Mozelle Garcia, The Grand Tour Redux


In Roma, known by English-speakers as Rome, one will experience a major clash of modern and ancient life as the bustling city is peppered with ruins and timeless structures seemingly at random.

~ A First Impression ~

Arriving in Rome paralleled a rollercoaster in several ways. The taxi I was in swerved, stopped, started and changed direction quite like a thrill ride. My emotions followed the same pattern as I took in the site of the ancient earthy buildings, the great Colosseum, the expansive Roman Forum, only to be deposited along a murky street covered in graffiti and lined with an auto-repair shops.

Perhaps it was naive to expect everywhere in Italy to look just like the movies, and I had to quickly realize that as a student traveling on a budget I would have to experience more than just the touristic front that a city puts up. While warming up to that idea took a few days, I eventually grew to see how valuable it was to constantly jump from looking from the outside-in to bring fully immersed in the opulent and monumental remains of Rome’s highest periods. My point is that when one is staying in a grand hotel with marble floors, dramatic chandeliers, high ceilings, etc.; they may become desensitized to those features when they witness them in their original manifestations. We were also, to a certain degree, sympathizing with the experience of real pilgrims as we would go to great lengths to seek out these places displaying their great wealth (of both history and riches) to visit, appreciate, and admire.

Featured Place: The Vatican

The first time I visited the Vatican I followed in the footsteps of the pilgrims in many years past. Walking along the banks of the Tiber river I could see the skyline of the Vatican in stark grey relief against a partly cloudy sky.

A grayish silhouette far down the banks of the Tiber river, the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica looms, huge and imposing.

At the same time, the Vatican seems to be beckoning, drawing you in not with open arms, but with arms nearly completing their embrace, as the colonnades built by Gian Lorenzo Bernini seem to want to reach out and surround you.

The sheer scale of the colonnades along with their staggering symmetry make them a perfect metaphor for the power and control of the Catholic Church which makes its home here. A level of intellectual prowess and precision is demonstrated to show that only the best will do for the Vatican.

I was extremely impressed by the contents of the basilica of St. Peter. The unfathomable size of it all, the many alcoves we could not even explore, and the breathtaking masterpieces housed within it ensured that the experience of the basilica was as transcendent as the architects and artists intended.

I was blown away when I laid eyes on Michelangelo’s Pieta for the first time. Better writers and poets than me have described it countless times, but I have to say that the humanity, the pain and the perfection captured within it reflect a loss of great art in modern society today. It seems ridiculous that with greater technology and better tools artists today do not make pieces on the same level.

Of course, we cannot forget one of the most famous features of the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel.

Depicting biblical stories on a scale and in a style that the world had never seen before, the ceiling of the sistine chapel was revolutionary and only solidified Michelangelo’s reputation as a Renaissance master.

This image is in the public domain.

Painted by Michelangelo between 1533 and 1541 on the wall behind the altar – which in the time that it was painted would be faced by the pope as he gave his sermon or mass – “The Last Judgement” is an ominous warning to all that stand before it that rapture is coming, and that they best be on Christ’s “nice list” or face the consequences (4). Demons are depicted dragging down screaming men and women. The central figures’s bodies are impossibly muscular, their features and muscles defined to show their strength and other-worldliness. Christ Himself seems to hark back to medieval depictions where he is an imposing figure to be both feared and respected, a concept which contrasts with the loving figure of Christ which predominates Christianity today. Michelangelo’s last judgment made me question that transition in the attitudes of the faithful. As one who is not religious myself, I was unfamiliar with many catholic traditions, stories, and beliefs before embarking on the Grand Tour. I was quite familiar, however, with the basics of Christian faith as I grew up in an area that followed the stereotypes of middle-class white America to a T, and as such many of my friends were part of families which attended Church regularly and held the belief that Jesus was a loving figure, capable of forgiving all who repent. Personally, I have always though there was something a little bit off about that mindset. While I believe that some people can change their ways and that others may deserve second chances, etc., I disagree with the idea that all of one’s sins could be forgiven simply though repenting at the end of their life, rather than by changing their actions. There are many schools of thought and interpretations with all of Catholicism and Christianity, so there are certainly a myriad of responses to my opinion, but the real point that I intend to make is that perhaps the greater religious rigor in the past encouraged a more strict society in terms of morality. Perhaps the mentality that we can be forgiven or come back from anything makes people less wary of the consequences for bad actions. While I believe that the norms of society in the days of early Christianity were overly harsh in many respects and that methods of instilling fear in the people such as those taken by the Capuchin monks were far too extreme, I still can’t shake the idea that, to a certain degree, those warnings about god behavior shouldn’t fade away completely.


In Firenze, known by English-speakers as Florence, one is immersed in a true city of the Renaissance and Enlightenment where intellectual and artistic abilities are celebrated and the unique offerings of the city are constantly on display. From the leather market to the David himself, Florence is a home for everyone from craftsmen to revolutionary artists.

