Spring Tour Part I: Italy

17-22 febbraio 2019
(17-22 February, 2019)

So Spring Tour was a whirlwind. A very busy two weeks. And if the 2,100 pictures and videos I took is any indication, it was a good trip.

Honestly, the two weeks felt like some of the longest of my life, but it was well worth it. I’m going to split spring tour into two parts because SO MUCH happened. Seriously, every day was jam-packed with stuff to do.

I’m feeling pretty ill, so I figured I should spend my time lying around doing something productive. But if there are typos and it’s not the best writing, at least I have an excuse.

Anyways, to start. Sunday, February 17. We got on our bus from Salzburg early – 7:30, to be exact. We had a 7-ish hour bus ride to Padua, where we arrived at around 2:30. We happened to be right by the main market square, which is one of, if not the, biggest in Europe. There were tons of little shops and cool stuff to find – I ended up getting a Soviet coin from 1973 from an antiques seller that was selling old coins from lots of different countries – for example, they had Austrian shillings from the 1980s.

Anyways, Padua was really cool – a group of us (Kranz, Mattie, Maya, and myself) wandered around town for a little while before we were scheduled to tour the Scrovegni Chapel – this chapel, also called the Arena Chapel, signified the beginning of Renaissance art, even though it was created about 100 years prior to the beginning of the Renaissance. Padua and the Arena Chapel were both really cool – we had learned about the Arena Chapel in our art class, and understanding the significance of the chapel, and how it basically revolutionized art, was really cool to be able to witness in person.

So after the Arena Chapel, we ended up heading back to our hotel with our bus. The hotel was pretty much out of the way of everything in town, so we just spent the night in the hotel.

The next morning, Monday the 18th, we had breakfast at our hotel and headed from Padua to Ravenna. In Ravenna, we started the day off with a guided tour. We visited a TON of churches and different areas of Ravenna: we even saw Dante’s tomb, which was really cool! Apparently there are a lot of traditions that go on in Ravenna regarding his tomb, and also something we learned was that pinecones on top of roofs signify tombs, because of something about eternal life or something like that.

Dante’s Tomb

Anyways, first basilica we visited was absolutely fascinating – we learned all about the art of fresco-ing and how it was done. We also learned a lot about the history of Ravenna and Italy in general – it was really fascinating to see Byzantine influence on the art from Italy. Plus, as you can see in one of the pictures, when the Byzantine Empire took over, they covered up Christian iconography – in one fresco, you can see only the hands of the saints that used to be portrayed, because they didn’t end up covering the hands! Anyways, the designing of the frescoes itself was fascinating as well – for gold, they used gold leaves, sandwiched by glass plates, to make the light reflect; the pictures don’t do it justice. For art that was created almost 1000 years ago, the way they used different artistic methods to make the light really shine throughout the basilica was fascinating, and it’s incredibly gorgeous to see in person.

Later on, we visited the church of San Vitale, which was also gorgeous; the art was stunningly beautiful, and there was a little mortuary thing (if I remember correctly – it feels like it was so long ago!) that was ornately decorated inside, with very little light, so your eyes had to settle to see everything, but once they did, it was spectacular.

After wandering around Ravenna for a little while and getting lunch, we headed to Florence next. We checked into our hotel and had our first group dinner, then headed to bed.

The next morning, Tuesday the 19th, we started the day off with breakfast at our hotel, then we headed to the town center for a guided tour. We ended up passing the Santa Croce, where I saw my old Airbnb from when my family was there!

We headed to the Accademia, where we saw the David and other pieces of art, including some unfinished Michelangelo sculptures and 3(!!!) Stradivarius violins and violincellos. I took a lot of pictures of the David because it was a good opportunity to work with lighting, because I wanted to make it dark and edgy. I was pretty happy with how some of them turned out, because the sculpture is a lot brighter in person, and that isn’t the “look” I wanted.

Spies outside the Accademia – not sure who took this, sorry!!

After the Accademia, we headed to the Uffizi. On the way, we got to pass the Duomo and the main plaza, where we saw the Gattemellata and the Rape of the Sabine Woman. It was really interesting to go back to Florence and see these works of art and actually understand the significance of them, as well as actually being able to recognize them and know who the artist was, when it was made, and the iconography/stories they told. So a bit of information on some things I found interesting:

The Baptistery Doors of the Duomo was a competition between Ghiberti and Brunelleschi, to see who could create a gold depiction of the Sacrifice of Isaac. Ghiberti won, and it signified the beginning of the Renaissance in Florence (and over all of Europe).

