Dio mio, I love Italy. I'm reminded vividly how much each year in Survey 2 when we cover the Italian Renaissance. Donatello, Fra Angelico, Botticelli, and of course the great Michelangelo...each artist calls up memories of visits to Italy and trips to museums to see Italian art.
I first visited Italy as a grad student in 1996, a 3-week sojourn in the midst of a nearly 9-week dissertation research trip. Traveling alone, I was certain Italy was as "intense" as I'd heard, and I'd be pinched, pickpocketed, and run over by a Vespa. Couldn't have been more wrong. I arrived in Bologna on a rainy night after a daylong train trip from Munich, tired and overwhelmed, but threw open the windowshutters in my modest pensione room the next morning to something out of a movie. Still-damp red brick porticoes, a view to the distant hills, church bells, the beguiling scent of pastry and cappuccino...the only thing missing was Pavarotti singing Puccini beneath the window. I've been besotted ever since. Great art, great food, welcoming and hospitable people -- what's not to love?
Italy had an eventful week last week in their quest to recover looted antiquities. The famous Euphronios krater formerly owned by the Metropolitan Museum (which I'd declare the most beautiful Greek vase in the world, bar none) arrived in Rome to much fanfare, the result of a deal struck in 2006. The Italian government has agreed to lend fine pieces to the Met as an exchange. Last Friday, in an unprecedented arrangement, New York collector Shelby White agreed to return ten antiquities to Italy after 18 months of negotiation. One of those will be her own fabulous Euphronios krater (fragmentary), which has been on loan at the Met for some time. Check out the "Looting Matters" blog (link at left) for more information and links to news stories.