Posted in College, Italy

Daily Life in Orvieto

Now that I’ve been in Orvieto for about three and a half weeks, I have a fairly solid routine.  Since I actually covered the whole weekend in my Sunday post, I thought I’d use this one to give a little information on my day-to-day schedule.

View from apartment


I’m a pretty structured person.  I like my days to have some order, with certain routines that don’t really change.  Having my classes later in the day is a nice perk of the summer since it means I have some time in the mornings to really get ready for the day.  My breakfast here always includes a cup of tea, and to eat, I like making some bruschetta since we always have fresh bread.   It’s simple and  light to start the day –  a bit of olive oil, spread around it then a minute or so in the toaster and depending on what we have, I’ll add tomatoes, proscuitto (ham) and/or pecorino (sheep cheese).  Other days, I just heat up some leftovers – though that’s a different experience without a microwave.

The morning is always pretty nice for getting myself ready for the day.  While I have breakfast, I usually do  whatever readings I need to for class that day or I may work on a paper or study for a quiz.  But I have a few hours to do all that, and I rarely need to do all of it in one morning, so it’s very relaxed.  I leave for class at 10:30  to get there early.   If I need to do something  on my computer, I’ll sit in one of the high-backed chairs  at the big oval table that looks like a pool table surrounded by boardroom chairs.  Or, if I just want to chill for a few minutes before class, I’ll sit in one of the line of chairs outside Classroom 1 as I read on my kindle and maybe chat with whoever else is there.  The class before mine always lets out a  little late so that by the time eleven o’clock rolls around, the professor and my four fellow students are all congregated by the door.

Centro Studi – where we have classes

Art History 202 is the second of the base art history classes at the UofA.  201 and 202 cover the entire history of art from Pre-history to Postmodernism.  In five weeks, even one of  them is a lot of content.  202 starts with the Renaissance though, and when you can talk about the Sistine Chapel and then see the actual thing two weeks later, it’s totally worth the high-speed learning of the class.

Ceiling in my classroom

Each class is two hours, so when I finish my first one at one pm, I’m ready for lunch.   Whether or not I go back to the apartment really depends on my current mood and whether or not I remembered to bring money.  I prefer though to stop by a little Paninoteca (Sandwich shop) and drop 3-5 euros on a filling sandwich that I can then take to the little green space by the Duomo that overlooks Umbria.  It’s not quite the same view as from the main wall of the city, but this one is both a shorter distance and a less-crowded space.  Here, I can eat my food while looking out at the rolling hills and stray cats, and for about two hours, I can read or work on any papers (or blog posts).  It’s a pretty nice place to relax for a couple hours of the day, especially since the Italian siesta  occurs right in the middle of my second class.

Park by the Duomo featuring stray cats

My second class is focused on Classicism and how that has been reinterpreted through the Renaissance, the Grand Tour, American architecture, and Fascist art and architecture.  It’s really fascinating, and I love the discussions in the class.  This class goes from 3:30-5:30, but since dinner isn’t until about 8 here, there’s still plenty of time after class to stop by the store, work on homework, or hang out with my roommates.  We alternate cooking dinner and tend not to eat out except on weekends since that gets expensive.  After dinner, sometimes we stay at the table to talk, but other times, we all drift off to work on individual stuff as we settle into the evening.

Duomo, early evening

That’s pretty much it; traveling days are a lot more stressful, but here in Orvieto, it’s nice and simple.  Until next time ~

Posted in Italy, Travel

Villas and Vias

Reading about Rome and Italy in a book is one thing, but it’s quite another to turn a corner and see the Colosseum. My second week in Italy has been absolutely amazing. Wednesday was a day trip to Tivoli, a small hill town home to two of Italy’s most amazing villas. The older one is Hadrian’s Villa, a massive complex half the size of Pompeii. In its own day it would have effectively been a city. The villa is a work of art in itself; even as a ruin it’s possible to see the splendor that this emperor lived in back before the marble and bronze were stripped from the bricks. Pools and green spaces still dot the complex, inter spaced with bath complexes and the remains of buildings.  Hadrian’s Villa is also incredibly important to the history of art. The Greeks preferred to work in bronze, almost all of which was melted down in the Middle Ages, but the Romans, inspired by the art, made marble copies to decorate their own landmarks. Many of these survived and those close to Rome provided examples for the Renaissance artists who would not have been able to travel to Greece. 

