The Vatican museums originated as a group of sculptures collected by Pope Julius II in 1503-1513. The museum was named after Pope Clementine and Pope Pius VI. We saw a cast of Michelangelo’s Pieta’ in the museum. The first marble sculpture, Laocoon and his Sons, was discovered in 1506 in a vineyard near the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. Pope Julius II put the statue on display in the Vatican one month after his discovery. Other famous works in the museum are Da Vinci’s portrait of St. Jerome in the Wilderness, the world’s largest pictorial geographical study, The Gallery of Maps, and the famous Sistine Chapel. The Sistine Chapel was absolutely stunning! It is so beautiful you almost can’t put it into words. It took us forever to get all the way up the top, but it was so worth it! The Sistine Chapel is the Pope’s personal chapel and the place where the new Pope is elected. The Sistine Chapel is famous for Michelangelo’s amazing work. His creation consists of the story of creation. He only spent 4 years on this piece of work, which is unbelievable.. The ceiling shows the history of the world before Christ. Along the sides are the Old Testament and Pagan Greek prophetesses who foretold the coming of Christ. My favorite scene in the chapel was the Judgment Day scene. The dead on the lower left are in preparation for judgment and those on the right hand side of Christ are being carried up to Heaven. Those on the other side are being sent to Hell. I noticed how 3-dimensional the figures on the ceiling were. This actually challenged other painters to top Michelangelo’s work. Unfortunately we weren’t able to go into St. Peter’s Basilica, so that is on my to do list when I come back to Italy!
In Beppe Severgnini’s “La Bella Figura” he dedicates a whole chapter to the Tuscany region of Italy, and quite frankly, I don’t blame him. After visiting Rome, I mentioned I was eager to return to Sansepolcro. Why? Because this small Tuscan town is the place to be. A run to the small river, just a little over a mile away gives you a view of the town wedged in between the beautiful rolling hills of the Sansepolcro region. “How can you fail to like this Italy! It was made to be drooled over. With its lavender, bowers, good olive oil, cool wine, bright eyes, and tingling senses, this is Italian countryside to look at, but not to touch” (Severgnini 86). He explains the Tuscan region perfectly. He also mentions the architecture, and the way the buildings look somewhat damaged. I love this because it shows the character, and immemorial existence of the buildings. To me, Sansepolcro is Meredith College in Italy. It’s home. Before my arrival to Italy, I was thinking to myself, “Why aren’t we in a bigger town?” As it turns out, the small Tuscan town named Sansepolcro is simply wonderful! I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in all of Europe.
In Perugia we got to explore on our own. I had read in Rick Steves that the town was known for its university for foreign students and language studies and for its chocolate. We couldn’t find the school but we definitely found the chocolate! The city is located on a hill and is in Umbria. This city has many scenic views of the valley below along with gorgeous stone architecture. This town reminded me of a larger version of Anghiari because of its steep hills and breathtaking views. Our next stop with the group was Assisi. Assisi is also a city on a hilltop and is surrounded by a medieval wall. This is historically a destination for many pilgrims due to it being the birthplace of the great leader, Saint Francis and his remains are here as well. Saint Francis was born in 1181 CE and became a saint because he gave up his riches to live a life as a beggar, serving the poor. His devotion attracted many followers named the Franciscans. There are still Franciscans in the Franciscan order today. His remains are in the Basilica of Saint Francis which is also filled with magnificent frescos, gothic architecture, and stained glass. The artwork depicts the life of the saint and his mystical experiences. (Info from pamphlet given to us and Erin’s presentation)
Also within the Assisi walls in Basilica di Santa Chiara. It was built during the 13th century and Saint Claire was a friend of St. Francis and a Franciscan. She even became a leader for women. The upper level of the church once had murals but there is very little trace of them left. In the lower floor of the Basilica, Saint Claire’s remains are housed. Below are beautiful marble carving in the stairs and walls. (Info from Catholic online and bellaumbria.com)
Today, we are going to the Colosseum! We got up early and took the metro to the Colosseum. It was huge! After taking many pictures, we walked to the top. It was incredible!
