So hopefully this post won't be nearly as long as the last... Instead of class Monday, we took a field trip to the Foro Italico, aka the Olympic Stadium and training facilities for Italy. It was a nice change from the ruins and ancient monuments I've been seeing, but not overwhelmingly interesting, especially since a lot of parts of it were under construction. A great Italian man gave us a tour in Italian which made it a little challenging, but he spoke very clearly and slow enough for us to understand at least the gist of things. Mainly, he just told us how the Foro Italico was built during the Fascist regime of Mussolini, and how all the rooms, paintings, architecture, etc. still had symbols or ties to Fascism. Personally, not the most interesting thing. We got to see a couple Olympic conference rooms with large paintings of Fascist Italy and framed posters from each of the Olympic Games, the Olympic Stadium primarily used for calcio, or soccer, the swimming facility with great aquatic-themed mosaics on the walls, and the mosaics on the ground outside the facilities, one even being a map of the entire Foro Italico! In the main hall they even had a countdown clock til the 2008 Olympics in Beijing! We also got to go into Mussolini's old gym, which is now another conference room. Overall it was somewhat interesting, but more on the boring side.
That night my roommates and I decided to make a nice homemade dinner. Actually, Susan cooked while the rest of us watched and learned. She made melanzane di parmigiana, or eggplant parmesean, with a homemade tomato and vegetable sauce, and insalata caprese con melanzane griglia, aka caprese salad with grilled eggplant. It was DELICIOUS, especially with the couple bottles of red wine we opened. It was one of my best nights in Rome so far, with all of us just sitting around laughing, drinking wine and eating butter cookies for dessert, and looking up "questionable" words in Italian : ) Kathryn and I made a venture out to but another bottle of wine, and ended up getting one of those large bottles of cheap red wine, which turned out to be cheap for a reason. Later on we called Carlo and Marco to see what they were up to, and they ended up stopping by for a couple hours along with Federico and a couple other friends. It was really fun, listening to music and talking, and I even got them to correct my Italian hw! By about 2:30am, we were all pretty tired (partly due to the wine I'm sure), so the guys left and we went to bed.
In class Tuesday, we were surprised when they told us we were going to walk to the Pantheon for the last hour of our class. Carly and I had already been planning to go their later that afternoon, so it was a nice coincidence. The Pantheon was of course amazing. The sheer size of it is astounding, not to mention how they were able to construct a dome without support. The oculus was cool, but I still don't understand why they don't cover it in bad weather. At one point, a seagull flew inside and couldn't find its way out, so it just circled the oculus for a while before landing on a ledge. My favorite part were the columns in front, simply for their massive size!
The best part of the afternoon however turned out to be in a church around the corner from the Pantheon in Piazza Minerva called Chiesa di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. It is a 13th century church built on the site of an ancient temple of Minerva (Athena), and also one of the few churches in Rome in the Gothic style. The front of the church really isn't anything special, except for the Elafantino, a delightful statue of an elephant supporting an Egyptian obelisk. Inside, however, is absolutely breathtaking. Every inch is ornate and detailed, from colorful frescoes to statues, brightly colored stained glass lining the tops of the walls a beautiful painted ceiling, gorgeous altar, and unique worship altars on both sides of the church, each with different types of decorations but all of them absolutely beautiful. I must have spent about 40 minutes in there, enthralled by the beauty of everything, and trying to capture as much of it as I could on camera. Unlike a lot of other Catholic churches, especially in Rome, this one was bright and colorful, especially with the bright blue cieling and the sun shining through the stained glass. Pictures can't do it justice, but it was absolutely bellissima, my favorite thing I've seen in Rome so far.
It is still hotter than Hades here. It was in the 90s today, with 100% humidity!!!! I thought I would be aclimated to it by now, or at least used to it, but no luck. On a good note, I bought my month pass today for the metro/bus, so no more buying tickets everyday and spending a ton of euros!! We have a couple more things coming up for school, and my roommates and I are cooking a mexican food dinner for the guys Thursday, so it should be a busy week. Also, we have our first oral exam Friday, and our orientation for the Padova portion of the program. I've decided to go out sightseeing/exploring at least a few times a week, even if it's by myself, so I get the most out of my time here but also to learn to rely on myself alone. Plus, I'll be able to see exactly what I want to see. Anyway, it's getting late here, so buonanotte tutti!