A walk with Jeffrey Blanchard: 3000 Years of Roman History in 9 Hours
Sunblock, good sneakers, your sketchbook, and your undivided attention is all you will need to keep pace with Jeffrey Blanchard.
Professor Blanchard is everything I had imagined a professor would be at an institution such as Cornell University. From 9:00 o’clock to 5 o’clock, Professor Blanchard had an incredible way of explaining all the intricacies of Rome from antiquity to modernity with such eloquence.
In brief, we started our tour from Palazzo Santacroce (Cornell in Rome facility) to Piazza Mattei, the site of the famous Fontana delle Tartarughe, then onwards to Piazza del Campidoglio, a square which Michelangelo famously redesigned. Moving forward, we cut through a path to a balcony with a panoramic view of the Roman Forum and Imperial Fora. After a brief lecture in the sun we found relief in a baroque church, Santa Maria in Aracoeli. This beautiful church has columns that are recycled from ancient Rome creating an eclectic arrangement of Egyptian granite and marble that lines the main hall. After this visit we made our descent to the Colosseum in which we boarded our bus to take us outside the walls of the city.
On the way out of the city we were able to see the grandeur of the ancient Roman baths. Although these baths have fallen into ruin their scale forces you to imagine the greatest of the Roman Empire. Once out of the city we visited the Ardeatine Monument, a beautifully eerie memorial which honors the lives lost in the Ardeatine Caves massacre. Afterwards, we walked along Via Appia Antica, a uniquely preserved rural road just outside the walls of the city, to the Tomb of Cecilia Metella in which we set up our picnic lunch in the shade of pine trees.
After returning back to the city, we visited Saint John Lateran Archbasilica the cathedral church of Rome. Saint John Lateran, for lack of better words is a breathtaking space. The architecture filters the light into the space in such a way to make you feel closer to what you could imagine are the heavens. A place that if you find yourself in Rome you should visit.
Our last stop on the tour was Piazza del Popolo a grand square that was the northern entrance for the city of Rome. This spacious lively square is where the three main roads of Rome, Via del Babuino, Via del Corso, and Via di Ripetta converge. On the periphery of the square, the Twin Churches lie nestled between the three vanishing points of these main roads. From the square we walked up Pincio Terrace, in which we could
see a grand view of the city and finally we made our way to Piazza di Spagna to view the elegant Spanish Steps.
At the end of this day you would imagine that we went home feeling that we had already learned so much about Rome but that was not the case. Personally I felt overwhelmed by how quickly the day went. I realized that in Rome with each new unfold of the city fabric, you discover even more intricacies about it, in which you could spend a lifetime exploring.
New Friends in Mercato Testaccio
Hello, Cornell! And friends, family alike. It has been an exciting two weeks here in Rome. My Duolingo lessons have not taken me past level two yet, but I think I am faring okay so far. It’s especially helpful to have friends who have taken language classes both in Ithaca and within the historic walls of Palazzo Santacroce.
For example, an instance where dear friend Fabiana Berenguer Gil’s two semesters of Italian were of great use to the two of us happened the day after I arrived. Annalisa took a group of students to Testaccio early in the morning to submit our permits to stay.
We let our bodies go to the lurching movements of twisting boulevards on the bus to Testaccio, a more residential area located along the southern outskirts of the city center. Fifteen minutes later, we file out into the warm red and yellow streets. The quiet is comforting, much easier than the constant rumble of fast taxis, angry scooters,and bumbling street sweepers I am accustomed to hearing outside my apartment in Largo Argentina. Five minutes of walking brings us to the Ufficio Postale di Roma Ostiense, where we wait for about an hour for our information to be processed. Waiting makes us hungry, so we follow the advice of Annalisa and peruse an open air market down the street. This is where we meet an older man with a tanned face and thick glasses named Giovanni, who knowingly sees us walking around the stalls without objective and approaches us with ‘Seguime’, which Fabi later tells me is ‘follow me.’ Although as a stranger he is a little suspicious, we follow as he begins to explain the history of Mercato Testaccio. The area in which the current market is located was part of an artificial hill made of ancient amphorae used for storing olive oil during by the Roman empire. During the late 1800s, a man named Heinrich Dressel began archaelogical excavation of the hill, uncovering many of these remains.
