Monday, September 27, 2010

Be Italian!

Ciao my readers,
I am at a loss for words right now because I have experienced so much this past week let alone this weekend and  a part of me wants to talk about art history while another part of me really wants to talk about my acclimation to Italian culture. So though this is not to bore you, I am going to go with the latter. I promise my next entry will be filled with  art experiences.

 My Dear readers I am not Italian, nor is my name really Gianna, rather it is Jenna. I am just your typical american girl. Before Italy, my Italian experience included dining at an Italian restaurant and studying Italian at my local college.  Immediately upon arrival into Italy, everything from the way I dressed, to my mannerisms pegged me as american but now something amazing has happened. I am Italian! Now of course i say this more in the metaphorical sense since i will never be Italian thanks to my bloodline. However, if i were walking down the streets of Florence in no way would you guess i was an american.

My definition of studying abroad as opposed to others varies, for those of you who are unaware Florence is a major attraction site for american college students. Everyday on my way to school i will always run into those few select american students hung over from there gallivanting  that previous night.  I want to make it clear that Florence is a beautiful place and it saddens me so, that it has become such a party city.

My first few entries i was in major culture shock because i had never been exposed to so much partying and i felt like a wallflower in a completely different world. American girls are immediately branded as wild and vulnerable by any Italian man. My first few days i would get invites for free drinks and flyers to local clubs. I tried playing on these wiles but after partying a few times I felt  so ashamed of myself for becoming the definition of the american abroad. Therefore,  I sought to stay in my room, sulk and count the days until i would happily be back in America. Yet, after two weeks i came to the realization that going abroad is what you make it.  I decided I no longer wanted to be the American in Florence and so i sought to embrace this new culture.

In all honesty, acclimation takes a while and my first step in acclimating to Florence was getting my bearings: I remember my first few days where i would follow my house mates for dear life for fear if i didn't keep up with them,  i would lose my way home. I also recall standing in my doorway nearly in tears since i did not know how to operate the lock on my apartment door.   Ordering at my local gelateria and caffe bar were a chore in itself , the waiter corrected my pitiful Italian while the women at the gelateria sneered at my failure to specify cup or cone. This frustration with Italy continued, I had no sense of direction and a walk home could take an hour maybe more due to one wrong turn.

I have grown so much upon my arrival to Italy to where i am now. It's absolutely amazing  the effect a change of attitude can have on a person. Below is an account on a day in the life of myself in Florence:

This morning i woke up and decided i would walk to the central market and buy ingredients to make a delicious pasta dish  which my mother makes for me at home ( I rarely ever cook since i'm insecure about my cooking ). With ease i walked to the market and upon arrival went to the individual vendors and bought all my ingredients as well as lunch in fluent Italian. After my shopping trip, i went for a granite at Grom which is one of the best gelateria's in all of Florence however it is often packed with tourists for some reason ,though i really have embodied being Italian and i am never asked what ice cream i would like rather i am greeted kindly with a ciao.  Later, I decided to be even more independent and set up an account at my local library so i no longer  would have to study alone in my room. The local library is very Italian and can be intimidating  but to the the best of my ability i officiated the signing of my card and membership. There, I did homework for a few hours and then headed home to cook a delicious home cooked pasta dish with the ingredients i bought at the market .

I guess you could say my ever-growing eagerness to learn has allowed myself to integrate with a new culture. I came here to experienc  art and culture in new and exciting ways and now i finally am , I underestimated what lengths it would take to be a part of that culture however through all my mispronunciations and misdirections, I learned part of acclimation is making mistakes and learning from them.

A Presto

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Bandini Museum: Botticelli's Virgin and Child

Ciao my readers,
This is my third week in Italy and i am proud to say i have finally acclimated with Italian culture: I know some wonderful places for food and gelato; I am on the friends of the bar list at my local coffee bar and i can order food and go shopping at the market without speaking one word of English.  Along with this acclimation came some travels to see some  museums and churches.

I wish i could update my blog more regularly but i am just so busy experiencing the culture of Italy that i seldom have some quiet time for introspection.

