The Last Raphael

The great renaissance painter Raphael was trained in Perugia under Pietro Perugino. Only one fresco remains that can be certainly attributed to Raphael. This fresco can be found in the Cappella di San Severo.

Visiting was a fairly unusual experience. After paying a small fee, you walk into a small white room with high ceilings. Plastic chairs line the wall opposing the only remaining Raphael in Perugia. Raphael’s fresco features the holy trinity and multiple saints surrounding an ensconced, terracotta madonna and child. After contemplating the figures in their sterile surroundings, you walk out into the cool and humid Umbrian weather.

IMG_0411.jpg

Walls of the Old City

I am in Perugia studying Italian at l’Università per Stranieri or University for Foreigners. The main building of the university can be found in Piazza Fortebraccio. Stage right of this grand old building is an Etruscan arch built in 200 B.C.

IMG_0143.jpg

I’ve been placed in an elementary level class with around thirty other students. We represent 13 different countries including Israel, Russia, Iraq, America, and China. In the first few days of class, the discomfort between the Israelis and the other Arabs was palpable. After sharing a classroom, friends, and local bars, tempers are beginning to cool down.

IMG_0370

Ancient Roadsign for Perugia

After two months of study, improvement is apparent. This past week I was able to have a good conversation with some of our Chinese students. For the first time, we finally had a common language. Through Italian, an American student and two Chinese students were able to communicate and laugh together.

IMG_0186

Archeology and Assisi

This has been one of those weeks that’s only exciting for nerds and punks. I visited the Museo Archeologico Nazionale Dell’Umbria and the city of Assisi. I also got my third tattoo at XTC Tattoo and Piercing. Welcome to my dirt-devil mind!

The archeological museum collection is primarily composed of objects found in and near Perugia. Pieces date from the Bronze Age and continue into the Roman Empire. Whole rooms are devoted to amulets, house wares, signet rings, and burial urns.

IMG_0348

An urn for holding the remains of the deceased.

I recommend the archeological museum to all visitors of Perugia. The place is peaceful, inhabited by cats, open air, and well maintained. Massive sarcophagi and delicate earrings are all given the most reverent and delicate care.

IMG_0345

Museum Courtyard

Assisi is a 20 minute train ride from Perugia. The ancient and beautiful city is about two miles away from the train station. You can take a bus or taxi, but I think you are robbed of the beautiful scenery and farmland. I took a quite country road that sliced its way through green wheat fields without the noise and annoyance of traffic. I had the best vantage point to watch the city grow larger as I neared the foothills of the mountains.

IMG_0401

Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi

Many people make pilgrimages to Assisi and stretches of the road are specially cordoned off for pedestrians. At the end of the pilgrims’ road the city writes this welcome:

5

Peace and Goodness

Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi is really fascinating. The architecture is distinguished by its two stories and double basilicas. Both the ground level and second story basilica are vaulted. It’s amazing to see the results of devotion and religious fervor. And underneath it all is the crypt and tomb of Francesco.

4.jpg

Besides being studious and cultured, I went out and got a new tattoo! I decided to pay homage to two of my favorite childhood books, Peter Pan and Watership Down. The Black Rabbit of Inlè is the spiritual image of death to the rabbits. The significance of the phrase, “To die will be an awfully big adventure”, I discussed here. Shout out to Manu and his amazing workmanship!

 

2

Childhood Immortalized

I promise not to get any more tattoos before I write again next week. Till then, Ciao!

Chocolate Fairs and Romanesque Cathedrals

 

Typical winter weather in Florence, Italy; it rained all Valentine’s weekend. Sadly, photos from the cathedral San Miniato Al Monte were spoiled by the dark environment. Romanesque architecture is dominated by thick walls, small windows, and rounded arches. So when it’s dark outside, it’s dark inside. San Miniato is a over a mile outside of Florence, and as can be expected like a name ‘Al Monte’, it’s an uphill walk the whole way.

IMG_0322.jpg

The facade and interior of San Miniato are decorated in geometric patterns of green and white marble. Harkening back to Byzantine architectural style, the facade mural and apse are done in gold. I suggest taking time to buy some homemade food stuffs made by the Monks of San Miniato. The Cantuccini, hard almond and orange biscuits, go perfectly with sweet wine; a classic Tuscany dessert.

Outside Santa Maria Novella, in the city center, was a chocolate fair. I repeat, a fair solely devoted to the viewing, consumption, and buying of chocolate. It was difficult, but I was able to pull myself away before gaining ten pounds. I might have gained nine.IMG_0344

IMG_0334

Outdoor Gallery of the Uffizi

IMG_0337

Ponte Vecchio and the Arno River

c.jpg

On Significance

This afternoon, I visited the Galleria Nazionale Dell’Umbria. This museum houses some of the artwork Perugia is most proud of. The art is primarily composed of Byzantine and Renaissance period works.

Looking at others’ life accomplishments and spiritual expression is a serious activity. We are given the opportunity to share a part of someone’s life hundreds of years after their death. This leaves our own significance and the products of our own life in question.

IMG_0300

The Virgin Mary

In the short time I’ve been here, my friends and I have had time to ask and discuss some of life’s most important questions. We’ve reached the end of our first month abroad and lost the traveler’s high. What are we leaving behind? What am I supposed to gain from these experiences? Why am I here? Not that we’re great philosophers, but I think our ruminations are worth writing down.

These questions come out of the human awareness that we all have an expiration date. There is a fear of the unknown and the imminent. I’ve found that the places of purpose, hope, and buoyancy differ for each person.

IMG_0298

San Sebastian

Many people turn to religion, art, careers, family, and relationships to find significance. We find something that gives our death a positive outcome; religion. We achieve false immortality; art and careers. Finally, we define ourselves within our sphere of influence; family and relationships.

Other’s take a different path entirely. “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everyone is gonna die,” Morty Smith. The complete lack of significance can be the very thing that gives us the hope and peace to make it through another day.

Personally, the most hopeful phrase I’ve ever read is a line from J.M. Barry’s Peter Pan.

“To die will be an awfully big adventure”.

peter

Illustration by Trina Hyman

Peter does not question his life. Life has inherent significance. The products of his life aren’t his to worry about; they’re for those left behind to do with as they please. The final realization is that death is just as much a part of life as birth.

In our subjective experience we feel that if everything is significant, nothing has significance. And that’s just defeatist. The purpose of life is to live. It’s simple. Don’t think too hard about it.

IMG_0306