Monthly Archives: February 2012

Mardi Gras, Carnevale Style!

This weekend in the United States is Mardi Gras, but in Italy they have a whole other style of celebration the beginning of lent: carnivale style!

We visited Venice this weekend because it is known for the spectacular crowds and costumes for carnivale. It was completely true, however, there can never be a weekend without something going wrong. We were planning on leaving for Venice Friday morning and coming home Sunday morning, train tickets already purchased. We booked a hostel, The Venice Museum, in the middle of January ready for Carnivale; however, Thursday night we got an email cancelling our reservation because “the heater was broken”. We personally think they double booked and decided to keep the people paying more then us who had planned in advance and had a better price. So we scurried to find something, but with a group of 8 girls, it was really hard to find something affordable. We split into two groups, and the group I was in split a room on Hotwire for less than our hostel was going to be! We had to sneak two of the girls in, but we stayed at the Molino Stucky Hilton, somewhat of a replay of Budapest except for we could not even afford a cup of tea at this hotel, it was 8 euro!!!

The weekend turned out really fun. San Marco square was packed with people. There was a stage with runway competitions of people’s costumes and also a few dance performances. It was insane that such a huge event was taking place in front of historic churches and palaces. I honestly thought Doge’s Palace was going to fall down from the speakers!

The weather was amazing this weekend and the sun was out! On Saturday, there were just so many people that it was really frustrating to try and go anywhere. When we woke up to leave this morning on the train, we saw normal students like us, just sleeping in the streets of Venice. It was quite the party!

It’s been pretty nice because we now have figured out a great way to save money. We only allow ourselves to pay for one meal a day, and go to the grocery store and just buy fruit and food for sandwiches. It’s pretty awesome, but I don’t think I’m going to be able to eat any prosciutto and bread for a long time once I’m back in the states!


My Nose is Hungarian

Last weekend I visited Budapest. It was a school trip, however, we all flew there and had met at the hotel. I flew with my roommate Montana, and we had a layover in Munich. It was really nice because we were able to get a large salad and carrot juice at the airport and it really started the weekend off right!

Our layover turned into a delayed flight, and thank goodness because a man started having a heart attack while we were waiting for the plane. If it had not been delayed we would’ve had to have to land between Munich and Budapest.

While waiting for the flight, I looked over and noticed this person standing to the side of me had a very similar nose shape as I do. I turned and looked around, and believe it or not, but EVERYONE had the same nose as me! I asked Montana to check and she was baffled that it was true! I have a Hungarian nose! I felt a connection to Hungry before I even landed…these were my people!


We made it into Budapest around 1am and took a cab to our hotel. The hotel ended up being a five star luxury hotel, The Corinthia Hotel. There was a buffet style breakfast, free wi-fi, a gym, and a spa we were allowed to use! It was heavenly! Especially when it was so cold outside (-6 Celsius)!! Basically, Hungry was very cheap.

On Friday we went on tours around the city. We saw churches and historic sites. It was really cold so I wasn’t able to obtain very much information, however, the architecture of the city was amazing!

We went to the House of Terror, which really wasn’t that scary. It was really scattered and jumped time periods, so it was hard to clearly understand what was going on. Basically, it was a museum about the communist government in Hungry and how Germany and the holocaust affected Hungry. We went to dinner with a group of students later that night, and I had the best meal since being abroad: grilled salmon over creamed spinach with mashed potatoes (only 10 euro)!!!!

On Saturday we continued tours and saw even more beautiful views of the city.  We visited the central market, which was really cool. It had food on the bottom floor, like fresh groceries, and lunch food and souvenirs up top. The place didn’t have any heat so we didn’t stay to long. We also decided to save money and walked back to our hotel. It was a thirty-minute walk and we couldn’t feel our limbs, but it was ok when we had the spa to go back to.

For dinner, the school had planned a cooking class for all the students on the trip. We made all sorts of Hungarian foods and each and every one of them was amazing!! We made goulash, garlic meat loaf with hard-boiled eggs, stuffed peppers, cherry creamed soup, creamy mushroom paprikish, chicken paprikish, apple struddle, and chocolate and vanilla sponge cake (sorry for the spelling errors). My friends and I were really worried there wouldn’t be enough food for everyone so we ran around the kitchen grabbing everything we could get onto two plates, wolfed the food down, went back for seconds, and did the same thing with the desert. Let’s just say we were all in a food coma the rest of the night. In order to save money we would stuff ourselves at breakfast and at dinner and eat fruit for lunch that we took from the morning buffet…it worked out pretty well.

