April 2008 Archives

Boys' Town of Italy

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Boys' Town of Italy is a charitable organization that supports homeless children from Italy and beyond.  According to an article in the New York Times, it was first established in 1945 outside of Rome by Monsignor John Patrick Carroll-Abbing, an Irish priest who came to Italy in the 1930s and worked for the Vatican.  During World War II, the monsignor worked with the Resistance and aided Jewish refugees.  After WWII, he officially opened a center for homeless children, those orphaned, abandoned, abused, and neglected.  Click here to see the brochure for the organization. 

Villa Borghese

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Photo from:  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:IMG_0353_-_Villa_Borghese.jpg

This lovely park is the largest public park in Rome.  The park had been a vineyard and then it was transformed into a park by Cardinal Scipione Caffarelli Borghese, nephew of Pope Paul V.  This cardinal then commissioned a villa, which included the main house (now the Galleria Borghese), an aviary, and lovely gardens.  During the 19th century, the villa was opened to the public for viewing.  In 1901, the state purchased the property.  Now the villa is a city park. 

The Galleria and Museo Borghese is an art gallery that contains works of Raphael, Caravaggio, Titian, and others and museum with sculpture by Bernini.  Apparently some of the sculptures that had been kept here were sold to Napolean in the early 19th Century.  The Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna and the Museo Nazionale Etrusco are also located on the grounds.

Go to this really helpful site for an excellent, detailed map of Rome.  In the center top quadrant, you will find the Villa Borghese. 


Piazza del Campidoglio

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Photo by Kurt Naks

This lovely piazza was designed by Michelangelo in 1538 for Pope Paul III.  Here's a great aerial view of the piazza.  The Italian government and the Roman civic government are centered in this area on the Capitoline Hill in Rome.  The other hills of Rome are:  Aventinus (Aventine), Caelius (Caelian), Esquiliae (Esquiline), Palatium (Palatine), Quirinalis (Quirinal), and Viminalis (Viminal). 

The buildings around the piazza had been the seat of government in medieval times.  The buildings are the Palazzo Senatorio, and the two buildings of the Capitoline Museum:  the Palazzo Nuovo, and the Palazzo dei Conservatori.  The latter two are now museums that contain collections of ancient sculpture and Renaissance art as well.  Go to the Musei Capitolini website and you can get a preview of what you can see there.  There are a couple of virtual tours and lots of great images of the art that you will see. 

Outside of the buildings, you will see some interesting sculptures.  One is a reproduction of a sculpture that was assumed to be of Emperor Constantine, the first Christian Emperor, but is now considered to be of Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor during the second century C.E. (Common Era).  The original of this statue is now in the Palazzo dei Conservatori.  Apparently the reason why this statue was not destroyed, along with all other statues of emperors, was because of the confusion about who was represented by the statue.      

Visiting Pompeii

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Thumbnail image for pompeii.jpg

Photo by Mary Harrsch

Can you tell I am getting a bit anxious about this trip?  I realize that time is really flying now.  I noticed that Lindsey has been keeping count of how many days until you leave for Rome and it's only 18 days!  I am writing my blog entries faster since I want to have the information on the field trips done before you go.  I have another month after you all leave before I am there, but still April has flown by.

On to the next field trip location.  Pompeii.  I don't know which member of my family is most excited about going there.  We have the "Magic Tree House" book that takes place in Pompeii, so we are all quite familiar with the story of what happened in Pompeii.  I also recently read Robert Harris' book "Pompeii", a novel which describes the events that take place within the last few days before the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius from the perspective of an engineer who works on the aqueducts that went from the Tyrrhenian sea (the part of the Mediterranean Sea from the western coast of Italy to Corsica).

Apparently, after Pompeii and surrounding towns were destroyed by Vesuvius (check out this cool video from the Discovery Channel), the area fell into obscurity and it was only within the last two hundred years or so that it was re-discovered and uncovered.  Archaeologists are still working there and are even uncovering evidence of human habitation from 400 BCE. 

What will you see in Pompeii when you are there?  You will see amazingly preserved buildings, art, casts of humans killed during the Vesuvian blast, and the like.  How will you feel?  When I read about what happened in Pompeii, I try to imagine what it was like to experience the cataclysm without any understanding of what was causing it and without any prior warning.  Some of the images that I have seen of the evidence of human remains indicates a sense of horror that many may have felt as they realized the end was near.  I also think that this catastrophe has ended up providing an unparalleled window into ancient Italian life and customs.  I think I will feel sadness and fascination.  I look forward to seeing how you experience this trip as well.      

The Ghetto

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The term "ghetto", contrary to popular belief, refers to the an area of a city where a particular cultural, ethnic, or racial group is concentrated.  The term "ghetto" has also been used to specify areas where Jewish people were restricted in European cities.  Your field trip to "The Ghetto" in Rome will be to a section of the city where Jews had been required to live in a small geographical area and to wear identifying clothes when they left the area.  According to the New York Times, this area in Rome is now a trendy spot, but for centuries it was not a pleasant place to be.  Jewish people apparently began to arrive in Rome in large numbers in the 1st Century A.D., they lived n Rome from about 161 BCE (before Common Era).  

The Ghetto in Rome has been inhabited for over 2000 years and so has played a role in many times in history.  Go to this site for an excellent brief description of Jewish history in Rome.  As you can see, Jewish people enjoyed periods of relatively peace and prosperity, punctuated by long periods of persecution and discrimination.  As throughout Europe, Jewish people were often used as scapegoats and were considered objects of scorn.  Interestingly, although many Italian Jewish people were killed during World War II, there was more public support for Jews and resistance to their being deported and killed compared to many other locations in Europe.

