Diversity is Humanity
by Samual Pawlowski @sfinessin of @fiuinstagram in Italy!
As an American, I have a pretty limited view of the world from the seclusion of North America. I think of America as place of vast diversity; I was taught in school that America was the “melting pot” of cultures and nationalities. The instillation of this idea into my mind limited how I viewed other countries. My notion of limited diversity in other countries was contrasted sharply when I arrived in Italy.
When I stepped out of Termini train station in Rome, I immediately picked up on Rome’s diversity. I could pick out people from Africa, India, Asian, and Russia;yet, I struggled to decipher who was Italian. Not being able to decipher who was Italian inspired the basis for my project: Diversity in Italy. I never thought of other countries as “melting pots”.
The explosion of race and nationality taking place before my eyes and ears shocked me. As of late, Italy has raised questions over the acceptance of African migrants. The case of accepting immigrants in Italy parallels America’s struggle to accept migrants at the country’s Southern-border.
I find race, nationality, culture, and sexuality to be unique aspects of a humans identity. The way humans choose to perceive them determines the structure of society. I think race, nationality, culture, and sexuality are things to accepted among all people. They are essential to the human experience.
The basis of my project serves as exploration and celebration of culture in Italy! For each city, we visited as a class, I tried to identify elements of different races, nationalities, cultures, and sexualities taking place before me. Whether the peeple be travellers, refugees, or natives, I examined the fabric of the communities in relation to the city sections I was assigned to explore. Each place had elements of diversity in the history and people present. The collection of communities I explored represent people from all walks of life, predating the notion that the United States is the world’s melting pot. Migration is part of the human fabric and maintenance of diversity is important in a ever-evolving society.
Navona – Campo De Fiori – Pantheon
Rome is inescapable. All roads lead back to Rome. Not all roads in Rome lead out. Being inescapable is the essence of Rome in every context. The twist and turns of winding streets create a maze with wonders lying at every intersection. As traffic clogs plague streets, alleys, and metros, open plazzas provide a place of refuge for many.
As I walked down Via dei Balestrari, rain poured over head, and the walls of a narrow street seemed to converge more with every step. I felt suffocated by street, pedestrian traffic, and the clouds in the sky. Suddenly, what I thought was a converging street opened up into a large plaza, Campo De Fiori. Campo De Fiori was a breath of fresh air when compared to cramped streets that pump people in and out.
Campo De Fiori sits at stark contrast to the Roman streets that surround it. Inside, the plaza is calm and serene. The campo is release from the tight grips of surrounding streets. A market takes place near the center selling everything imaginable: food, clothing, home goods, etc. From some stands and buildings hang flags representing Italy, the EU, and nations from all over the world. It’s a reminder that Rome is the first international melting pot. While the United States may be a blend of people from all over the world, Rome personifies first an international culture. Through the inclusion of many lands surrounding the Mediterranean, Rome became and remains a cultural hub.
Aside from the market, Campo De Fiori hides a cultural gem. At the center of the market stands a monument for Giordano Bruno. Giordano Bruno is a famous advocate for the freedom of speech. He refused to recindicate ideas conflicting with Catholic ideology and was burned alive. The monument which stands for an important human-right is lost in the center. Stall owners desecrate the statue by placing trash and crates against the bottom of the monument. As an American, I knew before visiting Italy I had the right to freedom of speech. However, I had no idea who cemented this idea. Upon visiting Campo De Fiori, I gained utter appreciation for the risk Bruno took as he gave up his life for an ideology I often take for granted.
Not far from Campo Di Fiori, down long winding alleys, rests Piazza Navona. Again, I felt great relief as I stepped out of the twisted Roman streets. My eyes gazed first on the elongated, elliptical nature of the plaza. My instincts lead me to hypothesize I was standing on an ancient race track. My instincts were right! Long before Piazza Navona existed, the sight served as the Stadium of Domitian. I closed my eyes and before me raced chariots at speeds so high a rush of wind made me lose balance. As I entered back into reality, I journeyed closer to the main attraction of Piazza Navona.
The main attraction of Piazza Navona is the Fountain of Four Rivers. The masterpiece is a freestanding sculpture completed by none other than Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Bernini sculpted in such a way that the marble rivers flow with great gusto. Amid the flow of the rivers rest four river gods at each corner. Each river god helps identify which rivers Bernini was portraying: the Nile, the Ganges, the Danube, and the Río de la Plata. The use of those rivers in fountain generates a historical picture of the time at which Bernini was alive. During Bernini’s time, each of those rivers were within the reign of Catholic Church, based in Rome. The Catholic Church still stretches this far today!
Piazza della Signoria
Dreary streets, brown building bricks
A fine mist pressing my skin like fine finger tips
An open piazza with only footsteps
At night, we sit underneath the moonlight
Years before, humanity rested too in the open air
Not an auto in motion, only travellers causing commotion
The David stands at one end questioning his feat
Facial muscles twist to concern
The Piazza has witnessed many crimes, even a man burn
The time of rebirth parallels a time of fraud
No longer did nobles rule, for the Medicis use finances as fuel
Bribes and favors consumed masses
The Medici Machine put Firenze at the center
Allowing artists to recognize humanities splendor
The Piazza Del Signoria is one of the of the main arteries of Firenze. The blood of Father Time has flowed thick and steady through the Piazza. For years, the greatest artist traversed across the Piazza on their way to create art and architecture that would transcend many generations to come. The innovations and inventions of the Renaissance would not be possible without the financial support of the Medici family. The Medici were a wealthy banking family who used affluence to gain power within institutions. The Medici would then use their ties to prop up artists and architects.. The Piazza Del Signore stands as a testament to the magnitude of Firenze’s impact on the world.
