Saturday, October 22, 2011

Assisi and Frasissi

Well, since I am so far behind on my blogging, I’ll probably be posting two in the next couple of days, just to stay on top of things. I’ll go ahead and start with last weekend though, just to keep things in check J

Friday, the 14th, we had our usual AHA excursion. Our plan was for Assisi and then the Frasissi Caves. We’d been learning about St. Francis and Assisi as well as the fresco’s that were located in the cathedral there so I was excited to see first-hand paintings by Gothic superstars like Giotto, Cimabue, and Martini.
The cathedral, as well as the town of Assisi, was every bit as beautiful as was promised. We had to be quiet in the church out of respect for it so we all got little head phones as Filaberto talked in our ears through his microphone. There are two main churches, a lower and an upper. The lower had an entrance to see the tombs of St. Francis as well as his first four followers. The cool thing about Assisi is that it is just as religious as it is touristy. As we walked around the tomb, there were people deep in prayer, so silence was observed as to not disturb them. The upper church held the enormous frescos that are known for the beginning stages of showing depth to art, instead of everything being flat (for example, there is a piece showing St. Martin dreaming; his body is visible under the blankets, a development new for the time period).  The lower register showed the life of St. Francis while the upper register showed the Old Testament on the right hand side and the New Testament on the left side.

After walking through the churches, we were shown around the town a bit, saw another smaller church and then let go to see the town for ourselves and grab some lunch. We stopped at a little café place that was much like a cafeteria and enjoyed a full meal before doing some shopping and exploring of our own. After, we boarded the bus and headed toward the caves.

The Frasissi Caves were definitely a highlight of the day for me. I admire work that humans have developed over the years; the progress of man’s perspective and skill levels is incredible to study. However, I love to see the work that is naturally formed, over thousands of years, work that is orchestrated by a Higher Power but is sculpted with the simplicity of a single drop of water at a time. These caves are some of the largest in Europe that are still intact. Discovered in only 1971, there is still so much for them to explore, but the parts we saw were awesome! These caves are known for their abundance of white growths, evidence of pure calcium carbonate containing no iron (the iron causes the rusting/brown look). Each room was different and beautiful, stalagmites and stalactites as big as 20 meters! I have to say, the entire time we were walking around, all I could think about was how much my parents would love to have been there. Both geologists by degree and by heart, they would have been in rock, calcium carbonate heaven.

The night concluded to be an early one for my roommate, Mary, and I once we returned to Macerata, as we had an early morning the next day, hiking through some mountains near Fabriano. We had signed up for a 6 hour hike with two of our professors, Marc and Gina. We met Chelsea and Scott at the train station (Rosie had slept at the professor’s the night before) and quickly boarded our train. As soon as it pulled out of the station though, we realized we were going the wrong way! Getting off at the next stop stranded us momentarily at a town that had two visible buildings in addition to the station we were at. Luckily, a train was coming ten minutes later. Finally getting to Fabriano, Marc picked us up and we made our way to their mountain home. Our hike began almost right away so that we could make it to the restaurant on time, an eatery located on top of the final mountain we were going to hike. Marc did not join us but another visiting professor, Ben did. So our pack of 7 made our way, with the company of a village dog, Pongo. The hike was invigorating to put it politely. Once the burn in my rear-end and calves went away, the scenery blew me away. There were times that we were looking straight down, hiking on the side of a mountain that literally required us to put one foot in front of the other. Other times we were hiking through small villages that only held 10 homes. The final climb to the top was the hardest, as the wind was whipping everywhere and there were no trees to shield us from its punishment. It came in handy however when Rosie and I were ten feet from the top: the wind pushed us right up, with extremely little effort on our part. Yes, the wind was really that strong. The restaurant was a fine minute hike downhill from there and once we reached it, the thawing began. The pasta we consumed was perfect for our famished selves: I had some that was basically bread crumbs and cheese mixed and made into noodles. Delicious! After some wine, water, coffee, and a load-up on carbs, we set off again. We took a different way back to get a different view, this one much more leisurely but just as beautiful. In the end, the hike was worth every achingly sore muscle and I was proud to know I worked off my lunch! I feel so blessed to have Marc and Gina as professors at AHA: as with the rest of the staff, they go above and beyond their “jobs” and truly want us to experience everything we possibly can. They want us to see Italy they way they do each and every day, so that we can really enjoy it for what it is.

That’s all for now: but this story is To Be Continued since I haven’t even gone into this past week yet.

So I’ll talk to ya’ll lata!

Ciao belli ragazzi!

Ps. If you found this one boring, chances are, you’ll find the next one just as boring. So grab a cup of coffee first or read it in a British accent. Anything might help J

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