They built a city, on water

I’ve been in Venice for a good  6 hours now. It’s been an interesting set of experiences so far, including stepping out of the airport and on to a boat to get to the hotel and walking about a city that is so completely different from any other major city I’ve ever been in (and I’ve been in a fair few).

Venice really is a city of canals, a city essentially built on water. But you quickly get used to it. After the initial shock/amazement of seeing buildings practically rising out of the water, it doesn’t take too long to get used to the sight of small boats winding their through canals or crossing a bridge every few dozen steps.  In some ways Venice reminds me of Calcutta where I’ve spent most of my life. There are lots of tiny little alleys and lanes with lots of old buildings with different architectural styles. However, unlike Calcutta there has been no large scale modernization and the more modern buildings and marketplaces fit in really well with the rest of the city. We haven’t really had a chance to see the churches or other culturally relevant parts of the city but we have a few more days to get on with that.

The outside of San Marco

I’ve already had a small glimpse of Italian cuisine. We had a light lunch of meat and cheese appetizers, spaghetti and risotto and it was all quite delicious. The recommended €15 bottle of red wine (a Merlot) went with the meal quite well. Now I am certainly not a connoisseur of wine by any stretch of the imagination, but I’d like to think that I’m developing a palette (and I’ll certainly have good teachers in Italy’s wine country). For dinner we’ve been promised an assorted seafood dish that is reportedly a Venetian specialty which I’m looking forward to. Coming from Calcutta, I’ve grown up with good sea food all my life and is something I almost never get in Easton, Pennsylvania.

My first wine in Italy

Merlot in Venice

It’s been a rather long and fun-filled day and a half with not much sleep. My roommate is currently fast asleep and I will have to wake him up before dinner. I’m tempted to do the same, expect I know that I wouldn’t be able to get up in time.  So tonight will likely be a quiet night with some reading and pen-and-paper journaling (plus some emailing home to let my parents know I’m alright). Tomorrow promises to be an even more interesting day as we really dive into our course material and take a proper tour of Venice and the various interesting places.

Packing and other necessities

I do not like packing. I don’t mind having things organized and neat, but I don’t like putting a bunch of stuff into a small space where I may not be able to get to things easily. Enough complaining. I’m packed and as always my suitcase is a bit heavier than I would like it to be. But I’ve managed to pack clothes, notebooks, pens, stationary, shoes and a number of other random things, enough to last my three weeks in Italy. I like to travel light, especially when I actually have to carry stuff myself. So my carry on luggage is as light as I can make it, containing only the bare essentials and everything else goes in the suitcase. Depending on how much I have to lug my suitcase I could move things into my backpack if need be.

I’ve also gone shopping a bit today for various things. I got a Moleskin notebook, my first. I’m not sure if I think it’s a good investment. I like the look and feel of it and it’s clearly well made. The paper is thicker than normal and the paper is stitched, not stapled, to the cover. The line spacing is narrow and I’m not sure if that’s going to make writing harder. I guess I’ll found out once I start writing. I got a pack of three for $16.95 and that’s pretty steep for 120 pages in each book. I also got a smaller pocket notebook for taking notes on the fly. Besides that I picked up a plug adapter (I’m not taking any electronics besides my netbook which has a power brick).

In conclusion I dislike packing, but I’m packed anyway. Now back to waiting for laundry to finish so that I can wrap up things up for the night.

The reading list

Like basically all college courses my course in Italy has a reading list. There are four books on the list: one is a guidebook to the area we’ll be in, one is a book on Renaissance Florence and two Italian classics from the Renaissance period that we’ll be studying.

The guide book is called Tuscany, Umbria and the Marches. To tell the truth, I haven’t bought this book. From the reviews on Amazon it seems like a well recommended book, but I’m only going to read it during the trip and that too probably sporadically. Since there are going to be about 20 other people on the trip (about half of whom I already know) I’m going to be borrowing it whenever I decide to look something up.

The art book is called Renaissance Florence: The Invention of a New Art and is the most expensive of the lot. But that’s understandable considering there are a number of high quality pictures spread throughout the book. This book I have bought, partially because I like books that are well made and put together such as this one. I haven’t read or seriously looked through it yet but I am looking forward to it.

The two classics are Boccacio’s Decameron and Dante’s Inferno, the first part of his Divine Comedy. The actual books are written in Italian and we’re going to be reading English translations. The chief translator for both of them is Mark Musa and they are both supposed to be the best translations available. I’m half-way through the introduction to the Inferno (which itself is 52 pages long and written by Musa). The introduction is basically a summary of Dante’s life, times and works and there is a lot of information packed into those pages. Though it’s well written, I do wish that it was broken into sections so that I had some idea of where the text was going. Oh well, I guess the introduction isn’t the most important part of a book so I shouldn’t read too much into it.

I’m looking forward to reading the books but I’m not the biggest fan of the classics, I’m more into books with an involved plotline moving at a good pace. However, I think that the books will offer insights in to the culture and ideas of the era which will be useful when I’m actually studying the art and trying to understand the artists themselves. We’re leaving on Wednesday evening and I hope to have at least one of the classics completed before then. Unfortunately I’ll be busy moving and packing until then so that’s not going to be very easy to do, but I’m certainly going to try.

INDS 220 Florence: Birthplace of the Renaissance

This on-site course explores the brilliant artistic and literary culture of Florence during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. Its primary text is the city and its monuments: its buildings, from church to palace; its art, including masterpieces by Giotto, Donatello, Botticelli, and Michaelangelo; and its literature, including such classics as Dante’s Inferno, Petrarch’s sonnets, and Boccaccio’s Decameron. Visits to Pisa, Siena, Assisi, and Rome enhance understanding of this extraordinary age.

Hello all. I’m heading off to Italy for 18 days leaving the 26th of May and coming back on the 13th of June. The last time I was in Europe was some 5 years ago (Ireland) and though I had a great time and a wonderful experience, it wasn’t the most intellectually fulfilling experience I’ve ever had. But this is the first time that I’m going abroad with a definite purpose to learn something and moreover the trip it is going to be led by two very awesome professors who are leaders in their fields (of Art History and International Affairs).

To say that I’m excited would be a gross understatement. I’m really looking forward to this trip for a number of different reasons (not the least of which is the chance to get away from campus for 3 weeks). It’s going to be a great chance to explore a new country, learn about an entirely different subject (Art History) and share some great experiences with friends. And of course, since this blog is here, I’ll be recording as much as I can right here.