Ciao Tutti Voi,
One of my favorite days with the students is porting them via un vaporetto(water bus) out to the islands of Torcello and Burano. While we were on Torcello, students immediately shared that they were happy to have waited to come here because in the course of all we have been studying since January, it meant more to them to be able to really put this ancient place into context. Torcello, is the original settlement of the last of the Ancient Romanized farmers who fled the mainland escaping the Germanic barbarian hordes. This is a place it is easy to be a time traveler and with one look around sense the desolate conditions the people faced when fleeing here in the fifth century. At one time, it had 20,000 inhabitants and eleven churches. Now with only ten full time residents, the island is quiet and there is little for folks to see except the oldest church in the Lagoon that dates back to AD 639. The Basilica Santa Maria Assunta . One of my absolute favorites to share!
The island became inhospitable with surrounding silt build-up and swamp lands, no fresh water, poor farming, mosquitoes, and malaria. The island was slowly abandonded. Burano, an island very near to Torcello, then became a humble fishing village. It is famous for its lace making and outlandish colorful houses. Burano likely comes from “Porta Boreana”-the city gate from the settlers’ hometown that faced the bracing Bora wind. It kept away the malaria-carrying mosquitoes that made other places like Torcello less inhabitable. The winds would whisk fishermen away from the stagnant waters nearby. Although often in fog, Burano’s vividly painted houses helped those fishermen to find their way home in the mist. As you will see in our photos this week Burano holds many back lanes and Technicolor-tranquil canals. While we were intoxicated with the eye candy of color, we began celebrating Adara’s Birthday with some fresh battered fish for lunch while we sat near the water of the lagoon!
It is so great to be back in Venice to teach the Art and Architecture course for FVCC. Our days are very full and intense, and what has been so nice is the sun is shining! This means a great deal when one considers the cold winter here and back in Montana where the snow is very deep at the moment. The sun makes it is easy to move around the city to museums, palaces, and to stand in front of towering architecture and examine and analyze it without shivering. It was so lovely one evening this week that we had a lecture on a balcony of Adara and Abby’s Apartment in San Maurizio. Thanks to Malinda in the FVCC Media Center, I have a small but powerful projector that I can pack anywhere to give a presentation. We ate pizza, learned about the Venetian Renaissance, and low and behold at the end of it all we had another show above us with an almost full moon and a clear night sky of twinkling stars…
The stage was set for what we were going to see for the coming week. I am so grateful to be able to share this wondrous place.
Lots of love from the Lagoon. Thank you for reading!
FVCC Venice Semester Abroad Program, Director
Welcome back everybody. Two months down here in Venice. This blog post I have dedicated to taking a breath. As many of you know, I am technically still in “high school” as I graduated early and took this adventure to Italy. I will be back for graduation and all the festivities that includes with my friends that I miss so so much. The past few weeks have been a little overwhelming while I’m trying to decide what I want to do next fall and how I’m going to get there. My nights have been filled with more scholarships and applications than I can even keep organized. I have a good system with my mom and school counselor though to keep me on track of all the tasks I need to get done this month. It’s been stressful on top of my classes here in Italy, but I’ve found a few helpful tips to keep me grounded. I’ve really been trying to focus on just taking a breath whenever my thoughts are wandering to school, college, or scholarships. After all, I am in Italy, the sun is shining, and I’m surrounded by so much beauty. I’ve decided that worrying about college right now will do absolutely nothing in the long run, and I need to enjoy every last moment here on the island. Being present and living through this opportunity is something I am so grateful for and need to cherish. The time has just flown by and I’m scared to blink because I know it will be over. We are finishing up with Italian 2 next week and beginning our adventure on tour, and I’m overly excited. Although I have about 20 more essays to write, 20 more scholarships to apply for, and 20 more applications to send in, I am finding balance in the chaos. I am getting things done when I need to, and soaking in the last bit of pleasure that Italy has to offer. I’m not trying to be an advice column or anything, but I promise that whenever you think there is too much on your plate or you just can’t get everything done; close your eyes, breathe, look at how far you’ve come, look at the amazing things your surrounded by, and I guarantee your problems will seem a lot smaller. So here we are, two months down. And I am taking a breath to discover just how lucky I am to be here.
“Don’t forget” is a term that is way too overused. “Don’t forget your keys” “don’t forget your coat” “don’t forget to call Mom” “don’t forget to do your taxes”. Don’t forget. The reminders are great, but don’t you ever just stop to think how mediocre all those things are? If you forget your keys you’ll just have to go back, if you forget your coat you’ll be cold and you’ll remember it next time. The more you see of the world, the more that little phrase “don’t forget” means. Instead of “don’t forget your keys” it is “don’t forget the Holocaust”. Instead of “don’t forget your coat”, it is “don’t forget the passion of our Christ”. Instead of reminders about materialism or appointments, here I am constantly reminded about the world I live in; what has made it the world it is and what has shaped it the way it has.
