Daniella Rubio: Grand Tour 2022

The Colosseum in Rome. By Daniella Rubio/ CC by 4.0

Veni, Vidi ,Vici”


I must admit that I was nervous to partake in the trip to Italy. It was the first time that I was leaving the country and alone, for that matter. It was not until I stumbled upon the saying “Veni, Vidi, Vici” from one of the other classes that my perspective on the upcoming trip changed. Meaning  “I came, I saw, I conquered”  was originally spoken by Julius Caesar in a letter dedicated to the Roman Senate after defeating a Roman Enemy. And while the saying has been quoted by many of those within politics and even pop culture artists, its message is enduring. Used by so many before me, I decided to put my own spin on the saying and use it as I embarked on my trip. Additionally, I also intend to reshape the idea of the grand tour, once exclusive to younger white males, and also reveal historical, artistic, and cultural experiences throughout my time in Italy.

Rome- History

Italy has changed, but Rome is Rome

Robert De Niro

What captivated me the most about Rome is that it is not a place where one learns about history; it is one where you live it. Being able to walk the same roads, enter the same buildings, and even drink from the same water made it feel as if I was living amongst those of the past. It is the type of place where you are walking home from work and then stumble upon the historical site where Julius Caesar was killed. In Rome, history is found anywhere and everywhere. One of my favorite examples of this could be seen in the malls, rest stops, and train stations, where they have on display a large number of artifacts unearthed throughout construction (looking for these displays became one of my favorite pastimes). To this day, I still cannot shake the fact that there is so much more of Ancient Rome that is still buried and will remain that way due to the ancient city becoming the literal and figurative foundation of modern Rome.

Vatican- Religion and Community

St. Peters Basilica in the Vatican. By Daniella Rubio/ CC by 4.0

Personally, the Vatican had to be the greatest excursion during my stay in Italy. As someone who comes from a devout Christian family, I felt that It was a must that I visit the capital of the Catholic world and even partake in the Christian pilgrimage. One of my favorite moments at the Vatican was my second visit. It was the crack of dawn, and I decided to attend the earliest mass. Because of the time, the sun was positioned in a way that allows light to enter St. Peters. At first, I expected people to avoid the areas where the sun was hitting due to it being too bright and hot, but this was not the case. Instead, people walked into it and started to pray. Being the first thing that I witnessed while entering St. Peters, I was instantly moved. For someone who is religious, it felt as if God was present and was welcoming visitors into the church.

Seeing the Vatican also changed my idea of the Catholic community. Having never left the states, I always assumed that Catholicism was not as large as I thought. This mindset quickly changed when I met many others who were partaking in Catholic pilgrimages to the Vatican and through my participation in the Papal Audience and Angelus. On both occasions, the plaza was filled to the brim, and multiple languages could be heard. It didn’t hit me until after all the translators cited the pope’s speech and a papal blessing on how broad the community is. It was an incredible experience to see a large group of people from different cultures and backgrounds come together, pray, and share a connection through faith.

Florence- Art

Florence Cathedral in Florence. By Daniella Rubio/ CC by 4.0

After learning so much about Rome in just two weeks, leaving the city felt like a break-up. Being unfamiliar with Florence, I had no idea what to expect, so I entered the city with not the most excited of attitudes. However, this mood quickly switched as we walked through the duomo, and the professor pointed out to us Brunelleschi’s dome. The perfectly lined marble and colors similar to those of the Italian flag, along with the baroque sculptures found at almost every corner, finally hit me. As I later discovered, many of the art pieces and buildings throughout Florence were a direct result of the Renaissance. Throughout our excursion through Florence, we learned that this period was a rebirth and introduced many classical ideas and art. Such as depth beyond a flat surface, humanism within religious figures, and even a new brick pattern called the herringbone. While these art concepts sounded way too good to be true, a quick visit inside the duomo would completely change this mindset.

My visit to Florence had to be one of my favorites. Not only did this city help me gain a better understanding of art history and the fervent period of the Renaissance, but it also reminded me that there is so much more of Italy that had yet to be seen.

Cinque Terre- Beauty and Nature

Vernazza in Cinque Terre. By Daniella Rubio/ CC by 4.0

While Cinque Terre contains history and art, what really makes it shine is its beauty. Surrounded by beautiful mountains, cliffs, vineyards, and wild goats, Cinque Terre is the place that everyone thinks of when they think of an Italian summer. The views within any of the towns are enough to satisfy almost any traveler. However, if you want to have the full experience of the five towns, you must hike through the mountains. While it is tiresome, it quickly becomes an afterthought once you are immersed in the environment while having the best views of Cinque Terre. 

The few days we had at cinque Terre had to be some of my favorite moments throughout the trip. While I enjoyed learning about art and history, our leisure time in Cinque Terre was a break very much needed. Being able to relax and pick beautiful rocks from the seashore, hike through nature, and jump off the cliffs made me feel like a kid, full of happiness and free of worries.

Cinque Terre- Vernazza

Taking a break at Cinque Terre was a treat for everyone. However, feeling that there was something to learn from our visit to Cinque Terre, I decided to pursue any history that could be found. One town in particular that seemed to have the most historical background was Vernazza. Along with containing fresh seafood, local wine, and amazing gelato, I learned that Vernazza was once a naval base that secured the Ligurian coast from constant pirate attacks. Today, some of the ruins of the fortress can be seen on the hill overlooking the town.

In addition to the town’s historical ruins, Vernazza has a religious background as well. One example of this could be seen in the church of Santa Margherita of Antioch. According to legend, a wooden box containing St. Margarita’s finger came up on the shore of Vernazza. However, after a storm hit the town, the relic was temporarily lost until it miraculously returned to the same spot. Seeing this as a blessing, the people of Vernazza decided to build the church of Santa Margherita at the site.

