Madeline Pestana: Grand Tour Redux 2019

Grand Tour Redux 2019: an examination of traditions, human connections, Religious influences, and prejudice in religion.

Tridente, Rome, Italy

Religious Influence

Photo by Madeline Pestana of FIU

Tridente is a popular sector of Rome that was designed to have its 3 main roads, Via di Ripetta, Via del Corso, and Via del Babuino, converge at Porta del Popolo in the shape of a trident. The Porta del Popolo marked the entrance into the city of Rome in the 1400s. The name comes from Santa Maria del Popolo who was known for her involvements in assisting the sick during the plague in 1231 [11]. The 3 converging roads were built in order for pedestrians to walk down either road, maintaining a view of the Egyptian obelisk of Sety I in the center of the Piazza del Popolo – this created a clear sense of direction. In addition to serving as an aid in locating the city wall, the 3 roads created accessible routes to the main basilicas. A pedestrian walking away from the Piazza del Popolo on Via di Ripetta will eventually reach Ponte Sant’Angelo and St. Peter’s Basilica. With the same idea, the pedestrian will eventually reach Piazza Venezia and St. John Lateran taking Via del Corso and leads the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore by taking Via del Babuino [12]. The significance of the 3 roads, converging to one point is in conjunction with Christianity. In a city whose beliefs are strongly rooted in Christianity, I was not surprised to find traces of Christianity within its urban designs. The Holy Trinity is the core of Christianity, which includes the Holy Spirit, God the Father, and God the Son. The 3 entities converging into 1 being, just like the 3 roads converge to 1 main point, Santa Maria del Popolo Catholic Church. Each point in the Holy Trinity represent divinity and the 3 roads each lead to infrastructures designed to reach up towards the divine powers of Christianity. Rome is a city whose peoples beliefs are so strongly influenced by religion that even their urban designs of Tridente give tribute to their God.


Piazza Della Repubblica, Florence, Italy

Tradition

Piazza Della Repubblica was a forum during the Roman Times. This Piazza functioned as an old city market until the Middle Ages, when Cosimo I designating the area to Jews, therefore naming it the Jewish Quarter. In the area surrounding the plaza lived prominent families such as Medici, Brunelleschi, and Castiglioni. In the late 1800s, this area was destroyed and rebuilt to add prestige to the area as Florence became the new Capital of the Kingdom of Italy. In the early 1900s, this area became a meeting place for locals and foreigners to interact and share crafts [4]. In present day Florence, this area is still used for socializing with the addition of several stores, restaurants, and cafés filling the air with various smells. However, the main attraction of this area is not the Apple store in the back or the café to its right, it is the vibrant carousel that stands alone in the Piazza. Since the twentieth century, the carousel has been managed by the Picci family only through the months of November to May. Carlo Picci, the 4th generation operator, currently manages the carousel. The carousel itself exhibits several virtues Italians live by, family and pride for their country. On the top rim of the carousel are panels with pictures depicting several different cities in Italy. Not only do the Picci’s express their pride and love for their country but the 20 horse carousel, particularly small compared to the 68 horses found in Disneyland’s King Arthur Carousel, is the perfect size for a parent to join their child on the ride. According to Carlo Picci in an interview with blogger Kevin Golgin [5], the horses on the ride are spaced out in order to allow “enough space between the horses that the mamas can stand next to the little ones while they ride. Otherwise they might be afraid.” Picci and his wife, prioritize the well being and pleasant experience of the children and their family. Their mission is to preserve the family tradition of bringing entertainment to families in a city full of sophisticated artwork and history. Nevertheless, the concept of having a family owned business is not foreign to the locals near the Piazza Della Repubblica.

In the 1870s where lavish modern buildings began to replace the medieval style homes, a woman from the Pendini family chose to open a residence for tourists. To this day, the Hotel Pendini is managed in a family style, holding on to the traditions first instilled in the late 1800s [6].

