Ancona: A Day in Marche

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View of Ancona from the Ferretti Palace, it was a gorgeous day

My brief day trip to Ancona was another thing I was not very excited about. It’s a prominent harbor/seaport on the Adriatic, and for whatever reason I had an impression that the city could be a little rough and gritty. It’s not entirely untrue, a large part of the city, especially on the outskirts, is unrelentingly industrial and it doesn’t have…the polish, of other cities in Italy, but it was by no means a place where I felt unsafe even for a moment.

It was however very hilly, and for the first time, the train station was much farther away from where I needed to go, not crazy far, but just not close. It is in many ways super liberating as an American to train into a city and use your feet to get everywhere you need to go. Ancona was this trip’s exception. Between the hills and the distance, I decided to take a taxi to the Archaeological Museum, which was at the apex of the hill, in the 16th-century Ferretti Palace. English was not a thing here in Ancona, at least not to the folks I interacted with, and again that’s fine– there was a brief hang up because I only had a 50 euro bill, and I misunderstood the price of admission, but it all got worked out. (SideNote/ProTip — in Europe, always go to BNP Paribas ATMs …they give you a choice on you’d like your bills distributed. I know there are others that do it, but BNP Paribas ATMs are everywhere. NOBODY in Europe likes a 50 euro bill unless your purchase is 50 euro even.)

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The Ferretti Palace and the harbor at Ancona — The Ferretti Palace is blocking the view of my arch, which is in the harbor below. You can see a reconstruction of a group of equestrian statues on the roof…more on that momentarily. 

This museum was technically the archaeological museum of the Marche, the region to which Ancona belongs. It focused super strongly on the proto and pre-historic eras of history, with a nice glimpse into the Greek and Roman history of the city as well. I had the museum entirely to myself. So I took my time exploring, and taking care of business. There was a lot to see that was interesting, and lots of sherds and things that (sorry sherd nerds) I glossed over. It was nice to take my time and have so much to wade through.

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The Gilt Bronzes from Cartocerto di Pergola, c. 1st century BCE/CE  (a copy of the original currently in Pergola)

On my way out, the woman working the front desk stopped me and told me to follow her! It was in this moment that I learned I can a) understand Italian a lot better than I give myself credit for and b) I do very well when the subject matter is something I’m super familiar with– like ancient Roman sculpture and art. She told me that a lot of people missed seeing these guys, and they were important and no one goes to Pergola so I needed to check them out. The Gilt Bronzes from Cartocerto di Pergola were found in Pergola in the 1940s and they were housed in the museum in Ancona until the 1970s when they were moved back to Pergola in a specially built museum. This is apparently a sore subject, based upon the guide’s tone and description. A copy was made however, which is what you see above. The Gilt Bronzes are SUPER important because they’re the largest surviving gilded bronze equestrian group from Roman antiquity. It comprises two equestrian figures (2 men, and 2 horses), and two women — the second rider doesn’t survive, and all of the other figures are fragmentary. Even in modern copy, it was impressive.

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Isn’t this picture just so stereotypical Europe? At least in the minds of Americans? 

After finishing up on the museum, I made the descent down the GIANT HILL OF ANCONA (after the flatness of Venice and Rimini, I was spoiled) to find my way to the Arch of Trajan, the major reason for my visit. Along the way I saw many scenic vistas and buildings, continuing to erase the negative conception I had previously had about Ancona. It wasn’t like any other Italian city I had been to (there are SO many wonderful little cities and towns that are each unique in their own way), but it was charming in its own right.

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You can see the more picturesque Ancona (foreground) juxtaposed with the kinda-gross-Ancona (background) 

I eventually wound myself down the switchbacks of the hill, and started upon the track to the arch. It was like immediately being in a different town because in order to get to the arch, you had to walk past a good mile of harbor stuff — a lot of it passenger ships. There were a few restaurants (most closed it was Sunday) and a nice walking path with the nice soft squishy material (what is that stuff called?) A good number of folks were out and about enjoying the pleasantly warm day.

