Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Friends and enemies: Cosa and Veii

Today we had an all-day field trip on the good bus to two different archaeological sites, the first, an enemy of Rome, Veii, and the second, a Roman colony, Cosa. Veii was a bit disappointing because we only stopped to look at the remains of a temple there, but they (i.e. Italian government people in charge of archaeology) had rebuilt the temple out of rebar (am I spelling that right?) which really was a bit tacky and bothersome. But the story is that the Romans, in trying to conquer Veii, made their way through cunicula, or drainage tunnels and popped up in the middle of the temple, catching the Veiians by surprise and thus gaining control of Italy. That's only a story in Livy, probably not what actually happened, but I went in those drainage tunnels so that I could say I did...it was dark, buggy, cobwebby and overall scary. But fun in that dorky classics major way (we all did it...) Anyway... then the good bus took us 2 1/2 hours further to Cosa, which was founded as a Roman colony in the 2nd century B.C. It's on the shore so we started by stopping at a nice beach for a swim and our picnic lunches. I grabbed some leftover meat from last night's cena and made a sandwich to bring along with my cookies from Giolitti's, a banana, and the ubiquitous cheese puffs. It was very fun...the girls all changed on the bus since there was no bathroom, and we all enjoyed the mild waves and cool water. After we ate, we went up to the site. The latest of the site excavation directors, Lisa Fentress, gave us a tour of the site which has been excavated over the past 50 or so years under the directorship of the American Academy in Rome, so it's 'our' site. The bus wasn't allowed to go up the mountain which means we had to... That's about when I started thinking 1, we should have gone swimming AFTER the hike, and 2, god I wish I had actually gone to that gym I joined... It was a tough one but I survived although I remained hot and sweaty for the rest of the day. But the site was spectacular, with good ruins of temples, a forum, the comitium where the citizens had assemblies and voted, and even two houses with intact mosaic floors and one with a kitchen we could go into. Lisa's work is published in a book called Cosa V (as in five, not the letter V) and she said there's a website, so if you are interested, you could see more about it, although I haven't actually looked yet myself. It was worth the hike, plus we got a beautiful view of the sea. Then we drove the 2 1/2 hours back and got home in time for dinner: penne arrabiata, bistecca di maiale con piselli, e ananas al naturale. See if you can figure it out...it was excellent anyway. They can definitely cook at the Centro. I'm beat and headed off to a good night's rest. We have things all day tomorrow through Friday ('Fulbrighter's Day') so it's an exhausting week and I need to rest up!

Monday, June 28, 2004

Not-so-happy anniversary

Well, it's my anniversary and so I'm pretty homesick. And mostly I've just been hanging around the Centro as that seems to be the thing to do on Mondays...errands, laundry, the week's reading, etc. I ventured out twice, once to go to the grocery store to get some makings for lunch (bread, cheese, wine) and then to call Chris and get some gelato (refreshing fragola e limone, or strawberry and lemon...they let you get at least two flavors even on a small cone). Other than that I have nothing to report other than it's really hot today and we can tell it's getting closer to the dreaded July...

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Tell me on a Sunday...

