Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Saturday in Naples

On Saturday Alex and I took a train down to Naples for the day. The train ride was quite nice, none of our fellow passengers smelled, and we arrived on time. Getting up that early in the morning and traveling on the train in crisp, chilly weather reminded me of the first time we were in Italy. Anyways...

We visited the Duomo of Cathedral in Naples. It was finished in the 14th century and built over the remains of two earlier Christian basilicas. Further excavations led to the discovery of even earlier Roman and Greek artifacts under the church. Today you can descend into the ruins and view them. Here's a picture of the Gothic facade.

Here we have a 6th century mosaic located in a side chapel.

This is one of the ceramic pipes in the excavations under the Church. This pipe dates back to at least the 40's AD when lead was discovered in Britain.

Here's an ancient arch, constructed of Volcanic rock and cement.

After lead was discovered in Britain pipes were made out of lead. Here is one example of lead plumbing.

An ancient Roman mosaic on the floor. I found it interesting because it contains the same braid design I recently completed.

An arch that has fallen down. It was reassembled on the ground. You'll notice there's no mortar. The stones held eachother up, all locked in place by the keystone. Pretty amazing....

Back in the church we came across this really unusual tabernacle. Built out of a solid block of marble mounted in the wall. Even the door is marble.

Alex really liked this effigy of a knight. His poinard looks pretty sharp. We couldn't figure out who he was unfortunately.

This altar was in a chapel that was behind a grille so I couldn't get a close up shot of this beautiful painted marble tomb.

A lovely silver bust of St. Anthony of Padua. This was actually in another church.

Yet another church, very simple and austere.

Naples' obelisks were a bit more ornate than Rome's. This is an example in Piazza Santo Domenico.

The lovely interior of another church, the name of which I can't remember.

One of the reliquary chapels.

We stopped in a bar to get a coffee and dad some coffee beans. Alex wanted to try a coffee made the old fashioned way using a hand lever as opposed to electricity.

Although it has improved a great deal since I was last there three years ago, Naples is still a chaotic, gurgling madman. It is nothing strange to see cars triple parked. If it's possible to imagine, Naples makes Rome look like a nice quiet little country town. In any case, it was nice getting another flavor of city life.

The fountain of Triton in Naples.

On the edge of the Bay of Naples we passed the Castel' Nuovo. Built in 1282 it served as the fortress of the Kings of Naples.

An arch we passed on the street leading into a building we were unable to go into. I thought it was aesthetically pleasing, hence the picture.

We stopped for lunch near the sea and ate the famous Neapolitan pizza. I think I actually prefer it to Roman pizza. Rome's pizzas are crispy thin, almost the thickness of a thick tortilla. Naples are a bit more chewier and thicker.

Looking out across the bay of Naples to Mt. Vesuvius in the distance.

Neapolitans aren't that concerned with wearing their helmets either, and think nothing of putting 3 people on a scooter.

We also stopped at Castel' dell Ovo. Meaning "Castle of the egg" it takes its name from the legend that Virgil put a magical egg in the foundations to support them. The castle dates from the 15th century, built on the ruins of a Roman fortification. It is located on a small island connected by a causeway to the mainland.

With free admission, we had to stop in and look around. Here we are on the walkway at the top, looking down to the water below. It reminded me of Chateau d'If where the Count of Monte Cristo was imprisoned.

Some of the old cannons.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Update on Mosaic Class

Just an update on what's been happening with my mosaic class lately. After 36 hours I completed the first design I was working on. After it was done I took a sheet of canvas and glued it to the front of the mosaic with a special water-soluble glue. The canvas acts as a temporary mesh and holds the stones together in their correct places. Then I flipped the mosaic over and removed the clay that was holding the stones in place. This was done by scoring the damp clay, letting it dry and then breaking off the chunks. Then I used what looks like a metal toothpick to pick the clay away from the individual stones. That was a job....it took over an hour. But it needs to be done so that there is plenty of surface area for the cement to adhere to. Here you can see the finished mosaic with the canvas glued to it.

Next I made a frame for the mosaic. There is a thin sheet of plywood as a base, covered in a textured material to help the cement adhere to it. The cement will be poured in here and the mosaic set into the cement. Then the canvas will be removed.

In the meantime I have started another project. I decided to skip any further geometric designs and jump straight into portraits. Fabrizio (my instructor) and I both agree I am crazy. Here is a Madonna and Child I am doing. I began by blowing up a picture to the appropriate size. Then I traced it onto transparent paper. It took me over an hour just to do the tracing and then finish it in by hand. But it is making it a whole lot easier once I start laying stones because now I know just where they go. Fabrizio has been teaching me a lot about shading. One technique he's taught me is what would be roughly translated into English as the "technique of triangles". This involves using roughly a third more stones for each varying shade of color. I'm using about 9 different types of marble just for the face alone and three different colors of glass for the lips. For example going from lightest to darkest using five colors you would use 1 stone of the first color, 2 of the next, 3 of the next 5 of the next and 8 of the next. Basically it's creating triangular quantities of color. In straight courses it works really well.

This is a picture of the shards left over after a day's work. I keep the pieces for a while just in case I find any I can use.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Olive Picking

Yesterday we went to church to help out with the olive picking there. It was quite an interesting experience. As you can tell from the pictures the weather has really turned chilly here in the mornings.

Here is a picture of Fra Giovanni getting down the nets from the shed.

These are some of the 150 trees that need to be picked.

And here are some of the many thousands of olives. They are mainly pressed into olive oil.

The first step is to spread out nets underneath the trees to catch the olives.

Here is a shot of the nets spread around two trees. The trees are now ready for picking.

The tools used to pick the olives resemble plastic sand rakes. The way they work is by combing the branches and raking the olives off the branches onto the ground.

As you can see they work quite well. Some of the olives on the nets.

After the tree is cleaned we loaded the olives into the cart.

We went through the olives by hand and picked out the biggest peices of banches and other debris. Look at all those olives!

Lastly we dumped the cart full of olives onto tarps to allow them to stay cool and dry until they're pressed in a few days.

One other picture that doesn't have anything to do with olives is this picture of the Kiwi vines. They're loaded......and ready for picking as well.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Santa Pudenziana

Today we went to the church of Santa Pudenziana in Rome. It is the oldest church in Rome and was built over the house of a senator named Prudens who St. Peter used to stay with during his travels to Rome. St. Peter baptized Prudens and his family which included his daughters Praxedes and Pudenziana, and sons Timothy and Novatus. This is the facade of the church which has been renovated.

And here is the interior of the church.

A detail of the mosaic in the apse. It is the earliest mosaic of Christ and dates to the 4th century.

A closer picture of the mosaic.

This is the ancient floor of the original basilica.

This is the top, or mensa of an altar that St. Peter celebrated Mass on.

There is a group of students that does tours in Rome for free of various churches. Only certain churches have them, and the church of Santa Pudenziana was one of the lucky ones. Here is a picture of our tour guide Alessia explaining something.

After our visit to the church we went out to a nice little restaurant nearby for a quick dinner. Mom looks pretty amused at the size of her salad.

Mom and dad having a "moment" near the Colosseum. :)