We’re in the thick of it already and it’s just started. You’ll be hearing from the students soon (don’t worry, I’ve e-mailed them to remind them of their blogging assignments ), but this is what we’ve covered since we started on Tuesday.
We had an orientation about life in Rome, about getting around the city, about food and culture and la bella fiora. Our excellent introduction was given by Erin Nester (director of the Accent Center here) and Francesco Gagliardi (an intrepid program director and maestro of all things Tiramisù). We kicked things off with a sketch-o-rama blitz through the Centro Storico – to throw students into the deep end of things. Our first call was Bramante’s beautiful Chiostro, next to the intricate Santa Maria della Pace. Apparently a sunny day in January brings all the designers and artist out; we weren’t the only ones sketching here today. Here we are – the barbarian horde in all our glory:
After a short burst of sketching fury (and a violent barf by a young Italian student right next to me – hopefully not because of my drawing), we meandered through winding streets into the Piazza Navona for another drawing session, then onto Sant’Ivo (Borromini. Amazing. AmIrightoramIright?) for even more drawing; this time, thankfully, we had it all to ourselves. Then to the Pantheon and the Piazza della Rotonda for our last stop of the morning – and a quick coffee fix (first at Tazza D’Oro, then at Cafe Sant’Eustachio). Students had some time off for lunch and staring – with ridiculous grins – at a big hole in a coffered ceiling. We followed this up (the day wasn’t over yet), with our first lecture of the course with the inestimable Dr. Antonella de Michelis, who gave a first-rate introduction to Rome’s layered history, its palimpsests, its topography. We learned about the Via Papalis, the Via Peregrinorium, the Via Recta Coronari, how Rome’s histories and spaces have influenced the social and cultural creation of the city, how architecture and the act of layering upon buildings, time and ideas makes this city truly an Eternal City. We ended the day at the Theatre of Pompey – where Caesar was killed – the students standing on the stage (now a street with vespas and boutique stores) facing Antonella, concluding her lecture from where Roman Citizens would have watched Roman plays. The students, appropriately, gave Antonella a rousing and raucous applause.
We continued yesterday with an introduction to the course project, followed by a 4 hour walking tour/lecture (with a requisite sketching stop) down the Via Conciliazione, through part of the Borgo, into Saint Peter’s Square (Bernini. Amazing. AmIrightoramIright?) and Gianlorenzo’s amazing colonnade. We waiting in line (being pushed past by lots of people wearing “Papa Franceso” bandannas,) through security, up the stairs (no elevator) and into, then onto Michelangelo’s Dome. We ended the day at Saint Peter’s (begun by Bramante) – with a look at Michelangelo’s Pièta, past the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament (with its mini Tempietto homage by Bernini), past the elaborate and beautiful art and architecture, sculpture and the throngs of people coming in to see San Pietro. Although the the nave was sectioned off for a Mass, you could come close to the Baldacchino, you could see the Cathedra Petri, you could see a bit of Bernini’s St. Longinus. Even though we couldn’t see all of it – we’ll be back – but when we were up on the catwalk at the base of the dome on our way to see Rome from above, the church chorus sang and for some long, long minutes, students were transfixed by sound, by mosaics glittering with reflected light, by Bernini and Michelgangelo and, I think, by the full realization that they were, at last, in Roma.