Alexandra Alsina: Italia as Text 2023

Encounter As Text

“First Step In Rome” By Alexandra Alsina of Florida International University, May 12, 2023.

Map of Rome’s Metro by Metropolitana di Roma

After months of planning and anticipation, on May 9th I finally arrived in Roma’s Leonardo da Vinci International Airport located in Fiumicino. After finding my way around, I bought my first train ticket to go into the center of Rome close to housing. After a half an hour ride, I finally arrived a la stazioni di Termini I didn’t know it yet but it was a place I would visit often and learn a lot about in the next weeks.

Once in Termini, I was struck by the large crowds of people, rapidly moving by from place to place oushing each other to not miss their transportation. As I walked by, I heard a great mix of Italian, Spanish and English words. Just like Miami, Termini station felt like melting pot of different cultures and languages Termini felt massive at that time. I quickly glanced at the train, metro and bus stops announced going in all directions and walked past the many clothing shops and cafes found in Termini’s ungeround mall. I felt overwhelmed but enthusiastic. It felt like home to me, a bit chaotic but everything I needed and was used to.

Stepping out the doors, the moment had finally arrived where I would leave the the indoors and take my first step in Italy, a country I had longed to visit for years. As excited as I was I could not ignore as soon as I walked out that it was not what I expected. Years of looking at beautiful imagines on textbooks and websites did not prepare me for the street filled with dozens of homeless men and women or the many men who stared at me around Termini or the trash and graffiti around. I felt worried but knew that this is real life and all real cities have a place like this. I kept walking and seeked to get a more complete and different image of Rome.

The area around Termini began to look nicer and nicer as I walked around for the first time. I saw many tourists like myself nearby, speaking English and even carrying my osprey bag. I saw delicious traditional italian food at the tables of those sitting outside, but what I was most impressed by outside of Termini was the stunning architecture of everything around me. It was not the dull, grey buildings I was used to but rather buildings with life, personality and complexity. I was also taken by the many overly large seagulls I saw

From my previous research I knew Termini metro station was known as the main hub for transportation throughout the city and over 150 million passengers passed through the station each year making it one of the largest in Europe and it felt very much like it. Throught the first few days of my study abroad experience I quickly learned Ternini’s importance as it was often our destination. I learned that it was the best place for me to switch lanes from metro-lane A to B which I have already often done as class and myself this week and that it was where we would get trains to other cities in vicinity. I took time to learn and memorize the map both of thebcity and of its transportation and relaized how central temrininis to many important locations and stalons.

While in Termini, I have already tried multiple cafe shops and bought items from the stores but what i have loved the most thus far is Termini’s diverse, affordable and vibrant food court. Termini’s food court was expectacular for me. For someone who likes to try everything, having so many options for trying Italian food was amazing My first time there I tried lasagna from one place, pistachio canollis from another, and an amazing Capuccino that was served to me at the table, I wrapped it all up with some amazing gelato. Termini’s food court is a place I look forward to because I have a goal try it all

Overall, my initial and follow up visits to Termini station form an important time of my experience in Rome. Whether one is a history buff, a shopaholic, or Just looking to soak up the local culture, Termini is key to one’s trip to Rome and if youre travelling through public transport, its even hard to avoid. Termini is a true hub of activity that captures the essence of this incredible and complex city inside its metro station and outside of it. It is a real and raw look into what life in Rome is.

Pompeii As Text

“The City Of Ashes” By Alexandra Alsina of Florida International University, May 21, 2023.

Orange poppies in Pompeii’s ruins by Alexandra Alsina

As a young middle schooler I remember the first time I heard about Pompeii: “Pompeii the city of ashes”, “Pompeii the city of sin”. There was something that attracted me so much to learn about Pompeii’s history and the events that lead to its downfall. Like any other human, something about the grandiose tragedy and destruction that occurred in 79 AD just drew me in. Vesuvious erupution was not abrupt and without warning but rather a gradual process that gave many warnings to the citizens of Pompeii, but even with knowledge nothing could be prevented and even knowing their faith, over 2000 people could not escape or chose to stay in their city and await their death. The fall of a great city was fuly out of its hands, nature made the choice that Pompeii’s downfall would be on August 24th, 79 AD.

Having the opportunity to visit this city that had always intrigued me on many levels was one of the things that I looked the most forward to when I boarded my place to Rome and I was not disappointed. Even through rain, cold, and chaos I was able to immerse myself deeply into this city or what remained of it and I was not disappointed but rather in awe about the extensive size, preservation, and connection I felt to the ruins and those who once roamed the streets I walked on with my soaled shoes. The terrible weather and fog made it all the better to add a layer of eeriness that I romantized. I found it even more beautiful to see such a dark location filled with beautiful orange poppies and bright green grass. The contrast of death and life was beautiful all throughout the ruins.

