Wednesday, March 2, 2011




My interest theme was:

"Since I've been in Italy, many design aspects have interested me: color, texture, quality of light, street spaces, and bought into focus for me at last Friday's lecture, the 'time-layering' of a city. But the most dramatic for me is the huge size and marvelous shapes of so many of the structures. Therefore, I would like to choose SCALE as my ‘interests’ theme."  

So, my course had begun. It was not truly like study at all but more like  


Rome is a fascinating city. In its monuments may be traced the history of its three thousand years, from the primitive settlement of remote antiquity, down through the days of Imperial and Papal pride to the present day. The 'Eternal City' is especially rich in treasures of art. The first day, as we toured the exceptional Forum and Coliseum, I became concerned about Giuliano's teaching, because his facts were not very straight. He dated a monument 100 A.D., while in fact it was 100 B.C.—two hundred years off! I eased over to Massimo's group and found his discussions very precise. He carried typewritten notes! Cornelia was more art oriented than I preferred. A dilemma: Should I change to Massimo?

That evening Massimo discussed the history of Roma. Also, we had an architect, Sandro Anselm, who lectured in Italiano about his works. The teachers tried to translate, but he was difficult to understand. His architecture was very classical in nature, yet with an up-to-date flair, not unlike the 'post-modernism' that was developing in our country, but with a decidedly more classical flair.

Next day we toured the Capitoline Hill and saw some very early Roman temples.  Juliano told how they became the starting point for the design of Christian churches. 

I was also discovering that Giuliano spoke like a true Florentine—from the heart. He gave feelings about architecture and history. I filled in the facts for myself with the help of my “Blue Guide”. I decided to stay with Giuliano, and I soon came to cherish his heart-felt discussions. However, every once in a while, when he would get so far off, I just couldn't resist telling some of the group. Some of them began following me around, too. However, I thought I should be careful not to alienate Juliano. The whole experience made me feel like a school kid again, although I guess I was more like a teacher.

  ---I LOVED IT!

That afternoon, I sketched the Colosseo (Coliseum). My first sketch of a building that had already been built!  (Being an architect, I had sketched buildings, but only ones not yet built.) The Colosseo was a 1st Century A.D., multi-media, entertainment center. Even in its ruined state its scale is enormous. The amphitheater could be shaded, have a multitude of stages or even be flooded for naval battles. My sketch was sketchy, but OK.
The next day had us touring famous palazzi that had influenced residential construction for centuries (and still are today)—the Farnese and Spada. Then we climbed a hill in Trastevere to see the Tempietto (1499-1502) by Bramanate. This tiny jewel is tucked away in a church courtyard.  It beautifully complements the square space with its small scale and round, domed design. 

I hastily sketched it for we didn't have much time. I was finding out that some of my classmates were real characters.  Pat Butler, a neat lady from Pennsylvania, was touring that day in a bright red dress with a large matching red, picture hat under, what else, a red parasol. Near the end of our visit, I sketched Pat into the picture to show the scale. I went to the drawing of her with my red marking pen, and it became a theme I used throughout my sketches: all figures were Pat with her big hats—all in red. You should have seen her traveling with her many hatboxes. I nicknamed her “Hat Pat” and it stuck. The next day I showed her my sketch, which I felt was not all that great, but when she realized the red figure was her. She was delighted.  That started our friendship.

Several in the group began to become my favorites. Along with “Hat Pat”, there were two students from Parsons named Mario and Anna who were as cute as you can imagine. Anna was a tiny dark-haired beauty and obviously in love with Mario, but he wanted to be just friends.  Mario was from a wealthy family in Guatemala--a very nice, interesting fellow. Arnette Zerbe, a housewife from Santa Barbara, was especially neat.  Many of the students seemed to gather around her as if she were the 'Earth Mother'. This sort of put me off at first. But when we were climbing toward the Tempietto, we saw a little shrine high up on the corner of a building. Arnette and I happened to be near each other, and she asked me what the symbolism of this little shrine was.  I said I didn't know, so I asked Juliano. After explaining their religious significance, he told us that that particular one was dedicated to Saint Anthony. As we progressed up the hill, Arnette turned to me and said that that was her husband's name. I said "Oh, which one, 'Saint' or 'Anthony'!?!" She got a charge out of that and laughed. After that we began to become more friendly. Other people who became friends included Albert, Fernanda, Marie, Edwina, and Gary. (Maybe I'll tell you more about them later.)

The next day we toured the massive mausoleum of Emperor Hadrian (130-139 A.D.) on the banks of the Tiber. After Hadrians' death, it was used as a fortress and later, a prison, but is now called the Castel Sant'Angelo. Another sketch! This time, it was the view of an airshaft down into the core of the building—not too great. Then it was on to see St. Peter's, which I had never seen inside. Gigantic! A bit much though. Even the cupids are three-times life size! A must see, however. Bernini's enormous colonnaded piazza in front is terrific. Mussolini cut a long, wide road straight up the front of this piazza, ruining the intended circuitous approach.

Roma was becoming an acceptable place for me, partly because of the group, but also because I was learning more about its history and enjoying its art, architecture and people.

Roma is known for its domestic cats. Up until the Second World War, the city government had fed the large cat population. Since they stopped feeding the cats, their numbers have gradually decreased. Noticing in my “Blue Guide” that the Piazza Republica was known for its cats, I struck out to see it one afternoon instead of napping. The square had interesting remains from the time of the Roman Republic, but alas, only two cats.

The Piazza Navona became a favorite spot. It is one of Roma's loveliest piazzas—my 'Piazza della Signoria' in Roma. Built on the site of Domitian's Stadium, it is a mecca for the artsy crowd.  Remarkable is the Baroque masterpiece, fountain of the “Four Rivers” (1651) by Bernini. This complicated fountain dominates the center of the plaza. It depicts the four major rivers of the world, symbolizing the four corners of the earth. It incorporates an enormous Egyptian obelisk as the centerpiece. 

At a ristorante in the Piazza, there is the best chocolate dessert I've ever eaten—dark and rich with gelato and cherries (and a little bit of heaven). The dessert is called Tartufo and found at the Tre Scalina Risorante.  

Among the other sights not to be missed in Roma are the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps and the Via Veneto.

After touring the Pantheon, I happened into a nearby church--Santa Maria spore Maria. I was walking around looking at the ornate church, when to my surprise, there was a Michelangelo sculpture that I had seen in my many books. It was out of chronological order but


It was his “Christ Bearing the Cross”. I called it the 'Lost Michelangelo' from then on.

FINALLY, I had grown to really like Roma, but I was anxious to get back to my beloved Firenze. I was enjoying the group so much, I decided to throw a party for them at my appartamento. Therefore, I skipped a lecture to get the early train to Firenze—that way I would have most of Friday, and all weekend to get ready. 



Ron said...

Glorious pictures! It won't be long now until your blog is discovered. It is so far ahead of so many other blogs.

Don Voth said...

I was delighted to discover how to "link" to other sites.

Caliban said...

Hat Pat, Arnette, Saint Anthony, Michelangelo, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain. All marvelous. I was in Rome in 2000 and visited many of the places you name -- alone. It is wonderful you were able to do this with people and guides. Do you have any more stories about Juliano? I wanted to hear more.

Don Voth said...

READ ON! I have to always talk about Juliano. He's so colorful.