Sunday, October 27, 2013

Beautiful Italy and Suitcases that Make me Want to Punch Things

I feel as if blogging in Italy is going to be a little more difficult than on the rest of the trip. Now that I have only 12 days left on this journey, I'm less inclined to stay inside at night and blog and MORE inclined to buy a bottle of Limoncello and hang out with friends in a piazza.

We last left off in Verona, yes? Arriving in Verona. We only had one full day in Verona, but I enjoyed my time there a lot. The group went to visit the Castel Vecchio, a castel/musem renovation by Carlo Scarpa, in the morning, and had the rest of the day free.


In most renovations we've been in (especially castles), much of the property is roped off and inaccessible. This was not the case at Castel Vecchio. Scarpa created so many nooks and crannies and hallways to explore that in two and a half hours, I didn't see the whole building. The entire complex was a really nice juxtaposition between the old castle and the new intervention. Where the walls of the castle curved, the lines of the renovation were straight. The old historic doorways were preserved, with new doors put in them. And the details of the building! Everything, from how the steel handrails were cut on the laser cutter to how every single staircase was different according to how Scarpa wanted the visitor to approach the next level, was so meticulously and beautifully thought out and executed.

The main entrance hallway

I like the brick pattern- rough stone with polished stone. And the way the old artifacts are hung on the walls.... crazy!

It was truly a beautiful building to visit. I was talking to John about the building, and he pointed out just how detailed the areas of transition were in the building- doorways and windows, for example. And after he said that, I looked down at my sketchbook and realize that is ALL I had been drawing, details of transition. Even subconsciously I was picking up that these were important to the architect, and therefore important to me as someone experiencing the building.

Entrances, bridges, stairs...

I've also been reading a really interesting book, "The Eyes of the Skin" by Juhani Pallasmaa. He's been talking about how the sense of sight is overwhelmingly the only sense that some architects design for, and how buildings should be experienced with all senses. I would argue that the Castel Vecchio is one of those buildings you experience with all of your senses. You see the details, you touch the old stone and the new steel, you sense with your body the feeling of a tight hallway versus a large room, you smell how old the building is... it's really incredible. I didn't lick the building, so I don't know how it tastes, but I can only assume it tastes like stone.

The rest of the day was spent walking around, looking at shops and stalls, and bopping around. We visited Juliet's tower, which was FULL of people being romantic and gooey and leaving notes and locks and gum on the walls for Juliet. I pondered leaving CJ's and my name on the wall, but I didn't have a lock/piece of gum/paper to write on, and I also didn't like how crowded it was. So, I didn't. A fictional character from a Shakespeare play does not dictate the success or failure of my love life. SO THERE.

This wall was built in 50 B.C.

Juliet's plaza

Notes and gum and locks, all with precious letters and sentiments to Juliet

I went out around 3 to sketch. I walked around the coliseum and sat in the park by the fountain, and set to sketching. I made some successful small talk with two older Italian gentlemen, and just chilled and watched the people. In the evening, a large group of us went to the Piazza for dinner. We ate at what we called the Italian equivalent of TGI Friday's- I had spaghetti and a glass of wine, and I was so content.

The Piazza Bra was full of art vendors on Saturday. I wanted to buy a piece, but there isn't enough room in my beer suitcase for art

Sunday morning, we left Verona behind and headed to Venice! I bought a new suitcase in Verona because my first beer suitcase BROKE in Como (don't remember if I told you, dear blog readers), so I was toting the new one behind me. I feel absolutely ridiculous, carrying a hiking backpack AND my messenger bag AND my stupid beer suitcase. I just want to punt it into the canals and forget about it, but all my souvenirs are in it, so I can't.

We spent the majority of our day (that was not occupied by a bus ride) at the Bryon Cemetery. It was designed by Carlo Scarpa for the Bryon family, and took 12 years to complete. It was a beautiful complex. We've studied it in school before, but nothing compares to actually visiting a place.

The traditional part of the cemetery

The two circles represent life and death- one cannot exist without the other

All of these cemeteries we're visiting have got me thinking about the archtiecture of death. In Germany, apparently you only lease your plot for 25 years, then you get dug up and your bones are put in the nearest church in the Bone Vault with all the other bones. You just get tossed in there and mixed up with everyone else. In Italy, they are SUPER into All Saints Day and they regularly visit and maintain the gravesites of their parents and grandparents and great grandparents, and they stack up to six coffins on top of each other at each plot. So the graves are like 12 feet deep or something. But with the Islamic cemetery I visited, the bodies are buried in cloth and will eventually decompose and turn to dust, returning to the earth.

How do you design a cemetery, a place of memories, a place of pause and repose and contemplation and grief? How do you think bodies should be treated once the person inside has moved on? Do you want to be preserved in a box, or return to the earth? These are all questions that you ask yourself if you want to tackle this. Death is scary, and graveyards and cemeteries can be scary too. But not one cemetery we've visited on this trip has been scary. They have all been beautiful. So it's possible to bring beauty to death. You just have to really think about it.

I HATED those stairs. They were the worst things to walk down. Dear goodness

They're getting married, so we can take cheesy photos of them

Jen and Leanna

It didn't take long to get to Venice from the Bryon Cemetery. We hopped off our bus and took a water taxi thing to the general area of our hotel. As luck would have it, the handle of my beer suitcase literally came off in my hands. First I lose a wheel, now I lose a handle. Not only do I look ridiculous with all my luggage, but now it's BROKEN. At least I packed in a backpack and not a first suitcase, I would look even worse with two suitcases.

But Venice is lovely! I was mad at myself on the walk to the hotel because of my suitcase (and I don't want people to laugh at me or pity me or offer to help, this was my choice to bring beer home for CJ and I'll deal with the drawbacks), so I didn't actually look up all that much. But our hotel is RIGHT on the canal and I watched many a gondola float by :)

But we've got two full days here! I'm going to walk around and buy MORE souvenirs (I still have like half my list to buy things for, haha), and sit by the water and be happy and peachy and then enjoy Italy to the fullest!

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