Ibuprofen and a Ritter Sport for lunch

Want to know what kind of day I’m having? I just had 3 Ibuprofen (yes, I brought my own big ol’ American bottle, none of this 12 euro-pills in a blister pack thing for me) and a Ritter Sport hazelnut bar for lunch. It’s one of those days.
I started not by oversleeping or anything like that – instead, I checked the wrong appointment list for midterms. I thought the first appointment was at 10.30. Then, as I’m drinking caffé and looking at my appointment book for the day at about 9.29 I realize that the first appointment was at 9.00. I was looking at the wrong day!
So I run out the door leaving everything behind but a notebook and pen and start making calls and sending text messages. I reach everyone and they’re all remarkably forgiving. I make it to the Velabro by 10.15 and get started. I get home after 7 appointments (one of them agreed to wait until Monday, since she wanted to catch a train to Florence at noon) and took my first Ibuprofen of the day. You see, my affliction is flaring up this week and I should have taken a does before I left the house. I may even try some of the prescription anti-inflammatory if it’s not better by tomorrow – I have a few more appointments tomorrow morning.
The Ritter Sport helped. Chocolate always does.

Lucca’s Stil Liberty shops

In the midst of all these Romanesque churches and the later palazzi there are a striking number (well, they struck me) of Stil Liberty storefronts. Stil Liberty, Liberty Style, is Italy’s version of Art Nouveau; I was talking last night to an architectural historian who specailizes in Modernism who confirmed what I’d always heard – the name seems to refer both to the economic exuberance of the Liberal state after Unification and to the English shop Liberty of London. Lots of plaques around Rome, for instance, refer to the invasion and destruction of the Papal States, completed with the 1870 capture of Rome, as the Liberation of Rome. Liberty was a major purveyor of the Art nouveau – so the nomenclature in Italy is as though we called the 1980s in American the Laura Ashley era after that other London enterprise.

Lucca photo set.


I’m with a cup of tea and my feet up – I gave 5 midterms this morning and have 3 this afternoon. I chose the Velabro because of this pedagogically annoying scaffolding. So far two students have chosen to talk about the Temple of Portunus, scaffolding and all, which has been encouraging.

via Cenami, Lucca, Italy

via Cenami, Lucca, Italy

Originally uploaded by Michael Tinkler.

So I’m walking around Lucca and I hit the via Cenami a few times and I keep asking myself why the name is so familiar and then I think AHAH! Giovanna Cenami! Which probably doesn’t ring a bell for very many of my regular viewers. Do you know Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Wedding? Of course you do! That’s Giovanna on the right. Big Lucchese banking family, though the poor girl may never have seen the incredibly beautiful city of Lucca – she lived in Paris. Which in the 1430s was a little less thrilling than it is today. Giovanni Arnolfini was a Florentine. So teaching Northern Renaissance at Agnes Scott paid off, and in Tuscany!

Lucca photo set.

Sardinia, Sardigna

Sardinia, Sardigna

Originally uploaded by Michael Tinkler.

I’ve seen a number of folks ask “if Kosovo, why not North Ossetia” and the like. Well, why not Sardigna? I saw this very fresh (the paint was still glossy) graffiti on Saturday morning – Sardigna no est Itaglia. Note that the Italian for this would be Sardegna non è Italia – the graffitisti is writing in Sardu, I suspect. Later that day I saw a flyer for a film-and- discussion of the mainland oppression of Sardinia in the 19th Century. I guess up in Pisa on the Tyrrhenian Sea (one of the local papers is Il Tirreno) there’s enough of a Sardinian population to make this kind of issue vivid. But really, once one starts questioning the lines of nation states, what claim does Italy have to Sardinia?
Handy find, given the topic of our team-taught course: Inventing Rome, Inventing Romans. We read an article called ‘Imagined Italies” for today on the construction of Italy as a nation through media – this was an excellent way to begin.
Further: Wikipedia’s article about Sardu is quite interesting – especially on the state of Sardinian in the Kingdom of Sardinia – you did remember that controlling Sardinia was the way the House of Savoy got to call themselves Kings of something?

But speaking of good or bad ecclesiastical acessories . . .

But speaking of good or bad ecclesiastical acessories, here’s one of the the excellent confessionals at San Frediano, the university church in Pisa. The photo isn’t much (sorry about that light fixture), but I do think that along with actually having times for confession having noble confessionals could only help bring people back to that sacrament! Or at least it would be more fun!

The confessionals are solid masonry set into the wall, no turning THESE into face-to-face encounter rooms!

The church itself is, like many of those in Pisa, Romanesque (click to go to flickr and see an exterior). Living in Rome, land of the Baroque make-over, lets me forget how popular Romanesque was in Italy.

The world’s ugliest pulpit?

This pulpit at the front of the cathedral in Pisa may be the worst piece of 20th century religious art I’ve ever seen – and I’ve seen some doozies! Mind you, it’s all marble. To make matters worse, it’s within yards of one of the lovelier pulpits, by Giovanni Pisano from around 1300. I do not think this is a kneejerk medievalist reaction in favor of the Gothic (in fact, I don’t much like late Gothic Italian sculpture), but look at those horrible shapes in the new pulpit! And the colors? What were they thinking? Oh, well – it looks like it will be easy to remove, someday.

Off for a weekend alone!

