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.

Monique Moussa: Italia as Text 2019

Tivoli As Text

“A Little Darkness Never Hurt Nobody” by Monique Moussa of Florida International University at Tivoli, Italy

Did you know beauty can be created from destruction?
And this waterfall is not an example of Roman seduction

Many come near but do not see it’s glory
For far bellow there holds a different story
Two floods have come and recreated the land
But people today come to Tivoli only to get a tan

It is believed that at the bottom of the waterfall is hell
And by the time you get down to see the end, your feet have already swelled
All that can be seen are large rocks and darkness
I for one found grace and tranquility

Just because it might look slightly black and scary
Does it mean that we should turn away in such a hurry?
Should we give those things that might not appeal to the eye or mind a chance?
For all we know, they might enable us to advance

Water is seen to be a symbol of rebirth or of sexuality
Yet many believe that the Villa Gregoriana waterfall represents the brutality
Judging something for only its negative qualities keeps individuals closed minded
In today’s world, we are not so different from that archaic mindset

The waterfall is beautiful in its structure, but its beauty is emphasized when large bushes of green trees surround the waterfall. Just simply listening to the water, the animals, and the wind is relaxing. The Temple of Vesta overlooks the waterfall, and it is almost mocking of all the deaths that the waterfall has caused. Individuals took advantage of the waters dangerous nature to harm people. It creates this negative image of something that should be seen as beautiful. The waterfall is still dangerous but the beauty it has is covered up because of what humanity has done. We tend to not give nature or people that are unattractive or “evil” a chance because that’s how we have been raised. It limits our growth as a society because we can still learn so much from the ugly and evil, and as seen from the waterfall, just because it looks scary, does not mean it’s not also beautiful.

Rome As Text

“It Happened to my People too” by Monique Moussa of Florida International University at Rome, Italy

We each see something different
Something that stands out to us
When taught about this arch it was hard not to make a fuss
Previous knowledge has lead me to be ignorant

Born and raised as a Palestinian
I always believed Jews were bad
For they took my land that my family has always had
Yet just as everything was taken away from my family
I realized Jewish people have experienced the same agony

Judge me as you might
But at first this was a hard sight
I saw this and I thought of Titus
How his actions had caused great change

I stand there and stare
While my fellow classmates did not treat it with such care
To many this is just an arch of beauty
To me this arch is my duty
Duty to understand and let go of the past

I cannot blame those Jews from the past
Nor should the Jew blame the present day Romans for their outcast

I did not expect to come to Rome and feel a connection to my culture
Yet there I stood and was taken away by this piece of architecture
Jewish people were already exiled from Jerusalem
70 years later Titus defeats the remain Jews
I sympathize for them
What is left for them?
They no longer have a home to call their own

And I again I reflect
So much was taken away from them
And I wonder
How can they do the same that has happened to them to others
How are Palestinians supposed to stand and accept their lands being taken away

I see things differently now than I did before
I do not blame a whole religion for some people’s action
But I learned that history truly does repeat itself
I just never thought I would witness how it would affect me

I need to remember
I hope I do not forget
Just because injustice has happened to my people
I should not judge those who are causing it
Because they too have suffered the same bit

The power of the art in Rome is impactful
For I am not the only one that can experience this
Many individuals of different cultures can resonate with different art pieces
And that is the true power of Rome
No matter how different
Somehow we all feel a connection

Pompeii As Text

“The Struggle of Women Through Time” by Monique Moussa of Florida International University at Pompeii, Italy

It seems like todays world is all about sex
And who you are going to sleep with next
It is not to say sex isn’t great
But it isn’t a major determinant of fate

For many people today, sex is something you choose to do
But to many in Pompeii it is something women were forced to go through
The city had about 30 brothels
And the women could have sex with men as old as fossils

Back then it was legal
It still does not justify them existing
Some of these prostitutes could acquire a bit of wealth
What about their mental health?

These women would sleep with countless men for money
And to me that seems sad for a women to have to go through
Why must her body be objectified in order for her to survive
It is amazing how far women have come and thrived

And imagine to be in their shoes
Where men could just walk in and pick and choose
They choose what position they like best
As if it isn’t degrading enough that you are just admired for your breasts
But you are also sold to have sex in a position you might not like
And these men would probably never treat you right

Women do not suffer the same struggle now
Prostitution still exists but it is not allowed
Women are still treated like objects to many
The struggle now is the difference in pennies

Women then and now get treated different then men
But now the struggle is equal pay

The women in Pompeii struggled with legal prostitution
Women today struggle with illegal prostitution and unequal pay
For a world that has advanced so far
It does not look like we progressed at all


“Nudity is Power” By Monique Moussa of Florida International University at Florence, Italy

Is being perfect attainable?
If so who is perfect?
Men? Women? Children?