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The Arch of Trajan at Ancona 

Eventually, there it was. The Arch of Trajan at Ancona in perhaps one of the most confusing juxtapositions of old and new that I’ve seen yet. The picture above captures some of it, but from all sides you had visible evidence of at least two millennia of cultural activity. It’s an impressive structure, one that was surprisingly difficult to photograph, thanks to the steps on the approach. It was a great spot for taking cheesy pictures of me in front of my arch thanks thanks to the architectural assemblage in the surrounding area.

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Me and my arcchhhh 

The rest of my time in Ancona was fairly brief and I had my only experience with the trains being messed up in Italy. The train was 45 minutes late. Luckily I didn’t have to be anywhere, but I was currently in a difficult spot because I *really* had to pee and the bathrooms only took 50 cent pieces and I didn’t have any (things were also closed because Sunday). The train FINALLY arrived, and I go to get on my car 3. Car three is closed down and other Italian speaking individuals spoke to the conductor who told them in very rapid Italian SOMETHING and gestured toward the rear of the train (and here’s where I learn how bad my Italian is)…I just follow them as they walk down the cars. Eventually we are stopped by another conductor, he examines each of their tickets and tells them something and I think he just assumed I was with them because I was just standing there like “uh…..Inglese?” and he’s like “Oh yeah! Car three is at the end. After car 8.” So to sum up, 45 minutes late, and two “Car 3″s! Ah the fun of travel!

Rimini: A Pleasant Surprise

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The unfinished Tempio Malatestiano, designed by Leon Battista Alberti in the mid-15th century — the construction of this church’s history and its patron is scintillating. Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta wanted the church to serve as a mausoleum for himself and his lover (later his wife). Eventually, Malatesta was excommunicated, ran out of money, and the church was never completed as planned. Alberti was super influenced by ancient Roman monumental arches — here he has divided the facade into thirds (like the Arch of Constantine) and the rondels in the spandrels are a clear reference to the Arch of Rimini, which is a short walk away. 

Rimini is a beach town on the east coast of Italy, a popular vacation destination for many Europeans. I admit, that I was not looking forward to visiting this small town and was not very excited about it.

Don’t you just love when you have to eat your own words?

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View of the historic side of Rimini and the 1st-century BCE bridge the Ponte di TiberioIt was a delightfully spooky day and very “unbeachlike” weather, which is probably why I loved it! 

Turns out that the train tracks split the town down the middle. On one side, you’ve got the beachy bits of the town and on the other, the older more historic area. All of my activities avoided the beach side and were firmly located in the historic center. Of all of the towns I visited in Italy, I felt the most comfortable here and I can’t really say why. It may have been my AirBNB which was a family home run by a woman whose children were grown. I felt like I was in a home, and not a hotel. She was so kind; I had a giant breakfast waiting for me every morning and a kind smile when I came home. We could not converse very well…her English was like 25x better than my Italian, but my Italian is *really* bad, but we tried! This was probably one of my favorite places I stayed.

When I rolled into town after a short train ride from Ravenna, I had very little time to get settled before having to jet to the city’s archaeological museum. I dropped my stuff and walked the short walk to the museum. Long story short, I arrived in Rimini on a Saturday, Sunday I was planning on visiting Ancona because the museum I needed to visit was closed on Monday. I THOUGHT that Rimini’s museum was open on Monday, but it was NOT. I was only in Rimini until early Tuesday morning, so I had to go RIGHT THEN.

The museum was probably one of the best local museums dedicated to archaeology that I visited (in Italy). There are TONS of regional/city-based archaeological museums all of various degrees of qualities. This one was pretty spectacular. It was right next to an archaeological site that was covered over, the so-called House of the Surgeon, and then the museum itself was spread over 4 floors. It was a lot of fun, and exactly the kind of museum I was into, super focused on the city’s development over time from literally the beginning of time to the modern era.

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One of the in-situ mosaics from the House of the Surgeon in Rimini; super cool preserved archaeological site! 