I’m off to Pisa and Lucca for a couple of days on my own!
This idea of traveling on the weekends was something I never pulled off when I taught here in 2003. I was too tired at the end of each week and too stressed about the possibility of needing to be handy in case something happened. The two worst things that happened all term – at least that anyone ever called me about on an emergency, Saturday basis – were: someone got locked out of his apartment and didn’t have his landlord’s number on his cell phone; some students got back to Rome from an excursion after the busses switched from the regular to the night schedule and couldn’t afford a taxi back to their relatively inaccessible apartment, so I had to run over to the station and loan them some cash. Nevertheless, I was ready at all times to do my best to avert a Midnight Express scenario. I guess I have an overly-active imagination, especially for someone without children of his own.
So I never got out of town that year except on group trips. Not that I really minded – Rome is a city for exploration, and I’m still far from having seen everything I know I want to see, let alone all the things I run across by happy serendipity. And having Rome to myself on weekends was as good as going away.
This year, though, I have a colleague to share the worries – yay, Nick! He’s on duty this weekend.
And, we’ve recently had a pep talk about travel in Italy from a William Smith Alum – Nicole Franchini, WS ’81 – who has lived in Italy for over 20 years and writes travel books.
So, with those two encouragements, I decided to at least get out of town and go somewhere (1) that I teach a lot and (2) have never been. Pisa and Lucca won! I still would like to go to Milan, where I’ve never seen Sant’Ambrogio. I’ve been to Venice, but there’s a huge exhibition of Roman and Barbarian stuff – I’d link to the page but it’s egregious flash and takes over your screen – here’s a review.
Oh well – I’ll have some pictures on Sunday!

The midterm is posted

I’m giving oral midterm and final in Layers. The final exam asks them to do what I do, act as a kind of hyper-informed and reasonably organized tour guide.* That performance will be on a subject/site of the student’s choice for a group of me and at least 4 or 5 other students. The midterm will be one on one, and for a set neighborhood. Here’s the assignment:
1. Take a small area in Rome.
2. Prepare yourself by visiting and reading to have a 30 minute conversation with me about its layered nature.
3. Be ready to give detailed information about at least 3 of the buildings or sites in the area – though you need to be able to talk in general about all of them and about the area as a meaningful unit.
This region of Rome was called the Velabro or the Forum Boarium. A creek came down from the hills and ran into the Tiber – in historical times (by the 5th century) it was drained and became the main cattle market – Forum Boarium – of the City.
This region stands on the left bank downstream from Tiber Island, roughly between the Tiber, the Capitoline, The Palatine, and the Aventine. It is bounded buy the Lungotevere, via S. Maria in Cosmedin, via D. Greca, Ara Massima di Ercole, via S. Teodoro, Via D. Fienili, vicolo Jugario, and Via Foro Olitorio. Among the buildings you may want to consider are the Round Temple, the Temple of Portunus, the Arch of Janus, the Arch of the Argentarii (silversmiths), S. Maria in Cosmedin, San Grigorio al Velabro, and the House of the Crescenzii. There are a number of Fascist era buildings on via Petroselli. The Theater of Marcellus is NOT available for this assignment – it’s too far upstream. The Circus Maximus is out, too.
Claridge considers this area between 247-263. To do well you will need to do more than reading Claridge! Draw on the techniques you have learned in class, on other readings, and on your own careful observations. Drawing sketch plans is an excellent way to learn the names of buildings!
Here’s the map:

View Larger Map

*back in 2003, if I hadn’t gotten a tenure track offer to go back to Hobart & William Smith I think I would have stayed in Rome and tried to go pro.

The end is near, Italian edition

Jägermeister has a big ad campaign on Italian TV. And it’s not being sold as a digestivo. Go here, try to ignore the chatty stag trophies, enter your birthday, and watch the kind of video I just saw on Italian tv.
Maybe I should spend more money on English language novels and spend less time watching Italian TV.
Oh – Cola seemed to go fine. We talked about critical cultural studies British style for an awhile, talked about the early 1340s in Rome for awhile, then circumambulated Monte Giordano. Monte Giordano was an Orsini stronghold in the 14th Century – and you can see it from the classroom we use at the Scuola Leonardo da Vinci! You know me, I’m all about embodying knowledge – learning by walking around things and realizing that you’ve just gone uphill, or just walked around a huge block of buildings with nothing but exterior walls showing.

View Larger Map
You can click to enlarge a few times. The green arrow is on the south edge of the block of buildings – several roads lead in, but none cross it. There are a number of enclosed courtyards. The whole thing is a very domesticated version of an urban castle.

Play it . . .

I’m watching Casablanca in Italian (really, I’ve spent quite enough time thinking about Cola di Rienzo for tomorrow). The voices aren’t too bad (Italian dubbing is an amazing art form). I wonder when it was first shown in Italy?
Fermati soliti sospetti – it’s as good in Italian as in English.

The Bones of St Peter

We had another amazing-layers-of-Rome day today – the excavations under St Peter’s, also known as the least pleasant place to try to arrange a tour in Rome that actually purports to be open to the public. Yes, you have to pay in advance. No, you can’t necessarily choose the day you want to go. Oh, well. Luckily 1 of my 2 groups had an English speaking tour guide (a PNAC student). I haven’t heard how group 1 went, but they had an Italian speaker (though she soundly vaguely Hispanophone to me while she was handing out the tickets).
I think my folks were pretty prepared. I’ll put it this way, they had very few questions other than “where is John Paul II buried.” That part made me feel cheerful about the semester so far.
Still and all, the tomb of St Peter is pretty amazing for students in a course like this. Folks are welcome to believe that Christ is not God and that these aren’t actually the bones of St Peter, but there’s just no arguing that there was considerable pilgrimage to this tomb at the traditional site of the burial by the end of the 1st century, within 30-40 years of Peter’s death. And the only reason not to be sure it was earlier is that what we have left is the first remodeling of the original tomb. Talk about the hermeneutic of continuity! I still would have preferred to do this before San Clemente, but that’s the Office of the Excavations for you.