Nicole Pena: Grand Tour Redux 2019

At the top of Piazza del Popolo. CC by 4.0.

Rome, Italy’s capitol city, brings in over nine million tourists annually, and is filled to the brim with history and culture. This rich history follows you throughout each alleyway and around every corner stands a ruin, waiting to share its story.

Spending two weeks in this city and being immersed amongst the people greatly improved our ability to visualize the day-to-day life of ancient Rome. A sense of cultural diversity was also palpable, and seemed to be valued highly. Upon arriving here one can be exposed to many different ethnicities that are working in or visiting Rome. This diversity was not just noticed in Rome, however, but in several of the other cities we’d visited, and was often attributed to the success and wellbeing of the city. 

The area of Tridente in Rome consists of a diverse array of popular attractions. Within Tridente, the Piazza del Popolo (also known as the people’s square) is one of the most visited piazzas’ in Rome. Our very first moments of study abroad included this piazza for it was once main entrance into the Roman empire. It also happened to be a great starting point to our Grand Tour Redux. There are 3 main roads that lead up to this piazza and to the obelisk in the center. If you fall on one of those roads, you can look down the narrow way and find the obelisk. 

A slow leisurely walk down the middle street called Via del Corso is often done from the piazza. This famous path is called the Passeggiata. It is where people walk up and down the closed street in an act of showing off pride and confidence. It was said that a family would take their beautiful daughter down this street and watch as all the men look at her in awe. As our class was doing the Passeggiata, we saw various many other tourists doing the same. There were men walking confidently with their business suits, and girls dressed up showing off their beauty. It was evident that people from all over the city and even the world come to part take in this act of Passeggiata. 

At the Spanish Steps. CC by 4.0.

The Passeggiata led us towards the next piazza in Tridente, the Piazza del Spagna, in which translates to the Spanish Plaza. This Piazza is another well-known and highly-visited square in Rome, which also consists of the Spanish Steps. The locals say that sitting on the Spanish steps would help you find your true love, a reputation that has attracted tourists worldwide. With the many times that I went to the Spanish Steps, I rarely ever saw it empty. Another famous landmark that attracts tourists is the Spanish Embassy that lays on top of the Spanish steps. This creates a cultural mix between Italy and Spain within the city of Rome. 

As I walked through this piazza, I couldn’t help but notice the mixture of different cultures that come into daily contact. Historically, this place was intended for Indian vendors, American tourists, Italian locals, and Spanish inquirers to fixate on one meeting place. This square also consists of the work of the father, Pietro Bernini, and the son, Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Pietro Bernini, and his son who helped, created this fountain called Fontana della Barcaccia, meaning “Fountain of The Ugly Boat,” to bring the legacy of the Bernini family and the story of the River Tiber to the square (“Fontana Della Barcaccia”). All these elements together within the square help to express the constant integration of different families, countries, and cultures.

The Il Victoriano. CC by 4.0.

The Piazza Venezia which carries a great deal of significance in Roman history. Unlike the other piazza, the Piazza Venezia includes the hustle and bustle of automobile traffic with a huge roundabout in the middle with the ending of the Il Victoriano. It is geographically shown as the center of Rome and can be easily connected to the theme that all roads lead to Rome. As we passed this building called Il Victoriano, I quickly appreciated the grandness and elegance of it. The appearance of the Il Victoriano was intended to attract visitors to appreciating the first king of Italy, King Victor Emmanuel II (Ermengem). Whether it be because you are walking for the history lesson or driving by cause it’s on the way to your destination, the location of this dedication simply brought people together.

In the Piazza della Repubblica. CC by 4.0.

The city of Florence definitely strived for difference and power. The Medici family was significant in making Florence the cultural capitol that it is today. Although wealthy, the Medici’s had to work for their noble status. They learned to trade and navigate politics to position themselves into a place of power. They were extremely influential during the Renaissance era, especially when it came to artwork. They brought highly-valued artwork to the city, which can be seen in the Uffizi Museum, with much of it shedding light to a feministic view, a perspective that wasn’t often seen during that period as women were often ignored. Even today, the Medici’s are lauded for their influence which helped shift attitudes towards women, as seen with the paintings of Venus within the Museum.

Although I felt very empowered as a woman while I looked at all the artwork, I noticed that attitudes of the modern men of Florence. Perhaps it is because Florence is so widely visited, but it seemed men were all too enthusiastic to objectify women. Of the cities we’d visited, I felt Florence was the least safe for women, particularly at night. It was an unfortunate attribute of an otherwise beautiful, empowering experience.