The rest of my time in Rimini was spent exploring the arch and the ancient bits of the city itself. The arch in Rimini was also way more impressive than I was expecting. First, it is HUGE. Second, the sculptural components on the arch are so much smaller than on later arches that are intricately decorated (like Septimius Severus or Constantine’s) that scholars have often described them as being diminutive. I didn’t find that to be the case, AND I think it’s a problem. For more, see my dissertation 😉

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The Arch of Augustus at Rimini (27 BCE) facing the entry to the city — on the opposite end of the main road through town you come to the Ponte di Tiberio. The arch was encorporated into the city walls during the medieval periodwhich explains the nice little crenellations.

The city has great medieval- and renaissance-era remains that I definitely did not explore as much as  I could. I explored exteriors and that was about it. I definitely want to head back to Rimini some day, and I’ll just have to do the new bits then.

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The Piazza Cavour in Rimini

Belated Blog: Charlotte and the Internet Curse

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Me doing a silly selfie in the Arian Baptistry in Ravenna, Italy — March 17, 2017 my last day with internet. 

My last blog came to you live, from Ravenna right after my glorious trip to Croatia, but then radio silence fell hard and fast. Most of you I’m sure gathered that I was alive and well, but blogging did not happen. It was not from a lack of desire, rather, from a lack of internet. In Rimini, I was so busy (some bad scheduling on my part), that I did not do my Ravenna blog. When I arrived in Torino, I discovered that my internet did not work. This happened again in Avignon, and again in Paris. Three days before I returned to the US, my internet *finally* started working.

I led a cursed life, a half life, wandering western Europe without connection. When I first encountered my internet troubles in Torino, it FREAKED me out. I had settled into a good routine, one that ended with a few eps of Parks and Rec before bed, brought to me live from the Netflix and my VPN. The loss of my only semblance of routine, my connection to the States, and my ability to upload my oh-so-precious research photographs to my cloud-based storage had a rough effect on my happiness. I fortunately had VERY SLOW internet on my phone that was unlimited so I could maintain the basics, but it made blogging not possible.

I still want to do all of the blogs I had planned and the ones I thought of while I was there (I wrote them down) however, because there are memories of each place I’d like to preserve and the blog is a great way to do so. Funny stories I’d like to hold on to. Some of the coolest parts of my trip have so far gone unblogged! There *is* a benefit to this belated blogging, especially for you reader — there will be no whining about the internet being bad 😉

Three Days in Italy: Venice & Trieste

Venice

I was only in Venice as a brief stopover on my way to other climes. I have no research reason to be there, other than it is the easiest big city close enough to Pula to travel into. BUT I had to spend a day in Venice. For a day, I think I got a lot done.

I took my time getting into the city. I stayed in the Mestre neighborhood on the mainland so I took the bus, which took about 15 mins to get into Venice proper (hotels and lodging is SIGNFICANTLY cheaper and I have trains to catch and the station is close by). Since this was just a ‘me’ day and not a ‘research’ day, there was no set itinerary besides wanting to see art, San Marco, and to eat some noms.

As soon as I got off the bus and walked like mayyyybe 50 feet, Venice was beautiful. It certainly was helped by the fact that it was a gorgeous 62 degrees with lots of sun. Now, normally I’m not a sun lover. The sun kind of hates me; it burns me with its rays so quickly, even when I take proper precautions against it. But after a week of rain in France, I was ready for something besides WET.

I needed breakfast so I stopped for a caffe and cornetto right next to the Basilica dei Frari. I had no specific plans to go there (shame), but I’m so glad I did. It was a great mix of gothic-y goodness with Renaissance opulence. I was probably the youngest person in there by 30 years, but that was okay. Titian is interred there, and one his masterpieces, his Assumption altarpiece is the piece de la resistance.

I continued to walk around Venice, picked up some post cards and stamps, walked and walked and walked. I loved how you would just walk around and stumble upon big piazzas and squares..thankfully there were signs that would point you towards prominent sights (Rialto, San Marco, Accademia, Pizzale di Roma) and even if they didn’t have that, you could follow the crowd.

