Thursday, July 4, 2013


Although I have many more things to post that I never got around to, I am back in the States, my dissertation is defended, and I have received my PhD.  I therefore feel it strange to keep posting of my Italian adventures, as they have come to an end.  Here then is my final post.  Thank you all for reading!

I went up to Bologna and Parma for a quick weekend trip in February with my roommate Kristen and her friend Lauren.  I have only been to Bologna once before, and absolutely fell in love with it.  Also I was excited to finally see the museum with the Sala Bologna facsimile.  And Parma!  I've been wanting to go for ages, for the art but also for the prosciutto and cheese.

There was snow!  It was a winter wonderland!

I absolutely love this city

 Giambologna's fountain covered in white

With Kristen on the left and Lauren on the right.  Cold and happy :)

The Palazzo Pepoli.  Remember this blog post?

 Yay!  With the facsimile of the Sala Bologna's south wall.

 Wall text about the Sala Bologna and the 3d scanning and the book

 Eeek!!  A detail of the ceiling.  I felt like I owned the place!

The book on shelves!  In a store! 

 I wanted to sign autographs!

Covered in snow in front of Santo Stefano

Monday, June 24, 2013


A few pictures I took at the Archivio di Stato (the State archives in Rome) to give an idea of some of the documents I had to look through for my research.  Mostly I was looking at handwritten payment records from the sixteenth century.  It's fun leafing through old things!

How documents are arranged and packaged varies immensely.  This fondo is large, but not exceptional.  Sometimes these things are incredibly difficult to handle because of their size.  My computer is there to give an idea of the scale of this monster.

A more civilized bound fondo.  Here I'm looking at payment records.  It's incredibly dull reading, but super important to contextualize artistic commissions.

Close up of more payment records.  The second paragraph starts with "A m: Gio anto da Varese pittore...," beginning a description of the work produced by and the payment given to one of the painters of my ceiling, Giovanni Antonio [Vanosino] da Varese.

Not only is sixteenth-century Italian different from contemporary vernacular, but handwriting can often be difficult to decipher.  Add to that several hundred years of storage and you get a lot of bleeding ink.

Another document, showing tiny handwriting.  The last paragraph on this page is an eighteenth-century description of the decoration in the Sala Bologna.

Another contract for Vanosino, translating roughly to "I, Giovanni Antonio Vanosino da Varese, confirm that I have received the pre-written models for the world maps."  Then "On the order of Monsignor Mercurio Raimondo, as above and by faith, written in his own hand."  Then signed by Vanosino.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


Over the summer the Castel Sant'Angelo was open during the evening on certain days, allowing for visits after dark.  I love when monuments are open late because you get to see things in a different light (haha, literally), and with significantly fewer crowds.

Although I had already been to the Castel a few times  I was super duper incredibly excited because these special visits also included an opening of the Passetto, the overground passage between the Vatican and the Castel that was built as an escape route for the popes and was famously used by Clement VII during the Sack of Rome in 1527.  What I fondly call the "pontifiduct" (for pontiff (pope) + acqueduct) is NEVER open, and so Jasmine, Nick, and myself jumped at the opportunity to do some exploring.

During normal visits there are guards  preventing photographs of Perino del Vaga's frescoes in the Sala Paolina.  Not so at night.

St. Michael in all of his Mannerist glory

View from the Sala

Paul III's bathroom.  I'm not joking.

More beautiful views

At the top of the Castel, with Michael

A view of Rome from Google Earth.  The red line shows the path of the Passetto from the Vatican on the left to the Castel on the right.

The Passetto!

Some lengths of the passage were covered

So amazing.  Although it seems relatively boring, walking along the pontifiduct quickly became one of my best memories in Rome.

End of the line and as far as we could go :(

With Nick and Jasmine (right) and their friends Graham and Francesca (left)

Walking back towards the Castel

Simply amazing

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Another day trip last summer was with Nick and Jasmine to Tarquinia to see some ancient Etruscan tombs.  There is still quite a bit that we don't know about the Etruscans, for example, where they came from, but we do know that they were one of the earliest civilizations on the Italian peninsula before the founding of Rome.  I find their art and culture fascinating (and love their style of jewelry!).  From an art historical point of view they are especially well-known for their sarcophagi, of which there are several beautiful surviving examples.

Small towns like Tarquinia are dead on Sundays

The scorched Lazio countryside in mid-summer

A tomb mound.  The air vent and roof to the left are modern additions.

Walking down to explore


More frescoes!

To give you an idea of what was placed inside of these tombs, this is one of the more famous extant Etruscan sarcophagi, now in the Villa Giulia in Rome 

Of course Nick and Jasmine had to recreate it

My interpretation, on top of one of the tomb mounds

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Aqueducts

Perhaps my favorite thing about Roman history is the acquaducts.  It seems like a simple and even boring thing--the transportation of water--but it is largely because of this inflow of fresh water that the Republic and Empire were able to thrive.  When Alaric I and the Visigoths sacked the ancient city in the 400s they destroyed many of the standing acquaducts and subsequently crippled much of the city, leading to the Fall of Rome.  This destruction (and many other events) led to a vastly reduced Medieval population that had to cling to the shores of the Tiber River for a source of fresh water.  It was not until the late Renaissance (so the late 1500s, more than a thousand years later) when Popes Gregory XIII (my guy!) and his successor Sixtus V restored some of the damage and opened new waterways that the populace of Rome was once again able to spread out and occupy areas that had been abandoned in the Middle Ages.

Anyway, as water plays such an important role in the history of Rome I was very excited to see these ruins in person.  The Parco degli Acquedotti is just a short metro ride outside the center, and since it is not super popular with tourists it is often empty, save for the occasional Roman jogger.

First glimpse of a still-standing arch

To give you a sense of scale, I'm standing between the middle arch

With Nick, doing a dance of some kind while I take photos

I love this.  It shows the interior passageways through which the water traveled.

A partially underground acquaduct

There were also several tombs in the area.  We tried a self-timer photo, but there was no way I was able to make it up the mound in time to join Nick and Jasmine.