Hi folks. Even across the pond, I could hear the sighs of disappointment yesterday when I didn't blog on. My apologies, but I was having way too much fun until I got myself very lost trying to get home, but I'll get to that. So we don't have Saturdays off of The Program so we went to the Villa Giulia, an Etruscan art museum for a half-day. It was very good, and now I think, after the past week, I may be becoming a fan of the Etruscans. Especially their jewelry...all I can say is 'wow.' And there was a whole gallery of it in the museum. Unfortunately, no cameras allowed so it remains in my memory alone... I was set free around noon and began an excellent Amy adventure. I walked down the Via Flaminia towards Piazza del Populo. I stopped at a cafe (Rosati) on the piazza and spent far too much euro on some pasta and wine, but it's a pretty famous place, with Art Nouveau (my favorite!) decor, and several Ferraris and/or Lamborghinis parked out front. A couple nearby (owners of at least one of the said vehicles) were drinking Cliquot which cost about $100. They spoke English, and for a second I thought I recognized him from a movie, but I'm not sure. Anyway, the lunch was excellent and I quite enjoyed myself so it was worth it. I had dressed for the occasion as well, not wanting to look touristy, in a light orange top and linen striped skirt, and no camera to set off any warning signals. I had on black sandals (not good for walking...big mistake...) and only two things set me apart from real Italians: 1. I don't smoke, and 2. I don't speak Italian. But I pulled it off almost, because several people tried talking to me in Italian all day and Americans kept asking me for advice and directions thinking I lived here. I continued to walk down Via del Corso, a famous street that runs right through the city down to the Forum. The street is closed to traffic on Saturdays and all the natives were out shopping. I browsed in some shops, made purchases in others...found a great music store (opera c.d.'s for 5 euro), a stationery store that was like a fancier mini-Staples, and an English book store in which was the AAR librarian (I said, don't tell Myles I'm pleasure-reading!!! She promised not to.), a cafe where I had wine and they gave me free snacks, etc. etc. I bought a necklace off some artisan on the street for 6 euro and I'm wearing it as we speak. By now my feet were killing me and I was hungry again (it was around 7 or so...I didn't wear my watch), so I went into the Black Duke, an Irish pub in a basement, for some sustenance. I stayed for awhile, met some Americans, watched Italian MTV, and put my feet up. Why an Irish pub? Because it's near Giolitti's, the best gelaterie in Italy, so I went there next and bought my gelato and some cookies and found a good spot near Trajan's Column (2)to sit with all my packages and eat my gelato. By then, it was late and I was hobbling down Via del Corso because my shoes were killing me so I got on the bus and headed for home. Except I never took the bus home before and the stop is not the same as when you get on and I was all turned around and got lost for the longest time and was quite worried, but a nice Italian man helped me and then I saw, shining in the darkness, the Madonna della neon blu' as I call her, which is a statue of the Virgin Mary lit up with blue neon above the church next door to the Centro. She is my guardian, I've decided. That was yesterday. As for today, a few of us hopped the train to the beach at Santa Marinella (2), a great little beach town South of Rome. The sand is blackish from the volcanic material (for more on that sort of thing ask Chris) and the water was cool but not cold, and very calm. It was a good relaxing day and now I'm chillin at the Centro with dinner plans around 7:30. Buona sera!