Hadrian’s Villa was also the prime inspiration for Villa d’Este, in the same city though constructed in the 17th century.  Ippolito d’Este had tried unsuccessfully to become a pope but ultimately decided to content himself with being Governor of Tivoli instead, using his family’s funds to construct what is essentially a palace.  His architect was inspired by Hadrian’s Villa and so built a similar sprawl of gardens in a more modern style, decorating them with statues taken from the older villa. Nowadays the statues in both are modern copies with the originals in museums, but a trip to Tivoli really isn’t complete without seeing at least one of these villas. Villa d’Este is especially spectacular in its 16th century recreation of Hadrian’s ruins, and it provides breathtaking views of Umbria and it’s own fountains that are true to the times in that the rig landowner destroyed buildings that were previously on this land in order to build the villa. The Renaissance produced beautiful things, but it’s patrons weren’t always the nicest people (cue funding churches and donating to the pope to atone for their sins).


As I write this, I’m on the train back from my weekend trip to the Eternal City: Rome. We took a bus with the school on Friday morning, but unless you’re Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday, you really need more than one day to see this magnificent city. In fact, even in three days there were things we didn’t see like the Farnese Palace or Bernini’s St. Teresa in Ecstasy. But every bit of Rome is marked with some piece of history or art. As for Bernini, well, Pope Urban VIII said he was made for Rome and Rome for him. Even if you don’t know who Bernini is, you’re guaranteed to see his work at some point. From the Fountain of the Four Rivers to the baldacchino in St. Peter’s, this Baroque master is everywhere.

On Friday, however, we saw the ancient stuff, before moving forward in time on our own. Upon driving into Rome, it looks at first like any other city with assorted apartment complexes. The city seems distinguished only by the occasional embassy. But suddenly you see the Flavian Amphitheater (A.K.A The Colosseum) and it hits you that this is Rome! This is the city that dominated the world for hundreds of years and remains an influential metropolis for the country’s politics. This is the Eternal City, mentioned in books and glimpses in movies but unbelievable until it is seen.

Starting with the Capitoline museums we took Rome’s history all the way to the beginning with the famous statue of Lupa Capitolina and the infant twins Romulus and Remus. The facade and piazza of the museums were designed by Michelangelo, with the intent that the buildings would function as a city hall. You climb a high flight of stairs to crest one of Rome’s fabled seven hills and are welcomed into a marble piazza all centered around Marcus Aurelius. This of course is a copy as the original resides within the museum, but it is still impressive. This marvel statue is one of the few remaining from antiquity; because early Christians believed it to be a statue of Constantine, they let it stand though today it’s been properly identified. Walking through the museums you pass innumerable treasures – pottery and marble busts, even the remains of a colossal statue of Constantine. As you pass through these ancient wonders though, nothing quite beats the view of the Forum. Here you stand on an brick walkway with massive arches to look over what was once downtown Rome.

After lunch, this was where we went. It seems pointless to try and describe what it’s like to walk down the Via Sacra and gaze at massive arches and Julius Caesar’s deific memorial. There are three main arches in the forum and though each is magnificent, I love the engravings on the Arch of Titus which depicts the conquests of Rome. The sculpting here is a masterwork that shows just how well the ancients could ply marble. The figures are cut in close at the ends but come fully into the viewers space in the middle, and the image itself is of historical importance as it depicts the conquest of Jerusalem, represented by a menorah. The Arch of Constantine, while also lovely to see, provides a further step in the history of art. Here the figure have more similar features and are not nearly so three-dimensional. This was Roman denaturalization, the period in which the so-called Classical period began transitioning into the art we think of as medieval.

