11
Sep

Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli

This past weekend, our class went on its first field trip! The first stop on our itinerary for the day was Hadrian’s Villa. The archaeological complex, constructed from 118 to 133AD, is located in Tivoli, Italy, a city that is about a one hour drive from Rome.

As our class looked at the plan of the Villa, one of the first things that our history professor mentioned was that the complex could perhaps be recognized as a city rather than a single residence- during the 2nd century AD, the complex contained over 30 buildings and covered more than one square-kilometer of land. All that remains now are ruins, though moments in the complex do reveal what might have existed in the original Villa. While on the site, a vivid imagination is absolutely necessary.

Our class views an on-site scale model of Hadrian's Villa.

Our class views an on-site scale model of Hadrian’s Villa. Photographs by Erin Soygenis.

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A view of the ruins from inside the complex.

Experiencing the structure up close and in person made the lecture engaging and exciting, for the information provided by our professor aided our imaginations while viewing the ruins of such a grand and detailed archaeological complex.

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Our class walks through the beautifully sunlit Villa, led by our professors.

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The complex is quite vast.

After the first part of our lecture, we had a long break to explore the villa on our own and we could see the galleries in the site that contained the real artifacts and sculptures from the original construction. Sure enough, the complex was quite easy to get lost in and we found ourselves walking in circles at moments. Still, following the ruins and imagining the spaces that they had once defined proved to be an engaging experience.

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11
Sep

Lecture Series: One Stone, by João Luís Carrilho da Graça

Last Thursday, Cornell in Rome hosted a lecture led by João Luís Carrilho da Graça in our main lecture room at the Palazzo Lazzaroni. For those of you not very familiar with his work, he is responsible for the very acclaimed pedestrian bridge in Colvilhã, Portugal, which spreads over the Carpinteira stream and was finished in 2009.
João Luís, whom we also had the pleasure of having as a guest critic for our architectural studio reviews that same day, is a contemporary Portuguese architect who’s been featured in El Croquis, and has been the recipient of several important architectural awards, including the Piranesi Prix de Rome prize in 2010, and the “FAD” prize in 1999. He holds a practice in Lisbon and is particularly interested in topography, land, ridges, valleys, and ancient streets.
Daniele Durante, João Carrilho da Graça, Arnold San, Ngaire Stuart Gongora and Val Warke

Arnold San and Ngaire Stuart Gongora discussing their project with Daniele Durante (left), João Carrilho da Graça (middle), and Val Warke (right) during review / Photo courtesy of Andrés Romero Pompa

‘One Stone’, as the lecture was called, is really about the available resources of the site in which his architecture takes place.
Maps, ridges, valleys

Maps, ridges, valleys

Maps, maps, maps.
Ridges, valleys, ridges.
Maps.
Water, land.
Street.
Ancient, modern; old, new.
These are all studies and things that prefaced the projects that were discussed on the lecture.
“The city is an ephemeral thing that changes”, he says; and in so, his proposals mainly deal with existing conditions, and his reinterpretations of them. They’re mostly about highlighting what was once on the site, brought about with a new lens that speaks of the zeitgeist, and goes back and forth between old and new.
João Luís Carrilho da Graça (left) and Val Warke (right)

João Luís Carrilho da Graça (left) and Val Warke (right) with students, during the lecture ‘One Stone’ / Photo courtesy of Andrés Romero Pompa

João Luís thoroughly walked us through the Archeological Museum of Praça Nova do Castelo de São Jorge, and presented his site-inscribed object which floats above the ruins of two Islamic houses, and lights up to highlight excavations and history. He took us to the Lisbon Cruise Terminal, which I understood was about creating a seamless connection between the city and its cruise port, by making a hub within a forest.
We saw his Campo das Cebolas intervention, which also floated above the ground, and made room in the hectic city for trees and urban breaks. Consequently, we explored the intervention in the historical center of Évora, and finally the Carpinteira pedestrian bridge, which created a new landscape within the city’s mountain and valley formations, was rectangular in form, and connected both elements both conceptually and geographically.
This, as many other of his projects, is almost surreal in essence. They’re seamless, but at the same time very present, iconic, and resolved to alleviate pre-existing conditions of a site.
“To seduce, or to fascinate?”, he asked, referring to architecture, by the end of his talk. Seduction, he says, is a theatrical process that involves a choreography. Fascination, on the other hand, is whether you like it, or not. The invitation is to seduce, rather than fascinate, as we design and build… to meticulously decide what spaces do to users, and how, and why. Seduce, and be seduced.
For more information on Carrilho da Graça, visit his website, http://www.jlcg.pt/
09
Sep

