Friday, November 25, 2011

Traveling to Paris

The landing at the Beauvais Airport in Paris was rough. It was late at night, around 11pm, and the air was fridged. After a chaotic cab ride to the hostel, we finally made it to the hostel and recharged for the next 4 days of one of the most memerable times of my life.
Paris was bigger than I had ever imagined. The city streets and the buildings that lined them were much newer than what we were used to here in Urbino. Two way streets, sidewalks, stoplights, these were all things you dont find in the centro storico of Urbino or any other small Italian city. The mornings were glorious. The sun hits the pavement at a different angle than San Antonio (since Urbino is at the longitude of Detroit and Paris is even higher) and casts shadows and reflections with a golden tint.
Our journeys throught Paris were amazing. We walked everywhere we could until we couldnt walk anymore. By day 3 Marco and I were just discovering the convience of the Paris metro system and, if you didnt know, Paris has one of the best metro systems in the world. Our journys led us to the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Saint Chapelle, Notre Dame and so many other places of the city. We saw so many great things along the way also, street venders, clowns, musicians, even a full orchestra performance in a small square off of a main road. The little wonders of a city are what makes it so great. Yes the monuments were amazing and each an experience of its own, but the best experiences for me where walking the bautiful, busy streets of Paris.
As we stood atop the Eiffel Tower, we noticed a completely new and modern city far in the distance of the citys edge. This struck our curiosity and in a last minute decision, Marco and I decided to hop on a metro towards Le Defense, or what some might call "the new Paris". The ride there was quick, about 15 mins with the excellent metro system. It was approaching dark when we arrived and the sky scrapers began to light their interiors. As we turned the corner of the subway stairs, we were in the middle of the city in a large square surrounded by flashing lights, skyscrapers and the epic Grand Arch.
If you decide to go to Paris, I would suggest taking an evening to see Le Defense. It was the perfect way to end our trip! As our journey came to an end in Paris, we were packing and preparing for our next destination, Barcelona Spain. I was sad to leave Paris. I had never experienced a city in such a way. I had been to many large cities, but none as warm and inviting as Paris expecially one that offered so many things to enjoy. It would have taken months to see everything. I will take those amazing 4 days with me as I continue my life journey, and someday I will be back in Paris, walking its beautiful busy streets once again. -Daniel L.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Rome, Italy (Part I)

We arrived in Rome about 10:30 a.m. tuesday, November the 8th. We took the metro, which was better than walking, to the hotel which was located next to the Vatican Musuem. We broke for lunch and our meeting point was Piazza del Popolo.This piazza name is translated into the "peoples square"; it was also the starting point to modern day Rimini. It was an amazing place to be, in the center lies an Egyptian Obelisk, which is beautiful in itself. There is also fountains on either side of the piazza.
Soon after the discussing about the piazza, the weather got the best of us. Gathered under the arch, we had no choice but to buy umbrellas from the street vendors. Our next stop was one of the buildings I was waiting to see this whole trip, The Pantheon. I had seen it before we arrive in Urbino, but it was amazing to see it in the rain. It was also dark, which made it a memorable experience. I walked in only to see the center blocked off due to the rain falling down from the oculus. I saw The Pantheon when it was sunny outside, which was amazing, but its a whole other experience when its raining. The building itself is massive, once you walk in, you can't help but walk around with your jaw to the ground.The second day, we started the day off at the Roman Forum to do some sketching. I had seen this area from the outside, and walking in to see all this ruins was something else. Everywhere you look, there is something to see; a fragment of a cornice, a Corinthian capital, pieces of buildings, etc. After about an hour or so sketching and exploring the Forum, the highlight of day was a couple minutes away. From a distance, it over powers everything around it, its height soars over the surrounding context, and its history is conveyed through its material. The Colosseum is one amazing feat, illustrating one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and Roman engineering.The interior of the Colosseum is a whole other story, it conveys the feeling of hearing thousands of Romans screaming and cheering overlooking the event that was occuring. As I walked around, I was confused and at the same time amazed on how they achieved the construction of this building. The center of the Colosseum shows about one-third of what the stage would look like back in the Roman times. Knowing that this building has survived from the time it was completed in 80 A.D. is just mind blowing! A magnificent work of architecture and a must see building when in Rome.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


