Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Parting Gift

Happy Halloween! Can't wait to see what kind of Italian devilry I will encounter today, even though I'm not even sure Halloween is a "thing" here. Guess I'll find out--I'll let you know.

As I am leaving for my fall break in Scotland in the morning and have utterly NO idea whether or not I will be able to access the internet while I am there, I am leaving you with some questions that should last you at least a week, if not longer. I will reveal the answers when I return on Saturday, just to keep you in suspense (and anticipating my return). Things should go on as normal around the site in the meantime, and a few posts are scheduled in my absence, just to make sure you don't run away. Also, I have a very special feature coming after the break, so stay tuned!

Enough talk. Here are your questions. (I should tell you that I can't take credit for these in the least, but found them floating about somewhere over a year ago.)

1. How long did the Hundred Years war last?

2. Which country makes Panama hats?

3. From which animal do we get catgut?

4. In which month do Russians celebrate the October Revolution?

5. What is a camel’s hair brush made of?

6. The Canary Islands in the Pacific are named after what animal or bird?

7. What was King George VI’s first name?

8. What color is a Purple Finch?

9. Where are Chinese gooseberries from?

and last, but not least...

10. How long did the Thirty Years War last?

Have fun figuring them out!


Happy Halloween!

Here's my contribution to your Halloween festivities. This house is all lit up for Halloween, but as a bonus, the lights are perfectly in-sync with "Thriller" by Micheal Jackson. Check it out here!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Prayer of St. Brigid

While I was in Ireland over the summer I picked up a Holy Card with a prayer to St. Brigid on it. St. Brigid was a nun in the 5th Century and she is one of the patrons of Ireland. I picked it up almost by accident, but the prayer on the back of the card has become one of my favorites. I like to pray it each morning before I start my day to help me get into a good mindset. I think I would have liked St. Brigid. She sounds like a good lady.


You were a woman of peace. You brought harmony where there was conflict. You brought light to the darkness. You brought hope to the downcast. May the mantle of your peace cover those who are troubled and anxious, and may peace be firmly rooted in our hearts and in our world. Inspire us to act justly and to reverence all God has made. Brigid, you were a voice for the wounded and weary. Strengthen what is weak within us. Calm us into a quietness that heals and listens. May we grow each day into a greater wholeness in mind, body, and spirit.


Friday, October 29, 2010

TIAMLFTA the USA # 18: My Beads

I’m missing the crafty aspect of my life right now. In addition to not having my beads to make jewelry, I also don’t have fabric, thrift stores, or general crafty tools and supplies to try new projects (like the many tissue paper flower designs I’ve been ogling for the last week or so). When I get home, I have an extended date with my craft room. We might just run away together.

I assume that it will be hard to transition back to standard, comfortable life in the USA when my time abroad is over. So, to help me get psyched about the Kansas January and term papers that await me in the spring I am starting a list of things I am looking forward to Stateside. Look for more “Things I am Most Looking Forward to About the USA,” or “TIAMLFTA the USA” (pronounced “tee-am-left-a”) for short, in the weeks and months to come!

Let Your Mind be Blown by Julian Beever

Sidewalk artist Julian Beever is one amazing man. He can do with sidewalk chalk what %99 of the population couldn't do with the best paints in the world. He needs no further introduction... except that yes, that is just a sidewalk. Check it out.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Front Porch Show


This is just beautiful, and I took it on the front porch of Villa Morghen. It may be the same sun everywhere on Earth, but it shows off in some places. Have a great afternoon.


All Art Can Be—an evening with Dony Mac Manus

Dony Mac Manus is Irish, which means he had me at his accented hello. He is also a sculptor, and by the first time I saw one of his sculptures of St. Joseph I was hanging on his every word. He was invited here to Villa Morghen to speak to our study abroad group by our lovely program director, Jennifer, and I’m so glad he came. A charismatic and charming man, I loved listening to him share his ideas about art and theology, especially because they are ideas that are so deeply needed by my generation.

St. Joseph in Florida by Dony Mac Manus
A celibate member of Opus Dei, he has devoted his life to the creation and celebration of sacred art. He is currently working on starting a school of sacred art here in Florence, which would be the first of its kind in the world. I say ‘first’ because I hope it becomes one of many.