When I made it to San Marco, I stopped at an expensive, but ultimately meh, caffè to eat lunch and do postcards. The restaurant, while expensive, had no coperto though I’m sure it was built into the price (for those of you that don’t know, a lot of restaurants in Italy have a charge at restaurants called “coperto”…it’s essentially a cover fee that you pay for your seat. Most places have it listed very discretely leaving some Americans feeling scammed or confused. It’s not a scam though, it’s a normal part of life. HOWEVER, sometimes the rate is exorbitant when you’re in tourist areas…for example, in Naples we once had a 6€ coperto PER PERSON…it’s usually closer to 1 or 2€). So I didn’t mind paying 6 euro for my bottle of water to sit in front of Basilica San Marco for an hour.

I walked around the exterior of San Marco and the Doge’s Palace, and checked everything out. An outstanding day with gorgeous views. The interior of S. Marco was incredible, but unfortunately not photographable. After San Marco’s I went to the Museums off the square that consisted of the Venetian history museum, the archaeological museum, and a few other collections. It was there that I met a very nice couple currently living in Naples– we hit it off and she told me if I’m ever back in Naples she’ll take me to Paestum!

I wandered around a bit more, grabbed some gelato…vanilla and pistachio and then headed back to my airbnb. I had a nice dinner at the same restaurant from the night before then went back to my room. It was a day full of noms, art, and walking.

Trieste

After catching the train, I arrived in Trieste, where I would be catching the bus to Croatia. Trieste also has an arch, though it is rather unremarkable and there’s not a lot known about it. I didn’t really know a lot about Trieste, and after walking around the main area, I don’t know that I’ll be itching to get back. It was beautiful, but it was very shoppy and night-lifey, two things I’m just not into. If I were to resort to stereotypes, I would say it essentially felt like the Naples of the north, but with money. Besides the main square, the architecture was all really ratty. Who knows, maybe it cleans up nice in the summer.

I did love the Roman ruins I found, even the sad, small little Arco di Ricardo.

My bus for Croatia left really early in the morning the following day, so it was an early night for me. The bus station was surprisingly hard to find…There was a bunch of scaffolding surrounding the entrance so it was not clearly marked at all. I found it though, with plenty of time to spare.

Meet Gussie

Meet Augustus, Gussie for short.

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Gussie is a gift from my friend Lindsey (she had it MADE for me, by a friend of hers! Check them out!). He’s a delightfully nerdy stuffed version of the Augustus of Prima Porta; I mean, the details are amazing, from his protruding ears, to the distinctive hair style, and his gesture. He’s one of my favorite possessions and I love him so much.

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Two Nasty Women and and Emperor: Me, Best Friend Ashley, and Augustus out adventuring in Nashville in January 2017

This might be a little superstitious of me, but he’s going to be like a good luck charm for me on this trip. A little token and reminder that I love what I do, I love the folks I’ve met along this academic journey (and some of them are fond of me too, I guess), and to live in the moment and be happy. Because dang if this little guy doesn’t make me happy.

Gussie brushing up on his French history before we head off to Europe! He’s very up on current events. 😉 

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EuroTrip Redux is 100% BOOKED

Travel and lodging for EuroTrip 2.0 is DONE. I leave in less than a month.

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Planning this trip again has been hard. Harder than planning it originally hard. I fluctuated between planning the trip EXACTLY as it had been before, and doing it completely differently. I settled on a happy medium. I’ll be following the same trajectory, sans London. I will not be staying in the same airBnBs, besides the one in Pula, which was from the advertisement, everything I needed and like RIGHT next to my arch.

The stars above indicate overnight stays…I’ll be traveling to many other places besides those listed…but you’ll have to follow my instagram to stay updated on the day-to-day.

Now that it is all planned, and I’ve taken care of a few other things that had me stressed, I AM ACTUALLY EXCITED.

I GET TO SEE PARIS IN THE SPRINGTIME (kinda. In April).

2016 Top Ten, or a lesson in gratitude

This was obviously a hard list to make. 2016 sucked for me like no other year for reasons obvious to most who know me well. I’m not overflowing with optimism about 2017…much of what was hard about 2016 is not going to disappear as the calendar pages flip. However, I am trying to remain positive. Good things did happen in 2016, good things will happen in 2017. I’m going to attempt to focus on the good. What 2016 has done is made me exceedingly grateful for what I do have.

