Pavia and Vigevano

This past Tuesday, our day trip consisted of visiting the small cities of Pavia and Vigevano, outside of Milan.

First we went to Certosa di Pavia, which was a monastery of Carthusian monks. Now the monks that live there belong to the Benedictine order.  The main church, Santa Maria della Grazie, was definitely in my top 5 favorite churches I’ve ever visited- and I’ve been to a lot of churches!  The ceiling frescos inside are all original, dating back to the 14th/15th century, and are a vibrant beautiful blue color that come from the lazurite mineral that was used.   It was absolutely stunning! We were given a guided tour through the church and monastery grounds by one of the monks, which was very cool.

Certosa di Pavia

Next we drove to Pavia and stopped for lunch before going to tour a few places in the city.  Our first stop was Castello Visonteo.  This was a pretty cool medieval castle that now houses an archaeology museum as well as some others.

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Next we went to the Palazzo Dell’Universita’.  Pavia is a university city so there was lots of young people around (quite a change from Genoa).

 our last stop in Pavia was Chiesa di San Michele.  This was the only church in the city that was not made of brick.  It was made of a limestone or sandstone and looked very different  from the rest of the city.

Then we drove to Vigevano and went to Piazza Ducale. This was a really quaint and beautiful piazza inside the medieval city walls.

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We tried to go to the Castello, but it was closed. So that was the end of our day visiting some very cool small Italian cities.

Project 4 – Group Site Analysis Analytique

Today was our final review of project 4, a group site analysis project.  I think my group was very happy with our final composition, and we got positive feedback from our professors and our peers.  My group consisted of one of my roommates, Emily, and my friend Bryan.

My two analytiques were of the site’s history, and the effect shade and shadow had on the use and feel of the site.

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Emily’s analytiques were showing the axial relationships of our site as well as the different zones.

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Bryan’s analytiques analyzed the materiality and circulation of our site.

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Milan day trip #2 – oh the things you will see during fashion week!

This week has gone by really fast.  As soon as we got back from Berlin Monday morning we had to jump right back into studio and finish our final analytiques for project 4.  This was a group project, and I worked with Emily and Bryan.  I think we worked very well as a group, and the end project was fantastic!

Thursday we took our second day trip to Milan with Guidi.  Luckily we had no rain or snow this time.  We started off by going to the Novecento museum, which is the futurist artists museum.  This ties into what we are doing in studio right now so it was very interesting.

Next we went to the Castello Sforzesco.  This was a really cool 14th century castle in the middle of the city.

Then we went to the Trianale Museum.  While we were at the Museum, there was a fashion event going on.  There were a ton of models and important people walking around and paparazzi everywhere. Some of the things these people were wearing was absolutely ridiculous. I wish I would have taken pictures!

On the way back to the train station we walked through a newer area of town called Porta Nuova, near the UniCredit building.  This area was filled with really cool modern architecture.

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Friday night it the infamous Villa Party.  We’re all so excited that we can hardly focus.  We’ve already cleaned out all the furniture from studio and for the past two days Christina and Lucia, along with their husbands and families, have been cooking some amazing food for the party.  This whole villa smells amazing!  I’m super excited for a weekend off from traveling.  It will be really nice to just relax in the villa with everyone.

A weekend in Berlin-that time we accidentally went to a soccer match

After only five days back at the villa after our group trip, I travelled to Berlin with a few of classmates.  Our journey was somewhat uneventful, minus a terrifying landing in Tegel airport and an interesting time at buying bus tickets (we probably should have learned some basic German before coming).  Despite all the scares and confusion, we arrived at our hostel late Friday night.  We had planned to go on a bike tour Saturday morning, but public transportation had other plans for us.  So after lunch we regrouped we were off to see the city.