One of my favorite things he said was that “The new evangelization needs a new art,” referring, of course, to the call of our dear Pope John Paul II. That was so encouraging for me to hear because as an artist and writer myself I often doubt that my work really does serve and purpose and have a place in the world. Every time needs its own art as it needs its own heroes, stories, and challenges. That can be hard to remember, but people like Dony Mac Manus make sure the world—and the students who are building it—don’t forget it.

And one of the things that he kept coming back to was the fact that there is hope. Goodness knows we don’t hear that enough. There is hope. God is still very much alive and at work in the world, regardless of what we think sometimes. Dony shared a story about a fellow sculptor who is only 25 who converted to Catholicism through his study of the body and art. That sculptor is also enormously talented and currently doing a full cathedral in the United States. When he joined the church he brought his wife, and, a year later, his daughter and father. This is the power of Christ, especially when he and his message is revealed through the beauty of art.

My favorite piece that he showed us was actually just an initial model for a piece he’d like to do someday based on Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. Although words cannot do his design justice, it features a man and woman back to back on their knees with their arms spiraling together above their heads holding a child. In the finished sculpture he would like to have the child be a perfect and beautiful depiction of the human form that gradually decays down to the bottom of the statue, which is decaying flesh and bones. This image of decay is meant to show that the further away sexuality gets from it’s intended purpose, the more ugly and distorted it becomes. If you have some extra cash hanging around and would like to commission an AMAZING sculpture, please, do yourself a favor and get in touch with Dony here. The world needs this kind of art.

PLEASE check out his website to see more of his work. Also, if you are interested in either the art school or sacred art in general, get in touch with Dony here.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Traveling and A Sense of Stability

Stability comes from the Greek word for “equilibrium” and it is one of the core values of life under the Rule of St. Benedict, along with Humility, which I wrote about in an earlier post. In Benedictine Traditions class on Tuesday the idea of stability was our primary topic of discussion and I began to consider how stability fits into the idea of traveling.

First of all, we have to figure out what stability really is. Although it is usually not very helpful to define things by negation, stability is not living in one town from your birth to your death as some may think. Stability is being committed to a way of life, both internally and externally, and developing a sense of peace and centered-ness that pervades all areas of life. It frees the mind and heart to be in the moment, receptive to the world around us. It also creates the parameters through which we see the world. It keeps us from falling for every boy that walks our way, or emptying our bank accounts on every new fad, or changing jobs every three weeks. We have a sense of peace that allows us the freedom to make real commitments that will last.

It is clear why it is important for monks and nuns planning to spend their whole lives in a specific community to talk about stability. But it matters just as much for lay people who need to make long-term commitments as well, such as marriage.

Modern culture talks about stability also, but often only to the extent that its synonymous with happiness. Today we want things that are disposable, mostly because disposability is what we have come to expect, in both products and relationships. Our electronics and cars are out of date the moment we start using them. We buy cheap clothes that we’ll replace the next time the same season comes around. The prevailing ideas of relativism and instant gratification have made us focus not on the long-term, but on the perceived happiness of the moment. The fact that the idea of a “starter-marriage” even exists tells us that something is wrong with our sense of commitment.

Traveling is like a pill we can take to find out where we’re at with stability. At first glance it may seem like traveling removes our stability, but it actually causes us to take a really good look at where our stability comes from. We find out what and who we miss, and what we’ve brought with us that allows us to stay centered. As they say, you take yourself with you wherever you go.

The landscape changes, but you are the same person. And you get to really see who that is.

But we must not forget that there are things to be said for change as well. Remember, stability is truly equilibrium, not stagnation on one side or the other, and I think this is part of what makes travel so wonderful, especially with people that you already know, because they help you to maintain a clear sense of self, while exploring new and formative ideas and places. Traveling with two people that are especially dear to me, my roommate and my boyfriend, has made me realize how much they contribute to my sense of stability.

