Clara in Italy: Naples, Pompeii etc

January 19, 2017

I’m home now, have been for a while, but have only just contracted some kind of horrible cold and am full of aches and shivers. It sucks, but oh well. The price you pay for a properly cold winter here in western New York!

For the very last part of my semester abroad, we traveled down south towards Naples, staying in a little town called Vico Equense some miles away. Vico borders the sea, and the beach was good fun for me! Found a wonderful hagstone that I somehow managed to cram into my suitcase intact.

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It was rather obnoxiously heavy, I don’t deny it, but totally worth it.We also found a bunch of hermit crabs! This one was really nervous. I felt sort of bad for scaring it, but we released it after about a minute, so I suppose no harm done.

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And on our way, we met a really cute cat that followed us for a little bit before running off.

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Not to mention the actual beach.

All in all, a lovely town, though we didn’t get to stay for too long.

In Naples, we went to the Capo di Monte museum, which, if I am honest, was too much art for me to handle. I was arted out. Like, there was so much art this semester, I could barely function at this point. Nevertheless! Some cool, cool stuff to be seen, such as some of the most beautiful drawings by Raphael I’d ever seen??

I don’t even really like Raphael, I’ll admit that right now, but oh BOY, look at how pretty that is the photo doesn’t do it justice.

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Like. Listen guys. Listen. This is the sort of drawing that I WISH I could create. Holy crap. I cry a thousand tears.

Anyways, besides that, I also got to see this painting of Atalanta???? I didn’t know it was here??? Oh man?????

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Atalanta! My idol. Sort of. Well, I don’t know, I respect her anyways. And I really like this painting and one time I created a graphics set using it and anyways, this painting is cool and I like it a lot and I got to see it in person. That’s what I was really trying to say. Photo is still pretty terrible at doing justice to the painting, but anyways. There it is.

But here’s my favorite thing I saw in the museum. I have no idea what it really is, but I’m guessing a sort of writing set/table and?? It’s gorgeous. Look at it.

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So much mother-of-pearl and the fineness of the details in it. It was really stunning, not gonna lie.

And finally, some cute little porcelain figures that imitate curly fur ridiculously well. Dang, right?

Yes, you heard me right, that’s porcelain. What kind of nonsense.

I’m getting carried away, because that wasn’t even my favorite museum during this visit. I’m only going to post one picture from my favorite because I actually didn’t take that many photos. In a sort of backwards way, it’s a testament to how excited and awed I was, okay? The Archaeological Museum. Oh my god.

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Look, I’m not going to show you any more because my photos are abysmal. Just. If you ever have the chance and you are as much of a nerd for classical art as I am, go here. I’m not kidding. This stuff is incredible. I just want to touch all of it, oh man. This stuff is thousands of years old!!! And it’s so NICE. Like WOW. Do you see that?? That’s not a painting, that’s a mosaic and it is amazingly preserved. From Pompeii. This whole exhibit gives a really human character to the city and the people that died. Again, I cry a thousand tears. Art man. Art is incredible.

I loved this museum. It was one of my favorite places in Italy. I mean, besides Pompeii itself, which was also incredible and a weird transcendental experience for me, the adult who was once a small child fascinated with the Greeks and Romans. (Not quite as incredible as visiting Delphi a few years ago, which just???? I still can’t quite wrap my mind around the fact that I’ve been there. But I digress.)

I have almost no pictures from Pompeii itself, same for Naples, which is sort of a shame because that was a mistake on my part. But here are just a couple notable things.

1. Pompeii

Some really human graffiti, and an incredible restored painting. I couldn’t deal with this okay. It was so cool.

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2. Naples

THE TRAIN STATION FULL OF PLASTIC SNAILS. IT IS MY FAVORITE THING.

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I think that’s an appropriate place to leave you all because hey, why be so serious about it? Giant plastic snails are just as artsy as some classical paintings, and they bring me around the same amount of joy. (Okay, maaaaaaybe the classical paintings bring me a little more because they appeal to my inner child, but still.)

Stay determined, y’all. Hope you enjoyed what I had to say about the joys of Italy.