Among the dejected stories of racism and prejudice that occurred in the Piazza Della Repubblica, a strong sense of tradition and familial bonds still remains. These families are just a few of many that currently carry on the traditions started by their ancestors. Regardless of the disarrays that occurred around them, in the present and the past, they have remained strong in their values and traditions.


Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy  

Photo by Madeline Pestana of FIU

Connections

Vernazza is a unique fishing village on the north end of Italy’s Cinque Terre where the air is clean and components of modernity cease to exist. The Santa Margherita di Antiochia church is a remnant of history from the 1300’s that has been preserved in honor of Santa Margherita and is maintained open for the public. According to legends, Santa Margherita died as a martyr when she refused to obey the Roman governor of Antioch’s demand to worship the many gods of Rome. After several attempts to kill the defiant girl, she was beheaded in 290 BCE [3]. Due to her persistence and devotion to Christianity, Santa Margherita was canonized and became the patron saint of peasants, women, and nurses. In the early 1300’s, a box of Santa Margherita’s relics were found on the beach and in that exact spot the church was built in remembrance of her [2]. The small town, rich in history and traditions honors the past and is reluctant to allow certain components of modernity to emerge.

Reflection

When roaming through the streets of Vernazza, the smell of exhaust and the sound of cars is seemingly absent, however the smell of the ocean and seafood is ever-present. This small village on the west coast of Italy only permits the passage of cars once a week on Tuesday for a weekly street market assembly [1]. In place of sirens and angry drivers, the loud noises of tourists and locals reverberate through the streets. The main road of Vernazza, Via Roma begins at the harbor on the lower side of town and extends up into the mountains where the community of Vernazzans reside – on this road all the activity occurs.

Walking through the street Via Roma, I often found myself silently observing the commotion: tourists aimlessly wandering the streets, children running through the crowds, locals hustling to serve their customers, and store owners watching as tourists touch the produce with their uncovered hands. With all this activity around me, I wondered, how could my life connect to theirs. I am a tourist, but not a typical tourist who visits for the afternoon. I am a student studying abroad, learning, absorbing what this foreign village has to offer. In the grand scheme of life, how is my life connected to the native young adults who walk the same streets, but this time with intentions to work, farm, and fish?

Via Roma consists solely of markets and restaurants, each with unique features to attract tourism. Among the many seafood options at every restaurant and market, are small traces of western influences. Straying away from traditional dishes, I noticed that the Vernazzans have made several attempts of attracting their foreign friends. Instead of seafood and lemon drinks, one restaurant in particular served hot dogs and burgers. Having traveled to Rome and Florence prior, I had not witnessed such a stretch from the traditional dishes. A village whose mission is to preserve its authenticity, is in some way influenced by western culture.  

We are not only connected with people through familial relations, but through influences. I am connected to the young adults of Vernazza through shared food, such as burgers and lemon soda (Sprite) – both of which are popular in the United States and Italy. We are connected through the influences of fashion trends and lifestyles. Local businesses in Vernazzans are family owned, where all members work together to ensure successful operations. This dynamic is similar to the one I share at home, where I too work in my family’s business. Similarities in lifestyles and in the influences of society connect me to my fellow millennials around the world.


Cannaregio, Venice, Italy  

    Prejudice in Religion

Cannaregio is a small sector in Venice rich in history and originality. This area is popular for its Artisans who occasionally work on new art pieces, enjoying the nice weather while their finished pieces are nicely displayed inside their shop. All throughout Cannaregio are palazzos named in honor of several Saints and significant figures of Venetian history. The Jewish Ghetto, located in the center of the sector, contains a vast amount of history considering it was the first Ghetto designed to confine a group of people for religious differences [8].