Beauty seems to be connected with perfection
For if you are beautiful you are shown more affection
But beauty is said to be subjective
Then the David is also subjectively beautiful

Art connects individuals across cultures
Can all cultures accept nudity and see the elegance of the art?
Art is freedom of expression
Yet there is a large conservation in regards to nude art
Is nudity too indecent?
But it shows who we are, even the itty bitty pieces

But all forms of human bodies should be shown and encouraged as beautiful
Is it more important to hide nudity than it is to show how everyone is lovely?
Lovely even without the expensive clothes or well-applied makeup
Bare to the world even if they do not measure up to social standards

Florence is beautiful in its diversity
Cobblestones in the center
But just outside contains hill of green and calmness
There is it noted shifts in history in the city
Yet it is still beautiful
It is beautiful for being so different and unique

Can we today accept beauty for being different and unique?
We say yes, but are we really
Many still think nudity means indecency
There is the idea that the fewer clothes a person wears the more they ask for attention
Well the David surely gets a lot of attention, but much of it is adoration

Can society not find others nudity just as magnificent and empowering
Why must old sculptures be the only nudity used to empower individuals
Why can art not be made today to the same extent, to lift society
What is holding us back?

Maybe the social norm about nudity needs to be broken down
Once individuals can embrace how they look
Then everyone can feel just as powerful as David when he took down Goliath
Even if they look different from the “normal” person
Just as Florence is different than the normal city

Siena as text

“Children or Power” By Monique Moussa of Florida International University at Siena, Italy

Can you imagine being stuck in time?
Well it isn’t that hard when you have places like Siena
Siena has plenty of art and history from the Middle Ages
It is a city where they still have horse races

It reflects a time of regression
A time where you are expected to follow the word of God without question
It simply is easier to rule when the people fear you
And with all that power, you can change history and make people forget what they knew

Very dark images used to be portrayed
Even images of children that were killed by blades
In the New Testament, there is a story of the Massacre of the Innocent
The story was used to demonstrate the destruction if there was a monarchy

Innocent children were used as a vendetta to keep the church in power
All while there was a fat man that would sit in the nearby bell tower
The lives of children seem to always cause a stir
For who would want to live in a world where the deaths of children would occur

Then the threat of killing children was used as a tactic by the church
Now with recent abortion laws, there is plenty of research
A search to see when a child is considered alive
But it is just a distraction so that politicians can thrive

The innocence of children is used for political propaganda
Just so that it distracts from actual issues that need to be solved
It seems that no matter how much time has passed
Those in power will say or do anything just to keep their position

It is a shame that children are used in this trickery
And those who try to use the innocent to gain power truly do not have much victory

Cinque terRe as text

“Beauty Comes With a Little Effort” by Monique Moussa of Florida International University at Cinque Terre, Italia

In a place that seems to run for miles and miles
Even after all the hiking it still left me with a smile
It gave me a moment to just lay there and hear the crash of the waves
And I even got stung by a jellyfish when I went swimming into the caves

It is surprising how nature is so pure and simple
Yet it causes most to start showing their dimples
It is almost like an escape from reality
No longer are you looking at your computer screen but rather at the sea

I cannot believe I was able to witness a place like this existing
Where animals, nature, and humans all coexist
A place where the ocean and sky become one
A place where the city glows when light shines on it from the sun

With all the stress from worrying about school and my family
Cinque Terre provided me the chance to go off into a fantasy
It gave me a moment to appreciate everything that I have in my life
Just being in this beautiful city was enough that I did not care for the nightlife

Is it possible to take a part of this land and have it in Miami?
Though there are beaches in Miami people are not nearly as happy
Nature here is pure and not toxic
While in Miami the focus is on the gossip

If I could take one thing and place it in Miami it would be the effort to keep the lands clean
In almost every 100 meters there is a recycling bin
And not just the basic separation of recycled material and other garbage
They separate all recyclables and it’s time Miami gets started

Nature is only beautiful if we allow it to be preserved
So it’s not just Miami that needs to make a change
All of the US needs to start making changes to give the earth a chance it deserves

Venic as Text

“Just Keep Mixing” by Monique Moussa of Florida International University at Venice, Italy

Lightness or darkness
Expression or suppression
Knowledge and science or solely religion
How about a mix

You blink and it’s as though you’re seeing a different part of the world
Blink again and you’ll see something new
Keep looking and you’ll notice a city like no other
A city built on water
That fact alone makes many minds wander
But that is just the beginning of the complexity and beauty of this city

Blowing glass seen on almost every street
Masks sold on every corner
All of which are colorful and radiant
Each representing how unique Venice is

One moment it is sand then it is a beautiful sculpture
Details that are so specific that only a true artist can do
Masks that disguise who you are
Be anyone for a day and simply just hide behind the mask of mystery

Architecture, art, food and so much more are ideas adopted from other places
In this city, it all comes together and creates a new world
A world where different cultures can coexist
Coexisting in a time where it was not allowed

The idea of accepting other cultures can be seen here
Business is business so the color of your skin
Or your religious beliefs do not matter
For every ethnicity that enters this city
Change is made

Built-in 400 CE
Being rebuilt constantly
Yet this city is still like no other
And despite its age
It is far more progressive than many states in the US

Here cultures are accepted despite the social norm
The world needs to learn from this city
This same city that might not exist in 100 years

Places prosper when there is a cultural mix
Not when there’s social isolation