One of the things I love most about this semester is the sheer amount of free time that my study abroad program allots for traveling. During my week-long post-midterm break, I made the journey to the city I have been most anticipating since before I even left American soil: Rome.
Before leaving for Rome, I admit that my expectations for this legendary city were quite high. It is, in my mind, the epitome of not only ancient Roman history, but also the high Renaissance, two subjects that I have grown immensely interested in during my time abroad.
Thankfully, from the standpoint of Rome’s art, the city did not disappoint one bit. Easily, my favorite part of my trip to Rome was visiting the Vatican. I woke up at 7:30am on Wednesday morning to attempt to beat the inevitable daily morning rush of tourists heading to the Catholic capitol of the world. Little did I know, however, that Wednesdays are the busiest day of the week in terms of tourist activity at the Vatican. But for good reason. I ended up arriving at 8:30 and being greeted with a series of long lines. Being alone, confused, and speaking no Italian whatsoever, I decided to enter a random line. I had heard, after all, that in the Vatican “all roads lead to the Sistine Chapel,” so I wasn’t too worried about missing out on it.
However, it turns out that I accidentally entered the line for…an audience with the Pope!! Apparently, the Pope gives mass every Wednesday morning, an amazing and unanticipated surprise. Sadly, I did not make it into the actual mass itself (the audience chamber became full when I was about 10 people away from gaining entrance). However, the Pope graced us rejects (who migrated to St. Peter’s Basilica) with his presence as well. 🙂 So, in short, I saw the friggen Pope. A moment I will NEVER forget for the rest of my life.
As a side note, St. Peter’s Basilica is my new favorite church. Constructed by Michelangelo and Bernini, I have never been in as awe-inspiring of a church. Bernini’s bladachin surrounding the altar is absolutely astounding, and Michelangelo’s Pieta was Michelangelo’s first “big break” of sorts. And Peter issupposedly buried there. Pretty damn cool.
My morning in St. Peter’s Basilica was followed by a trip to the Vatican museums, which may be my new favorite museum complex in the world. I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited to see art in my life than when I walked into the Vatican. I had the goofiest grin on my face the entire time, not gonna lie. And it did not disappoint whatsoever! Easily, my favorite parts were seeing the Rafael exhibit, where his famous School of Athens is held, among many of his other most famous paintings, and my time spent in the Sistine Chapel! Thanks to the series of free Rick Steve’s audio tours (danke, Rick Steves) that I downloaded before leaving Vienna, I learned an incredible amount about Michelangelo and his famous Sistine Chapel ceiling, as well as the absolutely astounding Last Judgment, during my visit to the chapel.
My day at the Vatican ranks high among days that I know I will remember for the remainder of my life. A series of unforgettable, and inspiring experiences all in one day. 🙂
However, this was just one of my 3 days spent in Rome. My other favorite parts of my stay include: morning spent in one of the most iconic structures found in Europe, the Colisseum; having an incredible dinner with Emily where I had the greatest lasagna of my life; enjoying the best gelatto of my life at a place called Galatti; admiring and learning about the ancient Pantheon; and in general, museum-ing and spending the week basking in the glory of the greatest artists in history, Michelangelo, Rafael and Leonardo. Art horizons = broadened like no other.
My 3 days in Rome were followed by a 3 day trip to Florence, the true birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. Florence, however, turned out to be quite smaller than I anticipated. In all honesty, the things worth seeing in Florence could probably be accomplished within 1-2 days. However, the things that are worth doing were exceptional.
My favorite part about Florence was my visit to the Ufizzi Museum, the ultimate Renaissance art museum. Rooms filled with works by Leonardo Da Vinci and Botticelli were aplenty. 🙂 My favorites: the Birth of Venus, Botticelli’s most famous work, and Boticelli’s Primavera. With honorable mentions going to a lot of the medieval art and altars (that I’ve been learning about in my art and architecture class) and the works by Leonardo.
A trip to Florence would also be incomplete without visits to the Accademia, where Michelangelo’s David is held, and the Duomo, Brunelleshi’s domed basilica that officially gave birth to the Renaissance. Michelangelo’s David did not disappoint at all. I probably stared at David for a good 30-40 minutes. It’s that damn impressive. Michelangelo = most impressive artist of all-time. Hands. Down.
With the addition of my week practically living with Renaissance art and architecture, my appreciation for and understanding of art continues to grow exponentially. It’s a part of my life, although missing before, that I’m glad is gradually filling in. Before coming to Europe, my knowledge about visual art and architecture was a sad sight. Now I feel like I could lecture on it for hours on end. Not that I will- no one wants to listen to that, haha. But it’s something that will live with me forever- a new love for art. It’s just one example of how this semester abroad in Europe is going to have an eternally lasting impact on me as a person. I’m so thankful to be having this incredible opportunity.