Had it not been for Fabiana’s Italian language skills, this conversation would have gone over both of our heads. However, she was able to follow along pretty well to the fast pace of his words, and she conversed for him for about twenty minutes. I managed to understand the gist of the conversation with amphora, monte, and l’oglio. So all was not too lost on me. I mostly nodded and rejoiced silently when I recognized a word or comprehended his frequent gestures to some images on an laminated information sheet. He gave us a flyer and left us feeling both accomplished and pleasantly surprised to see how nice the local community can be.
Each day is filled with new curiosities that I hope to share. Of course, some will be school related, but no need to speak about it yet… Summer is still strong in la bella Roma!
More news to come.
A Day in Sperlonga: Tan Childern, Proud Parents, and an Azure Blue Sea
A day in Sperlonga is one filled with tan children running along the beach, their parents leisurely watching, and hills that fall into the sea. The journey to this hidden jewel from Roma is one that can be done in a day.
The trip to Sperlonga from Roma is just a hour train ride from Roma Termini to Fondi Station. From this quaint stop you jump on a twenty minute bus ride and then find yourself in Sperlonga. The majority of the town is built into the cliffside therefore as the bus drives in town you see glimmers of the beach down below. From the bus stop your journey is downwards, zig-zagging down and around all the winding paths of the historic town.
Once you take your first step onto the sand you realize that the beach is an oasis for all the locals in the surrounding area. After just a short walk you see that the competition is high to lay down your towel in the public portions of the beach, but for good reasons.
Take a dip in the azure blue water, look down at your toes, backstroke into Tyrrhenian Sea, and gaze up at the hillside, you will find yourself smiling.
First Impressions of Roma: The days of being a Tourist.
Hello everyone! First, I would like to introduce myself, my name is Kylie Corwin I am a third year Fine Arts and Development Sociology major at Cornell University. This semester I have the opportunity to study Rome, Italy with the Cornell in Rome program. I will not only be spending my days exploring and learning about the rich art and history of this beautiful city but I also have the privilege to blog about my experiences of which I hope you will enjoy. With that said I hope that all who read this will be able to live vicariously through my writing and therefore feel the beauty that Roma has to offer.
So let’s get started.
In these final weeks of August the city of Roma slowly wakes from it’s annual summer nap. The month of August in Italy is known to be a quiet one, because August 15th is Ferragosto; a National Holiday in which the people of Italy celebrate the assumption of Mary as well as go on their summer vacations (some people go on holiday for the entire month of August). For Romans this means abandoning the city and spending most of their time at the beach in beautiful coastal towns such as Ostia and Sperlonga. As a result, when I first arrived in Roma, I was surprised to find that the only source of livelihood in the city was eager tourists hustling from monument to monument.
I decided to join them.
My first evening in Rome, I spent sketching various scenes in Campo de Fiori, a beautiful square that is a market by day and transforms into a lively bar scene at night. Afterwards I took a leisurely stroll back to my apartment in which I proceeded to crawl into my bed.
The next morning I left the house with my map in one hand, my camera strap over my shoulder, and an imagination filled with images of Rome that I have only read in books or seen on television. I was out the door with a skip, hop and a jump.
My first impression of Rome was just awe. I fully embraced being a tourist by gazing at the density of beautiful art and architecture. During my first week, I filled my sim card with monumental buildings and after reviewing my photos I was surprisingly displeased. The awe I felt when I took the photographs was gone. Therefore, I gave it some thought and I no longer photographed the buildings but photographed the people around them. That is where the magic was because the beauty of Rome is not Rome. The beauty of Rome is the relationship it has with its people.