Wow! What an insanely packed and crazy couple of days! I am really getting to know the other members of the CET group as well as my Italian roommate — and I adore them all. My roommate is hilarious, and so much fun. He often helps me cook, is my personal Italian dictionary for my homework, and is my go-to when I do not understand a cultural difference between America and Italy. He considers himself my “Italian older brother” and has a ton of friends who are rambunctious, and always around, which is awesome! I love the bustle of our apartment, and I always keep the doors and windows open to let in the light, air, sounds, and smells (there is a restaurant below our apartment — I have died and gone to heaven in Italy).
Classes have started! I keep forgetting that classes are the main reason I am even here this summer. Luckily, (unlike some classes I have back at Brandeis University), I totally look forward to them here in Italy, even with 9ams every day. My Italian teacher is an adorable little man with black rimmed glasses who asks “va bene?” every 30 seconds, to which my classmate and I nod (whether we understand or not). We are going pretty slow in our class so far, but are learning a ton of vocabulary, and some useful phrases which I try to apply when we go out at night! For example, in class we have learned the form of the verb “to study” so whenever someone asks me a question I do not understand in Italian, I respond with “I am sorry, I do not understand. I study Italian now, here in Siena, but only one week!” Pretty good for one week of classes!
My other class is an Italian art history class in which most of the other members of CET are in as well. Today we went on a trip to San Gimignano, a quaint little town about an hour away from Siena. We entered a church, the most important one in the city, and discussed the hundreds of frescoes that cover the walls. We learned how to distinguish between the 13th century frescoes and the 15th century ones, using clues in the artwork such as the expressions on the faces of those depicted, whether or not the artwork has perspective, if Jesus is showing any pain etc. I was completely entranced in the dark cathedral and the artwork, which was still vibrant, after 800 years! One of the works stood out to me and I wish I had a photo of it (no photos allowed in the church) but I doubt I will soon forget the fresco. It was “The Last Judgement” by Taddeo di Bartolo (1393) and was painted at the very front of the church, to the right of the alter. The painting depicted a massive scene of hell, with demons raping, torturing, murdering, and eating naked humans all over the place. It was gruesome! Totally out of place in a church filled with majestic paintings of Mary, Jesus and his disciples with golden halos! But I was drawn to it (kind of like how you sometimes can’t look away from the TV when a grim scene comes on). And it held such a prominent place at the front of the entire church. Totally fascinating. Other members of the CET group had taken art history courses before and explained about the prevalence of such gruesome scenes in cotemporary artwork — the frescoes were painted with such horror in order to “scare the Jesus” into people and convince them that this would be their fate if they did not accept Christianity, support, and attend the Church.
This weekend we are off to Cinque Terre! Ill post after the journey.