Danielle Rodriguez: Italia as Text 2019

Tivoli as Text

Danielle Rodiguez of FIU at Tivoli

The town of Tivoli is by far my favorite place that the class has been to together by far. I am a huge nature lover and the outdoors is what really connects me with the world. As I have expressed before, history is extremely important and something everyone needs to know but walking through this Valley called the Valle of Gregoriana gave me a feeling of happiness and excitement. Although it was tough to hike down and up and around it is something I felt fortunate to do. We don’t see any of this beauty back home and so it was just so magical I even said, “This is so fricken awesome.” Once I got to the ground. I was so excited to keep going and discovering new things. As we got lower and saw the waterfall, the water would then go down into a black hole that many people have died in and were never found and that is why it has the nickname “The Valley of Hell.” Climbing into the caves was also something that I have always wanted to do. Right when professor Bailly asked if we wanted to go into it I was the first person behind him trying to keep my tears back because it was just so beautiful. It is so hard to put into words the feeling i felt that day but it is definitely something i will never forget and if I come back to Italy this will be a spot I come to no doubt. The next few weeks will be hard to beat this day and feeling.

In 105 BC they discovered that a major flood happened and wiped away dozens of houses, including the Villa Of Manilus Vopiscu. Then, from this day on they realized that floods were happening often and this would kill many people and cause great damage. Then again a major point in history was 1826 when the water was so high it destroyed the banks and left a major part of the town underwater. Then when Pope Gregory XVI was elected he decided to create a dam and during his power it was completed.

Rome as Text

Danielle Rodriguez of FIU at Rome

Rome has been such a dream. The beautiful pictures and places that my grandma would always show me has finally came true. It’s a place more beautiful than I imagined it to be. Somewhere where people should visit at least once in a life time. It’s filled with such beauty, faith, and history.

One of the things that stood out to me the most and I would say made me emotional was the Escala Santa. These steps have not been open to the public for about 300 years and to see the amount of people go and express their faith was amazing to me. As we climbed up on our knees and touched the spots that supposedly jesus’ blood dropped it was such a sense of hope. It gave me chills.

Another amazing place was Appia Antica. To me like I’ve mentioned previously, outdoor activities are my favorite. The fact that it’s the oldest road/highway in Rome really made me have a big WOW moment. The church that we visited called “Domine Quo Vadis” was beautiful. It’s pretty much when Catholicism started and Peter decided not to be a coward anymore. The feet of Jesus was something that was so incredible to me as well. Also, the catacombs was something I had never seen before! To be able to see where these Martyrs died and all the different levels of tombs was incredible. Rome is definitely somewhere I need to bring my family to.

Pompeii as Text

Danielle Rodriguez of FIU at Pompeii

The trip to Pompeii was very exciting. We got up early and spent three hours on the bus to get there. Once we got there we saw all these ruins that had been covered in ash by Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. I thought it was extremely smart since they did not have light to put white stones in the ground called Cat Eyes so it can reflect and they can have a way to see. As we were walking I noticed these stone bar-like tables that were used for little fast food spots and that was genius to me. Pompeii had about 130 restaurants and 40 bakeries. What I enjoyed most was learning how they discovered the bodies in 1748. Everything was forgotten for about 1500 years until excavation workers discovered the bodies. They would pour plaster on it and then they found the bodies in the exact positions they were in when burned away. The Garden of the Fugitives was impressive. How they found all those bodies and preserved them. It was very emotional seeing family members hold onto each other in their last breaths. Another thing that stuck to me was the oldest surviving Roman amphitheater. The painting from The Villa of the Mysteries was something that is greatly appreciated from all around the world. It expressed female sexuality and it really stands out for how naturalistic it is. I personally think Pompeii is somewhere that is needed to visit, but I do not think that I connected to it as much as I would’ve liked to or that I connected to it as much as other places.

Pisa as Text

Daniell Rodriguez of FIU at Pisa

Who would’ve ever thought that a mistake would attract so many people? The leaning Tower of Pisa is a bell tower that is unique in its own way because of its circular structure. The tower tilted due to the moisture in the soil that made it start leaning. In order to prevent it from falling they needed to add lead in order to keep it stable. An interesting fact is that Galileo himself stood up at the exact spot I did in the 1600s to test if the velocity is independent of mass. But he was not successful because he did not take into consideration the wind. Something I thought was very different was when I walked into the baptistery and everything was plain. There was no art and no color. It is not necessarily my favorite but it was something different I won’t forget. It was called Pisan Romanesque.  What really stuck out to me was when the guard walked into the baptistery and started singing and the beautiful voice prolonged all throughout the baptistery that gave me chills. This represented our connection to God from Earth. From the baptistery we walked over to the Cathedral and it immediately caught my eye. A fact I’ll never forget is the chandelier that is hanging as you walk in that Galileo used to figure out the formula for the Law of Pendulum. In the church, we saw Saint Raineri in his casket with a clear glass. It showed him covered in a hair shirt which represents continuous discomfort so that one forgets about the body and focuses on the soul. They then reconstructed his face and made a mask so that people ignore the body and nurture the soul. I definitely learned a lot in the city of Pisa and am happy to have had the opportunity to have this experience that I will never forget.

Florence as Text

Danielle Rodriguez of FIU at Florence



Piazza Della Signoria is an L shaped plaza in Florence, Italy. This is the main point of origin and history of the Florentine republic and it still maintains its reputation as the political focus of the city. It overlooks the old palace. This is known as the Florence City Hall, a museum and one of the most visited monuments of the Renaissance. It is an area well known to meet for tourists and locals. The plaza has the prominent Palazzo Vecchio overlooking the square. It is the scene of the great triumphs such as the return of the Medici in 1530 as well as the bonfire of the Vanities instigated by Savonarola which then was burned at the stake in 1498 because he was denounced by the inquisition as a heretic. There is an inscription on the floor of the exact spot of his death. The Piazza has many sculptures all around which all have different meanings. The David which was made by Michelangelo used to be in this location but is now moved to a museum. It was placed as a symbol of the Republics defiance of the tyrannical Medici. Then to the right of the David there is a sculpture of Hercules and Cacus which is meant to show the power of the Medici family after their return from exile. In this plaza there is also the Uffizi Gallery. This is Italy’s top art museum because of the great artworks done by Botticeli, Leonardo di Vinci, Raphael, Carvaggio, and Artemisia. There is no way someone can visit Florence and not go to this museum. A fun fact is that Boticelli is known to have burned a few of his paintings at one of the bonfires. The attempt of Savonarola to end the power of the Medicis obviously failed. What I admire about this specific location is all the politics involved and how Savonarola stuck to his truth until his very last breath.

Cinque Terre as Text

Danielle Rodriguez of FIU at Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is translated into the Five Lands. These beautiful old century seaside villages are in the Italian Rivera coastline. When hiking through the two millennia- old hiking trail, I saw the most beautiful mountains filled with terraces used for agriculture, shocking blue oceans, blue skies and colorful towns. A long time ago this was a place for people to stop while doing the Grand Tour to reflect and to take time off to just relax before starting up again. The five towns are called, Monterroso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. They are all connected by train or you can do the hike like I did. This was an extremely difficult hike that was 18 miles but something I sure am very proud of doing. We took a break at the fourth town because we were not sure if the hike would lead all the way to Riomaggiore because of a mudslide. But, we were able to find another trail that still lead us all the way to the fifth town and it sure was worth it. It felt like such an accomplishment that not many people do.

Cinque Terre is known for its wine, pesto, seafood and lemons. Since Vernazza is on the water you can only imagine it was an old fishing village and is now funded by tourists. You can find the most delicious seafood cones you will ever have. Monterroso is the town that I stayed at and it is the most touristy spot and modern. Cinque Terre is unique because it does not like commercialization and it does not bring franchise restaurants and hotels which attracts many tourists. Our last day in Cinque Terre was a free day and we got so lucky that it was a hot and sunny day. I went to the train station to get a day pass for all the towns and hopped around and tried foods from each place. Every place is unique in its own way. I ended up going back to Vernazza and lying down on this beautiful secluded beach full of rocks that was so relaxing and the sound of the waves made me just think of how lucky that I am able to have this opportunity that not many people do. It reminded me to live every moment to the fullest and always be grateful. But on the way home to the sanctuary I stopped in Monterroso and got a piña colada to enjoy on the beach one last time before leaving. It was of course delicious. This was a place I will never forget and will hope to come back so that I can bring my dad who is a fanatic about hikes and new trails. Cinque Terre, you were a dream come true.

Venice as Text

Danielle Rodriguez of FIU at Venice

Venice is unlike any other. The history of Venice starts around 400 AD. Venice is a city that is made up of many small islands that are connected by bridges, canals, and piers. Venice was built in the middle of a lagoon so that they can stay away from the armies and barbarians. This city was originally made for refugees who left their homelands. The Venice we see was born on March 25th 421 AD. When these people were on the island they realized they needed more space and a stronger foundation. They then started to dig and drain but while doing this they needed to protect the environment. They dug deep in the canals and would use wood to make the buildings. They would put these wooden pilings so close that they were touching. Then they would just cut off the top and create a firm platform for the foundation of their houses. But what I was concerned about was, doesn’t this wood rot? But apparently wood under water doesn’t. What is very scary is that this city floods periodically and this gives the feeling that the city is sinking. Over the past 100 years the city is said to have sunk a total of 9 inches! Someone said, “Global warming will cause the sea level to rise which will then eventually cover the Adriatic coastline and the city of Venice by 2100.” To me that is terrifying. But out of all the cities that I was fortunate enough to visit in Italy, I can easily say Venice was my favorite. I can’t exactly pin point why, but right when I set foot and looked out into the beautiful canals and all the transportation being boats and no cars to distract the beauty of conversations being heard around you, it was an amazing feeling.

Tivoli as Text

Danielle Rodiguez of FIU at Tivoli

The town of Tivoli is by far my favorite place that the class has been to together by far. I am a huge nature lover and the outdoors is what really connects me with the world. As I have expressed before, history is extremely important and something everyone needs to know but walking through this Valley called the Valle of Gregoriana gave me a feeling of happiness and excitement. Although it was tough to hike down and up and around it is something I felt fortunate to do. We don’t see any of this beauty back home and so it was just so magical I even said, “This is so fricken awesome.” Once I got to the ground. I was so excited to keep going and discovering new things. As we got lower and saw the waterfall, the water would then go down into a black hole that many people have died in and were never found and that is why it has the nickname “The Valley of Hell.” Climbing into the caves was also something that I have always wanted to do. Right when professor Bailly asked if we wanted to go into it I was the first person behind him trying to keep my tears back because it was just so beautiful. It is so hard to put into words the feeling i felt that day but it is definitely something i will never forget and if I come back to Italy this will be a spot I come to no doubt. The next few weeks will be hard to beat this day and feeling.

In 105 BC they discovered that a major flood happened and wiped away dozens of houses, including the Villa Of Manilus Vopiscu. Then, from this day on they realized that floods were happening often and this would kill many people and cause great damage. Then again a major point in history was 1826 when the water was so high it destroyed the banks and left a major part of the town underwater. Then when Pope Gregory XVI was elected he decided to create a dam and during his power it was completed.

Rome as Text

Danielle Rodriguez of FIU at Rome

Rome has been such a dream. The beautiful pictures and places that my grandma would always show me has finally came true. It’s a place more beautiful than I imagined it to be. Somewhere where people should visit at least once in a life time. It’s filled with such beauty, faith, and history.

One of the things that stood out to me the most and I would say made me emotional was the Escala Santa. These steps have not been open to the public for about 300 years and to see the amount of people go and express their faith was amazing to me. As we climbed up on our knees and touched the spots that supposedly jesus’ blood dropped it was such a sense of hope. It gave me chills.

Another amazing place was Appia Antica. To me like I’ve mentioned previously, outdoor activities are my favorite. The fact that it’s the oldest road/highway in Rome really made me have a big WOW moment. The church that we visited called “Domine Quo Vadis” was beautiful. It’s pretty much when Catholicism started and Peter decided not to be a coward anymore. The feet of Jesus was something that was so incredible to me as well. Also, the catacombs was something I had never seen before! To be able to see where these Martyrs died and all the different levels of tombs was incredible. Rome is definitely somewhere I need to bring my family to.

Pompeii as Text

Danielle Rodriguez of FIU at Pompeii

The trip to Pompeii was very exciting. We got up early and spent three hours on the bus to get there. Once we got there we saw all these ruins that had been covered in ash by Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. I thought it was extremely smart since they did not have light to put white stones in the ground called Cat Eyes so it can reflect and they can have a way to see. As we were walking I noticed these stone bar-like tables that were used for little fast food spots and that was genius to me. Pompeii had about 130 restaurants and 40 bakeries. What I enjoyed most was learning how they discovered the bodies in 1748. Everything was forgotten for about 1500 years until excavation workers discovered the bodies. They would pour plaster on it and then they found the bodies in the exact positions they were in when burned away. The Garden of the Fugitives was impressive. How they found all those bodies and preserved them. It was very emotional seeing family members hold onto each other in their last breaths. Another thing that stuck to me was the oldest surviving Roman amphitheater. The painting from The Villa of the Mysteries was something that is greatly appreciated from all around the world. It expressed female sexuality and it really stands out for how naturalistic it is. I personally think Pompeii is somewhere that is needed to visit, but I do not think that I connected to it as much as I would’ve liked to or that I connected to it as much as other places.

Pisa as Text

Daniell Rodriguez of FIU at Pisa

Who would’ve ever thought that a mistake would attract so many people? The leaning Tower of Pisa is a bell tower that is unique in its own way because of its circular structure. The tower tilted due to the moisture in the soil that made it start leaning. In order to prevent it from falling they needed to add lead in order to keep it stable. An interesting fact is that Galileo himself stood up at the exact spot I did in the 1600s to test if the velocity is independent of mass. But he was not successful because he did not take into consideration the wind. Something I thought was very different was when I walked into the baptistery and everything was plain. There was no art and no color. It is not necessarily my favorite but it was something different I won’t forget. It was called Pisan Romanesque.  What really stuck out to me was when the guard walked into the baptistery and started singing and the beautiful voice prolonged all throughout the baptistery that gave me chills. This represented our connection to God from Earth. From the baptistery we walked over to the Cathedral and it immediately caught my eye. A fact I’ll never forget is the chandelier that is hanging as you walk in that Galileo used to figure out the formula for the Law of Pendulum. In the church, we saw Saint Raineri in his casket with a clear glass. It showed him covered in a hair shirt which represents continuous discomfort so that one forgets about the body and focuses on the soul. They then reconstructed his face and made a mask so that people ignore the body and nurture the soul. I definitely learned a lot in the city of Pisa and am happy to have had the opportunity to have this experience that I will never forget.

Florence as Text

Danielle Rodriguez of FIU at Florence



Piazza Della Signoria is an L shaped plaza in Florence, Italy. This is the main point of origin and history of the Florentine republic and it still maintains its reputation as the political focus of the city. It overlooks the old palace. This is known as the Florence City Hall, a museum and one of the most visited monuments of the Renaissance. It is an area well known to meet for tourists and locals. The plaza has the prominent Palazzo Vecchio overlooking the square. It is the scene of the great triumphs such as the return of the Medici in 1530 as well as the bonfire of the Vanities instigated by Savonarola which then was burned at the stake in 1498 because he was denounced by the inquisition as a heretic. There is an inscription on the floor of the exact spot of his death. The Piazza has many sculptures all around which all have different meanings. The David which was made by Michelangelo used to be in this location but is now moved to a museum. It was placed as a symbol of the Republics defiance of the tyrannical Medici. Then to the right of the David there is a sculpture of Hercules and Cacus which is meant to show the power of the Medici family after their return from exile. In this plaza there is also the Uffizi Gallery. This is Italy’s top art museum because of the great artworks done by Botticeli, Leonardo di Vinci, Raphael, Carvaggio, and Artemisia. There is no way someone can visit Florence and not go to this museum. A fun fact is that Boticelli is known to have burned a few of his paintings at one of the bonfires. The attempt of Savonarola to end the power of the Medicis obviously failed. What I admire about this specific location is all the politics involved and how Savonarola stuck to his truth until his very last breath.

