Derick Allen Plazaola is Honors College Senior seeking a dual degree in Geography and Anthropology with an additional certificate in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) at Florida International University. Continuing forward in life with the compassion of discovering new locations and experiencing new memories, Derick is seeking to eventually become a GIS Analyst. His primary hobbies have included the likes of Polaroid Photography, Journaling, and Traveling. During his time at FIU, Derick has been able to become integrated into FIU’s Residential Life team as a Resident Assistant for students living on campus.
As a part of JW Bailly’s Italy Study Abroad 2022 group, Derick has been thoroughly enjoying his time so far being able to immerse himself in the history and beauty of which Italy and its cities have to offer.
Here are Derick’s Italy As Texts.
Roma as Text
“Immersione Completa” by Derick Plazaola of FIU in Roma, Italia from May 7th to May 18th.
In these 11 days that I have been here, I have been introduced to a new way of living that I have never in my life been able to experience before. The opportunity to study abroad has outright changed my perspective on being able to place yourself in a completely different cultural environment. Just only being able to realize this fact has made me realize how quickly the days pass on by when you dedicate the time to live the life of an Italian living in Roma With that being said however, the via’s of Roma along with the histories and secrets they yield have been nothing short of engaging for me.
To start, the ancient wonders of Rome have served as the primary lens by which I have been able to look into the past of the city. I realized very quickly on that it is one thing to see these places in pictures, but it is outright a different kind of feeling being able to stand within these locations and visualize the events which have taken place there for hundreds, if not thousands of years. One of the most memorable excursions for me so far has come in the form of being able to visit the Flavian Ampitheater – the Roman Colosseum. Upon our arrival to the lower level of the Colosseum, my mind revolved around the fact that the ground I stood on was where gladiators actively clashed their blades against each other and that over 50,000 Romans sat in the seats surrounding me at a 360 degree angle from above watching a show of survival just where I was standing – all of this taking place centuries ago. It felt like I was just a step away from being able to hear these sounds and to visualize the people both watching and fighting below.
If the grandeur of the Flavian Ampitheater isn’t enough, then perhaps the jaw-dropping architecture of the Pantheon can perhaps satisfy one’s desire to gain an appreciation for what Ancient Rome was at its core. Looking into the heavens above while being able to stand in front of the stand once dedicated for the Roman gods is exactly the action that the Romans centuries ago were doing, and here our study abroad group was repeating this same act. I could look outwards towards the entrance and pictured tens of thousands people coming into the Pantheon to give respect to their gods or to even provide offerings – a sight now replaced with visitors coming to be amazed by the architecture of this amazing building.
Even the art of Roma and its ancient past is a key aspect of the city that has allowed me to become nothing less than encompassed by the history of not just Roma, but of Italy entirely. One key experience I will not forget when walking the hallways and grand rooms of the Capitoline Museum is being in the presence of Marcus Aurelius – more specifically, standing underneath the Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius. I quite distinctly remember when Professor Bailly was lecturing us back in Miami and showing us the fluidity and movement that can be visualized with the statue from pictures and showcasing just how expertly the Romans were able to capture this sense of movement within the pieces of art they created. Months later, I now found myself at the foot of this statue looking up at the Roman emperor and his noble steed. It was an unimaginable moment just because I felt as if he was directly waving to me from where I was standing below him and I realized just how amazingly the emotions associated with this statue were captured.
There has been one aspect of Roma that has surprised me in just how much I have been drawn towards it, especially when reflecting the pictures I was able to capture. The churches and basilicas of Roma are nothing short of a source of jaw-dropping beauty, especially in the level of craftsmanship that was required to make the art within stand out distinctly among each other. Two moments stood out to me during our class exploration of Rome’s churches. The first moment was when a service was being held in one of the rooms within the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran and the organs started playing; this moment truly stuck with me as the sounds of the organs travelled entirely down the church while simultaneously sending a shiver down my spine out of how beautiful it was to hear in person. Secondly, being able to step inside the massive hall of the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls truly allowed me to attain an idea of the long-standing history of the Catholic Church. The way light was utilized to illuminate all of the popes within history as well as illuminating the mural of the current pope, Pope Francis, was artistically genius to me.