On Romans, Berliners, Amsterdammers and Istanbulites

As the title of this blog may have given it away, the concern of this entry lies not so much on places, but rather on people, and what they are, feel and smell (?) like.
You see, unlike Anna and Vinny’s experience, I arrived to Italy last month, only a day or two after they did, but my Italian experience was short-lived, as I decided to tour a bit around near vicinities prior to starting the semester. I had not been to Rome before, but getting here felt cozy and strangely familiar.
Italians have a way of being that reminds me a bit of Venezuelans. They may be more gestural and smell more like cigarettes and wine and sweat, but they certainly are just as loud, outspoken and warm-hearted as people in my country. Of course, this is no coincidence —many Italians have indeed lived in Venezuela since after the war, so millions of Venezuelans have direct links to this country, and genuine pasta and pizza is almost as celebrated there as it is here.
Anyway, back to my sequence, as I got this first taste and glance of Italians and their culture, I was quickly confused for one of them, perhaps for facial gestures, or dark hair, or my not-so-American look. I was talked to in Italian a few times, and may I say, I felt thankful for knowing Spanish and the language’s Latin roots, because without having ever studied the language, I saw myself understanding most of what I was told, and then, of course, left with a confused face as I tried to reply back. It really took the same amount of time for people to think I was Italian, as it did for them to realize I was not, since my Itañol gave me away as a foreigner quite promptly.
I was quick (though I should also say jet-lagged) to leave Rome and arrive in Berlin, where I saw a whole city under construction, and monument, after monument, after pipes and cranes and new buildings. This place was truly impressive because of its history and preservation and contrasts, and though my German is not too great, I found myself understanding quite a bit during my stay there, and also able to defend myself with it on the streets.
Berlin, Germany

Berlin, Germany / Photo taken by Jose Ibarra

Berliners are not necessarily cold, as people like to tag Germans as, but they are a bit distant, and it feels to me, proud enough of their land and culture to have a preference for those that at least make an effort in understanding it. I say this because I experienced weird vibes from people when it was evident I wasn’t trying to be anything other than a tourist, but every time I would approach locals in their tongue and carry on conversation with something that could make them feel at ease about themselves, it seems I would get the best treatment, and most attention, in comparison to my friends or surrounding tourists, anyway.

Berliners are also blunt, though, and a bit impatient at times. The hotel receptionist had no problem telling some guests that were also staying there to open their eyes and look for things before they asked her irrelevant questions. She, I must say, wasn’t probably the nicest of Germans, but somehow accurately represented a certain part of the people that we saw on the streets day after day.
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam, Netherlands / Photo taken by Jose Ibarra

This bluntness, however, is in no way compared to that of Amsterdammers. They are indeed so proud of their Kingdom, that with or without the language, they’ll be disrespected by naïvety, and will not blink twice before saying no, raising their eyebrows, or rolling their eyes at you. They’re also funny though, and very straight-forward… and at least some of the ones I met, very much in touch with a good sense of self-deprecating humor. They could make fun of themselves at will, if only to alleviate the first aggressiveness of their lack of tact.