Cinque Terre as Text

Danielle Rodriguez of FIU at Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is translated into the Five Lands. These beautiful old century seaside villages are in the Italian Rivera coastline. When hiking through the two millennia- old hiking trail, I saw the most beautiful mountains filled with terraces used for agriculture, shocking blue oceans, blue skies and colorful towns. A long time ago this was a place for people to stop while doing the Grand Tour to reflect and to take time off to just relax before starting up again. The five towns are called, Monterroso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. They are all connected by train or you can do the hike like I did. This was an extremely difficult hike that was 18 miles but something I sure am very proud of doing. We took a break at the fourth town because we were not sure if the hike would lead all the way to Riomaggiore because of a mudslide. But, we were able to find another trail that still lead us all the way to the fifth town and it sure was worth it. It felt like such an accomplishment that not many people do.

Cinque Terre is known for its wine, pesto, seafood and lemons. Since Vernazza is on the water you can only imagine it was an old fishing village and is now funded by tourists. You can find the most delicious seafood cones you will ever have. Monterroso is the town that I stayed at and it is the most touristy spot and modern. Cinque Terre is unique because it does not like commercialization and it does not bring franchise restaurants and hotels which attracts many tourists. Our last day in Cinque Terre was a free day and we got so lucky that it was a hot and sunny day. I went to the train station to get a day pass for all the towns and hopped around and tried foods from each place. Every place is unique in its own way. I ended up going back to Vernazza and lying down on this beautiful secluded beach full of rocks that was so relaxing and the sound of the waves made me just think of how lucky that I am able to have this opportunity that not many people do. It reminded me to live every moment to the fullest and always be grateful. But on the way home to the sanctuary I stopped in Monterroso and got a piña colada to enjoy on the beach one last time before leaving. It was of course delicious. This was a place I will never forget and will hope to come back so that I can bring my dad who is a fanatic about hikes and new trails. Cinque Terre, you were a dream come true.

Venice as Text

Danielle Rodriguez of FIU at Venice

Venice is unlike any other. The history of Venice starts around 400 AD. Venice is a city that is made up of many small islands that are connected by bridges, canals, and piers. Venice was built in the middle of a lagoon so that they can stay away from the armies and barbarians. This city was originally made for refugees who left their homelands. The Venice we see was born on March 25th 421 AD. When these people were on the island they realized they needed more space and a stronger foundation. They then started to dig and drain but while doing this they needed to protect the environment. They dug deep in the canals and would use wood to make the buildings. They would put these wooden pilings so close that they were touching. Then they would just cut off the top and create a firm platform for the foundation of their houses. But what I was concerned about was, doesn’t this wood rot? But apparently wood under water doesn’t. What is very scary is that this city floods periodically and this gives the feeling that the city is sinking. Over the past 100 years the city is said to have sunk a total of 9 inches! Someone said, “Global warming will cause the sea level to rise which will then eventually cover the Adriatic coastline and the city of Venice by 2100.” To me that is terrifying. But out of all the cities that I was fortunate enough to visit in Italy, I can easily say Venice was my favorite. I can’t exactly pin point why, but right when I set foot and looked out into the beautiful canals and all the transportation being boats and no cars to distract the beauty of conversations being heard around you, it was an amazing feeling.

Ashley Rodriguez: Italia as Text 2019

Tivoli as Text

Green by Ashley Rodriguez of FIU at Tivoli, Italia.

Green.

As far as the eye can see

There is no end, no limit

To what could and could not

Be done.

The landscape at Hadrian’s villa in Tivoli

Humbles even the most ostentatious.

There is so much more than

One’s own existence.

We often assume our existence is the center of the universe.

The truth is that our existence is solely the center of OUR universe.   

There is no end in sight, just

Green.

Our minds wander to answer the burning question,

What awaits at the end of the landscape?

Perhaps this wandering imagination

Allowed the Romans to be free.

Free to embrace other cultures.

Free to love who you love.

You see Romans were not concerned

With conforming to sexual and societal norms

Romans were interested in ethereal pleasure

If we were more like the Romans in this way

Perhaps we would be substantially more content

With our lives.

Perhaps love would indeed win.

I imagine Hadrian stood where I stood,

possibly with his wife.

And dreamed a great dream

A dream where he had never fallen

Into the Nile river that day and that his great

Love story was still alive.

A dream where he could look

Into his lovers eyes one last time

and admire the way the green reflects

In them.

A dream where at the end of all of the green

Stood the great love of his life, Antinous

With a beating heart and life in his eyes.

Rome as Text

Destruction by Ashley Rodriguez of FIU at Roma, Italia.

The most beautiful things are found in destruction.

Destruction unearths the humanity hidden beneath the surface.

Through the cracks one can see what once was.

In the colosseum I see violence, injustice, and pain.

I see men fighting for the opportunity to live.

I see slaves praying to Gods they don’t believe in.

I see innocents being made savages.

Humanity in its rawest form.

I also see joy, laughter and love.

I see the crowds full of glee when a life is lost.

I see laughs being shared amongst friends.

I see a widow sob when her love takes his last breath.

These cracks give us insight into the truth about you and I.

Allows us to see what has stood the test of time.

Humanity has shown its ugly face time and time again.

We have not made much progress.

I turn on the TV.

I see the highlights of a boxing match.

I see bulls being made savages by humans.

I see a mother sob as she is separated from her child at an immigration camp.

Again I see violence, injustice, and pain.

Human nature is not always what it seems to be.

It is often just too painful to realize.

Millions travel to visit this wonder of the world.

They see an architectural marvel.

They see a community center.

Sure, they also see the destruction.

They see the building under construction and the caution tape.

One must look with a critical eye to truly see through the cracks.

Pompeii as Text

18 hours by Ashley Rodriguez of FIU at Pompeii, Italy.

I thought I knew pain.

When it comes it is all consuming,

overwhelms one’s senses.

Takes control.

Ones heart grows heavy.

I thought I knew pain, until Pompeii.

The people of Pompeii knew more pain than I will know in a lifetime.

The clay figures above give off an aura of indescribable loss.

I will never forget.

These figures seem like parent and child.

Their whole world was up in flames in a matter of 18 hours.

Imagine that.

The day before life was as usual.

18 hours later their souls reached their destinations.

I wonder what they were doing 18 hours earlier.

Were they cooking,walking home, or visiting neighbors?

I like to think they were dancing under the moonlight,

Blissfully unaware that it was their last night on this earth.

I also wonder how they ended up there.

Why didn’t they leave when they had the chance?

Maybe they were trying to flee, but knew it was too late.

They decided to spend their last moments in each other’s embrace.

Human touch is the remedy for most pain.

Perhaps they thought the same.

Parents should never have to watch their child take their last breath.

That’s not the way life is set up.

It is unnatural.

I cannot fathom the pain the parent was feeling knowing

there was nothing left.

Now that I have seen the face of true pain,

I pray that I never get the opportunity to meet it myself.

18 hours was all it took.

Siena as Text

Piazza Del Campo by Ashley Rodriguez of FIU at Siena, Italia.

The Piazza Del Campo is easily my favorite piazza in all of Italy. It‘s exquisite beauty stems from the natural colors that make up the buildings surrounding it. It is warm and welcoming even on cold days. The piazza is easily identifiable because it is a vast area of empty space. This piazza is different because it is designed in a way that is meant to be relaxed in. It is inclined and allows for one to simply bend their knees and meet the ground. The piazza has entrances all throughout the city. The narrow streets open and once again invite you to indulge in the city’s great traditions. In this piazza, the people of Siena are able to create a sense of community. There are several activities that take place in Piazza Del Campo ranging from lounging to protesting and to even horse racing. It is interesting to note that although Siena is composed of different rival towns, the Piazza is still able to unify the city. Perhaps if the United States adopted the camaraderie found in Siena many of the nations political problems could be solved. The Piazza is also known to host gatherings of college students in the late afternoon and early evening. I had the privilege of engaging in that tradition with my class. The Piazza is also a tourist site and it is a wonderful sight to see people from all over the world taking a moment to appreciate their surroundings. The Piazza Del Campo is a place that fosters community and inclusivity and I admire that.

Florence as Text


Bruised by Ashley Rodriguez of FIU in Florence, Italy.

My sweetest David

Oh how you have been beaten and bruised.

You came to existence after being hammered from a marble slab.

A slab that no one wanted.

With a combination of precision and skill you were  chiseled to perfection.

Your 17 foot body demands attention.

The uneasy look on your face demands empathy.

Did you already slay Goliath or were you about to face him?

These are questions that will never be answered.

You are the sweetest mystery.  

The position of your body keeps you in constant motion.

The contrapposto adds to your intimidating demeanor.

Michelangelo surely knew a person who is constantly in motion couldn’t possibly be defeated.

Once you were put on display, you were stoned.

In 1527, you were assaulted with a bench and it cost you an arm.

Finally, you were moved to a museum and were assumed to be safe.

You were then attacked by a man with a hammer.

Despite it all, there you stand.

Towering over those who doubt your resilience.

You have stood the test of time and are still one of the greatest works of art ever made.

You are the epitome of male beauty and forever will be.

You are the product of genius and love.

You are such a marvel because your creator loved your form dearly and used his genius to bring you to life.

I am not sure why people harm you.

Perhaps people have difficulty accepting the perfection that was achieved with your creation.

Until we meet again. Be good.

Cinque Terre as Text

Vernazza by Ashley Rodriguez of FIU in Cinque Terre, Italy.

Imagine a place that is as magical as it is resilient.  A place that is as simple as it is grand. Vernazza in Cinque terre is exactly that. Vernazza is one of the five towns that make up Cinque Terre in Italy. It is a small village with a vibrant personality. It is made up of cobblestone alleys that lead to colorful houses and shops. The most prominent feature of Vernazza is the stunning coastal views it offers. These coastal views are powerful. Since there is no end in sight, one begins to contemplate if there truly is an end. If there is one thing that I am certain of it is that Vernazza will have no end. A treacherous mudslide destroyed the village in 2011 and today it stands with grace. This village can inspire even the most hopeless of people. There is something about its ability to build itself from the ground up. Vernazza allows one to appreciate the past while keeping a hopeful eye on the future. Looking upon the town from the mountains gave me a sense of peace. Being unable to differentiate the ocean from the sky allows the mind to wander. A wandering mind allows one to complete the mission of visiting cinque terre on the Grand Tour.  A wandering mind allows for thoughts to flow freely and for complex ideas to process. Moments such as the one I experienced looking over the town of Vernazza don’t happen often and for that I will be forever grateful.

VENEZIA AS TEXT

Life by Ashley Rodriguez of FIU at Venezia, Italia.

Venezia is a town that is full of life. It is bustling with locals and with tourists. There are displays of life on every corner. There is art, poetry, and music throughout the entire city. There is an abundance of life on the water. Everybody’s favorite mode of transportation is through boats. When crossing a bridge over a small canal you can see the locals interacting with one another on their boats. They use vocal signals to let each other know when one is turning the corner on a boat. They have created a language that allows them to navigate through the narrow canals safely. The grand canal is a different story. The grand canal is full of water taxis, ferries, and gondolas! All of these boats communicate with one another and are able to coexist without a problem. There is life in the color choices of buildings. All the buildings are colors that invoke a brightness and light. There is life in the small alleyways. In these small alleyways you will find multiple shops selling Murano glass and you will stumble across several small bakeries. There is also so much life in St. Mark’s Square. During the day it is bustling with tourists trying to get the perfect picture of the cathedral. In the evening, you will find groups of people hanging around listening to the live music that is playing. Venezia seems to have the most life out of all of the cities I’ve visited. Perhaps this is because it was built by people who were looking to have a better life. Venezia, you are so full of life. Please don’t ever change.

Maria Sara Valle: Italia as Text 2019

By Maria Sara Valle of FIU

Tivoli as Text

The Valley of Hell and the Hike to Heaven

We cannot understand true pleasure, love, and divine paradise until we understand pain, heartbreak, and hell. The Valley of Hell or “Valle dell’Inferno” located in Parco Villa Gregoriana in Tivoli, Italy was one of the most beautiful and yet difficult hikes I’ve done in my entire life. This beautiful view includes a waterfall with fierce, white water from the Tiburtine canyon, ancient ruins, and a myth of a portal that seems to go straight to hell. This breathtaking view was a common stop on the Grand Tour for European students pursuing a classical education. Many documented their time there in journals and drawings capturing the beauty of the waterfall and the history of the Temple of Vesta and the Temple of Sibyl. The Valley of Hell gets its name from tragic stories of flooding and drownings caused by the ferocious Aniene River that killed many citizens and destroyed countless houses. It wasn’t until 1835 that an engineer by the name of Clemente Folchi designed artificial canals known as the Gregorian Tunnels which divert the rivers power away from civilization. Pope Gregory XVI called for the reconstruction of the park around the now artificial waterfall and thus the park was named Villa Gregoriana. 

For me this experience was one of kind. It combined my eternal love of waterfalls, breathtaking landscapes, and nature with my immense dislike for strenuous hiking. As much as I love exercising and staying healthy, hiking is one of those activities that literally takes my breath away but not in a good way. My apple watch activity tracker calculated that we climbed a total of 90 flights of stairs and walked 14.42 miles that day, my highest activity achievement. It was a difficult and steep climb/descend with many worn down steps and uneven surfaces. The tears nearly filled my eyes as my sore muscles moved my body forward. Yet, I did it! I never gave up and although my body begged me to quit, to turn back, I knew that the true Hell would be my regret if I didn’t finish that hike and experienced the satisfaction of reaching the bottom of the Valley of Hell. The light at the end of the tunnel was seeing the waterfall from the bottom, its immensity surprised me and took my breath away. I was shocked. I stood there and stared for a few minutes thinking to myself how proud I was of not giving up and how many things the human body is capable of as long as we believe. The experience of going inside a cave for the first time was something I will never forget. All in all, it was a spiritual experience for me. In that view I found my strength, in that view I found a new love for hiking and exploring, and in that view I saw my destiny. Nothing that comes easy is worth having and I am not afraid of continuing to work incredibly hard to reach my dreams!  

Roma as Text

“Twenty in Roma”

Rome housed the greatest empire in the world, nurtured Catholicism, and birthed the renaissance, and now Rome has also witnessed me grow immensely as a person. Rome is the city where the impossible becomes possible. Through the Colosseum and the Roman Forum we realize how advanced and successful Romans were at acquiring territory, building beautiful structures, and creating the system of government we utilize today. In the assembly and holiness of the Pantheon we can see the love of architecture and art of several Roman emperors such as Hadrain, a very well-travelled emperor of Rome during 117-138 AD. The Pantheon was once a monument to all the Gods and is now one of the most beautiful places for Catholic worship in the world. From every peak and angle Rome’s skyline is like no other I have ever witnessed before, filled with history, culture, and in all honesty, pure magic and blessings.

Although I love my country and my city of Miami I have never ventured outside of the city walls on my own. I adore having the safety of my parents embrace. Being far away from my family and friends has forced me to think about who I truly am and the type of person I want to be. For me, Rome has helped me connect to my spirituality. My whole life I have been conflicted between my religious beliefs and science. I have always been certain that I am a woman of science and for many years I felt like these two could not overlap, so I neglected my faith. I have had so many blessings and miracles in my life that science cannot explain. I found myself always turning to God and the Saints when I felt lost or alone. Since then, I have realized that my belief in God and in science can coexist, they can even complement each other. During my religious pilgrimage through Rome I have realized that my connection with God is something no one can take away and that I never want to lose again. The Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs built inside the ancient Roman Baths of Diocletian was designed mainly by Michelangelo Buonarroti in the 16th century and proves my newfound belief that we can be humans of science and religion. My favorite part of this church was the scientific influences made by the astronomer and mathematician Francesco Bianchini who built a meridian line inside the church for Pope Clement XI to check the accuracy of calendars, predict Easter, and provide Rome with a sort of sundial like the one in Bologna’s cathedral all while praising God. Now I am certain that I can believe in God and the church while still loving and advocating for science.

