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Friday, October 23, 2009

A Touching Story

An intelligent little girl with an inspirational story…. Anne Frank

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Destination of the Year: San Leo and the Dungeon of Doom

Welcome to San Leo, the city of art

Welcome to San Leo, the city of art

When one thinks of Italy, one imagines fields of sunflowers, castles galore, espresso, people enjoying their time at the local cafe, and cobblestone streets. Did you ever think of visiting a Renaissance dungeon/fortress atop the edge of a mountain? I am speaking of the Musei di San Leo, located in Le Marche region of Italy, relatively close to the small country of San Marino.

One of the Parade Grounds

One of the Parade Grounds

The fortress-turned-prison-turned-museum exhibits three parade grounds which formed the inner portion of its defensive system, punishment cells adorned with numerous torture methods, and kitchens (after all, even prisoners need to be occasionally fed). Each torture method came with its own equipment, explanation on how it was used, and results (what happened to the captive).Picture 510

It also has a ducal residency area, which was frequently resided in upon visits from the Dukes of Urbino, as well as Papal Cells. The exhibition of the Count of Cagliostro features such things as information of the different stages of his life and rare medical instruments. The count was later imprisoned here in a completely isolated cell known as the Pozzetto (pit) cell. It is said that the count had to be lowered through a trap door into the cell, as there were no openings in the walls at that time. Other rooms showcase more modern weaponry, like machine guns.

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Inspite of the fortress’ ominous tendencies, the views, I have to admit, were spectacular.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Next Stop: Ravenna

Ravenna, Italy

Ravenna, Italy

Our travels led us next to Ravenna, located in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. In Ravenna, we visited Sant’Apollinare in Classe, the Galla Placidia Mausoleum, and San Vitale Basilica located next to the mausoleum.

Sant’Apollinare is the patron saint of Ravenna, and this 6th century basilica was devoted to him. Upon entering the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare, one enters a huge, vast hall lined with soaring arches and sarcophagi of Ravenna’s archbishops, who have passed long ago from our world. It is the first basilica which we saw on our many cultural excursions in which the depicted scenes from the Bible were tediously placed together with small, glimmering pieces of tile, known as mosaics.

Sant'Apollinare in Classe a Ravenna

Sant'Apollinare in Classe a Ravenna

The scene over the alter shows Sant’Apollinare in a field surrounded by nature and sheep. Other scenes show Ravenna’s four bishops, the Roman Emperor and his brothers, and passages from the Old Testament.

Sant'Apollinare a Ravenna

Sant'Apollinare a Ravenna

In several places in the basilica, one can see cut-outs of the flooring deliberately made to show the original flooring. For more information on this basilica, please visitSacred Destinations: Sant’Apollinare a Classe

Sant'Apollinare, mosaic flooring

Sant'Apollinare, mosaic flooring

Sant’Apollinare’s Basilica is located just outside of the main town. So once again, we had to board the bus to go into town.

San Vitale Basilica

San Vitale Basilica

The second basilica that we saw that day was San Vitale, which in my opinion is much grander than Sant’Apollinare. The basilica’s artisans created a beautiful combination between paintings and mosaics. The paintings certainly did need restoring. If you look closely in the pictures, you can see white patches where the paint has peeled off throughout the years.

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The floor plan of the basilica was also interesting. In the main portion of the basilica in which Mass is held, men sat on the lower level in line with the alter. Women were required to sit on the second floor in the balcony.

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The mausoleum was named after Galla Placidia (390 – 450) who was daughter of the Roman Emperor Theodosius. The building was built in the 5th century, and was created in the form of a cross. Mosaic tiles cover the walls and ceilings of depictions of night and day. Not much light enters so my photos did not come out well. To see pictures of the inside, please visit: Paradox Place . The site shows both pictures of San Vitale and the mausoleum. Enjoy!

The remainder of our time spent in Ravenna led us to the city’s heart, which was reached by an underground passage. It was amazing how it was built. It was like a miniature city built undergound. Unfortunately due to the poor lighting (it was very dark down there), and due to my camera’s inability to make up for the lack of light, I sadly do not have any pictures. Not much else was to be seen in the center, except another church, a chocolate store, and some clothing stores.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Big Sis' Wedding


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On September 19, 2009, my father gave away my sister. The year leading up to the wedding was indeed not a dream come true. Even days before the wedding, it all seemed to be falling apart. But the wedding turned out to be spectacular, and could not have turned out any better. My sister’s husband was so happy to marry her that day, and I will never forget the huge smile he carried on his face throughout the entire day. Please click the pictures to enlarge.

The bride gets ready

The bride gets ready

"Where is my queen," he exclaimed

"Where is my queen," he exclaimed

The bride finally arrives for the photo shoot! (My sister and I)

The bride finally arrives for the photo shoot! (My sister and I)

My mother and I

My mother and I

A Proud mother and her daughters

A Proud mother and her daughters

The dress

The dress

Homage to the centerpieces

Homage to the centerpieces

A great time with great family, great friends, great food, and great music!

