Friday, February 19, 2010


Our last Brown orientation trip was to Mantova, Feb. 6.

Located in the South East corner of Lombardia, Mantova is about 70 miles North of Bologna. It was founded by the Etruscans about 2000 BC. The Gonzaga family was very influential in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries and was largely responsible for a renovation of the city’s architecture, the effects of which remain to this day.

We first visited the Basilica of Sant’Andrea, considered one of Leon Battista Alberti’s best works. We then moved on to the Palazzo Ducale. For the most part, it has been decided to keep the palazzo’s original lack of central heating intact. Even in winter, tourists can experience a significant drop in temperature as they enter the Gonzaga family residence. After lunch, we took a bus a little ways out of town to see Palazzo Te, the summer home of Frederick II of Gonzaga. He was a man who, judging by the frescos, did not believe that less is more.

Charles Dickens spent some time in Mantova (Mantua, in English) in 1844. He described Mantova as “dreary… intensely dull, and flat.” Who am I to argue with genius?


The second trip, Jan. 23, was Verona. It is super pretty and has good shopping. Despite the ultra conservative politics—Verona is a huge center for La Legua Norde, or the “Friendly Fascist Fraternity that doesn’t like Southern Italy”—I would love to live in Verona.

Pictures are of letters to Juliet, Juliet's Balconey (orginally a sarcophagus), Verona's Roman Arena, and a piazza.


Our first Brown orientation trip was to Ravenna, Jan. 16.

Ravenna is a small, but important city in Emilia-Romagna. No one is really sure who founded it, probably the Thessalians, Etruscans, or Umbrians. It eventually became Roman and was later conquered by the Ostrogoths, before reverting back to the then Roman-Byzantine government. It is known for the well preserved 5th century mosaics in its cathedrals and chapels.

Fun Fact: The water table under Ravenna has changed over the past several hundred years. It is currently landlocked, but it used to be very similar to Venice. Like V

enice, the buildings are sinking and some buildings have had flooding issues.

One of my favorite mosaics, Mosaic of the Palace of Theodoric, was commissioned by Theodoric the Great, an Ostrogoth. When the Rome regained control of Ravenna, they changed the mosaics that celebrated Ostrogoths so that they would celebrate only religious or Roman figures. The figures on the mosaic (Theodoric and friends) have been removed, but for some reason the removal was not thorough. There are floating hands on the pillars of the Palace depicted. I like to think that the 5th century mosaic served as an inspiration for Thing from the Addams Family.

In addition to the mosaics, Ravenna is also the final resting of Dante Alighieri. Florence is unhappy about this and has tried to explain that they only meant to exile Dante while he was alive.


It's a rainy day in Italia so I cancelled my trip to Sienna and decided to update this blog.

The picture is of the lemon meringue pie that Jessica and I brought to a dinner last night. We couldn't find a pie tin anywhere, so we used the square tins. Still tasted good.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sta Nevicando

It is a winter wonderland here in Bologna. There was a "grande freddo" and Bologna received several inches of snow. Yesterday the sun came out and is still shining. Bologna typically doesn't get very much snow in the winter and is known for being overcast, so these last few days have been odd.

The Brown in Bologna program is winding down, sort of. Ending is probably the more correct term. We had our last history class on Monday and will have our last Italian language class tomorrow. I have oral exams in both and a final paper in Italian.

*The picture of the street was taken right outside of my apartment building.