Despite all this, the people from Istanbul were the ones that impressed me the most. They are as trustworthy as they are sneaky. They smell as much of tea as they do of coffee and döner and cat hair. Istanbulites embrace folks from everywhere: they speak to you in virtually any language at the Grand Bazaar, but even when not there, and surrounded by Turks who speak nothing but Turkish, they’ll engage in any type of mimicry if only to make you laugh. They’re Muslim, and Christian, and Jewish. They’re orthodox and unorthodox. They frown upon your uncovered knees, and also whistle at you when you seem exotic enough for their type.
Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey / Photo taken by Jose Ibarra

They reminded me of Venezuelans, too, and of course, we also do have many Turks there, but what really impressed me was the earthiness of all of them. They seem to be unpretentious and proud of their ways, although they mock these, too, if ever they get a chance.
Now I’m back in Italia, and I’m happy to be here. Italians are friendly and welcoming. I discovered they embrace you as one of them as soon as they know you’re living here. They know you at the coffee shop that you visit frequently. They remember what pizza you like at your local pizzeria. They casually get haircuts next to you on their wedding day, and promise to include you on their photo album (yes, this did happen to me, and I’ll make a point of uploading a picture of it, if I ever get one of this moment). They’re, as I said earlier, loud, and gestural and outspoken, but all those in a caring way, and with ‘Mamma Mias!’ and ‘Ciaos’ in between.
08
Sep

Villa d’ Este in Tivoli

 

My favorite spot in the gardens

I could lay here for hours. Listening to the water fall into the narrow pool beside me. Feeling the cool stone against my skin and the speckles of water splash against my side. The sun’s heat coats my back, and I barely notice the tourists strolling by me. I am overwhelmed by my senses as the garden lulls me into pure content. A picture can’t capture the experience of weaving through the pathways and discovering something breathtaking at every turn… getting lost in the splendor of it all. Every inch and detail of this villa was designed to be what lies before me, and yet at the same time, the garden doesn’t feel like it has been constructed by man. It’s like some ancient secret that humanity has stumbled upon. The walls of the villa are unassuming from the street and blend in with the stone of the historical surroundings, but the villa opens its great mouth to a hidden oasis. A place where you almost feel guilty for taking pictures instead of just organically becoming absorbed in your surroundings. I am listening to the water rushing, feeling the fresh air against my skin, smelling the pine, seeing lushness all around me, and tasting the chilled water from the fountain. I am drifting to sleep. Suddenly, a woman reprimands me for laying along the fountain’s edge. Startled and embarrassed, I sit up and my senses snap. The sound of chatty tourists overcomes the hush of the fountains and the frequent passers-by strip away the seclusion and security I once felt. I don’t want to leave. I imagine time unfolding around me… the feeling of laying alone on the stone wall consumes me…wishing  I could just melt into the coolness once again, I fall slowly and deeply into my own abyss.

Natalie overlooking the great view

Natalie overlooking the great view

Behind the largest fountain

Behind the largest fountain

One of the many great doors of the villa

One of the many great doors of the villa

 

Arnold and Takuma taking photos

Arnold and Takuma taking photos

Tim, Alex, and Braydn at the top balcony

Tim, Alex, and Braydn at the top balcony

Leading to the gardens

Leading to the gardens

Looking down the main axis towards the original entrance

Looking down the main axis towards the original entrance

 

Tivoli is "gorges" just like Ithaca

Tivoli is “gorges” just like Ithaca

One of the great views in Tivoli

One of the great views in Tivoli. Tivoli is only an hour from Rome. You can even see the tallest buildings of Rome from some of the views.

 

01
Sep

Living like Romans?

All the rush and hype of arriving in Rome has definitely settled down now that we’ve been here for three weeks. You’re preparing, packing, planning, chatting, and imagining, and then, all of sudden, you arrive. You step outside the airport doors and find yourself sitting next to taxi driver who can’t speak english and is taking you to your new home. And that’s it. From there life just becomes normal again. Well, a new normal, that is. I may come from an Italian American family, but as hard as this is for me to admit, everything in Rome was immediately very new to me (aside from traditional dishes). So, I may have a vowel at the end of my name, and I may be able to blend in if I’m not carrying my book bag and camera, but I definitely needed a crash course on how to “live like the Romans do.” And that’s exactly what all twenty-eight archies received in the first few weeks.

The whole class at  Piazzo del Popolo

The whole class at Piazza del Popolo

Living in an apartment. I live in an apartment with five other students, and we all feel pretty spoiled. Everything is great from the furniture to the air conditioning and the location in the historical center.  So far, we have struggled with Italian trash regulations, wacky washing machines, strange stoves, confused neighbors, and tiny, old fashioned elevators (we may have gotten stuck between floors one or two times).  All in all, our apartment feels like home and its great place to unwind at the end of the day.

