“Ruins, Beauty, and Water” by Marco A. Linares at Tivoli, Italy. 13 May 2019.
Tivoli has proven to be one of Italy’s most amazing places. Unlike in hectic Rome, the people are calm and proud, the air is clean, and serenity fills every void – after experiencing it, there is no doubt why Hadrian chose Tivoli as the perfect escape from Rome.
In his villa, Hadrian showed me that pleasure and knowledge can (and should) go together. His lavish baths, his towering libraries, and his expansive grounds make him akin to a deity, but at the same time, his temple idolizing his deceased lover and the idea of closing himself off to the world – in essence being antisocial – to study and learn humanize him. Hadrian’s villa makes you feel like you can understand one of the greatest emperors that ever lived, making you wonder whether your perception of any great leader is correct or simply biased by their status.
Afterwards, Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este perplexed me with his lavish villa and made me rethink water and its function. I realized that it is not simply a necessary fluid – as I naively believed – but also something that can be harnessed and turned into art that calls you and makes you wonder if it is the most beautiful thing in the word. If I had been one of the cardinals being brought out there and showed those dramatic views, d’Este would have gained my vote and would have become Pope – there is a reason I am not a cardinal.
Lastly, the hike down into the valley of hell tests one physically and mentally. 100 meters down surrounded by nothing but pristine nature and cascading water. The absolute beauty numbs your senses and even a while after returning to civilization everything does not live up to the natural beauty of this valley. If that is what the descent into hell looks like I would not mind going there after all.
Tivoli is a must see place for all those seeking to truly understand Italy. Off the beaten path, it allows one to realize that though all roads lead to Rome, there is a lot of beauty to see on the way.
“Unanswered Questions” by Marco A. Linares of FIU at Pompeii, Italy. 15 May 2019.
Pompeii was a lively Roman town, bustling with trade due to its proximity to the sea. In 79 BCE it was covered and abandoned as a result of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and forgotten for nearly 1500 years. Once the King of Naples decided to begin excavating it, it proved to be the best preserved Roman town ever discovered, shaping our idea of how Roman life was like no other.
Technology and advancements in techniques have made exploring Pompeii easier and more efficient. We are able to reconstruct buildings, create renderings, and scan the ground before breaking into it. Every once in a while, news break out about another section of Pompeii being excavated and new information being unearthed. Every discovery allows experts to zero in on what life was really like, but despite every new discovery some questions shall remain unanswered for eternity.
Who were these people? What were their names? What did they like? What were their dreams? What was their favorite food? They were homo sapiens – that we know – but what made them human? That we will never know.
Pompeii is an incredibly important archeological find, but it is also a town of thousands of humans who were never able to live life fully and were ultimately forgotten by society, so forgotten that now archeologists are forced to rename everything in the town using nothing more than what they find near it.
Pompeii is a draining experience, one that leaves you with more questions than answers. Casts of the dead are everywhere, waiting to be cataloged and displayed. Some are merely shaped like humans, others have gruesome facial expressions and body language that show how much pain they endured in their final moments, making one wonder, who were you? How can I remember you?
“Are they different after all?” by Marco A. Linares of FIU at Rome, Italy. 15 May 2019.
Melting pot of civilization – that is the most apt description of Rome.
Ancient Romans romanticized about the Greeks. Their art and knowledge was something that astonished Romans and led to them to claim being Greek descendants. Furthermore, as they idolized them so, Romans appropriated their culture in an attempt to be more like the ideal society that was Greece. Romans took heir columns, their gods, and their civic structures. All borrowed and adapted to fit their needs.