 


Clara in Italy: The Mostra

January 9, 2017

This isn’t so much about Italy as it is about the culmination of my semester at UGA Cortona, which just happens to be in Italy. I’ve been in four studio classes for over 10 weeks and we put on a final show at the end exhibiting our best work from each class! It was really fun to set up–maybe that’s the theater kid in me, but I like working together on a show. I was on the matting team, so I was helping to frame all the flat works that were going to be hung on the wall. Starting bright and early at 8:30am woo woo! Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of pictures of that?? Or any?? I was really tired and out of it, but I still think I did a bomb job along with the rest of the team. ūüėÄ Worked until 2pm, and then had to run off to the Italian language exchange (which I also have no photos of because I suck). But anyways, it was a really cool learning experience! Unsurprisingly, all the materials for matting cost way more than I want things to cost, but that’s the #artlife for you I guess. (Ten euro a board??? RIP wallet if I ever need any of this for the future.)

Anyways, the most important pictures first. Me as a cthonic monster entering the premises.

Taken by my friend Angel, the photo champ.

Actually I might post a bunch of her pictures, since she did a much better job than I did of documenting the ridiculousness of opening night.

Still there are a few good ones (or halfway decent ones idk). Such as this picture of horrible (jk I love her) roommate Hannah pointing at Angel’s sketch of the David.

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Hannah please.

If you were curious, by the way, here are three of my pieces. (I did take these ones.)

We also all received flowers from our professors who are the sweetest, and I somehow ended up with two, so I stuck them both in my hair.

Super crappy lighting, I know. Sorry. I get really awkward while taking selfies in public, which is why I look like I’m dying slightly on the inside even though I was actually having a great time.

There’s not much to say about the actual show except that I was really proud of our work and it was also really really really cold!!!! I was so cold. Most people spent a lot of time eating snacks in the sideroom where it was slightly warmer and shielded from he wind.

Here are a couple shots of the hall with people in it:

And now, a showcase of Angel’s photos (with permission):

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There’s Angel in the middle, with our art history professor Eva and Hannah the Roommate all making the Hannah(tm) photo expression.

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Me in front of my oil painting.

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Me, UNCOMFORTABLY CLOSE HECK YEAH.

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The hall empty and looking very respectable.

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Our book arts professor Julie and Hannah posing grumpily next to Julie’s piece.

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Jeff, our photography professor, ALSO UNCOMFORTABLY CLOSE HECK YEAH (but I think it’s a pretty adorable photo and he thought so too)

Anyways, that’s about it. It was a really good academic culmination. Stay determined guys! Happy holidays!


Clara in Italy: Le Celle (and light)

December 29, 2016

AKA he really should have been called St. Francis of CORTONA guys am I right (also I really like sunsets)

Basically, one thing I learned in Italy was that St. Francis of Assisi actually first set up in Cortona. His first monastery was established at Le Celle, just outside Cortona. You have to walk even further up the hill from where we were established, up to a different town called Torreone. It’s a very small town with a small coffee shop that serves GIANT COFFEES. Like, the size of your head. (If I’m being suuuuuuuper honest, the giant coffees are not… that… good………. but they’re giant, and that’s what matters.) Here’s a picture of the fountain just outside that for some reason I’ve always liked. Maybe it’s the lettering or something.

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Anyways, the view on the way to Le Celle is honestly pretty killer, as are most views in Cortona, but like. Especially, since we’re even higher than usual.

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But before I get too sidetracked, here it is. Le Celle!

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It’s quite a magical place. There’s a little waterfall and some lovely stone rooms.

I have to admit though, it really was a perfect day for lighting, especially for someone like me that likes darker photos and weird sunlight. And of course, being the nerd I am, I took a lot of pictures of the effects of light on things in the forest and scenery around Le Celle instead of a lot of the stuff inside Le Celle itself. The whole area is, as I said, quite magical.

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We actually didn’t spend nearly as much time as I wanted to spend there in all honesty, but it got dark really fast and also rather cold, but it meant that as we walked back towards the school, we had a great view of the sunset among all the black shadowed trees.