Friday, June 25, 2004

Too stuffed to come up with a catchy title

Hi all. It has been a WAY long day plus I ate WAY too much at both lunch and dinner, but I'll try my best. We left at 7:30 on the nice bus to go to see a bunch of sites in the area of the Latins. The Latins were here before the Romans and basically the Romans took over the Latins, but it's kind of a long and complicated story that even I need to think about before I sort it out, and I can't right now... So we started in Ardea, the land of Turnus. Turnus is a guy from the Aeneid who was betrothed to Lavinia before Aeneas came and married her so of course they battled and Aeneas won. For those of you who are confused, Aeneas escaped from Troy and went West to Italy and is considered the forefather of the Roman people, but that's pretty simplified. He has a bit part in the movie in the very end... Anyhoo....the superintendent of archaeology in Ardea took us on a tour of two sights, one is a forum/temple and one is a villa by the sea, and both of them aren't open to you normal people, only us AAR folks can go in. The dates are starting to mesh and I don't have my notes, but I believe both date to the 4th century BC. Then we went to Lavinium, which Aeneas named after Lavinia after he 'won' her and we visited two very cool things: 1. the heroon, which is a monument to the supposed burial site of Aeneas (which is not there and is most likely legend anyway), and 2. a sanctuary with 12 altars where they think that each of the members of the Latin League (2) held animal sacrifices. Of course, pretty much everything we study is conjecture, but it's still cool to look at. Next we went to the land of Alba Longa (2) which is where Aeneas' son, Ascanius set up a town and we visited Lake Nemi and saw a bunch of stuff, and by then it was 2:00 and we hadn't yet stopped for either a food or bathroom break so I'm kind of fuzzy on the details of that. But finally at 2:30 they let us eat and so I decided to follow the professors, because it seemed like a good idea, and it was. I had an awesome lunch of gnocchi in a 4-cheese sauce that was like alfredo but better than any alfredo I ever had, and the waiter was this old guy who was just awesome - he kept pointing his index finger to his cheek and twisting it which is the Italian gesture for something like 'it's very very good, no?' But we were supposed to meet back at the bus for 3 and my pasta was delivered at about 7 to. And of course when I requested the check, he said, 'conto??? no! mangiare!!!', basically telling me to relax, eat, worry later. Luckily, as I said, I had followed the professors who still hadn't gotten their meal at 3, so I wasn't too worried! I rushed through my gnocchi and then, after paying, the waiter came over with a huge shot of Limoncello for me, saying in Italian that it was from the professors who I think felt bad for 1. being late, 2. making me late with them, and 3. making me rush through my lunch (Limoncello is known for its digestive properties.) It was fun. But I did make it out before them and met the rest of the group who were pretty annoyed but were getting over it by sitting on some stairs on the street and passing a bottle of wine that someone had bought in town. And wait, there's more... Then we went to Tusculum, land of Cicero, where we met the director of excavations and he took us on a two-hour tour of his work which was quite interesting but the best was the view, as we overlooked pretty much all of Latium (Lazio) including the pope's summer home, Castel di Gandolfo. We finally headed back to Rome and were ten minutes late for dinner, so it was a really long day again! But dinner was spinach risotto that was amazing, and shrimp sauteed in white wine that you had to peel and no one at my table was eating theirs so I had tons because it was like New Orleans food. I probably could have eaten more, but then we had this coconut dessert that I don't know what it was, but it was tasty and I'm so tired that I'm sure this is babbling by now so Good Night All.
p.s. last night, ''Veni, Vidi, Vici'' the hot water situation. A lot of the 'younger' crowd went out looking for Brad Pitt and George Clooney who are apparently here shooting Ocean's 12, so I saw it as my chance for a hot shower and I was in there with hot water for like almost 20 minutes!!! YAY!!!

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Rocks, hills and cold water

Buonna sera. It's almost dinner and this is my first chance to write. We actually got to sleep in today if we were willing to skip breakfast, and since there is a pastisseria (bakery) about one block away, I slept in, got a great Italian croissant for .60 euro and then went to the 930 lecture on the Roman Forum. After the hour lecture we caught the public bus (crowded, stinky...) to the Forum and looked at the area of the Comitium (where the Roman people voted) and the area of the original Senate House. Then we walked over the Capitoline hill (2) (more hills!!! this whole town is hills!!!) to peek at one of the five or so stones that is left of the great Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus. Then we got special permission (I just love that!) to view the ruins of the Temple of Fortuna which is on the site of the Christian church, San Omobono. To sum up, we went across town to look at some pavement (the Comitium), some nothing (the Senate House no longer exists, not even in remains), one rock of the Jupiter temple and a bunch of rocks on the lawn of a church (the Temple of Fortuna). No wonder everyone thinks classicists are crazy!!! I'm starting to think I'm crazy too!!! But you have to imagine how it was back then (6th century B.C.)...especially the Jupiter temple, which was the largest temple in all of Italy that faced the Tiber River so basically anyone coming down the river would have to have been in awe of the temple as well as the people who built it, and that, I'm sure, was precisely the point. We had the afternoon off until 5 and a group of us found a good restaurant in Trastevere which is the general neighborhood where we live, but it's actually quite a far, uphill walk to get 'home' (one staircase had about 100 stairs, so you felt like Rocky at the end). I had lasagne and it was good. Then I decided an adventure was in order, but I didn't want to go far for obvious reasons, so I went to the supermercado (grocery store). That's always an experience, but I don't have one particular anecdote. I guess you had to be there. We had a 5:00 lecture that was pretty interesting, on how the early Romans conquered all of Italy (they actually conquered the various tribes who were part of the Latin League) and soon, dinner. We're all starving and hot and tired all the time! The first day I had the nicest hot shower and it was awesome and filled me with such optimism for showers to come. Unfortunately that was also my last experience with hot water and I'm starting to get a bit annoyed by that. Ahhh the joys of living in Italy. At least the Centro toilets have seats and paper!!! Ciao!!!