We started off by visiting the Berlin Cathedral and climbing to the top of the dome.  We ate huge heart-shaped soft pretzels for Valentine’s Day while we were on the way to Checkpoint Charlie.  While we were walking we passed the bike tour we tried to join in the morning, and they looked miserable because it was starting to rain. So it seemed like we made the better choice.  The we walked to the Topography of Terror and saw on of the remaining portions of the Berlin Wall.  Then we made a stop for currywurst, which is a Berlin creation consisting of pork sausage covered in a spicy ketchup-it was so good!  Just like the fries and waffles in Brussels, we ate them more often in two days than we’d care to admit.  After our snack we went to the Peter Eisenman Memorial to the murdered Jews. This was definitely my favorite part of Berlin. We ended the day with a visit to the Brandenburg Gate just as the sun was setting.

Berlin Cathedral

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Eisenman- Memorial to Murdered Jews

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Brandenburg Gate

After dinner, by demand of Brianne, we went on a bar crawl.  It was actually really fun!  In our favorite bar of the night, ‘Silberfisch’ (open till 8am!), Brianne made friends with the dj and requested Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen be played.  Needless to say she probably hated us, but we sure had a great time! Apparently Berlin has a local version of Red Bull called Club Mate.  One of the drink specials at a bar on our crawl was a Vodka Mate so we all tried it.  It wasn’t bad, but definitely not what I was expecting – it tasted like raisins!

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On day two we were up and out of the hostel pretty early considering the events of the night before.  We first went to Museum Island, where we walked around but didn’t go inside any of the museums.  We then went to see the German parliament building- The Reichstag, the Bauhaus Archives and the Olympic Stadium.

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On the way to the Olympic stadium we realized there were a lot of people getting on the metro wearing jerseys and scarves.  We had no idea that soccer games were held inside the Olympic stadium so you can imagine our surprise when we got off the metro and there was a sea of people headed towards the stadium for the game.  We decided that if tickets were under 20 Euro we would go to the game – they were 19.50 so we all grabbed some team scarves and headed into the stadium for the game.  It was quite the experience for all of us – none of us had ever been to a professional soccer game before.  The home team was Hertha BSC and they were playing Wolfsburg.  ‘Our team’ ended up losing 1-2, but we had a great time anyway.

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Monday morning were up at 3 am to start our 9 hour trek back to Genoa.  Our flight left at 6 am for Milan. Somehow there is no train to Genoa during the 10 am hour, so we had to wait until 11 since we would have missed the 9 am train.  Looking like the living dead, we arrived at the villa right at lunch time.  It was a very fun yet exhausting weekend.  Luckily we have some time to recover before the Villa Party this Friday and our independent travel the following Friday.

Roma – pope watch 2014 and the gnocchi harassment incident

So I can’t contain my excitement long enough to wait till the correct chronological point in this post to say this, so here it goes

I got to see Pope Francis today!

We listened to him address all of the people in St. Peter’s Square. This has probably been the greatest day of my life this far. It is definitely the most memorable. I started off the day by waking up on the wrong side of the bed, but how can you not be in a better mood after hearing the Pope talk about how as Christians, we must be a light for the test of the world. it was a very inspiring and uplifting moment, seeing as how Pope Francis’ ideological views and open-mindedness has restored my faith in the Catholic religion.

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In other less exciting news, 95% of the trip to Rome did not involve me crying in excitement over seeing Papa Francesco – I guess I should tell you about that too.

I feel these posts getting shorter and shorter as the trip goes on.  I am just so exhausted from all this traveling, so excuse me for being more brief than usual.  Everyone said you will be more than ready to come home at the end of the nine days – and they weren’t kidding!

On our first day in Rome, we visited the Colosseum, the Roman forum and the Pantheon.  I had been to the Colosseum and Pantheon before but never the Forum, so it was really exciting to explore the ruins.  It’s also very interesting to travel to places I have been before, but this time as a student of architecture.  Studying architecture for three years now really brings a new perspective to looking at things like this.  Sketching also helps understand buildings in a way you can’t get from taking photos.  I think this trip has really made me realize the value of sketching.  Even though I know my sketches look terrible, I can tell I understand something better after I have sketched it.

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On day two we saw a selection of Baroque churches in Rome.

