Since the start of classes, it is becoming increasingly apparent how my time in Rome is fleeting. It's been 10 days since my last post, and there is a lot to report.

The biggest chunk of my time recently has been tied up in school and the work that comes along with it. If you've been following carefully, you'll remember that the program began in January with a 3-week intensive Italian course followed by a week off. Now that the honeymoon is over, the pace has changed dramatically.

I'm now taking four courses, which each meet for two hours twice a week. On Mondays and Wednesdays I have Culture and Identity in Modern Italy, which is a fantastic class. The professor is a 20-years expatriate Texan that carries a lot of quirks. He has a prominent speech impediment and constantly repeats the question "Do you understand what I'm saying?" It would be horribly annoying if the course material weren't so fascinating. Thus far we've learned about the Tyrol of Northern Italy, a group of Italians living in the Alps that look like and carry the cultural practices of the Germans. Most recently, we attended a lecture entirely about social structure in Siena and how it is reflected in the endlessly intriguing palio horse races that occur there twice a year.

With just one class on Monday and Wednesday, I have left with a lot of free time on those days. Unfortunately, this comes as a result of my intense Tuesday/Thursday schedule. My day starts off at 11:30AM with two hours of Italian class, which is essentially the same as it was before the break. Afterward a half hour break, I begin what I call the Paolo pomeriggio [afternoon]. I have two art history classes in a row with the same professor, Paolo Alei. I had heard prior to selecting my classes that this guy was the best, and thankfully, the gossip held true. Paolo is a man with a deep passion for art history and red-colored articles of clothing.

The two courses are identical in structure, but the pomeriggio starts with my Renaissance class. Some of the lectures are just like they would be at UCSB: slides projected against the wall and discussed. The vast majority, however, take place "on-site." The whole class meets up at a predetermined location to see the art in person, which makes all the difference in the world.

Paolo part two follows chronologically. After Renaissance art history, I study the artistic epoch known as the Baroque. This course takes place almost entirely on site; 17 out of 20 lectures require a mad-dash around the city to get to my next class. The Paolo pomeriggio often feels like more of a scavenger hunt than an education, but between the two classes, I've learned more about Rome, Christianity, art, and the naked human form than I could have ever imagined.

As a sample of the madness that is my scholarly life right now, let's look at yesterday. I woke up at 8 to continue studying for my first test in Renaissance. Between bites of Cheerios and Greek yogurt, I crammed as much information into my head as I could before leaving for school at 11. I cruised through Italian despite a particularly difficult lecture, and skipped my break to run to my site visit for Renaissance. I ran past the Pantheon to get to Santa Maria sopra Minerva, an unassuming Dominican church housing works by Michelangelo, Rafaello, and Bernini. Our attention was focused on Fillipino Lippi's Carafa Chapel frescoes, however, and after an hour and a half of standing and taking notes, I had tired legs and a sore notebook-holding left arm. I was almost excited to sit and take our test on the marble steps of the church, surrounded by annoyingly persistent gypsies and children far too young to appreciate the art contained in the centuries-old building. The excitement wore off as I realized a new fact about Mr. Paolo Alei: his tests are HARD. I didn't have much time to lament the test, because I had to get to the Villa Borghese Museum on the other side of Rome in a half an hour (a near impossible task without paying upwards of 15 euro for a taxi). I made it in 32 minutes after packing into a tiny bus that literally could not hold one more person (see picture at left). I think I still have the imprint of my neighbor's elbow on my ribs. At the Borghese we spent most of our time viewing their collection of Caravaggios. We were met with disappointment as, in true Italian fashion, the Boy with a Basket of Fruit was late from coming back from restoration, and wasn't available to view. By the time class was over, I had been feeding my brain information for 12 straight hours, the last 6 of which were spent on my feet taking notes. I was exhausted.

If you haven't figured it out by now, my workload in Rome is much heavier than it is back home, so don't think I'm just gallivanting around with Carla Bruni look-alikes all day. That said, I've had some new sources of fun in the last couple weeks as well.

Last weekend, I finally got to tour il Colosseo, since we missed out on it during our orientation week. I even got some pictures that definitively expose the historical inaccuracies in the film Double Team starring Dennis Rodman and Jean Claude Van Damme. Don't know what I'm talking about? Here's the fight scene that takes place in the Colosseum at the end of the film.

I also recently discovered a new neighborhood called Trastevere. I'm guessing the name comes from the Italian attraverso il Tevere, which means "across the Tevere (the Tiber in English), because that's exactly where it is. A short walk over il ponte Sisto and all of a sudden you're immersed in young Italian night life. Each time we've gone we've been the only Americans out; it's a much welcome break from my neighborhood, where the English to Italian dictionaries alone outnumber the locals 2-to-1.

I've got a lot more to say, but I'll cut it off for now because it is a beautiful Friday, and I've gotta get out of bed. Stay tuned in the next few days I'll be throwing down some short posts about the little details of my Roman life.
Ciao a tutti!



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