One of the main attractions of the Piazza was the statue of David by Michelangelo. Sadly, due to weathering and a flying bench, the David was moved to a museum. I closed my eyes before the copy of the David in the piazza and imagined if it were the real thing. Before me, the David wears a look of fear, as veins rise out of his nude flesh as anxiety creates a rush of blood throughout his body. He seems overwhelmed yet determined to defeat Goliath. Michelangelo’s vision perfectly ties into Renaissance connection to humanity. The David’s emotions are raw enough to be felt as if his stone were flesh and soul.
The David is a sculpture that unites the world. Millions of people travel to Florence to witness what many people consider one of the greatest works of the Renaissance. The David bears a look on his face that all can relate too. The David stands fearful yet the naked body stands ready for battle. The fact that the David is naked speaks volumes; the Medici family supported art that was sexually liberated. The humanistic art of the Renaissance can be felt today because humans have always been tied to emotion.
Across from the elegant David, arise sculptures on a risen platform that comment on the human sexual condition. The risen platform is named the Loggia dei Lanzi and houses many sculptures that speak on important social issues concerning sexuality. The two most prominent sculptures speak on the darkness of sexuality: The Rape of the Sabine Woman, and The Rape of Polyxena. Each of these pieces captures the drama of men entangled over a woman. They spiral upwards towards God; yet, the people in the sculptures seem to be reaching for something so far away. A quest for pleasure has been a theme of humanity. The two pieces show how humans resort to heinous-crimes as a quick high rather than a delight that lasts.
As a person that has struggled finding their sexuality, being able to see the works of the Renaissance has generated a sense of confidence inside myself. Roma taught me that diversity in race is something to be cherished. Firenze taught me that diversity in sexuality is important. In America and the Catholic Church, two parts of my identity, being heterosexual seems to be the only option. The history of America and Catholic Church neglect the fact that not all humans experience the same sexual desires. The imagery of sexual-liberation in Firenze proved to that who I am has been apart of history. Whether I be homosexual, heterosexual, asexual, etc., diversity in sexuality is something that should never be swept under the rug.
Monterosso al Mare
Below the mountain peaks, around narrow bends of winding roads, Monterosso al Mare rises out of the Mediterranean Sea. As part of Cinque Terre, Monterosso shares a commitment to heritage of the land with the four other villages. Cinque Terre is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Sight; under this designation, the five villages are protected from further development that would desecrate the land scape.
Monterosso al Mare is the most developed of five villages. Monterosso is divided into two sections: old and new. Even if Monterosso is protected by UNESCO, boutique hotels and construction line New Monterosso, detracting away from the natural landscape. Part of Monterosso’s identity is born out of the urban development that has happened.
Tourists from all over the world land on the beaches of Monterosso. The tapestry sellers originate from India. The taxi-drivers cruise through the mountains as if they were in their native Dominican Republic. Countless steps have been taken by the French who hike the trails as sport. Most importantly, the people of Monterosso contribute their precious white wine, fresh lemons, and perfected pesto. For a place that is highly secluded, a cultural love-affair remains.
What I enjoyed most about Monterosso is the mix of elements that were present. The people came from all over. The landscape had a diversified terrain: land, sea, cliffs, valleys, open skies, forests. The terrain reflects the different foods that are present throughout the region. Monterosso is a place of inclusion and seclusion. Monterosso allows people to escape the world yet have a vibrant unique experience.
The orange buildings sway back and forth as if they are being pushed into place by the waves crashing below. Far below the roof tops, I roam the streets of San Marco West. Far away from the glory of St.Mark’s Square and the Doges Palace, I try to find the wonders hidden in the world around me. Dark alleys dead end into sweeping streams. Clothing hanging from windows clutters the cloudless sky.In the midst of mystery, San Marco West emulates the diverse beauty of Venice.
San Marco West contains many galleries, boutiques, and palazzos, showing Venice’s history as a financial capital. Immediately as one steps over the Rio de San Moise, the elite boutiques of the world show themselves off. While many of the stores are European (Gucci, Burberry, Armani, Dolce and Gabbana), diversity is showcased in the designs that they are on display in store windows. One of the blouse designs at Armani distinctly stuck out to me. The blouse followed the nature of Venice; a sharp blouse tailored in an Islamic manor, lacking a collar. The piece borrows from the East in the same way Venice does. Further down, the store-lined road evolves into what feels like a never ending neighborhood.
Around a corner, Palazzo Grassi looks down on me. I had no idea what this structure was, however, the grand nature of the building showed its history. After reading signage, I learned Palazzo Grassi was once the palace of Cosimo I’s grandson. Cosimo I was one the ruler of Florence and is of Medici blood. The affluent nature of the building lives on today. My interest with the structure grew with each look and I mustered the courage to spark a conversation with an employee. I learned the Palazzo Grassi is an art gallery now, showing the private collection of Francois Pinault, the CEO of Kering Group. I was starstruck to have learned this as Pinault is a name I have revered in the business world of fashion. I grew a personal connection to the Palazzo Grassi. The Palazzo Grassi is a symbol of Venice’s affluence.
The city of Venice revealed to me another one of it’s unique gems as entered into one of the campos. I immediately was drawn to the Chiesa di Santa Maria del Giglio. The churches exterior had a unique texture about it. The exterior mixed the ornate elements of Baroque with a style that I can only call Venetian. I tried to not be too overwhelmed by the dramatic nature of the facade. After a closer look, I noticed that there was no Christian imagery contained in the exterior. The lack of crosses and icons on the exterior made me wonder why the church was constructed in this manner. I thought about how the exterior could appeal to people from all over, while the interior would be left for Christians. The Chiesa di Santa Maria del Giglio fits perfectly within the context of Venice’s offerings too many cultures.