A few of my roomies! (Cassidy, Pam, and Arnold)

A few of my roomies on our first day! (Cassidy, Pam, and Arnold)

Our living room-that couch is my favorite spot!

Our living room-that couch is my favorite spot!

Pesto gnocchi (we've been learning how to cook too)

Pesto with gnocchi (we’ve been learning how to cook too)

Gesu Church- right in front of our apartment

Gesu Church- we can this from our apartment

Italian lessons. A group of twelve students, including myself, will be taking Italian lessons for the whole semester; but for the first two weeks everyone participated in an intensive course. We learned everything from how to order in a restaurant, buy clothes, ask for directions, and most importantly, how to not act like obnoxious, touristy Americans.

My Italian section with our teacher Paolo

My Italian section with our teacher Paolo

Our first day trip! On the Saturday before classes started, our class went on a walking/bus tour of the city with our program director, Jeffrey Blanchard, and our studio director, Val Warke. It was great to walk through the sites with people who are familiar with the area and could tell us more about them then the common tourist brochure. It was a long, hot day, but definitely worth it

Strolling through the fields

Strolling through the fields

One of the churches we saw on the tour- Santa Maria in Aracoeli

One of the churches we saw on the tour- Santa Maria in Aracoeli

Our class picnic in Via Appia Antica

Our class picnic in Via Appia Antica

First week of classes. The first week of classes was exhausting. Since Fridays are reserved for field trips, our lectures meet once a week for four hours and studio meets twice a week for six. It takes a lot out of you to be in classes the entire day versus our Ithaca schedules, but our classroom is the city, so how can we complain? For instance, my first drawing class was spent sitting at the Termini (train station) and sketching for two hours followed by visiting the National Roman Museum, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme. It’s really an unbelievable experience to forgo your text books and to just look at your surroundings instead. In my first history class with Jan Gadeyne, I learned that the Rome that Americans know and love, the one with the Colosseum and the Pantheon, only makes up about ten percent of what Rome actually is. I haven’t even begun to discover that other ninety percent yet, so I know that along with my classmates, I will be surprised daily by my findings, and my classes will give me the tools to think critically about them.

The spiral staircase in Villa Medici- my first studio assignment was to visit this building and to analyze its contrsuction

The spiral staircase in Villa Medici- my first studio assignment was to visit this building and to analyze its contrsuction

History class with Jan. Here we are standing at the ruins of the Temple of Jupiter

History class with Jan. Here we are standing over the ruins of the Temple of Jupiter.

The studio's Palazzo!

The studio’s Palazzo!

Studio! Puts Milstein to shame...

The studio work area. Puts Milstein to shame…

Our first studio pin up with Val and Daniele

Our first studio pin-up with Val and Daniele

 

01
Sep

Scratching the Surface

When I first arrived in Rome, I expected to be immediately hit by a change in perspective. I expected to be hit by the culture, by the new urban landscapes, and by the sounds and sights of the city. I’ve only spent a few weeks here so far, but I am already realizing that the elegance and essence of Rome is not something that explodes suddenly when you first step into the city. It’s not something that hits you. Instead, it’s something rather comfortable & inviting, something that caresses you- something that slips effortlessly into your perspective.

Despite how old this city is, there is a freshness and newness in Rome. Every block is lined with buildings centuries old, and every street contains such deep, rich histories. The desire to explore the nooks and crannies of the city is ubiquitous, yet there is a subtle familiarity to the environment here.

My apartment is in Trastevere- a rione located just south of the Tiber river. The word itself comes from the Latin word “trans Tiberim” meaning “beyond the Tiber”.  Unlike most of the other Cornell apartments which are located in more touristy areas, Trastevere has a more local atmosphere with smaller shops and it is currently a lot less crowded than the inner city. The people in this area are very friendly, and a nearby outdoor morning market makes purchasing fresh produce very convenient.

