Naples and Sicily: Mar. 16 to Mar. 24

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Naples and Sicily: Mar. 16 to Mar. 24

The First Temple of Hera at Paestum dates roughly to 550 BC. Interestingly, the front of the temple has nine columns, which means that one column falls in the center, which is very uncommon.
Pompeii's amphitheater is the earliest surviving Roman amphitheater because it was probably the first of its kind to be built in stone.  In AD 59 a violent riot broke out in the amphitheater, and it was closed for years as punishment.
This is a typical street in Pompeii. The curb is so high because the streets were often flooded with mud and waste. The rocks in the middle of the street were strategically placed to allow people to cross the street while still leaving room on either side for wagons and carts to pass.
Because the volcanic ash set in, preserving the city, archeologists could make casts of the ruins. These casts were able to capture incredible detail. For example, you can see the brass pins of the door.
This is my studio class in Pompeii's Odeon, a roofed theater. I've learned so much from my professor, Ettore Mazzola!
One of the typical style of homes in Pompeii is called the domus. While visiting the ruins, we examined domus after domus! This one, called House of the Golden Faun, is famous for its namesake statue.
The Archeological Museum in Naples contains the famous Farnese Sculpture Collection. This work, the Farnese Bull, is the largest single sculpture recovered from antiquity, and it depicts the death of Dirce, who was tied to a bull by the sons of the woman she mistreated.
The Archeological Museum also had a model of Pompeii based on the extent of the excavations from 1861 to World War II. The ginormous model (scale: 1:100) demonstrates just how large the city is and doesn't even show the full extent of modern excavations. The model also shows extreme detail! For example, each room had a replica of the real life frescoes painted on the walls.
This is the Cappella Palatina in Palermo, Sicily. The diverse architecture in Sicily reflects its multicultural history.
Palermo's Cathedral reminded my of the our trip to Spain the previous week.
Architecture students hard at work! I'm hiding under the blue-ish gray jacket to not get burnt by the intense Sicilian sun.
As we walked around Ragusa, the views were lovely, but the hill terrain made the walk tough.
A unique condition typical of Sicilian churches are their prominent central bell towers. Since Sicily is earthquake-ridden, bell towers are not separate from the churches. Instead they are incorporated directly into the facade for more structural support.
A church at the top of the hill in Modica
Notice Modica's Cathedral also has the central bell tower.
Noto is known for its golden sunsets, and we got to experience that beautiful light on Noto's Cathedral.
The Ear of Dionysius is the remaining cave from a Greek stone quarry. It is known for its perfect acoustics. One of my classmates was nice enough to prove that by singing some choir music for us. Somehow it was both creepy and magical in there.
Up the hill from the Ear of Dionysius is Syracuse's Greek Theater.
Syracuse is located on the coast. We spent most of lunch break sitting on the beach, skipping stones, and collecting sea glass.
I loved the prominence of Syracuse's Cathedral on the uniquely shaped main piazza. It is located in the city's historic center on the tiny island of Ortygia.
The Cathedral was built in the ruins of a preexisting Greek temple built in 5th century BC. In the picture you can see some of the original Doric columns.
In Catania we visited Palazzo Biscari, where the owner, a descendant from the original owners, gave us a tour. I loved this whimsical staircase in a bright loggia. 
From the top of the Church of the Badia di Sant'Agata, we got a bird's eye view of the Cathedral and the main piazza. 
We ended our field trip in Taormina, where we had a peaceful morning sketching the spectacular view.

Very early Friday morning, just hours after arriving in Rome, we were on a bus to Paestum, kicking off our Naples and Sicily field trip. Paestum was initially a Greek settlement and has some spectacular temples. Our Roman Construction professor worked on the site’s preservation, so he got us special access with insider information. We also did a watercolor for class inside the main temple. That night we got some delicious pizza in the city that invented it, Naples.

