20
Oct

The Elegance of Urbino

Urbino was the city that our class stayed in for the first night of our trip, and it proved to be one of my favorites for its calm, quiet environment and beautiful hillside views. The walled city is quite small and sited high up on a sloping hillside. To give a sense of scale, Rome has an elevation of 20m with a population of 2.7 million, and Urbino has an elevation of 450m with a population of ~18,500. The high elevation allows for spectacular views of the hills and cooler weather, and the small population causes the city to remain quiet during the day, with a gentle bustling during the nights.
We arrived in the city around late evening time, just before the sunset. Our hotel was located on the top of a hill, so we all used elevators to bring our belongings to the building. We had the rest of the day to explore- and as soon as we situated our things and exited the hotel, we were greeted with stunning views of the surrounding hillsides.

There are large greenspaces with benches on the walking path. Perfect places to stop and enjoy the scenery, or hold a conversation with a friend with the hillsides as a backdrop.

There are large greenspaces with benches on the walking path. Perfect places to stop and enjoy the scenery, or hold a conversation with a friend with the hillsides as a backdrop.

The alley we walked through when we exited our hotel- photo taken with my iPhone.

The alley we walked through when we exited our hotel- photos taken with my iPhone.

And as soon as you exit the alley ... gorgeous views of the hillside surround you.

And as soon as you exit the alley … gorgeous views of the hillside surround you.

There is an elegance in Urbino that I have not experienced before. There was an openness and friendliness to the town, and there was an air of security that enveloped even the most vast spaces. The colors of the buildings were clean and modest – off-whites, pale yellows, and tan bricks were set off by the gray cobblestone roads and piazzas. It was quiet enough to listen to the cool breeze, and the sunlight slipped into the urban landscape so gently – I often times would think of water color paintings as I walked through the town. We found ourselves walking uphill and downhill quite often, but unlike Rome where alleys are quite thin and dark, the roads of Urbino were quite spacious and well-lit. The breeze through these spaces was gentle and inviting – my jacket would flow with the wind as I walked. The quietness of the town could be attributed to the lack of vehicular noise – almost no cars would pass by, for most students and locals are able to simply walk anywhere & everywhere within the town.

 

One of the alleys on the hill leading to the center of the city. Look how wide and inviting it is! The breeze is lovely, and the colors are like those of a watercolor painting.

One of the alleys on the hill leading to the center of the city. A quiet environment and very wide roads.

iPhone night photo of the alley that leads to our hotel- the same one in the first photograph of this post.

iPhone night photo of the alley that leads to our hotel – the same one in the first photograph of this post.

 

Area near the inner city. Paths lead up & down the hills and the buildings frame fantastic views.

Area near the inner city. Paths lead up & down the hills and the buildings frame fantastic views. Photograph by Erin Soygenis.

A lot of young people are in the city- mostly college students. Photograph by Erin Soygenis.

Photograph by Erin Soygenis.

Pam & Natalie enjoy the scenery! Photograph by Erin Soygenis.

Pam & Natalie enjoy the scenery! Photograph by Erin Soygenis.

Our photographer, Erin Soygenis!

Our photographer, Erin Soygenis!

The town is indeed quite small, both in terms of population and size. When my friends and I walked through the city, we realized that we could walk from one end to the other in less than 30 minutes (and of course, stunning views were on either side.) Often times, we would see familiar faces too – crossing paths with the locals occurred quite frequently during the evening. We would pass clothing stores, stationary shops, and many restaurants & cafes as we walked from our hotel to explore the city. The Palazzo Ducale, a Renaissance building in the center of the town and one of the most important architectural works in Urbino, became a landmark for us to meet and branch out.

 

Piazza space in front of the Palazzo Ducale.

Piazza space in front of the Palazzo Ducale.

Palazzo Ducale. Photograph by Andres Romero Pompa.

Palazzo Ducale. Photograph by Andres Romero Pompa.

Urbino is a simple, small, and quiet town on the hillside, and I really felt that the town’s tranquility was the perfect starting point for our journey.

 

10
Oct

Gnocchi Night!

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Last Thursday, Anna Rita taught our entire class how to make her famous potato gnocchi. Everyone got a chance to work with the dough whether it was kneading it, rolling it into sections, or cutting it into bite size dumplings; and in addition to learning how to make gnocchi…we got to eat it!

There were a variety of sauces that Anna Rita prepared for us, and by the end of the night, we were all stuffed. The meal was absolutely delicious and those who were lucky got to snag some left-overs for the next day. My personal favorite was the butter with sage and the pumpkin sauce; but there was also bolognese, swordfish with olives and tomatoes, asparagus with nuts, and some frittatas and desserts on the side.

Let’s just say I couldn’t move for a few hours afterwards…

Here are some photos from the night… Enjoy!