"Palladio's City"
When arriving to Vicenza you can see the medieval walls that seem old and non impressive, but once you see the entrance to the historic center,get ready to get you mind blow away by Palladio's creations. Every three block you can find a work of art that you want to marvel for hours.
Teatro Olimpico

Print in the gift shop>
I cant even start to explain the feeling you get,when entering then theater. The space is quit and be expected to be silent. When I first walked in, I felt over whelmed by how much detail there was.

La Villa Retonda
When I first studied the villa in History class it seem like this enormous building. When we arrived i couldn't believe it was small compared to the other building we had seen. The inside is beautiful but they wouldn't let us take pictures.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Lecce: Down to The Boot

From Tuscany to Lecce

Buon Giorno, It has been only one month on the journey of a lifetime, with so much to tell and so much to show it is hard to keep it brief. As we travel through the diverse mesh that is the context of Italy we find ourselves converging more and more into the culture of the Italians. Two weeks ago we explored the culture of Tuscany and all that it has to offer. The food, wine, art, and of course the Architecture proved itself worthy of any Kodak moment. Last weekend, Stephanie and I made our way down to the boot of Italy on the adventure of a lifetime. With only three days to spare we made sure to engulf ourselves into the scene that is Lecce. Six hours by train ride, Lecce lies along the east coast of Italy. Thus the train runs down the coast line with some of the most beautiful ocean views I have ever seen. Lecce is said to be called the Florence of the South, a title which proves to be true, as it has a very distinct and strong culture different from the places we have been so far. The urban fabric of the city displays itself in a very exciting way, as its 16th century baroque facades seem to melt away into the sky. Made mostly out of a limestone the architecture is unlike the architecture of the classical renaissance. It is rather ornate and alive with sculptural detailing unlike the architecture of Siena or Florence.

Friday night we made our way out into the city with the bed and breakfast behind us. The town was alive with people walking, talking, and doing something. Lecce is proud of the Architecture, for the buildings become brightly light up using artificial lighting. This method of lighting is something I have yet to see on our stay here in Italy. That night the food was good as we sat down at a winery to relax and get something to eat. We had a taste of the wine in the region called Primitivo, which was very good in comparison to some of the wine in the Marche region and Tuscany. The dinner was amazing except for the coastline Gypsy’s who are very aggressive toward people here. For three hours, different ones would walk up to us and try to persuade us to buy roses or some other gypsy trinket. LOL

The next day was a full day in the life of an Italian as our bed and breakfast was actually an apartment with a full functioning kitchen. We attempted to make some coffee in the morning as we made plans for the day. Once again we stepped out of the apartment and headed for the main piazza where there is a 1st century Roman amphitheater. While there we noticed people setting up for a concert that was going to take place that night. After, we headed to some other important buildings including The Church of San Giovanni Battista, Santa Chiara, and the Piazza Del Duomo. All of the buildings were wonderful; unfortunately we could not get into them, because they were full functioning buildings, and the public was not allowed in. That night we found ourselves in the main piazza waiting for the concert to start. Wandering past the hundreds of people we saw three guys stretching next to a speaker playing some hip-hop. The three guys eventually started to breakdance, putting on quite an amazing show. After we stood outside the amphitheater and looked down upon the concert. The concert consisted of a bunch of different shows strung together, with an artist painting along to the beat of the music.

All in all Lecce was quite the sight to see, I would recommend it to anybody who is willing to travel down to the boot of Italy. The Architecture is quite amazing as it displays itself very proudly at night and in the day. Ornate and sculpturous, Lecce is unlike anything we have yet to see in classical Italy. The people are wonderful and had a strong sense of the arts as there was an amazing overlay of contemporary arts on top of the baroque city. This meshing of the old with the new is what makes it an interesting place to visit.