Every morning, my friends & I cross a bridge over the Tiber River to get to studio. The full walk takes twenty minutes, but the weather is always sunny and the scenery of Rome & the river is always worth it. In a way, my morning walks to class are similar to those at Cornell- even in Ithaca, I would cross the Thurston Bridge each morning to get to Milstein Hall when I lived on North Campus. Perhaps this parallelism is something that contributes the sense of ‘subtle familiarity’ that I feel when in the city. Edbert Cheng further explored this parallelism of Ithaca and Rome in his post last semester.

The bridge over the Tiber River that we cross every day.

Photograph by Erin Soygenis.

The bridge over the Tiber River that we cross every day.

Photograph by Erin Soygenis.

The Tiber River also provides the rather comforting ability to always find my way home- it is a guide and a landmark. No matter where I am in the city, I can just follow the river back to Trastevere.

Now that classes are just beginning to start, I am starting to develop routines and understandings to further familiarize myself with Rome’s composition. I would like to be able to confidently navigate the city, but right now I still enjoy getting lost and observing the beauty and colors in every area. I have discovered that the real fun here is getting distracted by the art and history in every street corner: walking on the dark gray cobblestone and through the brown brick alleyways, enjoying how the tall buildings frame the sunny skies in the morning, and letting yourself melt into the nights lit by the warm yellow street lights. Rome has a real elegance that I am so grateful to be able to experience in such depth during these next few months. I look forward to making even more discoveries, because I know I have only scratched the surface of this exuberant and intriguing city.

Photograph by Andres Romero Pompa taken near the Piazza del Campidoglio.

Photograph by Andres Romero Pompa taken near the Piazza del Campidoglio.

Photograph taken near the Piazza del Campidoglio

Photograph by Andres Romero Pompa taken near the Piazza del Campidoglio.

 

29
Aug

Getting Lost

When I first got to Rome on August 8th, I made the plan to create a two-week itinerary that would cover all the major sites… but that quickly fell through. I decided to not have a plan and to take Rome day by day instead. As a result, I found myself getting lost. A lot. And the thing about getting lost in Rome is that you always discover something great when you do. Whether it’s a famous building you’ve seen in a textbook, a delicious pizza shop tucked in a corner, or a bustling public event, you’re bound to surprise yourself by what is at the tips of your fingers. So instead of giving you my day-to-day itinerary from my first two weeks in the city, I invite you to get lost with me and discover some of my favorite, unexpected happenings so far.

The Pantheon. Who knew that venturing merely a couple blocks from my apartment would lead me to this iconic site. I couldn’t believe my eyes when it suddenly emerged from around the corner. Stepping inside, away from of the chaos of the square, I felt like the great dome swallowed me whole. Was it the shock of being in Rome for the first day, the magnificence of the structure, or both? Regardless, I was completely swept away by its sudden appearance. Since then, I pass the Pantheon on many of my routes to and from home. Not bad for a neighbor, huh?

The Pantheon

swallowed by the dome

 Lungotevere Trastevere. This festival or “temporary village” as my Italian teacher liked to call it, is a stretch of shops, bars, restaurants, dancing, and games for the summer season and is located directly on the banks of the Tiber River (a few blocks south of my apartment).  It’s a great place to grab dinner, enjoy some local culture, and just go for a walk.  Nothing beats eating fresh fish while sitting along the river with music and the bustle of the crowd in the background.

Lungotevere Trastevere

Lungotevere Trastevere

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Lungotevere Trastevere

Lungotevere Trastevere

 Sperlonga. As I mentioned in my bio, I am a huge fan of swimming. So naturally I sought out the beach within my first week in the city. Just a 60 minute train ride away, the beach is a great escape from Rome’s heat and chaos. I went with six other classmates, and we all made quite a spectacle as a group of American students sitting among curious, sun-bathing locals. The beach was very crowded, but the ocean felt great and the local pizza was much better than the touristy targets in the city. Coming home, we missed our train to the Termini station due to traffic out of the town and ended up taking two trains and two buses just to get back-it was pretty stressful and exhilarating all at once. The beautiful beach combined with the crazy travel complication is definitely something none of us will forget.

