Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sorrento and Lemons

Since I finished my research at Pompeii yesterday and also spent the afternoon at Herculaneum (another ancient city buried by Vesuvius in AD 79) I decided to do something entirely different today: visit Sorrento (pictured above), a beachside city on the Bay of Naples about an hour from Naples by train. The city is famous for its lemon and orange trees so there are lots of vendors happy to let you sample lemon goods in hopes that you'll purchase something. Which I did....Otherwise, Sorrento is a pretty relaxed town that is much cleaner, quieter and all around nicer than Naples. Its right on the beach so lots of people go there to swim during the day. Its also where people catch the ferry for the island of Capri (a favorite vacation spot of Jackie O).
After wandering around Sorrento for a couple of hours I took the train back to Naples and decided to take a look around at some of the churches (like the Duomo pictured above). Unfortunately, I didn't realize that many were closed on Sunday afternoon so instead I went to the Greek-Roman underground tunnels...the name sounds much more exciting than they actually were. It was basically a hyped up series of tunnels that were apparently a Greek (or Roman, the tour guide changed his story so many times I'm still not sure) aquaduct system that became a bunker during WWII for the city of Naples. The coolest part was when we had to maneuver through a series of tunnels that I had to squeeze through using only candles that we carried. Except I was a little worried that I'd trip and catch the girl in front of me's hair on fire...
As I was killing time waiting for the tour to start, I purchased this, the first dessert to be featured on this blog: pistachio gelato. It was good, not the best gelato I've ever had, but definitely good.

So, in order to stimulate more interest in my fledgling blog I've decided to create a contest. Some of the blogs I read do this and they get all kinds of answers. I only anticipate a few since I'm pretty sure my readership at this point consists of Aaron, my mom and my dad (better chances for them!). Nevertheless, my contest begins as soon as I publish this pots and will last until July 18 when I return to the US (since it may take that long for people to respond). All you have to do is respond to the question I post and the best answer will get a cool prize that I purchased in Sorrento today. Your responses should go in the "comments" section of the post this is also an attempt to generate comments :)

So, here it is:

What is the best thing to do with lemons?

Post your answer in the comments section of this post and I will select the BEST answer!

Friday, May 29, 2009

A famous art historian, a marriage proposal and a brush with the law (all in one day)

This morning I headed off to Pompeii with my permesso in hand ready to look at all my paintings and houses for my research. I was planning to take the local commuter train to the site, but the woman running my hostel said to just take the bus which is closer to the hostel. Unfortunately, the bus was running an hour late (but the men kept saying it was on time) so I got there a bit later than planned. Once there, I made it in for free with my pass and got everything squared away. I had to have the guys open the houses for me because most of them are locked so I went to the office and one guy came and each house we went to we seemed to gain an extra old Italian man. Eventually, I had this whole posse of old Italian guards who were walking around with me, talking to each other in Italian and trying to find me extra paintings that would relate to my thesis. So, I they did succeed in locating one extra one that I didn't know about which was good.

In the afternoon, I went to a house with one of the guards and there randomly happened to be this super famous art historian who works on paintings and whose books I really respect. He was doing research and one of his assistants was a friend of a friend of mine from UVA so it was pretty nice to meet these people and talk to them about Roman art and painting for a while.

Then, I had to find another guard to open another house for me later in the day and this guy named Cesar was assigned to me. Cesar was about 55 or 60 and he developed a certain fondness for me I guess over the course of our time walking around the city looking for the right house. He didn't really speak English and I don't really speak Italian so he finally asked me in broken English if I was married. When I replied "no" he got really happy, hugged me, tried to kiss me and said "good, we can go to pizza tonight in Sorrento (a city near Pompeii) and get married." I said WHOOOA buddy, i don't think so, i'm just here to look at art. (although, I do really want to go to sorrento and free pizza wouldn't be all that bad....) apparently, the NO didn't really register because he continued to accompany me around Pompeii and kept directing me to specific houses including the "erotic" paintings of the brothel where he asked me if i liked them to which I responded a resounding NO and later when he asked me if i liked wine I said I hated it, hoping to make myself sound as horribly unattractive as possibly so he would get this idea out of his head and let me look at my art in peace! Eventually I ditched him when he went to let someone else into a house (i just ran down the street, well walked briskly) so I hope he wasn't too heartbroken.

I figured that was enough excitement for one day, but on my way home I was in the Naples metro station and got stopped by the police who were checking train tickets. They claimed that they were unable to read the stamp on mine and fined me 40 euro (a lot!). I tried to argue in my Italian (which basically consists of "thank you" and "goodbye"), but they apparently spoke no English (I'm still skeptical) so I was forced to pay the 40 euro b/c I didn't really want to get in any more trouble. I was pretty upset, not just about the money, but about the fact that I was honestly not doing anything wrong, the law just scammed me out of money so I cried my way home on the metro, which was pretty embarrassing (luckily I don't know anyone in Naples).