My first day in Rome I turned twenty years old and by my fifth day in Rome I had fractured my big toe riding bike on the Appia Antica, the oldest Roman road. Basically, in only five days Rome had already seen me smile from ear to ear, stare mesmerized several times, and cry my eyes out. This injury also helped me see the kindness of the Italia people. A lady offered me water while I sobbed about my toe underneath a historic aqueduct, a couple helped us call a taxi to take me back to the apartments, and then in San Giovanni Addolorata Hospital the doctor took us to see Roman ruins where the original statue of Marcus Aurelius, which is now in the Capitoline museum, was found. There is nothing more momentous and unforgettable about this city than finding my faith and my inner strength to continue exploring Rome as an unstoppable force.

Pompeii as Text

“Broken”

Mount Vesuvius, an enormous, active volcano that measures 30 miles at the base and is 4,203 feet high.1 This dangerous volcano is found only 9 km from Naples in Campania, Italy.1 Since its most infamous eruption which caused the destruction of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii in 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius has erupted over two dozen times and killed hundreds of others, but the volcano has remained inactive since 1944.1 The giant now sits silently waiting, and its power continues to grow and grow. With only one major highway out of Naples, a surprise explosion would be devastating for this city, similarly to how the volcanic eruption in 79 AD flooded Pompeii with ashes and volcanic rock for 18 hours, practically trapping it in time. Here, it is like time never passed. The bodies of the victims remained covered in pumice and ash for over a thousand years leaving behind voids after their bodies decomposed. Using plaster archaeologists were able to fill in the voids, capturing the emotions of the Pompeii victims in their last moments. Scans of the teeth from the victims reveal healthy teeth structure, most had no cavities.2 Dentists believe they had healthy eating habits of vegetables and fruits, and high fluoride content in the water.2 Now, we can see this city for what it truly was. Brothels, restaurants, and bakeries filled the streets in a dynamic city. Despite the beautiful scenery, my heart broke. The castings capture the emotions of the victims as they took their last breath while their world collapsed among them. All I wanted to do was help them, but it was too late for them to escape nature’s fury. The story of every single person broke my heart in half. There was a child next to their parent in a deep embrace, knowing it was their last moment together, dying in each other’s arms. The photograph above is of a man who died covering his nose delaying the inevitable. I stared at him forever, wanting to take away his pain, to dry his tears, to bless his soul. Every heart and dream was crushed in the timespan of 18 hours. I cannot even begin to imagine the fear of the children, the despair of the adults, and sadly we cannot control mother nature. Catastrophes plague our world, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, and tornadoes threaten our happiness. In Miami I have seen hundreds of houses and families destroyed from the wrath of our Earth. As global warming continues to affect our home we are putting ourselves more and more at risk each day. All I hope is that we learn from our mistakes and can prevent losing the lives of thousands of people in the future.

References

  1. http://www.pompeiisites.org/Sezione.jsp?
  2. https://www.seeker.com/pompeii-victims-bodies-revealed-in-scans-photos-1770334701.html

Firenze as Text

“Failure”

A gloomy darkness that overwhelms every bone, muscle, and nerve in your body leaving you completely paralyzed. Creeping up behind you and stealing your happiness like a thief. Your pulse intensifies, your eyes water, your body shakes. You cry and beg God to take the pain away to no response. Being so close and yet everything you hoped for disappears into thin air like a fleeting dream. Failure, a fear that is as necessary as it is despised. What defines success? Is it money, happiness, love, faith, or is it the feelings you inspire in others during your lifetime? Similarly to success, failure is relative. A master of the Renaissance once felt like he had failed too but his hard work, devotion, and talent clearly shine through in every sculpture, painting, and architectural design. His work has inspired hundreds of artists and continues to astonish every person who has the pleasure of witnessing his genius art. The Deposition, also known as the Bandini Pietà, found in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Firenze, Italia is the last sculpture made by Michelangelo. This sculpture is particularly dark as Michelangelo created it to go on top of his tomb but destroyed it several times and eventually sold it. He began working on this sculpture later in his life, at the age of 72. The most interesting part is that Michelangelo made the face of Nicodemus as a self-portrait. Here he is holding Christ up with great sorrow and regret. Michelangelo himself was struggling similarly to how Nicodemus is in the sculpture as in the end of his life he felt like he had failed and wished he would have done more. He was a very religious person who believed God had chosen him and given him his talent as a gift; thus at the end of his life he wanted to have dedicated himself more to the spiritual and less on Earthly things. In his final sculpture he gets to play a part in helping Christ. It seems like only Jesus Christ is fully finished in the sculpture and maybe that was his objective. My interpretation is that only Jesus Christ is perfect, so he made sure he was the main focus of the structure. Michelangelo was a master blessed with talent, yet he was always tormented, unable to realize how much he had accomplished. Depression and feelings of failure is a plague that generations have struggled with forever. It is important to always drown the darkness in this world with all the beauty that surrounds us, and Firenze is just the place to do it. Below is a poem for the place that inspires the most beauty and happiness on Earth.

“To Firenze With Love”

Don’t listen to the whispers in your head that say you aren’t enough.

Believe in your progress and your strength; you are tough!

Even the greats once doubted themselves.

Their accomplishments now framed and exhibited on shelves.

Feel the inspiration that radiates through the walls of this great city.

Take your time to enjoy everything that is pretty.

Here is where art flourished!

You can be art too, don’t ever be discouraged.

Artists like Botticelli took a risk and began showing the beauty of women.

The Birth of Venus continues shocking us, as modern women still face criticism for showing their abdomen!

The apprentice of Verrocchio drew the perfect angel in The Baptism of Christ and a master he became.

Even Leonardo da Vinci’s unfinished piece Adoration of the Magi can help you realize why he earned such great fame.

Here is where Michelangelo made the greatest sculpture in the universe.

In the beauty of the David our hearts and imagination can immerse.

All these masterpieces can be found in the city of Florence.

The most wonderful city and the greatest ambience!

Just like Firenze that gave the world more beauty and light,

Be yourself and don’t ever forget that you are worthy and bright!

Siena as Text

“Money = Power”

Control from the top 1% of the population continues to be a reoccurring topic throughout history. In modern times, many countries, including those with democracy, are run mostly by rich men in suits who do not understand the daily struggle of the common people. In the United States this is extremely relevant as we have mostly rich politicians making decisions on policies that monetarily, physically, and mentally affect the entire population. A good example is health care policies which are made by congressman who can afford to pay overpriced medical care while the middle and lower classes unfortunately face health disparities and improper access to healthcare. It is unbelievable that approximately 50% of the U.S. Congress is made up of millionaires while U.S. demographics shows that less than 6% of the total population consists of millionaires. In hundreds of years and thousands of miles in distance this unfortunate story of money being equal to power has not changed. Siena was a small hill town in what is modern day Tuscany. Their government structure was a republic and they were proud to be different from the nearing cities. Florence and Rome were huge rivals; thus, Siena proudly presented a new story that also involved a she-wolf. The twins in this representation are said to be Senus and Aschius, the sons of Remus who fled after Romulus founded Rome. The city is named Siena after Senus. Unfortunately, the power of Florence was too strong after Siena was strongly hit with the plague. Florence seemed to have unlimited money and rapidly growing in power as the Medici, a family of bankers, funded and colonized land all around the Tuscan hillside. As the house of the Medici took over different lands they would leave their mark by including sculptures of their families or branding the city with their coat of arms. In Siena, the Torre del Mangia and the Palazzo Pubblico fill the beautiful Piazza del Campo, adding a harmonious touch to an impressive open area. The Torre del Mangia was even made the be the same height as the tower of the Cathedral of Siena to show that the state and the church had equal power. As the Medici took over Siena they branded their coat of arms in the lower center of the Palazzo Pubblico as if they had a part in the construction. The Medici had so much power that although they were not nobility their coat of arms has a crown on the top and they would conquer land like kings. The Medici family started as simple bankers and then became the most powerful family in Tuscany. Although the Medici took over many places, stripping away many of their liberties and government structures, they also funded most of the art during the Renaissance bringing masterpieces into the world. The Medici also helped make clearer separations between the church and the government, a practice which we still use in the United States today. As Americans it is important that we realize the positives and negatives of each person in our government. Voting during every election is crucial to picking the candidates that will accurately represent our needs and we must always fear those who consider themselves or act as nobility. An unfortunate reality is that money often brings power but heavy is the head that wears the crown.

Cinque Terre as Text

“Sweat, sunshine, and self-realization”

Beautiful, green landscapes painted in the distance. Every flower so perfectly shaped it seems like they were made by angels and placed on each terrace, ready to be admired. The colorful towns shine through the trees keeping my eye on the prize, reminding me of where we are headed. My muscles hurt, they burn, but my smile never fades because the beauty that surrounds me could encourage me forever. The sounds of the birds flying overhead and the ocean in the distance create the perfect space for meditation and self-realization. After three weeks of absorbing immense amounts of information, Cinque Terre is the perfect place to take a breath of fresh air and realize all we have learned and grown. During the Grand Tour this was the stop for reflection but for me it was more than just that. Before this hike I was uncertain of my physical strength and potential. I fractured my toe two weeks before the hike and one of my greatest fears was that the pain would not allow me to prove that I was capable of completing the hike. In preparation for the hike I began to increase my confidence in my physical abilities by pushing myself to walk more and more each day, even beyond class time. During the hike through all five villages I saw a complete change in my mentality. At the beginning I was scared, but once we reached the bottom of Monterosso al Mare, only thirty minutes into the hike, I was certain that I would reach the finish line. Just like that every ache began to fade away. Along with all the sweat, my fears and insecurities dripped away too. The more I walked the longer I could go. I was capable of so much more than I had thought I was the night before. This hike and this trip in general have taught me more about who I am and who I want to be than I have learned in the rest of my life. I want to be able to stop and smell the roses more often, explore nature, and possibly even hike. I live a fast paced, Miami life. Always rushing from one place to the other with millions of things to do. Although I love my life and I enjoy how hard I work and how much I study, I realized on this beautiful hike through paradise that sometimes we need to stop and enjoy the moment before its gone. Having the time to walk at my own pace and absorb the views was like nothing I had ever experienced before. Eighteen miles, ten hours, five villages, and liters of sweat, it was the hike of a lifetime. There is no greater happiness than feeling accomplished and proving to myself and to everyone else that no matter the circumstances, I am strong and can do anything I set my mind to!

Venezia as Text

“One of its kind”

Comparable to no other city in the world, Venezia practically floats on the Venetian Lagoon, bringing beauty to the world with its unique elements. This captivating city is built on submerged trunks of alder wood which is known for being water resistant. There are no roads and no cars, only boats and gondolas in the canals and pedestrians that fill the streets. Venezia dates back to Ancient Rome when it was established as a way to escape Barbarians that continued to steal from Roman families. On the water, they were untouchable. The diverse elements of Venezia and Venetian architecture sprout from all the cultures that surrounded and traded with Venezia. Due to its importance in international trade Venezia became one of the first thriving financial centers in the world. Although now it is more of a tourist destination than an important trading ground, the chaos and constant hustle of Venezia has not been lost. Tourist from all over the world flood the streets, thrilled to see the main sites. The unfortunate part is that the majority of these tourists come from cruise ship excursions. Instead of creating revenue for the city by spending in Venezia, they often eat on the cruise ships and do not consume enough in the actual city to supplement for the constant wear and tear caused by these tourists. The immense globalization of this small city is a huge problem that is causing Venezia to lose its identity in the process of conforming to the rise in tourism. During my time in Venezia, a giant cruise ship had a mechanical issue and hit a river boat and a dock in Venezia injuring five people. It was shocking to realize that this happened only a couple miles from where I was at that moment. The lagoons in Venezia are quite shallow and narrow which is a huge part of why the city continues to attempt to ban cruise ships. Through this experience I realized the damage that we, as tourists, can cause to the overall infrastructure of the places we visit. All over Italy people vandalized on the walls and even on historic monuments! It is baffling how little respect people can have for these places that open their doors for us to admire their beauty and historical significance. It is crucial for tourists to also respect the common culture of each city, something I learned a lot about as we went through each city of Italy. Once we reached Venezia I was already well versed on consuming at an establishment before using their bathroom and on asking about the local customs beforehand. Traveling does not only help us understand history and witness amazing places, but it also exposes us to different cultures and teaches us to be more respectful in general. One of my favorite parts of visiting Venezia was that I no longer saw it with the eyes of a tourist, I enjoyed it like an Italian, immersed in their culture and understanding the problems the Venetians are facing.

“Venezia”

Born from the sea.

What a beauty to see.

People say there is no place like home,

But they have not seen the inside of St. Mark’s dome.

Covered in gold,

I was instantly sold.

One minute from my apartment was the Rialto Bridge, what a wonder!

At night when the tourists left I would sit there and ponder.

How beautiful life is, how lucky I have been,

To have made such great friends and enjoy the sites we’ve seen.

In Venezia my study abroad adventure reached an end,

But my love for exploring just began and from all over the world postcards I will send.

Italia as Text 2019
Italia as Text
Miami as Text
Italy Study Abroad

Lily Fonte: Italia as Text 2019

Tivoli as Text

An entire day in Tivoli.

We met Hadrian, we felt the Spaniard’s power,  and sensed his intelligence in the air as we walked through his massive and breathtaking Villa.

We walked through the labyrinths and sat by the roaring fountain of Neptune in the Gardens of Villa D’Este.

And then the professor asks “Would you like to see The Valley of Hell?”

Students look at each other, already with tired eyes, but eager to see more of this unique town.
The descent was a tough one, for some, even painful. But that was nothing compared to the intense energy that was emitting through the air as we got lower and lower into The Valley. Deeper into Hell.

Dirt and rocks filled our shoes, grime stuck to our skin, but every time I paused my descent and looked around, The Valley was alive, it was speaking, encouraging me to carry on, the best was yet to come, and so I descended.

We reached a cave and climbed inside, into what I considered to be the depths of Hell. But what I felt was not an inferno, it was paradise.

In that moment, I was sitting in a Valley that when flooded, would claim lives and disappear bodies.
And yet, all I felt was love for the trees I was seeing, the birds I was hearing, the incredibly fresh air I was breathing and the cold stone I was sitting on.

Tivoli is a town filled with beautiful villas and the lingering power these leaders left behind. But The Valley of Hell is more than just a Villa with beautiful scenery and history, it’s an experience. It left me sitting there, as the minutes passed, feeling an indescribable emotion. All I knew is I didn’t want it to end.


Roma as Text

A Letter to Rome

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Dear Roma,

When we first met it was cold and wet. I was lost, overwhelmed, and alone.

Straight from Miami, I entered a world I had never imagined I would ever get to see. Roma: the world of rebellious gladiators, Spanish emperors, unfaithful senates, Vestal Virgins, and populations larger than ever believed possible at the time.

I entered Il Colosseo through the Gate of Life. Climbing as high as I could to the highest levels to watch the game, as the women would have done before me. From there I can see the gladiators fight, the victor stands tall while the sand swallows the blood of the unfortunate soul and his body is carried through the Gate of Death.

In the Forum, I walked through the Temple of Vesta as one of the prestigious Vestal Virgins. at age 21, it had been about 11 years since I had been chosen, an immense honor for my family. It was only now becoming increasingly difficult for other priestesses in the temple to maintain their vow of chastity, one of them already charged with treason. I go about my own way, manage to my properties, and prepare for the games at the Colosseo. In 19 short years my service will end.

On the Appia Antica, I walked the roads into Rome for the first time as an outsider. I saw not only the beautiful tombs of the wealthy, but also the lifeless bodies of large, strong men, tied to trees that seem to almost touch the sky. I reminded myself never to challenge the authority the Roman Empire.

As a pilgrim, I witnessed the ceilings of S. Maria Maggiore, filled with gold brought by Christopher Columbus. I saw the ecstasy in Saint Theresa’s words with my own eyes, I prayed by the final resting place of Saint Paul, and I learned to fear death at the Capuchin Crypts.