Venice- History

After our brief visit and break at Cinque Terre, I was looking forward to learning more about the art and history of another major city in Italy, especially since the class was coming to an end. Prior to visiting Venice, it was difficult to believe that an entire city was built on just pine trees and stone. However, while walking to our apartments, these doubts quickly became an afterthought. Created as a way to avoid an invasion from barbarians, Venice turned into a city of boats and sailors which later established the city as the center for trade between Europe and Asia. Later on, other factors such as multiculturalism, heathenism, and capitalism allowed Venice to become one of the chief cities of Italy.

Venice was very distinct when compared to the other cities visited in Italy. Along with there being no cars, trees, or bushes, many of the buildings were tilted, uneven roads, and maze-like alleyways. That being said, this city felt the most familiar. Whether it was due to constant boats, diverse culture, or the never-ending humidity, Venice reminded me of my hometown, Miami. The traditional carnivals, tight alleyways, and the structure of the housing in Venice also resembled a little bit of New Orleans.

Venice- Environmental Issues

The Rialto Bridge in Venice. By Daniella Rubio/ CC by 4.0

While Venice managed to resolve its issue of being overrun by barbarians, today, the city is at risk of being overrun by water. In addition to the recent floods caused by the climate crisis, the city and its beautiful architecture are getting ruined by water waves. This was something that I became aware of after witnessing the Vogalonga near the Rialto bridge. While it originally appeared to be a race between kayaks, I later discovered that this event had no competition, direction, or destination. The boats just existed and interacted with each other. After doing further research, I learned that the Vogalonga is a peaceful protest that is meant to spread awareness of the damage that powerboats are having on the city. While I found the message behind the protest empowering, what really made it even more spectacular was the participants. Open to all who have a kayak, the Vogalonga welcomes participants from all over Europe, such as Switzerland, Spain, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. Additionally, many of the medics and police decided to participate in the event as well. In the end, witnessing this demonstration was such a great experience because I was able to witness people from almost all the corners of Europe, along with many of the bystanders on the bridge, stand in solidarity with the inhabitants of Venice against the damages caused by power boats.


All in all, this trip was life-changing for me. Being able to visit all of the places that I only saw through history books was a dream fulfilled. In the end, through this class, I felt that I was able to successfully “Veni, Vidi, Vici.” I came to Europe alone, and as a result, I was able to make lifelong memories and friendships with those in my class. I saw the Colosseum, the Pope, the Sistine Chapel, the Roman Forum, Michaelangelos David, Pompeii, the birth of Venus, Brunelleschi’s dome, glass making, and so much more. And I conquered my fear of heights, the hike through five towns, and my doubts.

Works Cited

Home. Vogalonga Venezia. (2022, June 3). Retrieved June 15, 2022, from http://www.vogalonga.com/en/home-2/

Salmoiraghi, I. (n.d.). The Church of Santa Margherita d’Antiochia, Vernazza. updated 2021. Retrieved June 15, 2022, from https://www.lecinqueterre.org/eng/arte/vernaantiochia.php

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

Daniella Rubio: Italia America 2022

The Influence of Mary on Roman Catholicism and the United States Pop Culture

by: Daniella Rubio

“And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.

Luke 1:38

Who is Mary?

One of the most prominent symbols of religious imagery in the Catholic world is Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. As mentioned in the New Testament, while betrothed to her husband, Joseph, the Virgin Mary was visited by the Angel Gabriel and asked to bear God’s Son.  

(7) Playing a key role in both Christianity and Islam, Mary has been given over 20 different names in honor of her merits as Jesus’s mother. Each name for Mary is also a reflection on how she is perceived by many within some of the Abrahamic Religions. When asking Father Antonio Carrion, a Catholic Priest, on how he perceived the Virgin Mary, he states, “I see the Virgin Mary as my heavenly mother, who intercedes for me before the Son, Jesus Christ. That is why I invoke and pray to her daily, to intercede with Jesus for all the needs of humanity.”

Mary, Holy Mother of God

The most common name given to Mary. (7) It is a reminder of how she contributed to half of Christ’s genetic makeup, also giving her the name Theotokos or “God-Bearer” in Greek. It is used many times by those in the Catholic church and is mentioned 53 times during the prayer of the Rosary.

Holy Virgin of Virgins

(3) Mary’s virginity was a sign of her Faith and an undivided gift of herself to God. Because of this Faith and her being free of the original sin, she was able to bear the Son of God. Additionally, her virginity throughout the conception signified that there was no doubt that Jesus came from Heaven and not another human man. (7) Through her virginity, Mary has now been deemed the symbol and realization of the Catholic Church.

Maryam Bint Imraan

For many of those who practice Islam, Mary or Maryam is known as the virgin mother of the Prophet Jesus. (8) She is mentioned over seventy times within the Quran and has a whole chapter dedicated to her upbringing, miracles, and how she was able to overcome affair accusations. Within the Islamic religion, she is considered as the (8) “example for all believers” and the greatest woman to have ever lived.

Mary, Queen Mother of Heaven

One of the biggest names throughout the middle ages. It is based on the notion seen in the Jewish tradition of the important role of the queen mother. (6)Not only was the queen’s mother the parent of the king, but she was also a key figure in court due to a king typically approved her wishes. In this case, given that Christ is the king of heaven, Mary is the Queen’s mother. (6) To many within the Catholic Church, this role given to her is pivotal because they are able to ask Mary to intercede to Christ on their behalf.

All images are in the public domain.

While many of the names mentioned earlier provide descriptions of Mary’s importance within the church, I was very curious about Father Antonio Carrion’s take on the matter. Regarding her importance, he stated that “if she did not say yes at the announcement, God’s plan would have had to change.” He later goes on to explain how crucial it is that we are reminded and thankful for her generous yes on bearing Christ. Through this annunciation, many Roman Catholics have deemed Mary to be one of the holiest figures and greatest saints.