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We had been waiting (well, I guess I’d been) all semester to visit this place, so I’m glad I finally got to go at the end of the semester, though it wasn’t quite as long as I wanted it to be. Stay determined!

 

 

 


Olivia in Scotland: Volare

December 15, 2016

Hello everyone!

I promised to tell you all about Venice, so here we go!

My friends Susy and Tatiana and I flew out of Edinburgh International Airport to Venice Marco Polo Airport on the night of Friday, December 2nd. The craziest thing about that to me was how relatively close Italy is to Scotland. The flight only took about 2 hours and 10 minutes—I’m so used to thinking of Italy as being world away that it hardly seemed possible! I was so excited on the plane ride that I basically danced the whole way there while listening to happy, pump-up music through my headphones (sorry again for that, Susy.) Did I mention that I’ve wanted to go to Venice for basically my whole life?

When we got to the airport, we boarded a waterbus to take us to the city. That’s right, a waterbus. (How cool is that?) It took us about half an hour to get in to the city. It was too dark to see much when we arrived, but I still took pictures anyway because I was just a little excited.

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My brain at this point was basically like, “CANALS!! BRIDGES!! AAAAHH!!” Honestly, that feeling did not change that much while I was there, unless I was particularly tired and didnt feel like walking over a bridge.

We checked into our hostel and our very helpful concierge gave us tons of tips about things to see and where to eat in the city. It was 9 PM there by this time and we were starving, so we completed a very essential activity: we went to a pizza place and took my customary pizza selfie.

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Venice isn’t really the place you go to get pizza, but it was still good. I loved how there were about a million different options #pizzaselfie #venetianpizzaselfie

The next day was an extremely full one. First, we toured the Doge’s Palace near the Piazza San Marco. It’s where the duke lived and where¬†the seat of government was, and it lies adjacent to the New Prison where criminals were sentenced. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a building quite this grand.

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This is one of the largest rooms in all of Europe. There’s real gold on the walls and ceiling and every wall is covered with some enormous work of art.¬†

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This is a view within the famous Bridge of Sighs, where criminals got a last look at the outside world before being imprisoned in the New Prison.

Next, we went on a gondola ride! We didn’t get a fancy one with a singing gondolier, although we did pass by a few that had those, but it was a fun way to see the city. A note on traveling to Venice in the winter, though: it really does get chilly. Over the course of the trip, we steadily put on more and more layers—I think in the beginning I was trying to convince myself that it was warmer than it actually was. The damp chill won out over my wishful thinking in the end.

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Venice by gondola #bucketlist

After grabbing some lunch, we spent the rest of the day just walking around the city. Venice makes you want to take pictures about every two seconds. Everywhere you look, there’s another bridge and another canal, and from the bridge you can see more bridges and buildings and sometimes some gondolas. It’s exceedingly picturesque and a simply lovely place to walk around. The city is so small that we were able to cover most of it in one afternoon. We also got gelato, which was absolutely delicious.

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Here’s a view from the Rialto Bridge, the most important bridge in Venice.¬†

That evening, we returned to the Piazza San Marco to see it at dusk and to go inside Saint Mark’s Basilica. The basilica is stunning, inside and out, and the inside is covered with mosaics and gold.

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The piazza is enchanting at night. 

To finish the evening, we went to a famous bookstore called Aqua Alta and then ate some amazing Italian food. I think the spaghetti with ragu I had that night has ruined me at least a little bit for regular spaghetti for the rest of my life.

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Sad that I can’t enjoy spaghetti quite the same way again, but ecstatic to be in Venice!

For our second and final full day in Venice, we bought waterbus passes for the day and took trips to several islands around the main city. First, we took the waterbus down the Grand Canal to a beautiful church called the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute. After walking around that church with its works by Titian on the walls, took the bus¬†to the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore in order to see the church and get a view of the city from the campanile (or tower). We hoped to attend a Gregorian chant at this church, but since they weren’t having one that day, we simply sat outside one of the smaller chapels and listened to the Italian Mass for a little while. Even though I do not know Italian, it felt very special to me to hear the priests singing and people worshiping God in a different language.