But most of all, God has risen to the top. Prayer is my stability, in the midst of traveling the globe, moving from school to home and back to school, and figuring out the whole rest of my life, God is there, and I connect to him through prayer. And in that way I can feel as at home here in Tuscany as I ever could in Iowa.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

TIAMLFTA the USA #17: Renting Movies

Ahh, Family Video. How I have taken advantage of you over the years. Never again will I take for granted a 9pm decision to watch a movie that just came out on DVD. I will be visiting you very shortly after arriving home. And you can expect a postcard any day now.

I assume that it will be hard to transition back to standard, comfortable life in the USA when my time abroad is over. So, to help me get psyched about the Kansas January and term papers that await me in the spring I am starting a list of things I am looking forward to Stateside. Look for more “Things I am Most Looking Forward to About the USA,” or “TIAMLFTA the USA” (pronounced “tee-am-left-a”) for short, in the weeks and months to come!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Magic of Movement

As an extension of an earlier post (Art and the Pursuit of Nature) I wanted to talk about the sense of movement found in Italian art. Early paintings were 2-D, as in the rest of the world, but as the art moved towards more realistic body images and 3-D shapes it also worked to create a sense of movement.

Paintings were essentially the “movies” of the Renaissance period, as the strides in art were the technological advancements equivocal to today’s increasing prowess in special effects. Paintings were the most accurate means of capturing life as it was, and for the first time, artists were truly pursuing reality instead of some artistic ideal. As the painters improved their skill in the area of shadow and dimension, they also refined their ability to make the people look alive, capturing the musculature of their bodies and the expressions on their face, as well as the movement of their clothes and bodies. This was a new and exciting idea for this time, though it may seem mundane to us now.

Part of the reason that it is hard for many people today to appreciate art in the same way as medieval peoples is that we are used to watching things move, and therefore have a very short attention span. We look at a painting for a few seconds, ten at the most, and feel that we have taken what there is to take from it. But this was not the case in the past. Paintings were given much attention, as their vitality and movement was almost difficult for the mind to comprehend. So therefore, if we let ourselves slow down and fully experience a painting, however old, it may come to life and show us something we have not seen before.

At the Setting of the Sun

The day is ending. The calm is settling over everything, almost like the day is exhaling. One day a week or so ago this was the view from the front of the Villa, and all I know is that this picture is all I'd need for someone to convince me that God is an artist. Enjoy the sunset.


The Sky over Firenze

Saturday, October 23, 2010

TIAMLFTA the USA # 16: Strawberries

Okay, so this isn’t entirely true, because they do have strawberries here, they are just expensive and hard to come by, which, in October, is almost exactly the same as in the United States. So I guess I just wanted to express how much I miss strawberries, and how that would be the case no matter where I currently am in the Northern Hemisphere.

I assume that it will be hard to transition back to standard, comfortable life in the USA when my time abroad is over. So, to help me get psyched about the Kansas January and term papers that await me in the spring I am starting a list of things I am looking forward to Stateside. Look for more “Things I am Most Looking Forward to About the USA,” or “TIAMLFTA the USA” (pronounced “tee-am-left-a”) for short, in the weeks and months to come!

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Unfortunate Facts of Life

Unfortunately it is possible to get sick, even when you are in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. My head has been bothering me quite a lot lately, and so I apologize for the lack of posting. I hope to get back to regular blogging soon.

If you're bored in the interim, please check out my Etsy store, JewelrybyJillOnline, here. That would make me feel better :)

Vintage Brown Pearl necklace currently on sale in my store

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Second Day of Italian Skies

More clouds--so I hope you liked the last round. I did, and that's what matters, right?


[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="453" caption="Settigano, Firenze"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="604" caption="Firenze"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="604" caption="Settigano, Firenze"][/caption]

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

TIAMLFTA the USA # 15: My Watercolors

Italy is beautiful, and sometimes it would be nice to have something besides a digital camera with auto-focus to capture it with. I got myself some colored pencils, but they’re really just not scratching the itch. When I get home I am going to watercolor a poster from this picture.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="453" caption="A Settigano Sunset"][/caption]

Get ready, it’s going to rock. I let you know how it goes—but it’ll be December before it actually happens. BECAUSE I DON'T HAVE MY WATERCOLORS.