Budapest was amazing! It was really cold, but completely worth the trip. The sites were beautiful and the history mind-blowing!  I would definitely make a trip back when it’s warmer, like late spring!

Casa Buonarroti: The Home of Michelangelo (Buonarroti)

On Wednesday, we visited the home of Michelangelo Buonarroti, also called Casa Buonarroti. He purchased this house in 1508 after he returned to Florence from Bologna. Over the next ten years, Michelangelo enlarged the house by adjoining two neighboring houses. His nephew, Leonardo Buonarroti, lived in the house and turned the three houses into a single palazzo. Leonardo’s son created the present appearance. In the palazzo there are three main windows to look in from each side and even a fake window to balance the appearance. Cosimo, the last Buonarroti, gave the palace to Florence when he died childless in 1858. Since 1964, Casa Buonarroti has been a museum.

On the ground floor, there is a collection of Etuscan and Roman Urns. They are all very small pieces of art compared to what I have seen in previous museums. The collection shows the appreciation of art in history because they are antiques. There were paintings of the Buonarroti collection, many based on Michelangelo’s work. The paintings were not as detailed in anatomy as Michelangelo’s future paintings, but told stories of myths.

Upon coming upstairs, there is the sword of Buonarroto Buonarroti, captain of the Parte Guelfa in 1392. The room next door creates some of the very first artworks of Michelangelo. Michelangelo moved into the Medici palace in the beginning of his teen years Donatello saw his talent. Michelangelo began sculpture art in the Medici Sculpture Garden. In 1489-92, Michelangelo created the Madonna of the Stairs. This relief was done in riliveo schiacciato taught to him by Donatello’s pupil Bertoldo. Up close, the relief does not seem to have much depth, however, when you take a few steps back, the intensity of each outline is amazing.  The Madonna in the relief is a bit unequal in her calves; good to know Michelangelo even made mistakes. Also around this time, Michelangelo created his Battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs, 1489-92. The theme was suggested to him by Agnolo Poliziano, tutor of Lorenzo’s children. The details of muscles and the anatomy of the body are fascinating. The art is a symbol of not to drink more than you can handle and to allow your mind to lead your body. It is suspected that Michelangelo, even around the age of fourteen, has such an interest in the necessity of anatomy in his art.

Also on the second floor, there were rooms glorifying Michelangelo. Multiple artists created scenes of his life, such as the presentation of projects for San Lorenzo to Leo X, presentation of the model for St. Peter’s to Pope Paul III, and composing his poems. The entire room was covered in paintings, even the ceiling. Part of the room we could not walk on because the tiles and marble were falling apart. There was another room that glorified Michelangelo and it symbolized night and day. There were stories of the Buonarroti family and a bronze portrait of Michelangelo by one of his pupils, Daniele da Volterra.

During the 16th century, wealthy families had chapels in their houses and the priest would come to the house for mass. Casa Buonarroti had a chapel with a beautiful ceiling and a miniature dome-like structure in the middle.  There were frescos with Florentine saints and an inlaid altar with Holy Family, designed by Calenzuoli from a design by Pietro da Cortona.

The library was in the next room, where Illustrious Florentines were painted on the higher part of the walls. There are many Florentines on the walls; they all circle the room looking into the center where we were standing. The powder room is the last room on the second floor. There are signs that show how toilets had yet to be invented, and therefore were not present in the room. However, there was art, such as the Discobolus original by Myron 450 BC.

Downstairs, there is a new area that is dedicated to festivities done in honor of Michelangelo for the fourth centennial of his birth. There are sculptures that embrace the practice and usefulness of anatomy in the art of the human body. Michelangelo in his younger years, spent days in a mortuary dissecting cadavers in order to understand anatomy to a fuller extent. The stories of Michelangelo are fascinating because it shows how much he truly enjoyed his profession.

The Home of Michelangelo’s David

Last week, my art history class and I visited the Accademia, home of Michelangelo’s David. The statue was intended for one of the buttresses of the Florence cathedral, but when it was finished, the Signoria decided to place it in front of Palazzo della Signoria as a symbol of the Florentine Republic. Michelangelo chose a marble black discarded by the sculpture Agnostino di Duccio. The statue stands forty feet above the ground, and from afar, does not look nearly that large. As we walked forward, the statue became massive and mighty. The details from afar were powerful, and up close even more elaborate. Compared to Donatello’s David, Michelangelo’s is a lot manlier, while Donatello’s is a younger, more realistic sculpture. Donatello’s is in a strong contraposto pose, standing on a head, looking very victorious. Michelangelo’s is a more sexually attractive sculpture that is calmer yet assertively posed.

