Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Day 13: Monasteries and More


I've been here for 13 days and boy has it been a whirlwind. I last left off with my wonderful Saturday in Firenze. On Sunday I went to the Medici Palace. The museum itself was a little bit underwhelming. It was one of those places that obviously lacked the funding for preservation that it deserved-- as in, it could have been really cool, but someone thought it would be better to turn it into a modern art museum.

One part of the house was very well taken care of, and had a good bit of the fixtures from the remodeling in the 18th century. Perhaps the best part was of course the part that I couldn't take photos of— the Chapel. This features one of the most famous frescoes in Italian Renaissance history. This is an image of it that I pulled from the web:

It was kind of ridiculously cool to see this work. It's been in multiple textbooks, classrooms and powerpoint presentations that have been part of my education. I'm doing a project on the palace, and plan to revisit it before I leave Florence. I would like to go back armed with a little bit more information about the history of the building. For example, I know that Lorenzo the Magnificent lived there, which in and of itself is pretty cool. Not going to lie, it was awesome to walk the halls once graced by Lorenzo, Michelangelo (who also lived at the palace during part of his youth), Boticelli (who was a painter-in-residence more or less for Lorenzo) and Leonardo (Da Vinci). 

After the palace I headed back up to the rose garden and finished rereading Ayn Rand's "Anthem." I really enjoyed it this time around. I originally read it when I was in middle school, and this time around, close to 10 years later, I got something completely different out of it. As a middle schooler I saw it more as a statement against unquestioned conformity. The takeaway for me then was "be true to yourself" and "trust your intellect." Part of that still holds for me today.

However, because of my Italian philosophy class, I'm now examining works in a different, or I guess really new, way. This time through, I saw it as in many ways a parallel allegory to Plato's story of The Cave. I saw that the message was deeper than "be your own person"— in many ways "Anthem" is purporting that the enlightened man is the man that asks questions (similar to Greek classical philosophy). The society of those who don't question is a society not of men but of puppets. It even seems to argo, much like Plato, that there is an innate desire to question and to learn, and that we as humans chose to seek answers or to simply accept what we are told. Those who do not question lead an unfulfilled life.

Not trying to wax philosophical here, but I just am really enjoying this class.

Monday was a day full of classes. I'm finding that in order to stay awake during my 9 AM class I have to drink cafe macchiato. The thing about a macchiato here is that it isn't like the sugary drink at home. It's literally an espresso shot with milk. For the first time in my life I'm drinking coffee (strong coffee at that) with no sugar. Sometimes I just drink espresso. Who am I.

Tuesday was much the same, except I went back to the Boboli gardens for the afternoon. I began reading Plato's "Republic" which I'm excited about, but the intro is stupidly dense (and not written by Plato). I also began to do work on my honors thesis.
My reading spot in the gardens. Florence is in the background.
Thesis work now is a bit of a challenge though because I don't have clear research questions yet. My topic idea is a comparative study of news coverage of the Amanda Knox trial in Italian and American news media. But it's not really narrow or tailored yet and I certainly don't have any research questions. My advisor suggested that while I'm here I focus on document collection, but almost all of that can actually be done in the States. 

I talked at length about this with my dad yesterday, and we thought that it might be best if I talk to experts and observe what is in the newstands here to determine what are the biggest outlets. I think this could be very good for my work. Tomorrow I have a meeting with my LdM advisor and I plan on asking for her advice. Someone in my class also has a friend that took a media course last semester at LdM, so she's going to give me her friend's email.

I feel a little bit like I'm drowning in this project but I keep reminding myself that I have a year to complete it. I guess I just feel like I should be doing actual research for it while I'm here, but ultimately I guess making contacts could be the best thing for my thesis in the long run.

HOKAY. Finally up to today.

Today I had my first class and macchiato per usual, but in my second class we took a field trip to a renaissance-aged monastery. Talk about incredible. We got to walk completely through it and learn about the culture in the cloisters. I really enjoyed seeing a part of Florence that I probably wouldn't have made it to otherwise— this place was about 15 minutes outside of the city by bus and I had no clue it was there. That's one of the really cool things about this experience though; I'm learning about the culture of the Italian Renaissance and at the same time I'm living in the middle of it. As a Renaissance nerd, I'm pretty much in heaven here.

Views of the monastery, and a picture of the bracelet I bought there. Clockwise around starting with top left: View from the walk up to the monastery; the main chapel with frescoes covering the walls and ceiling; the entrance to the main chapel; the bracelet.


I do occasionally miss things from N.C., like pimento cheese, Eastern barbecue, cole slaw and sweet tea. What can I say, I'm southern. But I do really love living here. I've got a little family in my homestay and I like coming together for dinner every night with them. It gives me a chance to relax, practice my Italian and enjoy a home cooked meal.

Tomorrow I have my Renaissance Civilization and Culture midterm so I should probably go write my essay outline for that. But I just wanted to update all of y'all and continue to share my journey. 

I promised a post about style and fashion, but I think I'm going to wait on that for a bit. My definition of style is still changing. As a sneak preview though, my dad said something that I find especially poignant about "style"...

"Style is a reflection of the way we see ourselves on any given day."

I like that. I hadn't thought of it in that way. But, I'll give you my full thoughts lata. 

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