All of these locations and key pieces of Roma yield experiences that simply could not be felt through the viewing of a picture or a video. It takes one’s very own presence to be able to truly experience the emotions imbued within them as well as the ability to understand their respective histories and secrets. Such can be especially be conveyed with the ‘La Passeggiata’ leisurely walk that has been done by so many Romans before us. In the end it truly takes a full immersion to retain these experiences – in Italian, this is a ”Immersione Completa”.
Pompeii as Text
“Are we Pompeian”? by Derick Plazaola of FIU at the ‘Scavi Archeologici di Pompei’ on May 16th.
Growing up for so long, you always hear about the stories revolving around Pompeii and being told about the opportunity to be able to see the bodies of Pompeians that were once living – now existing as plaster casts – was a continuity that remained in my life since gaining the chance to initially learn of the once-city’s existence. It’s only now during study abroad where I truly gained a surreal realization in that there was so much distinct value lying within the city that is sadly not focused on as much, something which is minuscule compared to what the city is unrecognizably distinguished for being – the city destroyed by the punishment of the gods in the form of the explosion of Mount Vesuvius. Traversing the avenues and streets of Pompeii along with the rest of the class allowed me this chance to uncover characteristics of the once-intact city to be precursors to things one can see in modern society.
In starting off, it’s interesting to be able to touch upon first of the geographical layout of Pompeii in relation to the streets lying within Pompeii. Our tour guide, Antonio, was able to express to us that Pompeii wasn’t entirely streets as avenues are geographically north to south whereas streets are east to west. Furthermore if a street continued without interruption all the way to the other side of Pompeii it would change names even as the pathway continued; for example: one same street would be divided into “Via Delle Terme”, “Via Della Fortuna”, and “Via Di Nola”. In connection to my career interest lying directly in cartography, this was something that threw me off entirely at first sight.
In relation to its geographical location, it was extremely beautiful to even undergo the process of entering the city. The view that one retains from entering into Pompeii from Porta Marina, the “Sea Gate”, and to look behind you is one that isn’t easily forgotten as you truly feel connected with the Mediterranean coastline thats so close by. However, it would prove quite the double edged sword to receive such beautiful views, but at the same time to be the city that was “struck by the gods”; an action that could directly counteract the protection given to the city by the safety of the surrounding Apennine Mountains, which symbolically served as a wall of defense. I do find it ironic that such a landmark was a token and yet the downfall of the city would prove to be the destruction brought about by the same sort of environmental landforms that were praised.
What drew in most effectively however from today was the sheer amount of precursors to modern day society that were visible in Pompeii still. For one, the language utilized to describe the buildings are still directly connected to those same terms in the modern era; I found this to be quite the most distinct with the usage of “domus” being the origin for the word domicile or “home”. I did not think there could possibly be more after this, but I stood corrected shortly mostly thanks to Professor Bailly and Antonio’s lectures. The water and bathroom systems that lie dormant within the now ash-covered shops and homes of Pompeii was jaw-dropping as we could see, yet again, a precursor to what we as individuals have to actively maintain within our very own homes. Here we are 2000 years later still with systems that are undoubtedly reminiscent of those which we saw on this day trip. To me, it just completely altered my perspective on the things we have to effortlessly adapted into modern day usage as we are clearly so nonchalantly accepting things as they are and not dedicating time to look into where things came from – such as the case with these Pompeians relics. Even the “beware of dog” sign that we see so many neighborhood residents use is something that is emitted by the Pompeians of the time.
Even amidst the beauty of the art lying present here along with the many mosaics in conjugation with architectural landmarks and buildings, the value of Pompeii comes in being able to gain an appreciation for the physical objects and systems that were actively utilized in the once-thriving city. It’s nothing short of an eye opener as to being able to understand even our own lifestyles much better and to question: “Are we Pompeian?”
Assisi as Text
“Era Passato un Altro Giorno” by Derick Plazaola of FIU in Assisi, Italy on May 20th, 2022.
To be deceived by the appearance of something is a phenomenon that occurs quite frequently throughout the lives of many. This phenomenon is one that exists as yielding a dualistic nature as there can be both negative and positions connotations associated with an appearance that doesn’t reveal the entire backstory at first glance, requiring further exploration and analysis to understand the full picture. Spending the day in Assisi had later brought me to the realization that what I experienced was the latter, more positive connotation as I found myself being drawn in by the small city distanced deep in the Umbrian region of Italy. Reflecting back on it, the level of history – especially the Christian ties – lying within Assisi was nothing short of amazing to fully take in as the city served as a foundation for many things to unknowingly come.
