Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Classical Italy Day 7: The Villa Borghese, Pincian Hill Park, Piazza Del Populo, Ara Pacis, and Rome at night

After the chaotic and dispersed nature of the previous day, the next began far more auspiciously, with each hotel room receiving a general itinerary of the day. The arduous and interminable walking of the previous would be counterbalanced with comparative leisure, including the oft requested siesta. Day 7 began with a visit to the villa of the Borghese family: a rather infamous but influential clan of bishops, cardinals, and popes, who used their considerable power, and duplicity, to accumulate enormous wealth and a vast collection of art. The tour was done through an audio piece that looked peculiarly like an overripe banana. The stilted and awkward voices made some of the more strange and controversial depictions a painfully awkward affair. In comparison to the illustrious collections of the Capitoline and Vatican museums, the Borghese collection was clearly inferior. However, it still warranted the two hours of time allotted to it. This was almost entirely thanks to the museum holding an impressive number of sculptures by renowned sculptor Bernini, as well as some paintings by the Baroque-style pioneer Caravaggio. In particular, the sculptures 'Ratto di Proserpina' 

and 'Daphne and Apollo', 

which both displayed immense talent, with Pluto's fingers realistically digging into the thigh of Proserpina, and the rapacious look of Pluto, juxtaposed with the terror in Proserpina's eyes created a memorable dichotomy. Apollo and Daphne somehow managed to make the marble, the material with which Bernini used, turn into delicate flowers, and the statue also captures the same disparate expressions between those portrayed. Finally, after these two hours we walked briefly to a spot on the villa grounds and enjoyed a picnic lunch. The lunch, which was simple in scope, ended in its own, though brief, siesta, and some of the students/chaperones opted to play soccer as others napped or quietly talked.

After recovering, we then made a half an hour walk to the Ara Pacis: a propaganda piece created by the senate and emperor Augustus to commemorate his various accomplishments up until that point. 

Along the way there was a stand of propaganda for an extreme religious cult. Although initially excited for the prospects of seeing the Ara Pacis, I left disappointed. The museum houses nothing but the Ara Pacis and fails to really do much of anything to hold your attention after the initial viewing. Even the altar itself was small, with portions of it destroyed. At last, it was time for the siesta. The vast majority of the students caught up on previous sleep, though a few students managed to stay awake and went to a convenience store or explored the immediate area around the hotel. At ~8 the group left the hotel and had an excellent dinner at a restaurant we reached through the metro system. After dinner, our esteemed supreme leader Mr. Hochberg "guided" us around town where we stopped sporadically. Sequentially, we got crepes, paid a street artist to create a rendition of Mr. Arndt, which turned the normally proud, aloof, and stoic man into a hyena-like charicature. We stopped at a souvenir shop so that we could waste some more money before finally going to Giolitti's for gelato. The quality can not be overstated and we took 30 minutes to enjoy the succulent and creamy treat. At last, at 11:30 we power-walked (which apparently was us being in a hurry) to a bus stop, took it to the Metro and were quickly back at the hotel. While the day was not the most didactic, jaw dropping, or even memorable, the unhurried pace and general disposition of everyone was far higher than the disillusionment of the previous, leaving us ready to tackle the final day with our previous ebullience. 

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