Romans were also amazing politicians and masters at public relations. No matter what, Romans always managed to bring the conquered under the Roman banner in the most unique ways, eventually leading to the pax Romana, something unheard of since then. Was religion a dividing issue? Bring your own gods and worship them in your temple. Was Roman citizenship an issue? Come become a citizen. Feel like you are too far from Rome? Come to the capital free of the constraints of an immigration policy. No matter the problem, the Romans had a practical solution. But Rome eventually fell, and its position as the hegemon of antiquity was filled by the church.Christianity added to the melting pot of culture that is Rome, creating an incredibly unique mix of devotion, power, and unrivaled leadership. It must be noted how much the church took from Rome in matters of practices as well as structure. Everywhere in Rome one can find the holy see adorning facades of churches and a variety of other buildings. Much like the Romans, the church took over old temples and repurposed them as catholic churches (often destroying the temple and building atop it), the church took Roman basilicas and replaced the judge’s seat with the cross – implying that the judge was now God, it even took some pagan structures and statues and preserved them by bringing them into the catholic fold – though a large number were destroyed. For a while, and for some to this day, the catholic church has been the most powerful institution on the world, commanding armies, waging war, and certainly enjoying the spoils.
In recent times the church has moved away from its aggressive practices and history, but the question remains, is the Papacy that different from the Emperors of ancient Rome?Christianity added to the melting pot of culture that is Rome, creating an incredibly unique mix of devotion, power, and unrivaled leadership. It must be noted how much the church took from Rome in matters of practices as well as structure. Everywhere in Rome one can find the holy see adorning facades of churches and a variety of other buildings. Much like the Romans, the church took over old temples and repurposed them as catholic churches (often destroying the temple and building atop it), the church took Roman basilicas and replaced the judge’s seat with the cross – implying that the judge was now God, it even took some pagan structures and statues and preserved them by bringing them into the catholic fold – though a large number were destroyed. For a while, and for some to this day, the catholic church has been the most powerful institution on the world, commanding armies, waging war, and certainly enjoying the spoils.In recent times the church has moved away from its aggressive practices and history, but the question remains, is the Papacy that different from the Emperors of ancient Rome?
“Realization” by Marco A. Linares of FIU Honors College at Firenze, Italy. 27 May 2019.
Inactively active. Inanimately animate. Inhumanely human. Michelangelo’s David is all this and much more, inviting reflection and eventual realization of social truths.
David’s story is the epitome of humanity. Upon hearing the insults his people are subject to, he first wonders about the rewards to be had for defeating this insulting giant; then he bravely volunteers to fight him, despite having never fought before. David masks his actions under religious zealotry, but this act is driven by nothing more than pride and greed.
Life is an insurmountable and endless obstacle course – a gauntlet no human has ever survived. David, like all of us, confidently faces it unarmed, inexperienced, and alone – all under the promise of a better life with fewer obstacles in the future, regardless of the danger it poses.
Michelangelo embodies us all as we go through life like nobody else in his famous David. Somehow the solid marble captures how we jump at the opportunity for betterment, disregard all threats, and proudly step into the field naked and unarmed. What is even more impressive is that it also manages to capture how, on sight of the challenge ahead of us, at least for a second, we are afraid and hesitant; for a bit we realize that our future may not be as we expected it, and we doubt ourselves and every decision we made up to that point.
This duality is perfectly captured by Michelangelo and his chisel. When looked from his front, David is brave and ready to face the challenge that lies ahead without any regard for the consequences. However, when looked from his left, as he sees what he is about to face, the doubt and hesitation becomes prominent in his perched eyebrows and worried gaze.
Michelangelo’s colossal David may have been made out of a block of marble, but it is a perfect reflection of humanity and maybe even of the author himself when he took on this project. Intentionally or not, Michelangelo’s David comments on society at an incredibly intricate level. Lastly, I think Vasari put it best when he stated when referring to the David that “whoever has seen this work need not trouble to see any other work executed in sculpture, either in our own or in other times.”
“A city made for people, not cars.” By Marco A. Linares of FIU Honors College at Siena, Italy. 27 May 2019.
Long winding roads, open plazas scattered at random, and people – people everywhere, walking on the streets, naturally, in their city.
Siena was the first European city to ban cars from its historic center – a bold step to take – but definitely one in the right direction. Cars pollute with their exhausts, lowering the life expectancy of all those who inhabit the city. Emissions from cars also damage artwork and structures, wearing away at them and gradually reducing our cultural heritage. Cars are also the worst enemies of architecture because the vibrations they produce can permanently damage and sometimes destroy unique and essential buildings in learning about our history. By banning cars from its historic centers, the Sienese became the first to avoid all of these negative effects of cars in an extremely progressive way. Aside from this all, Siena’s regulation allows the people full access to the streets and plazas. This is essential for a society to become interconnected and properly coexist. People walk and stop to greet one another or to walk into a shop, they sit in groups in plazas for lunch, and people seem substantially happier.
