My Final Weeks Abroad

Submitted by Brynna Torpey on the fall 2023 semester program in Rome, Italy…

Ceiling in Museo Borghese

Villa Borghese

Museo Borghese, one of the many other Palazzos of Rome, with gorgeous hand paintings on the ceilings and multiple Renaissance pieces. My visit to this museum was an experience, as you have to walk through Villa Borghese to get to the Museum. It’s beautiful outside and inside, with multiple pieces being dedicated to religion as well as Mythology. There were multiple pieces in the museum relating to the birth of Jesus as well as references to the Virgin Mary. The museum is for art lovers as well as those who have a deeper understanding of history and love. (Submitted during Week 11)

Monument of Rome

Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II is the biggest monument in Rome. No matter where you are you can most likely see this monument. With its pegasus and chariots on both sides as well as the huge horse with Vittori Emanule on it. It was to honor him as the first king to rule over a unified Italy. It also houses, The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, with a fire burning each day and protected by the soldiers of Rome. This monument has multiple names and functions, The Altar of the Fatherland, and a monument essentially worshipping the protectors of Rome. (Submitted during Week 12)

The Colleseo

The Colosseum is the largest amphitheater ever built and still standing. Located near the Roman Forum, it is known for its performances of gladiators and plays. The Colosseum reminds most of the famous movie, Gladiator, with a focus on men and women living through violent times and corrupt leadership. In modern days, it was known as a fortress, a bull ring, and a sacred site for Christians. It’s a famous tourist site and for good reason as it has multiple significance to many. Most importantly, it’s important to lovers of history, movies, and Rome. (Submitted during Week 13)

Experiencing Italy

Submitted by Brynna Torpey on the fall 2023 semester program in Rome, Italy…

Ninfa Day Trip

A beautiful botanical garden, an hour outside of Rome. Used for multiple high-end fashion campaigns from Gucci to Prada. This is the most magical and beautiful place, where art is alive. Being able to witness these gardens was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Everywhere you look life is around you and multiple colors of all ranges surround you. (Submitted during Week 7)

Tivoli and Villa d’Este

Fountain at Villa d’Este

Tivoli is a short trip from Rome, about a 50-minute train ride outside of the city. Tivoli is a gorgeous small city with the gorgeous Villa d’Este. The Villa has multiple fountains and flowers all around. As you walk through you feel like you’ve been transported to a fantasy land. It is an ancient Renaissance garden with ties to the Borgia Family. Throughout the Villa d’Este are iconic fountains and hand-painted walls. The Villa is now considered a museum and is located in the heart of Tivoli, and protected by the culture society. (Submitted during Week 8)

Parco Villa Gregoriana

Villa Gregoriana, in the town of Tivoli, is an amazing national park. With beautiful trails and connections to Mythology. You are able to visit the Grove of Mermaids and the caves of Neptune. Throughout the park, you witness beautiful animals and waterfalls. It’s an amazing reconnection with nature outside of Rome. The park offers the opportunity to enhance your knowledge of history outside of the city. It was commissioned by Pope Gregory XVI but was destroyed by floods. It was submitted for recovery in 2006, and that’s why it’s open to the public today. (Submitted during Week 9)

Palazzo Doria Pamphilj

Doria Pamphilj, is a beautiful palazzo inside the city of Rome, just down the street from the Roman Monument. The Palace was once owned by Doria Pamphilj and passed down through multiple generations. It’s located on Via del Corso, which is where most Romans do their shopping and eating. Inside the palace are many Renaissance paintings and sculptures. With rooms adorned with rich colors and embellished with gold. There are many rooms throughout the place with a chapel, with beautiful stained glass, and a nursery with a floating gold crib. The palace and art itself are one of the most regal things I’ve ever seen. (Submitted during Week 10)

Visit to the Alhambra

Submitted by Eleanor Helm during the 2023 fall semester in Granada, Spain…

This week, I had the amazing opportunity to explore the Alhambra–Granada’s massive palatial complex originally built in the 1200s in the era of the Muslim empire in Spain. It is an incredible example of the Islamic influence in Andalucia, remarkable not just for its beautiful architecture but also for the rich history it contains. Until now, I had spent the past two months looking out at the Alhambra from my host family’s house in the Albaicin (the old neighborhood on the hill across from the Alhambra) so to finally be able to set foot in this massive castle was all the more impressive. Then, being able to look out from the tower of the Alhambra and see my house from a completely different perspective was incredible in its own way, especially now that I was familiar with the neighborhood and could point out familiar landmarks nearby. 