Opened in 80 A.D. by Titus, son of Emperor Vespasian, the Colosseum is now just a skeleton of the fabulous marble fighting arena it used to be. Its opening ceremony lasted one hundred days! It housed many fights, shows, and hunts where thousands of animals were slayed. For the opening, they also filled the arena with water to have sea battles! This was called Naumachias.
The name, Colosseum, first appeared in a prophecy saying, “Rome will exist as long as the Colosseum does, when the Colosseum falls, so will Rome and when Rome falls, so will the world.” That is such a powerful statement to me!
Entry to the Colosseum was free to all Romans, but seating was based on social status. The very front row seated senators, vestals, priests, and the emperor! The people were protected from the sun thanks to a roof covering called, “Velarium.” It took one hundred sailors to lift it and they moved perfectly to the beating of drums.
I did not want to leave the Colosseum so soon, but we had to get to Capri and I was perfectly fine with that! After a two hour train ride and an hour Ferry ride, we finally made it! Capri was like nothing I had ever seen before. I thought to myself, “Will I ever see anything this beautiful again?”
After checking into our inn, we immediately climbed down the mountain to the beach! It was small, but the rock formations in the water were so breathtaking. We sat out on the rocks and ate a snack. After about an hour, we took a cab back to the top of the mountain and had a nice dinner. I ordered a pizza and a had to stop myself before I asked for parmesan. It is rude to ask for extra in Capri. We were so tired after dinner that we went back to the inn to bed.
When we left the market we headed straight towards the Duomo which was absolutely breath taking! It was the city’s largest church, and the main Catholic church of Florence. The church was built in 1296 in a Gothic Style. The cathedral is called the “Basilica di Santa Maria del Flore,” that translates into English as the “Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower.” Inside the church were many paintings. Huge paintings. Gorgeous paintings. Brunelleschia designed this beautiful Dome. After we left the beautiful church we headed straight to the Accademia gallery. This is where the beautiful works of Michelangelo are shown. David, the statue of David, stands exactly 17 feet tall in the center of the museum. It is a marble statue that is absolutely astonishing. The statue represents the Biblical hero of David, who defeated Goliath in 1 Samuel. I found out that David was a favored subject in the art of Florence, which was very interesting to me. Originally it was supposed to be one of the many statues of prophets placed along the East end of the Florence Cathedral. It was initially unveiled in September of 1504 for the public. Because of the hero that David represented, it eventually became the symbol for civil liberties in the Florentine Republic. In 1873 the statue was moved into the Galleria dell’ Accademia which allowed me to visit and see such a beautiful piece of art and history! I am forever grateful for my college and the opportunity it has given me to visit such beautiful and scared places!
Anna picked us up to go to her family’s house for dinner on Friday. She told us that being under thirty, it was common for her to live with her parents. As we walked to her house just outside the walls of Sansepolcro, we talked about what she does, how long she has lived in Sansepolcro, and what she studied in college in Arezzo and in Perugia. In Italy she said that she spent five years in college, that is if you stay on a normal track. She spent her last two years in college writing two theses and that by the time they finish college “We are all old when we graduate.” I laughed at that, because she believes being twenty-seven is old.
When we got to her house her mother and father greeted us kindly before feeding us nuts along with a before dinner drink. The drink reminded me of a cherry soda, but with a really bitter after taste. We had a five course meal with fruit and gelato ice box cake for dessert, which reminded me of what my grandmother makes at big family dinners. The father loves to cook food, as he is retired and loves to practice. After dinner, we talked about sports and learned that he loves football along with most other sports. When the Spain and Holland game came on I could tell he didn’t like Spain that much and was wanting Holland to win badly.
After our after dinner talk, Anna said that her brother wanted to show us the Palio della Balestra near the cathedral in Sansepolcro, where he worked. The place her brother took us houses the Sansepolcro Crossbow Association and their equipment for the annual Palio della Balestra contest between Sansepolcro and Gubbio of Umbria. The contest has been a tradition since the 15th century. They have all of the Sansepolcro victory banners hanging up, ones since the 60s, and the ancient crossbows that were used by men in the contest centuries ago. They found the crossbows buried around Sansepolcro and currently preserve them in the building. The chance to see this piece of history of Sansepolcro was truly a unique experience and I am truly grateful for the whole experience, dinner, and the crossbow tour. This family dinner was by far the best family dinner I have been to since being in Sansepolcro.