I had been looking forward to that Saturday for a while because we spent the day in Pompeii. The dreary weather didn’t stop us from seeing some incredible sites like the theater, amphitheater, odeon, forum, baths, and some of the famous and typical “domus” styled courtyard houses. It was unbelieve to see this city frozen in time. It blew mind 1) how big the city is and 2) how much I could learn from everything that was preserved. That evening we went to Naples’ Archaeological Museum to see more items taken from Pompeii like mosaics and frescoes, as well as some stunning sculptures from the personal collection of Farnese, a powerful Renaissance family.  

We spent the next day walking around Naples. Unfortunately, the weather did get to us this time as we got completely soaked and many of the buildings we were supposed to visit were closed. The most notable thing we saw was the Sansevero Chapel. This small chapel had a big impact! It is full of impressive sculptures like the Veiled Christ. Another equally, if not more, impressive sculpture is that of Disillusion where a man is breaking free of net. It’s almost hard to believe that a human being was capable of sculpting the layers of netting and the figure underneath in fine detail. Unfortunately, we were unable to take pictures inside, but here is a link to the Veiled Christ and the Disillusion sculptures. The chapel also houses a more macabre exhibit. The bodies of a man and woman, with their veins and arteries completely preserved from 1763-4. Although no one is sure exactly how the bodies were preserved like this, one long-standing theory speaks about an injection which caused the “metalization” of the vessels. If you are curious and adventurous enough to want to see the so-called Anatomical Machines, you can click here. That night we caught our flight to Palermo, Sicily.

Our Monday in Palermo was sunny and beautiful. We walked around all day, visiting the Cappella Palatina, stopping in churches, seeing the Mediterranean Sea, and doing a watercolor for class. We ate some tasty seafood, cannoli, and one of their specialities, a brioche bun filled with gelato!

On Tuesday we took a bus across Sicily to Ragusa Ibla, a small, picturesque town perched on a mountain. We hiked through the town, seeing a handful of churches, and even played on a playground!

Wednesday we hopped from town to town, starting in Modica, then heading to Noto, and ending in Syracuse. Modica is the place that brought the chocolate tradition from Central and South America, popularizing it in Europe. Both cities are beautiful baroque hill towns that have a rich multicultural history and have withstood many historic and devastating earthquakes.

We began our time in Syracuse by visiting the Greek archaeological sites, including the theater, amphitheater, some tombs, and the stone quarries. The quarries were incredible massive caverns. One such cave was called the Ear of Dionysius and was a blast to explore. In the city center we saw the ruins of three Greek temples, two of which are in the main piazza and are incorporated into other structures. For example, the Cathedral was built utilizing the ruins of one temple, embedding the columns into its walls. After lunch we walked around the town, strolling along the shoreline and spending time on the beach picking up shells, ceramics, and sea glass. During the afternoon we painted the main piazza for a watercolor assignment and then ate good dinner at night.

We left Syracuse for Catania on Friday. As per usual, we spent the day walking the streets and stopping in churches, like the Cathedral and the Church of the Badia di Sant’Agata. We climbed the dome of latter for a panoramic view of the city and Mt. Etna. Saint Agatha is from Catania and is notable for having her breasts cut-off while being tortured, leaving her hometown full of interesting imagery in memory of her. Perhaps Catania’s most interesting and iconic tribute to Saint Agatha is the Minni di Sant’Agata, a dome-like pastry with a cherry on top. We also stopped by Palazzo Biscari, which is still owned by the family that built it following the city’s destruction during the earthquake of 1693! One descendent welcomed us in and gave us a history of both his family and the building. We learned that Coldplay actually filmed their music video “Violet Hill” there! Like every place we stopped in Sicily, we had amazing seafood for dinner!

The last day of our field trip was in Taormina, where we spent the morning in the greek theater which, high up on the mountain, overlooked the water and Mount Etna. The breathtaking setting has inspired generations of writers and painters. We proceeded to a lovely garden full of fake ruins and special surprises that had a similarly beautiful view of the land and seascape. We had another delicious lunch, maybe the best meal of trip, followed by one last true Sicilian cannolo before catching our flight back to Rome.

By | 2018-05-15T22:21:22+00:00 May 15th, 2018|Roman Life, Timeline, Uncategorized|0 Comments

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