If you would like to see the photographer’s photos of the wedding, please visit: Tyson Trish Photography

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Visiting Giulietta and Romeo in Verona

After our trip to Padova, our next stop for a day was to Verona. For some reason, I absolutely loved this city, even more so than our three days spent in Florence. Perhaps it was for its reknowned landmark of Juliet’s balcony. Yes, it is said to be the balcony of Giulietta Capuleti (Juliet Capulets). But, before I discuss that, let me start from the beginning of our day.

The day began with our typical bus ride to our next destination. As we ventured down the highway and came to the entrance of Verona’s fortified walls, my camera never ceased to take pictures.

The Gates of MY Heaven, Verona

The Gates of MY Heaven, Verona

Via Castel Vecchio a Verona

Via Castel Vecchio a Verona

Its fortification walls included wooden lookouts that jutted from the wall. The structure just transported me to an entirely different one, a much different Italy from that which we see today. In the past, Verona was considered one of the key cities of the Northern portion of Italy. Over and over again it was conquered – the Scaligers, Princes of Scala between 1260 and 1387, then by the Visconti, and finally gave into Venetian rule from 1405 until 1801. Do not forget that it only more recent that Italy became one unified state.

Our bus slowly crept up a hill, upon which there stands a church. Sorry, I do not remember the name of it. Its name escapes me. Our view revealed the splendors of the city.

Verona!

Verona!

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I could have simply stayed up on that hill all day to enjoy the view and the cool gentle breeze that relieved us from the scorching sun. After about a half hour, we all boarded our bus and made our way back into town for our tour of the city. Once again, I didn’t bother to listen at all to what the tour guide was saying. Every time I listened, it always seemed less interesting than what I was seeing. Along our walk, we found many tombs hoisted in the air on ornate pedestals, and encountered musicians playing in the streets.

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In the Palazzo del Capitano/ the Captain's Plaza

In the Palazzo del Capitano/ the Captain's Plaza

The pictures above are from the Captain’s Plaza, dated as being from the 14th century! Eventually we made our way to the Piazza dell’Erbe.

Piazza dell'Erbe

Piazza dell'Erbe

We were slowly making our way to the main attraction, what I had been waiting to see all day! Juliet’s balcony! Our tour guide advised everyone who had a bag to mind them, as pickpocketers were everywhere in this part of town. With the amount of people passing through a narrow space, it was an ideal spot to try to snatch something out of someone’s pocket. Tourists enter a sort of hall that leads to an open courtyard. Along the walls, lovers leave their messages, and there is a tradition of lovers also each taking their own chewed piece of gum, sticking them together, and placing it on the walls. I guess representing their hopes of “sticking” together forever.

The Entrance to Juliet's Courtyard

The Entrance to Juliet's Courtyard

The stone plate over the entrance

The stone plate over the entrance

A modern sign marks the spot as well as this stone plate placed over the entrance to the courtyard. It states “These were the houses of the Capuleti, where Juliet left, for which gentle hearts cried a lot and poets sang”. (I think that’s how you could best translate it.)

Juliet's Balcony

Juliet's Balcony

We spent a few moments taking in the sights and then left the way we came. It would have been great to be able to go inside and look at the courtyard from the balcony. Unfortunately, there was not enough time for that. Nor were we given a chance to see Juliet’s tomb. Her tomb is located in the Capuchin cloisters which is near the Adige River along Via del Pontiere. Our next stop was near the Arena.

The Arena

The Arena

The road leading to the Arena is lined with many of Italy’s top designers – Gucci, Max Mara, Geox, United Colors of Benetton, as well as other popular but not so highly priced stores. The Arena is only open for a short period of time during the day, I think. That day, the wait was two hours long, and there was no way my friends and I were waiting that long with no lunch and nothing to drink. After much needed nourishment and refreshments, we set out again to do a little bit of shopping on our own. A couple of my friends and I ventured to a market, which is where I did most of my gift shopping for family.

Our day had finally come to an end, and it was time to yet again board our bus and return to Urbino. Only one week had passed, and yet the little Renaissance town nestled in the mountains already felt like home. While everyone slept on the bus, I managed to have some energy to snap more pictures. I was even lucky enough to get a picture of this Ferrari stuck in traffic next to our bus.

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Only in Italy! Our dinner out consisted of dining at a Restaurant called Ristorante Amacord. Amacord is also the name of a famous movie, and literally means ‘I remember’, in dialect. In Italian, it would be mi ricordo. And boy, was it a night to remember! The dinner was spectacular and the wine gently flowed into our exhausted bodies. Inspite of all the walking and exhaustion from the heat, we stilled managed to get up and dance to the music played by our own private live band. During dinner, they played a couple of Italian songs, however, they soon began to play American music, saying, that’s all they really knew. The program director’s wife was outraged, and ordered them to play some Italian music. But, well, this was a democracy, and the people had spoken, so they played American.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Strange Findings in Italy

Padova!

Padova!