  1.  I know Hamilton wasn’t released in 2016, but this was the year I fell in love with it. I loved Lin Manuel Miranda’s 2008 In the Heights, but only a fraction of my love for Hamilton. I love how it makes American history part of the present, how it takes the history of music, both musicals and hip hop and MORE, and weaves it into an entirely new musical experience. I will never hear “I am the model of a modern major General” à la Pirates of Penzance ever again, George Washington’s rap delivery is now in my head permanently. As a Virginian born and bred, I’ve long recognized how this period shaped the following centuries and how Virginia’s role definitely not always positive, though it was and is frequently celebrated.  This musical takes a complicated time period, doesn’t dumb it down, and makes it accessible to everyone. I LOVE IT SO MUCH. hamilton.png
  2.  While I can’t say that this has been the best year for my family, I am super, super thankful for my family, both immediate and extended.  While things may be weird and different, we’ll figure it out. dsc02666
  3. Good things, I mean really good things, happened to folks I hold dear. Some really great stuff happened: babies, future babies, house purchases, new jobs, new degrees, big moves, and big steps. I am so thankful for these friends of mine, and I’m so proud of what they have done and what they will continue to do.
  4. The high level of shit present in 2016 has made me realize that I have the best, the most bombass friends. The care they have shown me when I’m down, humbles me like a lot. You know who you are, and I can’t thank you enough.
  5. I received a pretty cool fellowship this year, the CoAS Research Year Fellowship. This fellowship has allowed me to not have to teach this year and direct all of my time toward research and my dissertation. In some ways, I’m incredibly fortunate to have been on fellowship when my mom died. It allowed me to take a break without the pressure of teaching to begin to cope with my loss and spend time with my family. Now that I’m not in the first rush of grieving, it’s definitely nice to be able to work at my own pace.
  6. 2016 has seen a boost in my professional confidence, I think. Some of this, I believe, comes from getting a heavy dose of perspective. I love what I do, but there are things that are a million times more important than it. This has had a strangely motivating effect — I’ve gotten more done than I thought possible under the circumstances.
  7. This one is kind of silly, but I read over 55 books. As always, I record every book that I read (or re-read) on goodreads and I met my goal. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed that my stress levels are dramatically higher when I’m not reading fiction. A chapter or two, whatever a day, keeps the stress away. I’m so, so lucky that I was always encouraged to read as a child and that I have continual and constant access to books.
  8. I discovered, finally, my craft — I made two quilts, and have started a third. So far these quilts have been entirely made by hand. I love every step of the process and it also provides a ton of stress relief for me, and the pleasure of knowing I made something from scratch. Quilt #1 is for me, #2 for my sister, and #3 for my broseph.
  9. This one is definitely stupid, but I’m grateful for Flonase. I’ve been plagued by seasonal and environmental allergies for EVER. About a month ago I started taking Flonase; I’ve barely had a headache or congestion since. Persistent eye issues also have disappeared. I love it.
  10. I got my mom’s last day— this has been hard for me to think and talk about obviously– it’s literally the definition of bittersweet. For my European research trip, I flew from Indy to BWI, stayed the night with my parents, then left for Paris. I got to spend 24 hours with my mom, that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. She died the morning I arrived in Paris, suddenly. If I hadn’t gone on this trip, the last time I would have seen her would have been Christmas 2015, but I got this incredible gift of seeing her. I know that it was the best visit I’d had with her in a while, a lot of it because I think we were both in better places than we had been in quite some time. She made me my favorite dinner and breakfast, we chatted, and I got to hug her goodbye and the last words I heard spoken by her were beautiful words of love and pride — I totally took for-granted when I stepped out the door to go to the airport that I would be speaking to her the next day to let her know I arrived safely in Paris. I don’t know what I did to be so lucky as to get those 24 hours, but I am so, so thankful for them. And I’m so thankful for my momma.

So here’s to 2016. May its stink fade as 2017 begins.