Italian Influence

Due to her important role throughout the Bible, Mary has become one of the biggest symbols of the Roman Catholic Church. And along with her being prominent through mass proceedings and prayer, there is no doubt that she has also become a key figure in Catholic art. Known for its mass productions of Marian art, Italy has become a capital for religious imagery and has inspired other countries to create their own portrayals and perceptions of the Virgin Mary. Today, this inspiration goes on and has begun to influence pop culture within the United States. Through various images, films, and music videos, Mary and the Biblical world have been heavily referenced by today’s artists. And while to some, these biblical references are just ways to reveal a hidden meaning within a piece, for many others, especially Catholics, the Portrayal of Biblical characters within the pop culture world is deemed inappropriate and sacrilegious.

The Madonna

Some of the great Marian art depictions could be seen through Madonna. (4) According to Britannica, this type of art style has the Virgin Mary with the infant Christ or sometimes shown alone. While it does not reflect a historical context, it is meant to reveal Mary’s significance to the Catholic Religion. As a result, this form of Marian art has had a prominent place in places such as the Vatican and has been utilized by many famous artists such as Raphael, Michaelangelo, and Lorenzo Ghiberti.

While there are various Madonna types, a highly common and popular style is the Italian sacra conversazione. (4) This Madonna is less-intimate compared to the other techniques and commonly depicts a group of saints and or John the Baptist around Mary and her child. Sacra conversazione also likes to include a rose garden in the background or some symbol of a flower to depict Mary’s purity and virginity.

Madonna and Child

One of the greatest pieces of Marian’s art is Madonna and Child. (9) According to an article published by The Met, Madonna and Child were painted by a famous Italian artist named Paoli di Giovanni Fei. This late 13th-century piece is considered to be a great example of Sienese Art, which typically included as (11) “gold background and timeless figures that gave spiritual force to icons .”Additionally, Sienese Art aimed to show a humanist approach towards art, more specifically, Christ’s human experience. This human side of Jesus is able to be seen through the madonna and child, where Mary is nursing the son of God. (9) To many, this piece was able to transform a common maternal activity into an icon of devotion. As a result, Madonna and child are considered among the masterpieces of the 13th and 14th centuries. Today, this piece is displayed and maintained at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New  York.

Madonna and Child (Left) If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power (Right) All images are in the public domain.

Halsey’s If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power

Madonna sculptures and paintings have become highly favored and prominent in churches throughout the world. However, in pop culture of the western world, imitating oneself to the Madonna has become a sort of trend, and to many Catholics, blatant sacrilege. An example of this could be seen in Halsey’s album cover for If I Can’t Have Love, I want Power. While Halsey was not exactly replicating Paoli di Giovanni’s Fei’s piece, it is clear that they both shared many similarities. For one, the album cover has taken a Sienese Art approach by having a gold background to focus on the individuals along with having a child being nursed by the mother. And while the cover does not include saints and flowers symbolizing Mary’s virginity, it is clear that Halsey was aiming to imitate the Italian Marian Art.

In a comment given by the singer, Halsey claims that the piece is about (1) “the dichotomy of the Madonna and the whore”. By imitating Mary, Halsey was not aiming to also emulate her purity and virginity but instead be viewed as a vessel for a child and a sexual being.

The Pietà

Another example of Marian art is the Pietà, meaning “pity” in Italian. According to an article published by Britannica, this style of Catholic art is (5) “a depiction of the Virgin Mary supporting the body of the dead Christ.” And while some of these sculptures include other figures in the background, such as Mary Magdalene and John, the main story of the Pietà is focused on Jesus’s death and his mother’s grief. (5) Originally founded in Germany during the 14th century, the Pietà did not really take off into the art world until Michaelangelo’s famous Pieta in St. Peter’s Basilica. 

Michelangelo’s Pietà

There is no doubt that Pietà in St. Peter’s Basilica is the most influential piece for this theme. (10) Constructed in the mid-14th century by Michelangelo it ultimately became a game-changer for the renaissance due to multi-figure sculptures being rare and challenging due to proportions. As a way to combat this, Michaelangelo used a technique that made both figures appear the same in composition through the form of a pyramid. (5) The Pietà by Michaelangelo essentially became a new standard for sculptures. In addition to inspiring many other renaissance artists to use the pyramid technique, Michelangelo was able to build a new template of having Jesus draped across his mother’s lap, whereas prior, artists only laid him beside her feet. In addition to all of the unique techniques and methods practiced on this sculpture, what truly makes it remarkable is how it is able to display a terribly realistic scene of the grief and agony Mary endures during the death of her son.

Michelangelo’s Pietà (Left) Beyonce’s Mine (Right) All images are in the public domain.

Beyonce’s Mine

The Pietà is known almost anywhere in the world. And while there are no iconic Pietas in the western world, this form of Marian art has made its debut within the United States pop culture. An example of this could be seen in Beyonce’s music video called Mine. (15) In the opening sequence, Beyonce is seen portraying Mary in suffering over the loss of her child. (2) And while it has not been confirmed by the singer, many assume that her portrayal of the Pietà symbolizes her uncertainty of becoming a mother and post-natal depression. When looking at both images side by side, you could see many similarities along with differences. For one, both Pietas are perceived as white marble, and both of the Mary’s in the pieces are in mourning looking toward their child. One main difference seen between both Pietas is that Beyonce Mary is not holding the child but rather the child leaning on her lap.

Mater Dolorosa

The last example of Marian art could be seen through Mater Dolorosa.  Meaning sorrowful mother, the Mater Dolorosa style is highly present during the stations of the cross, which commemorates Christ’s Crucifixion on Good Friday. (12) Additionally, these images of Mary are also present in many Catholic Churches around the world, such as in Spain, Italy, and Mexico. Many of the common elements in a Mater Dolorosa are blue veils, tears, halos, crowns, and sometimes swords piercing her heart, which symbolizes the seven sorrows Mary had suffered.