Vastly different from the constant liveliness and busy-spirited nature of Roma, Assisi proved to be such a geographical magnet for me because of its distant beauty compared to the streets of Italy’s capital. Assisi proves itself a small, yet ever-so welcoming town that sees millions of tourists every year come to view the wonders and secrets lying within the historical churches embedded into the heart of the city. However for me, the ability for the town to be so closely in geographical distance to the beauty of the Apennine mountain range is such a driving point for me personally as it there is an offering of great landscape and cultural immersion that is offered together as one complete package. Interestingly enough, the town of Assisi was one that didn’t yield Roman roots in its origin as it was originally an Etruscan town that later morphed itself into a Roman one. However regardless of this, the opportunity to walk through the streets of Assisi provides you with the opportunity to be overwhelmed by the medieval influence embedded within the town’s architecture and overall aura.
Where there is a high amount of historical value within the town of Assisi lies in the Christian past greatly associated with it. Known for being the birth place of Saint Francis of Assisi, this town is responsible for being the starting point of the Christian values tied deeply to the pope of our current age – Pope Francis – who deeply expresses liberal values of aiding poverty, environmental protection, and joy. It is no coincidence that our current pope shares the same name as Assisi’s Saint Francis as the ideals he advocated for within the Franciscan order he would end up creating would be adopted in great detail today. Saint Francis of Assisi seemingly declared that he was not a soldier for man, and is a soldier for Christ; this was something that really resonated with me as it was beyond expression to see this continuation of an ideal be reflected in today’s pope while standing in the same town where this saint preached these Christian standards. Understanding this places you in the mindset of being able to truly understand that the caretakers of the world lie within our very own selves. Thus, it is no wonder why Saint Francis is now accepted as Italy’s very own patron Saint. The day in Assisi truly allowed me to view that the town was responsible for birthing a Christianity that pushed for doing things for what they are in this world and not for the purpose of securing a spot in heaven.
What really drew me in was the unique experiences I had with interacting with the people of Assisi. Coming from Rome and being able to hold great conversations with shop owners and other locals, I truly thought it could not get better but Assisi quickly proved me wrong. Even a simple conversation I had with a street shop owner led to her gifting two of my classmates and myself a unique and wonderful post card that I would treasure simply because I learned about that shop owner’s time in the town. Furthermore, the welcoming nature of people in this city was something that truly drew me in as I was able to receive a private business tour which allowed me to see a wine vault hidden to the general public by another local shop owner. I never imagined that this city had these kinds of experiences in stock just waiting for me.
I walked away at the end of the day extremely satisfied with the combination of a deep cultural & religious history along with some of the most unique experiences I had gone through in my time in Italy so far. I was so distracted with all of this immersion that I did not realized – especially so quickly – that, because of the cultural immersion another day had gone by. Thus, “Era Passato un Altro Giorno”
Firenze as Text
“Benvenuti nel Rinascimento” by Derick Plazaola of FIU in Florence, Italy from May 23rd to May 30th
There are two words that, I personally feel, best describe the city in its entirety. Out of all the cities in Italy, this one is easily the one that best serves as a “time machine”. Never did I think that I would be transported back to the time of the Renaissance so flawlessly with all of the notable pieces of art and architecture that have been surprisingly well preserved for several decades now. And above all, to be encapsulated by the city’s grandeur from the notable views of the Piazzale Michelangelo and the top of Brunelleschi’s Dome and its neighboring bell tower crafted by Giotto is a feeling that is indescribably jaw dropping. This city truly serves as a portal that takes one back to prime of the Renaissance. There are just so many enriching pieces of history that lie dormant in Florence, just waiting to be discovered.