The Duomo’s dome was the largest in Europe for a long time, and for a while it didn’t even have the dome, so the priest would get wet when it rained!

The Rape of the Sabine Woman doesn’t actually depict rape in this context – it depicts the abduction of a Sabine woman by a Roman, because the early Romans were all men, so they took women from a nearby town so they could have children to populate the city. Rape definitely took place in Rome – after all, they were forcibly abducting the Sabine women to populate the city; however, the sculpture isn’t depicting that act, it’s depicting the abduction of a woman from her father, husband, or brother – it’s not known what his relation to her is.

The Duke and Duchess of Urbino: Federico da Montefeltro and Battista Sforza is the first real use of “aerial perspective,” which is a Renaissance way of depicting space and depth by blurring the background into blues and whites (as we see far-off mountains). It’s originally a Flemish style!

The Birth of Venus by Botticelli uses the same model as many of his other paintings – he used a single woman for most of his paintings of women, so they all look very similar, which is why I included a few of his other paintings.

The Michelangelo painting I included (don’t remember the name – we didn’t learn about it in class) is mis-proportioned. However, if you look at it from the door, it is in proportion – this is because Michelangelo designed it to be viewed from the door of the monastery it was meant to be displayed in, so to anyone who entered, it would look completely normal, but the way it is displayed in the Uffizi shows it out of proportion.

The Raphael painting was only painted because Raphael REALLY needed money. It was also heavily criticized because it depicted Mary as a strong, almost buff lady, and nude people in the background. It is the ONLY painting that is guaranteed to have been 100%, totally painted by Raphael – even the Raphael Rooms in the Vatican were likely made with help from his workshop.

We also got to see other famous paintings we’ve learned about, such as Madonna with the Long Neck and Judith and Holofernes by Artemesia Gentileschi. Here is another interesting fact I learned about one of them:
Artemesia Gentileschi, who painted Judith and Holofernes, was raped by one of her co-workers/another artist. She had to go through a lengthy and invasive court trial, and was even put on trial herself, but was ultimately found not guilty and her rapist was found guilty. It is widely believed that Judith and Holofernes is painted with some of the emotion that she felt towards her rapist, and you can definitely see why in the determination of Judith. Apparently Judith’s depiction is a self-portrait of Gentileschi.

Side note: I’m really grateful for the art classes offered here in Salzburg. I’ve never been a huge fan of art but these classes have totally changed that. It’s fascinating and beautiful and incredibly interesting to know the history of these paintings and art styles and everything in between. It’s also really cool to be able to recognize cultural differences in art – for example, the Mannerist movement, and how Renaissance art developed throughout Europe. Caravaggist paintings and Flemish art styles and aerial perspective and central planning for architecture and contraposto and so much in between – it’s hard to explain just how exciting it is to see how art has developed and changed throughout time, and to be able to understand WHY and HOW. These classes have definitely helped me appreciate art more – I was never a huge fan of art museums but these classes have totally changed that! We cover paintings, sculptures, architecture, and so much regarding the history of these different artistic movements, and it’s absolutely fascinating! I’m super grateful to Frau Mag. Weiler and Klemens for teaching us so much in these classes!

Anyways, after the Uffizi, we wandered around to find food and gelato (OH MY GOODNESS, Gelateria dei Neri IS FANTASTIC. 15/10 would recommend), and we headed back to the hotel to get some rest for a little bit. Near sunset, we headed out to the Piazzale Michelangelo, which overlooks all of Florence, so we could see the sunset. Unfortunately, it was a bit cloudy, but I got some pictures I liked regardless. We also witnessed a proposal (it was a yes!) but the pictures were REALLY blurry so I won’t include them.

After watching the sunset and having a really nice conversation, we headed back to the hotel and headed to bed, after picking up some food.

The next morning, Wednesday the 20th, we woke up early yet again to hit the road to Assisi. I wasn’t really expecting much from Assisi, but the charm of the tiny little Italian hillside town blew me away. It was so quaint and adorable and it felt very secluded – not too many tourists, but enough to allow us to speak English and be understood by the people who lived and worked there. We visited the church of San Francesco, where Saint Francis of Assisi is buried (as well as another saint), and we got to see relics, including stigmata, which I’d never seen before! (It’s when a saint has markings of the crucifixion.). It was gorgeously decorated. I didn’t take any pictures inside because they weren’t allowed, but it was very, very cool to see. Next, we had a lunch break, but the only gluten-free restaurant was closed until noon, so we had to kill time for about 20 minutes, so we visited another church, which was also pretty beautiful, and it was decorated in gold and blue:

Once we finally got into the restaurant, the food was phenomenally good. I had a truffle pasta with sausage, and it was honestly (no exaggeration) probably one of the best meals I’ve ever had.