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The view from the campanile was spectacular!

After grabbing some lunch, we went on a longer trip to the North of the main city to visit the islands of Murano and Burano. You may have heard of Murano glass before; that’s where that comes from. We went to a glass-blowing demonstration there, and it was stunning. The artisan made a glass vase and a glass horse in a matter of minutes with incredible dexterity.

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They are very proud of their beautiful glass-making on Murano. I took this picture as we walked around the island a little more before heading to our next stop. 

We then headed to Burano. This island is famous for two things: its lace and its colorful buildings. It was a truly beautiful place! I bought a scarf with hand-embroidered flowers on it to remember this gorgeous island by.

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You can see a few of the colorful facades in this picture! I was just excited to take a picture with this giant piece of pizza, because #pizzaisbae

After that, we rose back into the main city, had another spectacular Italian pasta meal that ruined me for life, and that was the end of the night. It was so interesting on this day to see how public transportation in Venice really is about the same as anywhere else—they just use a boat instead of an automobile. You scan your bus pass to board the waterbus, there are seats to sit on as well as standing room, and there are speed limits just like on a regular road.

We didn’t have time to do very much the next day before heading to the airport, buuuuut I did stage a mini photo shoot near our hostel.

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When you buy a Venetian carnival mask in Venice, you gotta take some cool pictures with it, even if some people laugh at you. There were actual Italians waling by and laughing as we took these. 

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I also took a few more city photos before we headed out—this was the view right outside our hostel each morning.¬†

One other significant thing happened on our trip. Because I apparently don’t know much about European geography, I did not realize that you can see the Alps from Venice. I was very excited by this because I really love mountains. My family roots are in the Appalachian Mountains, which are some of the only mountains I’ve ever seen. On the plane ride home, we flew right over the Alps. I can hardly describe what that experience was like for me. I had never seen mountains that large before. They were enormous, snow-capped, craggy, awesome; they seemed full of mystery and wonder. After flying over the Alps, I am more determined than ever to return to Europe. I have to see those mountains up close!

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I could not believe how beautiful the Alps were (on the left). However, I was also so happy to see the lovely Scottish hills again (on the right). 

So, that was my trip! Venice is beautiful and I’m so happy that I got to travel there with Tatiana and Susy. It was colder and not as sunny as we expected—ironically, it was sunnier in Scotland when we got back than it ever was during our trip to Venice—but that city seems to be gorgeous under any weather conditions. If you study abroad in Europe, trips like this are within your reach! I wasn’t even expecting to take this trip and fulfill this dream of mine, but I’m incredibly thankful that I was able to do so. Studying abroad can open doors to more places than you might expect.

I will give you some more recent updates about the end of my semester and finals in my next post. Till next time!


Clara in Italy: A Concert at an Agriturismo

December 15, 2016

It’s not exactly Italian, but earlier on in the semester, I got to go to a little indie underground (like, super underground. If you didn’t have insider information that this was happening you wouldn’t have any idea it happened at all sort of underground) concert at this guy’s house/farm/concert hall/????. Dino’s place defies description. He has a lot of gnarly olive trees, three donkeys, and an absolutely absurd number of beds. Here’s a terrible photo of his fireplace area:

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And here he is, pre-concert at the massive dinner he cooked himself:

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He’s the dude standing in the brown sweater and the flyaway grey-white hair. Very eccentric and very nice. ¬†Unfortunately, because the place had terrible lighting (seriously terrible), I only have a few not-so-great photos of the event. Here’s another of Dino, introducing the main acts.

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Very lopsided and blurry, sorry. But hey, anyways, who was playing anyways?

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Kelly Halloran and Rachael Sage! Kelly used to WWOOF for Dino some years ago, so that’s how she knew him. They’re also both American, which was kind of funny since we were in a weird underground Italian farm place in the middle of nowhere. Literally, there’s no address. He lives on an unnamed road off another road that has barely any streetlights. It’s not hard to get to, just… terrifying. At night. By yourself. (I went a lot.) Also, unseen dogs will bark aggressively at you from their yards.