As Lily, a college student, I found my way around the roads of Rome, learned to communicate with the locals, experienced the energy and passion of Roman fans in a game against Juventus, and learned to rely on quick macchiatos from coffee bars all around the city.

I entered Roma with one identity, and I leave with many more.

If all roads lead to Rome, then I’ll see you again soon.

Thank you.


Pompeii as Text

Priorities

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Before I entered Pompeii I found it hard to relate to the humans who’s lives ceased to exist in 79 A.D.

As I walked around the dozens if not hundreds of small streets, in between all of the ruins, I started to understand these Pompeiians.

They were just like me.

These were people who walked around their town, eating at stop-and-go fast food stations, which they had literally everywhere (Pompeiian Mcdonalds?) In Pompeii there were over 100 different places to eat. These people loved their food (as do I).

The moment that I felt that Pompeiians were just like 21st century human beings (or rather, that we are just like them) was when I saw a “beware of dog” mosaic on the floor. It took me a second to realize that these people, who existed almost 2 whole millenniums ago, had the same warning signs that we use today, with basically the same wording, in order to keep intruders out of their space.

They didn’t know what was coming, civilians in Pompeii were living their lives, eating their food, and visiting brothels, dogs and children were playing under the sun. They were living the same lives we are living today, when their lives were suddenly taken.

The main lesson I learned when I visited Pompeii was to appreciate my life, appreciate every single moment, appreciate my food, my animals, my town, my home. Because even with all the technology we have today, life is still fleeting, and we never know what the future holds.


Florence as Text

Letter to Firenze

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Dear Firenze,

Our time together was quick, but fulfilling.

I met Brunelleschi, he showed me his masterpiece and together we climbed to the top. From there I felt his pride, his achievement, when many doubted him, he prevailed. He built a dome that stood through time and that I can stand on today, it defies what was thought impossible back then, and even now is an astonishing piece of architecture.

I met Lorenzo Ghiberti, I saw his magnificent glowing gates. Upon laying my eyes on the doors at the east entrance of the Baptistry of San Giovanni, I understood why Michelangelo decided these were truly the Gates of Paradise.

I was introduced to The David, and I felt the power emitting from him. His warning glare made me feel even smaller in size than I already was, standing next to the 17-foot hero that was once in the center of the Piazza della Signora.

And finally, I climbed up to the town of Fiesole, and continued to climb, until I bumped into Leonardo Da Vinci, he was about to have his assistant perform a feat that no man had ever attempted.

So I sat, and watched a man fly for the first time right from where I was sitting. From here I was flying too, towering over all of Florence, I could see the all the hills, Brunelleschi’s masterpiece, I could see the bright green of the trees clash with the burnt orange tones of the town, against the blue skies that Da Vinci wanted so badly to soar through.

My heart is filled with you Firenze, all of your stories and all of your passion.

Thank you.


Siena as Text

Il Campo

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Photo by Danielle Hernandez

I walked down the streets of Siena, taking in the narrow alleys overcome by pedestrians and the overwhelming burnt oranges and pinks that cover the walls of every building.

Through various alleys I could see a glimpse of what was to come. Suddenly, I wasn’t in an alley surrounded by buildings towering above me, obscuring my view of the sky. Suddenly, the space was open, the air was vibrant, and the sky was clear.

The Piazza del Campo was vibrating with life: children, teens, seniors, tourists, locals, even dogs were spending their time in the sea shell shaped piazza that allowed all to come together in a joint space and enjoy the moment.

As I sat on the sixth section of the piazza with my friends, I couldn’t help but imagine what it would be like to be sitting in these spaces centuries ago: filled with pride for my neighborhood, clenching my orange and white Leocorno flag as The Nine who created the Campo and governed Sienna witnessed from each of their buildings.

I pictured the Palio di Sienna, with thousands of locals and outsiders coming together for various intense games including boxing matches, jousting, racing and bullfighting.

Its astonishing to think of how Siena is truly stuck in this time period. When it comes to the Piazza del Campo and how the space is used, not much has changed today.

The space is still filled with life and the Palio di Sienna still takes place twice a year and is an immensely important occasion for all who reside in Siena.

The small experience I had with the Campo, those moments I was able to lay back, enjoy the Tuscan sun and look at the blue skies behind the Torre Del Mangia, that was enough for me to fall in love with the space and the energy it holds.

I can’t imagine anything even slightly to the Piazza del Campo back home, it is truly unique in it’s physical aspects, as well as its history, and the vibrant life it still holds today.


Cinque Terre as Text

The other side of the coin.

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I had just spent over half a month in modern Roma and Firenze and when I arrived at the five lands, known to the locals as Cinque Terre, the change of pace was definitely extreme.

The ocean instantly reminded me of home, but that’s where the similarities ended.

Upon arriving in Monterosso al Mare, everything slowed down. Even in the station, an area usually filled with speed and chaos.

Although I am not an upper class young European male from the 18th century, I can only imagine how they felt, seeing the sunset behind the mountains, finally being able to take a breath after consuming so much art, history and culture.

Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare, were all so different yet so similar, all colorful with buildings hugging each other, and locals so warm, you almost forget how cold the ocean breeze is.

The santuario that hosted me was the perfect example of this warmth, showering us with the best Cinque Terre has to offer: their food. Known for their lemons, seafood, pesto, and wine; they did not disappoint. The members of the sanctuary treated us like family, making sure to say good morning every day, and offering us seconds at their delicious dinners. This warmth is something I will always keep with me, and take back home.

Nobody, not even the tourists were in a hurry, it was almost like time stopped. Everything in Cinque Terre is meant to be taken in: the birds waking you up, the sunsets from the mountain, the thin air as you make the final climb to the fifth land, and the night sky with no city lights to pollute it.

Cinque Terre is its own little world hiding between the mountains. When my mind escapes me, this is where it goes.

Tivoli as Text

An entire day in Tivoli.

We met Hadrian, we felt the Spaniard’s power,  and sensed his intelligence in the air as we walked through his massive and breathtaking Villa.

We walked through the labyrinths and sat by the roaring fountain of Neptune in the Gardens of Villa D’Este.

And then the professor asks “Would you like to see The Valley of Hell?”

Students look at each other, already with tired eyes, but eager to see more of this unique town.
The descent was a tough one, for some, even painful. But that was nothing compared to the intense energy that was emitting through the air as we got lower and lower into The Valley. Deeper into Hell.

Dirt and rocks filled our shoes, grime stuck to our skin, but every time I paused my descent and looked around, The Valley was alive, it was speaking, encouraging me to carry on, the best was yet to come, and so I descended.

We reached a cave and climbed inside, into what I considered to be the depths of Hell. But what I felt was not an inferno, it was paradise.

In that moment, I was sitting in a Valley that when flooded, would claim lives and disappear bodies.
And yet, all I felt was love for the trees I was seeing, the birds I was hearing, the incredibly fresh air I was breathing and the cold stone I was sitting on.

Tivoli is a town filled with beautiful villas and the lingering power these leaders left behind. But The Valley of Hell is more than just a Villa with beautiful scenery and history, it’s an experience. It left me sitting there, as the minutes passed, feeling an indescribable emotion. All I knew is I didn’t want it to end.


Roma as Text

A Letter to Rome

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Dear Roma,

When we first met it was cold and wet. I was lost, overwhelmed, and alone.

Straight from Miami, I entered a world I had never imagined I would ever get to see. Roma: the world of rebellious gladiators, Spanish emperors, unfaithful senates, Vestal Virgins, and populations larger than ever believed possible at the time.

I entered Il Colosseo through the Gate of Life. Climbing as high as I could to the highest levels to watch the game, as the women would have done before me. From there I can see the gladiators fight, the victor stands tall while the sand swallows the blood of the unfortunate soul and his body is carried through the Gate of Death.

In the Forum, I walked through the Temple of Vesta as one of the prestigious Vestal Virgins. at age 21, it had been about 11 years since I had been chosen, an immense honor for my family. It was only now becoming increasingly difficult for other priestesses in the temple to maintain their vow of chastity, one of them already charged with treason. I go about my own way, manage to my properties, and prepare for the games at the Colosseo. In 19 short years my service will end.

On the Appia Antica, I walked the roads into Rome for the first time as an outsider. I saw not only the beautiful tombs of the wealthy, but also the lifeless bodies of large, strong men, tied to trees that seem to almost touch the sky. I reminded myself never to challenge the authority the Roman Empire.

As a pilgrim, I witnessed the ceilings of S. Maria Maggiore, filled with gold brought by Christopher Columbus. I saw the ecstasy in Saint Theresa’s words with my own eyes, I prayed by the final resting place of Saint Paul, and I learned to fear death at the Capuchin Crypts.

As Lily, a college student, I found my way around the roads of Rome, learned to communicate with the locals, experienced the energy and passion of Roman fans in a game against Juventus, and learned to rely on quick macchiatos from coffee bars all around the city.

I entered Roma with one identity, and I leave with many more.

If all roads lead to Rome, then I’ll see you again soon.

Thank you.


Pompeii as Text

Priorities

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Before I entered Pompeii I found it hard to relate to the humans who’s lives ceased to exist in 79 A.D.

As I walked around the dozens if not hundreds of small streets, in between all of the ruins, I started to understand these Pompeiians.

They were just like me.

These were people who walked around their town, eating at stop-and-go fast food stations, which they had literally everywhere (Pompeiian Mcdonalds?) In Pompeii there were over 100 different places to eat. These people loved their food (as do I).

The moment that I felt that Pompeiians were just like 21st century human beings (or rather, that we are just like them) was when I saw a “beware of dog” mosaic on the floor. It took me a second to realize that these people, who existed almost 2 whole millenniums ago, had the same warning signs that we use today, with basically the same wording, in order to keep intruders out of their space.

They didn’t know what was coming, civilians in Pompeii were living their lives, eating their food, and visiting brothels, dogs and children were playing under the sun. They were living the same lives we are living today, when their lives were suddenly taken.

The main lesson I learned when I visited Pompeii was to appreciate my life, appreciate every single moment, appreciate my food, my animals, my town, my home. Because even with all the technology we have today, life is still fleeting, and we never know what the future holds.


Florence as Text

Letter to Firenze

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Dear Firenze,

Our time together was quick, but fulfilling.

I met Brunelleschi, he showed me his masterpiece and together we climbed to the top. From there I felt his pride, his achievement, when many doubted him, he prevailed. He built a dome that stood through time and that I can stand on today, it defies what was thought impossible back then, and even now is an astonishing piece of architecture.

I met Lorenzo Ghiberti, I saw his magnificent glowing gates. Upon laying my eyes on the doors at the east entrance of the Baptistry of San Giovanni, I understood why Michelangelo decided these were truly the Gates of Paradise.

I was introduced to The David, and I felt the power emitting from him. His warning glare made me feel even smaller in size than I already was, standing next to the 17-foot hero that was once in the center of the Piazza della Signora.

And finally, I climbed up to the town of Fiesole, and continued to climb, until I bumped into Leonardo Da Vinci, he was about to have his assistant perform a feat that no man had ever attempted.

So I sat, and watched a man fly for the first time right from where I was sitting. From here I was flying too, towering over all of Florence, I could see the all the hills, Brunelleschi’s masterpiece, I could see the bright green of the trees clash with the burnt orange tones of the town, against the blue skies that Da Vinci wanted so badly to soar through.

My heart is filled with you Firenze, all of your stories and all of your passion.

Thank you.


Siena as Text

Il Campo

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Photo by Danielle Hernandez

I walked down the streets of Siena, taking in the narrow alleys overcome by pedestrians and the overwhelming burnt oranges and pinks that cover the walls of every building.

Through various alleys I could see a glimpse of what was to come. Suddenly, I wasn’t in an alley surrounded by buildings towering above me, obscuring my view of the sky. Suddenly, the space was open, the air was vibrant, and the sky was clear.

The Piazza del Campo was vibrating with life: children, teens, seniors, tourists, locals, even dogs were spending their time in the sea shell shaped piazza that allowed all to come together in a joint space and enjoy the moment.

As I sat on the sixth section of the piazza with my friends, I couldn’t help but imagine what it would be like to be sitting in these spaces centuries ago: filled with pride for my neighborhood, clenching my orange and white Leocorno flag as The Nine who created the Campo and governed Sienna witnessed from each of their buildings.

I pictured the Palio di Sienna, with thousands of locals and outsiders coming together for various intense games including boxing matches, jousting, racing and bullfighting.

Its astonishing to think of how Siena is truly stuck in this time period. When it comes to the Piazza del Campo and how the space is used, not much has changed today.

The space is still filled with life and the Palio di Sienna still takes place twice a year and is an immensely important occasion for all who reside in Siena.

The small experience I had with the Campo, those moments I was able to lay back, enjoy the Tuscan sun and look at the blue skies behind the Torre Del Mangia, that was enough for me to fall in love with the space and the energy it holds.

I can’t imagine anything even slightly to the Piazza del Campo back home, it is truly unique in it’s physical aspects, as well as its history, and the vibrant life it still holds today.


Cinque Terre as Text

The other side of the coin.

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I had just spent over half a month in modern Roma and Firenze and when I arrived at the five lands, known to the locals as Cinque Terre, the change of pace was definitely extreme.

The ocean instantly reminded me of home, but that’s where the similarities ended.

Upon arriving in Monterosso al Mare, everything slowed down. Even in the station, an area usually filled with speed and chaos.

Although I am not an upper class young European male from the 18th century, I can only imagine how they felt, seeing the sunset behind the mountains, finally being able to take a breath after consuming so much art, history and culture.

Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare, were all so different yet so similar, all colorful with buildings hugging each other, and locals so warm, you almost forget how cold the ocean breeze is.

The santuario that hosted me was the perfect example of this warmth, showering us with the best Cinque Terre has to offer: their food. Known for their lemons, seafood, pesto, and wine; they did not disappoint. The members of the sanctuary treated us like family, making sure to say good morning every day, and offering us seconds at their delicious dinners. This warmth is something I will always keep with me, and take back home.

Nobody, not even the tourists were in a hurry, it was almost like time stopped. Everything in Cinque Terre is meant to be taken in: the birds waking you up, the sunsets from the mountain, the thin air as you make the final climb to the fifth land, and the night sky with no city lights to pollute it.

Cinque Terre is its own little world hiding between the mountains. When my mind escapes me, this is where it goes.


Monique Moussa: Italia as Text 2019

Tivoli As Text

“A Little Darkness Never Hurt Nobody” by Monique Moussa of Florida International University at Tivoli, Italy

Did you know beauty can be created from destruction?
And this waterfall is not an example of Roman seduction

Many come near but do not see it’s glory
For far bellow there holds a different story
Two floods have come and recreated the land
But people today come to Tivoli only to get a tan

It is believed that at the bottom of the waterfall is hell
And by the time you get down to see the end, your feet have already swelled
All that can be seen are large rocks and darkness
I for one found grace and tranquility

Just because it might look slightly black and scary
Does it mean that we should turn away in such a hurry?
Should we give those things that might not appeal to the eye or mind a chance?
For all we know, they might enable us to advance

Water is seen to be a symbol of rebirth or of sexuality
Yet many believe that the Villa Gregoriana waterfall represents the brutality
Judging something for only its negative qualities keeps individuals closed minded
In today’s world, we are not so different from that archaic mindset

Analysis:
The waterfall is beautiful in its structure, but its beauty is emphasized when large bushes of green trees surround the waterfall. Just simply listening to the water, the animals, and the wind is relaxing. The Temple of Vesta overlooks the waterfall, and it is almost mocking of all the deaths that the waterfall has caused. Individuals took advantage of the waters dangerous nature to harm people. It creates this negative image of something that should be seen as beautiful. The waterfall is still dangerous but the beauty it has is covered up because of what humanity has done. We tend to not give nature or people that are unattractive or “evil” a chance because that’s how we have been raised. It limits our growth as a society because we can still learn so much from the ugly and evil, and as seen from the waterfall, just because it looks scary, does not mean it’s not also beautiful.