I assume that it will be hard to transition back to standard, comfortable life in the USA when my time abroad is over. So, to help me get psyched about the Kansas January and term papers that await me in the spring I am starting a list of things I am looking forward to Stateside. Look for more “Things I am Most Looking Forward to About the USA,” or “TIAMLFTA the USA” (pronounced “tee-am-left-a”) for short, in the weeks and months to come!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Art and the Pursuit of Nature

My Art and Culture class has been moving through the history of Italian art for the last five weeks and looking at how it changed over time. Out of context one picture may look much like another, but on a spectrum the changes incurred throughout late Middle Ages and Renaissance in Italian art are amazing. Egyptian art remained exactly the same for about 3,000 years. Eastern art also remained the same for a very long time (the history buff in me wishes I could quote exactly how long—I’ll get back to you on that). But Italian art blossomed.

In about three centuries artists were able to go from entirely two-dimensional looking works of art to paintings that seemed completely 3-D. This evolution was most evident in the paintings we saw at the Galleria degli Uffizi Firenze (which I also wrote about yesterday).

We take art that seems three dimensional for granted now days. The creation of photography and film has allowed us to capture life as accurately as possible and it is no longer necessary to do so by hand through painting. But in the Middle Ages no such luxuries were available.

Medieval people were deeply religious, and it was this religious consciousness that helped them to grow as artists. They knew that God became Man in the form of Jesus Christ, thus elevating man and giving him new dignity, and it was this perfection that was achieved in Jesus Christ that they were attempting to grasp in their art. This is also what caused them to try are represent nature more and more accurately, hence the 3-D ideas that permeated early Renaissance art.

We take 3-D for granted because everything around us is 3-D. We often try to reverse this trend of replicating nature, especially in abstract and modern art. It was so humbling to think about the artists of the Renaissance, trying to capture things that had never been captured before. We saw one of the first paintings to ever have shadows. Wouldn’t that be so amazing to be the first person to think of painting something with a shadow? And isn’t that something we take for granted now? It is these historic and artistic details that make a semester like this—in Italy, studying art—so worthwhile, not only because it helps us to see what has led to the world that we live in, but also because it reminds us that there is more to life than meets the eye, and that every part of our lives is just the culmination of the lives of so many that came before us.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Why A Museum is Like a Supermarket

A little less than two weeks ago we visited Galleria degli Uffizi Firenze, whose title is extremely boring when translated—The Gallery of the Offices of Florence. The building itself was built to use as offices during the rule of the Medici family in 16th Century Florence. At the end of the Medici family’s rule (also during the 16th Century) the last remaining heiress, Anna Maria Louisa, negotiated a famous agreement with the Tuscan government that required Tuscan authorities to maintain the Medici family’s huge art collection as property of the State, creating one of the first museums in the Western world.

Needless to say, this museum is insane. Museums in the United States just might not do it for me anymore. In about an hour I saw my first da Vinci, several paintings by Michelangelo, and works by Caravaggio, Botticelli, and Giotto, to name just a few. Francesco told us to think about the fact that every piece we passed without even a second glance was worth more than we would probably make in our entire lifetime. A sobering thought to say the least—on both the art and the rest of our lives.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="Birth of Venus, by Botticelli"][/caption]

From the original Roman busts that line the hallway (tell me that those wouldn’t be behind 3 inch think bulletproof, heat sensing glass if they were in the United States) to literally thousands of pre-Renaissance and Renaissance paintings, altarpieces, and other works of art, it very well could take a lifetime to appreciate even a good chunk of the work in this museum.

But, just as we were all starting to get overwhelmed with how much there was there to appreciate, Francesco gave us a valuable lesson about museums that I plan on carrying with me through the rest of my life. A museum is like a supermarket, he told us, you have to go in with a list of what you’re looking for, or you’ll try to buy everything. Because he was there with us we just hit the highlights, but that’s okay. Really, that’s the only way to do it. As part of our modern world we often want to experience everything as quickly as possible, as intensely as possible. Therefore a whirlwind, headache-inducing museum sweep might seem like a day well spent. But is it?

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="466" caption="Doni Tondo, by Michelangelo"][/caption]

This leads us to the question of why we go to museums in the first place. Is it to say we’ve seen as many priceless works as possible, even if we don’t really remember them for themselves? Or is it to truly experience something greater than being able to put a check next to “See the Birth of Venus” on our bucket list?

