Agrigento: Day 12

In the morning, we went to the Filippo Bentivegna museum. Filippo was born in Sicily in 1888. When he was 20 years old, he immigrated to America to look for jobs. In America, he fell in love with a girl, but was beaten by the girl’s brother and came back to Sicily. Later on, he bought a small farm and began to carve stones, which can be easily found in Sicily. Enjoying his life in the small farm and having a close relationship with nature, he finally made more than 3000 sculptures. Among all those sculptures, the only subject of the sculptures is the face of the local population. He often went to the town, watching people’s faces and asked people to call him “King”. Therefore, some of the sculptures have crowns as a self-portrait. All the sculptures are carved in lines as sketches of the faces. Some of the sculptures have more than one head and body, which are 3-dimensional. He also drew paintings on the wall as a reflection of his life. For example, he drew a big fish with a lot of small fish inside to represent Sicilian people going to America for looking for jobs.


After arriving at the biological winery-farm, we first visited the vineyards where we got the basic information of the grapes. It is important for workers to select the best braches and buds so that they will get the best quality of grapes. After the second pruning, workers will tie the branches to the wires so the buds will grow upward and the grapes will grow along on the wires. In this way, workers can harvest the grapes easily. The harvest time is usually in summer but the exact time depends on the type of grapes. Unlike other plants, bugs are not a problem to the grape; instead, birds are the only problem. In order to keep the birds away, the workers would play shooting sounds. Besides, the land is special because it is full of mineral substances and these substances provide the grapes with a salty taste. In these years, according to the owner, they prefer local grapes than international ones because international breeds are easy for foreigners to recognize when the wine is exported. In addition, wine production has three steps: harvest, fermentation, and bottling. During the harvest, the temperature of the grapes is important. The temperature of white grapes is about 6 ˚C and the temperature of red grapes is about 13~18 ˚C. After the fermentation, the wine stays in the tank for a while. There were two kinds of containers in the farm: steel tank and wood barrels. The wood barrels can let the wine breathe and they choose the type of barrel and wood depending on the wine. Among all the types of wood, the oak is the best.
In the afternoon, we arrived in Agrigento to visit the “Valley of Temples”. It is one of the biggest archeological sites of Greek architecture and is also considered the last Greek architectural work in Sicily. The place where the stone was located was originally the bottom of the sea, but because of the movement of tectonic plates, it became a cliff. Later on Greek people built up these temples here. All the temples face the east and contain Roman architectural elements since all the temples have arches. They are supposed to have some sculptures either on the wall or inside of the temples, but no one could find any of the sculptures. Due to the geographical condition of Sicily, there were some earthquakes here, so some of the temples fell apart. When we looked close to the fallen parts of the temple we could see that the material used to build the temple was plaster. Because the temples have lasted for more than a thousand years, the color of the temples are yellowish. Next to the temples we can see the defense wall that was built up next to the cliff, there are some arches in the walls. The walls were built up naturally, people dug into the land and left a wall next to the cliff. Some of the temples were used to protect the status of God. There were marble statues on the roof of one of the temples, but all the statues had been moved later when this temple was used as a church. This temple was also the most important temple in this valley. The last temple that we visited was the second biggest Greek Church in the world called “Temple of Zeus Olimpico”. We could not see the complete temple, just some parts. There were also huge-scaled sculptures of giants in this temple; all of the real sculptures have been restored in the museum.

Written by Amy Guo, Selina Qiu, and Lucy Wu

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Students learn how grapes are grown.

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Valley of the Temples, Agrigento.

 

Naples: Day 4

On the second day in Naples, we woke up earlier than usual to prepare ourselves for Mount Vesuvius. Mount Vesuvius is an active volcano on the east coast of Naples. Mount Vesuvius is famous because of its destruction in the year 79 C.E. It was recorded that it shocked the civilization at noon on August 24th. Before we left the hotel, we were advised to take an additional jacket for the cold weather. It took us forty-five minutes to arrive at the top of the volcano. As soon as we got off the bus, we realized how valuable an additional jacket could be. It was extremely windy and cold. As we hiked higher, the wind was getting stronger. At one point we all had to hold on to something to protect ourselves from the wind. After reaching the starting point of the top surface, we received some information from the guide and started to walk around the volcano. At the same time, the wind was extremely strong; everyone had trouble seeing because of the sand.

The view from the top of the mountain was gorgeous, but because of the weather, we unfortunately had to leave the volcano. So we took a group photo and started to head down. Our next stop would be Pompeii after lunch.

