“baptized by fire” by Samual Pawlowski @sfinessin of @fiuinstagram at Roma
As any journey starts, one plans and plans again to diminish any chance of error. I started my experience of Rome as helpless as Remus and Romulus when set in the Tiber River. My misfortune struck when my phone service did not work. For a brief moment, I was consumed in the chaos that is Termini. Signals blared. Unfamiliar faces passed. The tides of stress pulled back as waves of calm crashed as I found my way. The blessings of technology can be overlooked until they are gone. Thankfully I found Wi-Fi and was on my way. I survived.
In Rome, I am lost. Lost in the thrill of it all. The breathtaking monuments leave bystanders awestruck. The ability of the monuments to render bystanders speechless can be compared to Medusa’s ability to strike a man into stone. It’s inescapable.
The Palatine Hills encapsulate the way one lived 2000 years ago. The Palatine Hills include the Emperor’s Palace, The Forum, and many temples. At the base of The Palatine Hills sits the Colosseum, a juxtaposing design. While emperors reigned high from The Palatine Hills; slaves turned into gladiators fought for their lives below. The sight serves as an example of the how perfectly-conflicted Rome continues on.
Aside from the palace on top of The Palatine Hills, the buildings of the Forum decorate the landscape. One of the most important structures is where the Senate met; modern republics can trace their roots back to a single structure built close to 2000 years ago. One must not forget the reality of these grand structures. All structures built in Rome have a dark tie to slave labor. Slaves built structures that were larger than life by hand. The use of slave labor to give rise to magnificent structures further exemplifies how Rome is perfectly-conflicted.
While exploring the Palatine Hills and other parts of Rome, I began to enjoy my sojourn. My stay opened me to beauty of Rome. The beauty of Rome is one where old meets modern, state meets church, opulent meets ragged. The conflict consumes one. One can simply glance over Rome for its conflicts; yet observant eyes will get lost in the mystery of Rome: how such a perfectly-conflicted land exists!
I would soon face another hiccup. While riding bikes in the Roman countryside, I would become separated from the group. My chain popped off. Luckily, a classmate helped me remedy the issue; but not before a vast distance would grow between the group and us. We were lost. I was lost. In order to reach the group, we biked uphill on ancient-Roman cobblestone roads. As cars whizzed by us and the road grew to be far to even for my thin tires, a stress overtook me. I felt my shoulders tense and a sweat drip from furrowed brow. The group seemed so far off. As I cycled my burning legs around the pedals, I began to reflect how I was growing from the doom being endured. It was not my easiest experience of Rome; it was my most trans-formative experience of Rome. If I could endure what felt like Hell, who/what is going to stop me! This experience revealed to me that Rome is a place where on is baptized in fire. A cleansing that can only occur by experiencing the tension of the city of Rome. A type of non-traditional cleansing happens here; the land continues to reveal its perfectly-conflicted
“the ideal state is illusive” by Samual “S” Pawlowski @sfinessin of @fiuinstagram at Tivoli
Abreast a mountain
Past a Quarry
Lies the town
Closest to Jupiters fury
Tivoli remains the resort town located outside of Rome. My first sights landed upon Hadrian’s Villa. Built around the second century, Hadrian’s Villa sits nestled at the foothills of Tivoli. What was once a sign of the opulent lifestyle of Emperor Hadrian, now exists as a sight of architectural splendor. In the last triumph of the Roman Empire, Hadrian built an expansive villa to capture the beauty of the entire empire. The design included elements found east to west, north to south within the empire. Hadrian tried to appease his citizens with a design that would appeal to all. The remains of the Villa emulate the brilliance of Hadrian’s planning.
Further up the hill, Tivoli looks down on Rome, a city plagued by panhandlers, emergency signals, and foot traffic. A tranquility only to be found in Tivoli emerges.
While visiting Villa d’Este, the harmony of nature sang to my ears, from the echoing of a gentle harmony of birds to the flowing water of fountains. The gardens embody tranquility. A sense of peace is felt throughout the gardens. The marvelous streams of fountains fall back to earth; yet, seamlessly continue their flow as they are reflected across pools surrounding the fountain.
Tucked further away in the beauty of Tivoli lies the Parco Villa Georgiana. The park’s name is less important when compared to the views of the Temple of Vesta that can be captured from within. The Temple of Vesta serves as the main attraction, rising high above the valleys and gorges below. However, if one gets lost further in the beauty of Tivoli, the Temple Vesta easily loses eyes, as eyes are pulled towards gushing waterfalls that fall from Tivoli. These waterfalls carve out an abyss called the Valley of Hell, an accurate name for the sight, as Tivoli soars high above in the heavens.
My experience of Italy thus far is one where you get lost. Lost from a lack of direction. Lost from a lack of words to describe the majestic perfections that are within. Lost from a sense of understanding of how such a perfectly conflicted land exists within the context of the modern manufactured presets of life.