Above all of this though, there is the ancient palace on the Palatine Hill. Though one facade had been reconstructed to give visitors an idea of the majesty, it is for the most part in ruins, overlooking a weed-filled Circus Maxima. I loved walking through the ancient halls of this palace, knowing it was once covered in marble and precious metal, while today the underlying bricks crumble and anyone can walk through for a few euros. It’s like a comment on the passage of time, how even this magnificent empire fell, and yet it is still remembered. The ruins still stand and are still revered by those who visit the Eternal City. Perhaps the emperors would be disappointed, but for the rest of us, it seems more like a testament of the sorts of things humans are capable of – for better or for worse. In a more modern way, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican are the same – the triumph of an era, open to the public for 17 euros. But once you get a peak inside the Vatican, it’s worth every penny and, in my opinion, this masterwork of human skill is something everyone should see at least once. But more on that Wednesday.

Until next time ~

Posted in College

Back to the Grind

Well, I’m back in Tucson and ready for semester #2 of college.  I had a lot of fun over Christmas break and really enjoyed getting to see everyone back home again.  (It was also really great to see Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s Cinderella before I came home.) Christmas was great, and it was awesome to spend so much time with my family.  By far my favorite part of the break was going to eat at the Secret Sandwich Society in the snow.  Also the snow was pretty nice.  I love the 80 degrees here, but a break was all right.

It was a little stressful flying back, but I had dinner with one of my friends and got to settle back into my dorm.  Of course, I’ve already been back to The Fix for some gourmet mac n cheese to start the semester off right.  I haven’t gotten to do a lot here in Tucson  yet but my classes seem like they’ll be a  lot of fun and very  interesting.  I’m especially excited for my Honors Colloquium on How Stories Work.  So here are a few shots from around Tucson in the wonderful weather.

Until next time ~


Posted in College

Going Home!

It’s hard to believe that a week from now I’ll be back in West Virginia!  The last couple weeks have actually been pretty relaxing, even with finals approaching.  Thanksgiving break was definitely relaxing, although it was a little strange to have dinner with only six people, since the meal was just for people staying in the dorms over the break.

Celebrating Thanksgiving

Although in Tucson, the weather is still firmly in the 70s and 80s, it’s clearly getting close to Christmas, so my roommate and I went to see some of the decorations that are up on University Blvd.  Despite the decorations, I still wore a sundress to church yesterday.  I can’t convince myself it’s cold when I still work up a sweat walking across campus.

Since I have been studying for finals and finishing projects, I haven’t done a lot of exciting things over the past two weeks.  Also, since I’ll be going home, this will be my last blog of the year.  So here are a few pictures and a wish for everyone to have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Until Next Time ~

Posted in College

Veteran’s Day and the VLBA

By far one of the most remarkable events of the past two weeks was experiencing some actual November weather.  Although I’ve had a lot of Christmas drinks from Starbucks over the past few weeks while working on end-of-semester projects, it’s stayed about 80 degrees here in Tucson.  On Kitt Peak, however, things are different.  I spent Veteran’s Day weekend enjoying my day off, doing homework, and setting up the Christmas tree, but this weekend was really exciting!

Saturday at 2 pm, we left the university to go up to Kitt Peak Observatory.  Wearing leggings, jeans, and a long-sleeve shirt, I was pretty hot while waiting for the group to assemble, but once we reached Kitt Peak, I added my sweatshirt.  The trip is one the astronomy club does every year to walk on the dish of the VLBA telescope and look at the stars after dark.  The VLBA (Very Large Baseline Array) is a series of ten radio telescopes across the US that uses interferometry to process large amounts of data.  If you include all ten telescopes, it is technically the largest telescope in the world.  The climb up to the dish was a bit harrowing, but it was completely worth it to stand there!