Last weekend i was invited to travel to the Etruscan ruins of Fiesole, I must say if you ever are staying for more then a week in Florence you should check out the Etruscan ruins of Fiesole, they are absolutely beautiful, also if you go up for a full day they have the most amazing walking tours. I was in sheer awe of seeing the ruins of such a quaint village, i wish i could have held that feeling with me for the rest of the day.  Sadly, that was not the case. I have seen many different museums in my lifetime and experienced many different aesthetic environments but  i never expected i would ever have a drunk museum tour guide.

The Bandini Museum  was a very small museum with two floors featuring Italian Renaisance church works. As written before in a previous post i want to find these small hidden treaure museums since often those are the ones that are the most inspiring. Yet, one cannot find inspiration amongst the guide of a drunken person.  Thats Right, Our tour gide was drunk and even admitted to being drunk. I wouldn't normally complain about this since i rarely ever take guided tours because i experience art with my eyes and not with my ears. While i appreciate others knowledge on art, once i am in a museum i like to let the art speak for itself and  the moment i walk outside i become a giddy ball of energy going on and on about the artists and there paintings. ( my grandmother can attest for this many a time). However, while i am in the museum i am in my own world.  This may have been a one time thing which i very much hope so for the sake of the Botticelli and Giotto's at the Bandini museum but once my friends and i entered the museum immediately one of the workers who happened to be drunk felt it was her obligation to show us every work in the museum and describe it in full detail to "her knowledge".  Now i say "her knowledge" because everything that she described was inaccurate except for the most basic of facts.

When i look at paintings i like to look at symbolisms, i will see the oranges amongst many Italian Renaissance paintings and know they are to pay homage to the Medicee family, I also love religious and mythological symbolisms as seen in many works by the great artists of the Italian Renaissance. Yet, when i hear," This is one of the evangelists and clearly he looks angry so i would not put him by your bedside or else when you wake up in the morning you will wake up to his angry face." or "this apostle was painted green i don't know why he was painted green but clearly the artist wanted to paint him green." a part of me dies inside because if i ever described that to my art history teacher or wrote that on an art history exam i would be immediately discredited and lose all points for that section of the exam. I am also taking fresco restoration and clearly that apostle was green due to improper restoration. Yet, what broke my heart was when i found an unexpected Botticelli work within the museum and instead of allowing myself to have that aha moment and really reflect on Botticelli's brushwork my tour guide had the nerve to educate me on the conception of the painting. 

 I was staring eyes agape into a beautiful Virgin and Child by Botticelli .  when my tour guide decided to tell me about the muse of the painting who i already knew was supposedly Simonetta Vespucci, but the story i was told was as far away from the truth as i have ever known. My drunken tourguide interupted my aha moment to tell me a "vital "fact" She is very beautiful, No? " i replied" of course she is,  she is the same face of the Venus as well." then comes the saddest thing i have ever heard in regards to art history.... "Did you know that she worked in a bakery and every day when Botticelli would go in to get a brioche he would see her and wave to her and they fell in love and so he painted her." at that moment a part of me wanted to scream well i guess i was screaming inside for the humanity of art everywhere. To my fellow readers who are unaware about Botticelli. Here is the actual truth Simonetta was a noble woman who was admired by many men including the Giuliano Di Medicee in no way would she be working at a bakery let alone at one.  I apologize for my elitism readers but things like this cannot go unsaid, i really want to know how this tour guide got her job and how many people have left that museum thinking Botticelli's muse worked in a bakery. This was the first Botticelli work i have seen while in Italy  and sadly its viewer-ship had to be ruined by a drunken tour guide.  I understand this experience was most likely one of a kind, but i have wanted to be a  museum guide for a  summer job and was rejected because i was to young. So i just can't help but feel broken to see someone with the summer job of my dreams abusing the privilege. 