-Nick Faller
Oct. 6, 2011

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Tuscany Trip

Saluti da Urbino! This week's blog will be written by none other than the group's Asian sensation, An Nguyen! Special thanks to Marco Gonzalez for the pictures as my camera's battery fried when I plugged it into a European outlet. Now into the third week of our program I would like to encourage future participants to bring an umbrella and waterproof shoes with very good grip. The previous post by Amber Winslow mentions how much we employ our legs as the main mode of transport but another thing to bear in mind is that Urbino is very hilly, ADA would faint at sight. Expect to return home with fantastic legs!

Our first class trip took us south to the region of Tuscany where we visited Siena, Florence, Pienza, and Montepulciano. Here we had the great fortune to stay just a few blocks away from the Piazza del Campo in Siena. I would like to extend our gratitude to our hosts, Eugenia and Mierco, who were able to book us these accommodations as many places would hang up at the mere mention of American students.

Now I'm no connoisseur but I will be so bold as to say that the food in Siena was without a doubt the best I've had in my life. Make sure to try the steaks at any restaurant here and the gellateria next to the Piazza del Campo.

Of the numerous buildings we visited in Siena it was the Cathedral of Siena that made my jaw hit the floor. The scale, the decor, the atmosphere, everything about it is breath-taking.

Even if you're afraid of heights I would strongly encourage you to climb up the Torre del Mangia next to the Piazza del Campo where you'll be rewarded with a view far beyond the extent of the city.

Forewarned by Professor Alexander and Eugenia we hung on tight to our wallets and passports as we toured Florence, a gorgeous city even considering it's recent decline. Of the buildings toured here my personal favorite was Michelangelo's Med
ici Chapel where we were unfortunately unable to take pictures.

The Cathedral of Florence, bigger than Siena's by far. I was unable to go inside due to time constraints but those who did highly recommended it and even climbed up to the dome.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

We have now been in Urbino, Italy for a little over two weeks and it has already been a bit of an adventure. Fortunately we have great organizers in Italy who take care of our every need. It is hard to miss noisy San Antonio and electronic luxuries such as television when waking up every morning to the smell of clean air and a picturesque view of the county side. My dorm window view is incredible, old cottages and farm homes crown hill tops and the landscape seems undisturbed by the changes of time and the deterioration of major infrastructure.

The town of Urbino has narrow cobble stone streets lined with disorderly joined buildings, the stores are small yet functional and many have surprisingly little if no exterior signage. The piazza is always occupied and most nights filled with students. The main mode of transportation is walking which has been a delight, plenty of exercise every day that I know is doing me much good.

One of the first places we visited was the ducal palace of Federico da Montefeltro here in Urbino. Being my first encounter with a building centuries old I was highly impressed and a bit bewildered not only by its astonishing craftsmanship but also surprisingly by the ingenuity used to furnish humble luxuries.

Our first weekend here we visited the beach on the coast of the Adriatic Sea and perused the Saturday market for produce and cheap trinkets.

We visited a winery the second weekend here which was even more fun than the beach! We started the day by helping harvest red grapes from the vineyard, and then we watched as our tractor load was rapidly pressed into grape juice and sent to storage vessels. After all of our work was done we sat down to a charming lunch on a covered patio overlooking the widespread vine covered surroundings while tasting resident wines.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Buongiorno a tutti !
Welcome, everyone, to the inaugural UTSA CoA study abroad in Urbino, Italy! I trust your transatlantic transfer went reasonably well in spite of the scheduled transportation strike. I know that you all will have an immensely rewarding experience over the next 12 weeks. I hope that you will take advantage of posting to the blog site, and keep your loved ones informed about your positive experiences on this trip. I know that you will represent UTSA well, and that you will create your own personal Italian history. Learn, enjoy, eat and experience.


Dean Murphy