Written by Karsten Chan

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After lunch we visited the ruins in Pompeii, one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. The unique point of Pompeii is that it keeps the original appearance of an over two-thousand-year-old town from the Roman Empire: erupted ashes from the Vesuvio volcano buried the whole village in a very short time. It is a tragic disaster, but it also provides a great opportunity for historians to get a direct idea about what urban life was like in the Roman Empire. We visited different kinds of shops, resident houses, public facilities, and so on. There’s an interesting feature of the city that drew my attention: designers of sidewalks used white bricks as the main construction materials so that the sidewalk can reflect the light from the moon and the street lamps to make the path more visible for pedestrians. It might just be a small detail of the engineering design at that time, but it also indicates the “brilliance” of that past civilizations.

Written by Mark Liu

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Naples: Day 3

We started the day by taking train from Rome to Naples. While on the train, most of us took a nap to prepare for the first day in Naples. After about 1 hour, we arrived at our destination. In the hotel, each one of us received a Neapolitan Typical lunch box that contained five products: Pizza di Scarole, Timballo, Sfogliatella frill o riccia, Mela Annurca (an apple). Among all the four different kinds of food, Timballo impressed us most because inside it was pasta. After finishing our lunch, we walked about half an hour to The Greek Roman Aqueduct, which was underground. This aqueduct was about 40 meters below the city of Naples. During the Augustan Age, Romans dug and later created a 400 k long aqueduct. During the 17th century, the aqueduct was enlarged because of the growing population. However, people stopped digging and abandoned the 200 million square meter aqueduct. Neapolitans used this aqueduct again during WWII, and we saw few military relics there. We also saw some passageways above us. These long paths were used by cleaners to come down and clean the aqueduct. The most fun part of this underground tour was to hold the candle and walk through the passage way that led to the place where water was stored. The passage way was pretty narrow and low so we had to bend down. Also, the University of Naples even started a science program that scientists planted plants in the underground world. The high humidity let the plants survive and people use lights to act as sunlight.

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Through the crowded lanes in the local neighborhood, we walked to the Greek-Roman Theatre, which is hidden underneath a ‘basso’, a typical Neapolitan home. The theatre was built about two thousand years ago. Accessed from a trap door under a bed, we entered the backstage of the theatre. The backstage corridor was connected with several arches. The bricks of the original wall was built with two different arrangements. One is horizontal and the other is grid. This technique is used to protect the theatre from earthquakes. After exiting the basso, we entered a carpentry, where we saw another fragment of the theatre. The Greek-Roman theatre covered by a huge residence of 40 families. The corridor was even once used as a parking lot for motorcycle. Therefore, on the ancient walls, there are several wooden windows. It is so common in Italy to see an ancient architecture on any corner.

 

Before dinner, we went to a bakery to learn how to make typical Neapolitan cakes (Sfogliatella frills o riccia), which have a history of more than 400 years. There are two different kinds. One is made in the shape of triangle with wheat flour, animal fat, honey, and sugar. It taste is more crispy. The other is made in the shape of round with normal flour, egg and sugar. Both of them are stuffed with cottage cheese and a little cinnamon. While waiting for the cakes to bake in the oven, the chefs made two traditional pizzas for us. Finally, we enjoyed the cakes and the pizza made by ourselves.

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Right after we learned how to make some Italian desserts, we took the subway back to hotel. It was actually funicular which is also known as cliff railway. It has a cable attached on the top of the coach and also there are two cables on the railway to help the vehicle move up and down. The coach of the funicular is kind of similar to a tram, but it has stair shape when you see the inside. It was a really nice experience with this infrequent transportation. For dinner we had typical Neapolitan pizza. As Anna had told us before, the pizzas from different parts of Italy are different. The pizzas that we had were really thin and soft. It was really good, and the topping and cheese for everyone is different as well, it’s also my first time seeing a pizza that had French fries as a topping!

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Written by Amy Guo, Selina Qiu, and Lucy Wu

Rome: Day 2

In the breezy morning, we visited St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Such a grand and majestic monument is an Iitalian Renaissance church. Intricate details decorate the entire monument, especially the dome and Bernini’s baldacchino. After taking a look at the interior of St. Peter’s Basilica, we had a great opportunity to climb to the top. We took the elevator up, which saved us 320 steps! However, we still needed to walk up 231 steps along narrow staircases in order to get to the very top. Though it cost some effort, the views were rewarding and worthwhile.

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After St. Peter’s, we walked to the Spanish steps. The 135 steps were designed by Francesco de Sanctis and Alessandro Specchi and took two years to construct. In the Piazza di Spagna there is a fountain called Fontana Della Baracaccia. It was built in 1629 before the steps. Gian Lorenzo Bernini and his father were credited. According to the legend, a boat brought by a flood inspired Pope Urban VIII to have the fountain installed.

 

Written by Alex Kang and Justin Min