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Academy or Boot Camp?

We left the Centro at 7:30 (found the colon on the keyboard...it's marked as the letter M) for our field trip to Tarquinia and Cerveteri (see links on my site) which are both Etruscan towns known for their necropoli, or cemeteries. We've been talking about tombs and grave goods for three days now and today we went to see some from the 8th century BC down to the 3rd century BC. (The Etruscans, where we get the word Tuscany) pre-date the actual Romans. They said, 'Wear good boots, there are snakes and scorpions.' I saw one dead snake and was glad it was dead; no scorpions hurray! The first place we went to, we needed special permission and a guide with a key to get in. That was cool. Overall, it was pretty fascinating, for the first three or four hours. But twelve hours (yes, we got back at 7:30 pm!) and who knows how many miles of walking through various single tombs, two huge cemeteries with dozens of tombs, AND two museums later, it's overkill (no pun intended). I now know more about cinerary urns, Etruscan chamber tombs and tomb paintings, and Etruscan grave goods (mostly vases and pottery) than I ever thought possible. Another good dinner (turkey) at the Centro and here I am, espresso in hand, exhausted from the long day. We found out yesterday about Rowland...someone is getting the Italy version of the New York Times (in English). Besides that, it's great to hear from home, so thank you all for all your emails and comments! Oh, by the way, the weather has been awesome...70's-80's, blue skies. Buona notte!

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Day Three, or IS the glass half full????

Yesterday ended well. I did some (barely half, I admit it...) of the reading and managed to get dressed up for the lecture and reception. The lecture was about some of the burial sites that they have found on the Palatine Hill and in the Forum that date back to 1000 BC, earlier than the 'traditional' founding date of Rome, but I'm probably boring most of you, so on to the reception...
They wined and dined us with an open bar and some tasty finger sandwiches and cheesy puffs that weren't orange, but light yellow, like REAL cheese. We schmoozed with the fellows of the American Academy and some other academic types who were around then came back to the Centro for dinner. Dinner was great, and I am psyched since I eat here Monday through Saturday morning. We had a pasta course, salad, a main course of some meat that I still haven't been able to identify until I find a better Italian dictionary but it was good, roasted potatoes and gelato. I did some more reading and then went to bed. I'm determined to get 8 hours sleep per night!
Today, on the other hand, was just one of those days where you wonder if the glass if half full or half empty. I know, I know, I'm in Rome, how bad can it be? At least I wasn't in Ellington (happy last day, ya'll!!!). But for instance, I needed to iron my pants, and I did bring a travel iron, but alas, no board. However, my bed, which is as hard as a rock, worked very well. Full or empty? Then after our class outing (I'll get to that) I tried to find this stationery shop that I read about, and I walked and walked and walked (after already walking six hours, mind you) and I was so proud of myself when I found it, but it was closed. Full or empty? And then, I decided to go back to the Centro to rest for a bit (or read????) so I followed a street called Via Garibaldi because I knew it would take me back near the Academy. It did, but it was a winding road that went basically up a mountain and there were no bus stops and it took me another hour, but I got a fabulous view of the city. Full or empty? Oh well. As for our outing, we left at 830 to finally cross the Tiber River, to go to 'real' Rome (we live on the other side). We toured and were lectured at in the Roman Forum (the burial sites I mentioned earlier, as well as the Regia and Temple of Vesta), the Forum Antiquarium (a museum containing the stuff they found in the burial sites), the Palatine Hill, Palatine Museum, the Circus Maximus (2), then over the Capitoline Hill along the Tiber which we then crossed and were set free to do what we wanted. That was at 130, five hours after we started. No stops for food, constant walking and/or standing in the hot sun, and only one bathroom break, even though they keep telling us to drink water. Then, by the time I got back from my own two hour adventure it was 330, but I found a great pizzaria in Trastevere and actually figured out how to order it (get a ticket, attempt to order in Italian, pay for the food, get your ticket ripped, bring said ticket back to pick up food....) 'There's no place like Rome, there's no place like Rome...'