A Presto, 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ciao Readers,
I feel very guilty about my last post, this in no way is meant to be a vent blog and really all i did in my last blog entry was vent minus my reference to the Botticelli's. Since this is a Travel blog i suppose culture shock and travels abroad go hand in hand my last entry is a perfect demonstration of culture shock. I came to Italy from a rural college in the middle of no where in a one street town and now i am in one of the busiest cities in the world and i am just getting my bearings. Also, within Florence i have already gone on two traveling trips one to Tuscany and the other to Naples and Capri. and both places are very different from Florence. more trips are in store and i am very excited for traveling but it does throw you off guard when you are slowly getting immersed into one surrounding  and suddenly you are in another culture. Luckily the transition within traveling doesn't last long but it is taking time.
I think the most difficult thing thus far about Florence is not adjusting to the city but to the people. I have great house mates and i mean nothing against them  but i am from a school where being a little bit dorky is a part of fitting in. its just so bizarre and i suppose culture shocking for me to me amongst such preppy non dorky people. I feel a little lost and have felt kind of out of the loop since i arrived here.  As mentioned in my profile i am a shy person, i just never knew how shy i was until i came here. A familiar face has made all the difference for me, i'm so fortunate to have my best friend from high school here with me. Its so great to have a fellow dork and culture enthusiast here with me to take in all the sights and culture. Since we have both been in Florence we have climbed two monumental buildings the Duomo and the citadel. having her here has made my experience thus far truly awesome i can;t wait to hit up the museums with her we are fellow culture buffs her in the classics and I with my art. I also am slowly but gradually branching out and making friends within my classes.
My favorite class by far is my fresco restoration class, the teacher has restored very famous works throughout the Uffizzi as well as some of the frescoes in Pompeii. The other students in my class really appreciate art and are either visual art majors or art history majors. we talk about art history for hours on end, Vermeer is one of the top favorites, the chieftains of the Italian renaissance are as well. The depth of what it takes to make a fresco is fairly simple: simply stencil the painting you want to rework , then create a  pattern by edging the stencil, once you have pattern set pattern by dabbing pigment with a sponge on plaster that will provide the outline for the work. the rest is pretty much a paint by numbers system and adding shadowing and transparencies where needed. OK so not that simple but in a fresco lab you can turn out a work fairly quickly.
My Fresco: Taken from Venus in Botticelli's Allegory of Spring

Since i have so much in common with my fellow classmates a few of us are going to the Uffizzi this weekend i am so excited one of my classmates as already gone twice and still has yet to see more. I am so excited for my i'm filled with anticipation i promise readers once i go to the uffizzi i will write you all about it. 
A presto, 
<3 Gianna

Monday, September 13, 2010


Dear Readers,
I Love Florence but really more as a vacation, vacations are different you go up for a few days meet a few people perhaps on the way and then you never have to see them again. you say you will stay in touch but it really never ends up happening. That is what most of my life has consisted of meeting people and then saying goodbye.  This summer i lost my best and only friend i had with me throughout high school. I guess you could say it was irreconcilable differences.In losing her as my friend a part of me dreaded meeting new people and still does how can you be friends with someone for almost 5 years and then just up and leave?  how is there a chance of even forming friendships when in the end nothing lasts? same goes for relationships.

 I have lost every childhood friend i have ever had all because i brought it on myself, i had to suffer and i couldn't just let myself be happy. I look in mirrors every day with disgust at myself trying to find that one feature even if its just my eye color to appease me but it never does. I have shamed myself far too many times that sometimes i don't even know who i am anymore. I'm at a crossroads now in a new country and instead of finding the silver lining of what is good in life even if it is not me. i am in dread of seeing the one thing that makes me happy for fear that i won;t be able to find anything else. I would love to write about art and the passion it brings me but where is the passion if i am dreading one of the only things that make me happy.

I feel alone and yet i'm so numb in feeling alone that maybe its what is best. Artist are tormented people i myself have been tormented since i was seven. i'm not good enough i don;t know if i will ever be, critiques terrify me, actually my own art work does because it never feels good enough. i would love to just paint over everything in white just let any sign of me trying to exercise my creativity disappear.

I suppose a blank canvas only works if you can put the past behind you, I can;t because i am so weak all the time from lack of caring and thus in that weakness shines through my vulnerability. o how i want to be loved and included and actually a part of a normal existence but i'm not destined for a normal existence i haven't since i was seven. The day i look in that mirror and realize i love myself maybe then i can create friendships and find love. but i truly detest who i am and i suppose it shines through for everyone else to see.

I am in one of the most beautiful cities in the world and am in fear of going to the Uffizi and seeing the Botticelli's. i'm afraid because once i see them i have no purpose no locus of reason to stay. i also am in fear because what if i see them and they don;t move me  and i am just left an empty hollow shell of a human being
filled with regret for believing art could combat her suffering.