Aside from the food, Assisi was stunning. It’s not a big town by any means – most of the people there are nuns or monks – but the architecture and aura that the town has is just beautiful. Every little part of the town looked so quintessentially Italian, so I (of course) took a lot of pictures.

Anyways, after a little while spent in Assisi, we headed to Rome, where we stayed for 3 nights.

The hotel was surprisingly good – especially compared to the Ibis Budget hotel we were crammed in in Vienna last semester, where the shower was literally in the bedroom and there was no room at all. We had 3 (!) beds for two people, two couches, a TV, full kitchen & bathroom, and a balcony! The hotel was on the Via Aurelia, which is one of the oldest roads (and most important) in the world, which was really cool. The road goes all the way to France, and it was a “super-highway” for the Roman Empire. Pretty damn cool to be staying on such an important road.

Our first night in Rome was pretty quiet – Kranz, Mattie, and I headed down to the Trevi Fountain, where we ate dinner at a nearby restaurant called Pizza in Trevi. It had high ranks for Celiac disease, so we decided we would go, and they really did a good job of catering to Celiac. Some other restaurants didn’t, which led to Mattie being cross-contaminated and becoming really sick at one point during the trip. However, this restaurant really took the safety of gluten-free people seriously. This restaurant was really good about it – they brought out unique silverware, dishes, a placemat, glasses, and a placemat for Mattie, so that there was no possibility for cross-contamination – all of their gluten-free food was cooked in a separate oven, and the silverware, dishes, etc. were washed in a separate dishwasher, so that even the gluten particles from the other dishes or silverware wouldn’t contaminate those. It was actually really cool to see them take the health of their gluten-free customers so seriously, and Mattie said that she had never seen a restaurant do so much to cater to people with Celiac. So we ended up going to the same restaurant every single night we were in Rome.

Which wasn’t a problem, because the food was DELICIOUS. A little expensive, but not badly priced for Rome. And it was centrally located!

After that, we headed back to the hotel and hung out for a little while, then headed to sleep.

The next morning, on the 21st, we started the day off with a tour of the Vatican. I forgot just how much I enjoyed it there – it was fascinating to think that I was in the most important place for Christians, which make up around 1/3 of the world’s population. I got the same feeling in Delphi, but I’ll mention that in the next post. On a side note, being in the Vatican really made me want to visit Mecca. Maybe in a few years, who knows. Anyways, we did a tour of the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. Our tour guide was a really nice guy (he guided our tour to the Colosseum, St. Paul’s, and the Forum Romanum the next day) but everyone was fairly exhausted, to say the least, by the end of it. However, we got to see some beautiful art and learned a ton that I wouldn’t have gotten from a book. On a side note, I really want to come back in 2025 to go through the Holy Doors!

Andrés and I got a picture in front of St. John Baptist de la Salle – we both went to Lasallian schools!

I forgot just how colossal St. Peter’s Basilica was. The lettering – JUST THE LETTERING – was over 12 feet tall, and you couldn’t really tell unless you put a person up to it just how massive everything was. Even what seemed small (the dove, which was TINY, was 6 feet wide) was MASSIVE in reality.

After looking around St. Peter’s and after the guided tour of everything, Mattie and I headed to go get lunch – we accidentally got split up from the rest of the group, and I had service, so we found a nearby gluten-free restaurant and ate there, but we were the only people inside and the person working there was just watching Italian cartoons on an iPad. Kinda odd, but oh well, the food was good. After that, we got gelato and headed back to the hotel to get some rest before the night. Once that was done, we headed back out to Pizza in Trevi and got dinner, then we headed out to an Irish pub, where we met a really funny group from Ireland who was in town to see a famous international rugby match. We had a really nice long conversation about Brexit and other stuff (they were from Northern Ireland, so I expected them to be more on the British side of things), but as one guy so eloquently put it, “Theresa May is absolutely f**king stupid, it’ll never work.” It was a really fun night and they were all very friendly and their company was well-appreciated. After that, we headed back to the hotel, talked for a little bit, and headed to sleep.