I'm going to post some pics of Pompeii in the picture space that is linked on the right under "My pics" at some point tonight or tomorrow. I'm heading back to Pompeii tomorrow for more research and also to Herculaneum so hopefully it will be a little less exciting, or at least no more fines.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Today I arrived in Naples after a pretty decent flight, 30 minute train ride into Rome, and subsequent two hour train ride to Naples. All in all it was a pretty good trip until I got to the Naples subway and boarded the metro, which couldn't decide which way it wanted to go. We just sat on it for a while waiting and it finally decided it wanted to go the right way (that is, my way). Ifound my hostel, which is a pretty nice little place (except its on the "third floor" which is really more like the fifth floor and I KNOW that European floors are different than American ones, but come one...). Then I went to the Archaeological Museum which houses lots of paintings and mosaics from Pompeii and Herculaneum, which were stolen by archaeologists early in the century. I took lots of pictures like these statues on the left and this painting on the right. Then I took a walk around Naples and down to the harbor where you can see Mt. Vesuvius. By then I was pretty tired so I found a supermarket and bought some groceries for lunch/dinner for the next few days and came home for the night.

At the grocery store I had a small problem. This was not my first time at an Italian grocery store, but for some reason (I'll blame the jet lag) I looked like a total idiot. After I paid the woman for my groceries, I stood there waiting for her to hand me my change (a normal thing to do, i thought) and apparently she had already put it on the moving belt which she had then moved so my change was down at the end of the grocery line with my groceries and a whole bunch of angry Italians were yelling at me except I didn't know why/what they were saying. I finally deduced that they were telling me to get moving and eventually one of them moved around me, grabbed my change and shoved it at me. So, now I know. Don't expect someone to hand you change. Just expect it to show up somewhere.

After I got home with my groceries (which included Coke Lite, of course) I ate some dinner and talked to a man who is staying at the hostel and traveling around Italy. He's from Houston and has done a lot of traveling so he told me a bit about his travels, which was interesting.

Tomorrow morning, I'm off to Pompeii to do my research! Wish me luck getting in with my permit!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My new tool

Tomorrow I leave for Rome. One of my friends is driving me to Dulles (2 hour drive) and then I take off from there around 6:30pm. Today, I ran a bunch of errands because the American Academy is very "relaxed" (I use this as a euphemism) with their information and basically informed me TODAY that I need a) a copy of my immunization records b) a trowel (?!?!) and c) sheets. These would normally not be that big of a deal, but since I'm leaving tomorrow, and the immunization records normally take 10 days to order I had to do some sweet-talking at student health. The sheets were no probably obviously, but the trowel...the dig director specified that we needed either a "Marshalltown" or a "WHS" and he also said that the WHS trowels were "infinitely better." Needless to say, these are not trowels that you can just pick up at Lowe's or Home Depot. I did a little Internet searching and found that WHS trowels are only manufactured in London and consequently are really only available at that location--there seem to be only a couple of retailers who will ship them worldwide. After reading about them, I kind of wanted one because they have a really cool engraving of a crown on them and the entire trowel is one piece of solid metal, apparently to maximize force making it easier to dig. But, I didn't want to pay for shipping to Rome. Marshalltown trowels, however, are made in the US so I called a local hardware store and they luckily had one!
I'd like to introduce you to my new trowel: Its a Marshalltown 5inch pointed end trowel. According to my recent Internet research, archaeologists are very attached to their trowels so perhaps I too will develop a close, personal relationship with this tool (which would be very uncharacteristic for me).

In other news, I packed all of my stuff today.I managed to fit all of my stuff in a small rolling suitcase (carry-on size!), a backpack, and a shoulder-purse. Within these bags I've stuffed (literally) four pairs of shoes, four skirts, three dresses, about seven shirts, two pairs of shorts, toiletries, lots of sunscreen, sheets, a towel, four books, 34 pairs of underwear, seven pairs of socks, my trowel, research materials, camera, iPod, dig clothes (two pairs of pants, four old shirts), and several other misc. items. In other words, I have no idea how i got it all in there and it may never happen again.

Monday, May 25, 2009


People, I would like to show you my latest (and last) baking accomplishment--a homemade ice cream cake.
In honor of Memorial Day, the official start of summer, I decided to combine two of my loves--cake and ice cream--into one delicious dessert. This one here is vanilla cake with homemade strawberry ice cream and whipped cream frosting. We went to a bbq at some of our friends' house (with Hebrew National hot dogs...we answer to a higher authority!) and took the cake for dessert.

