Italia 2020 As Text: Nicolas Tomaselli

My name is Nicolas Tomaselli, I am pursing a degree of Business Administration in Information Systems. I am currently the FIU campus intern for CDW, hoping to learn as much as I can about the technology industry. I am also looking to blend my future career with as much cross-country travel as I can as traveling is one of my many passions.

Vizcaya As Text

Breakwater used as protection for the estate as well as docking ships.

“Rome in Miami” by Nicolas Tomaselli of FIU at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens

Our visit to the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens was an eye-opening one, to say the least. Before our visit, I had little to no knowledge of its existence let alone the history surrounding it as well as its founder James Deering. Deering was discreet about his private life, to say the least, never marrying while being referred to as a lifelong bachelor. With no reports of romantic interest in women as well as his time hosting many homosexual men as well as the openly gay Paul Chalfin, it is speculated that Deering may have been gay.

Deering was able to create The Vizcaya Mansion with his money generated from his massive inheritance of his family’s agriculture equipment company, Deering Harvester Company. Deering was obsessed with European design, architecture, and culture which led to the design of the estate. While traveling through Europe over the years with Paul Chalfin, the designer of the mansion, he gathered ideas and began acquiring pieces of art for his vision which became Vizcaya. The architect attributed to the beauty of the construction of the Vizcaya Villa was the American born architect Francis Burrall Hoffman who perfectly encapsulated European influence in his design for the mansion. Construction of the estate began in 1913 and finished on Christmas Day of 1916. Despite the colossal size of the villa, construction finished only three years after its start date since about ten percent of Miami’s population, mostly Bahamian workers, worked on the Vizcaya construction site.

Deering was very wealthy and enjoyed flaunting that fact. Whether it be showing off expensive pieces of art, his personal telephone room, or the text written atop the staircase “J’ai dit” which translates to “I have spoken” as well as doubling for his initials, JD. Despite his attempts to flaunt his wealth and intellect, Deering had little to no knowledge of the land he was building on, showcased by the moat surrounding the villa. At first, he attempted to fill the moat with water which was quickly drained due to the porous rock that it rested on. Afterward, he tried lining the moat with cacti which also failed to work for similar reasons.

Speaking of the Vizcaya grounds, the massive gardens of the villa were designed by the Colombian landscape designer Diego Suarez. Suarez mimicked the style of Italian Renaissance gardens as well as features from French Renaissance gardens. In my opinion, the gardens of Vizcaya are the most breathtaking due to the fact that the view of the mansion is spectacular while being viewed from the foliage of the gardens atop the fountain staircase (picture below). One of the most interesting as well as just funny historical facts of the villa is the history of the design of the woman on the barge of the ship used as a breakwater. The American sculptor of the woman, Alexander Stirling Calder, initially created the sculpture with breasts that weren’t to Deering’s liking. Deering then demanded Calder to reduce the size which he refused until further payment was decided upon.

Overall our visit to the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens was a spectacular experience in the history of the City of Miami as well as the cultural appropriation of European culture and its effect it can have on a design of such a spectacular villa.

Fountain staircase in the gardens of Vizcaya.

moad as text

“Two Waves of Floridian Immigration” by Nicolas Tomaselli of FIU at The Museum of Art and Design

Our visit to the Museum of Art and Design was an eye-opening one, to say the least. Before our visit, I had little to no knowledge of the cultural significance it has over Cuban heritage and the wave of immigration that began during the 1960s. The building itself symbolizes not only the freedom Cuban immigrants gained when coming to the United States but more importantly the belief in freedom for all that our country is based on.

The piece that drew my attention more than any other has to be the collage display of young Cuban immigrants photographed when they arrived in The United States (picture above). This showcases more than anything what the parents of these young immigrants would do to give their children a better chance at life. The incomprehensible struggle it must be to send your children to a foreign country with aspirations that they can create a better future for themselves takes an immense amount of hope. Art pieces like this displaying the American dream as well as how much the United States truly is a melting pot built by immigrants are the ideals that the United States is built on and is something we should never forget. The Museum of Art and design being that it is located where countless Cuban immigrants walked through does an amazing job of being a sign of those ideals, making sure we never forget.

Another great aspect the Museum of Art and Design encompasses is the initial discovery of Florida by Ponce De Leon as well as the rest of the New World by other European conquistadors. The piece that best showcases this has to be the New World Mural depicting Ponce De Leon alongside the Tequesta chief (picture below). Behind them is the map of the new world and between them is a quote praising Ponce De Leon for discovering this beautiful land. This comes across very ironic due to the way the Native Americans were treated by the Europeans, being forced to convert their religion, leave their ancestral land or even die of diseases brought by the Europeans. After Ponce De Leon initially discovered Florida he sailed back to Spain where he was then appointed military governor and ordered to sail back and colonize the land. Ponce De Leon, as well as many other European conquistadors of his time, were ruthless when it came to colonizing the Native’s land. Europeans looked down on the natives as subhuman and savages while conquering the new world in a way to think of themselves as the rightful owners of what truly was not theirs to take.

Overall our trip to the Museum of Art and Design was an amazing experience into not only the history of Cuban immigration into Florida but the initial wave of European immigrants into The Americas as well.