Carlo Dolci’s Mater Dolorosa

One of the most well-known Mater Dolorosas was created by an Italian painter by the name of Carlo Dolci. (16) Dolci was very familiar with the style of Mater Dolorosa and commonly used similar themes in his paintings of the virgin, such as clasped hands, looking down, and veiled. And while many of his pieces were unpublished, Dolci’s oil paint Mater Dolorosa is considered the finest due to the piece’s (16) “Rich tonality and the refinement of the Virgin’s self-contained pose.” This piece was dated around the 1650s and is deemed as the climax of Carlo Dolci’s career. Today, many derivations and copies of Dolci’s Mater Dolorosa have been located in museums in Switzerland, Italy, and the United States

Carlo Dolci’s Mater Dolorosa (Left) Lana Del Rey’s Tropico (Right) All images are in the public domain.

Lana Del Rey’s Tropico

Like many of the Marian styles mentioned earlier, the Mater Dolorosa is also believed to play a huge influence on Western Pop Culture. One example of this might be seen in Lana Del Rey’s short film, Tropico. (17) In this film, Lana Del Rey imitates the Virgin Mary praying and in mourning. While the singer never has acknowledged the Marian art influence and how it relates to the film, it could be assumed that what is being displayed is a Mater Dolorosa or sorrowful mother. The reasoning behind this is the common themes seen in both Mary depictions. Some examples include both Mary looking somber, wearing blue veils and dresses, having their hands clasped and their eyes closed. (13) Additionally, one of the main messages behind the film, Tropico, is about the singer’s loss of innocence throughout the music world. And given that Lana Del Rey has considered the virgin mary to be one of her biggest icons, it would be reasonable for her to portray herself as a Mary in mourning.


  1. Berry-Kilby, P. (n.d.). Halsey and the cultural appropriation of catholicism. The Spectator. Retrieved April 24, 2022, from https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/halsey-and-the-problem-with-deriding-catholicism
  2. Beyoncé (ft. drake) – mine. Genius. (n.d.). Retrieved April 24, 2022, from https://genius.com/Beyonce-mine-lyrics
  3. Catechism of the Catholic Church – Part 1 section 2 Chapter 2 Article 3 Paragraph 2. (n.d.). Retrieved April 24, 2022, from http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p122a3p2.htm#507
  4. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. (n.d.). Madonna. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved April 24, 2022, from https://www.britannica.com/topic/Madonna-religious-art
  5. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. (n.d.). Pietà. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved April 24, 2022, from https://www.britannica.com/topic/Pieta-iconography
  6. Grondin, F. C. (2019, February 22). Why is mary called queen of heaven? Catholic Answers. Retrieved April 24, 2022, from https://www.catholic.com/qa/why-is-mary-called-queen-of-heaven
  7. Hensley, L. (2014, November 9). 26 names of mary. EpicPew. Retrieved April 24, 2022, from https://epicpew.com/26-names-of-mary/
  8. Maryam bint Imraan – islamic reminder. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2022, from https://islamicreminder.org/maryam-bint-imraan/
  9. Metmuseum.org. (n.d.). Retrieved April 24, 2022, from https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/437248
  10. Michelangelo’s pieta. ItalianRenaissance.org. (n.d.). Retrieved April 24, 2022, from http://www.italianrenaissance.org/michelangelos-pieta/
  11. The Sienese School of Painting: Art in Tuscany. The Sienese School of painting | Art in Tuscany. (n.d.). Retrieved April 24, 2022, from http://www.travelingintuscany.com/art/art/sieneseschool.htm
  12. Stracke, R. (n.d.). Mater Dolorosa: The sorrowful mother in art. Retrieved April 24, 2022, from https://www.christianiconography.info/materDolorosa.html 
  13. The Arizona Republic. (2014, June 16). Lana Del Rey feels connected to Marilyn, virgin mary. Retrieved April 24, 2022, from https://amp.azcentral.com/amp/10625271
  14. Official king James Bible online. King James Bible Online. (n.d.). Retrieved April 24, 2022, from https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/
  15. Beyonce – Mine (feat. drake) – youtube. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cM-bM_3-s1Y 
  16. Mater Dolorosa: Master paintings & sculpture part I: Sotheby’s. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2022, from https://www.sothebys.com/en/buy/auction/2021/master-paintings-sculpture-part-i/mater-dolorosa 
  17. Lana Del Rey – Tropico (short film) (explicit) – youtube. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VwuHOQLSpEg 

Daniella Rubio: Italia as Text 2022

Photo by Daniella Rubio/CC by 4.0

Daniella Grace Rubio is a second-year student pursuing a double degree in Political Science and Criminal Justice. Passionate about politics and the law, she aspires to work in D.C. and has already involved herself in various political campaigns, law firms, and programs like the Senate Page Program. After graduating with both majors, she would like to continue her studies and attend Law School, where she would then work her way up to pursue her dream career of becoming a judge. Her primary hobbies have included reading, hiking, cooking, and boating. During her time at F.I.U., Daniella has already integrated into fraternities like Phi Alpha Delta and honor societies such as P.A.T.H. Currently enrolled in J.W. Bailly’s Italy Study Abroad, she is looking forward to learning about Italy’s omnipresent influence on art and culture and is excited to travel to Europe for her first time.

Roma As Text

Roman Forum at Rome. By Daniella Rubio/ CC by 4.0

“The Roman Superpower”

by Daniella Rubio of FIU at Rome, 19, May 2022

The Ancient Romans put so much effort and dedication into building the strong empire that it once was. And while they have had many traditions and activities that have been of influence, what captivated me about them is their eagerness to build monuments to commemorate their victories and accomplishments. One area in Rome that is filled with these types of monuments is the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. 

While many of the monuments in these locations are spectacular, the ones that interested me the most are the Roman Triumphant arches. Once omnipresent throughout Rome’s city, today, only a few still stand. That being said, the remaining arches surrounding the Forum and Colosseum continue to be a reminder of the city’s accomplishments and have become an architectural inspiration for other countries.