I think the metaphor of a supermarket can be extended into this aspect of museum going as well. We go to the grocery store to buy what will nourish us. We go with the rest of our lives in mind. We know if company is coming we buy something extra, or if we’re going to be home alone we buy a little less. But we never need everything.

I think it’s the same with museums. There are things going on in other facets of our life that influence what art our spirits can draw the most nourishment from. Maybe “The Birth of the Venus” is the famous painting in this room, but the lonely one across the way is the one that really speaks to us.

In a nutshell, never feel guilty about not “seeing everything” in a museum. Do your homework beforehand and know what you’re looking for. Look at what interests you. Above all, let things speak to you, and if they’re not, move on. Something will.


[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="467" caption="Medusa, by Caravaggio"][/caption]

A Motorized Rainbow

I think this post will speak for itself, so without further ado: Cars in Florence.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

TIAMLFTA the USA # 14: Fried Foods

I am all about comfort food. My comfort foods cover a range of cuisines and food groups, but the red blooded American in me is a super fan of good old fried onion rings, catfish, cheddar cheese or popcorn chicken. Unhealthy? Yes. Distributors of immense amounts of happiness? Also yes. I’ll eat a salad with dinner, but for now just hand over the fried cheese.

I assume that it will be hard to transition back to standard, comfortable life in the USA when my time abroad is over. So, to help me get psyched about the Kansas January and term papers that await me in the spring I am starting a list of things I am looking forward to Stateside. Look for more “Things I am Most Looking Forward to About the USA,” or “TIAMLFTA the USA” (pronounced “tee-am-left-a”) for short, in the weeks and months to come!

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Happy Diagram

The simple steps to be happy. Enjoy. Also, a happy birthday shout-out to one of the best friends a girl could have. You know who you are :)


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Humility and A God Named Max

On Tuesday we got into an interesting discussion about humility in my Benedictine Spirituality class. The Rule of St. Benedict was written over 1,500 years ago and is the guiding document of ancient and modern members of Benedictine religious orders. Our class is dealing primarily with this text. One of the amazing things about reading the Rule is how much it makes sense. You think about Dante, or Shakespeare, people who lived five or six hundred years ago and had profound things to say, but even their work is not as quickly accessible as this pamphlet that was written only a few years after the Roman Empire fell.

The Rule is in sections, the seventh of which deals with humility. From the first four parts of this section, our professor, Sister Judith, distilled these core ideas for us:

The Rule’s Rules of Humility (Otherwise Known as the Facts of Life):

  1. God’s God and you’re not.

  2. You don’t always get your way.

  3. Sometimes we have to do what other people tell us to…

  4. …And sometimes it is going to be awful.

I just really like this because a.) It shows how down to earth the Rule really is, and b.) It’s the kind of practical advice it’s nice to hear over and over even though you feel like you shouldn’t need to. Who needs a better reminder that they’re not God than an Italian train station? But it’s still centering to hear.

Another topic that captivated me was our discussion of being watched by God. Some admitted to being a like creeped out by this, but Sister did a good job of framing it for us.

Our attitude towards God’s attention to our lives should be like a child playing on the playground while a loving parent watches. They are constantly imploring their parents to “Watch me! Look what I can do!” and even if the parent has no idea what they did or where even trying to do they coo gentle reassurances to the child that they are being watched. Children love to have the security of that loving eye on them at all times. Therefore, our attitude should be one of shame, or guilt because we’re worried about what God is going to “catch” us doing, but one of joy and excitement because there’s always someone to turn to and say, “Did you see what I just did?”

In an extension of the childlike theme that ran through my day on Tuesday, that evening a speaker came to talk to us. She is an American who has spent much of the last 15 years in Italy because she met her husband, an Italian man, while she was modeling in Italy in college (and yes, she was tall, and yes, even after 4 kids, she was stunning). Anyway, she came to talk to us about her life and conversion experience. I won’t rehash her whole story, except to say that she talked about a long period of her life—high school to college—where she no “faith” in God per se, but talked to “Max” every night before bed. “Max” was her way to feel connected to something, even though she thought she was making it up. Max may not be real, but the hunger that caused her to seek him out was very real. That hunger resulted in her conversion. The childish, almost imaginary friend-esque nature of Max really spoke to me about the child in all of us that wants to know that we are not the be all and end all of everything. Because that we can’t face. We’re not meant to. We yearn for God even when we don’t know what his name is, and at the end of the day, God is the only answer.


