Tuesday with Dr. Blanchard

Our tour guide for the day was Dr. Jeffrey Blanchard of Cornell University.  He came to Rome 35 years ago and decided to stay.  He showed us around different parts of the city and gave a wonderful historical and political base from which to view this magnificent city.


While on Capitoline Hill over by Marcus Aurelis we saw Mary Elizabeth, my niece, my brother’s daughter.  My brother Jake is learning along with our group, entertaining us while his daughter is also studying in Rome.  It was amazing that his apartment happened to be around the corner from Mary’s school, and it was also incredible that we saw her with her group while we were in the piazza with our group. What are the chances?  After our walk we went to a great cafe up at the top of The Victor Emanuelle building, giving us a beautiful view of Rome and a great cup of Cappuccino.

Then on to The Forum. Thinking about the Forum as the city of Rome in ancient times was difficult.  I really wanted something in front of me that showed me (visual learner here) what it looked like before.  Then I could look up and truly understand the changes that took place from ancient Rome to today.  I ended up buying a book that does just that.  Ancient Rome was beautiful, colorful, marble.  Knowing that it was the center of Roman public life for centuries makes me think about the people who lived there.  And not the leaders, or their wives, but those who had to work each day.  Today we can just imagine, but I imagine that humans have always worked, loved, learned, worried, and lived their lives the best that they can.  These ancient Romans would do this with sandals on their feet and different clothes on their backs, but with the same types of human needs and wants.   Today archeologists are still learning about these people through digging in these areas.  Giving us foundational information about them that can help us know more about us.


The Colosseum on Monday


As study abroad students we enjoy both a classroom learning environment and being a part of the Rome experience first hand.  Our first day of classes was on Sept. 9 at the University of Washington’s Rome Center in the Campo di Fiori.  Giordono Bruno stands above the square, watching as people shop and others walk to their classes or drink Cappuccino at their corner spot.


When I first saw Bruno, I realized we were there.  Campo de Fiori. Rome. His face wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be.  To me he just looks like he wants to tell us something.  Could it be something about Rome? About our studies? About us?  There are lots of venders selling great stuff at his feet.  Before I leave I will be shopping there for presents.

After lunch it was off to Palatine Hill and then the Colosseum.  How close everything is! With all our walking, we put 8 miles on the pedometer. At the Colosseum our tour guide talked into a microphone that extended to us through a cell-phone-like-phone that we held up to our ears.  We got a basic tour and then got to travel around by ourselves. What we really wanted to do was climb down to the bottom, below where the floor would have been.  There are tunnels and alleys down there. They needed to be explored.  And we needed to be the ones to do it.  But…we couldn’t.  We were told only special ticket holders could go down there.  Sad that we couldn’t explore on, but in awe of the enormity of the Colosseum, we walked back to our homes in Trastevere, planning our dinner for that evening: A joint dinner at Ken’s apartment.


What an amazing group of people to learn with, to travel with, to meet new people with.  Rome is around us and we are learning and soaking up each moment.  Roma o Morte!

The View from My Window

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The streets of Trastevere are narrow, exactly the type of street one wants when choosing the perfect place to stay in Rome.  The area is a huge draw to many people and as I sit in my bed writing this post, I can hear the waves of those voices rising up to envelop me.  There are some voices that carry further than others, some just blend into the cacophony of sound.  Where some people hear the white noise of ocean waves carry up to their rooms while on vacation, I hear the white noise of voices all gathered in joyful talk while on my study abroad experience.  While some people might hear the hoot of owls or sound of doves singing their evening song, I hear the sound of empty bottles being recycled on a 24 hour basis.  The sound of silverware rubbing together, garbage cans moving across the floors, cars and motor bikes going by, people cheering for something they find amazing, the church bells of Santa Maria of Trastevere clanging every 15 minutes, and foreign voices passing by, all rise up to me and enter my room through the tall open widows.  It is the soul of Trastevere. The sound of people enjoying life beats in the soul of this place.  It is important and powerful and Roman.