In starting off with the architectural highlights of Firenze, there are some key contenders to be the city’s best physical landmarks. To start with the most easily seen and recognizable of them all, Brunelleschi’s Dome is truly a one-of-a-kind masterpiece that simply cannot be replicated to its perfect extent elsewhere nor at any point in time. For one, it’s insane to think about the fact that Brunelleschi’s masterpiece was constructed without any sort of supporting structure; it truly does strike you in the moment of this realization and you can’t help but feel so minuscule in presence of its grand nature. Being in such awe of it can even make you forget of the fact that what you’re standing inside – as you slowly make your way to see Firenze from the top of the Duomo – is actually 2 domes in the form of an internal and external dome, both with distinct materials and patterns being embedded into the creation process. Quite the feeling it is to fully ascend to the top of the dome though as you truly feel as if you’re at the epicenter of Florentine Renaissance and at the literal height of the city. If the dome isn’t enough to satisfy architectural cravings, then perhaps the neighboring bell tower crafted ever-so carefully by the hands of Giotto and Pisano is more along your tastes. For me, it was a time of Gothic reminiscence and endless determination to be able to ascend this – seemingly harder – structure as you realize that each step taken simply marks another colored marble layer that is passed. For me personally however, the interior of the Medici Chapel’s first room – “The Chapel of the Princes” – truly made you feel insignifiant in the presence of the Medici’s grandeur due to the truly massive size of this initial structure. Entering this room and seeing the altars dedicated for those who were buried there was a feeling that can only be truly understood once you step foot in this room; a feeling that will stick to my core for ever so long.
On the other hand, the heart of the Florentine Renaissance may just as easily lie within the art spread across various museums and galleries within the city. Although some pieces of art prove themselves to be substantially smaller than others and vice versa, all seem to perform an impeccably equal role in transporting those who come to see these pieces of art back to the century at which the art was built. I thought that the Uffizi Gallery performed this perfectly with examples such as the Virgin Mary room, where you find yourself having to shift from different interpretations of her from different centuries, or having come face to face with both the “Primavera” and “The Birth of Venus” paintings only mere seconds away from each other – a feeling of endless beauty which overcomes you as soon as you feast your eyes upon these works. The same could be said with each and every angle upon which you choose to view Michelangelo’s “David” as not only do you receive the feeling that Michelangelo was directly chosen by God to create this artistic masterpiece, but also the fact that the creation of the sculpture would come to mark the period of the “High Renaissance”, the peak of the era.
Ultimately, Firenze is a city that has two faces. On the left is a booming tourist epicenter which attracts millions of people every year that enthrall themselves in the beauty of the city. On the other face, Firenze is a city that exists as a forever image of the Renaissance that says to you, with open arms to bear witness to the greatness of this period: “Welcome to the Renaissance” – “Benvenuti nel Rinascimento”
Pisa as Text
“La Città Interconnessa” by Derick Plazaola of FIU in Pisa, Italy on May 25th
In my journey so far across the Grand Tour of Italy, I found myself being taken aback by the by the web history which is Pisa. What I learned on this particular day is that Pisa goes way beyond the face value that it has received extensively from so many people globally especially highlighting the grandeur of the Leaning Tower. Instead, this city has simply so much more underlying history that has to be uncovered through secondary effort and research.
Even at its historical roots, Pisa would come to quickly establish itself as a city that would geographically intertwined with the rest of Italy. The city found itself in history to serve as the main port city connected to the rest of the country that would dominate in terms of goods and economic development; this would allow for an expected domination of the Mediterranean as the city would serve as the forefront of maritime trade.
Focusing on the cultural connections of the city however, I find that here Pisa establishes itself to be a location that is deeply intertwined with individuals and groups of people that have already established some sort of influence within Italy, only further boosting Pisa’s notability in the global scheme of things. For one, the Medici are inherently involved in the history of Pisa as they allowed the city of Firenze to be able to conquer Pisa. Furthermore, the figure of John the Baptist from Christianity is recognized as being buried at Pisa’s very own baptistery, giving yet another interconnected pathway. Adding onto this trend, echoes of Catholicism lie within the history of this city as one of the most important Madonnas lies in the cathedral of Pisa – one which was preserved and saved during the time of the Black Plague. Furthermore, scientific origins lie within the city’s history with Galileo’s own mathematical teachings have taken place in the city’s university – especially including a leaning tower recreation lecture which perfectly encapsulated Galileo’s concept of differently sized objects sharing the same of gravitational pull.
I think the surprise of the day when visiting Pisa for me was even seeing Dante’s Alighieri’s notable “Inferno” being displayed in full effect within Pisa’s “Campo Santo”. However what caught me off guard with the notable painting in the Campo Santo was just how grotesque and gruesome the portrayal of hell was recreated for many to see. It almost serves as a constant reminder of what is to come to one of misdoings were to continue.