The three most influential arches standing today within the Roman Forum are the Arches of Constantine, Titus, and Severus. The arch of Constantine was dedicated to the Emporer Constantine by the Senate of Rome after he successfully defeated his rival, Maxentius, and legalized Christianity. While there are no depictions of the battle between the two along with no biblical references, the arch has become a reminder to many Christians that without Constantines’ victory, Christianity would have never taken root within the Roman Empire and, essentially, within the rest of the world. The second monument found within the forum, the Arch of Titus, was built after the emperor’s death. While there are many references to the emperor’s Godliness and divinity after his passing, what really stands out is the arches story. Throughout the arch, we are able to see Titus’s success in capturing Jerusalem and how sacking and looting the city helped fund many other monuments, such as the Colosseum. Prior to the establishment of Isreal, many of the Jews living within Rome had refused to walk through this arch. The last arch seen within the Roman Forum is the Arch of Severus. Compared to the arches of Constantine and Titus, this monument does not incorporate many architectural designs. That being said, for many living within Ancient Rome, this arch is deemed as dominator due to Severus’s success in the Parthian’s submission along with integrating most of Syria into Rome.

While I found all three of the victory arches to be magnificent, the one that stuck with me the most had to be the Arch of Constantine. In addition to being the largest and the most decorated with statues and reliefs, the message behind it has stuck with me the most due to my Christian background. That being said, all three of these arches have helped me comprehend the influence Roman monuments have had on countries like the US, along with putting into perspective the superpower that Ancient Rome once was.

Pompeii As Text

Pompeii at Naples. By Daniella Rubio/ CC by 4.0

“The Buried City”

by Daniella Rubio of FIU at Pompeii, 19, May 2022

Frozen in time, Pompeii is one of Italy’s most significant and historical cities. By walking through its roads, one is able to immerse themselves in the cultures and lifestyles of its citizens. And through a fantastic tour guide, like Antonio, you are given a better understanding of the incident that occurred along with the city’s advancements that have been an influence on a global scale.

One of my favorite moments in this excursion had to be the retelling of the fall of Pompeii. On August 24th, 79 AD, the great city of Pompeii was suddenly wrapped in a black sky. Mount Vesuvius erupted, and ash and toxic gas began to cover the advanced city. Deemed cursed by the gods, the Romans avoided the area, and many residents were able to flee; however, the city and over 2000 victims were buried and abandoned for more than 1500 years.

While I find that the story of Pompeii is one that is worth retelling, was stuck to me the most is learning about the city’s advancements and influences on things such as roads, architecture, and plumbing. For roads, some practices that I found interesting were the usage of marble in between stones to see better at night and large stepping stones that were used to avoid mud and water while also allowing chariots to pass through. When it came to the structuring of households, it was intriguing to see how Pompeiians would put a small hole in the roof along with a well on the floor to collect rainwater. Additionally, I found the usage of sliding doors for many of the stores within the city to be a game-changer. Lastly, I found that the plumbing within the city was ahead of its time. Through the usage of pipes throughout the city and atriums, Pompeiians could have restrooms for the public and even on the second floor.

As a history buff, visiting Pompeii had to be one of my favorite excursions thus far. Learning about the citizen’s lifestyles and inventions regarding the roads kind of reminded me of some of the major cities in the US, such as New York. If it weren’t for the incident that occurred on August 24th, 79 AD, it makes you wonder how much more advanced the world could have been if this buried city was never punished by the gods.

Assisi As Text

St. Francis and Assisi. By Daniella Rubio/ CC by 4.0

“Patron Saint of Earth”

by Daniella Rubio of FIU at Assisi, 24, May 2022

From the moment we walked into the little hill town called Assisi, I instantly fell in love. Whether it was due to the beautiful views, the omnipresent flowers, or the pink walls and homes, this medieval-like town was a place that I never wanted to leave. And while I found the architecture and scenery to be stunning, what I really enjoyed about this excursion was learning about the famous patron saint of Italy, Saint Francis.

Derived from a rich family, Francis had a carefree life with a passion for a military career. However, after having dreams of becoming a chivalrous knight for man, Francis underwent a spiritual transformation and sought to become a knight for God. Giving away all of his materialistic items, Francis focused on living a life of poverty and even set himself on a pilgrimage to live amongst the poor in front of St. Peter’s basilica. After gaining a small following and even visions from Christ to rebuild the church, Francis went before Pope Innocent III regarding his mission, which the pope agreed to after revealing that he too had the same visions. Together, the Pope and Francis founded a Franciscan order that has and continues to play a huge role in contemporary Christianity

While I enjoyed learning about the narrative of St. Francis, what I found most intriguing is the legacy it has on many cities and countries. One location, in particular, is North America. According to the lecture, many of the monks and friars of the Franciscan order relocated to California in the 1700s and helped establish many of the major cities within the state, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Santa Clara. Another location influenced by the Franciscan order was the French Colonies within Canada. After doing further research, I learned that many of the Franciscans participated in a Recollect Reform and assisted in establishing Trois-Rivieres and Montreal, which are now major cities within the province of Quebec. 

While his order assisted in the establishment of various cities and countries, what I found to be the most important was his influence on the Christian and political world. By living a life of poverty, St. Francis expressed his devotion and loyalty to God, which has inspired many within the church to become more passionate about the faith and live out the Gospel. One person, in particular, is the current head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, who named himself after St. Francis of Assisi. When it comes to a Christian’s view on the political world, St. Francis takes center stage. Due to his love for the environment and beliefs that all inhabitants of the earth are equal, his ideas have been deemed the standard and have helped push for more environmental and social reform.

In the end, St. Francis’s passion and devotion to God have made him the Patron Saint of Italy. However, for many others like myself, St. Francis should also be deemed the Earth’s Patron Saint.

Source: “History of the Franciscans OFM in the US.” US Franciscans, https://usfranciscans.org/home/history/?amp. Accessed 24 May 2022.