Every single time I walk into a church or cathedral and I see the over 100 year old cross hanging above the alter with a naked and humbled Christ hanging by the nails in his wrists and his head weighted down by the cross of thorns that is imbedded in his forehead, all I can think is, “don’t forget”. It is so easy to go day by day wrapped up in our class or work schedules and to forget the bigger picture….to forget the reason we are able to go about our schooling and work in freedom. But when I walk in and I see that reminder, my heart gets heavy and my chest tightens with the memories of what happened that day on the cross. It was just so this week when we went to the art gallery of Mariano Fortuny Madrazo and we saw sketches of the holocaust. It happened so long ago that we tend to forget. We don’t think about those thousands of innocent lives that were lost because they don’t affect us personally on a daily basis, but seeing those pencil sketches that were drawn out literally in front of the piles of dead bodies at Auschwitz’s, grips your heart in a way that is physically uncomfortable, probably why we chose not to think about it, not to look, not to remember. We have to remember though. We have to remember the passion of our Christ and we have to remember the innocent lives that were lost in a war for evil power. It shouldn’t take crossing oceans and seas to remind us of things such as these, but sometimes it does.
Susan’s back!!! Monday, we had lecture and dinner in Susan’s apartment as a welcome “home” and start our Art and Architect course. We visited the San Zaccaria church, home of the very rebellious nuns. The church also has the only crypt in Venice and more than 100 nuns died there during a fire in 1105. We also had the pleasure of climbing the stairs at Scala Contarni del Bovolo; oh my goodness what a view at the top! It was breathtaking to see over all the houses, the Alpes, and the setting sun. We also stopped in to see Ca’d’Oro a former place. In the upstairs floor there was an art gallery and an amazing view of the Grand Canal from a large balcony. Friday afternoon we boarded a train to Padova to see some Roman ruins and the Scrovegni Chapel. Absolutely awesome! We were only allowed in for fifteen minutes because human bodies can cause ruin to the magnificent fresco. Yippee for body heat and sweat, nothing like being alive to cut short the most amazing chapel visit. Saturday, we went to Torcello to see the Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta then we went to Burano. In Burano we saw the famous colorful houses and an elderly woman making lace. That evening everybody plus Francesca met at RossoPomodoro for Adara’s surprise birthday dinner! Francesca had Adara sing “Birthday” by Katy Perry while wearing headphones, sunglasses, and singing into her fork. That pretty well explains the group, we get along and love to be silly together.
Well everyone, this concludes another week here in Venezia. Saturday, Susan took us to the islands of Torcello and Burano and we got to walk around in the sunshine! Torcello is nice, quiet little place that literally only has ten people living on it. We visited one of the oldest church in the lagoon, Santa Maria Assunta which was founded in 639 AD. It was a very interesting church to see because it didn’t have so much business going on like all of the other churches do with their façades and grand paintings.
Burano was a cute little place to. All the houses were painted bright colors like blue, yellow, pink, etc. It looked like a something from a cartoon. We stopped and had some fish and chips which were really good. At the end of the day though, getting off the island was a nightmare. It was as if everyone on the island made a collective decision to leave at the same time. We waited in line for at least an hour and finally when we got on the boat it was packed full.
Next weekend we leave to go on tour which I am really looking forward to. A road trip around Italy is going to be fun. I’m not totally sure what places we are going to but it’s supposed to be a surprise so that makes it even more exciting.
And now since I just yawned and my computer screen just dimmed (because it’s at 20% battery) that means it’s time for me to go to bed, so good night everyone, there will be more blogs next week.
This week, we started our Art and Architecture of Venice class. Every week day, we had a different activity and new place to visit. Susan taught two inside classes which she showed us a theory, and later on we went to see how that was applied. From the places we visited, the Palace Ca’ d’Oro was my favorite. I really enjoy visiting palaces and knowing there were people who had lived there; that was somebody’s (luxurious) home.
Being in Italy made me think even harder about old monuments and everything they had represented. I am from a country that was “discovered” in 1500 and only later did it get more developed, especially after the 19th century. Also, there aren’t many buildings prior the 18th century in the United States. Consequently, I am not used to visiting buildings that are centuries old. We have visited places here that have been standing since the 12th century. For me, it is incredible to visit a building that has been there as a witness to almost everything I studied in my History classes.
We were also part of an annual celebration of women. March 8th, the ‘festa della donna’ (International women’s day) is celebrated in Italy. As a way to congratulate the women, yellow mimosas are given away and, some business, offer free entrances or some sort of discount for bought merchandise. Some places, such as the train lines and public schools, women go on a strike for the one day to ask for equal opportunities and pay.
Level 4 of Italian classes started good; more people joined the class and we learned two other verbal tenses. The Italian language, as I believe all the other languages derived from Latin, have a different conjugation for each different pronoun (I, you, she, he, it, we, you, they). And for each new tense, we have to memorize the change in the verb. It is definitely a challenge, but it is also rewarding to have more resources to speak.
