Juliana Gorina: Italia as Text 2022

Juliana Gorina is a senior at Florida International University pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Studies with a focus on Natural Resources Sciences. She has always had a strong passion and interest in the environment and with this degree she hopes to create positive change for the environment, especially in South Florida where she has spent her whole life. She plans on going to law school and specializing in environmental law to make these changes through legal practice. She hopes that her Italy Grand Tour experience will help her gain global perspective and better understand the foundations of American law and policy.

Rome as Text

“Modern Ruins”

By Juliana Gorina of FIU in Rome, Italy

A collection of photos of Roman, Christian, and Egyptian structures throughout Rome. Photos by Juliana Gorina/ cc by 4.0

Rome, Italy is a city like no other. In the epicenter of Europe and western culture, the city is a mix of Roman ruins, medieval, renaissance, baroque, and modern buildings. Walking through the streets feels like walking through the set of a movie, with ruins casually being pointed out on an obscure street corner. The elegant, decadent catholic churches, covered in marble and gold juxtapose the crumbling Roman ruins that are mostly brick, cracked marble stone, and overrun with wildflowers and grasses.

Egyptian obelisks tower in piazzas around Rome, signifying the Romans imperialistic victories over other great civilizations. The Catholic churches take a similar approach, using ancient roman columns as grandiose decorations inside the churches, symbolic of Christianity’s victory over pagan rule. When you take note of these features, it is almost as if history is flashing right before your eyes. Rome is a giant juxtaposition of itself; ruins are meticulously cleaned, preserved, sectioned off, while modern buildings are riddled with graffiti, sidewalks littered with trash, an overall unkept look.

Modern day Italy also stands over its ancient buildings, as the ruins fall a few feet below Rome’s current soil levels. This contrast in height creates a beautiful imagery of what was and what is, a great city that has persevered, building on top of itself, with its notoriety remaining. This seems to be a recurring theme with Rome, with one group building on top of the other, in a struggle for power. Now what remains is a cultural epicenter, with ruins in restoration, and the modern in decay.

Pompeii as Text

“One man’s tragedy is history’s greatest gift”

By Juliana Gorina of FIU in Pompeii, Italy

A series of photos from Pompeii. Photos by Juliana Gorina/ cc by 4.0

Walking through Pompeii thrust us into ancient times. A city that was covered in ash preserved almost perfectly except for the wooden roofs and structures. This was the first real taste of ancient Rome since arriving in Italy. As we walked through the streets of the main city center of Pompeii, I could for the first time picture what ancient life would be like. The unique aspect of Pompeii is its frozenness in time. Even some of the citizens of Pompeii died with their city, frozen in agony.

Pompeii’s infrastructure was something that stood out the most to me. The elevated stone crosswalks with the pre-measured spaces between stones, and the grooves in the Roman roads for better vehicular travel are innovations that were a marvel to see in person. When we walk across a random crosswalk, we would not think that it was an ancient invention. We see in Pompeii that although they were not modern people, they employed many of the same pleasures and utilities as we do today. When you walk through the ruins, if you are not paying close attention, you may miss these small details. Holes in the sidewalk to tie up traveling animals, like street parking today; bars where hot food and wine are served and travelers can rest and converse, like any modern bar or tavern today. Pompeii is a place where as a modern human, we can step into the ancient world, see it for what is was, and even see how we now live as they did.

We try to remove ourselves from ancient people, with the rationalizations that we are no more technologically advanced, more intelligent, have greater perspective. Pompeii has taught me that we might not be as vastly different to ancient people as we think. Many of the comforts we do not think twice about, crosswalks, the orientation of our roads, how we describe the time of day, are all ancient inventions that we rely on heavily. Pompeii is a historical marvel, it allows us to step back in time, step in the shoes of ancient people, and bridges the gap between us and them.

Tivoli as Text

“A Step Away from Ancient Civilization”

By Juliana Gorina of FIU at Tivoli, Italy

The natural beauty of Tivoli. Photos by Juliana Gorina/ cc by 4.0

Much of the sight-seeing in Italy up until this point had been great feats of humankind. We had explored architectural wonders of the world, establishments of politics, religion, and war. At these historic sights and ruins, the only nature present were grasses and wildflowers that reclaimed the abandoned sights. Though made by humans, the structures are not natural to the eye. Tivoli was a step away from all the grandiose development and architecture. Here for the first time in our trip, we see the inclusion of nature in architecture, with a greater focus on greenery and natural aesthetics versus displays of sheer size and wealth.

