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Weeks 35-38 – The Calm after the Storm

June 7, 2010

Andrea Palladio's San Giorgio Maggiore, Venezia (Venice)

It might have seemed like I’d fallen into the lagoon, since I hadn’t posted a weekly blog entry in four weeks – my apologies.  The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity and travel – additionally, virus problems reoccured on my computer, rendering it useless.  We’ve just concluded the busiest time of year at the American Academy, and I’m now breathing sigh of relief after a frantic last few weeks.

Four weeks ago was my public lecture (or “shoptalk” as we call them) at the American Academy.   With my computer incapacitated by another virus, I had to borrow a computer a few days before the lecture to put together the (Powerpoint) lecture, (thank you Marty and Anne).   The lecture was a productive exercise for me, in that it forced me to synthesize some of my findings and the ideas I’ve been developing over the course of the past nine months.  It’s always a challenge to give a lecture to a group of people outside your field, and make it interesting and accessible to them.  I think I managed to do so.  Although my lecture was entirely in English, I was also touched that some of my Italian colleagues attended whom I’ve met during the course of my project attended, including Prof. Simona Salvo of Universita di Roma La Sapienza, and the Architetto Roberta Rosati.   Roberta speaks no English.  After the lecture, I asked Roberta in Italian if she understood anything from my lecture, and she replied “niente” (nothing).   Despite not speaking any English, Roberta attended to show her support and encouragement for me – it was a very nice gesture, which I really appreciate.

Campanille, Vicenza Italy

Three weeks ago, I spent the entire week in northern Italy visiting sites for my project.  My colleague and friend the Architetto Carlotta Coccoli was kind enough to arrange an entire week of site visits for me to projects under restoration, and insider tours of buildings of recently restored buildings, given by people instrumental to the restoration.    I was really overwhelmed by Carlotta’s generosity with her own time, and in calling-in favors from her friends and professional contacts.

Carlotta Coccoli unlocking doors for me in northern Italy, (here, to a medieval church in the valley outside Brescia)

The itinerary for our week in northern Italy was as follows (we used Bescia as a home base, and did day trips from there every day):

Sunday:  Train to Brescia (in Lombardy, east of Milano)

Monday:  Lodi

Tuesday: Milano

Wednesday: Brescia in morning, train to Val d’Aosta (in the Italian Alps)

Thursday: Aosta

Friday: Vicenza

Saturday:  Brescia, Esine valley

Sunday: train back to Rome

At the Basilica Palladiana in Vicenza, after a tour of the restoration work in progress.

I’ll write more about my trip to the north, and some of the interesting things I saw, in the weeks ahead.

The cortile at the American Academy in Rome's McKim Mead and White Building, just prior to the 2010 pinning ceremony an cortile dinner

I returned to Rome from my trip to northern Italy (two weeks ago) just in time for “Trustees Week” at the American Academy.   This is essentially the busiest and most important week of the year at the Academy, as the Trustees visit from the U.S. for a series of events that include:

  • readings by the Fellows in Literature,
  • concerts by the Fellows in Musical Composition,
  • Open Studios by the fellows in the Arts (including me),
  • a series of insider tours of historic and archaeological sites in and around Rome for the Academy Trustees, led by Fellows who volunteer to lead them (including me).
  • Concluding the week, the “pinning ceremonies”, where the Rome Prize winners of 2009-10 are formerly inducted as Fellows of the American Academy in Rome, followed by a very special 5 course dinner in the cortile (courtyard) of the Academy’s McKim Mead and White Building

2010 "pinning" ceremonies (induction of Fellows) at the American Academy in Rome

Returning from my trip to northern Italy just on the eve of Trustees week, I had to “charrette” (work frantically under a tight deadline) to prepare for both:

  • the Trustees tour of the Pantheon, which I co-led with Prof. John Pinto of Princeton, and
  • my exhibition for the “Open Studios” event at the American Academy, a public event that draws hundreds of people

Early evening with my daughter, at the Canal Grande, Venezia (Venice)

Last week, breathing a sigh of relief after the highly scheduled and busy previous weeks, I took my wife and daughter to Venice for a few days to relax and soak-in one of the world’s most beautiful and unique cities.

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