The Accademia contains multiple works by Michelangelo. We viewed St. Matthew and The Prisoners. St. Matthew created in 1505 to decorate one of the buttresses of the Florence Cathedral but was never finished by Michelangelo. Pope Julius II had called Michelangelo to Rome to build his tomb and paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling therefore the statue was never finished. Michelangelo believed that the figure was already trapped inside the marble and the artist had to release it from its marble prison, a Neo-platonic concept. The statue at first looks as though it has no head, but when you look carefully, there is a shadow of a face above the arm. The marble is also very interesting to view because it shows the details of the state of marble, as it is being created into a statue, very fascinating! The Prisoners were created in 1527-30 and intended for the tomb of Pope Julius II. This kept Michelangelo occupied for forty years. The creation was going to be a three story free standing structure with the burial chamber in the ground story and at least sixteen prisoners attached to the outer wall. The project, however, had become smaller as the years went by because the Medici family had called Michelangelo to Florence. The monument was finally set in San Pietro in Vincoli, but when Michelangelo died, they were placed in the Boboli gardens and remained here until 1904 when they were brought to the Accademia. We viewed three of the prisoners: Atlas, The Bearded Prisoner, and The Beardless Prisoner. They could symbolize the terrirories conquered by Julius II, the arts imprisoned because of the pope’s death, or the Neo-Platonic view of the body as earthly prison of the soul. The prisoners seem to try freeing themselves from the marble block that holds them captive and from which they are unable to detach themselves from the marble.

The fourth work of art, Palestrina Pieta, we viewed today was very symbolic. It is unsure who the artist was; many say Michelangelo, however, due to non-proportioned body parts, many believe it was not his work. I don’t believe I have enough knowledge to make much of a substantive opinion, however, it seems Michelangelo’s art is pretty well proportioned, but this could have been a new symbolic work of art.

Uffize Gallery

A few weeks ago, my art history class visited the Uffizi Gallery. Giogio Vasari created the building in 1560 for Cosimo I. It was built to house the offices, tribunals, and archives of the Florentine state. Cosimo I intended to have a collection of antique coins on the top floor but died before he was able to accomplish this. Bernardo Boutalenti built the Tribune for Cosimo I’s collection. In the 18th century, the Uffizi became a museum when Anna Maria de’ Medici donated the family collection under the condition that it stay in Florence for the world to see.

The two types of painting in Florence that we viewed today are Byzantine and Gothic Painting. Byzantine was around the 13th century and even earlier. Byzantine paintings include tempera panels over a gold background. This tempera includes the use of eggs in order to create the paint. The Byzantine style included strict rules for painters and mosaic artists. The figures in paintings were stylized with very long hands, large staring eyes, and long noses. Cimabue’s Madonna Enthroned created in the 1280s is Byzantine. The long hands of the Virgin Mary depict the style. However, Cimabue attempted to abandon some of the formulas in favor of a more natural style. He used larger eyes on the figures and three-quarter views of figures faces. The tempera was done for the high altar of the Church of Santa Trinita, however is now in the Uffizi.


The other type of painting in Florence that we viewed is Gothic Painting. It emerged in the 14th century and includes tempera for wooden panels and wall frescoes. Two schools emerged from gothic painting: the Florentine and the Sienese. Florentine school emphasized the figures in painting and gave a sculptural type of space as well. The Sienese school had a more aristocratic type of painting emphasizing the architecture surrounding the figures giving an architectural type of space.

One of Cimabue’s students, Giotto, followed him and became the founder of the Florentine school of painting. Giotto also created a Madonna Enthroned in 1310. It decorated the high alter of the church of Ognissanti and was influenced not only by Cimabue but Arnolfo’s sculpture as well. The Virgin Mary looks like an overweight housewife compared to other photos and the figures dominate the painting. This is one of Giotto’s mature works.

Duccio di Buoninsegna was the father of Sienese painting. He also painted Madonna Enthroned, which was originally in the Rucelli Chapel at Santa Maria Novella. The painting shows the gracious forms and linear quality typical of the Sienese School. There is an embossing and three quarter view of the faces. The dark blue robe that looks almost black. This color shows the painting is very expensive.