Hadrian’s villa is the first emperor’s villa to be established outside of the city. Because of its removal from the cramped city area, the villa allowed for large expanses of greenery, ponds, moats, and scenic views of the surrounding mountains. Villa d’Este takes this scenery to a new level. Large fountains all throughout the villa feature greenery, creating a very clean, natural aesthetic when paired with the white stone home. In Villa d’Este, we see displays of wealth through landscaping and structures accentuating natural beauty instead of structures that focus on artistic design, art, gold, and marble.

Most impactful though, was the Valley of Hell and Neptune’s grotto. It was during this hike that we got the first taste of Italy’s natural beauty in its purest form. Villa Gregoriana is a perfect preservation of Italy’s greatness outside of human development. Though it is a villa, the hike of this area took us through a pristine landscape, with a large, roaring waterfall, a large expanse of greenery, and tunnels cutting through the mountains that gave us a glimpse of the opening to hell. Neptune’s grotto is a natural wonder that ties in with Roman beliefs of the underworld as they relate to nature. This trek through the mountains was a sudden change of pace compared to Rome and even the villas of Tivoli. Villa Gregoriana allowed us to see a different side of the Romans, one that is often shadowed by their great architectural feats. The only indication of Roman presence is the tunnels and walkways cut through the mountains, and the myths attached to the nature. With this seemingly untouched piece of natural beauty, comes the humanization of the Romans, a removal from their seemingly impossible societal accomplishments for their time. At Neptune’s grotto we take a step away from ancient civilization and reconnect with the natural roots of Italy.

Florence as Text

“Tyranny or Class”

By Juliana Gorina of FIU at Florence, Italy

Renaissance and Gothic art in Florence. Photos by Juliana Gorina cc by 4.0

The change of pace from Florence to Rome was a large one. From the hustle, bustle, and chaos of Rome, Florence shifted towards a classier, laid-back pace, the streets walkable and much cleaner. The artwork found in this city followed suit, with the city hosting the likes of Duccio, Botticelli, and a masterpiece by Michael Angelo. Whereas much of Rome’s key features were larger than life architectural feats often linked to conquer, Florence displayed two larger than life products of the Renaissance that encapsulated the class and will power of the city. None of these possible without the rule of the Medici family.

Brunelleschi’s loss to Ghiberti on the baptistry doors marked the beginning of the Florentine renaissance. Though this loss was a blow to his ego, Brunelleschi contributed to a much larger Florentine feat. The commission and creation of Brunelleschi’s duomo marked a great victory for Florence as a city. This was the largest dome created since the Pantheon, which was completed around 1,200 years earlier. The architectural victory that was the duomo pointed towards the innovation running rampant through Florence during the time of the renaissance. Present day, the duomo is still one of the most visible architectural structures all throughout the city, easily being pointed out. It was a sign of strength and wealth for the city, and the duomo is one of the great contributions to the arts by the Medici family.

The other larger than life artwork in Florence is less obvious than the duomo. On an unassuming street in an unassuming building, stands what is arguably Michael Angelo’s greatest sculpting work. The David stands about 17 feet high, a muscular male body, nude, and an expression of concern and bravery. Michael Angelo’s commission for the David marked the high renaissance in Florence, but more importantly it embodied the growing influence and strength of Florence as a city. The statue was made to face the rival of Florence, Rome, with the message being that though Florence was younger and smaller, they were mighty, powerful, and brave. The David solidified Florence’s place as a major power in Italy. In relation to the renaissance, the sculpture captures a very human moment and expression. The face of the David is something to behold, no photos doing it enough justice. Michael Angelo was able to capture the fear and determination of man, of a city, in a slab of marvel. This is starkly different from some of the gothic art seen across Florence, with flat facial expressions and depth in the body. The David illustrates in hyper detail, the human form, with depth in the body, legs, and especially the hands. The face contains physical depth, as well as emotional depth. The statue, was originally commissioned to be displayed at a cathedral, was displayed outside the civic center. Historical accuracy did not matter on this statue. The focus was clearly on beauty in physical form, and the message the statue and its emotion sent to the rest of Italy.

