Hayden Anderson: Grand Tour 2022

Hayden Anderson is an Honors College student at FIU studying marketing with hopes to go into the fashion industry. Hayden wants to travel the world to experience as many cultures as possible. She enjoys taking pictures, thrift shopping, and reading books. Her goal is to create a non-profit that helps underprivileged girls where a portion of the proceeds from her clothing line will go. She defines success as knowing she has helped as many people as she can.


Colosseo, Foro Romano, and Ancient Roma

Photographs taken by Hayden Anderson// CC by 4.0

Of the four cities we visited, Rome was by far my favorite.  To me, it has everything you could want in a city from the ease and access to public transportation, the overall walkability, and booming nightlife. Not to mention, it’s home to many of the most famous architectural structures and art pieces in ancient history. There are dozens of water fountains located throughout the city providing clean drinking water no matter where you are. It is the perfect place for students because the history is so rich it can be applicable to nearly all majors. You don’t have to be an art or architecture major to appreciate the absolute masterpieces found in Rome. During our two weeks there, I learned an incredible amount about the intriguing lives of ancient Romans and as a result, I gained a new appreciation for art history. 

I’ve always marveled at the human tendency to find the pain of others to be entertaining. But when I learned about the brutality of the games played in the Colosseum, I understood exactly where it comes from. Built in 70 AD during the rule of Vespasian, the Flavian Amphitheater, now referred to as the Colosseum, was constructed with the purpose of being an entertainment venue. During its time, many different events were held ranging from gladiator battles to naval reenactments. Thousands would gather and watch people fight to the death in the most brutal ways for pure enjoyment. The Romans were very inventive people, so in order to enhance the experience of viewers they created the velarium that provided shading and ventilation. The entire structure was very architecturally advanced for its time and is one of the greatest Roman buildings in my opinion. 

Touring the Colosseum was a very surreal experience because of its infamous reputation and its common association with Rome. Hearing the stories and reading about the history was nothing compared to walking inside and feeling like an ancient Roman. Due to the lack of people during our early morning tour, it was an even more intimate experience that allowed me to fully understand the gravity of what occurred there. It’s easy to look at the Romans and think of their actions as barbaric until you realize how much our entertainment aligns with theirs. From wrestling matches to football games, two beloved American pastimes, people truly enjoy watching others fight. Hedonism was ingrained in the Roman lifestyle, and is just as prevalent in ours today. 

Also located on the Sacra Via (Sacred Street) is the re-discovered city center, the Roman Forum. The Forum was home to all kinds of day-to-day activities both social and political. Initially, it served as a market where Romans could get common goods, and eventually progressed into a site for important political meetings. Housed in the Forum are a number of important structures including the Senate House, Temple of Vesta, the Arc of Titus, and many more. Criminal trials, elections, and public speeches all took place in the Forum making it a hub for receiving important information. It truly is one of the most spectacular sights in all of Rome.

So, are we actually Rome? To answer as simply as possible: of course we are Rome! But we’re also Greece, and Egypt, and every other great empire that came before us. Following in all their hard to fill footsteps, we are nothing without their incredible influence on all aspects of our society. 


Oltrarno and Piazzale Michelangelo

Photographs taken by Hayden Anderson// CC by 4.0

You have not experienced Florence in its full glory unless you’ve been at the top of Piazzale Michelangelo during sunset. It is hands down the most incredible view of the city and is best enjoyed with a glass of the local wine. What makes it even more special is the live music playing in the background combined with the buzz of the hundreds of other travelers all taking it in with you. It’s a truly unforgettable experience. 

Giuseppe Poggioni designed the square in 1869 following the urbanization of Florence during  its time as the capital of Italy. It is dedicated to the infamous Renaissance painter Michelangelo and was intended to house a museum of his finest works but ended up becoming a cafe instead. Replicas of the David and the four allegories of the Medici Chapel are located in the center of the piazzale and are so heavy that they took nine pairs of oxen to transport. The copies were also sculpted out of bronze while the originals are made of marble. 

Before the trip, I was looking forward to seeing Florence the most after reading Dan Brown’s Inferno. It quickly became one of my favorite books and I was really excited to see all the locations in the book first hand. Both Brown’s and Dante’s Inferno sparked my interest in the troubled poet and his cryptic work. Getting to walk where he walked gave me a lot of insight into his life in ways the books are not able to. The most powerful was the Baptistery of San Giovanni where Dante looked up as a baby and saw the satanic mosaic that he later took inspiration from. His imagination and use of vivid imagery is unlike any other and is incredibly influential. He truly shaped the way we think about hell in such a unique way. Instead of a giant place where all sinners go, he created a system of levels each dedicated to a different sin with its own corresponding eternal punishment. Reading Inferno and being exposed to dozens of churches gave me a new perspective of Catholic imagery and Catholicism as a whole. 

Unexpectedly, what stood out to me the most in Florence was the artwork, from Botticelli’s paintings and Michelangelo’s David, to the murals of St Catherine in Siena. Having known very little about art and art history before this trip, I am very grateful for what I’ve been able to learn and now being able to recognize different styles of art and eras. 

Cinque Terre


Photographs taken by Hayden Anderson// CC by 4.0

For more than a year, my computer lock screen was a picture of Cinque Terre. I had no idea what town it was, or what the different towns were, it just served as motivation to work hard in school so I would be able to study abroad in Italy. The picture was so beautiful it was hard to believe that a place like that was even real. Seeing the full view for the first time on our hike between Monterosso and Vernazza was better than I could have ever imagined. The colorful houses, bright blue waters, and vibrant flowers made for the most serene landscape of the entire trip. The hike was very physically challenging, but I would do it over again in a heartbeat just to experience the view. 

