baptized by fire

“baptized by fire” by Samual “S” Pawlowski @sfinessin of @fiuinstagram

As any journey starts, one plans and plans again to diminish any chance of error. I started my experience of Rome as helpless as Remus and Romulus when set in the Tiber River. My misfortune struck when my phone service did not work. For a brief moment, I was consumed in the chaos that is Termini. Signals blared. Unfamiliar faces passed. The tides of stress pulled back as waves of calm crashed as I found my way. The blessings of technology can be overlooked until they are gone. Thankfully I found Wi-Fi and was on my way. I survived.

In Rome, I am lost. Lost in the thrill of it all. The breathtaking monuments leave bystanders awestruck. The ability of the monuments to render bystanders speechless can be compared to Medusas ability to strike a man into stone. It’s inescapable.

The Palatine Hills encapsulate the way one lived 2000 years ago. The Palatine Hills include the Emperor’s Palace, The Forum, and many temples. At the base of The Palatine Hills sits the Colosseum, a juxtaposing design. While emperors reigned high from The Palatine Hills; slaves turned into gladiators fought for their lives below. The sight serves as an example of the how perfectly-conflicted Rome continues on.

Aside from the palace on top of The Palatine Hills, the buildings of the Forum decorate the landscape. One of the most important structures is where the Senate met; modern republics can trace their roots back to a single structure built close to 2000 years ago. One must not forget the reality of these grand structures. All structures built in Rome have a dark tie to slave labor. Slaves built structures that were larger than life by hand. The use of slave labor to give rise to magnificent structures further exemplifies how Rome is perfectly-conflicted.

While exploring the Palatine Hills and other parts of Rome, I began to enjoy my sojourn. My stay opened me to beauty of Rome. The beauty of Rome is one where old meets modern, state meets church, opulent meets ragid. The conflict consumes one. One can simply glance over Rome for its conflicts; yet observant eyes will get lost in the mystery of Rome: how such a perfectly-conflicted land exists!

I would soon face another hiccup. While riding bikes in the Roman countryside, I would become separated from the group. My chain popped off. Luckily, a classmate helped me remedy the issue; but not before a vast distance would grow between the group and us. We were lost. I was lost. In order to reach the group, we biked uphill on ancient-Roman cobblestone roads. As cars whizzed by us and the road grew to be far to even for my thin tires, a stress overtook me. I felt my shoulders tense and a sweat drip from furrowed brow. The group seemed so far off. As I cycled my burning legs around the pedals, I began to reflect how I was growing from the doom being endured. It was not my easiest experience of Rome; it was my most transformative experience of Rome. If I could endure what felt like Hell, who/what is going to stop me! This experience revealed to me that Rome is a place where on is baptized in fire. A cleansing that can only occur by experiencing the tension of the city of Rome. A type of non-traditional cleansing happens here; the land continues to reveal its perfectly-conflicted nature.

frozen by fire

“frozen by fire” by Samual “S” Pawlowski @sfinessin of @fiuinstagram

After death do our lives continue, cease, or are we stuck in limbo between the two? This question is central to my exploration of Pompeii. My ideas of Pompeii did not align with what my eyes perceived at the city gate. The haunting nature of Pompeii is one that cannot by realized through reading a text.

Upon steps into Pompeii’s forum, I entered a world frozen by the heat and firey forces of a volcano. Volcanic ash delicately dressed relics. What tourist perceive as spectacular ruins were once ordinary living quarters of common folk.

Pompeii had approximately 20,000 citizens. While 18,000 escaped the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, 2,000 lives were trapped in time. On August 24, 79 A.D. Mt. Vesuvius erupted. Their lives cemented to the earth by the volcanic ash that fell overhead. Their bodies excavated by the durable hands of archaeologists

Pompeii is the most intact Italian ruin. While the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius remains a tragedy, the volcano left Pompeii almost entirely intact. Frescoes still line walls. The menu of a brothel explicitly demonstrates the sexual freedom of Pompeii. The plaster bodies of individuals capture that Pompeii could still be alive. While these people may be dead, the emotions on their faces and positions of their bodies are very much alive. The story of Pompeii continues to live on through relics that are frozen in time.

Pompeii is in limbo between death and life. As swells of tourists journey down mundane streets, Mt. Vesuvius continues to cast an eerie shadow over Pompeii. To some, Pompeii is a archaeologists dream. To me, Pompeii is a sacred ground: a graveyard that is very much alive. The remains of those captured in ash show the humanity of Pompeii. The humanity encapsulated is key to the sacred spirit of Pompeii that is very much alive!

the ideal state is illusive

“the ideal state is illusive” by Samual “S” Pawlowski @sfinessin of @fiuinstagram at Tivoli




Abreast a mountain

Past a Quarry

Lies the town

Closest to Jupiters fury


Tivoli remains the resort town located outside of Rome. My first sights landed upon Hadrian’s Villa. Built around the second century, Hadrian’s Villa sits nestled at the foothills of Tivoli. What was once a sign of the opulent lifestyle of Emperor Hadrian, now exists as a sight of architectural splendor. In the last triumph of the Roman Empire, Hadrian built an expansive villa to capture the beauty of the entire empire. The design included elements found east to west, north to south within the empire. Hadrian tried to appease his citizens with a design that would appeal to all. The remains of the Villa emulate the brilliance of Hadrian’s planning.


Further up the hill, Tivoli looks down on Rome, a city plagued by panhandlers, emergency signals, and foot traffic. A tranquility only to be found in Tivoli emerges.


While visiting Villa d’Este, the harmony of nature sang to my ears, from the echoing of a gentle harmony of birds to the flowing water of fountains. The gardens embody tranquility. A sense of peace is felt throughout the gardens. The marvelous streams of fountains fall back to earth; yet, seamlessly continue their flow as they are reflected across pools surrounding the fountain.


Tucked further away in the beauty of Tivoli lies the Parco Villa Georgiana. The park’s name is less important when compared to the views of the Temple of Vesta that can be captured from within. The Temple of Vesta serves as the main attraction, rising high above the valleys and gorges below. However, if one gets lost further in the beauty of Tivoli, the Temple Vesta easily loses eyes, as eyes are pulled towards gushing waterfalls that fall from Tivoli. These waterfalls carve out an abyss called the Valley of Hell, an accurate name for the sight, as Tivoli soars high above in the heavens.


My experience of Italy thus far is one where you get lost. Lost from a lack of direction. Lost from a lack of words to describe the majestic perfections that are within. Lost from a sense of understanding of how such a perfectly conflicted land exists within the context of the modern manufactured presets of life.