Like the David, many other renaissance works were loaded with sexual beauty and innuendo. Botticelli’s Birth of Venus is a beautiful example of this. Her nude body painted without an air of shame in her expression or body language. Renaissance art explored a new side to human sexuality. Nude women’s bodies were painted with sexual innuendo and without shame, a large difference from that of gothic paintings. The human form was explored during the renaissance, bringing the people and art back down to earth and to the physicality of their lives. As for the Medici, their involvements in the commissions and collecting of great gothic and renaissance works cannot be understated. Though future Medici generations turned towards hoarding wealth and art, and ruling with tyranny, Medici’s like Cosimo the Father and Lorenzo contributed largely to the creation of many renaissance masterpieces, and their well-kept collection of personal arts allows for us to see these shifts in art and humanism throughout the Florentine renaissance.

Pisa as Text

“Make Art Not War”

By Juliana Gorina of FIU at Pisa, Italy

Pisan Romanesque and fresco paintings in the Field of Miracles. Photos by Juliana Gorina cc by 4.0

The Field of Miracles in Pisa, Italy completely stood out from the rest of the city, and even from Italy in general. Throughout our Grand Tour, we have been asked to look at ruins and picture them completely laid in bright, shiny, white marble. The structures in the Field of Dreams are what I have pictured thus far. Yet these buildings and their history are much different, as they have been impacted by more recent historical events.

The Field of Miracles was the sight of a large battle during World War 2, mainly the United States troops fighting against German troops. Much of Europe had been decimated because of the war, but thanks to an American soldier, the Field of Miracles was able to be decently preserved. Removing bombing and battle from this area allowed for the structures like the leaning tower of Pisa, the baptistry, and the Camposanto. Removing battle from the area preserved the unique art and architecture of Pisa.

Pisa is known for its architectural style of Pisan Romanesque, which takes influence from Roman architecture with the inclusion of some gothic elements. Furthermore, the Camposanto is home to some of the greatest gothic and renaissance fresco artwork in Italy. Though structurally the architecture in the Field of miracles for the most part was left unscathed, hot lead from an explosion from a misfired American bomb damaged some of the fresco paintings. Dean Keller of the World War 2 monument men began restoration of these works mid-battle.

Though World War 2 brought much destruction to Europe, including Italy, the creation of organizations like the monument men allowed for great restoration and preservation of historic monuments throughout Europe. Compared to the rest of the city of Pisa, which was greatly impacted by this battle, the Field of Miracles area seems almost untouched, froze in time. The war taking place on Italian turf caused great damage to the homes and livelihoods of many, but it also contributed to the preservation of great artworks and monuments. Though the circumstances were extremely poor, the war pushed for cooperation between opposing sides to preserve something that all could enjoy, art. And though human lives were lost, not preserved by the violent war that waged on, humanism in art was preserved through projects such as the monument men. Art speaks to all, and agreements to preserve monuments has allowed future generations to understand and relate to past peoples. The rest of Pisa destroyed and rebuilt in the modern eye, the Field of Miracles survived this demolition and allows for us to see the artistry of gothic era Italy.

Cinque Terre as Text

“A Step Away”

By Juliana Gorina of FIU in Cinque Terre, Italy

Views from the mountains above Cinque Terre. Photos by Juliana Gorina cc by 4.0

Emerging from the train station in Monterosso, Cinque Terre was like stepping into a dream. Your eye does not know whether to turn to the brightly colored houses or to the Mediterranean Sea. In comparison to all the other cities we had visited, Cinque Terre lacked the grandiose, there were no large architectural feats, statues, cathedrals, etc. The simplicity of Cinque Terre added to its beauty.

Professor Bailly informed us that the locals of the five towns were all under the consensus that they must keep the town in its historic state, with the community collectively agreeing not to sell properties for the development of condos, hotels, and other tourist sights. Though Cinque Terre is a popular tourist site, and our time spent there was spent among other foreign visitors, the intactness of the towns did not let the tourism overwhelm and overrun its historic beauty. Despite the presence of visitors, one was still able to feel the authenticity of Cinque Terre and experience the culture of its locals.