The town of Corniglia is the third village of Cinque Terre and the only one above sea level. It is known to have strong agricultural traditions that date back to Roman times because it’s surrounded on three sides by vineyards and terraces. Because of its distance from the sea, some parts of the town are more rural than the more coastal towns. However, in the upper part of Corniglia rural meets gothic in the church of San Pietro. Its dedication to St. Peter can be seen in its Carrara-marble rose window where a small statue of Peter holding keys is located in the front of the church. It was built around 1334-1351 by Matteo and Pietro di Campiglio in Corniglia’s local stone. While the exterior features gothic elements, the interior was remodeled with a baroque style. 

What makes it even more unique is that the only way to get into town is by hiking around 380 stairs, even if you take a train. While it is definitely a journey, it is very rewarding because along the way you get to stop at Bar il Gabbiano, which has the best lemonade slushies in the world. Once you get to Corniglia, you see that it’s a very quiet town that doesn’t have any hotels so the majority of people there are locals or are stopping by during their hike. One of the most common things to do in Corniglia is cliff jumping into the icy Mediterranean. While I didn’t have the opportunity to jump in Corniglia, I was able to in Manarola, which was one of my favorite experiences of the whole trip. 

All five towns have their own history and traditions, but what ties them together is their dedication to preserving the land. The pushback from locals to not give into the hospitality industry take-over has led to Cinque Terre remaining a UNESCO world heritage site. This is a perfect example of how people can live hand-in-hand with nature while not degrading it.  


Santa Croce

Photographs taken by Hayden Anderson// CC by 4.0

“Venice can only be compared to Venice”. An incredibly fitting quote that perfectly describes how unique the sinking city is. The islands of Venice are surrounded by the Venetian lagoon that has served as protection from invaders for centuries. The open layout also allowed for more fresh air to flow which was beneficial in preventing the spread of diseases. While the lagoon protects Venice from the outside, it creates many problems for the city itself. Air and water pollution are among the most prevalent issues caused by the water-surrounded city. Water taxis, boats, and gondolas are constantly disrupting the wave patterns which erodes the sides of the buildings. Not to mention the structurally unsound foundation that causes many buildings to be slanted and sinking. The environmental impact of tourism on the Venetian ecosystem grows more apparent everyday. 

Santa Croce is the smallest of the six districts in Venice, and the only one that can be accessed by car because it is connected to the mainland. Its name is derived from the Santa Croce Monastery which once held part of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem. It is located on the upper curve of the Grand Canal and contains two of the Canal’s four bridges. Despite its size, it is one of the busiest districts because of the bus stop located in Piazzale Roma, the only place people can travel by anything besides a water vessel. Because of how many cars frequent the district, the artificial island of Tronchetto was built solely for parking. If that isn’t a testament to the impacts of tourism, I don’t know what is. 

Venice wrapped up our tour and served as an awakening for the downside traveling abroad can have on the environment. The benefits to our education come at a high cost to our planet.


The Grand Tour was an unforgettable experience that I will always cherish. The memories I’ve made with classmates will last a lifetime. I found interest in topics I never had before because of the engaging lectures. I learned more than I ever thought I would, which has made me better informed in all kinds of areas including: art history, architecture, Italian history, foundations of Catholicism, and so much more. I really appreciated how in depth we went into the topics because I was able to be fully immersed in all discussions. Being able to discuss the lectures and my thoughts with my classmates made my experience even more engaging. Studying abroad is something I’ve always wanted to accomplish and I can honestly say it has changed my perspective on a lot of things, especially life in the US. One thing I love about Italy is the tradition of the passeggiata; it’s such a simple act but it shows how different the culture in Italy is from the US. The fast paced lifestyle has never been something I aspired to have which is why I enjoyed being able to live like a local Italian so much. It was a culture shock at first, but I assimilated quickly because of all I was able to learn in such a short amount of time. 

I would never have been able to have this experience if it weren’t for the Honors College. The intimate learning setting has helped me succeed in all academic areas and has given me a wealth of knowledge. I am forever grateful for the Grand Tour!

Work Cited

Art history in Florence: Piazzale Michelangelo. FlorenceItaly. (2020, April 20). Retrieved June 15, 2022, from https://www.florenceitaly.org/art-history-in-florence-piazzale-michelangelo/?lang=en 

Santa Croce. visitingvenice.net. (2019, October 24). Retrieved June 15, 2022, from https://www.visitingvenice.net/venice-districts/santa-croce 

History.com Editors. (2018, March 8). Roman Forum. History.com. Retrieved June 15, 2022, from https://www.history.com/topics/ancient-rome/roman-forum#section_1 

Corniglia. Cinque Terre. (n.d.). Retrieved June 15, 2022, from https://www.cinqueterre.eu.com/en/corniglia 

Author: Hande018

Hayden Anderson is an Honors College student at FIU studying marketing with hopes to go into the fashion industry. Hayden wants to travel the world to experience as many cultures as possible. She enjoys taking pictures, thrift shopping, and reading books. Her goal is to create a non-profit that helps underprivileged girls where a portion of the proceeds from her clothing line will go. She defines success as knowing she has helped as many people as she can.

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