Monday, July 27, 2009

Visa, Round 2

After mailing my visa application and a bunch of other required documents to the Italian Consulate in Philadelphia, waiting for 23 days (last year they had it to me in a week), and leaving messages and emailing the consulate and receiving no response, I drove to Philadelphia the night before my flight to try to get the visa from them in person. When I signed in, the employee behind the window said she recognized me and that my application was still being processed. I explained that my flight was scheduled for later that day, and I was hoping to get my visa now. After waiting about 1.5 hours, the woman called me over and said that I didn't need a visa, because I'll be getting a permesso di soggiorno. You'd think it would have been pretty easy to tell me that three weeks earlier. I also think it would be helpful if something to that effect appeared in a logical place, like on their website, or in their directions for applying for a visa, or in the directions for applying for a permesso di soggiorno, or in the book we have about living and studying in Italy, or on the Italian embassy website (perhaps on the "do I need a visa?" page), or on the Italian immigration website.

We'll see what the questura says.

On an unrelated note, I swear the sun is hotter here.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Parma and Modena

Yesterday, Kristen returned after spending some time in the U.S. and trying without success to get her visa renewed. Since she flew into Bologna, I decided to meet her there in the evening, and spend the day in the nearby city of Parma.
After walking downtown from the train station, I first had to get something for lunch -- my choice was a sandwich with Parma ham, of course. Parma isn't a huge city, so it was easy to see everything in a few hours. There aren't too many tourists there either -- I guess they're all trampling themselves in Florence. The highlights were the Romanesque Duomo and Baptistry. The latter was impressive due to its height and the frescoes covering the entire interior. The interior of the Duomo was largely Baroque (very much overdone, in my opinion), with famous cupola by Correggio though also with a nice relief by the sculptor Benedetto Antelami. I also briefly visited the Museo Diocesano, which had a few nice sculptures and a 5th century floor mosaic.
Detail of the Parma baptistry ceiling. Note the depiction of the evangelists as half-animal, half-human figures.

Since there was still enough time before Kristen arrived, I took the train to Modena, which is located halfway in between Parma and Bologna, and which is probably most famous for its Balsamic vinegar. It also boasts one of the most important and impressive Romanesque cathedrals of Europe, though, which has made it onto the UNESCO World Heritage list. Unfortunately, parts of the facade and the bell tower were being renovated, and were therefore covered up. Nevertheless, many of the stone carvings by Wiligelmus could be seen, and the (rather dark) interior was impressive.
Then it was time to take the train to Bologna, where I met Kristen and helped her lug all of her luggage back to Florence.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

San Marco

There haven't been too many updates recently since Kristen is visiting her family. In the meantime, apart from working, reading and watching DVDs, I've only been downtown to go shopping. Today though, I decided to go visit the former convent of San Marco for my fix of religious art. The convent was home to the Dominican Fra Angelico, who painted frescoes throughout the building, particularly a cycle depicting the life of Jesus in each of the cells of the monks (the crucifixion seemed to be the most popular motif). His frescoes are (again) some of the earliest examples of perspective in art, and they show a good mastery of human expression. In addition, the church was the residence of the religious fanatic Girolamo Savonarola, who was the religious and worldly leader of Florence for a few years in the late 15th century. He is particularly known for his Bonfire of the Vanities, in which "beauty items" were burned along with countless books and priceless paintings. Strangely enough, he still seems to be quite revered in the convent.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Patti Smith in Arezzo

It's open air season in Italy in June and July. No one in his right mind would go to an indoor concert venue anyway in this heat, and in August everyone's at the beach. So everything is crowded into roughly a month and a half. Wednesday, I went with some friends from work to Arezzo, where the 'Godmother of Punk', Patti Smith was performing. All concerts in Italy, be they classical or pop, seem to start after 9, so there was enough time to get a nice dinner in a fiaschetteria before making our way to the piazza below the Duomo where the concert was held. It ended up being an acoustic show, with Lenny Kaye and someone else on acoustic guitar, and Patti's daughter Jesse on piano. Nevertheless, she brought a good deal of energy with her, and the crowd (partially seated) was enthusiastic. I guess she was quite impressed by the frescoes about the Legend of the True Cross, since she kept mentioning them and even performed a song she had written about them that afternoon.