So far Orvieto has been an amazing home base for our program! The people here are absolutely wonderful!
We have done tons of things since we have reached Orvieto. We have climbed to the top of the clock tower in the middle of the city, walked to the Etruscan Necropolis, and have toured some of the underground caves.
This charming little medieval city is perched on top of a large hill of tufa stone that is riddled with a network of caves, with some dating all the way back to when the Etruscan people lived in the area around 600 BCE. There are some fairly fantastic views! Orvieto is truly picturesque.
The Etruscan Necropolis
The Siena Duomo
Today we went on a day trip to Siena. We started the day by touring the Siena Duomo. The cathedral in Siena is built in the Italian Gothic style.
After going to the Duomo we went to the Piazza del Campo, which is the main square in Siena in front of the town hall. Siena is known for its large gentle sloping piazza that is the place where people gather and just soak in the quaint atmosphere of this beautiful Tuscan town.
We toured the town hall and then, when the group was released for free time, I climbed the attached tower. The tower is called the Torre del Mangia and is the tallest structure in Siena and offers breathtaking views of the city.
Torre del Mangia
At the top of the tower
With everyone having arrived yesterday, we started the first day of the SMU-in-Italy Program by taking a trip into Rome. The first stop was S. Clemente church near the Colosseum. This church has three different levels that correspond to the different time periods when different structures existed. The fist phase of the church was during the Imperial Period of the Roman Empire followed by later building phases in the 4th and 12th centuries.
After visiting S. Clement we went to the area where there are older sites. We went to the Colosseum, the Arch of Constantine, the Palatine Hill, and the Roman Forum.
Following the Roman Forum we went up to Michelangelo’s Campidoglio and then headed over to the Pantheon. The Pantheon is an old Roman temple that was converted into a church in later centuries. The Pantheon is a very important Roman building not only because it is the most complete, but also because SMU’s Dallas Hall drew inspiration from this building.
From the Pantheon we walked over to the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. They released the group for some free time, and I went over to the Piazza del Popolo and then the group met back up at the Piazza Navona.
I started off the day by walking to the Museo Capitolini on the Capitoline Hill. This museum is one of the foremost museums of Ancient Roman sculptures. It holds the famous Capitoline Wolf that is one of the symbols of Rome. The Capitoline Wolf is a bronze statue of a lupa, or she-wolf, shown with the twins Romulus and Remus.
The first century CE equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius is also housed in the Museo Capitolini. A replica has taken its place outside in the Campidoglio. There is a remarkable collection of portraits of Romans, and one can really see the differences and evolution of techniques in the periods and styles of Roman portraiture. One of my favorites is the statue of Emperor Commodus as Hercules, a wonderful example that shows the mastery achieved by Roman artisans in the Antonine Period. I really enjoyed seeing this museum because there were many portraits of Marcus Aurelius that I had used in my research project for an Art History seminar course I took this past spring.
Statue of Emperor Commodus as Hercules
On the third floor of the museum there is a wonderful collection of Renaissance paintings. Caravaggio’s painting “Fortune Teller” is among the collection. I found this painting particularly interesting because I saw it last fall when it was in Fort Worth as a part of the Kimbell Art Museum’s Caravaggio exhibit.
From the Capitoline Museum, I took a taxi to the Museo della Centrale Montemartini. This museum was a thermoelectric power plant for the city of Rome that was converted to an exhibition space and museum to permanently house some Roman sculptures from the Capitoline Museum to help to keep the works open to the public. There is a wonderful juxtaposition between the modern machinery and the ancient Roman sculptures.
Later in the evening I went on a tour of the Vatican Museum. We went through a cool outdoor area called the Corte della Pigna, translated as Court of the Pinecone. In the center of this courtyard there is Pomodoro’s sculpture “Sphere Within a Sphere”. I was disappointed to find the hall with the ancient Roman statues and busts was closed off, but I still enjoyed going through the galleries.
Pomodor's "Sphere Within a Sphere"
In a niche of a small outdoor courtyard there is the wonderful sculpture of “Laocoon and His Sons,” definitely a favorite of mine for the sense of movement and the emotion of the work. It’s a depiction of a scene from Vergil’s Aeneid, which I had translated and learned about in my Latin course this past spring. Laocoon tried to warn the Trojans not to accept the gift of the wooden horse from the Greeks, and the Gods sent serpents to kill him. The sculpture shows the scene from book II when the serpents seize Laocoon and blind him with their massive coins.
Laocoon and His Sons
Today was an amazing day! I really loved going through some amazing museums and getting to see some amazing works of art!
Today I went to the Galleria di Palazzo Barberini. This museum and art gallery has collections that are from the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica in addition to the paintings from the collection of the Barberini Family.
The Galleria di Palazzo Barberini
It houses many famous works by Renaissance artists such as Caravaggios’s “Judith Beheading Holafernes”, Hans Holbein’s “Henry VII” and Raphael’s “La Fornarina”.
Works of Art
The structure itself is a work of art. The Palazzo Barberini is a 16th century palace that has two massive staircases designed by rivals Bernini and Borromini. Many of the rooms have wonderful inlaid marble floors and elaborate fresco ceilings.
After leaving the Palazzo Barberini, I walked up the street to Borromini’s San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane and continued down the Via del Quirinale past Bernini’s Sant’Andrea al Quirinale to the Piazza del Quirinale where there is the massive Fontana di Castore e Polluce with a huge obelisk.
The statues of Castor and Pollux and the obelisk were recycled from other parts of Rome. The obelisk once adorned the Mausoleum of Augustus, and the statues had been in the Baths of Constantine.
Fontana di Castore e Polluce
The Quirinal Hill is the tallest of the seven hills of Rome and is a fitting location for the Palazza Quirinale, where the Italian President lives. I spent the rest of the day walking through Rome marveling at the many churches, fountains, piazzas, and pretty much anything I came across.
Ciao da Roma!
I have started this trip a bit earlier than my classmates to get a better handle on the jet-lag and also do a bit of traveling around Rome before the program starts. I am so excited to be here in this amazing city and to be able to relax and enjoy these few days in Rome before meeting up with the group next Tuesday.
I was able to visit some of my favorite places in Rome today. I started the day by walking through the Forum and Markets of Trajan. In the Forum of Trajan there is a huge marble monument that towers nearly 30m high. There is a continuous carved relief of the victory of Emperor Trajan in the Dacian Wars that scrolls around and up the column.
I went to Michelangelo’s Campidoglio on the Capitoline Hill and saw the equestrian statue of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. That was pretty amazing because MA is definitely one of my favorite Roman Emperors.
Then I walked down the path on the south side of the Campidoglio behind the Comune di Roma where there is a spectacular view of the Roman Forum with the Colosseum in the distance!
After that I went and walked a couple laps around the Circus Maximus where Roman chariot races were once held.
Then, having circumambulated the Palatine Hill, I went up the Via di San Gregorio past the Arch of Constantine and to the Colosseum.
Once the sun set I went and enjoyed some great Italian gelato! What better way to end a day in Rome?