Firenze as Text

Medici Chapel in Firenze.  By Daniella Rubio/CC by 4.0

“Somber Renaissance”

by Daniella Rubio of FIU at Firenze, 26, May 2022

While I found many of the excursions within Firenze to be excellent, the one that stuck with me the most had to be the Medici chapel. As mentioned in the lecture, this chapel was built as an extension during the 15th century and was dedicated to the Medici family, who played a prominent role throughout Firenze’s history. When entering the chapel,  you become overwhelmed with the omnipresent symbol of the Medici and various patterns made with multicolor marble. And although the symbols and architecture within the church are accurate reflections of the family’s richness and favor towards art, what really intrigued me the most about the chapel had to be Michaelangelo’s sculptures.

The first sculpture by Michaelangelo that I enjoyed was Madonna and Child. Prior to this excursion, I was not aware of the creation of this piece and was only familiar with Michaelangelo’s other famous religious sculpture, the Pieta. That being said, I have to say that this piece was the most emotional when seen in person due to the artist’s depiction of Mary. For the Pieta, I found that Mary’s sorrow to be expected due to the loss of her son. For the Madonna and Son, however, her son is depicted as alive and well, and yet she is still melancholy. I found this sadness to be powerful not because it foreshadowed the future fate of Christ but because the artist made it appear as if she knew her son was going to die and that her moments with him were temporary.

The second piece by Michaelangelo that I appreciated was the Day and Night. As seen in the piece, the woman appears to fall asleep, and the man is beginning to wake up. These figures are meant to represent night (the woman) and day (the man). The piece is meant to depict a continuous cycle of time. And while the sculpture reflects a beautiful allegory of Day and Night, what I enjoyed the most about the piece is its context. Throughout his time creating this piece, Michaelangelo was in old age and was entering the end of his life. While reflecting on all of the pieces he created, he slowly began to fall into a depressive state due to him believing that all of his actions and life choices were meaningless. As a result, Michaelangelo started to become more religious. I found this piece to be crucial because it not only reflects on us how continuous and eternal time is but also reveals the artist’s thought process.

Prior to visiting Firenze, I always assumed the Renaissance to be a period of advanced artist techniques and a boom in Christian imagery. However, after immersing myself in the city and visiting places such as the Medici chapel, I was able to discover what truly made the Renaissance special. Through various pieces and sculptures, such as the ones mentioned earlier, I learned that the Renaissance was meant to reveal a more human approach to life and more of a range of human emotions.

Siena as Text

Siena Cathedral in Siena. By Daniella Rubio/ CC by 4.0

“The Medieval City”

by Daniella Rubio of FIU at Siena, 27, May 2022

Siena was one of my favorite excursions by far. Whether it was due to its multiple flags, the relaxing plaza, or the amazing sandwiches. The medieval city frozen in time is one that I will always cherish. And while the factors mentioned earlier play a huge contribution to this, what really makes Siena unforgettable is its beautiful architecture in places such as the Siena Cathedral.

 As mentioned in the lecture, the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption, or the Siena Cathedral for short, is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city. Built in the 12th century, the Cathedral shows various pieces of Gothic Architecture and even introduces a new form of art called Romanesque. When walking into the church, It almost felt as if I was entering into an illusion due to the never-ending black and white stripes. I also found it interesting how the art within the church was not only limited to the ceilings and walls but also covered the entire floor through multiple mosaics. In the end, while I found the art and architecture within the church to be overwhelming, I did, however, see it as a reflection of the ambitions and power Siena once had in medieval times.

 While I was able to learn a lot about new art styles and architecture, what I enjoyed the most about the Siena cathedral was how it is a reflection of the rivalry between Siena and Firenze. Throughout the church, you are able to find many not-so-subtle references to their competition. One example could be seen in one of the mosaics found on the far left of the church, which showed Siena defeating Firenze in war. Additionally, the church still contains the flag poles that played a huge role in Firenze’s defeat. 

 To conclude, while I enjoyed immersing myself in the architecture and culture of Siena, I was not really a fan of the interior art within the Siena Cathedral. That being said, the story of the rivalry between Firenze and Siena, along with the exterior of the Cathedral, really made me appreciate my time in this medieval city.

Cinque Terre as Text

Manarola in Cinque Terre. By Daniella Rubio/ CC by 4.0

“Towns on Cliffs”

by Daniella Rubio of FIU at Cinque Terre, 3, June 2022

Cinque Terre has to be one of my favorite places in Italy. Located on the coast of the Ligurian region, this area is more than just beaches and cliffs. By visiting the towns of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore, you are able to immerse yourself in a unique culture along with discovering a hidden world untouched by modern industrialization.

Throughout the excursion, I learned about the history of Cinque Terre and the vital role it played for the Roman Empire due to its strategic location near the Mediterranean. After further research, I learned that this attracted many raiders and later resulted in the local’s relocation to the mountains after being overrun by the Saracens. As time passed, a Tuscan family ousted these invaders and allowed the villagers to return to the coast and build solidified homes and advance their defense systems for future raiders such as pirates. Today, these homes and various watch towers have stood the test of time and have given visitors like myself an opportunity to explore their advancements and what has deemed them a UNESCO world heritage site.

While I enjoyed all five towns throughout my visit to Cinque Terre, the one that I found the most memorable was Manarola. During my time in this town, I was always encouraged to do and try crazy things that I could never picture myself doing in Miami, such as trying octopus sandwiches, mandarinitas, and even cliff jumping. In addition to immersing myself in the culture of Manarola, I found the environment and views in this town to be breathtaking. Some of the best views of the village had to be on the hike from Corniglia to Manarola. And while this hike to the town had to be the hardest by far, it was the most worth it. Once I reached the top of the mountain, I was able to see most of the villages of Cinque Terre along with interacting with the wildlife within the environment.

The visit to cinque Terre had to be the most rewarding. While, like the other places, I was able to learn about the history of the location and even immerse myself in their cultures, what made this trip the most memorable was how happy and relaxed it made me. Prior to the visit, I was only focused on preparing myself for the intense hike, but once it was completed, I found it to be the most fulfilling and even inspired me to pursue more hiking activities. In the end, the way in which this hidden gem embraced the environment along with the kindness of the locals made it very difficult for me to leave.