Again, it was nothing short of insane to see just how intertwined Pisa was many important Italian historical pieces and individual which I have previously discovered on the Grand Tour. I definitely do think the timing of visiting Pisa was perfect because it did allow me to see that Pisa is more than just a city known to being home to the leaning tower and to rather appreciate the secrets hidden within it. These secrets truly make it “La Città Interconnessa”
Cinque Terre as Text
“I Cinque Tesori della Liguria” by Derick Plazaola of FIU in Cinque Terre, Italy from May 30th to June 2nd
When you see a chance to explore the “Five Lands” of Italy, you can not afford to miss out on this opportunity that may easily prove to be once in a lifetime. Before coming here, I did not think that this section of Liguria could not possibly top the experiences which the other cities up to this point have yielded. I could not have been more wrong to take up this assumption as Cinque Terre would rapidly prove to be the location in Italy which would truly allow me to feel the most drawn in by the culture which was waiting to be experienced in its entirety there. Above all, Cinque Terre would serve as the location in all of study abroad that would allow me to enjoy the utmost genuine interactions with the locals of the seaside villages and experience some of the most authentic natural beautiful sights which the country has to offer.
From the day of arrival, I could tell that what the next few days in Cinque Terre had to offer was going to be drastically different from what I had been adjusted to living to in the more developed cities of Roma and Firenze. From several times before, I was told by Italian locals in the other cities that Cinque Terre was one of the most beautiful parts of Italy along with Professor Bailly continuously mentioning how Cinque Terre was ”authentic Italy”. Even my previous dorm roommate, who has an Italian background, was jealous of the fact that I would be staying a few days here when initially highlighting the agenda for the entire trip. Stepping out of the train station only to then not only see the grand Mediterranean, the Italian Riviera, in front of me along with the other villages of Cinque Terre nestled among the mountains to the left and the beach right below was a sight I just couldn’t believe. For more than half of the program now, I had been so conditioned to seeing the highly more compacted and developed cities
I would say the hospitality of Cinque Terre was a factor of this part of study abroad that truly resonated with me. From the wonderful locals and visitors alike to the food that was treasured across these five villages, I found that I did not encounter a single negative experience in all of these areas. In starting with where we lived for the duration of our stay in Monterosso, our time at Santuario Di Soviore was undoubtedly the most special location that could allow us to truly feel welcomed into the heart of Liguria. The owners of the sanctuary always made sure to make us feel treasured, were especially kind, and served us nothing short of the most delicious food. However, the front porch of the sanctuary was a gem that I always found myself constantly going back to as I was enthralled by the mind-boggling view that came with being so high up in the mountains. It even felt wrong to leave behind such a beautiful view once it was time to depart as it was a treasure I ended up becoming so jealous of the people who are able to see it every day. Past the grounds of the sanctuary and into the other villages, I found myself enjoying being able to strike up new interactions with all sorts of people that I found when traversing the streets and entering businesses. My favorite little interaction was at a seafood location called “Tutti Frutti” in Riomaggiore where I explained to the owner that my professor was the one who gave this recommendation and she was beyond delighted to see that her business was being openly shared to others. It was these sorts of small things that added to the level of enjoyment I felt when in Cinque Terre.
Then there is the natural beauty of Cinque Terre in both its grand mountains and in its respective villages. The combination of healthy green pathways scattered across the mountains with the colorful palette of the five villages is a sight that flourished so naturally together. This became only even better at certain spots where I could also see the clear blue waters of the coast; I truly felt like I could see a complete trifecta of a picture when all three of these elements came together. In reference to the villages themselves, I found it so interesting how – at first glance – they obviously all look so alike in terms of their color and the way in which the buildings are constructed. However, they all each have their notable characteristics, landmarks, and specialities that separate them. For myself, I found myself spending the most time in Corniglia where I could peer over the rocks where so many cliff dive and yet still look back on a colorful city all while enjoying a “Granita di Limone” that I had bought from a kind shop owner. Cinque Terre thus does a phenomenal job of captivating you to enjoy the environment in its entirety and to not ignore a single element; its as if you also can’t give more attention to one element of Cinque Terre more than another as adoring all equally at the same time will give you the best possible view you are seeking.