Simone Martini is another Sienese painter. In his Annunciation, created in 1333 for the side alters of Siena Cathedral. It is also a triptych frame although from the top it looks polyptych. Duccio’s brother-in-law Lippo Memmi painted the saints on either side of the canvas.

The third Sienese painter was Ambrogio Lorenzetti. We viewed his Presentation to the Temple created in 1342. It was created for the Siena Cathedral and brings the Florentine sculptural space and Sienese architectural space into one style.  The tiles on the painting bring the attention of the view to a central point in the painting.

The International Style lasted between 1400-1420. Simone Martini visited Avignon, France and introduced Sienese painting to the French. This style fused with Northern Gothic and became much more emotional. Around 1400 all of Europe had a common style labeled the International style.

Gentile da Fabriano’s Adoration of the Magi created in 1423 for Palla Strozzi and his chapel in the Sacristy of Santa Trinita. Gentile was one of the first artists to realize the possibilities of a definite light source. In the Nativity there are two light sources that are clearly depicted. One is night, dark light, and the other is natural, light from the spotlight on baby Jesus. The Flight to Egypt shows the sun going down in the west and as the viewer moves their eyes to the left it becomes dark as night. The Adoration of the Magi includes the three Kings in the distant heading to Bethlehem. In Bethlehem, the midwives are painted along with monkeys and jaguars. There are new figures arriving in this artwork that has never been introduced before.

In the beginnings of early Renaissance Painting, Masaccio introduced chiaroscuro, which is painting the figures through light and dark effects. Masaccio’s Madonna and Child with St. Anne represents chiaroscuro very well.

English for Pasta

So there is this program through GIF that gives students and Italian families the opportunity to meet, practice English/Italian, and eat pasta! My friend Alicia and I decided to sign up and last night we went and met our new Italian family!

There are 3 children: Carolina (18), Leonardo (11), and Cosimo (10). Their house was on the other side of the train station, so we had a good walk to get there but it was well worth it. They live in a flat of an apartment building. Inside was enormous! The interior was also decorated very well. They have a dog named Arfo, I cannot remember what type of dog he is but his face is scrunched like a pug and he can barely see. They also have a cat named Cici, who is much older and doesn’t like Arfo.

Alicia and I helped Leonardo and Cosimo with their English which was very entertaining because our communication consisted of laughing at how bad we all were of speaking each others languages. Carolina spoke pretty good English, and thank goodness because she really helped us out!

The parents spoke very little English but enjoyed communicating with us in Italian and helping us with our Italian. For dinner, the mother made us pasta with egg and pancetta, which was really good! We also had pork, artichoke, arugala, bread, and cheese. For desert we had a pear cake, panetoni, and biscotti! The mother kept feeding us food and it was so hard to say no!

We left full and had such a great time! We go every week, so we are both excited to improve our Italian!

It’s snowing in Florence!

Hey everyone! I am so sorry that is has been forever since I last wrote! It has been crazy in Florence! Last week it started to snow in Florence! Yep, you heard me! It hasn’t snowed here in like 25 years, and of course it would happen while I am here! It started Tuesday night and is supposed to continue today.  None of the snow stuck in the city, but some classes did get canceled because professors who live in the countryside couldn’t make it in. Honestly, I would probably be excited if there weren’t high crisp winds that pierce your skin every time you step outdoors. And I also didn’t really come prepared for the snow. But that is ok!


On Thursday, I met up with a friend living in Florence. I’m not sure if any of you remember Viktoria, she was an exchange student from Sweden in high school and she is now going to interior design school in Florence. So I met up with her and she showed me the American places to eat, and the best gelato in town! It was really fun and nice to see a familiar face!


I didn’t end up traveling anywhere this weekend because we had a make-up class day on Friday. It was perfect because everything hit me this weekend. Literally, the time change, the traveling, the schoolwork, the pasta, etc it all came down on me. I have caught a minor cold but all I wanted to do was sleep. My roommates had the same situation, and we felt like we were in high school again sleeping the weekend away.


We did have to leave the pensione for dinner because we are not provided meals on the weekends. So we have a new favorite restaurant called Dante’s. It is awesome! The wine is free with dinner! I ordered gnocci con tartufo creama, it was heavenly! The place is pretty affordable so we ended up going there two nights in a row! I never thought I would live somewhere where the wine is free and water costs 1,50 euro!