November 19, 2016: Mantova with Professor Cavina

In one of the lesser attended art history trips of the semester, we went to Mantova. We caught an early morning train and 5 people actually missed it. So you can imagine how few of us there actually were. It was actually really good though because it was like we had a private lesson with her. And we were able to talk to her one on one about Italian culture in general.

We followed Professor Cavina to Palazzo Te. And by followed, I mean she walked off and we chased after her. She is very fast and she never looks back to make sure you’re following. She’ll cross the street against the light and just keep going. And we’ll be waiting on the other side trying to see where she turns. She scurries around without telling anyone. Sometimes she’ll stop mid sentence and run off somewhere. And it’s kind of hilarious how we just chase after her. I think what is most amazing about her is how she commands the room. She is not a very imposing figure but she has authority and people listen to her.

I impressed the professor by identifying a Giacometti in an advertisement for a different gallery. The palace has lots of rooms with incredible frescoes.  The rooms don’t have flat ceilings. They are kind of dome shaped and have these beautiful frescoes. There is a large courtyard and when we were there it was very foggy. You could hardly see across the courtyard. There is also a fake grotto. We learned that the grotesque design is so named for grottoes. It is a more sparse design with white space and thin curly lines.

We went into the town center and had lunch. The specialty in Mantova is pumpkin. They put it on pizza, on pasta and in pasta. I had a great pumpkin ravioli. The Teatro Bibiena was closed for an event but we were luckily able to see it afterwards. It is one of the most beautiful theaters I’ve ever seen. We could even stand on the stage and look out into the audience with their comfortable chairs and ornate boxes. Mozart performed there when he was young. Legend has it that his father sent back a letter to his mother saying that his performance was legendary and that she should keep the letter because one day it would be worth something. It is kind of small, but just absolutely gorgeous.

Professor Cavina met her friend who was able to get us in to the museums for free. He is the president of the Friends of Mantova Museums. She has connections all over the art world naturally. He obviously knew a lot about art too. It was really cute how excited the two of them got telling us about art. And he knew things that the professor did not. His English wasn’t quite as good so she would translate for him. But the two of them did a sort-of collaborative tour, that was also kind of competitive between the two of them. It was really adorable how excited they got about art.

We saw the Palazzo Ducale and San Giorgio Castle with its painted rooms. It houses the famous camera picta, or camera degli sposi, with its beautiful, monumental frescoes by Mantegna. It includes an optical  illusion of depth, tromp l’oeil, a trick of the eye. If it wasn’t foggy, we’d have been able to see the river from the castle too. Instead, we settled for a painting of the view.


I took the 4:30 train back to Bologna and it was scorching hot on the regional train after the palaces were really cold. For some reason when I got back, Bologna was very crowded. Maybe it was people visiting for the chocolate festival.

I also did a coding challenge from Palantir, trying to get an internship. I didn’t realize how technical the position would be, assuming it would be more public relations than coding. I definitely failed the coding challenge, which was frustrating because it wasn’t hard. I have simply lost a lot of my coding ability. That’s not good.


When I got home, I had a roommate talk with Julia. And she had the audacity  to say bathroom is dirty. We have mostly gotten along. We don’t really hang out, but we are more or less cordial roommates. We stay out of each other’s way. But I was a little peeved by this. After all, it’s all her hair. If anyone isn’t cleaning, it’s her. But I am naturally non-confrontational. And if I have a choice between confrontation over cleaning and just cleaning, I usually prefer to clean myself because I am so particular about cleaning. I admit that the garbage was kind of my fault, but it is certainly equally her fault. Sometimes I forget about garbage collection, and sometimes I return home after they already collected garbage. Usually, I just throw my garbage outside since our garbage is so small, and especially when it is clean garbage. Doing this, I didn’t have to put out garbage at all during pre-term. Otherwise, during the week on non-garbage day, we have to bring the garbage out to the public garbage can. And it seems like a lot of people do that. There is perpetually garbage everywhere in the streets of Bologna.


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