Besides that, I just discovered that I can download Skype to my iPod Touch! This is awesome news because it means that, at least while I'm in Rome, I'll be able to Instant Message chat/call my family and friends who also use Skype which is totally free!!!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Shoes I don't want

Today, for perhaps the first time in my life, I bought a pair of shoes that I did NOT want to buy. I really like buying shoes and I own many pairs, but today I purchased a pair of steel-toed boots for my dig. I found out today that I'll be digging in Pompeii and they told us to bring a pair of boots, which I obviously don't own (unless you count black, high-heeled boots or brown, equestrian boots not suited for work). So, I went to Wal-Mart and bought these:

I've included this picture of the box, which proves that they are indeed "steel-toed" boots because I'm pretty sure my mom won't believe that I own such shoes.

I suppose its good, to protect my toes and everything from pick-axes and rocks and sharp pieces of ancient art, but they're really uncomfortable and heavy. Honestly, I'd rather be spending 'shoe' money on some other pair of cool shoes, but I guess sometimes you have to do what you have to do. This is definitely going to set back my 'light' packing strategy a bit. oh well.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Pre-Departure Birthday Celebration

One of the perks of studying art history is that we have an excuse to travel in order to do research and see art. Since many of my friends are traveling to various locations throughout the summer we decided to have an early birthday celebration for my friend Elizabeth whose actual birthday is in June. It was also a good chance to hang out with everyone before we all dispersed throughout the world for the next few weeks/months. This is not really about Italy, but I decided to post pictures of the cake I made since its tangentially related to my trip...sort of. My friend Elizabeth loves chocolate so I made a chocolate cake with raspberry filling and chocolate frosting. Our friend Mike is vegan so I also made coconut milk ice cream (I got an ice cream maker for my birthday). It was delicious if I may say so myself!

Here is the cake before I piped on the writing:

Here is Elizabeth blowing out the candles:

Here is a piece of the cake with the ice cream:

That's probably my last cake for the next week fews (seven to be exact) although I may try to make a coconut and chocolate ice cream cake for Memorial Day this weekend. One last hoorah!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

One Week and Counting

One week from today I will be en route to Washington Dulles (via Amtrak) where I will then leave for Rome (via plane, of course!). Right now, however, I'm sitting in the library trying to get things in order for the research I will be doing at Pompeii for the first four days of my trip. I've obtained a research permit (or permesso) from the Italian government, which means that I will be allowed into areas not normally open to the public in order to take pictures and look at ancient Roman wall paintings that are relevant to my MA thesis. I need to see the paintings up close myself because published pictures are often not very good or don't show the details I'm interested in. I will be looking at paintings, mostly of women, which involve reflection. Such as this:
So, I will keep you all posted on the status of this research as it progresses over the next few weeks.

I also wanted to note several things about this blog (albeit a very amateur blog) for those new to blogging. The easiest way to follow my posts is to either "bookmark" or "favorites" the link I sent. This can be done at the top of your Internet Explorer/Firefox/Safari toolbar. That way you don't have to continue going to the email I sent you every time you want to read this (assuming you want to read this). There is a button to enable an RSS feed if you use Google Reader or something like that, but I'll leave that for another post.

Also, on the right side of my blog I've put some links to other interesting websites, which appear in green. At the top is a link to photos that I post titled "My Photos." I hope to update this periodically. There is also a link to the American Academy where I will be staying and working as well as a list of blogs that I read further down on the right side. If you click on any of these you will be directed to these sites.
Lastly, you can comment on any of my posts by clicking the "comments" link at the bottom of the post. Your comments can be anonymous if you like or you can enter your name or a secret screen name.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

First Post!

This is my first post! I'm not really a blog person, but I decided to start this one primarily so my mom could read it while I'm gone since I know she'll want to know what I'm doing and I won't be able to call her too often. Honestly, I'm not that sure how often I'll write in it, but hopefully enough to be somewhat substantial. As you may gather from the title, I will be focusing my endeavors on desserts, despite the fact that I am an art historian and should be focusing on art. I am sure that some art will turn up here now and again, but I figure that I will spend enough time with art during the rest of my day I may as well focus on my second love--dessert--here!
so, here is a photo to whet your appetite: these are some lemon cupcakes that i made.

I'm not in Italy yet...but I'm leaving in ten days,
which is very soon and I have a lot to do to get ready! I'm trying very hard to pack light, which if you know me you understand is VERY hard. I just decided that I'm going to be there for seven weeks so its impossible to bring enough stuff anyway so I might as well pack light and save myself a little trouble. so, we'll see what happens. I've booked my hostel, but I still have to buy a train ticket to DC in order to catch my plane, which should not be a problem. I could just buy one the day of, but I like to play it safe. I'm also on a quest for a perfect pair of comfortable flat, non-sneakers, but its much harder than it seems so we will see what happens with that.

Alright, stay tuned for more updates.