Kelly opened the show with a few songs on guitar and fiddle, and let me tell you, her fiddling is bomb my friends. Super bomb. I wish she had played more songs haha. Oh well.

The she and Rachael played for a set, and then the whole thing repeated.

Unfortunately, that’s pretty much it for the semi acceptable photos I managed to get. ūüė¶ The lighting, as aforementioned, was terrible. There was only light on stage left, so Kelly was in darkness for a lot of the show, and I was sitting far back and trying to shoot between some a lot of people in front of me. The woes of being short and socially anxious!

But anyways, thought I’d leave you with some videos of the two of them from youtube that I found. Here’s Kelly with a different band:

And here’s Rachael and Kelly together:

Admittedly with another dude and with a significantly different vibe from when we saw them, but I thought this was one of the better songs in the set we heard. ūüôā Stay determined!


Clara in Italy: Throwback to Siena

December 12, 2016

Hey everyone! I realized I never talked about a lot of the excursions that happened earlier on in this whirlwind of a semester, but I thought I’d talk a little bit about Siena! A lovely little city in Tuscany.

A quick digression: one of my favorite childhood books takes place partially in Siena. I am of the opinion that everyone should read it because it is wonderfully funny and kind of sad and touching in a weird, weird way. Here’s the cover as I always knew it:

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Unfortunately, it’s quite a small image. There are several versions of it, but in any case, I love this book a lot and I’d read it over and over if I had the time. Still would.

Anyways, Siena! Still didn’t have a proper camera, but I think I did okay with my iPhone. We started off¬†with a quick coffee break. I hadn’t quite gotten into the swing of Italian coffee–far superior to American coffee, loathe as I am to say it because it’s so cliche, but. It’s true. I don’t really like coffee that much, but I’ll drink Italian coffee, man.

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And then off to this fountain in the main square full of pigeons!!!

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Look, I know most people think of pigeons as nuisances, but I love pigeons okay? Pigeons are adorable fat little birds of joy and everything bad about pigeons is the fault of humans. They were all really pleased to be taking a bath in this fountain. They were all puffed up and covered in water. It was great.

Anyways, to the probably best part of the trip: the ARCHIVES. I am and forever shall be a massive old books nerd, so this was a really fabulous time for me. I just love old books okay? All the time! All the people that touched it! The different binding techniques! Oh boy.

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Just look at these beautiful books.

I also took this picture while we were there, and I still rather like it, even though it’s a little pretentious or whatever.

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There were two other pretty great¬†highlights for my nerdy little heart in this day trip, one of which was the centuries-old graffiti in the Palazzo Pubblico. (I know I’ve already posted about it, but please bear with me I love it so much.)

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It’s a little hard to see, but if you look closely on the red stripe, you can see someone’s carved “1464” right there. 1464?!! That’s before Columbus landed on the shores of America and ruined everything! That’s before Shakespeare!

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Look at that! That’s in Greek! People were making marks on the walls here in Greek. That’s incredible to me. There’s also a couple from a little later–1848 and 1902, which I still think is pretty exciting. The passage of time, and yet people keep marking the same places, even as all the people who went before them are dead.

I love stuff like this, weird little snippets of human life and imperfection. Which brings me to this next picture!

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It… admittedly kind of sucks as a photo, but look at this beautiful unfinished painting. It was too high up to take a decent photo, but man. Nero watching Rome burn. It’s a 19th-century work (my unabashed favorite art period), and there’s a detailed underdrawing and bits and pieces of completed painting. Agh. I suppose most people wouldn’t consider it great art–it’s mostly pretty, but it’s a antique-historical scene done in the ridiculously idealized style of 19th-century Neoclassicists. All my favorite things!! (That’s not actually true–I also love the Romantics dearly. Probably more so in terms of actual theme. Whatever.)