TIAMLFTA the USA # 13: Target

That is Target as in the American superstore giant. Because I miss getting crayons, face cream, and peaches all in one store. If I had a car/ could read Italian (they really would balance each other out) then this might be a different story, but trying to find three different stores for three different things is a little complex for my limited Italian and confusing bus map.

I assume that it will be hard to transition back to standard, comfortable life in the USA when my time abroad is over. So, to help me get psyched about the Kansas January and term papers that await me in the spring I am starting a list of things I am looking forward to Stateside. Look for more “Things I am Most Looking Forward to About the USA,” or “TIAMLFTA the USA” (pronounced “tee-am-left-a”) for short, in the weeks and months to come!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

La Piccolo Bella Vita

The title of this post means "The Little Beautiful Life" in Italian, and I have definitely become enamored with the little beauties of life here in Italy. The following pictures are a sampling of the flowers that have caught my eye in our travels around Florence and Umbria. Before it gets too cold, I think it's a good idea to take a moment and appreciate the last of the summer beauty. And so, without further ado, a bouquet from Italy to brighten your day.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Trilingual Pizza

Saturday night John and I decided to cap a wonderful day in the city of Florence (which included a stop at the beautiful and impressive Piazza Michelangelo and a walk down the glitzy Pont de Vecchio) with some small town pizza here in Settigano. There is a tiny restaurant just up the road whose name I still do not know because, in true small town Europe fashion, there is no sign over the door. You have to already know that it’s there. Our RA, Pietro accompanied us, and thankfully his Italian both eased the ordering process and got us a lovely little discount on the pies.

We brought them back to the Villa and set up shop in the kitchen, thanks to the kindness of one of the workers, Aureilian, a wonderful man from Cameroon who speaks both French and Italian with a smattering of English. The four of us proceeded to spend the next hour eating delicious pizza, drinking Italian made Spanish wine, and speaking in three languages. Okay, speaking might be a stretch for John and I, but we were definitely communicating and that’s something.

At one point I set down my knife (because restaurants believe in letting you be responsible for how much pizza you put in your mouth by not pre-cutting your pizza) and looked at my dinner mates and smiled. Where else in the world would this be happening to me? Not a lot of places I can think of. I am so thankful that I am in Italy right now, having these kind of experiences. I may not be fluent in Italian or even French (a language I’ve been trudging through for about six years now) when I leave, but I will have had experiences communicating, and isn’t that what this is all about? We are here to see the similarities just as much as (if not more than) the differences, and laughter (and wine) mean the same thing across the language barrier.

So here’s to language, culture, and the love for tomato sauce and melted cheese that ties us all together.


Photovisi Collages

Italy is giving me some much needed creative free time and when you compound that with my new passion for the Artist's Way, I've been finding all kinds of interesting ways to spend time creatively. Recently I discovered Photovisi, which I am in love with. I made this collage with some of my favorite images from imgfave, another creative internet drug. Check Photovisi out here.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Pasta, Conversation, and a Language Lesson

Wednesday was our last full day of class before our final with our beloved Florentine Art and History professor, Francesco. He is easily one of the best professors I have ever had, most because he is so unbelievably passionate about what he teaches.

His day job is giving tours all over Umbria, a region of Italy that includes his hometown of Perugia. He started by giving free tours as a college student to friends and relatives of friends, which has since grown into his own business that gives tours of Italy to many many people every year. If you’re ever in Umbria, look up “Guide in Umbria,” which is Francesco’s company. His accent is adorable and his knowledge is seemingly bottomless. You won’t regret it.