Featured Place: Oltrarno

A view from within Oltrarno looking out at Florence’s city center

Oltrarno, which literally means “beyond the Arno” one can find a side of Florence that is far more relaxed and slow than that of the city center, near the dome and other famous attractions. While there is much less tourist traffic, the hustle and bustle of the locals still exists and causes just as much traffic and lively chaos as in the other side of the city. Furthermore, there are a variety of museums and other attractions that will still bring in foot traffic from all around the world. The place which captivated my interest the most in Oltrarno was by far the Boboli Gardens. On a free day and with a small group I ventured there and entered through one of the side gates where there was no line to wait in, and where we were immediately immersed in the gardens rather than seeing the Pitti palace, home of the Medici, right at the outset.

The Boboli gardens were built by the Medici family and are located behind the Pitti Palace. They were begun in 1549 and designed by Niccolo Pericoli, who also went by the name “Tribolo”. They were meant for the Duchess Elenora of Toledo (1).

The Gardens are a celebration of natural spaces – of course the greenery is heavily manicured and planned, but nonetheless it serves as a relaxing green space in the middle of a busy city. While exploring the gardens one feature that stood out o me was the island fountain which was located in the center of a moat, accessible by a small land-bridge (similar to that which is in Hadrian’s villa in Tivoli) which was gated off. This island featured many flowers and lemon trees which contrasted with the simplicity of just trees and hedges present around most of the gardens.

I was also pleased to discover  a beautiful rose-filled terrace up a final flight of stairs which we saw as we were already on our way out of the garden. We’d already climbed so many flights in our study-aroid trip that we decided, ‘hey, why not?’ and that proved to be a great decision as we were finally interacting with the space we had imagined when we heard about the gardens. Furthermore, the view from the terrace showed off the mountains and buildings on the other side of Florence, a gorgeous view that we would not have gotten to appreciate were it not for those final steps.

Experiencing the Boboli gardens as they are today; a place where almost anyone can enter for a small free, then wander about discovering it at a relaxing, wondrous pace, made me try to imagine just how different gardens’ interactions with people must have been back in the days of the Medici, when access to the gardens was only granted to members of the family. While I am all for private property rights – the respected philosopher John Locke emphasized the importance of private property in bringing people out of “the state of nature” and into organized society- I find it important to explore how unique the extensive wealth of the Medici family was in Florence (5).

A recurring thought throughout my time in Italia, major distinctions in wealth and privilege breed disdain between the classes find this issue relevant to society today as in the United States in Particular more and more data points to increasing wage gaps. The US was built on the principles that opportunities are equal for all, and that one can build their way up to the top through hard work. While I believe that these ideals are still present to a certain degree, I also am not blind to the differences in how opportunities are presented. The Medici were a very smart family in how they conducted their businesses, and also very lucky to become the bankers for the Catholic Church, thereby solidifying their strong positions. I am not criticizing the Medici’s rise to power or their accumulation of wealth because I respect the fact that they were not noble, and built their way up anyway. The issue I will point out however is how few other success stories of that nature occurred in Florence. Their success mirrors that of billionaires in the United States today who certainly deserve credit and appreciation for novel ideas and business models, but do they deserve to be distinguished to such a significant degree?

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre translates to “five towns” which is an apt description as the region contains five similar but distinct towns at the bases of five mountains. Spanning around 18 miles across each, we braved a hike that lasted nearly 10 hours across all of them.

Featured Place: Monterosso al Mare

One of the largest and most visited of the Cinque terre towns, Monterosso was by far my favorite location. The major distinction between these towns and the others in a physical capacity is, of course, the wonderful pebble beach located conveniently just across from the train station and the taxi stand. Accessing portions of the beach is quite easy, although some sections are roped off for hotel guests only. Still, there is plenty of space for tourists in all phases of preparedness to relax. What I mean is that these beaches are not only home to swimsuit-bearing beach-goers, but also to exhausted travelers carrying the weight of their own little worlds in overflowing backpacks. My first impression of Monterosso came as we crossed the street from the train station, defended the steps, then proceeded to abandon our bags and run to huge climbable rocks. Upon returning to the bas we lunged around them, feeling slightly crazy, but not earning any strange looks at all. Thats how you know its typical there. It seems that nothing is unusual in Monterosso.

This town is also distinct in how much more tourism operates here compared to the other four. As Cinque Terre is classified as a UNESCO world heritage site, there will never be sky-scraping modern hotels or major piers to welcome cruise ships. Nonetheless, Monterosso is home to a variety of hotels and tourist-friendly shops with the classic knick-knacks to take home, and english-speaking servers to make custom drinks for any visitor.