Cinque Terre also offered us a step away from civilization and thrust us into a more rural and natural aspect. In the hikes in the mountains between towns, we got a taste of nature and rural living. On the hike we were able to see wine vineyards, a staple of Cinque Terre, isolated homes away from the towns, and some sections of the mountains were steep and isolated with only vegetation and the sound of birds present. Up on the mountains you can see the towns near the water below. These views allowed me to remove myself, and as was tradition on Grand Tour journeys of the 18th century (Grand tour), it allowed for self- reflection of the Roman, gothic, and renaissance works and culture we had just experienced.

What I was able to reflect on personally was my good fortune to be able to participate in a journey like this one. The Grand Tours of the 18th century were usually reserved for wealthy, white men (Grand tour). I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to experience something that was originally not intended for someone like me. Up until May 6th, 2022, when I first arrived in Rome, I had never set foot on the European continent. From that point until the mountainous hike through the towns of Cinque Terre, our schedule had been a never-ending flow of late nights to early mornings, experiencing some of the world’s greatest pieces of art, sculpture, and architecture in those long hours. This hike put me at a dead- halt, and the gravity of all I had experienced was able to hit me with full force. In the span of about three and a half weeks I had experienced more than anyone in my family had in their entire life. Coming from a family of immigrants, this realization filled me with a bittersweet sense of pride in the accomplishments of myself and my family, pride in allowing me to travel across the world for a month, sadness in my family not experiencing the lushness of Italy, yet. I was also able to reflect on the great experiences and friendships formed so quickly on the trip. Colombia, my first home away from home is now joined by Italy, a second home away from home. An incredible country that provided me with culture, education, and a sense of belonging.


“Grand Tour.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., https://www.britannica.com/topic/Grand-Tour.

Venice as Text


By Juliana Gorina of FIU in Venice, Italy

Views from along the canals. Photos by Juliana Gorina cc by 4.0

Venice is a world renown city because of one unique aspect, it was built entirely on water. As someone from Miami, a city so close to the ocean, swamp, etc., I thought I would be prepared for the conditions I would find myself in. Upon arrival I realized I was entirely wrong. The train station from which we arrived was the last point I saw any traditional modes of city transportation. In Florence, outsider cars were not allowed in the city center, making the city largely pedestrian. Similarly in Venice no cars are allowed in the city, but neither were Vespas, scooters, or any motorized vehicles other than the Vaporettos. I have referred to many experiences on this trip as having felt like a dream, and Venice was no exception, except it was a dream in a much less picturesque way. When walking all the streets twisted and turned, one second on a crowded street, the next in a cramped alleyway. Walking through any of these alleyways you were often met with a cloud of mosquitoes waiting to take a bite. Buildings tilted and disappeared behind others, only to reemerge after a slight turn in the street. On foot, the city seemed like a maze. Riding on a vaporetto or gondola is when you could really catch a glimpse of the city’s unique beauty, a beauty found in its irregularities and nonconformity. And though the city was something like I had never seen before, it felt the most like home. We were informed on a lecture that Venice was the birthing place of capitalism, and this was mirrored in the storefronts lining the alleys, the large mall near the Rialto, the hundreds of jewelry stores, clothing stores, athletic stores, etc., even on the most obscure alley corners of the city. This was the one aspect that almost cured the extreme homesickness I was experiencing at this point. The lines of malls and stores reminded me of what is part of Miami’s culture, malls, luxury stores, boutiques lining the streets in so many different neighborhoods. And though Venice was by far the most tourist dense area of the trip, its beauty and uniqueness was not lost, with its beauty shining and reflecting on the canal waters.

Author: julianagorina1400

Juliana Gorina is a senior at Florida International University pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Studies with a focus on Natural Resources Sciences. She has always had a strong passion and interest in the environment and with this degree she hopes to create positive change for the environment, especially in South Florida where she has spent her whole life. She plans on going to law school and specializing in environmental law to make these changes through legal practice. She hopes that her Italy Grand Tour experience will help her gain global perspective and better understand the foundations of American law and policy.

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