Saturday, February 5, 2011

A Week in the North

Wow, what a week! Five cities in seven days is a great week, when you add the fact that it was actually for school, even better. We had some great experiences this week, saw some truly awesome things, and got the chance to study and analyze some incredible buildings. Not to mention what a great time it was to be with twenty friends riding trains around every other day (including the one that broke down), staying together in hotels, and experiencing some cities, sights, and architecture we have never seen before. Now I know that everybody is dying to hear about the trip in detail, so here's a city by city breakdown:


Our first stop was Florence. Florence was a good start for us. It was relatively small, or at least the area that we covered was, and the architecture that was very familiar to all of us, we've only seen and heard about the churches and bridges in Florence for three years, I guess it should be somewhat familiar. When we first arrived in Florence we walked from our hotel to Santa Maria Novella. It wasn't too cold so we diagramed the facade, pretty much the only sketching we did outside all week, but we didn't get to go inside. We broke for lunch and met at Brunelleschi's Duomo. We climbed to the top of the Duomo and 463 dizzying stairs later, we had the most incredible view of the entire city. The wind was ridiculous one side of the dome, so much so that it was actually uncomfortable to go to the edge. It died down on the other side though and we managed to get some great pictures of the group. That night we walked around as a group and had a group dinner, a delicious Florentine steak. The next day was almost as good, we started at SanLorenzo where we had a chance to see the Old Chapel by Brunelleschi and the New Chapel by Michelangelo. Unfortunately the Laurentian Library was closed, maybe next time. We also went inside San Lorenzo itself (although we had to pay, which we had to do for most churches in Florence and Venice, weird right?). After that we got a chance to see Michelangelo's David which was another great opportunity. After that we went to the Piazza della Santissima Annunziata, once we were done there we were free for the rest of the day. We made our way to Piazza Michelangelo on Eric and Marina's suggestion and then wandered the city. One of the most memorable times in Florence was when we wandered into a random open church. It was tiny but it was beautiful and while we were in there we got recruited by a maintenance man to help him move some of the furniture around, so we spent the next twenty minutes rearranging the church. The nights in Florence were relatively quiet but were still a great time, after an early morning we were off to the next city.


Venice was by far the most beautiful city we visited, but it was so easy to get lost in some parts and the others were so packed with tourists and pidgeons that it was hard to fully enjoy it. Our major stop in Venice was San Marco, which was hugely dissapointing. Not only did we have to pay to get inside, but we could not take pictures and everything but the aisles were roped off, forcing us to continue to walk around and leaving little room to sketch. It's a shame too because the church itself was incredible and we did not get a chance to enjoy it. We got a chance to visit a museum by Carlo Scarpa shortly after that and I was very impressed with that. While I wouldn't say I'm a huge fan of Scarpa in general I certainly appreciate his work. His attention to detail is incredible and some of the smallest components are planned out to a great extent. Not to mention I am a huge fan of his staircases. Venice is certainly a city that is geared towards couples, not college kids, so everything closed down somewhat early and our nights were pretty quiet again. The next day we stopped in two churches, Il Redentore and San Giorgio Maggiore, both done in very similar styles and both very impressive. We spnet a second night in Venice and the next morning we were off to our half day trip to Verona.


Verona, the home of Romeo and Juliet, was apretty quick stop for us. We started off looking at the facade of a bank done by Scarpa. From there we moved to Juliet's balcony. The balcony was a lot lower than I thought it would be but the whole thing was pretty cool, the walls were covered with people who wroet their name next to their partner's or peopl who wrote love notes, or just people who wanted to graffiti. From there we made our way to the Castelvecchio Museum, an old castle which was redesigned by, yup that's right you guessed it, Carlo Scarpa! This was definitely his most impressive work that we saw. There was not a detail that we all didn't love and the place turned out to be like a maze, with bridges and stairs that led everywhere. Again I loved every single one of his staircases. From Verona we made our way to Vicenza.


We got to Vicenza pretty late after the day in Verona, so we just walked the city a bit once we arrived and that night had our second group dinner. The next day was the big one, Palladiopalooza! It seems like Andrea Palladio designed every building in the city of Vicenza, I know he certainly designed every one we looked at. We started off at Villa Roltunda, which was slightly outside of the city but was defintely my favorite building of the day. We sketched outside for a long time, it was really nice in the sun, after that we got let inside and only spent about a half hour in there sketching because it was freezing. We decided by the end of the day hat Palladio's designs did not allow for heating systems because not one of his buildings were warm. From there we saw several of his Palazzos and made our last stop at Teatro Olimpico, a theater tht was designed and built to look like the street outside. It was pretty cool, but by the point we were all pretty tired, so we were let go and wandered the city a bit before we moved on to Milan the next day.


Our final stop for the week was Milan. Our first stop in Milan was the Piazza del Duomo. We spent some time inside the church sketching and from there we went on top of the roof (we didn't make it all the way to the top, the last twenty steps or so were too icy and were closed off). We still had a great view though. From there we walked through the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II, and broke off for the day from there. We wandered a bit to an old castle and spent some time in the park behind it. We wandered a bit more and found another park and then called it a night for exploring. We had another group dinner on our last night of the trip and went looking for something to do after, but no luck. The next day we took an architectural tour of the changing Milan. It was a tour of recent architecture in Milan, and it was nice to see some modern work, even if we didn't like all of it it was a refreshing change of pace. We also took a bus around the city, which was good to finall get off our feet. after that we headed home, an adventure in itself. About  half hour into our train ride home the train just stopped in the middle of the tracks. We found out that the train broke down and so we needed to board another train for the rest of the trip. About an hour later the second train arrived and another hour and a hlaf later everybody was on board. After a three and a half hour delay we were finally moving again. We pulled into Rome at 12:30 when we were scheduled to arrive at 9:00. It was nice to be back in my own back after a week. All in all it was a pretty good trip, I can't wait for the other two trips to Istanbul and Southern Italy!

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