Rome As Text

“It Happened to my People too” by Monique Moussa of Florida International University at Rome, Italy

We each see something different
Something that stands out to us
When taught about this arch it was hard not to make a fuss
Previous knowledge has lead me to be ignorant

Born and raised as a Palestinian
I always believed Jews were bad
For they took my land that my family has always had
Yet just as everything was taken away from my family
I realized Jewish people have experienced the same agony

Judge me as you might
But at first this was a hard sight
I saw this and I thought of Titus
How his actions had caused great change

I stand there and stare
While my fellow classmates did not treat it with such care
To many this is just an arch of beauty
To me this arch is my duty
Duty to understand and let go of the past

I cannot blame those Jews from the past
Nor should the Jew blame the present day Romans for their outcast

I did not expect to come to Rome and feel a connection to my culture
Yet there I stood and was taken away by this piece of architecture
Jewish people were already exiled from Jerusalem
70 years later Titus defeats the remain Jews
I sympathize for them
What is left for them?
They no longer have a home to call their own

And I again I reflect
So much was taken away from them
And I wonder
How can they do the same that has happened to them to others
How are Palestinians supposed to stand and accept their lands being taken away

I see things differently now than I did before
I do not blame a whole religion for some people’s action
But I learned that history truly does repeat itself
I just never thought I would witness how it would affect me

I need to remember
I hope I do not forget
Just because injustice has happened to my people
I should not judge those who are causing it
Because they too have suffered the same bit

The power of the art in Rome is impactful
For I am not the only one that can experience this
Many individuals of different cultures can resonate with different art pieces
And that is the true power of Rome
No matter how different
Somehow we all feel a connection

Pompeii As Text

“The Struggle of Women Through Time” by Monique Moussa of Florida International University at Pompeii, Italy

It seems like todays world is all about sex
And who you are going to sleep with next
It is not to say sex isn’t great
But it isn’t a major determinant of fate

For many people today, sex is something you choose to do
But to many in Pompeii it is something women were forced to go through
The city had about 30 brothels
And the women could have sex with men as old as fossils

Back then it was legal
It still does not justify them existing
Some of these prostitutes could acquire a bit of wealth
What about their mental health?

These women would sleep with countless men for money
And to me that seems sad for a women to have to go through
Why must her body be objectified in order for her to survive
It is amazing how far women have come and thrived

And imagine to be in their shoes
Where men could just walk in and pick and choose
They choose what position they like best
As if it isn’t degrading enough that you are just admired for your breasts
But you are also sold to have sex in a position you might not like
And these men would probably never treat you right

Women do not suffer the same struggle now
Prostitution still exists but it is not allowed
Women are still treated like objects to many
The struggle now is the difference in pennies

Women then and now get treated different then men
But now the struggle is equal pay

The women in Pompeii struggled with legal prostitution
Women today struggle with illegal prostitution and unequal pay
For a world that has advanced so far
It does not look like we progressed at all

FLORENCE AS TEXT

“Nudity is Power” By Monique Moussa of Florida International University at Florence, Italy

Is being perfect attainable?
If so who is perfect?
Men? Women? Children?
Who?

Beauty seems to be connected with perfection
For if you are beautiful you are shown more affection
But beauty is said to be subjective
Then the David is also subjectively beautiful

Art connects individuals across cultures
Can all cultures accept nudity and see the elegance of the art?
Art is freedom of expression
Yet there is a large conservation in regards to nude art
Is nudity too indecent?
But it shows who we are, even the itty bitty pieces

But all forms of human bodies should be shown and encouraged as beautiful
Is it more important to hide nudity than it is to show how everyone is lovely?
Lovely even without the expensive clothes or well-applied makeup
Bare to the world even if they do not measure up to social standards

Florence is beautiful in its diversity
Cobblestones in the center
But just outside contains hill of green and calmness
There is it noted shifts in history in the city
Yet it is still beautiful
It is beautiful for being so different and unique

Can we today accept beauty for being different and unique?
We say yes, but are we really
Many still think nudity means indecency
There is the idea that the fewer clothes a person wears the more they ask for attention
Well the David surely gets a lot of attention, but much of it is adoration

Can society not find others nudity just as magnificent and empowering
Why must old sculptures be the only nudity used to empower individuals
Why can art not be made today to the same extent, to lift society
What is holding us back?

Maybe the social norm about nudity needs to be broken down
Once individuals can embrace how they look
Then everyone can feel just as powerful as David when he took down Goliath
Even if they look different from the “normal” person
Just as Florence is different than the normal city

Siena as text

“Children or Power” By Monique Moussa of Florida International University at Siena, Italy

Can you imagine being stuck in time?
Well it isn’t that hard when you have places like Siena
Siena has plenty of art and history from the Middle Ages
It is a city where they still have horse races

It reflects a time of regression
A time where you are expected to follow the word of God without question
It simply is easier to rule when the people fear you
And with all that power, you can change history and make people forget what they knew

Very dark images used to be portrayed
Even images of children that were killed by blades
In the New Testament, there is a story of the Massacre of the Innocent
The story was used to demonstrate the destruction if there was a monarchy

Innocent children were used as a vendetta to keep the church in power
All while there was a fat man that would sit in the nearby bell tower
The lives of children seem to always cause a stir
For who would want to live in a world where the deaths of children would occur

Then the threat of killing children was used as a tactic by the church
Now with recent abortion laws, there is plenty of research
A search to see when a child is considered alive
But it is just a distraction so that politicians can thrive

The innocence of children is used for political propaganda
Just so that it distracts from actual issues that need to be solved
It seems that no matter how much time has passed
Those in power will say or do anything just to keep their position

It is a shame that children are used in this trickery
And those who try to use the innocent to gain power truly do not have much victory

Cinque terRe as text

“Beauty Comes With a Little Effort” by Monique Moussa of Florida International University at Cinque Terre, Italia

In a place that seems to run for miles and miles
Even after all the hiking it still left me with a smile
It gave me a moment to just lay there and hear the crash of the waves
And I even got stung by a jellyfish when I went swimming into the caves

It is surprising how nature is so pure and simple
Yet it causes most to start showing their dimples
It is almost like an escape from reality
No longer are you looking at your computer screen but rather at the sea

I cannot believe I was able to witness a place like this existing
Where animals, nature, and humans all coexist
A place where the ocean and sky become one
A place where the city glows when light shines on it from the sun

With all the stress from worrying about school and my family
Cinque Terre provided me the chance to go off into a fantasy
It gave me a moment to appreciate everything that I have in my life
Just being in this beautiful city was enough that I did not care for the nightlife

Is it possible to take a part of this land and have it in Miami?
Though there are beaches in Miami people are not nearly as happy
Nature here is pure and not toxic
While in Miami the focus is on the gossip

If I could take one thing and place it in Miami it would be the effort to keep the lands clean
In almost every 100 meters there is a recycling bin
And not just the basic separation of recycled material and other garbage
They separate all recyclables and it’s time Miami gets started

Nature is only beautiful if we allow it to be preserved
So it’s not just Miami that needs to make a change
All of the US needs to start making changes to give the earth a chance it deserves

Venic as Text

“Just Keep Mixing” by Monique Moussa of Florida International University at Venice, Italy

Lightness or darkness
Expression or suppression
Knowledge and science or solely religion
How about a mix

You blink and it’s as though you’re seeing a different part of the world
Blink again and you’ll see something new
Keep looking and you’ll notice a city like no other
A city built on water
That fact alone makes many minds wander
But that is just the beginning of the complexity and beauty of this city

Blowing glass seen on almost every street
Masks sold on every corner
All of which are colorful and radiant
Each representing how unique Venice is

One moment it is sand then it is a beautiful sculpture
Details that are so specific that only a true artist can do
Masks that disguise who you are
Be anyone for a day and simply just hide behind the mask of mystery

Architecture, art, food and so much more are ideas adopted from other places
In this city, it all comes together and creates a new world
A world where different cultures can coexist
Coexisting in a time where it was not allowed

The idea of accepting other cultures can be seen here
Business is business so the color of your skin
Or your religious beliefs do not matter
For every ethnicity that enters this city
Change is made

Built-in 400 CE
Being rebuilt constantly
Yet this city is still like no other
And despite its age
It is far more progressive than many states in the US

Here cultures are accepted despite the social norm
The world needs to learn from this city
This same city that might not exist in 100 years

Places prosper when there is a cultural mix
Not when there’s social isolation

Maria Carla Robaina: Italia as Text 2019

By Maria Carla Robaina of FIU

Tivoli as Text

Maritime Theatre in Hadrian’s Villa, Tivoli

Located in the small town of Tivoli, Hadrian’s Villa is any architect’s dream. Incorporating architectural styles from all around the world, this construction from the 2nd century A.D. takes the best of Egypt, Greece, and Rome, and creates a classical city that spans 200 acres. One of the most captivating buildings in the property is the Maritime Theatre. This structure consists of a round central porch supported by numerous ionic columns, and surrounded by a circumcentric pool, creating a perfectly balanced,  Greek-inspired retreat. The combination of land and water is evident throughout the historical landmark property but it is never as purposeful as it is in the Maritime Theatre. Water mixes with land to create an isolated space in the midst of all the chaos, much like the villa itself separates Hadrian from the city of Rome. The Maritime Theatre can then be thought of as an oasis within an oasis, only accessible by two wooden drawbridges that when closed, disconnect its occupant(s) from the outside world. As a Spanish-born emperor, Hadrian often felt out of place in Rome, which would explain his thirst for isolation, and the thought process behind the architectural features of both the villa and the theatre. Furthermore, governing an empire like Rome, with more than 1 million inhabitants, was a challenging feat. So, in a sense, the villa was a sacred ground for the emperor to go and relax while observing his empire from above. The Maritime Theatre then was an even more intimate experience, which provides an air of spirituality. Its circular pattern mimics that of the Pantheon (an all-inclusive religious ground) which Hadrian redesigned after its destruction. Considering this then, it’s easy to see why the circle would be the chosen shape for both the Pantheon and the Maritime Theatre. The circle symbolizes wholeness, perfection, and the cyclic nature of the universe, all of which resonate with Hadrian’s own beliefs of religious acceptance, and self exploration.

Rome as Text

The Pantheon

Rome is flooded with narrow streets and alleys; crowded with passionate tourists in search of the next cultural adventure. I was one of them, and walking through Via Giustiniani, I had no idea what was coming. Then I saw it. I felt its immenseness take over me. So majestic, so imposing, that you both fear and feel pulled in by it: the Pantheon. Rebuilt in 118 CE by the emperor Hadrian, the Pantheon was created to serve as an inclusive religious ground at a time when the Romans were worshipping non-Roman Gods. While Hadrian was a well travelled and culturally aware intellectual, the need to unify Rome was the motive behind the Pantheon’s design, rather than mere religious consciousness. Rome had a lot of immigration, so it would have been difficult to unify all Romans under one, or a select group of Gods. It was much easier then, to make them feel secure in their faith by allowing all kinds of worship. The Pantheon provided the perfect platform for that, and ensured public support. This idea is evident in its classical Roman design, which features and immense portico, supported by massive, solid marble Corinthian columns, and followed by the circular interior called the rotunda, which contains representations of different Gods. The circle is a perfect shape that represents the idea of wholeness, and inclusiveness which mirrors Hadrian’s intention. It is also present in the oculus, which is an opening right in the middle of the Pantheon meant to take down any barriers that may sit between us mortals and the heavens, thereby enhancing the religious experience. It is truly magical to see the sunlight shining from the oculus onto the marble interior, creating a thread of energy that connects us to the divine. That is the magic of the Pantheon. Sure it was a political move, but it represents a shift in the history of Rome and the world, a transition into religious freedom. The concept of the Pantheon is one that should be copied in today’s world. As a whole, we need to become more accepting of everyone’s beliefs in order to preserve peace. Maybe that’s why I was so touched by the Pantheon; it is architecturally divine, and an embodiment of human unison, as if the whole world stood as one, under the light of the oculus.

Pompei as Text

“The stiff tell stories too”

Once there were 20,000,

then there were none.

Seventeen thousand fled to live

Three thousand fled with the smoke.

This is Pompei, a once anonymous city now infamous thanks to tragedy, and the whole world seems to oblige. People from all nations come to witness with their eyes what many tales have lead the young and old to cry. Ashy figures look alive, no longer human, but their humanity is still intact, and very present throughout the town. The stiff tell stories about themselves. They tell us how they lived and how they died. So we, in our shared humanity, get transported to their time. We see their streets, their bakeries, with the ovens that are still used in Italian pizzerias to this day. We see their brothels, and their restaurants. We see their pain in the stiff faces of the dead. We see the fear that hunted them ‘till their last breath. We look around, and we see that we’re all just the same. And we feel the connection. To many, it’s just another city with ruins. To the observant, it’s the story of life itself. We’re born into this world without any expectations. Then we grow, and we build things of our own, we create a community, and we are part of something greater than ourselves. We become more social as time passes by, and collectively, we progress. Some rich, some poor, some women, some men. We have kids of our own to love and protect. And then of course, there’s the unexpected end. The stiff lived just like we did. They went hungry, and thirsty, and had our same needs. They worked, and talked, and loved, and feared in the same way we would have feared the deadly showers. So here’s what I would tell tourists: take it all in, because one day, none of us will be here, just like they aren’t. But at least their city remains, so they have something to be remembered for: a legacy. We better make sure we all have something then.

 

 

Pisa as Text

“The Leaning Tower”

by Maria Carla Robaina of FIU at Pisa

  When something important happens in my life (be it seemingly good or bad) I try to evaluate it carefully so I don’t miss a thing. And even then, I can never truly predict what kind of impact ir will have. Truth is, it is impossible to tell with certainty what will happen next, but I am certain that what happens today will affect our tomorrow. As I play with this idea my mind wanders back to Pisa. As odd as it sounds, everything connects.

   Piazza dei Miracoli in Pisa is a unique place to visit. There is a beautiful cathedral, along with a baptistry, a cemetery, and of course a bell tower, all built in Pisan-Romanesque style. The bell tower is know around the world as the “Leaning Tower of Pisa”, and many tourists (myself included) are oblivious to the fact that it’s part of this four-structure religious design. The tower is famous because it leans without completely crumbling to the ground, something that seems like an almost impossible architectural feat. However, the true challenge was making it straight. The foundation stones were laid in 1173, and soon after the third (out of the eight stories that it has) was finished, the builders began to notice that the weak foundation was causing the tower to fall on one side. As a result, the focus turned to making sure it didn’t fall all the way, and the next stories were made uneven (smaller on the short side) to compensate for the initial error. It is speculated that its architect was Bonanno Pisano, and as any serious architect, a mistake of this magnitude would not be something to be proud of. So initially, I can see how it would be negative to have a tower that leans. However, we can never tell how things are going to turn out, which is why the most amazing outcomes can emerge from negative experiences, and vice versa. The leaning tower made Pisa what it is today, a vigorous city that awaits tourists with open arms, and without it, Pisa would just be another forgotten small Italian town that only truly adventurous and curious tourists care to visit. Every action has a reaction, we just don’t know what it will be. The leaning tower of pisa would not be a tourist destination if it was not leaning, and it would not bring money into the city, and make it world famous. At the same time, the tower would not even be standing if it weren’t for all the interruptions that slowed down the building process such as war, debt, and the obvious engineering feat of attempting to put an end to its progressive descent. So ultimately, we are able to enjoy its beauty today thanks to a mistake of the past. Personally, this teaches me a vital lesson: patience. Only time can tell what’s next, and in the meantime, we should all learn to enjoy the ride, the view, and trust our individual journey.