The Pope’s and the People’s Peace

St. Peter's square peace rally

The Pope organized a Peace Rally in St. Peter’s Square, and we were fortunate enough to be in Rome at the time. It was the most amazing experience.  The square was filled with people, 1000’s and 1000’s of people.  People spoke up on the diaz and there were cameras taping it all and putting it up on 2 huge screens. Since we had arrived late, having had prior commitments, we assessed what was around us.  We weren’t sure the pope was there, and really what to expect, until the Pope stood up and spoke.  He called for a period of silent prayer. Some people kneeled on the cobblestones, some people stood, I sat. Connecting with the warm stone, head bowed in prayer for peace.  The world was silent at that moment.  Nobody made a sound.  No cars. No babies crying. Complete silence.  I connected with the earth and the people there and the world around me.  It was the most amazing spiritual experience! Being in St. Peter’s Square with the pope and so many people who all want peace in the world.  I still tear up just thinking about it. 

St. Peter's peace rally

Thank you to Ginger for the pictures since my phone had died early in the day and I forgot to grab the camera.  What an amazing experience to be a part of such an important moment in the history of the church and the world. 

Roman Holiday Recaptured


In the chapter “Rome Recaptured” Hughes talked about many movies that were shot in Rome. The one we are most familiar with since we watched it on a beautiful night at Meg’s house is “Roman Holiday” with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. This movie was released in 1953, ten years after Italy (captured by Hitler) surrendered to the Western Allied Forces.  We can see areas of Rome within the scenes of “Roman Holiday,” showing how it had been beautified back to its pre-war splendor.  We also can see areas where we will be visiting. Hopefully we can see all of these settings from different parts of the movie.  We have an added advantage, though.  We get to see them in color!

This is the place where Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck put their hands in the statue to see if their hands will be bit off because of the legend.

Where they meet up with Irving before the wild ride in the city on the Vespa. Ann drinks champagne. This is right by the Pantheon

The night of dancing on the river

  • Castra Praetoria

Wall of wishes, a part of the ancient Roman fortification

The studio where movies are made in Italy.

American News Service Office

Ann’s embassey

Where she sees Joe again after she gets a Gelato

The first place they go when Irving is taking her picture from his cigarette lighter.

When they jump in the river so the guys in black suits can’t get Ann and take her back.

Joe Bradley’s apartment

where Bradley finds the princess asleep on a bench

Barbiere where the princess has her hair cut

  • Palazzo Colonna- The final interview of Princess Ann

There’s an actual “Roman Holiday” tour. Here is the link:


Mangiare with Mussolini


In Chapter 11, Futurism and Fascism, Hughes talks about Mussolini. As I read about Mussolini, I felt that the undercurrent of what Hughes was talking about was food.  Here are two quotes that drew me to that conclusion. You may disagree with me. See what you think:

“Not only was Mussolini returning the state to its primal dignity, but he was seen as the man to save Italy from shortages, the one who gave back to Italian food its primordial and sacramental character” (432).

“April 28, the day after their capture [Mussolini, his mistress Clara Petacci, and their 15-man entourage], the Duce [Mussolini] and his party were driven to the nearby village of Giulino di Mezzegra and shot to death. In a moving van, their corpses were taken south to Milan and dumped in Piazzale Loreto, where partisans strung them upside down on meat hooks from the awning of a gas station—in the past, Fascists had done the same, in the same place, to partisans—to be ritually execrated with stones, vegetables, spittle, and curses” (435).

So in light of the food motif of this chapter I think I would like to post on Italian food.  I believe that a very big part of the Italian culture is wrapped up in their food. (No pun intended. Or maybe it is.)  There are many Italian dishes I would like to taste while we are in Rome.  Pizza, of course. Anything with pasta. Gelato. Cannoli. (“Leave the gun, take the cannoli.”). Most important are the moments of eating these meals with friends. The wonderful conversations that can transpire when people of similar interests are sitting around sharing ideas and remaining open to different perspectives.  Slowly enjoying wine, food, conversation, and camaraderie. These are the moments that I am looking forward to.  The touring will be fantastic, but at the end of the day we can all gather round a table or two and talk together about our experiences.  Over good food and equally good wine.

Here is a listing from lonelyplanet of restaurants in Rome. I also thought maybe we’d like to save a little money now and then and make our own meals in someone’s kitchen.  We could possibly pick the nicest apartment or largest kitchen and everyone can bring different food to create a feast. What do my fellow students think about that?