I think it’s really important to show unfinished work and drawings in museums alongside finished masterpieces, because it shows process versus product. Looking only at finished product can be deceptive. It leads to the idea that great artists were geniuses who produced things as opposed to ordinary people who worked hard on a single skillset. Art is not magic. Art is hard work. Certainly talent can play into it as well, but no one got by on talent alone. Let’s admire the unfinished work for what it is, and what it shows us we can all do. I can’t make a great painting, but I can make sketches. I can’t write a masterful novel, but I can write some crappy first drafts, and I am continuously thankful for the records of first drafts of novels now digitized online. How great to know how even the classics struggled! Ha!

Anyways, to finish the day off, we got to see a short procession of the Eagle¬†contrada–Siena is quite unique in that it has an intensely competitive horse race every year amongst the different neighborhoods (contradas) that make up the cities: The Eagle contrada had won the most recent race.

That’s all on Siena! Stay determined.

 

 


Clara in Italy: Cats of Cortona (and elsewhere)

December 7, 2016

This is going to be a very brief post detailing some of the wonderful cats we’ve met in Cortona because I have to say they are a rather large part of daily life.

Cappuccina. She mostly hangs out on the hill between campus and the rest of town. Kind of snooty, but will consent to be pet most of the time. Generally adorable. Has a doppelganger that has a little cat house near the Mercato at the bottom of Cortona.

Regal Cat. Not sure what their real name is. One of the staff told me once (Antonella! Fabulous cat whisperer), but I unfortunately forgot it. It starts with a G I believe, but we just called them Regal Cat. ūüė¶ They also hang out on the hill between campus and the rest of town. Too good for you.

Silly Cat. Usually pretty low down on the hill. Don’t see them too often, but they’re still pretty nice.

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Beautiful Cat. Lives with a family down by the Mercato. Unfortunately difficult to get a photo of, since she lives so far down and it’s kind of exhausting to go down all the time and isn’t always out. But look how pretty she is!

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Selena! Very elusive cat. Lives on the studio portion of the campus, but comes up to the dorms to get fed by Antonella. There’s another cat named Lucy who I think also hangs out over there, but is even more elusive. She’s grey, though.

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Mysterious Cat. Have seen them but once! Managed to get this picture, staring out of the darkness of an open window. Pretty majestic, I’d say.

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And now, the THREE GRACES: Squiggle, Eddy and Sylvester. The cats of the dorms. Sometimes they sneak into the building. Mostly pretty skittish, but have been getting along pretty swimmingly since Squiggle joined the group. I’ve been reliably informed that Eddy and Sylvester never really used to hang out until Squiggle showed up.

So Squiggle. Named for the little kink in his tail. Gang leader. Likes to roll around in the dust and dirt and makes funny meows. He also kind of pancakes himself onto the ground when you reach for him. Wants love but also tends to run. But when you get him to come to you, he’s very snuggly. Has gotten much fatter than he was when he first appeared, which is kind of a relief, but he’s also a bit resource-hoardy and kind of a pig. Will steal the food from the others. We suspect he was abandoned and this probably accounts for the way he acts. Poor Squigsquag. A student favorite.

Eddy. Constantly sick. Sneezes a lot. Doesn’t seem to be able to clean himself and seriously needs a bath. Is the neediest cat I’ve ever met. When Squiggle is getting pets from people, Eddy is not far behind and often comes meowing aggressively and plaintively from the bushes. But he doesn’t want love from you!! He’s after Squiggle’s affection. I really love Eddy. He’s a sweetheart when you can get him to trust you for a hot second. He’s a little mangy, but that seems to be no fault of his own. A classmate bought him a comb, so maybe Antonella can clean him a bit better since he can’t seem to do it without a little help. (Unfortunately, only one solo picture for him.)

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Sylvester. Definitely the prettiest cat around. Extremely fluffy and well-preened, but he can’t meow. At first we thought he was hissy and unfriendly, but it turns out he really just can’t make meowing sounds. Seems standoffish at first, but on the rare occasion you can get him to come closer, he is wonderfully rewarding to pet on account of his glorious fur. The best cat-loaf.

And, just as a bonus, here’s my art history professor with a friendly cat she met in Orvieto. Think he was just starting to get sick of being held at this point, but he was pretty amenable to it for the first few minutes.

That’s all for this frivolous post. If you hate cats, I’m very sorry. Stay determined!


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