One of the cultural excursions with my school was to the city Padova, located in the Veneto region. The group and I stayed overnight in Padova in the more modern section of town, only a couple of blocks from the historic center, at the Hotel Plaza. We were fortunate enough to have a tour guide of the city. I was much too busy capturing the beautiful architecture and everyday life with my camera to pay much attention to what she was saying. Actually, I’m not even sure if she conducted the tour in English or Italian, but it was probably done in English. The buildings spoke for themselves.
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Saint Anthony’s Basilica

One of the most famous architectural pieces in the city is Saint Anthony’s Basilicata. Let’s just say that St. Pat’s cathedral in New York City is a miniature-sized model compared to this basilica. Here rest the ‘remains’ of Saint Anthony, happily displayed in paganistic fashion. (Hey, I’m Catholic. I can say it!) Why on earth would I say such a thing? Well, let me explain why. Saint Anthony was an orator. Upon exuming his body well after he had died, they discovered his tongue was still intact after opening his mouth. The shriveled tongue was placed in an air-tight display case, embellished with an ornate gold setting. All throughout Italy you can find many displays of such kinds. This past summer, on the islands of Tremiti in Southern Italy, my boyfriend and I stumbled upon a mummy. Out of respect for the dead, I did not take a picture, although it would have been nice to be able to show those what I had seen!

Frontal View of St. Anthony's Basilica

Frontal View of St. Anthony's Basilica

On our travels throughout the city, we also visited the University of Padova, and La Cappella degli Scrovegni (The Chapel of the Scrovegni), a chapel famous for its frescoes painted by Giotti. In 1300, a nobleman by the name of Enrico Scrovegni purchased the land, initially intending to build a house. The chapel was built next to it, dedicating it to the Virgin Mary, and his father’s, Reginaldo, soul. He is mentioned in Dante’s “Inferno” canto. It was in this chapel that he commissioned Giotto to paint his frescoes, depicting events in the lives of Mary and Jesus. There is also a scene of “The Last Judgement” in which Jesus over the main entrance, the Blessed placed to his right, and the Damned to his left.

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Before entering the chapel, those touring it must enter an air conditioned room to acclimate one’s body temperature to the temperature inside the chapel. That day the temperature was well over 90 degrees, and from all the walking, sweating was unavoidable. Scientists say that the moisture from the skin, and merely just breathing, ruin the frescoes. Therefore, each group that enters the chapel is given a certain amount of time to view the art. The flashing from cameras also damages the frescoes, so using a camera is prohibited.

After seeing the chapel, we head towards the center of town to go back to our buses, and came upon a said tradition when a student graduates from college – public humility. Upon graduation, humiliating things are done to the graduates, such as being smeered in pies, wearing a tutu, and even public beatings. During the public beatings, those walking along the street are asked to volunteer to help. Two long rows of people are formed through which the graduate must run barebacked. When passing by, the people must slap the back of the graduate. Pretty brutal if you ask me. Below are some pictures of the torture.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Risposta da Carrara... Response from Carrara

After having waited more than a month for a response from Carrara, I was about to give up all hope and write to the comune again. While I was in Italy, my boyfriend was kind enough to contact a person who worked for the comune at another one of their offices. The kind sir gave us information about how to proceed with making my request, and I would have to sign a paper, allowing my boyfriend to be contacted by them or receive any documents they could send.

When I returned home, I began filling out the papers for my request. However, that same weekend, I received a little package from what I did not realize was from Carrara until I opened it. The stamp of the post office had not come out well. The first page was my original letter to them, marked with a red arrow stamp, indicating the return address. Hmm, had they simply just returned my letter? The next page was an extract of the marriage certificate of my great great grandmother’s parents. The two following pages were birth dates and the marriage date of my great great grandparents. There were also photocopies of the original documents for my great great great grandfathers’ birth certificates, a copy of a marriage certificate, and the documents even included more names of parents.

Here is the information I received:

Giuseppe Pietro Carlo Ratti (great great grandfather)
father: Andrea Giovanni Ratti, mother: Chiara Ferrarini (great great great grandparents)
was born: November 17, 1868 in Carrara

He united himself in matrimony in Carrara, on April 7, 1890 with LATTANZI, GILDA born June 18, 1869 in Carrara.

Maria Gilda Elvira Lattanzi (great great grandmother)
Father: Giuseppe Lattanzi, Mother: Fanny Baratta (great great great grandparents)
was born: June 18, 1869 in Carrara.

Lattanzi, Giuseppe and Baratta, Fanny (great great great grandparents)
Married on June 12, 1869

Fathers of Giuseppe and Fanny mentioned:
Giuseppe of Antonio Lattanzi, and Fanny of Carlo Baratta (great great great great grandparents)

Ratti, Andrea (great great great grandfather)
born February 12, 1845
son of Carlo (great great great great grandfather) of Carmelo Ratti (great great great great great grandfather), and of Maria (great great great great grandmother) of Domenico Andriani (great great great great great grandfather)

Lattanzi, Domenico Giuseppe (great great great grandfather)
born October 25, 1846 to Antonio (great great great great grandfather) son of Michele Lattanzi (great great great great great grandfather), and to Felicita’ (great great great great grandmother) daughter of Giuseppe del Lianio/ Bianco (? great great great great great grandfather, last name is slightly illegible)