Cinque Terre was an experience that I truly do wish could have lasted for longer. Visiting this region of Italy was truly the authentic experience that I was led for so long to believe. Now it only seems that what’s left to do is to simply plan the next time to visit for the villages of Cinque Terre, to me, are “the five gems of Liguria” – “Le Cinque Gemme della Liguria”.
Venezia as Text
“Gran Finale” by Derick Plazaola of FIU in Venice, Italy from June 3rd to June 7th.
Everything great has to come to an end and thus, my Grand Tour of Italy through JW Bailly’s Italy Study Abroad 2022 program concluded with an immersive experience to the beyond beautiful city of Venezia. By this point, I had already found myself staring into Italy’s past through the artistic creations and architectural master pieces that lied within the cities I had visited prior to this. Thus, I could not see myself being more amazed by the content in which Venezia had to offer during my stay there; I could not be more wrong assuming this as I found that I was enveloped entirely by the historical creations that lay hidden within the city mere inches above the nearby waters. For one, I’m glad that my perspective was corrected entirely once I immersed myself into this city; this allowed me to retain a higher level of enjoyment from this rare experience.
The visit to this city truly served as a strong conclusion to the overall journey that I had experienced for the past month and will forever remain as a core memory for me. Thank you endlessly for reading my experiences up until this point. Please enjoy my “Venezia as Text” piece.
The process of immersing myself into the daily life of a Venetian was an experience that I found to be so distinctly unique to the ever-so constantly flowing lifestyles of Rome and Florence, or the tranquil escape that Cinque Terre embodies. For myself, life in Venice was a city that was thriving off its rich history and culture that shined through the various different mediums that lie dormant in the city married to the sea. This was something that I personally saw the best in the enriched structures of Saint Mark’s Basilica and the Palazzo Ducale as they each contained extremely-preserved pieces that could not be found elsewhere in the world. Additionally however, I often found myself being lost in the booming social gathering and nightlife environment which this maritime city had to offer as every alleyway would offer a new batch of unique shops and locations to dine at. If there was one thing that stole my heart from this city however, it would be the historical artifacts that specifically were tied greatly into my field of study; I found myself spending hours just analyzing these pieces altogether.
In reference to these historical artifacts that could be viewed while here in Venice, the pieces that absolutely stole my heart and demanded my attention were the cartography pieces that lie within the “Museo Correr” exhibition at St. Mark’s square. The buildup to the final piece of this section was phenomenal as I initially started out with viewing some of the smaller maps of Venice and Italian regions lying within old books. I feel like this in tangent with the historical pieces of maritime navigation and Venetian ship building – of which was known to be among the best in the world – was nothing short of an amazing starting course to the exhibition of the Museo Correr. Coming to the final rooms of the Correr’s cartography sections was where the real gold lay for me. I found myself entranced just viewing these phenomenal and entirely unique maps, attempting to understand them entirely – a feat which proved extremely difficult. Starting with the heart shaped World Map of Hajj Ahmed, i viewed this cartographic illustration as being among the most artistically unique I saw that day with the depiction of the world fitting entirely into the shape of a heart. Then, to be able to see the documents of Marco Polo himself was a sight I couldn’t believe I was facing; had it not been for the barrier of glass protecting these writings, I would more than gladly sift through and read his works. Finally however, to come face to face with one of the most important maps I had previously seen when working on my Italia America project was a jaw-dropping moment as I now stood in front of the massive Fra Mauro map created in 1459. As to how this circular planisphere was carefully crafted is one of the questions I kept asking myself as I not only stood in front of the real thing but also as I was interacting with the respective interactive touch screen, finding locations from the real world that I recognized. It was simply insane to me how vastly different this map was from so many that were previously shown to me in this very same exhibit, but yet the same in so many aspects.
Just when I thought the mainland of Venice already had so much to offer, the islands of Murano and Burano proved out to be just as beautiful, unique, and memorable in their own ways. To be able to walk away from the island of Murano with not only a live glassmaking demonstration but also with purchased glasswork is something that I will forever express to be one of my favorite experiences when in Venice. Finally, the welcoming nature which Burano embodied was something that I truly enjoyed as a final destination within Venice.
The finish line has finally been reached. All of the destinations and locations which I have now visited within Italy have all proven to be significantly life changing and memorable in their own regards. There was a start to the Grand Tour and here now, in Venice, we complete this once in a lifetime journey with a grand finale – a “Gran Finale”.