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Day three we were supposed to go to St. Peter’s and then the Vatican museum then after lunch visit the EUR district. When we got to the Vatican we were told that we could not enter St. Peter’s because we were not Sri Lankan. Apparently they had reserved the entire Basilica for a mass for 15,000 people. Instead we went straight to the museum and the Sistine Chapel. It was great to walk through parts of the museum with Giudi, especially the Sistine Chapel. I could just stare at paintings and frescos for hours and try to analyze all the symbolism and meanings within them.

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While walking through the streets of Rome with Josh, Emily, Bryan and Allie on our way to see the Trevi Fountain lit up at night, Josh and Bryan were casually talking about gnocchi when they passed one of those people who stand outside restaurants and try to get tourists to come inside.  When he heard then say gnocchi he yelled to us, “oh, you like-a da gnocchi?! We have-a da best gnocchi in all a Roma!” (please excuse my poor phonetic spelling in an Italian accent)  We all died laughing and this has basically become a running joke between all of us.

Day four we went to St. Peter’s first thing in the morning. Then we went to the Renzo Piano auditorium project and had a private tour. We ended our 9 day adventure at Zaha Hadid’s Maxxi Museum (Giudi’s favorite building and architect ever…not).

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After an eventful last day we went back to the hotel to collect our luggage and then hurried to the station to catch our train to Genoa.  I have had so much fun these past nine days, but man am I glad to be headed home.

Napoli e Pompeii…and blah blah blah

I think the buzzword for our trip to Naples would have to be “sketchy”.

A when we arrived at the train station, we met our driver Massimo, who led us to a fleet of blacked out Mercedes vans and hurriedly ushered us in (sketchy…). We pealed out like we were in a scene from a movie.  If I ever felt like I was going to get “taken” it was at this moment. Our hotel in Naples was absolutely amazing! The city of Naples? not my favorite, but they do know how to make some damn good pizza!

On our way to dinner in Naples, we walked by the duomo and decided to pop inside for a short visit.  We ended up mistakenly taking a guided tour of the entire church when a man approached Nick’s wife Megan and asked her if she wanted a guide.  She thought he meant maybe a map or a pamphlet, but he really meant a guided tour given by himself! Although it was a little sketchy (he did, however, have a very official looking “Basilica di Napoli” jacket), this turned out to be a happy accident.  It was a really cool building and it was exciting to hear all about this history.  After giving him a small donation our lovely guide slipped out the side door of the church (sketchy again…) and we carried on to our dinner destination.  We went to a pizzeria called Presidente, which was amazing.  I ordered the buffalina pizza and enjoyed every bite.

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In the morning we were supposed to go to Pompeii, but there was a strike so we had to postpone our visit until the afternoon.  After some shuffling of the schedule by our guide for the day, Fiorella, we ended up going to the Archeological Museum of Naples which houses many artifacts from the excavations of Pompeii and other cities that were destroyed in the eruption of Vesuvius.  This museum was huge, and had so much interesting stuff, from mosaics to frescos to sculptures.  As entertaining as the objects in the museum were, I think Fiorella was more entertaining.  She was so full of energy and I thought it was hilarious how she seemed to end all her sentences in “and blah blah blah.” After the museum we went to another pizzeria. (I’m starting to think the title of my Florence blog applies here too…)  This time i had a margarita pizza, which was equally delicious as the one the night before.

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After lunch we took a private bus out to Pompeii.  We got rained on for a little while, but for the most part the weather held up and made for some very cool photos.  Pompeii is another place I could literally spend days at and not get bored.  There is so much to see, and we only saw a small portion of the city.  It’s so interesting to me how advanced the people of Pompeii were for their time.  Everything functioned so similar to any modern city.

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I really enjoyed this portion of the trip, but I’m really looking forward to our time in Rome. Mostly because the weather is supposed to be much nicer.  I think we’ve all just about had it with all this rain. Bring on the sunshine!