Cinqueterre-travel.com – history. (n.d.). Retrieved June 3, 2022, from https://cinqueterre-travel.com/information/history/ 

Venezia As Text

San Marco Basilica in Venezia. By Daniella Rubio/ CC by 4.0

“The Tilted Church”

by Daniella Rubio of FIU at Venezia, 6, June 2022

Our last stop in Italy was Venice. And While it was not the “saved best for last,” when compared to the other cities, Venice was the most unique. Whether it was due to the travel by boat, the carnival, or the maze-like streets, Venice is a city that knows how to stand out.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, people from the mainland were constantly getting overrun by barbarians. Consequently, they decided to relocate to a lagoon where they would build a city with only pine trees as its foundation. And while the city of Venice was now protected from the barbarians, the people needed to adjust to the usage of boats for trade with the mainland. As a result, Venice turned into a city of avid sailors which later established it as the trading center of Europe. Later on, other factors such as capitalism, heathenism, and multiculturalism resulted in the city becoming dominant in Italy.

One place within Venice that stood out to me and even embodied many of the factors that gave Venice authority is the San Marco Basilica. After its completion, this Church became dedicated to St. Mark, one of the apostles of Christ, whose body is believed to reside within the Church. One of the most interesting things about the Basilica of San Marco is its architecture. Hinting toward the multiculturalism in Venice, the Church includes various Islamic components such as an onion dome and mosaics. To display their success under capitalism, the Church’s interior is gold-plated and even shows off a Pala D’oro, which is comprised of precious stones. Lastly, there are also some hints of heathenism within the Church. While the basilica of San Marco is catholic, zodiac symbols could be found outside and within the Church.

Out of all the cities visited and inhabited. The layout of Venice had to be the most unique. The uneven floors, slanted buildings, and maze-like alleyways made things seem disoriented and even caused me to experience some vertigo. That being said, I really enjoyed this city due to its familiarity. With the constant boats, omnipresent humidity, and it being man-made, Venice reminded me a lot of Miami, and in a weird way, it kind of cured some of my homesickness.

Daniella Rubio: Miami as Text 2022

Photo by Daniella Rubio/CC by 4.0

Daniella Grace Rubio is a second-year student pursuing a double degree in Political Science and Criminal Justice. Passionate about politics and the law, she aspires to work in D.C. and has already involved herself in various political campaigns, law firms, and programs like the Senate Page Program. After graduating with both majors, she would like to continue her studies and attend Law School, where she would then work her way up to pursue her dream career of becoming a judge. Her primary hobbies have included reading, hiking, cooking, and boating. During her time at F.I.U., Daniella has already integrated into fraternities like Phi Alpha Delta and honor societies such as P.A.T.H. Currently enrolled in J.W. Bailly’s Italy Study Abroad, she is looking forward to learning about Italy’s omnipresent influence on art and culture and is excited to travel to Europe for her first time.

Deering As Text

Nature Preserve at Deering Estate. by Daniella Rubio/CC by 4.0

“When Quiet Enough”

by Daniella Rubio of FIU at Deering Estate, 06, February 2022

Over time, Miami has become a place that has become too loud and too bright. While this city is known for its beautiful beaches, endless sun, and one of the greatest melting pots in the world, this alone does not scratch the surface of what Miami is really all about. Whether it’s due to the lack of ancestral attachment or too busy looking towards the future, many locals fail to comprehend the dark and complex history on which we live and stand upon. This was something I realized while touring the nature preserve located at the Deering Estate. Once owned and inhabited by Charles Deering, the estate has become an architectural wonder and an archeological site with endless discoveries. When entering the preserve, you are automatically transported to the past, where you are able to interact with the various ecosystems, follow the original old cutler road, and encounter phenomenons distinct to Florida, such as solution holes and freshwaters connecting the Everglades and Biscayne Bay.

In addition to learning about the interesting ecosystems in Florida, through the Deering estate, we are also able to gain insight and follow the footsteps of those who once inhabited Miami. At the estate, archaeologists have been able to find pieces of evidence that prove the existence of human inhabitation dating back to 10,000 years. It has also revealed to us what is believed to be a former large community and one of the two only burial grounds of one of the first Paleoindians of Florida, the Tequestas.

One thing that has really stuck with me since this trip was the story of Romulus and Remus. While it is based in Italy, it has made me realize that regardless of where we are from, deep down, everyone in Miami is connected to each other through our geographical ancestor, the Tequestas. I believe that it is crucial that this idea is shed upon the people of Miami because it educates us on the foundations of our city and unifies all of us despite our differences.

After completing this tour, I have found how crucial it is to advocate for an updated Florida education system that teaches the youth more about Floridas history and to appreciate those who have come before us. Additionally, while I find nothing wrong with enjoying the constant sun, the large city, and the beautiful beaches of Miami, it is beneficial to us locals and tourists to take a step back and recognize Florida’s hidden and diverse ecosystems. By doing so, you are not only able to enjoy the other beautiful side of Florida, but also, when quiet enough, be able to glimpse the hidden world that our geographical ancestors once roamed.

Vizcaya As Text

Vizcaya Museum & Gardens. by Daniella Rubio/CC by 4.0

The Palace of Miami

By Daniella Rubio of FIU at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, 18, February, 2022

Visiting Vizcaya was a great opportunity that I would recommend to anyone who is interested in learning more about Miami’s history. Once inhabited by James Deering, this 43-acre Villa is a stunning palace whose architecture and gardens were heavily influenced by Italian, French, and Spanish. When entering Vizcaya, you are taken back to the past and become immersed into the rich art and history located at every corner.

