Jan 24, 2009

A little ciao from Roma

I realise this is very much delayed, but in my defense, I can barely begin to explain just how little free time I've had since Dec 21st. So, no messing about, an update of sorts. Impressions, thoughts, as coherent as possible. It quite likely will not be very coherent at all.

First things; getting here. Somehow I managed to have a suitcase which was 11kg over my weight allowance and still not have to pay any extra. Such a fluke cannot come without some form of Murphy's Law-esque bad luck, which kicked in the minute we checked in for the second leg of our flight. After an 8-hour flight to Kuala Lumpur then three hours walking up and down KLIA desperately trying to kill time we handed over our water bottles and checked in...only to be told our flight would be delayed a further hour and a half. They couldn't have told us this before check in, of course, because that would go against the cruel and unusual punishment scheme that Asian airports so love to adopt.

Thirty-odd hours later we arrived in Rome and were delivered safe and sound to our home for the next month, the British School at Rome (henceforth BSR. Acronyms are wanky, but I am lazy). It is a little Harry Potter, but Neoclassical rather than a gothic castle, and without the robes. Hmm, maybe not so Potter after all -- but I must say, there are an awful lot of scholarly, daggy-jumper-wearing Brits around the place, and there is something distinctly boarding-school about going to the library in your PJs.

Not that we were given long to Potterise on day one, it was straight off the plane and off into the city to plunge headfirst into introductory course material. Basically this is a crash course on Baroque art, Baroque and Renaissance Architecture, and the way in which urban design in Rome(read squares, roads, fountains and palaces) reflects the individual ambitions of ancient families and Popes. So, for an introduction we went to Piazza del Popolo, which is a big circular square (oxymoron, yes I know) at the north end of the city. Once upon a time it was a square, but in the 1700s, when Queen Christina of Sweden converted to Catholicism, abdicated the throne and paraded into Rome from the North, the Pope at the time decided to fix up the square to coincide with her arrival. It's an isolated example, but basically the course as a whole is a series of incidents like that working together to shape the city. And I like it as an example because Piazza del Popolo is pretty damn impressive.

In the two-or-so weeks since we have not slowed the pace one little bit. We have visited the Vatican museums and been alternatingly overwhelmed by the concentration of riches and the amazing art, multiple Palazzi (that'd be palaces), visited a country villa or two, most notably one where Italian affairs of state are held. Our guide thought it was most important to point out to us in each and every room that George Bush (said with a heavy Italian accent) had sat here. We have analysed church facades like there is no tomorrow, and in a group composed of twenty art history students and five architecture students, this sure got old fast. Unfortunately for us the giant gravy train of facade analysis rolls on, and I'm sure there will be more to come. I now know more architectural terms than many first year architecture students, and will possibly be unable to look at any building from between 1500 and 1800 without breaking it into its composite elements. This isn't a good thing, believe me.
It's difficult to pick favourites but I really do love the Capitoline museums. I love Michelangelo's Campidoglio - the square between the three museum buildings with a big swirling pavement design- and all the ancient Roman busts crowded into super ornate rooms. Also a favourite was a total break from all things arty churchy and architectral: an afternoon spent iceskating by the Tiber.

I'll post again with more updates, but don't hold your breath. We have an onsite presentation due in less than a week so its crunch time studywise. Not blog time. For the meantime I'll also try put up the highlights of my ridiculously large collection of photos. Love and hugs from Roma, hope Melbourne/NZ/wherever else is treating everyone well.
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