Despite the greater openness to tourism, Monterosso retains the same charm and authenticity as the other small towns. Reluctance to change with the times is something that I have often questioned in other walks of life, as I personally prefer modern architecture, clean designs, etc. in my day to day life. However, witnessing the purity of these small towns and their integration with nature changed my mind, or at least made space for exceptions. I feel that cultural preservation of this form enriches the world. The towns of Cinque Terre as we see them today are pretty much the same as they always were, and their proximity to nature, with the mountain plants and wildflowers encroaching all around, remind us of our old connections to the earth and the importance of respecting those origins.


Known by English-speakers as Venice, this place was one where I had dreamt of going for many years, and it certainly did not disappoint. From the vistas on the vapporretto to the narrow streets with their uneven doors, Venice seemed like a place out of a storybook.

Featured Place: San Marco East

I felt rather lucky to have chosen to explore San Marco East with the greatest interest for my Grand Tour project. As everyone knows, this is the most visited and historic area in venice as ti houses the greatest outdoor ballroom in the world Piazza San Marco, along with St Mark’s Basilica, of course.

Entering St. Mark’s Square from the West. Note that in the audio it is commented “Do you hear la musicita? (the music) it’s Disney again” A complement of the highest regard, as it emphasizes how inviting and other-worldy the space before us was.

One of the main takeaways from the whole of Eastern San Marco is that while most of Venice consists of tiny, twisting roads -for foot traffic only- as well as many small, uneven buildings, there is an undeniable connection to how that experience of the city only magnifies the grander of Piazza San Marco, known as St. Mark’s square to English-speakes. As with the Boboli Gardens in Florence, I see the space here as evidence of people’s need to have simple beauty in their lives. The beauty of open spaces, of seeing birds fly and being able to breath un-opressive air is essential.


The Piazza San Marco was nicknamed as Venice’s ballroom by Napoleon in 1805 when he became the ruler of the newly created kingdom of Italy (3). He had been searching for a space large enough to set up his administration and house his court, and the Piazza fit the bill. The square has retained that nickname by being filled with music every night, where lovers and singletons alike can go to twirl through the square and admire the reflection of the lights in the water rising up through the ground.

I find the history of the square interesting, as although it is a space open to the public for pleasure, it has always been connected to buildings and people that perpetuated class divisions, tyranny, and governmental systems with major overlaps between the Church and the state. On the western side of the piazza is St. Mark’s Basilica which used to be the private chapel of the Doge, the palace of whom is connected to it on the side of the water.

The Doge’s palace is a massive and imposing place filled with gold, priceless artwork, and a surprising array of functional spaces like a large meeting room for the court and an actual courtroom with a doorway connecting to a passage through the bridge of sighs, directly to the old Venetian Prison. The bridge of sighs, called so because it allowed prisoners a final glimpse of daylight before their incarceration (which oftentimes lead to their quick death) was a particularly striking feature of San Marco East as it showed once again the totality of the nobility’s power in Venice. While it is well known that the Venetians put forth efforts to play down the class differences such as by enforcing an all black clothes and gondola rule for nobility, it can’t be denied that major differences in wealth and in privilege permeated the market city.

The Biennale

I can’t write about my experiences in Venice without commenting on something which made the time there totally unique and all the more special. The Biennale is an exhibition that occurs every few years where all across the city public spaces such as churches, museums, old homes, etc. are transformed in to exhibits for modern art. While the majority of art that we see and appreciate from the early years of the cities we visit is centered around religious contexts, modern art address a wide array of subject matters. We stumbled into a an exhibit exploring the issues with categorizing genders and the challenges faed by the LGBTQ community in our society today. At another point I entered an exhibit with wires and ribbons suspended from the roof and reaching all over the room in a chaotic, but obviously planned, way. My absolute favorite installation however was done by an artist on an island just off the main city in Venice. The church of San Giorgio Maggiore is grand and Romanesque in design with massive white columns, and simple white designs all around that make for a clean, impressive, pure experience. Right in the center of the church was a rainbow color block sculpture that seemed to have been photocopied in. It was so gorgeous to me to to see the contrast in style, building materials, and yet it was so clear that both works had the same aim, to point one’s mind and heart upward to a more pure and clean headspace. perhaps the best past of the culture installation was that one was able to enter it through a small opening, where one could look up and see the oculus of the white does above, once agin showing the surprisingly perfect integration of the sculpture and the church. Furthermore we were able to see the sketches of the artist, as well as some of his other works, in a different wing of the building. I feel very luck to have visited venice for the first time while the Biennale was occurring, as it ensured that my memories of the place were not all about the history and concerns of the past, but instead they showed how the city is connected to the modern world today, and how in the same way that venice was always open to people from all parts of the world for trade purposes in the past, it remains a haven for artistic ideas to come together, clash, and complement one another.