The town

The town

Walking the shore

Walking the shore

Food! Saving the best for last, here are some of my favorite places that I have eaten at so far. I try to avoid touristy areas; the restaurants in the city center are geared towards American palettes and simply don’t compare to local places from food to atmosphere. I usually have found the best places to eat by going in more residential areas such as Trastevere, which is just across the Tiber River (Fiume Tevere). I have also made the rule for myself that I must order a different flavor of gelato every time I go because I love pistacchio so much that I could easily order it all the time. I’ve only broken this rule twice…so I think I am off to a good start!

This gelato shop, Della Palma, has 150 flavors! Enough to last me a semester. It's located just past the Pantheon.

This gelato shop, Della Palma, has 150 flavors! Enough to last me a semester. It’s located just past the Pantheon.

Crepe with nutella made fresh at Lungotevere Trastevere. Nutella is becoming one of my weaknesses!

Crepe with nutella made fresh at Lungotevere Trastevere. Nutella is becoming one of my weaknesses!

Bolognese pasta from Ristorante La Canonica in Trastevere, very delicious and no tourists (except for me, Arnold, and Cassidy).

Bolognese pasta from Ristorante La Canonica in Trastevere, very delicious and no tourists (except for me, Arnold, and Cassidy).

Ristorante La Canonica in Trastevere. Outdoor seating is very common  and enjoyable.

Ristorante La Canonica in Trastevere. Outdoor seating is very common and enjoyable.

The bread and pastry section in Antico Forno Roscioli. Right next to the pizza :)

The bread and pastry section in Antico Forno Roscioli. Right next to the pizza :)

Caprese Pizza from Antico Forno Roscioli- which is apparently one of the best places to get pizza in the city center.

Caprese Pizza from Antico Forno Roscioli- which is apparently one of the best places to get pizza in the city center.

Mango and raspberry with creme! Not as good as pistacchio, but I'm not complaining!

Mango and raspberry with creme. Not as good as pistacchio, but I’m not complaining!

 

30
May

Taking Leave

Leaving Rome was hands-down one of the hardest goodbyes I’ve ever had to muster in my life. I had grown so attached, too attached, to the eternal city, that perhaps I became a part of it. I was its ear lobe, or perhaps a knuckle, a once clumsy appendage which had learned its place in the scheme of the whole body of Rome, a part whose purpose is not revealed without its relation to the whole.

I spent my last day, appropriately, clearing my apartment, mailing things, and touring. The images began to hit me as I ventured to mail my extraneous belongings at the post office. Everything had garnered a glistening beauty—each banality of the street life became completely mesmerizing, precious, and tender with a dewy shimmer. The cobbles, the pedestrians running their course of usual errands, those tattered street posters, the leaves on trees. They all began to seep into my very being. I began to relate to everything, and everything was imbued with an even more meaningful, even more melancholy significance; the sad old Dalmatian walking among the crowds with its tail between its legs, the school children playing with the water spilling out from the nasone, the flickering of cars in pursuit  amidst the sunshine. I walked around with tears in my eyes the whole day, overwhelmed by the majesty of the streets and their fixtures, the buildings and their faces. How did I become so enveloped in this life? In this experience? Maybe I was just being silly, I thought. I probably just want to go home.

But then, I found myself taking pictures of the things I would miss. It was the way the sun came in on the windowsill in our kitchen, the particular tangle of sheets on my bed, a plant that I nourished even though it was bent on extinction. I conserved my walk home, the river, aperitivo tables. I tried to pack it all away with me, as best I could. I took long, contemplative sips from my cappuccino that morning. I didn’t tell the cashier that it was my last day. I gave my ‘buon giorno’ as usual. I teased the barista after he asked me whether my coffee today was better than yesterday’s. I left my normal tip. And just like that I exited.

By now, I recognized people on the street, and they recognized me. They had nicknames for me, they even confided in me the tiny details of their lives. I had heartfelt goodbye dinners with people I hardly knew just a few months before this day. They wrote silly autographs in my books. I gave several goodbye kisses. I had fostered a family. I was daresay even a bit eloquent in my facility with Italian. I knew the streets, I knew the life, I knew it all just enough for it to sting when I left.