After the dish, we drove up to the astronomers’ lodge for dinner where I ate a Chick-fil-a sandwich that I am proud to say I kept insulated for five hours after I bought it.  After sunset, we drove back down the mountain a bit to the twelve-meter telescope and parked outside to look at the stars.  The drive down to the telescope was remarkable in its own right because the sun had just set, and with the view from the mountains, we could see the remaining colors over the western horizon while the Summer Triangle was already shining overhead (and slightly to the east).  In the distance, we could see to Tucson which looked so much smaller from this distance.

We stayed to watch the stars for a few more hours, while one of the astronomy professors pointed out constellations.  We had a few optical telescopes belonging to the club with which we looked at a fuzzy Andromeda Galaxy, a few nebulae, and some binary stars including Alberio which has two different colored stars – one blue and one yellow.  The Milky Way was clearly visible above us, and there were even some shooting stars thanks to the Leonid Meteor Shower.  Orion was rising as we drove back into Tucson, signaling winter to me, although I had to shed a few layers once we were back in the city.  It was an incredible experience, and I’m really glad I got to see it!

Until next time ~

Posted in College

November in Tucson

It’s strange to think that I’ll be coming home for Christmas in a little over a month.  This semester has gone by so quickly, and these past few weeks were no exception.  After a busy week of midterms and presentations, we went to 4th Ave last week to do a bit of Christmas shopping.  It seemed a little warm at 80 degrees, but it was a lot of fun.  Not to mention, there was the costume contest in Astronomy Club and the Night in Azkaban where one of the dorms had been turned into Hogwarts from Harry Potter.  They had some really cool decorations, and although we weren’t there for long, it was a lot of fun.

This week started with little pouches of candy sitting outside every door in the hall.  I’ve had all the candy I could want this week from professors, events, and really just being on campus.  On the 31st, I went to Spanish class as Captain Picard then met up with some friends for a Halloween treat of ice cream.  Then yesterday, I went to Biosphere 2 as a part of my Honors Catalyst class.  Since we were only there for a few hours, we could not see everything, but my group went through the rainforest and beach biomes both of which were awesome!  The whole idea behind the Biosphere is cool, and in visiting Tucson, I think it is a must-see.

This week I’ll mostly be keeping up with classes and finishing what projects I can before Thanksgiving.  It will be strange not to be home for that, but I’m excited to see everyone at Christmas, which will be here very soon!

Until next time ~

Posted in College


Well, it’s midterm season.  It’s hard to believe I’ve been in college for almost two months now (or that I’ll be coming home for Christmas in another two).   Fortunately for me, only one of my classes has an actual midterm exam, and that’s done.  On the other hand, I have three presentations due in the next week and a half, but those are mostly ready.

Since I last posted here, my dorm hosted a movie night where we watched Hocus Pocus to get in the Halloween mood.  This has also led to Halloween-esque drawings on the blackboard I put on our door.  I also attended an event for (one of) my department(s) where there happened to be really cute dogs to pet.  And last Saturday, I went to lunch at the West African restaurant Alafia.  My French teacher invited both his classes, and we ended up taking over most of the restaurant.  The food was absolutely incredible, and it was really fun to speak French outside the classroom.

In this past week, my roommate and I went to a Pumpkin Spice Party where we learned about sustainability in the environment and also go to eat pumpkin flavored things while drinking iced pumpkin spice lattés.  The evening was topped off when we both won reusable Starbucks cups.  Friday was once again a busy day since, after Arabic tutoring at 8 am, I went to a coffee and bagels get-together with my dorm’s faculty fellow.  I also had a long but fun meeting with my peer mentor in the afternoon before getting dinner and going over to Centennial Hall at 8 pm to see the Carole King Musical.  I wasn’t sure what to expect from this one, but it was actually really cool!  I was pleasantly surprised to know a lot of the songs in the musical.  The rest of this weekend has been laid back with a lot of homework to work on, but overall it’s been a lot of fun.  I can’t wait to schedule for next semester, which I’ll do in a little over a week!

Until next time ~