Across the ocean, however, there is the land of the free and the home of the brave. So free that they are entirely dependent on cars to go about their daily lives. So free that when they want to enter a store or greet a friend they must first find parking and then walk to their destination. So free that they cannot go to work if their car breaks down. Streets are expanded and constructed constantly in America, but never considering the pedestrian, only the automobiles. Money is poured into infrastructure to accommodate more cars and further drive a wedge between people.
One is a city made for people, the other for cars. One fosters human connections, the other servers them before they can be created. One allows true freedoms, the other one restricts them.
The land of the free and the home of the brave has quite a bit to learn from Siena, lodged far from large cities, this cozy hill town knows what it needs to do to keep society functioning. Hopefully the United States looks to Siena as a model to follow before irreparably changing the way that its society operates.
“Refuge” by Marco A. Linares of FIU Honors College at Cinque Terre, Italy. 29 May 2019.
How can one describe the Cinque Terre? Some will simply say they are a tourist destination. Others will say that they are the most picturesque places in all of Italy. Others will say they are small, quaint, and colorful villages in the Italian hillside that have resisted the forces of capitalism and remained as original as possible. Though these are not entirely wrong, I disagree with these definitions because they fail to include the essence of the Cinque Terre.
Hidden amidst mountains, these villages could easily be missed if not for their colorfully painted buildings. Fishermen once were and can still be seen as the backbone of these societies as every city has a port and a myriad of fishing boats anchored there. Aside from this, one can see how resistant these towns have been to global capitalism, not a single McDonald’s or any other giant chain store is present in any town. Their terraces allow them to be as self-sustainable as possible, allowing for small, family owned businesses to thrive. The people are so proud of their originality that they made it a UNESCO world heritage site so that the towns would remain the same way for generations to come.
Knowing these facts surely makes one more aware of the history and importance of the Cinque Terre, but it is not until one truly experiences and immerses into them that the essence becomes revealed.
Compared to Roma, Firenze, Venezia, Siena, Pisa, or Assisi, the Cinque Terre are distinct. It is difficult to put into words how a sense of serenity is accompanied by the utter beauty of the landscapes and overwhelms its visitors, offering a refuge from the world. Laying on its cliffside beaches, trekking through its trails, or simply sitting in one of its cafes feels surreal – almost like one has left everything one knows behind. There is nothing in the Cinque Terre that reminds one of the troubles of life – quiet and peace fill this refuge. Out of all the places in the world, this one must be one of the most peaceful ones in existence. The Cinque Terre allow and almost prompt reflection; no person can experience them without leaving a changed person.
“Per Venezia, qualsiasi cosa” by Marco A. Linares of the FIU Honors College at Venezia, Italy. 8 June 2019.
Venezia is an astonishing city. It is the embodiment of human willpower and determination. After countless barbarian raids, a group of us were fed up and made the bold move to erect a city in the middle of a lagoon. From the sea this city rose atop istrian pine and stone – growing beyond the wildest imagination of any man. Slowly we grew to be masters of the sea and became the only bridge between East and West – the bridge through which all trade must pass. Venezia became the birthplace of modern day capitalism.
I am a Venetian and as such I will lay my life down for Venezia if I need to. What does it need? A body so it can cash in on the pilgrimage of thousands of Christians? I shall steal the body of St. Mark from under the noses of Muslims and bring it back. Does it need priceless pieces of art so that it can grow in opulence and display its power? I shall attack our allies and pillage their city, and I shall bring back countless pieces of art and treasures unbeknownst to man. Does it need to maintain the monopoly over glass blowing? We shall build a town to contain our master glass blowers and keep them there with their secrets. Does it need sailors to fill its merchant ships? I shall go and enlist hundreds of drunkards at the local pubs and make sure they are manning the boats by dawn. Per Venezia, qualsiasi cosa!