Lastly, I listened. I listened to the street life, listened to the familiar swing of the elevator door as it brought me up to my apartment, the little harmonious buzz of the hinge serenading me down the hall. I mulled over the sounds of scooters frantically climbing the hill outside my house, wondering where these commuters were going, who they intended to see. I recognized the familiar staccato of Italian tongues on a short walk around the block, the rhythm of friendliness.

And like phantoms, they have followed me. They followed me to Paris and London, which are not good replacements for my Roma. I can taste the missing elements in my breakfast. My feet are unadjusted to the flat and straightforward pavement. I pick up on other native speakers, blended in with the sea of occidental and oriental languages. They fade in and out as I move about the alien streets just as I drift about, misplaced.

I’m hoping that one day the phantoms will be comfortable reminders of the wonderful things that went on. That these impressions will change me for the better. That they won’t always remain inklings of something that once was, but become the foundation for what is.

I don’t know when I will be back. I don’t know if it will be soon. But I learned more about myself and the world around me in the past six months than I have in a really long time. I don’t want to say goodbye. And I’m determined. This is not the end. Something tells me I won’t be able to keep away. So I won’t say goodbye just yet.

 

The Images:

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29
May

Running Rome

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You’ll be surprised at how good, and bad Rome can be for runners and fitness enthusiasts. I was looking up gyms I could go to in Rome months before my flight over! However, after arriving in the city- I realized the climate was warm and the city hospitable enough to make public spaces within the city my gym- I didn’t find the prices at the gyms in Centro Storico justifiable.

Low and behold, yesterday, I found (by accident of course) the perfect running route from Isola Tiberina up to Villa Borghese and back. The route hosts pull-up bars, benches for sit ups, hurdles, stairs, drinking fountains, hills, clean air, dogs, and friendly people who might run up to you and ask for a free hug.

Although the art of people dodging as you run past the Pantheon can get a bit troublesome, running through the ancient city centre is a completely different experience from walking it, with all those endorphins being released in your brain-especially on a sunny day, so you’re bound to see the city in a different light!

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29
May

Lessons for the Working Actor

horses

So there’s something I’ve been keeping a secret for quite a while. I’ve been weaving in and out of my schedules, traveling to the unseen and the forbidden. I’m making a movie. Yes, I’m making a movie with two Italian directors.  I’ve shot about two weeks’ worth of footage already in the countryside, amidst abandoned churches and atop the Vittorio Emanuele monument. It started with a fortuitous trip to Termini Station with my drawing class. Sitting above the noise making impressions of passersby in my moleskine, I spotted two men peeping at me between snippets of conversation, making periodic eye contact. Equipped with neglected suitcases whose contents were chimerical in nature, they had been there all day, waiting for someone to come into view. And they happened upon me, or I upon them. After a long debriefing, a few auditions and emails bounced back and forth, I became one of the curios in their cabinet of humanistic stories.

vittorio emmanuelethe rig

Filming hasn’t been easy. Although the movie is narrated, which means I don’t have any lines to memorize, it’s still hard to fit all the traveling and action into my school schedule. Weekends and audited classes were sacrificed in order to pursue my indie dreams. Because the movie’s an indie and the budget is virtually null, we do a lot of rogue shooting with small rigs. Making art certainly isn’t free, expression is gauged by permit after permit, request after painstakingly humble request. What I gained were places I’d never see, aspects of life I’d never imagine, characters who without my new-found connections could not reveal themselves to me. I got to hone my Italian in the company of exclusive speakers, but I also got to explore forgotten aspects of the Italian countryside—those places riddled with stories of Italian contemporary culture between shards of stained glass and blades of grass. Most of all this film has brought me the consciousness that comes with being on screen—the kind of attention to the details and the potentiality of each moment for a cinematic richness that speaks beyond images and transports the viewer through experiences. And a chance to connect with other actors, namely one Hal Yamanouchi, whose vast knowledge and guru like tranquility gave me the strength to tackle some particularly tough shoots. Never did I imagine leaving New York that I would ever find acting work while I was here, but it turned out to the be the opportunity of a lifetime, let alone the chance to become part of a new art movement.

 

tarkovskij shots

 

if you’re interested in sampling their previous work, I’ve left their last film trailer here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bR9iMpF0p7g