Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Tuesday afternoon. Still in sunny, springy Rome, though we leave tomorrow for Sienna and the north, perhaps with fewer tourists. We've actually booked ahead for nearly the next two weeks, with 11 days in Florence, the heart of the Renaissance, though so far, we've not been able to set up lodging in Venice. We've been told that as we get into the "season," people have booked even a year ahead, so I'm not sure where we'll be sleeping in Venice, perhaps near a historic canal.

Today is a quieter day after the Vatican Museum yesterday. We walked through long halls filled with Egyptian and Roman antiquties, with few places to sit. I saw too many favorites to summarize, however, I can say that Raphael's "School of Athens" should not be seen in isolation! Normally this famous painting is shown on its own, but it's actually part of a single room filled with wall-to-wall paintings. Even the arches and the ceiling is painted, and somehow it all looks like a harmonious essay, everything fitting together (of course, an English teacher would say that). But big parts of the Vatican look like the Baroque took over and didn't let go. We walked down the Hall of Geography to find literally every inch covered with paintings, murals, gilt scrolls, white marble sculptures and maps of the Italian domain, all arranged geometrically, as if that alone would create order.

The Sistine Chapel was not overshadowed by any other part of the Museum, though. We walked in and could simply stand there, surrounded by hundreds of tourists, but able to stay as long as we wanted. Michelangelo's work is so familiar. He's an icon. I'd almost think what could we see new here? Ah, but the room in its entirety IS new! The entire chapel, just renovated over the last 20 years, allows us to see the ceiling, walls and altar piece as if it were freshly painted. We could see on the two sides of the Sistine Chapel, a double row of large painted murals marching down, one side highlighting key events from the life of Moses, and the otherside, the life of Christ. On the ceiling, selections from Genesis -- most notably, the creation of Adam, and the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden. And then, on the back wall, Michelangelo's Day of Judgement, a compelling, swirling composition of judgement that dominates the chapel. The sheer creativity of Michelangelo's mature work takes your breath away and, yes, brings tears to your eyes. Unforgettable. What else is there?

So today is a day for reading, thinking, a little writing. We picked up a Herald Tribune to catch up on the news (depressing), and I have become most creative in doing the daily laundry. Rome has an ordinance that laundry cannot be hung from the front of the building. We just finished reading Niccolo Ammantini's I'M NOT AFRAID and can recommend it highly as a well-written story told from a 9-year-old's point of view, and set in rural Italy.

Otherwise, all is well. I figure there are about four weeks left to Spring term. Am I feeling guilty? Probably not as I'm working pretty hard on notes and thinking about future classes. The news from home is good. Everyone is safe and well on Mother's Day. I miss you all. Beth


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