Today I had the pleasure of sitting near him and lunch and picking his brain over a big bowl of pasta one last time. He shared a few gems that I’d share with you. The conversation turned to Shakespeare, as conversations so often do when people realize that I am studying English and theater. I think it is most readily available melding of the two for most people. Francesco said that he loved Shakespeare and regretted only that he could not read it in its original English. I shared the same sentiment about Dante, whose poetry is absolutely stunning in Italian. Francesco told me that there is a saying in Italian that means “Translation is a betrayal.” I think it is something like, “La traduzione รจ un tradimento.” As sad as that makes me, it really is true. Languages are so rich with their own nuanced meanings and contextual rhythms that it is so hard to reproduce the emotional and linguistic effects of writing in a different language.

A rather odd example of this is the handbook of Scientology, which, yes, I read over the summer just to understand what all the hype was about. L. Ron Hubbard wrote that book with the idea of translation in mind, using very simple tenses and sentence structures that would make it fast and easy to translate, thus spreading his weird message around the world even faster. But he lost something with that choice. The language is passive, often devoid of emotional meaning. Just something that made me think.

Francesco also told me what “Ciao” means—a secret known to less than one percent of Italians in his estimation. Ciao is derived from schiavo, the Italian word for “slave.” So when you greet people with ciao you are essentially saying “I am the slave of you.” Something for your random information file.


Italian Skies

I have become a big fan of cloud photography. Maybe it's my gorgeous view from up here in the Settigano hills, or just how few trees there are (especially tall ones) but I keep turning my camera up every chance I get. Here's a few of my favorites from all over Italy.



[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="720" caption="The Duomo, Firenze"][/caption]



[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="604" caption="Castiglione del Lago, Umbria"][/caption]



[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="604" caption="Paraglider over the Apennines, Umbria"][/caption]



[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="720" caption="Settigano, Firenze"][/caption]


Friday, October 8, 2010

TIAMLFTA the USA # 12: Libraries

There is a library here at Villa Morghen, but that is not saying much. It is primarily an Italian library and that’s the issue I’m really having. There are about 16 books in English here and about 3 that I would actually consider reading under normal circumstances. The situation here is a bit dire, though, so I may be forced into the literary equivalent of Santiago eating raw fish on his boat and read the fifth Harry Potter book completely out of context. Times and hard, ladies and gentlemen, and sometimes hard times call for drastic measures.

I assume that it will be hard to transition back to standard, comfortable life in the USA when my time abroad is over. So, to help me get psyched about the Kansas January and term papers that await me in the spring I am starting a list of things I am looking forward to Stateside. Look for more “Things I am Most Looking Forward to About the USA,” or “TIAMLFTA the USA” (pronounced “tee-am-left-a”) for short, in the weeks and months to come!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

TIAMLFTA the USA #11: English Small Talk

It’s the old man that wants to comment on the painting at a flea market. It’s the lady and the grocery store that wants to commiserate with someone about the horrible selection of produce. It’s the little kid who wants to be friends on the bus. They make their move and you look at them with a face of apologetic incomprehension. I probably agree with you, but I have no idea what you just said.

Small talk is a little advanced for my current Italian skills and I miss it. I always took for granted the ability to turn to someone and strike up and conversation, or at least make and comment that makes us both smile. Alas and alack, my small talk skills are on holiday until I hit the Houston airport again.

I assume that it will be hard to transition back to standard, comfortable life in the USA when my time abroad is over. So, to help me get psyched about the Kansas January and term papers that await me in the spring I am starting a list of things I am looking forward to Stateside. Look for more “Things I am Most Looking Forward to About the USA,” or “TIAMLFTA the USA” (pronounced “tee-am-left-a”) for short, in the weeks and months to come!

The Knights Templar and the Church of St. Bevignate

Our last planned stop before leaving Perugia on Saturday was the Church of St. Bevignate which is one of very few Churches used by the Knights Templar left in Europe. The only other one mentioned by our guide was a very small church in the mountains in France.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="453" caption="Church of St. Bevignate"][/caption]

The Knights Templar were a new kind of knight, a reformed knight if you will, that voluntarily separated himself from the selfish and lustful ways of his contemporaries and dedicated himself to monastic life. These warrior monks served mainly to protect pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land during the time of the Crusades. Although they were strong in their day, they were completely wiped out, more or less, in one day almost 700 years ago this month.