“frozen by fire” by Samual Pawlowski @sfinessin of @fiuinstagram at Pompeii
After death do our lives continue, cease, or are we stuck in limbo between the two? This question is central to my exploration of Pompeii. My ideas of Pompeii did not align with what my eyes perceived at the city gate. The haunting nature of Pompeii is one that cannot by realized through reading a text.
Upon steps into Pompeii’s forum, I entered a world frozen by the heat and fiery forces of a volcano. Volcanic ash delicately dressed relics. What tourist perceive as spectacular ruins were once ordinary living quarters of common folk.
Pompeii had approximately 20,000 citizens. While 18,000 escaped the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, 2,000 lives were trapped in time. On August 24, 79 A.D. Mt. Vesuvius erupted. Their lives cemented to the earth by the volcanic ash that fell overhead. Their bodies excavated by the durable hands of archaeologists
Pompeii is the most intact Italian ruin. While the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius remains a tragedy, the volcano left Pompeii almost entirely intact. Frescoes still line walls. The menu of a brothel explicitly demonstrates the sexual freedom of Pompeii. The plaster bodies of individuals capture that Pompeii could still be alive. While these people may be dead, the emotions on their faces and positions of their bodies are very much alive. The story of Pompeii continues to live on through relics that are frozen in time.
Pompeii is in limbo between death and life. As swells of tourists journey down mundane streets, Mt. Vesuvius continues to cast an eerie shadow over Pompeii. To some, Pompeii is a archaeologists dream. To me, Pompeii is a sacred ground: a graveyard that is very much alive. The remains of those captured in ash show the humanity of Pompeii. The humanity encapsulated is key to the sacred spirit of Pompeii that is very much alive!
“Firenze” by Sam Pawlowski @sfinessin of @fiuinstagram at Firenze
Firenze. Quiet. Suttle.
Far away from Roma city bustle.
People move cars
Cars do not move people
The only thing heard are human conversations
Emergency signals no longer cause a sensation or hesitation
Yet the comfort of Firenze drives my skepticism
For not to long ago, the Medici’s carved a schism
Something was irritating me. As I got off the train in Firenze, dark skies loomed over head. A cool spring breeze drove a drizzle over my head. As my steps splished and splashed, my view was trapped. The skyline was framed between the buildings lining winding streets. The streets tossed and turned buildings at their whim. Standing tall above it all is Santa Maria del Fiore. The church would be overlooked if not for its iconic dome and baptistery. The two structures represent the magnificence of the Renaissance, spanning from the 14-17th centuries. The dome is better known as Brunelleschi’s Dome, for Filippo Brunelleschi transformed architecture with it.
Brunelleschi’s Dome is one of the many marvels of the Renaissance. The dome is known for its superior design allowing for a width and height that had never been seen before. The dome stretches 114.5m high. The height is impressive; yet, the manner in which Brunelleschi crafted the dome proves even more impressive. Brunelleschi neglected to use any scaffolding in the project. Instead, he invented tools allowing him to create a rib like structure for the dome. Brunelleschi implemented a herringbone pattern for the brick roof, allowing for weight to be distributed evenly throughout. Today, Brunelleschi’s Dome sits at the center of Firenze, telling the tales of city.
While Brunelleschi designed the dome, the Medici family funded the dome. The Medici family “reigned” in Firenze for the entire Renaissance. They found ways, ethical and unethical, to make the Renaissance possible. One of the most important artists the Medici’s supported was Michelangelo. Michelangelo is responsible for many outstanding Renaissance works.
In Firenze, Michelangelo’s most important creation is the David. The David tells the story of the biblical tale of the triumphant victory of David over Goliath. Michelangelo interrupted the story in his own manner. Michelangelo crafted a young man and not the boy that was in the story. The statue appears human. Veins run throughout the hands and feet. David’s face emotes an expression of hesitation before he battles Goliath. The expression comments on how humans feel before they tackle any challenge. The David by Michelangelo perfectly embodies the high Renaissance and the brilliance of every artist during the time.
“Pisa Evolving” by Sam Pawlowski @sfinessin of @fiuinstagram at Pisa
From the train station, I would have never known I was in Pisa. Opposite the famed Leaning Tower, I started my journey across the town. We journeyed back in time towards the landmark. Around me I saw large modern structures showing the resurgence of the city.
Our first stop was at a large mural by Keith Haring. The mural sent an overpowering message about peace. Displayed across the enormous side of a building were vibrant shades of pink, blue, green, and yellow filling the outlines of people dancing. The mural fit perfectly with the modern neighborhood.
On the other side of Pisa lies the Pisa Cathedral, which demonstrates the historic side of the city. Aside the unique tale of the Leaning Tower, the Cathedral of Pisa offers great historic value. Black and white stripes cover the outside, as do columns and stained-glass windows. On the inside, one can observe a ceiling bearing the Medici crest, archways reminiscent of ancient Rome, an ornate pulpit with details sculpted down to a millimeter, and the lamp presumably observed by Galileo as he was analyzing the rate of oscillation. The conflicting styles of the exterior and interior converge to create an architectural style unique to Pisa: Pisan-Romanesque. Pisan-Romanesque simply mixes the elements of many different styles with elements only found in Pisa to create an architectural approach that celebrates the history of Pisa.