Monday, June 21, 2004

Day Two = Mamma Mia

Whoever it is who told me I'd have all this free time to lounge and shop and eat and drink wine, I'm gonna get you when I return! Breakfast is at 730 (can't find the colon on these weird keyboards, p.s. Chris you'll be happy to hear I'm being forced to use a Mac...) but it's not just one of the infamous Italian hard, hollow rolls, although they are omnipresent. There's also cereal, juice, coffee and tea, yogurt, fresh fruit and then 'something American' like French toast ha ha. The AAR group for summer school consists of 26 people, from graduate students to teachers of Latin, history, humanities, etc., to retirees (God bless them!). After breakfast we all followed our beloved leader Myles McDonnell (any students reading this, he's the one in that video with the black leather blazer...) and his assistant Justin to the American Academy where we got the best view of Rome from the highest point in Rome, the Villa Aurelia owned by AAR (although the Vatican says the dome is higher, so it's in dispute). We had a guest speaker who is the woman upon whose work I based my master's thesis, so that was exciting for me, and it's all about me anyway, so... Then a tour of the Academy's library with all of its special rules and quirks, and then an information session with Myles during which he gave us the GIANT reading list and warnings such as 'on days where it's noted, be sure to wear long pants and closed shoes because there are scorpions and such.' Can't wait. I found a little snack bar two blocks down where I just scarfed down (can anyone say starving???) a panini con pomodore e mozzarella, yummy! I successfully used the ATM, but unsuccessfully used a payphone as my cell phone card is still en route. I'll figure it out eventually... Tonight I look forward to a lecture ala Myles and a reception at AAR that we're supposed to dress up for, we even got special invitations. Fun!!! For now, I must go read about 150 pages including Livy, Vergil and a book called The Beginnings of Rome. Thanks for writing, Mom and Mimi and Shelley (I do remember you, and thank you for your praises and warnings!) Ciao!

Sunday, June 20, 2004

I have arrived safe and sound

Here I am in Rome and it is a beautiful day, warm with a nice breeze. My flight to London on British Airways was awesome. I was seated in World Traveller Plus which means better than coach but not quite first class. But for me, it's the little things like my tv screen actually pulled out from inside my armrest, plus I had a choice of 18 channels with my own remote, and lots of leg room and I love that baggie they give you with an eyemask, toothbrush/paste, and socks. And a CHOICE for dinner! I was sitting next to a priest who stages ancient plays in the original languages of Latin and Greek...isn't that weird? He's going to Warsaw to stage Trojan Women. The flight from London to Rome was not quite as nice, but still fine. I got my luggage okay and found five other AAR students so the six of us got a taxi for the bargain price of 85 euro total when I had been expecting to pay 40 myself. The Centro is nice, we have a library, computer room, a big classroom, lobby and a beautiful garden. I got a single room and it is way tiny but it will do. I have a nice view of the garden and they put fans in our room so I don't have to buy in to the fan scam that I've heard stories about. After unpacking, taking a much needed shower, and changing, a few of us went for gelato (the first of what I'm sure will be dozens), and for a long walk (the first of which I'm sure will be dozens). We found a park in the neighborhood with a giant birdcage that has a peacock and hen and some ducks, and we walked to the top of the Janiculum Hill to see the famous view of Rome (you can see EVERYTHING). All of that and it's only 6! Soon...dinner. Till tomorrow...ciao.