Monique Moussa: The Grand Tour Redux

Fire, Earth, Air, and Water

I signed up for the Grand Tour Redux thinking that it will be an amazing vacation to have. What better way is there to spend my summer than spending it in Italy? I did not really consider what I would learn, experience, embrace and potential love. I did not truly realize what I signed up for until the first day of class in Rome. It started to hit me; this is not going to be a vacation but rather a major educational trip for me. After the completion of this class, I can say with certainty that there was so much I had learned and now a foundation of knowledge on art and history that I did not have before. 

As time went on the trip, my mind started to wonder. I started making connections with all the places we have gone to. Then, something interesting hit me one day when I was in Cinque Terre; all the major cities we stayed to represent an element of nature. I was already so fascinated by the vastness of greenery I have seen in Italy, but upon making that realization I began to appreciate the cities for being in tune with nature even more.

For this project, I will go into explaining how each of the cities that we stayed at reflects an element from nature. By each of these cities, Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, and Venice, being related to these astrological notions allow for individuals of other faiths to want to come to Italy. That religion alone is not a reason to want to make a pilgrimage to these cities.

Rome – Fire

For each of the elements, there is a meaning to them. Rome demonstrates how it is like fire. Fire can create warmth but can continue burning from the ashes.  That is exactly what Rome is. Rome started most modern civilizations and ruler after ruler, it still controlled most of modern Europe despite and of their failures. Rome encompasses so much history and richness from the past but it continues to grow and demonstrate many modern ideas. Within Rome there is a train station, Termini, which can take you to the ruins of the old city but while the station itself is up to date with modern technology and designs. The train station has small shops, a food market and resembles a small mall.  As stated, Rome is the element fire, though it is no at its peak, it continues to burn and be on the large influential city. Many cities in the United States try to accomplish similar ideas. New York’s main train station is similar to Termini and is like Rome in the sense that it is a city with an extensive history.

How do you compete with fire

You touch it, you burn

You see it and it heats you up

Trying to copy fire that’s from the ashes

Never getting to the level of meaning

Ashes burning till today

Ashes that still hold so much meaning

Can we even compete and try to replicate this?

The US tries to be like this city of fire but how can it. How can it compete with a city that has been through so much and still raised? Rome’s rise began with the assassination of Julius Caesar, but that was just the beginning. There was Augustus who reformed the land and started to rule Rome as an emperor. Even after the introduction of Catholicism, Rome still was able to keep part of its history. Even with all the attempts to put out its fire, it is still standing and proud of its history. Like fire, it burns bright and makes Italy more known. There still stands tall and proud, the Colosseum, showing the power and magnificence of Rome. There is always a constant reminder to show the flames of what Rome used to be. In comparison to the United States, Italy has a significantly more cultural history as well as richness in their lands.

For those who are not very religious can still come to Rome and appreciate the city. Though Rome does have a dense religious history, due to its development and art that prospered in this city nonreligious individuals can feel a spiritual connection with the place. I found that the land contained and captured colors like no other place in the world before and looking back I could see Rome when it was at its highest and see it burning brighter than any other city. Referencing back to New York, New York is the Rome of the US. It contains historical significance and demonstrates the power of the US with the stock market and overall as a business city. Taking from Rome, the US wanted a place that lights up the US as much as Rome does for Italy but it does not compare. While New York does hold its own beauty, Rome is much more natural and has a depth that connects people to its city such as the fountains, the wildlife growth, the colors of the buildings, the architecture, just about everything from Rome.

Florence – Air

While Rome showed power and strength, Florence had shown how change is good.

One burst and it can push you down

One push and it can change your direction

One second you can be going backwards the next forward

Florence is like air

It changes directions

One minute it is not there then it is

It can be weak but it can also be extremely strong

But most of all, don’t underestimate the power of the air

Florence gives you a breath of fresh air. Moving from the hustle and bustle of Rome to this smaller city was empowering. It is known that Florence is the city for the renaissance yet it is so small. It shows how even the smallest of cities can make a difference. Florence contains many works of the Renaissance and not just any work but some of the most impactful ones. The colors of the city are not as bright as Rome but just as impactful. The city holds a shade of gray but it used to be a city known for its colors and bringing forth light by moving away from darker images.

When you walk past Brunelleschi’s dome, the stripes entrap you. It is hypnotic. I had to take a moment to let it all in. I did not think the dome was all that significant, even after the readings and the lectures, but the moment I saw the dome, my breath was stolen. I felt like was taken back in time; back to 1420 when there was a shift from the religious world to the new world. A world with art and science, the rebirth.

Florence does not just contain the dome but also the Sistine Chapel and the David. Though all three are religious pieces, they each invite the world to see them for more than just their religious reasons. They were revolutionary in the art world and people from all over come to just appreciate the works despite the religious aspect.