Monumental Changes

It is amazing to me that one human being can have such a monumental effect on the world as Napoleon had during the Nineteenth Century.  Throughout my posts I have written about individuals who have made their world a better place when they created art and beautified places like Rome and Florence.  Their works made Rome the place we know today.  Napoleon, however, did not contribute anything positive to his world.  Especially not in Italy.  His huge ego created chaos where there had been order and he tried to take God out of everything.  In secularizing the Church’s property he also caused Italy to be all mixed up. There was no central government but local centers of power that didn’t get along.  He also took God out of art, which caused the art world to suffer.  There would never be someone like Michelangelo or Bernini, again, because the church couldn’t commission art on a large scale like they had done in the past.  Friedrich Overbeck was the leader of a group of German artists who believed that to bring true art back they needed to put religion back into it.  Hughes says, “They felt their duty was to create a revival of religious art in Germany and, spreading outward from there, throughout Europe” (357). They felt that secular painting was “culturally impotent” (357) and in order to combat this trend of secularization of art, they needed to work from the center of what was considered the “mighty capital of past religious imagery” (357), Rome.  So they rented out rooms in a building that had been a monastery.  The monastery of Sant’Isidoro had been an Irish-Franciscan monastery in Rome until Napoleon drove all the monks out and took possession.  These men who were fighting for the right to put religion back into art, rented rooms at a monastery.  Ironic or poetic?  You decide.  Eventually Napoleon was killed and all the chaos that he caused was re-ordered when “At long last [1870], Rome became the capital of an Italy united under its new king, Vittorio Emanuele II” (370).  However, just as true art captures the human story and governmental changes throughout world, so did the art of the Eighteenth Century.  Paintings were different than in the past, but they reflected their times.  Literature also reflected the political and spiritual culture of that era.  The Romantic writers created beautiful poetry and prose and the urban and landscape scenes created by painters and photographers drew those same types of introspective feelings.

Impressions of Rome

Everyone has an idea of what Rome is. Meg challenged us to reflect in Rome and decide what is the one thing we see that we will say, “This is Rome. I am here.” When I went to London for the first time, it was Big Ben.  When I saw it towering above me, the gold glittering in the sun, I knew I had arrived in London.  What will it be for me in Rome? What will make me sigh deeply and say, “I am in Rome.”  I asked a friend of mine what her personal revelation was when in Rome, and she said the Colosseum.  Seeing something that is as iconic as the Colosseum probably does it for many people.  I also wonder what our impression of Italy will be. How many of us will see it how Percy Bysshe Shelley saw it when he said:

“There are two Italies, one composed of the green earth & transparent sea and the mighty ruins of ancient times, and aerial mountains, & the warm and radiant atmosphere which is interfused through all things.  The other consists of the Italians of the present day, their works & ways.  The one is the most sublime & lovely contemplation that can be conceived by the imagination of man; the other the most degraded, disgusting & odious” (Hughes 317).

The one thing I am most curious about is the light. I hear that there is a golden light that radiates and gives the buildings and things a different color than any we have experienced here.  Much like Shelley is talking about: “the warm and radiant atmosphere […] interfused through all things.”  Can the way the sun shines on Italy be different than the way it shines on the United States?  Is it the sun that creates the golden light, or the buildings that soak up the sun and radiate out from them?  What will our impressions of Rome be and will the golden light give us that feeling that, “Ah, now this is Rome.” or “Ah, now this is Italy.” or perhaps we will just say, “Ah, now this is the life.”



Michelangelo is to the 1500’s as Bernini is to the 1600’s, creating a life that was central to every Italian existence.  The art of both these masters embrace and mold Italy, not only when the churches, fountains, piazzas, monuments, paintings, and statues were created, but well into the future and for all to enjoy.  As outsiders looking in, we cannot imagine Italy without these important objects.  As insiders looking out, we will not be able to imagine Italy without us.  Bernini created his works for popes, but I’d like to think that inside his mind he also knew he would be creating them for each person who enjoys them.  As we look at the churches and marvel at their design, as we throw coins in the fabulous fountains, prance around the piazzas, marvel at the monuments, ponder on the paintings, stand by the statues, we will be able to connect with Bernini and his city that embraces his art. We will want to touch his statues as a way of connecting with Bernini in an intimate and introspective way, much like the way he would have created that statue.  His creative conceptions have constructed a world that is understood by all as quintessential Rome.  La perfetta esistenza romana!