Alham Pool- Patio de los Arrayanes

But the views from the towers of the Alhambra were just the beginning. Within the walls of the palace, the intricate geometric designs and the sheer size of the rooms transported me back to the time of the Islamic Golden Age when the Iberian Peninsula saw an explosion of science and art. The perfect dimensions of the arches, the endless fractal patterns covering the walls, the graceful Arabic script woven into the stucco designs, and the ingenious water systems throughout the building just went to show how much this society advanced mathematics and architecture during this period in history. 

Moreover, It’s still difficult for me to comprehend how the Renaissance-style cathedral in Granada is only a 15-minute walk from the Alhambra when the two monuments seem like they’re from entirely different worlds. I think this is one of the biggest differences between Spain and the US: here in Granada, you can traverse centuries of history merely by taking a short walk around the city, whereas at home in Pennsylvania, the oldest buildings are still only a few hundred years old at the very oldest. That richness of history on all sides is something that I’ve deeply appreciated in my time here in Spain, and I can’t wait to see what more I discover here. (Submitted during Week 8)

Working through my Bucket List

Submitted by Brynna Torpey on the 2023 fall semester program in Rome, Italy…

One of my bucket list items for many years has been to go to Positano, Amalfi Coast. When you browse on the internet you see so many amazing photos of Positano and the beautiful colored buildings as well as the beaches. Positano was magical, everything I ever thought it would be. During my time there I realized how different the lifestyle is compared to Rome. Rome is very fast-paced, always moving, always busy. Positano was more relaxing, it showed how Dolce Vita is meant to be lived. It showed me to enjoy the small moments, the hard moments during traveling like when we almost missed our ferry. The thing I take away from my trip to Positano is that if you wait it will come to you. I would say waiting was well worth it as I finally got to see this beautiful place. (Submitted during Week 5)

Challenges and Successes Abroad

Submitted by Eleanor Helm on the 2023 fall semester program in Granada, Spain…

This week has probably been my hardest week so far in Granada, but I’m still “surviving and thriving” as they say. My week started off great–on Monday, I had the opportunity to visit the Granada Cathedral with my Renaissance Art History class. It was very interesting to get an expert’s analysis of the building so I could understand the symbolic importance of the architecture in addition to just appreciating its aesthetic features. For instance, since Granada was the last Muslim city that the Catholic Kings conquered in Spain, building this Christian cathedral was a very important symbol of their victory at the time. It’s interesting to see how the architecture and politics of Spain’s history were intertwined in this way.

VGranada Cathedral Cupola

Then the next day, we walked around the city with one of the Jewish families that lives in Granada and learned a bit about the Jewish history here. I found this to be a very relevant learning experience, considering the current conflict in Israel and Palestine. Also, it was such a unique experience to speak with someone who is both a historian of the Jewish influence in Spain and a current member of the Jewish community there. I think she definitely had a much deeper insight into their history considering her personal connection to the culture, and I was very grateful that she took the time to speak with us.

However, my luck ran out by Thursday when I began to battle a bad cold and had to go to the doctor for the first time in Spain. The whole process of getting to the hospital, communicating with the medical staff in Spanish, and then finding a pharmacy was very stressful, but in retrospect, it was interesting to see how another country’s healthcare system works. But, hopefully I won’t have to navigate this system again any time soon. Luckily though, as I recovered from my cold, I still got to enjoy the views from my house in the Albaicin neighborhood, including watching a partial eclipse from the terrace. All in all, it’s reassuring to know that even when I’ve been met with challenges here, I have overcome them and have been able to learn something from them. (Submitted during Week 7)

Spending a Day in Spoleto

Submitted by Brynna Torpey on the 2023 fall semester program in Rome, Italy…

Rolling Hills of Spoleto

Spoleto is a beautiful city outside of Rome in the Umbria Region. A truly medieval town that looks straight out of a storybook. Home to the famous opera festival, along with Ponte delle Torri, Spoleto Cathedral, and Rocca Albornoziana. It is rich in culture, design, and Roman Architecture. It has hand-painted ceilings and walls, along with beautiful green hills. Many of the locals speak mostly Italian, so my lessons finally came in hand when ordering food and pastries. This town was worth the visit and I hope to go back to the Umbria region to visit more towns.