Anti-Semitism has unfortunately been an issue throughout history, beginning with the Venetians. In 1516 Cannaregio became home to hundreds of Jews as they were forced into confinement, to what is still known as the Jewish Ghetto. Jews were only allowed to exit the city gates for trade and, similar to the Holocaust, were required to wear a sign identifying themselves differently amongst other Venetians. After dusk, Jews were not allowed to walk beyond the city gates. This arrangement marked the first Jewish Ghetto recorded in history of the world. For approximately 300 years, Jews were oppresses, held in confinement, and were stripped of their freedom for following Judaism rather than Christianity. In 1797, Napoleon’s army freed the oppressed and planted a tree to symbolize the beginning of an inclusive Venice [10]. Before continuing, it is important to note that Christ is believed by several scholars to have been Jewish [7], so the development of Christianity after His death should not have led to the hatred of Judaism. The hatred associated to Judaism is unknown, however the prejudice against them has become a reoccurring issue and continues to instill fear in present day Jews. In 1933, about 136 years after the Jews were liberated in Cannaregio, driven by hate, Adolf Hitler orchestrated the largest mass murder in history due to prejudice and differences in religious beliefs. Similar to several Venetians, Hitler was born into a Christian home, where his mother believed profoundly in Catholicism. If Christianity began with Jesus, the Jewish prophet (then Christianity’s Messiah), then why have people grown to hate Jews?

According to research done by Kalman Packouz, there is not one definite cause for prejudice towards Jews in the past. Several recounts in history show that other religions have also claimed to be the “Chosen people” and have not received the same level of backlash [9]. From racial to economic theories of hatred towards Jews, there is no cause for this unwarranted hatred. Cannaregio, a vastly diverse city with several cultural influences depicted in architecture and modern living, was the first of many oppressive states that condemned Jews and set the foreground for future catastrophes.


References  

1 Steves, R. (n.d.). Stepping Back in Vernazza by Rick Steves. Retrieved from https://www.ricksteves.com/watch-read-listen/read/articles/stepping-back-in-vernazza

2 Salmoiraghi, I. (n.d.). The church of Santa Margherita d’Antiochia, Vernazza. Retrieved from https://www.lecinqueterre.org/eng/arte/vernaantiochia.php

3 ST. MARGARET OF ANTIOCH STAFF. (2015). S. Margherita di Antiochia. Retrieved from http://www.diesincastro.it/s-margherita/

4 Florence Inferno. (2013, October 19). Piazza della Repubblica (Repubblica Square) in Florence, Italy. Retrieved from https://www.florenceinferno.com/piazza-della-repubblica/

5 Dolgin, K. (2014, April 13). Kevin Dolgin Tells You About Places You Should Go In Europe: The Antique Carousel of the Picci Family: Florence, Italy. Retrieved from https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/the-antique-carousel-of-the-picci-family-florence-italy

6 Hotel Pendini. (n.d.). History – Hotel Piazza della Repubblica Florence. Retrieved from https://www.hotelpendini.it/eng/history-hotel-piazza-della-repubblica-florence.html

7 Biblical Archaeology Society Staff. (2019, May 14). Was Jesus a Jew? Retrieved from https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/was-jesus-a-jew/

8 Green, T. (2016, September 23). Cannaregio: A walk along artisans and history. Retrieved from https://www.theveniceinsider.com/cannaregio-artisans-history-venice/

9 Packouz, R. (1987). Why Do People Hate The Jews? Retrieved from https://www.simpletoremember.com/vitals/Why_Do_People_Hate_The_Jews.htm

10 Chabad of Venice Ghetto Nuovo. (n.d.). Venice, Italy Jewish History Tour. Retrieved from https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/venice-italy-jewish-history-tour

11 Parish Staff. (n.d.). Welcome to Santa Maria del Popolo. Retrieved from http://www.smdpparish.org/

12 Plumb, J. (2005, October 12). View Article: Piazza and Porta Del Popolo. Retrieved from https://depts.washington.edu/hrome/Authors/joeplumb/PiazzaandPortaDelPopolo/pub_zbarticle_view_printable.html

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