Lots of hands for lots of gnocchi!

Lots of hands for lots of gnocchi!

Anna Rita making dough with Cristina and John

Anna Rita making dough with Cristina and John

 

Renee and Cristina

Renee and Cristina

Gayle, Erin, and Dan

Gayle, Erin, and Dan

Todd, King of Gnocchi

Todd, King of Gnocchi

Frittatas!

Frittatas!

Pumpkin gnocchi, my favorite!

Pumpkin gnocchi, my favorite!

The end product...yum

The end product…yum

One of the desserts...sweet peach bread

One of the desserts…sweet peach bread

06
Oct

Northern Italy in Eight Days – Venice

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Venice was our longest stop on the trip and by far the most exhausting as the city was huge and crowded. From the packed taxi boats to the winding streets with a lot of dead ends and bustling crowds of foreigners – I think most of the class was immediately overwhelmed. I had always pictured charming little canals with a small town atmosphere, so I was surprised by the intense and chaotic  ambience. Unfortunately I was unable to go on a gondola, but I was able to see a lot of groups enjoying their ride with a singing gondolier!

Museums

Vinny has already discussed the museums of Venice, so I won’t dwell on them too much, but I loved seeing modern exhibits- it was really refreshing to since our schedule for the trip was so heavy with historical sites.

At the Arsenal exhibit (part of the Biennale - a series of modern architectural exhibits that updates twice a year)

At the Arsenale exhibit (part of the Biennale – a series of modern architectural exhibitions and pavilions that updates every two years)

At the Biennale. Between the Biennale and the Arsenal we spent a total of 6 hours, but it could have easily been 6 days!

At the Biennale. Between the Biennale and the Arsenal we spent a total of 6 hours, but it could have easily been 6 days!

At the Biennale

At the Biennale

Room made with book shelves-at the Arsenal

Room made with book shelves-at the Arsenal

At the Palazzo Grassi Art Museum

At the Palazzo Grassi Art Museum

At the Palazzo Grassi Art Museum

At the Palazzo Grassi Art Museum

 

Nightlife

At night the city surprisingly becomes very charming and quiet. Huge plazas once packed with tourists are now nearly empty. Restaurants with outdoor seating have live performances. The streets are so quiet that you can hear the waves from bay. And my most favorite, everything is dark and lit by lanterns, giving a very romantic yet mysterious feel.

Piazza San Marco
Piazza San Marco
Live performance with dinner
Live performance with dinner

 

Storefronts

Out of all the cities I have been to so far, Venice definitely had the best stores. It seems strange to point this out, but it’s actually a great city for window shopping. Am I planning on buying that 1500 euro skirt  from Prada? Of course, not! But I really enjoyed winding through the streets and seeing beautiful windows with vivid colors and unique staging on either side of me. Here are some of my favorites…

A ton of glass! Pretty much anything you can think of was made of glass-even balloons!

A ton of glass! Pretty much anything you can think of was made of glass-even balloons!

Fabrics in Venice usually have influence from Eastern Europe, so a lot of gold and embroideries!

Fabrics in Venice usually have influence from Eastern Europe, so a lot of gold and embroideries!

 

 

 

 

 

 

02
Oct

Northern Italy in Eight Days – Small Towns

The foothills of the alps

The foothills of the Alps

Aside from the amazing site visits in each of the cities, I was extremely fascinated by the cultural and atmospherical differences between each city. Those towns include: Gubbio, Urbino, Padova, Mantova, and Verona (Venice was a three-day stop between Padova and Mantova). Even the drive to each city on our huge tour bus was spectacular. We got to see sites such as the one above for hours at a time.

Gubbio

Gubbio was our very first stop of the trip. During our free time many of us took cable cars to the town’s overlook. I was expecting closed elevators of some sort, but they turned out to be standing, bird cage-like lifts. Being able to stand in the open air while climbing the great hill was thrilling.

Gayle and Alex starting their ascent

Gayle and Alex starting their ascent

Sagar and I overlooking  the view from the lift about halfway up

Sagar and I overlooking the view from the lift about halfway up

Urbino

Urbino, like Gubbio, is a small hilly town. The scenery was lush and the local cuisine was delicious. The weather was a bit chilly at night as well, so it was nice to bundle up in coats and scarves while wandering the cobblestone streets at night.

The hills are alive with the sound of music....

The hills are alive with the sound of music….

View from park where we played soccer the first night

View from park where we played soccer the first night

View from the roof top garden from the university building

View from the roof top garden from the university building

Pasta Fagioli- hearty and filling

Pasta e Fagioli – hearty and filling

Padova

Padova was a very short stop, but we were able to see a famous café while there. This café, Caffè Pedrocchi, was decked out in marble, frescoes, grand staircases, and fine fabrics. My favorite room was the yellow ball room where we saw a private party being set up. The rest of the city was quiet but busy – filled with markets, eateries, and shops. For lunch we got to buy fresh fruit from the market, and it was without a doubt the best fruit I have had in Italy.  Padova felt like a happy medium between a small town like Urbino and a big city like Rome.