Getting Familiar with Granada

Submitted by Eleanor Helm on the 2023 fall semester program in Granada, Spain…

View from the Cathedral Bell Tower

Now that I’ve been here in Granada for over a month, I feel like I’m beginning to
understand more of the nuances of life in Spain. In my classes, I’m learning about the history
and civilization of Spain from different angles (eg. the culture, ancient and modern history, styles
of art, language, etc.), so now when I listen to the news or walk around the city, I feel like I finally
have enough context to understand why things are the way they are. I’m glad that I’ve been
able to transition away from being just a tourist to someone who can appreciate this culture on a
deeper level.

Another awesome development for me so far has been that my Spanish is really starting to improve. I noticed this especially when I came back to Spain after visiting Italy, and I felt this peculiar relief to be able to speak Spanish again instead of trying to communicate in Italian. It’s amazing that after such a short period of time my understanding of another language has been able to improve so much that it has become familiar by comparison.

While the Spanish language has become more familiar to me, the sights and sounds of Andalucia has not. I still am amazed each time I see a new monument in this beautiful country, and I can’t comprehend how every town here has some incredible cathedral, palace, or plaza. There is such a richness of architecture and history on all sides, and this was especially evident when I visited Sevilla. There, we got to see la Plaza de España, los Reales Alcázares, and la Catedral de Sevilla along with its Torre de la Giralda. These three landmarks were all extremely distinct, coming from different eras and traditions, but each was extremely beautiful. I feel very fortunate to have been able to visit this amazing city, and I am excited to contrast it with Córdoba when we visit there in November. There is so much to look forward to, and I plan on experiencing as much as I can in the months to come. (Submitted during Week 6)

An Afternoon in Anzio

Locals with their colorful umbrellas at Anzio Beach

Submitted by Brynna Torpey on the 2023 fall semester program in Rome, Italy…

Anzio Beach Day is a gorgeous little beach town in which we got to enjoy the clear blue water and got to see locals enjoy the sunny day. The beach trip was absolutely gorgeous being able to sit and enjoy the time pass by. We got to enjoy some amazing food and were able to experience a different area. Although a short time from Rome it’s amazing being able to see other locals enjoy their day off. To swim in Italian water for the first time was so refreshing and being able to enjoy a nice beach day with friends. (Submitted during Week 3)

The Streets of Travestere

Submitted by Brynna Torpey on the 2023 fall semester program in Rome, Italy…

The Streets of Trastevere are rich in life, culture, and color. Trastevere streets are always lively, any time of day. Whether it be getting a cappuccino with a friend or enjoying a night out with friends. I find the most joy when I’m on a walk and I can stop and appreciate the buildings, people, and the laughs in the air. As you walk the streets you become accustomed to the hustle and bustle of everything. It truly is becoming like home abroad as you continue to enjoy the small things throughout your day, such as this building. (Submitted during Week 2)

The Coins at Fontana di Trevi

Submitted by Brynna Torpey on the 2023 fall semester program in Rome, Italy…

What most don’t know is that the perfect time to see the Fontana di Trevi would be at night, specifically 12am. Although dark, there are less people and the lights still shine to show its true beauty. When no people are around you can sit and take in how this masterpiece is still so important for Italian culture. The fountain can be seen in multiple movies and pop culture references. The most important would be Three Coins in the Fountain, depending on how many coins you toss will be what comes true for you. I tossed one coin in my left hand over my right shoulder, with the hopes of returning to this beautiful city (Submitted during Week 1).