On Friday, we started out with another guided tour; we started out at the Christian Catacombs of Rome, which I couldn’t take pictures in. It was pretty cool to learn about the catacombs and how they were built, however, since I hadn’t ever been in catacombs. Apparently they were very eloquently decorated in their “heyday” but the marble and materials were recycled for other uses, such as in buildings. After that, we headed to St. Paul’s Basilica, which was absolutely beautiful. We were told it wasn’t a “must-see” in Rome by our Fine Arts professor (parts are only recreations of the actual building since many parts were destroyed by a fire) but it was GORGEOUS. Everything about it was just breathtaking:

From there, we headed to a train station, where we got lunch, then we headed to the Colosseum and the Forum Romanum. I hadn’t gotten the chance to go into the Colosseum OR the Forum when I was in Rome last time, so it was pretty cool to be able to experience those. Also, a fun fact: the number “IV” wasn’t actually written out as IV in Roman times, since in Latin IV meant “JU,” so Jupiter’s name (Zeus) was written “IVPITER,” so writing out the “IV” was seen as blasphemous. Therefore, some watches and clocks, even today, use “IIII” instead of “IV.” I found out that my watch is one of those!

Also, on a sad note, I had no idea that so many people died in the Colosseum – according to estimates, it’s around 300,000 people. The Colosseum was used more as a political tool than anything – if the people had entertainment, they would be less likely to revolt, so the emperor was constantly trying to come up with new ways to bring brutality and violence to the people, to keep them satisfied.

After the Colosseum, we headed to the Forum. The Forum was also incredibly cool, and we learned a TON in there. It was quite moving to be in the same mythical spot where one of the most powerful empires EVER was said to have been founded – even if not, the Capitoline Hill was pretty damn cool, because the emperors and nobility often had parties at a basically super-mansion up there; it’s very impressive that they were able to achieve such feats of engineering so early on. Those houses were HUGE – two, three, four, or more stories tall, and the architecture, I think, is just gorgeous.

After the Forum, a small group (Mattie, Kranz, Patrick, Charlie, and I) headed out to get gelato at the Pope’s favorite gelateria. We got a little bit lost, but ended up finding it, and WOW it was worth it. Plus, we saw the Vittorio Emmanuel monument on the way (among other things, such as the Pantheon), and it was golden hour, so it led to some nice shots. After that, we headed to the Spanish Steps to find another gluten-free restaurant to eat at.

Unfortunately, the restaurant we were looking for was closed, and Patrick, Charlie, and Kranz didn’t want to walk all the way back to find a different one, so they just left and Mattie and I headed back to Pizza in Trevi, which was pretty much the only gluten-free restaurant we could find that was open and not super expensive (or that existed in the first place). It was a really nice night and we talked about a lot, and the waiters probably recognized us because we came there three days in a row, but oh well.

The next morning, we headed to Pompeii/Pompeji for a short tour of the ruins.

And guess what?

Southern Italy, Pompeii – Naples, known for its warmth? – it was SNOWING. Our tour guide said it’s very, very rare but it was snowing for the first part of our tour and it was FREEZING cold, and extremely windy. However, it was still interesting. Unfortunately though, since we had an itinerary to stick to (we had to be at our ferry in Bari by a certain time) we didn’t have a lot of time in Pompeii, but since I’d already been there it wasn’t as much of a problem. Thankfully, partway through our tour the sun came out, but it was still frigid and incredibly windy. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

From Pompeii, we immediately headed to Bari. The ferry ride was very stormy, and I got pretty seasick and had trouble falling asleep. It was quite uncomfortable – really strong waves that threw everything in our cabin around. Even the people who don’t get seasick were fairly seasick, just because of how strong this storm was. Apparently it was an extraordinarily bad storm, according to our tour guide. Unfortunate that we got stuck in the middle of it while we were trying to sleep, but not much we could do about it.

And from the overnight ferry, we were in Greece! I’ll continue that in the next post, but since I’m sick and tired, I really should head to bed, so the Greece post should be coming up within the next couple of days. Be ready for some cool adventures and a LOT of animals.

The song is “The Great Escape” by Far Caspian!

Con affetto dall’Italia/Mit Liebe aus Italien,

Cal

PHRASES:

Vorréi = Ich hätte gern = I would like

SONG:

“Internet of Love” by Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Great guitar riff and pretty funky. I love it.

No photo dump; there are just too many pictures and it’ll take up my space for storage, unfortunately. 2,100 pictures is a lot.

One thought on “Spring Tour Part I: Italy

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