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Mantova

Mantova was similar to Padova in that it was not as remote as Gubbio but not nearly as chaotic as Rome. It shares a similar atmosphere to that of a small college town like New Haven.  The buildings were very old, but they were upkept in a modern manner, and the city sits on a large lake with walking paths and boating docks. The restaurants were fantastic and specialized in pumpkin pasta. One night a group of opera singers from Japan broke out into song so the whole restaurant enjoyed a free performance. There was also a street festival on our last night. Every store and restaurant extended their hours, there was live music and street performances, a car show, and tons of people enjoying the activities. My favorite performance was a singing and dancing marching band – they immediately put smiles on everyone’s faces!

The opera singers!

The opera singers!

Pumpkin ravioli

Pumpkin ravioli

Verona

Saving the most classic town for last, Verona was definitely the most iconic and touristy of the small destinations. Here we enjoyed much during our free time. I climbed to the top of the town’s clock tower and saw a view of the city, wrote a letter to Juliet under the balcony where Romeo called to her, and then visited a beautiful garden with the class.

Natalie climbing the steps of the clock tower

Natalie climbing the steps of the clock tower

walls at the entrance of the house of Juliet

Walls at the entrance of the house of Juliet

Pam in the Castelvecchio

Pam in the Castelvecchio

View of the city

View of the city, clock tower in background

Getting trapped in the garden maze

Getting trapped in the garden maze

Tim sketching in the garden

Tim sketching in the garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

01
Oct

Northern Italy in Eight Days – Introduction

Six cities. 28 students. Three professors. Eight days. You could say we were a little bit busy…and to say that we all weren’t completely exhausted by the end of the trip would be an understatement. As I mentioned in my wine tasting post, our class traveled to Northern Italy from September 14th until the 21st. But before I tell you about my highlights of the journey, let me explain how a field trip works in the world of archies.

Each day starts early (between 7:30 and 8:30). After a quick breakfast, we all trail out into the city and immediately start exploring palaces, ruins,  gardens, museums, churches, churches, and more churches. At each site, our professors give us background information and introduce ways to think critically about the structures and their various elements. Then we are invited to observe the site on our own – this may last anywhere between 15 minutes and 2 hours. This means tons of photography and analytical sketching (we will be graded on these sketches at the end of the semester).  The class activities last the entire day, usually until 7pm, and then we are free to eat, explore, and relax for the rest of the night.

Here are some photos of archies in their natural habitat…

Vinny at the Ducal Palace in Gubbio

Vinny at the Ducal Palace in Gubbio

America at the Municipal Palace of the Middle Ages in Gubbio

America at the Municipal Palace of the Middle Ages in Gubbio

Group sketching in modern housing development in Venice

Group sketching in a modern housing development in Venice

Sagar at the Villa Barbaro designed by Palladio

Sagar at the Villa Barbaro designed by Palladio

Professor Blanchard and the class in the Ducal Palace of Mantova

Professor Blanchard and the class in the Ducal Palace of Mantova

Cassidy at the University in Urbino

Cassidy at the University in Urbino

Alex in the Ducal Palace of Urbino

Alex in the Ducal Palace of Urbino

Stefan at the Castelvecchio in Venice

Stefan at the Castelvecchio in Verona

Tim at the Casa del Mantegna in Montova

Tim at the Casa del Mantegna in Mantova

Group resting at the Ducal Palace in Mantova

Group resting at the Ducal Palace in Mantova

Andres and Danica at the cemetery designed by Carlo Scarpa near Padova

Andres and Danica at the cemetery designed by Carlo Scarpa near Padova

Natalie and Todd Casa del Mantegna in Montova

Natalie and Todd at the Casa del Mantegna in Mantova

Professor Blanchard, Gayle, and Erin at a church in Venice

Professor Blanchard, Gayle, and Erin at a church in Venice

Arnold at the Carlo Scarpa Museum in Venice

Arnold at the Carlo Scarpa Museum in Venice

Arnold and Sagar at the Ducal Palace in Urbino

Arnold and Sagar at the Ducal Palace in Urbino

Group at the Carlo Scarpa museum in Venice

Group at the Carlo Scarpa museum in Venice

As you can see, there is a lot of ground to cover. So instead of trying to cram all my favorite things into one massive post, I will break the trip into two (small towns and Venice). Hopefully this will make it easier on your eyes and my memory!

p.s. Unfortunately I do not have any images of  the actual sketches…people can be shy about their sketchbooks  (including myself)- but hopefully I’ll gather some in the upcoming months!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

01
Oct

Venice — Punta della Dogana – Palazzo Grassi Art Museum

Last week, our class went on a seven-day field trip to explore sites in Northern Italy. Our itinerary included a three-day stay in Venice, where we visited the Punta della Dogana – Palazzo Grassi Art Museum. The Punta della Dogana is the triangular area of Venice that separates the Grand Canal and the Giudecca Canal; views of the surrounding canals are always present in the interior on two of the three sides of the triangular-shaped museum. The museum itself is located within Venice’s Dogana del Mar building (constructed in the late 1670s), and the interior went through a renovation in 2008-2009 following the design of the renowned architect Tadao Ando.