While I enjoyed the tour and walking through the gardens, what truly captivated me the most about Vizcaya is how it has and continues to display most of the characteristics of Miami. One example of this can be seen through the various crafts and cultures displayed throughout the estate, such as Roman, Greek, Spanish, and Muslim, all unified through their construction with Floridian foundations and materials such as coral rock. This alone is a strong resemblance to the city of Miami, which is one of the biggest and most diverse melting pots in the world, all the while connecting each inhabitant through the very same foundations. 

In addition to these diverse cultures, Vizcaya has also been able to emulate a fun side of Miami, which is known for its nightlife, endless drinking, and partying all along its bodies of water. Throughout the tour, it was apparent that James Deering had intended for the Villa to be a place for lavish and glamorous parties. One instance could be seen at the west side entrance of the Villa, where you are automatically greeted by Dionysus, the god of wine and ecstasy, welcoming you to have the time of your life during your visit (and enjoy as much alcohol). According to many, the parties that have been held that this Villa was on par with those in the famous book, The Great Gatsby. To this day, Vizcaya continues to host events such as weddings, quinceaneras, and parties that take up to weeks and months in advance to plan.

Along with seeing all of the cultures embedded into this estate, I would have loved to learn more about the Afro-Caribbean builders, and there be more awareness of their own influences on the estate. In addition, I think it would have also been interesting to learn about any findings or discoveries of Tequesta inhabitation prior to Vizcaya’s completion. 

Nonetheless, Vizcaya is a beautiful estate that is rich with various art styles and traditions that is truly breathtaking for first timers like me. And once you complete your visit, you will not only have a better understanding of Miami’s history, but you will also have zero doubts about Vizcaya being the Palace of Miami. 

Miami As Text

Miami Freedom Tower. by Daniella Rubio/CC by 4.0

The Ellis Island of the South

By Daniella Rubio of FIU at Downtown Miami, 11, March 2022

When thinking of Downtown Miami, many, including myself, would associate it with boating, partying, or where people go for their daily jobs. And while on the exterior, this seemed to be the case when walking through the city, you soon discover that there is more that meets the eye. Throughout my journey on this excursion, I was able to gain a better understanding of Miami’s history and how historical events such as slavery, the Indian wars, and the Tequestas have helped shape Miami into what it is today. 

While many of the historical landmarks throughout Miami highly interested me, the one that really caught my eye and has resonated with me since the trip has been The Freedom Tower. Surrounded by many hot spots such as the bayside shopping mall and the FTX arena, The Freedom Tower is a Miami treasure that many admire due to its unique architecture. Its exterior consists of Mediterranean Revival architecture and emulates a similar style to the Giralda Tower in Seville, Spain. In the lobby of The Freedom Tower, you are welcomed by highly detailed columns, symmetrical octagon ceilings, and a magnificent sculpture symbolizing the building’s history.

The architecture of the freedom tower is exquisite and is one that some visit solely for its art and design. However, what truly makes this building magnificent is its history. To many Cubans within Miami, this tower is significant because of its role in assisting Cubans that were fleeing the political turmoil in Cuba during the Cold War. Along with granting many of those who fled a one-way ticket into the United States, this building also assisted in providing essentials to Cubans such as education, health care, finance, and housing. Today, the tower is a symbol of freedom and hope that was founded by Cuban refugees to become a safe haven during Cuba’s political turmoil.  

As a Miami Native, I have rarely visited downtown Miami and only did so to eat at some of the restaurants within the city. However, by participating in this tour, I was able to learn more about those who were there before us and how many of the conflicts throughout history molded Miami into what it is today. Lastly, I also felt that I was able to connect to my Cuban roots through the visitation of The Freedom Tower and find my own reasoning on why this building is deserving of the title of the Ellis Island of the South.

SoBe as Text

Art Deco at South Beach. by Daniella Rubio/CC by 4.0

“The Miami Attraction”

By Daniella Rubio of FIU at South Beach,1, April 2022

Over the years, Miami has become the go-to spot for many tourists, whether locally or internationally. And while there are many places of interest throughout the city, such as the stadiums, restaurants, malls, etc., there is nothing that compares to South Beach (SoBe). Located at the bottom half of Miami Beach, South Beach is a highly populated location that is widely known for its beautiful beaches and buildings, along with its love for bright colors and LED lights. Compared to many areas within Miami Beach, South Beach is the place where one is guaranteed to have the liveliest and most fun-filled experience.

Art Deco

Throughout this trip, I discovered that there are many factors that make South Beach the vibrant phenomenon that it is today. One, in particular, could be seen through the architecture displayed in a strip called the South Beach Art Deco. Unlike many of the common architectural styles seen in other cities, this strip focuses on everything linear, similar to those seen in ziggurats. Along with this linear design, I also learned that many of the buildings within art deco consist of distinct qualities like curved edges, glass bricks, neon colors, circular windows, and eyebrows. When entering this strip, one is automatically transported into a futuristic and geometric world similar to The Jetsons.

The Versace Mansion

Within the art deco strip, one building that caught my eye was the Villa Casa Casuarina. Commonly known as the Versace mansion, this villa stands out on the South Beach strip because it lacks any of the qualities that define art deco. Built by Alden Freeman, this Mediterranean Revival villa consists of multiple Roman and Greek references along with being an exact replication of a villa once owned by Christopher Columbus’s son in Santo Domingo.

While I found Casa Casuarina’s architecture to be breathtaking, what really intrigued me about this villa was its history. During the lecture, I was able to learn more about the great Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace, who turned Casa Casuarina into his own Versace Mansion. By inhabiting this villa, I believe Versace was able to make a difference and change south beach for the better by enhancing its culture along with promoting it to many national and international travelers. And while this estate should have become a symbol for this great shift, it ultimately became a somber one after Versace was murdered at its front steps.

When looking at Miami, many see it through the eyes of South Beach. Whether it is due to the unique architecture found on the Art Deco strip, the beautiful beaches hugging the city, or the deep history and cultural influence found at every corner, there is no doubt that South Beach is Miami’s greatest attraction.

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