Firenze as Text

Ceiling of Baptistery of San Giovanni

The renaissance was born in Florence, and the city will forever be its proud home. As such, there is evidence of the renaissance in almost every corner, with many statues featuring contrapposto, and an exquisite level of compositional, and humanistic complexity. However, walking through Florence one can see both the gothic and the renaissance era merge, and it is truly an enlightening experience to see the smooth and swift transition from medieval gothic to high renaissance art. The most shocking example, at least in my opinion, can be found in the Baptistery of San Giovanni. As one of Florence’s most important religious buildings, it is no surprise that it would be the home of some of the most important religious artwork of its time, and a melting pot of artistic movements. The interior of the baptistery is undeniably gothic in nature. The high ceiling is decorated with religious images, some of which include a fear-inspiring, unapologetically condescending God that’s looking down on you with judging, warning eyes, and the image of the devil himself, a three-headed monster ready to devour sinners in the afterlife. These two images are a trademark of the gothic era, a period when the church maintained power by feeding off people’s fear of eternal damnation. Contrasting this, the baptistery is also the original home of the “Doors of Paradise” by Ghiberti, which mark the beginning of the renaissance. The three doors of the baptistery were originally right there, and now there are replicas in their place. The first set of doors is from the 1330s by Andrea Pisano, and while a great work of art by themselves, they fall short relative to Ghiberti’s second and third sets which were finished in 1424 and 1452 respectively. It is a truly unique experience to see the artistic progression in time, and from one person to another. Ghiberti’s doors are far more complex than Andrea Pisano’s set, and this transition occurred in less than 100 years. What’s even more jaw dropping is Ghiberti’s evolution into a renaissance master when we compare the second and third sets of doors. In fact, I had a hard time believing they were made by the same person in the span of 50 years. The doors are so majestic that Michelangelo himself nicknamed them the “Doors of Paradise”, and there’s no doubt that the gilded panels of intricate miniature relieve sculptures deserve the praise. Therefore, the Baptistery of San Giovanni is without a doubt a melting pot of medieval gothic and renaissance art, highlighting the transition from one into the other, and featuring both the terrifying God in its interior, and the more humanistic God on the Doors of Paradise.

Cinque Terre as Text

Cinque Terre white wine

      Cinque Terre: Cinco Tierras, Five Lands, four culinary specialties, one heart. On a physical level, the five towns of Cinque Terre are connected by hiking trails and train tracks, making it immensely difficult to travel by car from one to the next. Each of them has something special to offer: Vernazza has amazing seafood since it’s a fishing town; Monterosso has the best beaches, etc. The one common thread is deeply rooted in the traditional gastronomy of the area. The four specialties include lemons, seafood, pesto, and of course white one. The latter is especially interesting in my opinion, not only because of its distinct flavor but because of the ingenuity involved in its cultivation.

Terraces in the mountains

During our class hike through the 4 trails that connect the towns we passed by built-in terraces in the mountains. First of all, I was amazed when I learned that people actually farm up in the mountains because of the difficulties that they encounter. For instance, they have less workers since less people are willing to work in such secluded areas, and harsh conditions. Also, they can’t exploit the help of farm animals because the surface is not flat.  Despite this, their best efforts work, and they are able to cultivate grapes for white wine. This kind of labor shows dedication, hard work, and love for the land, and that is something that the people in the five towns share. Making delicious white wine is a difficult task but if there is one thing I noticed in my visit to Cinque Terre is that they take pride in doing something difficult to create unique, local, high quality product. This in turn reflects their small town dynamics, and good heart.

Venezia as Text

“Haven”

After traveling through Italia for three weeks, going into Venezia felt like going from Rome into the Vatican, and stepping into a new country. Venezia can definitely stand on its own both structurally and culturally. Because of this, there were many instances when I couldn’t help but notice that in more ways than one, Venice is not only incredibly remarkable, but also incredibly similar to our hometown: Miami. Yes, their origins were different, and Venezia’s construction is something unmatched in the entire world, however, the idea behind Venezia and Miami is the same. They both provide an escape, a sort of cultural safe haven for persecuted migrants. Venezia was created for this sole purpose since the mainland was attacked by barbarians, and locals decided to push down pine trees into the water after realizing that they harden into rock-like structures that created the foundation from which Venezia emerged. The barbarians lacked knowledge of navigation, and ships, which made them unable to chase their victims all the way to this new city on water. As a result, Venezia became a safe ground, and they made sure to continue to be that in many ways. Home to the outcasts, Venezia has a great reputation for being accepting of foreign people and foreign ideals, thereby transforming into a cultural melting pot much like Miami is today. With the number of people that are being persecuted around the world for political or religious reasons, and their constant immigration into the United States, Miami has become one of the top destinations to build a new life in. This is due to our welcoming nature, so that immigrants never feel left out (or at least not as much as they would in other parts of the country), and feel more represented or at least accepted. The fact that Miamians are constantly exposed to all sorts of nationalities, ethnicities, cultures, races, sexual orientations, religious, and beliefs makes us fitted to receive newcomers with arms wide open, and integrate them as functioning members of our society. Oh, and did I mention both cities are next to the water?

Italia as Text 2019
Italia as Text
Miami as Text
Italy Study Abroad

Meily De Leon: Italia as Text 2019

Tivoli as Text

“Above Science” by Meily De Leon of FIU

History is the bridge that interlocks the past and present, while simultaneously molding the future. The Romans were and still are considered a civilization ahead of their era. Strong evidence of the forward thinking and innovative concepts that they contributed to modern day society can be found via ancient Roman ruins. In particular, Hadrian’s Villa built approximately between 117-136 CE, impressively portrays the emphasis on personal health from the perspective of a time where knowledge of medicine was not widespread. Moreover, a primitive understanding of the physical observable ailments that plagued Romans existed. In spite of this, divine beliefs of the gods did influence the understanding of inexplicable conditions. Usually the miasma theory was at work, which is now rejected and replaced with the concept of contagious disease not fumes alone. Doctors of the time used physically distinguishable characteristics to give any prognosis for a Roman, for example the level of fitness of a person, was an easily identifiable quality at first glance. Therefore, Hadrian’s villa contained a large spacious rectangular structure called a gymnasium. This allowed Romans to exercise not only physically, but culturally as well. Since, their social lives revolved around dominance shown through brute strength, as a result gymnasium became essential in aiding Romans in their pursuit of praise from the emperor. In this case, emperor Hadrian was not one to shy away from ostentatious displays of wealth and power by permitting others to enjoy the wealth of the latest technological advances in his home.

In Addition to the gymnasium, elaborately large baths with intricate designs and decorations were present immediately next to the gym. The bathhouse has several baths that were of different temperatures. It was believed that changes in temperature from hot to cold served to improve a person’s circulation and close the pores of the skin, which does hold true to this day. Also, the expansive 300 acres of Hadrian’s Villa contributed to the active lifestyle Romans held, hence the lagoon at the entrance of the villa served as the measured distance that an individual was recommended to walk daily after having a meal; about 2-3 times were suggested by doctors. Other structures on the premises, such as the fishing pond pictured above, demonstrated the intertwining of entertainment and personal health through social activities.

Thus, the fact that these deductions were made without solidified scientific approaches and that a majority of the world still abides by these principles of personal health, reinforces the concept of “Everyone is a Roman” and how Romans have paved the way for architecture that serves purposes beyond the primitive need for shelter and survival. �

Roma As Text

“indescribable” by Meily De Leon of FIU

The city of Rome is a culmination of history and culture experienced through architecture. Its people are welcoming and carry an atmosphere of familial unity.  To recap,  the start of my journey caused me to feel a sense of unease in combination with an anxious perspective which hindered me from assimilating the scope of the city’s wonders. Inhibited by clouded judgement, I was unable to appreciate the uniquenes that Rome offered initially. This began to change as I was exposed to the diverse history that the ancient city holds. The forum, a Roman treasure, was the epitome of classical Roman life. Standing at the center of all its glory immersed me in a different era, with every step I slowly outgrew the cautious nature that had consumed me. The forum was the birthplace of the Republic and of civic relations: politically, socially, and religiously. During the 500 year rise of the Roman empire, this location was the foundation for their society as a whole, portraying deeply rooted cultural values, beliefs, and traditions. These Roman traditons are still, to a lesser degree, exercised today across the world. For instance, the Vestal Virgins were a strong indication of misogyny that has contributed to the taboo topic of female virginity in various cultures, such as my cultual background. Carrying my hispanic culture with me to Rome has helped me envision how life was lived here, as I continue to draw parallels.

Ultimately, the idea of traveling not as a tourist, but rather embodying an italian civilian has fostered independence within me.  I’ve developed an independent nature that I would have never believed I could harness in the time span of a week. Personally, I did not come on this trip for a religious endeavor or spiritual awakening, but I have gained empowerment from the freedom to do as I please without the fear and pressure to conform to the standards of a certain culture.

Ancient Rome, like the modern United States, was a hub for diversity in terms of people and cultures. It was a harsh place, but ultimately accepting, and I have found that the city’s culture remains largely the same. After some trial and error, I have truly begun to feel at home, and I believe that when I leave Rome to see more of the country and perhaps the rest of the world I will more readily integrate myself and find the beauty in my surroundings. Once a victim of culture shock, but never again.

Pompeii as Text

“Despair” by Meily De Leon of FIU

The concept of the unknown is often an ominous thought. A state of unfamiliarity is accompanied by paralyzing fear; therefore, it is no surprise that the people of Pompeii did not all flee the city, out of an approximate population of 20,000 citizens 2,000 perished. In 79 A.D Mount Vesuvius erupted, and annihilated the Pompeian way of life, the remaining ruins symbolically tell the history of its people. The recounts of witnesses that managed to escape death conveyed despair and helplessness as the darkness of the ashes consumed the sky. The well-preserved bodies of adults, children, and pets, alike, were impactful and evoked melancholia, while reinforcing that above all nature is the determining factor for any civilization’s reign. The positions of the bodies frozen in time revealed the universality of human emotions in a regretful manner.  As a result, the eruption caused the city’s treasures to be buried with it until rediscovered about 1900 years later, consequently the uncovering of the city influenced the European world and mirrored modern-day way of life. For instance, the idea of fast food, private homes, and separation of street lanes were clearly emphasized around the city. The excavations are evidence of how ancient Roman ideals are interwoven in everyday routines and architectural layouts that have become social norms. The present is indubitably a reflection of the past, which is a strong indication that our roots all have an origin regardless of the location or the cultural heritage behind the peoples. Another important detail that should be highlighted in the Pompeian ruins

is the fresco paintings in the Villa of mysteries

that elucidate the cult-like hierarchy that existed depicting women as sexual symbols. The Dionysiac fresco, in my perspective, represented women of the time as critical of other women of lesser social ranking, whom were subject to punishment when not conforming to patriarchal standards. However, it could be viewed as a liberation of women in the sense that paintings of nude women, such as the Birth of Venus, commemorated the sexuality of women. Rather the deeper meaning seemed oppressive, as the women are pictured toiling away unclothed. The vague nature of the painting keeps the mysterious  aura of Pompeii alive, and reminds us that humans are all connected to each other through similar sentiments, tragedy is the most relatable emotion as proved by the end of the Pompeian civilization .

Florence as text

“Good Values?” by Meily De Leon

Florence marks the awakening of the renaissance. A city that has witnessed countless innovative minds audaciously leave their legacies and sign their names proudly. Amongst the greatest feats in science and art architecturally, there are many that deserve commemoration, such as The David, The Pitti Palace, The Bargello, The Birth of Venus, Basilica of Santa Croce, etc… However, having taken 140 years to complete construction, The Duomo asserts its dominance over Florence. Its integration of religion, physics, and art in one structure. The analytical thinking that was required to accomplish this present-day Dome without the use of wooden framework or support of any kind is an impressive notion; considering the time of its creation in the 1400s. Brunelleschi was driven by ambition and a sense of pride to out perform his rival Ghiberti rather than solely for the purpose of creating a magnificent structure for the cathedral underneath or merely the people of Florence. Human nature is the driving force behind greed for fame and recognition. The transition from other worldly beings without set identities in the Medieval Gothic era to the rightful possession and humanizing of artwork, plus religious icons, has caused a ripple in the value of such grand accomplishments. It is now widely accepted to proclaim works, whether religiously affiliated or not, but during the time it was highly controversial and  considered a vanity. Physical ties to the earth hindered a being from reaching self-actualization. Despite, the ingenious design of the oculus redistributing weight around and herring bone that shifts the weight between the ribs of the sides of the dome; the underlying motivation is not a passionate one, rather than coming from a secular mindset the strong sentiments stemmed from a selfish motive. Often, a majority of the architectural and artistic feats accomplished surface from similar sentiments of greed and ambition to outdo others. Perhaps, the movement from gothic to renaissance allowed the progression of society, while sacrificing humility and moral values. As Machiavelli states “ It is not titles that honor men, but men that honor titles” insinuating that self-proclamation is the successful manner in which to metaphorically rule, in this case achieve progress in society.  

Pisa as Text

“Beauty” by Meily De Leon

The white pillars arranged harmoniously within the simplistic concave insides of the baptistry radiate a positive aura, while the plain nature of the building’s interior provides a dash of elegance. The darker lines riding up the Roman columns elude to a higher ceiling. These characteristics embody the architectural style called Pisan Romanesque, unique to Pisa it originated around the 11th century. The same Baptistry that Galileo Galilei was baptized in, as a result submerges myself in history that has shaped lives and continues to. A standstill moment overtakes you when the guards of the Baptistry of Pisa, also known as the Pulpit, sing notes that amplify throughout the dome as the sound waves travel upward. The ingenious design by Nicola Pisano was a combination of the aesthetic elements and practicality of the alters placement. Pisan Romanesque is a combination of various eras with a lack of symmetry and logical order, for instance there is specifically only one stained glass window transformed into a sculpture, which represents their victory over pagan ideals, in the Roman era. Two entirely different concepts, yet both placed in the same building. The mysterious factor surrounding Pisan Romanesque is what truly makes it interesting because in a sense the disorganized nature of the style seems vaguely similar to modern art and its lack of an overall message. Furthermore, the vague nature of the baptistry leads into the unknown, or poorly understood insights that circulated throughout the time period. The modestly decorated baptistry allows for visitors and worshippers alike to focus on the religion at hand, rather than the political or social economic factors otherwise involved in Baroque structures. The Medici family guild was successful at utilizing mostly religion, to silence their skeptics by exercising power discreetly and selectively. The simplicity and confusing nature of Pisan Romanesque is captivating since it has no set direction and can be interpreted fairly based on personal interests, unlike having a set-in stone depiction of Christ. The ability to decide, given information, what the differing icons and architectural styles are attempting to portray to us is a priority, then fear is no longer the limiting factor.

Cinque Terre as Text

“Catharsis” by Meily De Leon

Expectations are sources of self-disappointment. The human mind is capable of withstanding pressure and stress induced mental strain to a certain extent. As a labyrinth of chaos, it is often rendered a nuisance when uncertainty about what lies ahead exists. Dread of the unknown. The satisfaction associated with accomplishing menial daily tasks is temporary gratification. The realization that our struggles impact us greater than our triumphs alone is a concept that fosters the resilience for discovery and knowledge. Considering that the pursuit of knowledge requires exposure to diverse cultures and   incorporation into real world experiences, it is no surprise that natural expeditions are undertaken; Hiking was a main method used for reflection of life in of itself during the Grand Tour. A primary aim of the endeavor was to promote cultural awareness and education through the art and history Italy has to offer. The hike through all five Terre’s was exhilarating, but it focused heavily on a survival perspective rather than self-insight. In addition, the trail was not solitary and did not create an ambiance conducive to reflecting upon the previous weeks’ sensory overloads. The idea of backpacking through Europe is similar to the Cinque Terre hike, however, the hike to Levanto was a challenge that simultaneously allowed for the assimilation of the forest’s stillness and beauty.

As I climbed the steep ledges and felt the gravel slide below the soles of my shoes, only heavy breaths remained and the sun rose overhead warming the goosebumps on my arms. The atmosphere heavy with scents of pine, flower, and crisp ocean air coerced an epiphany within me. In the 17th century, right about now a typical white wealthy male would have been hiking Monterosso, seemed like an impossible feat for women. Here I am, lucky to have had the privilege to experience this. On the contrary to the old norm, the experience contradicted greatly from the original Grand Tour demographic of the time, now a Hispanic woman has been able to participate on this journey to self-discovery. Strength is found within one’s mindset, and personal experience is either the limiting or promoting factor in an individual’s growth as a functional member of society.