The museum contained some fantastic contemporary artworks by a variety of artists. A list of artists in the current exhibition, curated by Caroline Bourgeois and Michael Govan, can be found on the museum’s website.

I have actually seen a few of the displayed works in books and blogs prior to the visit, but seeing them in person in the Ando-designed interior added a lot to the experience. There was a variety of spaces and lighting present in the museum; every space showcased different works in different ways. The colors of the museum’s interior were modest and comforting, and the quietness of the gallery allowed the dialogue between the art & observer to be the most important conversation taking place.

 

 

The ceiling of the center gallery space was quite high, and there were multiple entry points into this area- each lead to a new artwork with a new perspective.

The ceiling of the center gallery space was quite high, and there were multiple entry points into this area- each led to a new artwork with a new perspective.

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Photograph showcasing “Phase of Nothingness – Water” by Nobuo Sekine. This dark entity in the gallery area was something of a focal point in the space. Upon closer inspection, the water in the work reflected the ceiling of the gallery and added a new dimension and movement to the recognition of the piece. Three Cornell students can be seen sketching in the background.

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The ceiling drops, a shift in scale from the previous gallery area (shown in the previous photographs) and creates an intimate space to showcase “Crystal Skull” by Sherri Levine. This work occupies the entirety of the room.

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The natural lighting has a way of leading you to the next space

 

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All photographs by Erin Soygenis.

Our stay at the museum was quite short, for our class had quite a lot of places to visit that same day! For me, after seeing so many ancient churches and ruins, seeing such contemporary artworks in a rather newly-renovated museum was quite refreshing. The visit to the museum was absolutely worthwhile, and seeing the architecture and artworks come together so elegantly was both exciting and inspirational.

 

24
Sep

Wine Tasting!

Salute!

Salute!

From September 14th until the 21st our class traveled all throughout northern Italy; but before we headed out on our trip (which you will hear more about soon!), we got to attend an amazing wine tasting at a local restaurant.

The restaurant, Da Renato E Luisa, is located right across the street from our studio and is so popular that you must have reservations in order to dine there. Renato and Luisa opened their restaurant early just for us, and we had the whole place to ourselves for our meal (we’re not spoiled at all…).

After Renato gave us a quick lesson on how wine is made, prepared, and served, we got to enjoy a beautiful, four-course meal of small dishes paired with a complementing glass of wine. I tried to keep up with the descriptions as best as I could, but hopefully the photos will give you an idea of how great it was.

Dish I

The first dish was stuffed prosciutto and cheese covered with nuts and honey served with a glass of Prosecco di Toscana.

Prosciutto with cheese, honey, and nuts

Prosciutto with cheese, honey, and nuts

Prosecco di Toscana

Prosecco di Toscana

Dish II

The second dish was zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta cheese, ham with prunes, and a glass of Santa Martina Bianco di Toscana.

Zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta cheese with ham and prunes

Zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta cheese with ham and prunes

Dish III

The third dish was gnocchi stuffed with ricotta cheese and a glass of Santa Martina Rosso di Toscana. Absolutely amazing…I may have shed a tear or two.

Gnocchi pasta stuffed with ricotta cheese (my favorite dish of the night)

Gnocchi pasta stuffed with ricotta cheese (my favorite dish of the night)

Ngaire enjoying her glass of Santa Martina Rosso di Toscana

Ngaire enjoying her glass of Santa Martina Rosso di Toscana

Dish IV

This was the last and sweetest dish! No wine was served with this course, but it was a great way to finish the meal.

Heaven.

Heaven.

All in all, the wine paired with the dishes was delicious and Renato and Luisa were extremely warm and welcoming. We are all so grateful for their hospitality, and we are looking forward to spending our Thanksgiving feast with them!

Danica swirling her wine to let it aerate

Danica swirling her wine to let it aerate

From left to right: Alex, Takuma, Samuel, Sagar, and Stefan

From left to right: Alex, Takuma, Samuel, Sagar, and Stefan

From left to right: Braydn, Tim, Arnold, Renee, Cristina, and Todd

From left to right: Braydn, Tim, Arnold, Renee, Cristina, and Todd

 

 

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.