Next to the Pisa Cathedral, the Campo Santo rests quietly in the shadows. Often, Campo Santo is missed by tourists as the are wholly consumed by the Leaning Tower. Campo Santo is a cemetery containing great frescoes. Campo Santo is unique because large frescoes dating from the 14-17th centuries, cover the walls. The fresco of the Last Judgement demonstrates the beliefs of Catholics at the time. Serpents, goblins, despicably tormented creatures haul bodies to Hell. Christ seemingly condemns people as wicked demons drag them away. The painting shows how Catholics feared condemnation by God at the time. Nothing mattered more to them than being saved by God.
Pisa has a lot to offer that few know about. Most people only visit the Leaning Tower. Im grateful for my journey across the city. I had the opportunity to witness the city wholly. I saw how Pisans actually lived in contrast to the tourist-trap area surrounding the Leaning Tower. Pisa is beautiful for the history of the city is on full display from the ancient times to the modern present.
“The Beauty of Seclusion” by Samual Pawlowski @sfinessin of @fiuinstagram at Cinque Terre
Mountains jut out of the Mediterranean Sea. The villages of Cinque Terre are carefully nestled among the cliffs and ravines. Evidence of a naturalistic lifestyle is seen in the ships of local fishermen and farming terraces that mingle with the unkempt forests. Brightly colored buildings decorate the landscape like ornaments on a Christmas tree. The villages of Cinque Terre stand resilient against the landscape.
The most spectacular part of Cinque Terre is the UNESCO hiking trail. The trail connects all five villages in the region and allows visitors to have unique journey as they visit every village. Leaves and rocks cover the forest floor as travelers make their journey between town. The UNESCO trail allows travelers to reconnect with nature. I find the trail to be very unique; aside from connecting all five towns, travelers who journey along the trail come from all over the world. The trail unites people with every rise and fall. Yet, the villages of Cinque Terre remain resilient to foreign influences.
Cinque Terre has existed since Roman Times. Corniglia is the eldest of the five villages. Corniglia is unique because it is the only town to sit above sea-level. It rises high above the treacherous waves that crest below. The splendor of Corniglia expands when one visits the Corniglia Harbour. The cliffs of Corniglia tuck away a marina hidden at the bottom. The marina is one of the many hidden gems of Cinque Terre as it offers a place of seclusion, perfect for reflection.
While Corniglia, the other villages have been plagued by natural disasters. Mudslides have ravaged parts of Vernazza, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Luckily, these communities have survived the natural atrocities. Cinque Terre is resilient to change.
The communities continue a tradition of seclusion from the outside world. Monterosso is the only community to be greatly affected by urbanization. In Monterosso, construction equipment line the main street as passengers and vehicles whiz by. A sense of calm can still be felt in Monterosso. Life does move at a much slower pace when compared to cities such as Rome or Miami. Cinque Terre offers a much needed revitalization to its visitors!
“Surving in the Sea” by Samual Pawlowski @sfinessin of @fiuinstagram at Venezia
What is Venice? A place of refuge? A place of indulgence? A cross roads? Venice is a place like no other. As I took my first steps across the carefully laid bricks, my skepticism grew about why Venice came to exist. My first thought was one of practicality: how does a civilization survive at sea? Many more thoughts drifted like the tides of the lagoon. While my skepticism remains, the beauty of Venice has been revealed before my eyes.
Venice was born out of survival. Survival is a basic human instinct. We constantly fight for our lives: at school, at jobs, on the front lines of battle. Each has a varying degree of importance. All still aid in humans ability to survive. For the people who become the Venetians, they were fleeing from barbarians. After being ransacked again and again, Venetians decided to take a stand and flee to a place know had survived before: the sea. Venetians built the city on multiple layers of supplies. The first layer was wood pilings; followed by layers of sand and istrian stone; lastly, the foundations of buildings was laid. Once complete, Venice grew to be a forced to be reckoned with.
Venice is the only place in the world to be on the sea. Out of the sea, one of the most spectacular places rises. Many years after escaping barbarians, Venetians became masters of there terrain and a bridge between the East and the West. Venetians adapted quickly to their lifestyle; at one point, warships could be produced with the time span of a day. Their ingenious skills even allowed them to raid Constantinople without question. Through raids and trade, Venetians would sail back home with horse-statues from Roman times, pigments and spices from India, and even St. Mark’s body. Venice’s ties between East and West allowed itself the freedom of expression. It became of a place of cultural freedom, which is evident in the merge of architectural styles: Islamic, Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque. Venice generates its identity from the mix. Venetians have made unique elements from throughout the Mediterranean their own. While other cities struggle to find a global identity, Venice crests brilliantly out of the Mediterranean Sea!