Deering estate as text

Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0

“surrounded by natural beauty” BY NICOLAS TOMASELLI OF FIU AT THE DEERING ESTATE

Prior to reading the Deering Estate Walking Tour, I had little to no knowledge of the natural surroundings and the history of the area that surrounds the estate. This virtual tour showcased all the different aspects of the estate’s natural beauty as well as the history that came before the estate was even built. The two structures the Richmond Cottage and the Stone house were built in 1896 and 1922 respectively. The Richmond Cottage was built upon in 1899 transforming it into a local inn until Charles Deering purchased it and renovated it for a winter home in 1915. The stone house was designed in a Mediterranean Revival style by Phineas Paist, the architect that designed much of the City of Coral Gables in the same Mediterranean style. The two structures surrounded by some of Miami’s most beautiful natural scenery make up the Deering Estate.

The Deering Estate is a perfect escape from the crowded fast paced city of Miami. The tour of the estate takes you back in time and puts on display some of the most beautiful nature there is in South Florida. Sitting on the shores of Biscayne Bay and only one mile away from the island of Chicken Key, The Deering Estate’s connection with the aquatic life of Miami is extremely apparent. The estate’s ties with the aquatic life continue when Charles Deering had the Boat Basin built in 1916-1918, which has become home to an extensive marine life. Visitors of the estate get to experience the extensive aquatic life surrounding the estate, filled with various marine animals such as: manatees, sharks, turtles, and dolphins. The Deering Estate also sits on top of the Miami Rock Ridge, a limestone formation that was formed more than 120,000 years ago. The estate is also covered with beautiful natural scenery showcased in the tropical hardwood hammocks. Many of the trees in the hammocks originated in the Caribbean and are no where to be found farther north, making the tropical hammocks of the estate one of the rarest plant communities in all of Florida.

The history of the Deering Estate goes back more than 500 years, before Ponce de Leon found his way into Biscayne Bay in 1513. The site on which the estate was built was home to The Tequesta, a native american tribe. On the estate, The Tequesta Midden has evidence of hundreds of Tequesta tools scattered around the surrounding area. The estate has also been found to have a Tequesta Burial Mound one of only two unearthed burial sites said to have 12 to 18 Native Americans buried in a circular pattern.

Unfortunately, I was unable to visit and experience all that the Deering Estate had to offer in person. However, I did learn all about the history of the estate as well as all the surrounding natural beauty the estate has to offer. I cannot wait until I will be able to visit the estate in person and truly absorb the history it truly has to offer.

South beach as text

Ocean Drive South Beach, Photo by Chensiyuan (CC by 4.0)

“The Transformation of Ocean Beach” By Nicolas Tomaselli of FIU at South Beach

The origins of South Beach stem back to automobile pioneer Carl Fisher when he found what was known as Ocean Beach in 1910 while on vacation. Fisher envisioned the 3,500 acre landmass as a tourist resort and as a vacation spot for himself and his industry friends. The myth surrounding Ocean Beach told throughout the years was that the natural island was a mosquito infested wasteland that no human had ever set foot upon. This story is of course just a myth, the island which was known as Ocean Beach was a mangrove barrier between Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic ocean.

In the early days of Miami, it was a multicultural small town where whites and blacks happily lived together. The residents even dubbed the natural island Ocean Beach and would spend afternoons boating to the island for picnics and baseball games. This all changed when Fisher began developing Miami Beach in 1910. African Americans were banned from public beaches, beginning the segregation in Miami for years to come. Then 1913 John Collins constructed the first bridge connecting Miami Beach to the mainland followed by Carl Fisher’s development of the island as a tourist resort.

Over the years Miami Beach became an iconic destination drawing tourists in with their gorgeous beaches and luxury resorts. One of the biggest factors that molded Miami Beach into such an iconic vacation spot is the use of the Art Deco Style. Most apparent on Ocean Drive the designs of the buildings can be characterized as having vibrant colors, geometrical symmetry, curved edges, and machine-like architecture. Miami Beach stands alone as one of the most beautiful tourists attractions pack filled with history and gorgeous design.

History Miami As text

HistoryMiami Museum (Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0)

“The true history of Miami” by nicolas tomaselli of Fiu at HistoryMiami Museum

The HistoryMiami Museum located in the heart of Miami, just a few blocks from the intersection of Miami Avenue and Flagler Street, has been spreading the true history of the city of Miami since 1940. While sometimes the storyteller of history tends to gloss over the unfavorable aspects of its story, The HistoryMiami Museum shines an equal light on both the good and the bad. This approach they take puts all the aspects of Miami on display to both tell a story and to remind us of the things that history tends to forget.

One of the first things that you see when entering the HistoryMiami Museum are various wooden tools and artifacts of the first inhabitants of what is now Miami. Visitors can also see artist renderings of what civilizations would have looked like for the early inhabitants based on the archeological evidence found and displayed throughout the museum. The museum then showcases the mysterious and interesting history of the Paleo-Indian tribe, The Tequesta. One of the biggest mysteries about the Tequesta is what is known as the Miami Circle. On a construction site in 1998 archeologists discovered circles of deep holes in bedrock spanning 38 feet, to which some archeologists believe was used for ceremonial or political purposes. None the less, archeologists dated this site back 2,000 years only adding to the mystery of the Tequesta tribe.

The HistoryMiami Museum then tells the story of the first pioneers to migrate to Miami. During this time the only way to reach Miami was by boat, thus isolating the settlers from easy access to the outside world. Being isolated with little to no knowledge of the land surrounding them, settlers began forming relationships with the natives to learn how to cultivate crops and live off the land. The museum then goes into more detail highlighting some of the stories of the first settlers who came to Miami in search of a better life. These settlers are credited with creating the foundation for Miami to blossom into what it is today. Unfortunately, I could not visit the museum in person however I look forward to a time when I can see in person the incredible history of the city I call home.

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