Firenze – increasing my waistline one fabulous meal at a time

This first long trip was the one I was expecting to be somewhat boring and redundant for me, seeing as how I have already visited the four cities on our itinerary. Well I sure am eating my words now because this trip was fantastic.  So, over the next three posts I’ll tell you about all the fun I had so you can be jealous and wish you were in my shoes.

Although I have been to Florence two or three separate times in the past I still managed to see and do many new things on this trip, which was really exciting for me.  After arriving by train in Florence we walked a short way to our hotel, which was right off of the piazza of the duomo. The first thing we did on our first day was climb to the top of the dome of the duomo. The rain and clouds cleared up just long enough for us to have a beautiful view of the city and the Tuscan countryside. Afterwards Luca took us to a typical Florentine osteria, Hostaoria del Bricco, where we had our first delicious meal of the trip. Luca absolutely spoiled us for the three days he was with us (hence my blog title). We just had so much amazing food!  This meal consisted of a sampling of dips that were typical in the area.  They were all delicious, except the one that was made from chicken liver (but I did try it!).  The next course was two pasta dishes, a farfalle pasta with mushrooms and cream sauce, and a penne with meat ragu. For dessert we had Vin Santo- a typical florentine dessert of holy wine (which is more of a liquor than a wine) and biscotti.  After lunch we visited San Miniato church on the hill overlooking the city. This church had really beautiful roof truss system that I could have stared at for hours.  We ended our day at the Academia where we saw Michelangelo’s David. Everything we did on this day – climb to the top of the dome, see the David, visit San Miniato – were things I had never done in Florence, so it’s safe to say I was a happy camper with how this trip was starting out.

  

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On day two, we went to visit a handful of churches. We started by seeing the Medici Chapel by Michelangelo at the San Lorenzo complex. We walked across Ponte Vecchio on our way to the Boboli Gardens, which were absolutely beautiful. For lunch we went to Tamero in the piazza of Santo Spirito church, where they hand make all of their pasta.  We had a delicious eggplant primi, followed by a gorgonzola gnocchi and a spinach and ricotta ravioli secondi.  After lunch we visited most of the palaces within the city and ended our day at the Ufitizi. After the museum, Luca took us to the home of the best hot chocolate in all of Florence. Hot chocolate in Europe is nothing like it is in the states – it’s 10,000x better. It’s basically melted chocolate served hot with ‘pana’ or whipped cream. For dinner we grabbed a quick bite at Star Kebab in the general area of the train station, which ended up being a delicious decision.  It was hands down the best kebab I’ve ever had.

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Day three started with a visit to the San Lorenzo complex where we specifically saw the Laurentian library which contains the famous stairs designed by Michelangelo. This building is the topic of a paper and presentation I am doing for Nicola’s class so I was very excited to see it in person. We went to Santa Maria Novella, a church by Alberti, where we saw the Masaccio fresco which was the first perspective painting in western history. We visited one of the oldest perfumeries in the world. We then had another awesome meal number with Luca at a small restaurant by San Lorenzo where I had pappardelle with ragu. This was sadly the end of Luca spoiling us with amazing food.

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Before we went to the train station Tuesday afternoon to head to Naples, Nick and Megan invited us all to come eat at this restaurant, All’antico Vinaio, that they had dinner at the night before.  Apparently they had amazing sandwiches and they were not exaggerating!  They bake their own bread and they bring it in still steaming from the oven.  I got prosciutto and mozzarella on my sandwich, with an artichoke and eggplant spread.  It was absolutely delicious and it was almost as big as my head!  I couldn’t finish the whole thing.IMG_6179

I also did a good bit of shopping while I was in Florence.  My birthday present to myself was a leather jacket. Lucky for me it is the time of Saldi, the annual winter sales, so I ended up getting my jacket for close to 70% off! I also treated myself to a new pair of black boots. We found a shop called Lolita, which is a shoe store based in Milan. I could have literally bought out this entire store, all the shoes were gorgeous – and so comfortable.

So I think I can say that this was a very successful trip to Florence – with a whole lot of firsts and considerably heavier luggage.
Now on to Naples!