Forget what you learning in the Da Vinci Code. This is the story of the end of the Knights Templar. The French King accused the Knights Templar of heresy because the Crusades had ended and he felt that the vast amount wealth concentrated in the Templars would be better spent spread around through the other monasteries and through the royal treasury. But the monks were also fighters and the King knew he would have to take them by surprise, so he began history’s first modern police operation. He sent two letters to the police station in every city where there was a Templar monastery. The first letter said “Open the second letter on October 13th.” On October 13th, 1307 the second letter was opened in every town and they were instructed to go immediately to the Templar monastery and arrest the monks for heresy. This way every monastery was invaded at the exact same time, making it impossible for the monks to unite in defense. In fact, this is where the legend of Friday the 13th being unlucky comes from: October 13, 1307.

Some of the art inside was original from the Templar period, but parts had also been painted over with later styles. There were paintings of Jesus coming down from the cross, the four evangelists, and Saints Mary Magdelene, Steven, and Lawrence all preserved from the original. The church itself is something of a buried treasure because it was used by the city of Perugia for many things such as a fire truck garage and excess library book storage before its true importance was discovered.

When an earthquake forced the town to commit to the preservation of the building or to let it fall down, they decided to convert it into a meeting center. Because it gets quite cold in the winter they decided to pull up the floor and put in a heater, but when they started to dig they found something unexpected: the ruins of a Roman cloth dyeing facility. Underground there are remnants of the pipes, pathways, even part of a floor that might have been under the owner’s house that are all over 2000 years old. Scholars now think that the church was built on top of this site because it kept them from having to dig a foundation.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="604" caption="Roman ruins under the floor"][/caption]

This site was one of my favorites of the weekend because it was such a hidden treasure. Unlikely to be splashed across a tourist guide or praised in an online forum, the Church of St. Bevignate spoke to me about how the world changes and how it stays the same. We still use pipes shaped just like the Romans. We go to mass just like the warrior monks of the 12th Century.

And also, the story makes the experience. I’m all about the story.

Monday, October 4, 2010

I'm Missing My Jewelry!

It's been over a month and half now since I've had an old pair of pliers and some copper wire in my hands, and let me tell you, I miss it. But, to fill the gap while I'm abroad, I'm keeping my Etsy store jewelrybyjillonline open, with the help of my darling mother on the shipping end, so I can at least look at pictures of all my favorite pretty things on a regular basis. Here are some of the beauties I posted today!

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="430" caption="Purple Sky Glass Pendant"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="430" caption="Ocean Water Tangle Pendant"][/caption]

Check them out! Peace.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Photo Highlights of Central Italy

There are lots of stories to tell, sure, but I also see the merit in letting the pictures do some of the talking. So here are some of the best photo highlights (with captions of course!) of my weekend on the road. Prepare for a very image heavy post.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="604" caption="Medieval Assisi- built on a hill above the modern city of Assisi"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="604" caption="The view from the top of the hill in Medieval Assisi"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="604" caption="The Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi. Side note: the arched areas along each side was where the pilgrims would spend the night before there were hotels."][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="604" caption="Sunset on the bus ride back to the hotel in Perugia"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="604" caption="Beginning of the ride through the Apennine Mountains to get to Norcia"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="453" caption="The Square in Norcia"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="453" caption="The main political building in Norcia, and a beautiful sky"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="604" caption="A boar's head in Norcia, a town in a region known for its meats"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="604" caption="A spiderweb across the window of an abandoned Church outside Norcia dedicated to St. Scholastica, sister of St. Benedict"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="604" caption="Ascending the ApenninesThe tiny white icecap in the middle of the greenery is the small town where we ate lunch on Friday"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="604" caption="Mountain cheese in the Apennines"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="604" caption="Saint Eutizio Abbey outside Perugia"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="604" caption="The sign for Saint Eutizio Abbey"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="604" caption="Though this building in Perugia is a piddly six to seven hundred years old, the arch and carvings in this wall are Etruscan and date back to the third century before Christ, over 2300 years ago"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="453" caption="This fountain was completed in the 12th Century in Perugia to celebrate the technological prowess of a society able to move water up a hill."][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="604" caption="Down a side street in Perugia"][/caption]

I think that will do it for now! Watch for some more posts in the coming days about other places I went this weekend, including a Knights Templar church, one of two left in Europe!

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