first of the 5 towns that make up CINQUEterre) and there we bought our Cinque Terre pass and hiked to town number 2. On the way to town number 2 we stopped and got a Panini. One thing about Italy, I'm slowly training myself to eat raw tomatoes. We got to town number two (Manarola) and we missed the train the town number 4 (we were skipping 3 because we've heard that one is a little too boring) Anyways, we got to sit and relax while watching the waves crash down on the coast so that was beautiful. The whole place reminded me of Encinitas, so this is another place I'd totally recommend going to. There's not much to do there, but it's either a good hike or a good place to relax. After catching the train to town 4 (Vernazza) we decided to take the hike pathway backward to get an aerial glance of this city. Vernazza, according to Rick Steve's (as you know he's kind of a God), is the Jewel of Cinque Terre. UNBELIEVABLE. This place is simply beautiful. After a few pictures, we made our way through the town found a quaint little cafe and had a round of cappuccinos. We then made our way to Montorosso, the beach town! One complaint about the beach--there are some super sharp and painful rocks all over it! We met up with Vicki and Harvey (they hiked the whole thing!) at the beach and after sunning a bit and jumping into the beautiful water (it was a bit cold, but boy once you're in the water, it was a ton of fun) we had to make our way to one last tourist attraction before heading back to Rome: The Leaning Tower of Pisa. Here's where our adventure begins. After buying the ticket to Pisa, we didn't realize we had to switch trains somewhere. So here we are, 8 of us partially asleep on this train that isn't quite moving. Feeling this was waaay too long a stop, I decided to go investigate. Indeed, this train was not heading towards Pisa. After some rough communications, we figured out that another train to Pisa would be coming in an hour and that we couldn't make our train back to Rome in that case. Also, this station had no trains going to Rome. The only train from Pisa leaving to Rome was at 2:19 am. Wonderful. So we got off at Pisa, and since the sun was beginning to set, we had to book it to the tower to take the famous pictures. Once we go there, we had some fun picture experimentations and since we had so much time to kill we just played in the grass for quite a while. We build a human pyramid, debated on whether or not to play tag, and took a picture of the boys pushing the tower over on the girls. It was quite fun. We then found a DELICIOUS (and quite crowded--for a Sunday night, too) INDIAN restaurant. The food totally hit the spot (Malai Kofta and Channa with rice and Naan). We then wandered over and found some Gelato in the area of Pisa that was kind of the 6th street equivalent. People were just hanging out, eating gelato, drinking, and the streets were blocked off. It was definitely something we haven't seen in Florence or in Rome. And although walking through other parts of Pisa is like wandering through a ghost town, they definitely have the most well lit river. We waited at the train station forever, got entertained by Vicki's lack of sleep Disney sing-a-long performance, and then were quite surprised to find out that not only was the train packed but it was also a sleeper compartment train. We had to split up and take shifts to stay awake so we wouldn't miss our stop--Rome, unfortunately, wasn't the last one. And we really couldn't afford to end up in Naples. We somehow managed to survive this almost 24 hour long day.
Town 1: Riomaggiore
Hike between Riomaggiore and Manarola (town 2)
Vernazza (town 4)
This would make an awesome postcard! (me+apoorva)
The group! (aka Papa Shyam and his 5 ducklings)
WOAH. I KNOW--Still Vernazza
Town 5: Montorosso
Apoorva, watch out!
Monday: Arrived home at 6:30 am. Woke up by 11 am. Papered till dusk. Blog wrote. sleep.
Tuesday: Museum visits, blog, laundry.
Phew finally done!