This week, 13th to 17th of March, will be our last week of Italian classes. After that, we will be off for our tour. I am excited about going on the tour adventure, but always a bit sad for being done with the Italian class. Learning this beautiful language has brought me a lot of joy and I will give my best to keep learning it on my own.
So, another week has passed, what? It’s crazy to think I’ve been living in Venice for two whole months. That’s the longest I’ve ever been away from my beautiful family, the longest I’ve lived on my own, the longest time I’ve ever spent traveling! And I still have an entire month left in Europe. But, it feels like it’s only been seconds!
This week Susan came back! We’ve had a blast with her! Going to restaurants, museums, and my new favorite palace, Palazzo Fortuny. This palace was different than anything I’ve ever seen! It was Venetian with an Eastern flare. The walls were covered in dark material with earthy tones of deep greens and reds, with gold printing. Dim lighting. Beautiful paintings, pottery, dresses. The room was incredibly inviting, it drew you in against your will. It was unlike any palace I’ve ever seen! I don’t know how to explain it, so maybe you blog-readers should just go to Venice and see it:)!
The rest of this week consisted of sunny days, and trips to Ca’D’Oro, Torcello, and Burano. Burano is precious. It is full of crafty lace, handmade with techniques that have been used for hundreds of years. It is a dying art, passed down from generation to generation. They had everything lace from hankies to intricate dresses. Every building was a different bright color. I felt like I was in Italy’s Disneyland/Candyland when walking down the streets. It was almost cartoon-like. I think I appreciate Burano better after spending so much time in Venice, which is a completely different color scheme. It was a delightful change of pace. Ahhh, Italy.
Things that used to be daunting are now just part of life. Before this program, I thought to myself… “How am I going to do it? How am I going to be living alone for the first time, in a new country, with a new language, in an accelerated learning system, trying to eat healthy, trying to keep things clean, and all the while maintaining my sanity? HOW?” Honestly, I doubted my ability to keep things in order, and it’s been hard and character building at times, but I decided to take things one step at a time and see where it leads me.
Taking these little baby steps that seem tedious and pointless at the time, have added up to a marathon! The little things matter! They do! I realize that often, the beauty of living is in the details!
How do you write about a week so chalked full of stuff? My thoughts, the ones I can concentrate on, are buzzing around inside my head, flitting in all directions with no stopping them, here they are for you reading pleasure, as disorganized as can be, but still make a modicum of sense.
We welcomed back Susan last week and her presence is felt, in so many ways. She lights up our group, even if we are feeling tired and burnt out, she somehow draws us in and brings our focus to the things she sees and loves about Venice. It is amazing how a teacher, like Susan, Anna or Stephania, can make you feel something about a subject, just because of how much they love, enjoy and appreciate it. I just realized that the sentence above has an interesting rhythm, sorry, there go my buzzing thoughts again, back to the subject. We have started our Art and Architecture course, and in the process over the last week, visited so many beautiful places. One of my favorites was San Zaccharia, a church where there is a beautiful altarpiece by Giovanni Bellini, Susan pointed out that this piece has a conversation going on, and you can read it in the lines, how everyone is reacting to an unforeseeable future, that has been predicted.
Another place we visited was a museum of the home of an artist, Mariana Fortuny. There were so many beautiful pieces on display it was so hard to see everything or give it the true time it needed. The thing that made it special though was the little details, like how above the sink there are paint smudges from every time he cleaned his brushes, and the stand holding all the oils and pigments that would be mixed together to form the colors of paint he worked with, plus the fact that his art was everywhere on the first floor. The following floor was the work studio, full of windows and light, it was beautiful in its own right. However, the art there was a show stealer, I know that some people don’t like impressionist art, but I do (most of the time). There where these paintings in front of the windows that had the form of humans, however not the solid lines, the brush strokes where short and choppy, more like smudges, but they showed the movement inside the piece, almost like the people inside the paintings where going to walk right of the canvas, or dance away. Truthfully you wouldn’t be able to tell that they were humans unless you take a few steps back, which is good to do in any situation, all it looks like up close is different colored paint strokes, that could or could not be showing a direction of movement, but when you take those few steps back…you get a picture. Yours could be different than mine, but that doesn’t matter, because it makes you feel something.
We visited so many places, climbed a couple of towers, pretended we were princesses (and a prince), and enjoyed the company. For not having known many of these people before I came to Venice, I am pretty sure there are no others that I would have liked to get to know this city with more. Everyone has a different perspective and diverse thoughts, they all ask questions, that sometimes I would never have thought to ask, and am often wondering what the answer is, they are different than who I am surrounded with at home and yet I can recognize many of the traits from my loved ones inside this spectacular group of people. I am blessed to have them to experience this city and country with. All week was filled with new places, new tours and new knowledge. I haven’t even told you half of what we did, but I believe that this is a good stopping point. Hopefully you will return to see the rest of the story unfold, thank you for the support and kindness and have a fantastic week!
Oh yah! It was my birthday this week, on the 11th. Quite honestly it was fantastic and special, full of kindness and adventure… and a few presents and surprises, all together a great week!
Adara V. Dugan