It used to be that Catholicism was what ruled Italy, but these artworks started that shift from religion. While in the past travelers would come to Florence to see the works made for god, now they come to see the art simply for its magnificence.

There is a division within Florence; the part for the tourists and the part for the locals. The division is separated by a river and where the locals live is Oltrarno. It is funny how one of the bridges, the bridge the Medicis took charge of, is only used for selling jewelry. It separates the two worlds of Florence, and it gives you a glimpse into another world. Oltrarno is just as beautiful and is known for its Boboli Gardens. The garden is a major tourist location even though it’s not towards central Florence simply because it is beautiful. People travel to Florence, not simply for its religious connections but because Florence makes people feel connected with nature and art. It is always changing and sometimes it might give you a little chill from the views you see, just like the wind.

Cinque Terre – Earth

Hoping off a train to see a beach has to be the best feeling ever and it was. After not seeing the ocean for a while, it got to me that I missed the view of seeing waves crashing on the shore. Coming to Cinque Terre was different, it was magical. The view of the ocean was incredible due to the color of the water, the rocks within the ocean and the rocks on the sand. All of these factors made the first glimpse into Cinque Terre. The hike though physically straining, it made me appreciate the city even more. It gave each town more meaning because we had to struggle to get there. With every struggling step, there was more reward for when we saw the villages.

At first, it seems like all the villages are the same; they are all colorful and by the sea. It is hard to detect the differences between the cities. Manarola, one of the five towns, is quite small. The local’s homes and the tourist locations are extremely close to one another. The locals are actively involved in the tourism business for the town. Specifically to Manarola is how tourists have to go through and see people’s homes before they get to the view of the ocean. So, those individuals really get to see how and who live in this majestic town.

Even with the obvious views of the water, many tourists come to see Cinque Terre for religious reasons. In the town of Manarola, there’s a church for Saint Lawrence. Though even with the world being mostly full of religious individuals. Cinque Terre is visited by for its ability to be one with nature, despite being tied to many religious buildings.

The earth is the ground

The earth is real and allows for growth

Slowly the earth grows

The earth has many layers

Sometimes you just gotta keep digging

You will find the depth of the earth

Find the secrets and hidden beauty

Cinque Terre is a symbol of the earth. It is true to its nature and shows the world for how it is not for how people want it to be.

Venice – Water

Finally but not least, we hope on the train to Venice. Since as long as I can remember, I’ve been told Venice is like no other city, no city can compete with Venice. I did not think much of it because I thought it was similar to the Keys, but I was wrong. Venice clearly being built on the water was more surprising to see than I thought. I cannot wrap my head around how the people of the past thought of such a plan to build Venice. Going over the canals to get to different parts of the city was interesting, it was like walking into a new hidden world. Every step further into Venice was another step towards discovering the city.

The city is lovely with all the vibrant colors of the masks and blowing glass. It gives the city a sense of liveliness. There were always people walking around the streets. Venice is known for having plenty of tourists, that more tourists come than there are people that live in the city itself. Yet, with all the tourists it makes Venice make more sense. It seems whole when there are plenty of people walking through the streets and why should they not? Venice has so much influence from around the world and it can be seen on every street.

Like every major city in Italy, there is a significant basilica that comes with it. In the main part of Venice is Saint Mark’s Square, within the square is Saint Mark’s Basilica. Saint Mark is the Saint for Venice and it can be seen, Venice’s flags have the symbol of Mark, the winged lion. The basilica is beyond wonderful. The outside is powerful with the four horses on top and with the La Pala D’Oro. Overall, the basilica and the square were wonderful sights to see.

San Polo was one of the hardest places to build upon in Venice due to the foundation. It is a small part of the city that is mainly covered by the small canal and in some parts the Grande Canal. There are plenty of local houses within this area of Venice, but there’s also still plenty of businesses that are based there. San Polo also has three churches, and for such a small part of the city, that is a lot of churches to have. It is a much simpler version of Saint Marks square. It is a shame that not many come to visit this part of Venice because it is not as popular as Saint Marks or the Rialto.

Venice is a city that many come to and do not even understand what they see when they come to Venice. It is not just a city built on water. It is an alive city that has cultures of all kinds expressed. This city many come just to see the city and due to the fact that saint Marks square is the largest open area, that is where most tourists go. They go because of the mystery of Venice.

Venice is like water, mysterious. It has masks for people to disguise themselves, it has buildings with Islamic and Roman architecture, the whole city is a mystery. With all the mystery it is still so refreshing to see. It is amazing seeing something contain so much yet be so small. Like water, Venice though it seems so small, it is vastly large.

In short, the trip truly taught me so much, but it surprisingly really connected me with nature more than I thought it would. The cities really had connections to nature if one just opened their eyes to see it. There is no need to be religious to have to go to these places. Simply having an open mind allows for anyone to have a great experience and enjoy the cities even their religious aspects.

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