Furthermore, the Grand Tour has served as a way to purge forms of repressed conflicting notions of the world by expanding both social and cultural horizons; which will ultimately serve as learned techniques and skills that will be pertinent across other countries. Cultural competency is  valuable and should be advocated for vehemently, especially amongst the five historically and culturally diverse villages of Cinque Terre.                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Venezia as Text

“Righteous Intentions” by Meily De Leon 

The simple Venetian lifestyle is far from the hectic tourism that bombards the city daily. Leaving a wake of trash behind. The anomaly of the city on water continues to draw visitors worldwide, despite the mustiness of seafood and foul odor of the high tides, it proceeds to be a popular destination. Although, it is no longer a basin for trading between the west and east, its historical significance lives on through its architecture. A city whose distance from land created a source of protection for its original colonizers, now serves a different purpose for its descendants of which thrive from tourist revenue. St. Mark’s Square is an architectural masterpiece that is representative of the communal Venetian lifestyle. The vastness of the present-day square, expanded in the year 1177, serves to convey the emphasis that was placed on Venice’s political dealings. It was utilized as an area of conference  As the most powerful City-state, the separation of Church and State was not a priority and morality was brushed aside in exchange for the political success of Venice. This unearths hypocrisy circulating the ideals of the church, the Catholic church was a strong political power for centuries using religious ideals as a form of justification rather than a guide. People who identified with differing gender identities and other religions were not persecuted, but not due to acceptance or tolerance on behalf of the Venetians; it was mainly associated with the need for power and wealth that consumed their society. Moreover, in that sense their obsession with political power can be viewed as a positive aspect. The progression of Venice’s power was not obstructed by moral values and the right of passage was allegedly granted to those aiding the economic strength of the City-state. Piazza San Marco illustrates those corrupted ideals, despite the fact that it has been repurposed for tourism and home to fearless pigeons. 

Italia as Text 2019
Italia as Text
Miami as Text
Italy Study Abroad

Gabriela Lastra: Italia as Text 2019

Tivoli as Text

The Pool of Lost Love

Gabriela Lastra of FIU at Tivoli

Tivoli was like a dream I couldn’t believe I was having. From the moment we arrived in Hadrian’s Villa, built a little under 2000 years ago in the hills overlooking Rome, I knew it would be something I’d not soon forget. The Roman Empire has long been known to have mixed and appropriated cultures and beliefs as its vast reach expanded. Hadrian’s Villa was a display of this Roman practice, with its acres of land featuring buildings inspired by the different parts of the Roman Empire Emperor Hadrian visited during his reign. The area of the Villa that stunned me the most by far was the large reflection pool inspired by the Nile. It is neither the most elaborate nor is it the most outstanding feature, but the story connected to the inspiration of the pool is one that is deeply striking, at least to me. Hadrian was a man in love, devastated by the loss of his lover Antinous. He loved him to such an extent that he had statues of him built, and no one thought twice on the fact that they were both men. Now, 2000 years later the world has regressed and yet Hadrian’s love for the beautiful Antinous is famous worldwide. For people who have been oppressed and told that their love is not morally acceptable, people who have died and been imprisoned for their love, the story of Antinous who was so loved that after he died Hadrian made him a god in spite of how it would be seen negatively by the other Romana is heartening. Seeing the Villa Adriana in person and learning of their tragic story more in depth was profoundly affecting and I could not help but cry. 

Roma as Text

eternal empire

Gabriela Lastra of FIU at Rome

Rome is a city of ancient Kings and abundant legends. The founding of Rome is said to have been around 753 B.C.E. by fierce Romulus, who was in turn raised by the she-wolf Lupa. Over the ancient stones of the Via Appia Antica have walked millions of people on their way into Rome and along its beautiful, scenic pasture lands the dead are buried deep under the earth. Rome is packed and overflowing with history, dazzling in its splendor and importance. Some of the greatest artists that ever lived were inspired by and shaped it into the Rome we see today. So many people flock from the world over to marvel at the wonders of Rome, to stand in awe of the Flavian Amphitheater’s colossal shadow and gawk at its architectural brilliance. It is incredible but what is even more incredible is how people come here and fail to realize the very real tragedies behind these marvels. How could they have built something so massive with the limited technology they had? Slaves. How could the Colosseum be finished so quickly, in only 10 years? Slaves. It is easy to be grand and impressive when your success is built on the exploitation and enslavement of others. It is easy to build massive temples and blood sport arenas when the people whose blood, sweat, and tears being spilled for it have no choice but to keep working at the will of their oppressors. The part that truly amazes me most is how when people do think on this they fail to consider that it is not a phenomenon exclusive to the ancient world. 2,000 years apart and rich important men continue building their success on the backs of exploited workers while everyone carries on and think themselves better than the cruel, arrogant Romans who once ruled the known world. The oppression is no longer as blatant or easy to spot in this world of media coverage and constant entertainment, but as long as we have ostentatious displays of wealth, we must also have those exploited to maintain it.

Pompeii as Text

Loss

Gabriela Lastra of FIU at Pompeii

Pompeii was shocking. It was coming face to face with something I have known most of my life but never truly understood. Walking through a city nearly frozen in time, seeing what remains of a once forgotten people was viscerally horrifying. Looking at the looming shadow of Mount Vesuvius in the distant skyline, it seems almost antithetic to me that something that looks so beautiful and harmless could be responsible for the death of 1,000 to 2,000 people. From that tragedy stem some of the most well-preserved remains of the Roman Empire. When Pompeii was buried under meters of volcanic ash in 79 A.D., it buried and preserved what was left standing of the city and the mosaics and frescos on the walls. To walk through Pompeii now is to walk through a living monument of the lives of all those who lived there so long ago. We see them as they truly were, from their fast food stands scattered around the city to their 30 brothels with their rather graphic image menus painted along the walls. Pompeii is unique and incredible. As you walk through you may even forget that although it is a remarkable archeological find, it is also a massive grave. People come from thousands of miles to gawk at the bodies of those who could not escape, preserved after 2,000 years in their final fear filled moments. As I look at a figured, curled up in terror, covering its face, I feel shivers crawl up my spine. A huge part of what draws people to Pompeii is not the fascinating history it illuminates, but morbid curiosity. They come to see the remains of the tragedy, to stand at the base of a volcano and feel that thrill of fear. People post smiling pictures and mock those who lived in Pompeii at the foot of an active volcano but all I feel now, after having seen it with my own eyes, is sadness and loss.

Siena as Text

Town out of Time

Gabriela Lastra of FIU at Siena

Siena is a 13th century town, stuck in time. It is by far one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, not only because the views from the top of the Torre del Mangia in Piazza del Campo were unbelievable. With its intense neighborhood rivalries, their seventeen distinct flags, and their twice annual brutal horse race between the neighborhoods, Siena is like something out of a Shakespearean play. After the decline of Siena in the 1300’s due to the outburst of the plague, Sienas spread and development was stopped. You can even see the Medici coat of arms displayed on the front of the palazzo. It was magical, spending the afternoon in this town out of it’s time with its medieval structures and customs, statues of the she-wolf and twins scattered around the city. The absolute best part is the fact that nearly everyone in the piazza was a local. Everyone in the town came out to sit in the square and enjoy the afternoon sun, little kids waving their flags and chased pigeons around. The traditions and history of the city are colorful and unique, with its pagan ancestry and symbolism. Sienna has claimed these symbols for themselves and incorporated them into all aspects of their society, so much so that statues and drawings of the she-wolf and twin sons of Remus, Senus and Aschius, are even in front and inside of their cathedral, etched into the floor. Truly, Siena is of all the places we have visited the easiest to imagine as it must have been during the Grand Tour all that time ago.

Firenze as Text

Revelation

Gabriela Lastra of FIU at Firenze

The David, the Venus, the Dome, the Primavera. Firenze is dense with incredible works of art. Some of histories greatest masterpieces are tucked away in the bustling streets of Firenze. No picture in the world could have prepared me for how incredible seeing all of those works would be. The week we were in Firenze I spent in a near perpetual state of Stendhal Syndrome. In a single week we saw works by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangiolo, Donatello, Botticelli, and more. It almost blows my mind just to think that I get to do what countless artists only dream they could, and before this trip I didn’t even like art very much. I will never be the same again. It is impossible to witness such greatness, the best of humanity, and ever be the same person you were at the outset. It has become obvious to me why young men did the grand tour to complete their education. It is impossible to describe the feeling that filled me when I stood in the presence of the David, who’s doubting marble stare felt almost alive. I can barely begin to comprehend that I stood in front of the Birth of Venus, a painting that embodies feminism and sexuality and which I have read about countless times. Standing at the top of Brunelleschi’s Duomo, a project which revolutionized architecture forever, I feel like a better version of myself, someone cultured and more observant of the sheer beauty we are always surrounded with but take for granted.

Cinque Terre as Text

Reflection

Gabriela Lastra of FIU at Cinque Terre

There is nowhere in the world like Cinque Terre, or nowhere I’ve ever seen. It is a world unto its own, with its mountainous coast and seemingly endless terraces, growing lemons and wine grapes. Every stop on the Grand Tour has seemed more breathtaking and wonderful than the last, each one feeling like stepping through time, years and years into the past. After all the incredible things we have witnessed on the tour, I finally understand why stopping to be surrounded by nature is important. It didn’t truly hit me how much we have seen and experienced until I took a moment to stop and enjoy the sunset over the Mediterranean. The person that I am today is not the same person who began this trip. I have changed and learned and pushed myself beyond my limits, and it has all been worth it to stand on the terrace of il Santuario di Soviore and think of all the incredible, once in a lifetime experiences I have lived. Cinque Terre is itself one of the most beautiful places I have seen, with its quaint little towns spaced out along the coast. From Monterosso to Riomaggiore, all of Cinque Terre is amazing. The locals have preserved Cinque Terre exactly as it was, keeping mega corporations out and refusing to develop the area. For this reason, Cinque Terre remains the beautiful retreat into nature that it has been for hundreds of years, allowing those on the Grand Tour the time to rest and reflect on all we have seen. 

Venice as Text

the sinking city

Gabriela Lastra of FIU at Venice

Grand Canal at sunrise from Ponte di Rialto. Photo by Maria Carla Robaina [CC BY 4.0]

As the sun peeks over the edges of the buildings and glitters on the murky waters of the Grand Canal, the city begins to rise. Along the edges of the canals, deliveries and cargo are being dropped off and the fish markets are already open, the choicest bits snatched up by the local restaurants before anyone has a chance to rise. The Rialto, the city’s most famous bridge, glows white in the morning light, for once empty of the thousands of tourists that flock the sinking city every day, outnumbering even the locals. Venice is a place like no other in the world, with its singing Gondoliers and its twisting maze of canals. It is beautiful in its eccentricity. At night and in the early morning the city empties of tourists and the locals sit along the water and in their little boats to picnic and enjoy a bottle of wine with their friends. Venice has long been central hub where hundreds of different cultures meet. In the Basilica di San Marco, the city’s most well-known landmark, people from an incredible number of places are depicted, even people who were not Catholic. Today, Venice continues to attract around 60,000 people from all sorts of places every single day though no longer for the trade of goods. In contrast to the diversity of people before contributing to the vast wealth and power of Venice, these new visitors are slowly sinking the city while contributing very little to the economy as most of them come on cruises where they eat before they get off and return to the ships before sunset. Venice takes the wear and tear of the thousands of visitors with none of the economic rewards while it slowly sinks back into the lagoon.

Kamila Etcheverry: Italia as Text 2019

Tivoli as Text

“Body and Venus” by Kamila Etcheverry of FIU at Tivoli, Italy

Walking through Hadrian’s Villa, you will have your attention caught by the statue of a headless, naked Venus. She stands bare, surrounded by columns, broken parts of her very own temple. It will call out to you for neither of those qualities, but rather for the shape of her body instead.

It will remind you of all the time you spent over analyzing every inch of your own,

and of the pressure you and other women your age may feel to be thin,

and how that same pressure landed one of your close friends in a treatment center,

and how for many years, thin felt exactly the same as beautiful, but now Venus was showing you otherwise.

There is confidence and sexuality through her nudity, yet modesty in the way she gracefully covers herself. She is feminine and sensual, her body voluptuous, raw, real. She does not wince at the sight of her own flesh. She does not carry the self-criticism the fuels our friends, our mothers, and our sisters. Her curves are desired and respected, admired enough to hold their own place in history, in the town of Tivoli, in the home of Hadrian, in museums, in books, and for the remainder of time.

I see her surrounded by her own temple in the home of a Roman emperor, with a body that our society may deem imperfect, and it makes me wonder why we ever hold so much self-hatred.

Roma as Text

“Look Up” by Kamila Etcheverry of FIU at Rome, Italy

In Rome, I look down frequently to make sure I’m not tripping over the pavement. If I do fall, my hands will meet the ancient cobblestone and I’ll see S.P.Q.R. inscribed in front of me; an acronym referring to the government of the ancient Roman republic. I’ll pick myself back up, brush the dirt off my knees, and look back up only to find myself in front of the largest amphitheater ever built, or one of the greatest pieces of architecture ever built, or the church that holds the tomb of St. Peter. I might take a walk through the Roman Forum, where I’ll be surrounded by ruins and the temple to one of the most influential leaders of all time, Julius Caesar. I might arrive at the Pantheon and be moved by the perfection of it all and the symmetry that took place way ahead of its time.

The history here is tangible, it’s the ground I walk on and the marble I touch and the sculptures I see. It is a reminder of the way things were and a challenge to the perception of my own purpose in time and history. Capuchin Friars tell me that what I am now, they used to be and what they are now, I will one day be. The skeletons feel like a call to action for a life not free of sin, but free of stagnancy and discontent. The ruins of the city feel like a warning to where things could go wrong and where they could go right. The Colosseum, full of witnesses hungry for entertainment and participants hungry for blood, feels like a reminder of how painfully human we are. That no matter how hard we try to stray away from our instincts, they will always prevail. That entertainment and violence have been two sides of the same coin since the beginning of time and that we are more a part of that past than we think.

I stood in the Colosseum once and imagined it full. I thought about what led me here and how much of a role I played in being there. Was it chance? Or was it meant to be this way, in this moment, long after the years of spectators and gladiators are over?

Pompeii as Text

“Routines to Ashes” by Kamila Etcheverry of FIU at Pompeii, Italy

Over time, routine has seeped its way into my life, making every day a mirror to the next. I used to hate the idea of conformity but now it feels as though the structure is a necessary part of how I function. I plan ahead, I worry about the future, I worry about the past, I feel out of control when things don’t go as intended. I wasn’t always this way though, and every now and then, I get a brief moment where I feel like the version of me that doesn’t care to plan for the future and just lives in the now. Those are the moments I try to hold onto the most.

I thought about this as I walked through Pompeii, an ancient city that was covered in volcanic ash in 79 AD after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Before the eruption, it was a city like any other, with its residents and its brothels and its street food. Pompeii had its children running through the streets and its pregnant mothers awaiting babies of their own. After the eruption, about 2,000 people had died and the ash covering their bodies remained. Archaeologists incorporated plaster in their excavation process and were able to preserve the shapes of those bodies. Today, the plaster casts of these individuals still remain, laying behind glass windows for visitors to see. Tour guides bring their groups around the city, stopping at the bodies and sharing facts about how many died or when or how many got away. By the end of the day, the bodies are reduced to numbers and we forget that each of them were once individuals like you and me, with likes, dislikes, favorite foods, and favorite things to do. They were someone’s mother or father, a sister, a brother, and a friend. In the blink of an eye, they lost their lives and with that, their routines suddenly lost their meaning.

It made me think of how much importance I place on my own routines and how the stress of my own impermanence can either push me to do more or leave me with almost paralyzing anxiety. In reality, I can’t predict the end to my own story. I don’t know when my Mount Vesuvius will erupt but until then, I want to make sure I was present for it all. I want to stop and accept the ebb and flow of things, the unpredictability of life. I want to know that anxiety about the future can still be there, but does not have to be all-consuming. Because if I’m anything like the victims in Pompeii, things can take you by surprise, and the only thing worse than that is knowing you took it for granted.