Before Florence had been established, the Piazza della Repubblica played a significant role in its relationship to ancient Rome. Today, with its carousel, stores, and small restaurants, it attracts many student tourists, such as myself. The first thing I noticed was the column that stands inside of the square. The column is called the “Column of Abundance” and is placed exactly where the Roman Forum used to be held. As this spot was once a place where people with different values came to express them, the feelings of diversity and unity flushed through me and back into the piazza. It was originally the center of the city and was filled with markets and was constantly crowded. However, the area became a ghetto when Cosimo the first came into power. It was said that during this time there was a bell attached to the column, which was used to warn others when something bad was coming. Today, however, there is no threat, and the carousel and other attractions gathers people much in the way the Forum used to during the Roman era. The Piazza della Repubblica continues to stand as one of the most famous squares in Florence for its history and beauty. 

In Cinque Terre: a Town called Vernazza. CC by 4.0.

Cinque Terre is located on a coast of the Italian Rivera and is filled with beauty and nature. It truly made it to the top of the list of my favorite cities in the world. It’s calmness and relaxing vibe were exactly what I needed during this trip. Since Cinque Terre is protected as a UNESCO heritage site, its natural remained mostly unchanged since Roman times. The UNESCO hike that many tourists come to Cinque Terre for, is the real hike that donkeys and Roman men used to walk through in the Roman era. This disheveled hike is what brought the diversity to the very infamous coast that consists of the five towns. As we walked and struggled through the trails, we would stop and talk to other hikers from around the world. From Russia to the Americas, there was a constant flow of new cultures that hit the coast. Cinque Terre brought a type of uniqueness to Italy that really is secluded to the world and connects well the land and the sea. Many of my family members who love to travel have never even heard of Cinque Terre and now it’s on their To-Do list!

Cinque Terre’s Signature Seafood in a Cone. CC by 4.0.

The second town we saw on the UNESCO hike was called Vernazza. I quickly grew a strong connection to this town due to its proximity to the water. Vernazza is known for their fishermans. The first thing I saw once we got there was the small dock with colorful boats bumping along side of each other. There were rocks at the very end of the dock that seemed to call the attention of mine and my colleagues. Sitting on those rocks, we stared out onto the dock and into the small town. Time would pass by, yet the dock never stopped being filled with tourists. The views and sounds of the water really drew them in. This town is also known for their easy access to the sea in which retrieves fresh seafood. The next thing I did was get fried seafood in a cone. It was exceptionally good. It was fresh and fried so how could it go wrong. This concept of fresh foods and accessibility to the sea was intriguing to all. While eating the cone in front of the food spot, there was a small hole looking out to a beach in between two buildings. Unfortunately, it was closed due to the mudslides, but it allowed me to analyze Vernazza within all that chaos. This town had the diversity of attracting both the calm and the crowd.

In Venice, Italy: a district called Cannaregio. CC by 4.0.

Venice was a whole new world compared to the other cities that we had seen on the trip. The concept of using the Venetian lagoon for transportation instead of cars is genius. It brought an aspect of how important water can be for a city. Small islands were used to build this city away from the mainland for protection. Little did they know, the formation of this city allowed for trade to flourish and allowed for connection of the east and the west by doing so. Trading is ultimately what brought diversity into the city. This hotspot thrives on tourists as tourist population outnumbers that of the residents. It continues to grow as a must-see city while they use attractions such as gondola rides and St. Mark’s square to grow its popularity.

Cannaregio is the largest of the seven districts within the city of Venice. This part of the city allows for a connection with the mainland as it consists of the train station. Essentially there are two parts to this district: one that is known for their shopping and popularity and the other is known as the more ethnic side. The main street for shopping such as the Strada Nova is what aids in connecting the train station towards the Rialto Bridge. This street blends various cultures such as English stores, German food stops, and American restaurants. While the other ethnic part, the oldest Ghetto used to take place there. Still today the Jewish ethnicity was left behind with a few synagogues and other buildings (“Cannareggio”). This district connects well with Miami as it shows how diverse they are and acceptable it has become into their society.

TO CONCLUDE…

This Italy study abroad dives into Italian history, culture, and art, and allows us to learn how to relate it to modern Italian life. As a class, we immersed ourselves into the culture through various eras, such as the Renaissance to Gothic. Each of these different styles really brought up a new interpretation of the world and its beauty. We, much like Italy, have gone through a lot of changes. Even though Italy has been around longer than the Americas, it does share the concept of cultural diversity and how it is entangled into its own culture. And whether we like it or not, tourism is really influential in Miami and is a huge reason of the diverse cultures we see today. 

Works cited
- “Cannareggio Venice Italy | Cannareggio District Venice | Cannareggio History.” Cannareggio Venice Italy | Cannareggio District Venice | Cannareggio History, InsideCom S.r.l., 27 Jan. 2016, www.venetoinside.com/discover-veneto/venice-art-cities/venice/areas/cannaregio/.
- Ermengem, Kristiaan Van. “Piazza Venezia, Rome.” A View On Cities, www.aviewoncities.com/rome/piazzavenezia.htm.
- “Fontana Della Barcaccia.” Rome Sightseeing, www.romesightseeing.net/fontana-della-barcaccia/.

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