Why I’m in Florence: Studying.

2-3 November 2011: Wednesday + Thursday

Real school started Wednesday. We had a full day of architecture studio and presentations. Before leaving for the PLP break, we were assigned a small case study project to explore the beautiful architecture in Firenze. I was assigned the bridge of Ponte Santa Trinita, one bridge to the right of the Ponte Vecchio. Originally I thought this bridge would have no information, but I discovered it to have a very long and interesting history. The first bridge was built in the early 1200s, it was destroyed a total of 4 times and rebuilt 5 times. After the 3rd wooden bridge collapsed after the Arno River flooded, Florentine architect, Bartolomeo Ammannati, constructed a stone and geometrically stronger renaissance bridge in the 1500s. It stood for 500 years before being destroyed by the Nazi army during WWII, and has since been reconstructed from the original stones that were dredged from the Arno. I had so much fun researching this bridge. I discovered that the local library of Florence (which I now have a library card for) has a huge archive of ancient reference books. I was able to skim through an engineering book that gave the statics analysis for the bridge that was published in the late 1700s! It was so cool!

My studio project for the fall (due 21 Dec) is a new exit to the Uffizi Gallery. It will be cool to see what we design and how we interact with the interesting site and the context of this old city.

My Italian conversation class will be different then the last class because it is more of a cultural class in Italian. We are to discuss major figures in today’s culture, architecture, food, holidays, etc.

History of the Italian Renaissance will also be fun. My professor is a real kick. He is very funny and knows some of the strangest facts about people in Florence’s history.

04 November 2011: Friday
Gelato: Cinnamon + Café (really good combination!)

05 November 2011: Saturday
Gelato: Amaretto + Persimmon

We found out today that a TEDtalk was taking place in Florence, so on a whim JC, Sar, and I tried to attend. Our attempt was successful! We got some cool tote bags and official badges and got to listen to some very interesting lectures – however they were all in Italian… and I could only understand about 30% of what they were talking about, but it was still really cool!

One was partially in English. An Italian born professor at UC San Diego has developed some very cool software that can scan artwork and show the layers hidden behind the paintings. They have applied this technique to Botticelli’s Primavera and da Vinci’s Adoration of the Magi. Through this software they can see the touchups made on paintings and see what is hidden beneath, including da Vinci’s beautiful sketches that lie below the sepia paint. So cool!

11 November 2011: Friday

It is nice going to school here in Florence. There are two things that really stick out in my mind: 1. No school on Friday; I know this may be insignificant to some college students, but Cal Poly Architecture requires school 5 days a week! 2. When we learn about someone or something in history, we can take the train a few hours and visit where they lived.

This week in History of the Renaissance, we learned of St. Francis of Assisi. Did you know that he was a poet? And was one of the first people to use modern Italian in its written form? So, JC and I took the train three hours south to the town of Assisi.

This small hill town is picturesque. The view over Umbria was breath-taking. JC and I enjoyed wandering the perfect streets and visiting the many churches that perch on the hillside. The most important one is the basilica of San Francesco (St. Francis) which includes two churches stacked on top of each other. The upper was the oldest, dating back to early Christian style architecture, while the lower church was more gothic in style and covered in frescoes depicting the life of San Francesco. Below the lower chapel is the tomb of San Francesco. It was really cool to be down in the tomb and to see how admired this saint is and how his life has influenced so many people. This tomb is a pilgrimage spot for so many people, including monks and nuns of the Franciscan order and I can now see why my Tante Elk wanted me to visit.

10 November 2011: Thursday
Gelato: Lemon Pudding + Almond cookie

13 November 2011: Sunday
Gelato: After Eight + Opera Italiana

15 November 2011: Tuesday

My friend from Cal Poly, Mic, is visiting us from his study in Copenhagen this weekend. On his last night here, we decided to climb Brunelleschi’s dome! The venture up the dome was quite the experience. We hiked up the spiral towers to the terrace of the dome where we could look into the eyes of the giant frescoes that grace the ceiling. Then we hike through the double layer dome to the lantern. On the journey up, we could see the pattern of brick used to construct the dome. The size of this dome forced Brunelleschi to develop a new type of construction. Instead of using wooden framework, they built the dome in rows with a herringbone pattern.

From the top, we had a beautiful view of the city. Each monument was lit up. We could even see our apartment!

18 November 2011: Friday

Yesterday, 17 November, was my 22nd birthday. After a long day of classes, I came home to an amazing meal prepared by my great roommates. Sar and JC slaved over the stove and made lasagna and tiramisu! We had a bunch of friends over and enjoyed each others company and lots of laughter!

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