Photo//www.flickr.com/photos/leyink/page2/ (Creative Commons permission) ghetto1.jpg   

Florence--Birthplace of the Renaissance

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I have been listening to a series of 'great lectures' from the Teaching Company this year, in preparation for my time in Rome.  I began with Ancient Rome (36 lectures!) and then moved on to the Middle Ages (72 lectures!!).  I recently started a series on the Italian Renaissance.  Three of the last few lectures were specifically on Florence, although Florence plays a large role in many of the professor's descriptions of imporant aspects of the Renaissance.  Did you know "Renaissance" means 'rebirth'?  The Renaissance began with Petrarch, a Florentine who lived in Avignon while his father worked for the papal court.  Did you know there were two or three popes at one time during the Middle Ages during a time known as the Papal Schism?


  14_09_2---Florence-Skyline--Tuscany--Italy_web.jpgPhoto: http://www.freefoto.com/preview/14-09-2?ffid=14-09-2&k=Florence+Skyline%2C+Tuscany%2C+Italy
(Creative Commons Permission)

Anyway, where does this all lead me.  To the realization that you are all going to be in this lovely city with so much history and beauty!  What will you do when you are there? 

Here are some ideas of where to go and what to see:



























(Creative Commons permission)

The Duomo

The dome (duomo) of the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.  This dome is not only stunning, but it is a marvel of engineering.  While one architect, Arnolfo di Cambio, designed the rest of the cathedral, he did not have a solution for how to build the massive dome.  The cathedral was begun in 1296, but the dome was not completed until 1436!

The Piazza della Signoria

This piazza (or plaza) was created by the destruction of some of the tower-houses of the powerful families of Florence during the Italian Renaissance. 

Palazzo Pitti   

This palace may have been designed by Brunelleschi (who also created the Duomo described above).  It was purchased by Cosimo Medici, one of the most powerful rules of Florence during the Renaissance, for his wife. 

Ponte Vecchio

This lovely bridge is considered to be one of the oldest bridges over the Arno River in Florence, although it has been reconstructed after being flooded in the past.

Galleria degli Uffizi (Uffizi Gallery)

This well-known museum was once the offices for Cosimo Medici and now houses an amazing collection of art by Boticelli, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and so on. 

I do not think I'll be getting to Florence on this trip, but I am excited for you!  I hope you will share your photos and experiences with me.  I hope you all plan to keep journals of all of your travels and use your photos to remind yourselves of what you saw and did.  I know I will be.



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This lovely city is actually a series of islands in the Northern Adriatic, just west of Slovenia and south of Austria.  It is about 554 kilometers (338 miles) from Rome.  Check out the Lonely Planet website and view some of the beautiful images from Venice.  This city is steeped in history and beauty.  The Venetians are fighting against the waters from the lagoon and the Adriatic that lap against the lovely buildings, although apparently the stories of how Venice is sinking are somewhat exaggerated. 


Photo:  http://flickr.com/photos/karlakp/19667830/ (Creative Commons Permission)

The average temperature in Venice in May is 17 degrees Celcius (around 63 degree Fahrenheit), so it should be quite comfortable for the students' tour around the city. 

What to do in Venice?

One of the primary goals for this fieldtrip is to see the Doge's Palace, also known as the Palazzo Ducale.  The doge was the elected leader of Venice during the medieval period.  The palace was constructed between about 1309 and 1420, although according to one website, it wasn't until 1340 that the building began to appear similar to its current shape. Visiting this palace should give students a sense of how the economic and political systems of this city influenced everyday life in Venice.  

With the days available for the visit, you can shop, sightsee, ride on a gondola, eat, eat, and eat some more! 

Here are more ideas on what to see:

Palazzo Mocenigo 

Follow the footsteps of Casanova (if you haven't already seen the movie with Heath Ledger, perhaps this would be a good time to do so!)

Here is a good link to 10 'must-sees' in Venice

Rick Steves has a number of essays on his travels to on Venice.  It might be worth taking a look to see what he says.

My only regret is that I will not be going with the group to Venice.  I do plan to do it afterwards, so hopefully you will give me loads of ideas on what not to miss!




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This photo used with permission from Margaret Benson, Co-director, HDFS in Rome 2008--view of residential street in Ostia.

I am starting a new set of blogs, discussing the field trips that you will be going on during the 2008 program.  Some of the field trips will be short day trips and others will be several days and nights.  I am sorry I won't be going on the Venice and Florence trip with the group, but I do plan to go there later on when we have a few extra days. 

The first field trip is scheduled for shortly after your arrival in Rome.  Ostia is about 30 kilometers or 18 miles from Rome.  According to the New York Times, Ostia contains the ruins of a small city along the mouth of the Tiber River (the river that also runs through Rome).  Here is a link to a very helpful tourist guide that provides maps, tour suggestions, and the like for the ruins at Ostia. 



Photo taken by Jack Curran, December 2005 (Public domain)

If you look at the excellent website at http://www.ostia-antica.org, you might wonder why a bunch of HDFS students would be interested in this location, given that they are not archaeology students.  Ostia will allow students to gain a good understanding of the way in which people lived between 1400 BC and 1400 AD.  It will also show them how the remains of historical eras co-mingle, which may also become very apparent while one explores Rome.  Unlike in the U.S., where "old' buildings are mainly only a few hundred years old at best, in some cases, this part of Italy has evidence of millennia.

To get a sense of how Ostia was laid out, click on this clever clickable map of the city as it may have appeared in the second century AD.  Rick Steves, a travel guru who can be seen on PBS or through his website has a fun "scavenger hunt" for those visiting Ostia.  Click here and then scroll to the bottom of the page for a list of items to search for.


Please let me know if there are particular issues of interest or important that I should add to these short descriptions of where the field trips will be.   


About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from April 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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