Pisa as Text

“A Shift in Objective” by Kamila Etcheverry of FIU at Pisa, Italy

Camposanto Monumentale is one of four historical edifices in the Piazza dei Miracoli in Pisa. The outer walls of the cemetery stand tall with several arches that go around the perimeter of the building. The entrances lead to the halls, whose walls consist of frescoes that date as far back as the 1300s. The frescoes vary in content but stay within the realm of religious imagery, such as depictions of the last judgement, hell, saints, the crucifixion, and stories from the Bible. While some of the paintings are in good condition, others are not, due to damage done during World War II, when remains of a bomb began a fire in Camposanto that could not be put out in time. During the event, the roof was severely damaged, as well as most of the sculptures and many paintings. Those that were restored or salvaged, however, are in their condition due to the efforts made by Deane Keller, who was an officer in the U.S. Army during the time that the fire began. His efforts towards the restoration and preservation of the art in Camposanto are single handedly the reason that the remaining paintings and sculptures still stand today, making Keller an extremely influential part of the site and earning himself a grave on the marble floors of the cemetery.

Generally, talk of war stirs emotions within me. Maybe it’s the nonsense of it all, or the chaos, or the tragedy, the politics pulling strings in the background, or the experiences I’ll never fully understand. Around this time a year ago, I was walking through a jungle whose soil is tainted with the blood of both Vietnamese and American soldiers. I only heard stories of heartbreak and pain and violence, stories of man turning on man and God turning on mankind.

This time, I heard a different kind of war story, one where preservation was the objective rather than loss, and found it inspiring to know that good can exist in a time of hell and no mercy. If you dig deep enough, through the rubble and the violence, the broken bones and the heartbroken mothers, you’ll find individuals who changed the course of history in war. Deane Keller is one of those individuals, changing not only history, but the perspective of people like myself, who struggle to look past the sheer violence that takes place during a war like WWII and shedding light on the beauty that ascends from the ashes.

Firenze as Text

“Over Two Years” by Kamila Etcheverry of FIU at Firenze, Italy

It took him over two years to create me.

Over two years of daily efforts, of chipping and chiseling away, of a slow inching towards completion. I was made with rock in hand, prepared, feet a bit too large for my body, and a slingshot draped over my shoulder. My stance exudes confidence, my physique oozes perfection, but no matter how different you and I may seem, my expression could not be more human.

I stand 17 feet tall and 11,000 pounds heavy at the end of a hall in the Galleria Dell’Accademia Di Firenze. To get to me, you have to walk past his uncompleted works, sculptures that you will almost completely ignore as you become entranced with the sheer size of me. When you reach me, you’ll see visitors sitting behind me, staring at the way the light bounces off the curve of my right hip, or you’ll see a young man who cries at the very sight of me, or a young lady who can’t seem to stop staring.

It took over two years to create me and I’ve been chipped at, flashed at, swung at, and cried at. Some visitors come to have photo shoots in front of me and others come to truly appreciate the work that was put into me. Between the two, I’ve noticed a difference in interpretation, or even a complete lack of interpretation. I am often portrayed as powerful and perfect, but to some, I am nothing but a window of opportunity. To them, I sometimes wish he had given me the opportunity to speak, for I would like to ask questions. Are you not entertained? Do you see yourself in me or did you forget to look up first?

Cinque Terre as Text

“Lessons from Self Doubt” by Kamila Etcheverry of FIU at Cinque Terre, Italy

The morning of the hike, I couldn’t get myself to eat enough at breakfast. My chest was tight, my lungs couldn’t take a deep breath, and the very familiar, yet always unsettling feeling of anxiety began to creep up on me. I had heard of how difficult the hike would be and my mind was racing with the possibilities of things that could go wrong. I tried calming myself down and began the first descent of the 18 mile hike, where with each downwards step I made, the anxiety began to dissipate bit by bit. It wasn’t until I reached the first village that the fear had been completely replaced by curiosity of the four towns that were about to come.

Cinque Terre’s, or “Five Lands”, five villages are Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. As you walk from village to village, up top, you run into vineyards and terraces, while down below, you pass by fishing boats and local seafood shops. The area is especially known for its wine, olives, seafood, pesto, and lemons. Being its own national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, thousands and thousands of people visit Cinque Terre, but not all embark on the hike that I went on. By the time I had started the trek between Corniglia and Manarola, my body had started to grow slightly tired. There were moments during that particular part of the hike that I began to struggle a bit, wondering if I would be able to get there safely or even get there at all, and yet continued to power on. Some uphills were mental tug-o-war’s where my body kept telling me to stop but my mind insisted to push on forward, and most downhills felt like a reward for not giving in. Every view of the towns, the lush green trees, or the colorful flowers became reinforcers for why I was on the hike to begin with and while I was able to witness pure beauty, it also allowed me to think of my life back home and gain a bit of perspective.

The anxiety that consumed me that early morning is the same voice inside my head that told me I wouldn’t be able to feel well enough to continue the hike. It’s the same voice that tells you you aren’t good enough or strong enough, but also the same voice that shuts up when you reach the top of the mountain. After every uphill struggle came a view that was infinitely more powerful than the doubts that had been brewing inside my mind just moments earlier. On the way up, you’d pass by vineyards and crops that I sometimes ignored because I was too busy focusing on how tired I felt or how careful I wanted to be.

Off the hiking trail, things often feel that way too. People rush to the top and miss the beauty around them because they’re too consumed by the necessity to feel comfortable or safe. People doubt themselves the whole way through, only to find that beauty was waiting for them not only after struggles but along the way as well. For years, I have known that nature can provide opportunities for growth, but this particular experience gave me much more than I expected to receive. It gave struggle a purpose and triumph a view unlike any else.

Venezia as Text


“No Mafia! Venezia E’ Sacra” by Kamila Etcheverry of FIU at Venice, Italy

Colorful buildings, music through the streets, and the remarkable beauty of St. Mark’s Square. The experience of Venice is almost magical, an Italian fairy-tale come to life. Tourists are enjoying their stay, drinking wine and taking gondola rides at the golden hour, but above them, on a little residency by the canal, hangs a banner that reads, “NO MAFIA! VENEZIA E’ SACRA.” The fairy-tale comes to a screeching halt.

In the 60s and 70s, several important members of the Sicilian Mafia were spread out through certain parts of Italy to be placed in solitary confinement. The idea behind this was that if members were far away from each other, it would slow down or completely cut off their interactions and then decrease the amount of organized crime as a result. What they didn’t anticipate, however, was that often times, no matter where these men went, new members would come about. In Venice, already-existing criminals and hopeful mafiosos reached out to these Sicilian mafia members and eventually organized a mafia of their own, becoming known as the Mala del Brenta. Although government officials have managed to crack down on them over time, men of the former mob bosses have simply created new and more discrete versions of Mala del Brenta and are said to still be involved in drug trafficking and robberies today. Big operations can be traced back as recent as 2008 and just this year, in January, a member was arrested for the trafficking of heroin and cocaine.

In Rome, after a night out in Trastevere, an old man told me that if the Mafia is anywhere, it is in Venice. He later added that it isn’t something Italians ever really talk about. When I saw the banner, I was instantly reminded of him and of the hush-hush mentality he seemed to have about it. A big part of me found it unfortunate that it was something the people of Italy were still dealing with, even if it is no longer of the same severity as it once was. But another part of me, as I walked on the Rialto Bridge under a sunny sky and over moving gondolas, thought it was one of the most Italian things I had seen all month.

Danielle Rodriguez: Grand Tour 2019

Roma- Campo De Fiori

The beautiful Campo De Fiori or in other words “field of flowers” is an area that many people do not take advantage of. The Campo has never been architecturally formalized but it’s main focus is for commercial and street culture. According to my research it says that Campo Di Fiori is probably the oldest market of Rome. Since 1869 every morning except on Sunday’s the square is full of rows of fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry and fresh fish. They even have alcohol, jewelry and clothes. This is a main tourist attraction for people to visit but many people do not know the gory part of this little plaza. Campo Di Fiori is also known for its punishments and executions. There is a big statue in the middle of the market made by Ettore Ferrari that many people do not notice. This statue is right in the middle of the market and it is for a philosopher by the name of Giordano Bruno. He was burnt alive in the exact spot of his statue because of heresy by the church because he had many different ideas about the universe. The statue is shown with his face in the direction of Vatican City . A lot of people think this is a coincident but Campo Dei Fiori is the only historic square in Rome without a church. Although this area is known for its market during the day, at night it becomes a meeting point for all kinds of people and it is very inclusive towards everyone. It welcomes tourists, students and even young people to socialize, have dinner, go to cinemas and even cafes. I really admire the main focus of this place to be about the freedom of speech and ideas of Giordano Bruno. It shows his bravery and his loyalty to his mission.

Roma- Panethon

The pantheon is the greatest building ever built according to architects. As a student visiting this beautiful building was breath taking. The combination with rectangle and then dome behind it is invented in this building. It was originally a Roman temple and now it is a church. This makes it the best preserved building because it was turned into a church. It was completed by Hadrian. The building has many columns made of granite which were from Egypt. This was made as a temple for all Gods. A few examples are Jupiter, Apollo, Agustus, and Julius Cesar. It was made so it included everyone and no one was left out. The word pantheon in Greek literally means “Honor all Gods.” The open hole at the top is called an oculus. This was made so that everything is offered to God. It is 150 feet from the floor to the oculus and it’s also 150 feet in diameter. The fact that the floor was made of marble and so was the roof it makes this the only building that had that. The floor of the Pantheon is not flat. It all leads toward the middle so that when it rains, the water all drains to the middle and leaves. An artist by the name of Rafael asked if he could be buried in the Pantheon and his request was assured. He was buried under a beautiful painting of Mary with baby Jesus. I can honestly say this is one of the most beautiful and emotional buildings I have ever walked into in my life. What stuck to me was its inclusivity. I was also lucky enough to get the chance to attend mass there and that is when I finally got the stendhal syndrome. The choir was singing in multiple languages and the priest was as well. The beauty of people coming from all over the world to gather together and to respond to the mass in their own languages was something I cannot even describe. I got the chills. Right after communion, it started to rain and that’s when it hit me like, “Am I actually here right now?”

Roma- Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona is a beautiful square in Rome. It was built in the 1st century AD and it follows the open square like a stadium. It is built on the former Stadium of Domitian. The ancient Romans came to this square to watch the games. This area is known for its highly significant example of Baroque Roman architecture. In the center of the plaza stands the famous Four Rivers Fountain done by Bernini. This is the most famous fountain in Rome. Many people think it is the Trevi but to be exact the Trevi is just more monumental. The way Bernini made the sculptures on the fountains, it shows the difficulty it took to make their complicated poses and the way their bodies turn around is a great achievement, it shows the more humanistic aspect of people. Berninis rival did the church across the street from the fountain. The four statues on this fountain represent the four rivers where Christianity had spread; the Nile, Danube, the Ganges and Rio de la Plata. The Nile is presented by the lion and the palm tree which represent the African continent. The Danube is shown symbolizing Europe by a figure with this heir tied back, turned looking at a horse with a large fish under him. The Ganges which is the cradle of very old civilizations is personified with a bearded figure, holding an oar with an elephant under him. And the Rio de La Plata with his hand up is a symbol of submission because the American continent was recently colonized. It looks as if he is blinded by the light from the obelisk. This represents the supremacy of Christianity over the four parts of the world. In the middle there is an obelisk which had been found in the Appian Way which was part of the Circus of Maxentius. This square is surrounded by street performers, restaurants and terraces that attract many locals and tourists. A fun fact is in the summer the Romans would turn off the drainage system so that it would cause a flood so that they can all cool down.

Florence- Piazza Della Signoria

Piazza Della Signoria is an L shaped plaza in Florence, Italy. This is the main point of origin and history of the Florentine republic and it still maintains its reputation as the political focus of the city. It overlooks the old palace. This is known as the Florence City Hall, a museum and one of the most visited monuments of the Renaissance. It is an area well known to meet for tourists and locals. The plaza has the prominent Palazzo Vecchio overlooking the square. It is the scene of the great triumphs such as the return of the Medici in 1530 as well as the bonfire of the Vanities instigated by Savonarola which then was burned at the stake in 1498 because he was denounced by the inquisition as a heretic. There is an inscription on the floor of the exact spot of his death. The Piazza has many sculptures all around which all have different meanings. The David which was made by Michelangelo used to be in this location but is now moved to a museum. It was placed as a symbol of the Republics defiance of the tyrannical Medici. Then to the right of the David there is a sculpture of Hercules and Cacus which is meant to show the power of the Medici family after their return from exile. In this plaza there is also the Uffizi Gallery. This is Italy’s top art museum because of the great artworks done by Botticeli, Leonardo di Vinci, Raphael, Carvaggio, and Artemisia. There is no way someone can visit Florence and not go to this museum. A fun fact is that Boticelli is known to have burned a few of his paintings at one of the bonfires. The attempt of Savonarola to end the power of the Medicis obviously failed. What I admire about this specific location is all the politics involved and how Savonarola stuck to his truth until his very last breath.

Cinque Terre- Monterroso al Mare

Cinque Terre is translated into the Five Lands. The beautiful villages are in the Italian Rivera. Monterroso al Mare is the biggest out of the five towns and also the oldest. It is separated into two different parts the old and the new village. Monterroso is the biggest beach and because of this it has the most tourists visiting each year. Monterroso has a church that is called St. John the Baptist which was built in the XII-XIV centuries and it is built in the old part of Monterroso. Back then Monterroso was guarded very well. There were thirteen towers and as of today there are only three left. The Aurora tower being one of them. A famous sculpture that is very known in the new part of Monterroso is the Neptune or The Giant. This sculpture is shown with Neptune carrying a giant shell. The statue is so big it weighs about 1700 tons. This sculpture was ruined in World War II and by a big storm in 1966. Many tourists stay in Monterroso because it is the easiest to connect to the other towns. Monterroso is also unique because it has the best beach by far and has an extensive shoreline. The town of Monterroso is different from the others because it is the most developed and has the most modern luxuries but it has the least amount of history. I felt very fortunate to have stayed in el Santuario Nostra Signora di Soviore because it is the oldest sanctuary in Liguria. This sanctuary is on top of a mountain and is very secluded. It has a church that has a wooden Pieta inside of it. This sculpture attracts many pilgrims because it is said that there have been many miracles. In this church there is also glass covering the old wall that is open to the public. There are overnight stays in this sanctuary that many people that are doing the hike stay at. All of the five towns that I visited were breathtaking and I really enjoyed its beauty and culture. There was something truly special about Monterroso and how welcoming the people were. It really was needed to have this time off to reflect and think about how fortunate I was to have had this opportunity.

Venice- San Marco West

San Marco is an extremely beautiful and famous area in Venice. It’s most famous spot is the Piazza San Marco. It is so striking that Napoleon once referred to it as the ‘Drawing Room of Europe.’ The Doge’s palace and the two great columns are also there. Around 828 relics of St. Mark were stolen from Alexandria and brought to Venice. They then took St. Mark as their patron saint. At first the relics were in the Doge’s palace, Justinian Partecipacius, who wanted a new church to be built. Then all of the relics were moved over to the Basilica which was based on the Church of the Twelve Apostles in Constantinople. Then, in 976 the church was set on fire because there was a rebellion against the Doge. The roof and the wooden dome were lost but the church was not completely destroyed. It has been renovated now to the closest they can get to how it used to be. This area also includes the bridge of sighs that connects the Interrogation rooms of the Doge’s palace with the new prison. This bridge is in the baroque style. It is the only covered and completely closed bridge in all of Venice. It was the last feeling of freedom that these prisoners would have before entering their cells. St. Marks square is a beautiful area that attracts people from all over the world. It has restaurants which are in multilingual menus for the international crowds and that play live music and stops to take a gondola. The columns of St. Marks square are St. Theodore’s column which carries the original patron saint. Whereas Marks column carries the statue of the lion looking toward the sea. What many people love too, are the surrounding streets that are filled with casual snack bars, very high end fashion boutiques and many places are selling glass art and souvenirs. The most amazing thing about Venice is that there are no cars and you can just enjoy the atmosphere without being distracted from all the noise from the engines.

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