Julia SMU-in-Paris

Julia is a junior from Plano majoring in history, with a French minor, and is a member of the University Honors Program. She is studying abroad with SMU-in-Paris in fall 2007.

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The Sacking of Rome

Happy Halloween! Right now I’m on the plane going to Athens, Greece. Actually we’re waiting on the runway to take off because supposedly they just shut down the Rome Fuimacino Airport for unspecified reasons. I always love hearing the phrase “unspecified reasons” at airports. It makes me feel safe.

julia-1rome.pngApartamento
As I’m sitting here thinking over the list of things that I did in Rome, the question shouldn’t be “What did I do in Rome” but “What DIDN’T I do in Rome?” I feel like I’ve had a crash course in Roman history all weekend, and I’ve loved every minute of it! Instead of staying at a hotel in Rome, we decided to rent an apartment for 4 days, which was a lot of fun and very practical for the 5 of us. Best of all, right outside of our window there was the Roman “Pyramid.” Though not an actual pyramid, it was an architectural feature of the old Roman city walls from the Middle Ages. Unfortunately, because our apartment is on a major street, it was extremely loud, with motorcycles blaring by every second of the night.

julia-2rome.pngMama Mia!
My parents were visiting Rome at the exact same time that I was, so I took my friends to go meet them at the Trevi Fountain. It was so nice to see them! I’m an only child, so I’ve really missed my parents despite the fact I talk to them almost every day. Keeping in the tradition and folklore of the Trevi Fountain, everyone threw a coin over their left shoulder into the fountain in the hopes that one day we will return to Rome. Stephanie did it last summer and returned, so I think that’s a pretty good indication that the folklore is fact.

julia3-rome.pngRussell Crowe’s Stomping Ground
After one of the first leisurely mornings in a very long time, we went to the Colosseum on our second day in Rome. I, unfortunately, was about ready to die the entire time as I was really sick with a horrible cold. Determined to do as much as possible, I was a trooper and stuck through it all. I really can’t believe that the Colosseum is over 2000 years old. A lot smaller than I’ve always imagined it to be, it was none the less magnificent. According to our tour guides, Stephanie and Federico, the Colosseum was able to hold almost 10,000 spectators. I can only imagine how crowded and hot it must have been! As far back as I can remember, whenever we have learned about the Romans we are given a picture of the Colosseum, so to actually see it in person was very cool.

To the Vatican, and make it FAST!
My parents had a guided tour of the Vatican set up for us on my third day in Rome. Since we had decided to visit the Galleria Doria Pamphilj, a gorgeous private villa that houses thousands of pieces of art work and displays a typical aristocratic Roman home, we were running very late for our visit. Luckily, we found a nice taxi driver who sped us to the Vatican just in time for the beginning of our tour. Even though I’m technically a (non-practicing) Episcopalian, I know a lot about the Catholic religion both because I went to Catholic elementary schools and because when you study the Renaissance you can’t help but learn about Catholicism!

julia4-rome.pngI was absolutely in awe of the Vatican – the smallest country in the world, making up a mere 27 kilometers. It’s amazing how much art the Vatican has amassed through the years. There are masterpieces from Bernini, Castiglione, Michelangelo, and thousands of others. There is even a room dedicated solely to the representation of animals in sculpture and portraiture! When I was standing in front of Michelangelo’s School of Athens I almost couldn’t believe it. Junior year of high school I wrote a paper in European History about this painting, and all of the sudden I was looking at it in real life! Surprisingly, there weren’t that many people on the tour that day so I actually was able to closely look at the masterpiece for a few minutes.

Is this the REAL Sistine Chapel?
I was a little bit disappointed by the Sistine Chapel. First of all, there were so many people in the chapel, people were elbowing one another just to get into the door. Second, because the ceiling has recently undergone restoration work, the colors are very bright, making the figures look almost like cartoons. Every representation I’ve ever seen of the Spark of Life has always been dark, with lots of grey tones, but in reality it was very bright with blues and yellows popping out. I was rather disappointed with it, but I was glad I was able to see Michelangelo’s work finally.

julia5-rome.pngSt. Peter’s
My favorite part of the Vatican was, of course, St. Peter’s Basilica. I was absolutely floored by the size, grandeur, and decadence of the basilica. There is such a mix of flamboyant gothic, Renaissance, and Italian baroque style all mixed into one. Not to mention the huge quantities of marble that covers almost every inch of the church. I really liked that at each of the holy water fountains, there were two gilded, fat, and cute baroque angles holding a massive seashell full of blessed water. It would be fabulous to attend a service in St. Peter’s because of its sheer size and beauty, however, since I’m not famous, a Catholic, or live in Rome, I doubt that will ever happen – still itss fun to think about.

julia6-rome.pngThe only piece of signed sculpture by Michelangelo, The Pieta, is housed in St. Peter’s Basilica behind an 8-inch piece of fiberglass. I took a picture from far away, but not satisfied by a mere shutterbug moment, I used my American heritage to my ability and shoved my way up to the front so I could see the piece with my own eyes. After looking at the sculpture for a complete 3 seconds I was pushed out of the way by a very aggressive Japanese tour group, but I was successful in my mission! I have now seen two of the most famous works of art: the Mona Lisa and the Pieta.

Well, I’m delving even farther back into history with my trip to Athens! I’ll let you know how that goes soon!

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