The overall size of the ruins along with the preserved artifacts and art scattered about painted a vivid picture of what life was back then in the great city of Pompeii. If I closed my eyes, and I did, I could imagine people walking the streets, touching the walls, yelling and talking, selling products and eating.The city was alive in my mind and I felt a profound sense of empathy for the 2000 people who died in the catastrophic volcanic explosion that led to the downfall of Pompeii. Doing human things just like I do now. Seeing the erotic art preserved in the brothels shocked me at first but added to the connection I felt that they really were just like us, just a long time ago.

As much as I had researched about Pompeii, nothing could’ve prepared me to seeing the preserved bodies of Pompeii’s citizens that died due to toxic ash and gas from Vesuvius explosion. Although I had seen pictures, seeing the plaster casts and their varying gender, size, poses, and expressions, was an overwhelming emotion. Seeing the cast of a woman that could’ve easily been me or my mother, the cast of a child’s body that could’ve easily been the beautiful little girl next to me that was trying to make sense of the exhibit in front of her was very overwhelming. As we continued walking through Pompeii, I felt a mix of emotions. I felt sadness for the lives lost, curiosity about the identity, life and reasons for staying behind of those who lost their life, and a gratitude and happiness that I was able to see, feel and learn about Pompeii.It was a humbling experience that left a lasting impact on me.

Although I was not able to on this trip, one day I hope to come back and do an small hike up to Mount Vesuvius and stare at the cause of it all and build a stronger collection to this city. Like ancient rome, Pompeii came and left leaving those who witness the remains to wonder what it was like but never truly know.

Cinque Terre As Text

“Immersed In Beauty” By Alexandra Alsina of Florida International University, June 2, 2023.

Mountain view from sanctuary by Nicolas Torrens

When I made the decision to embark on the journey of studying abroad, I knew it would be an extraordinary and life changing experience. I knew my mentality, notions, and knowledge would be challenged, I knew my physical capabailities would be pushed. I knew I would grow in many ways but I did not know the how, the when and the why. Four weeks now into the program, I am able to reflect back and answer those questions. These past four weeks have been an absolute blur, a complete oversaturation of information, experiences and conversations. It has been an overwhelming but absolutely wonderful and rewarding experience to spend this time in Rome, Florence, and Cinque Terre with the class. 

Our time in Rome taught me so much valuable knowledge of Ancient and Classical Romans, of early Catholicism and Christianity and of historically rich places like Pompeii, Hadrian’s and D’Estes Villas. Living in Rome for two weeks also taught me life long lessons that I will apply to future travel and everyday life. Adjusting to a new language, traveling with different methods of transportstion, navigating unfamiliar streets, and adapting to different social norms took time but taught me resilience, flexibility, and the ability to embrace change and I’m thankful for those skills. Our time in Rome was filled with many small challenges and inconveniences including terrible weather but I’m thankful for the lessons I was taught and everything we did. 

I thought I loved Rome until I met Florence. Florence was enchanting. At golden hour, the cobblestones streets filled with historic charming buildings, colorful art from local artists along with the beautiful live music and romantic ambiance, completely took my heart. Watching the sun set at Ponte Vecchio while listening to beautiful Italian music and eating  pizza is a memory I won’t ever forget. Florence taught me to love and admire the beauty of life. The magnificence of the duomo and David by Michelangelo are also memories I will not forget. They exceeded all my expectations as did Florence overall.

As much as I fell in love with Rome and Florence, I am most grateful to Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre gave me the time to process, reflect and truly take in everything I had learned, seen, and felt over the previous weeks. Cinque Terre’s landscape gave me a much needed break and allowed me understand how far I had already gotten on this trip. The never ending views from up top the Santuario Nostra Signora di Soviore and the Cinque Terre’s beautiful beaches gave me the opportunity to relax mind and body, and contemplate my past, present and future. 

Although I was unfortunately sick for most of my time in Florence and here and missed the hike that I most looked forward to, I’m at least glad I got to visit and throughly explore all five cities of Cinque Terre through train and that I did get to cliff jump bot once, but three times from by far the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to. Although unfortunate that I missed out on much, I remain in part, glad that now I have two very good excuses to come back to Italy one day and do both the things that I think are gonna be the most difficult but most rewarding, especially after not being able to do it the first time around due my health: climbing the duomo and embarking on the hike from Monterosso to Riomaggiore.

Studying abroad in Italy has already been an extraordinary journey that has transformed not only my perspective on life but also my understanding of myself. I have grown, learned and connected with places and people like never before. As I start to mentally prepare for saying goodbye to Italy and all the friends I have made, I also think about all the positive things I am taking back home with me and all that I will do with it. I will attempt to maintain friendships, keep my self-made promise of coming back one day and doing what I missed, and hold onto my new found love for savoring the small beautiful moments of life.

Author: Alexandra Alsina

Alexandra Alsina is a 4th-year student at Florida International University majoring in Biological Sciences with a minor in Psychology. She hopes to pursue a career in Genetic Counseling as well as doing research in cytogenetics in the future. In her free time, she enjoys roller skating at her local skate park, going to escape rooms, watching anime and spending time with her five cats.

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