Works Cited:

  1. “History | Boboli Gardens.” Gallerie Degli Uffizi,
  2. “Florence’s Oltrarno: Why Visit the “Other Side” of the Arno.” Walks of Italy Blog, 21 May 2012,
  3. “Ala Napoleonica in Piazza San Marco – Venice.”,
  4. “The Last Judgement by Michelangelo in Rome.” Florence Inferno, 14 Dec. 2017,
  5. “John Locke: The Justification of Private Property.”, 19 Oct. 2015,

Mozelle Garcia: Italia As Text 2019

Tivoli As Text

The Foreigner

Mozelle Garcia of FIU at Tivoli Italia, Instagram @mozelleg99

I hear the birds on the summer breeze, picturing a life of leisure and ease

philosophy by day, debauchery at night 

who could possibly stop me? my soldiers win every fight.

But judge me they may, judge me they do;

those pesky native Romans, the ones who 

do not dare to see beyond their gleaming white city,

do not care to accept those from different places.

Even if for them I’ve battled and gotten my hands dirty,

a Spaniard like me could never have their good graces.

So here I’ll live, here I’ll stay

In my brilliant villa far away.

Where I can read on my own and narrow my guests to

those who love the same pleasures that I do.

Exercise and bathing,

fishing and star-gazing.

And a view from atop the hill

where I can see the city which I must visit,

take my place for which many would kill.

Being Emperor of Rome won’t be all bad, will it? 

The issue of a leader not being accepted by much of his or her people has not gone away in civilized society. We need only look to the many Americans who continued to question President Barack Obama’s birthplace even after proof of his natural born status was publicized, and of course how many people were doubtful of his competency because of his race. With this they allowed their prejudices to impede them from forming opinions that were actually based on the quality of his leadership. 

The Big Ideas

Hadrian ruled after Trajan, during the “Pax Romana,” a period of peace which lasted 200 years. During this time Roman citizenship was granted to more and more people, increasing opportunities for trade and the connectedness of the empire as a whole. Instead of making new conquests, Hadrian toured the empire and learned from the different cultures within it. This can be seen by the various different architectural styles that made up his villa in Tivoli. While Hadrian may have had his flaws, his place of birth should not have been used to drive him away from the people he meant to rule over. Still, the result of that was a gorgeous and unique residence with features that exemplify the best of ancient Roman utilities. After having the opportunity to tour the villa, who can complain?


Rome as Text

Nothing Gold Can Stay – Colosseum

Mozelle Garcia of FIU at Rome Italia, Instagram @mozelleg99

Knowledge of works like the Flavian Amphitheater, called “Colosseum” by the public who associated it with a colossal sculpture that used to be just outside of it, has fluctuated through history. The Romans in 79 CE certainly knew where it came from and what it was for – the Emperors Vespasian and Titus wanted to give back to the people part of the pleasures which the overly lavish Emperor Nero had reserved for himself. The Colosseum was a place where Roman citizens could gather to watch gory spectacles. Wild animals tearing at each other, feral with fear and goaded on by the roar of 50,000 or more people stomping, clapping, shouting. Men would be thrown to the animals too, condemned prisoners with nothing left but the right to die. Not to be forgotten are the Gladiators, not quite like the modern celebrities of today who are idolized for their artistic pursuits, rather they were more like the animals, made famous by their actions when they were cornered with no choice but to fight. And fight they did; battles that ended with blood soaking into the sand of the arena.

And suddenly there I was, the only battle raging  seemingly a fight for a space to take pictures. Many people visit wonders like this just to check them off a list, but while at the Colosseum I had a battle within myself to see past the magnificence of the architecture and rather consider the price it cost. To capture this I chose a picture from outside the Colosseum, taken from high up in the Roman forum where one can see that I wear a bronze ring bought in the gift shop. It shines in the sun, like I imagine the real thing once did when it was covered with polished white marble. This visit was one of the first excursions of our entire trip, and so with this ring I will carry the Colosseum with me everywhere we go. It’s metallic glaze has already begun to rub off, staining my hands dark green with tarnish. It’s transformation reflects that of the real thing perfectly, as the words of Robert Frost prove true once again; nothing gold can stay.

The ring will be a reminder of the roots of all Rome, a place built on war and conquest, run by political masterminds who transformed the republic into an empire. They did this by distracting the public from the real problems by providing something cool to look at. We can call them masterminds, because their goals are still accomplished today. Witnessing the Colosseum is overpowering, and it is what many people imagine when they think of Rome. It gives the people today the impression that the Romans likely would have wanted it to give, that they were a powerful and advanced people capable of great feats. But it’s our job to remember that everything is not always what it seems, and that’s the mindset we must have even when contemplating less famous works moving on. 

Pompeii As Text


Mozelle Garcia of FIU at Pompeii Italia, Instagram @mozelleg99F7AF3E86-8CA0-464B-9E22-DADB7577DA04

This is how the world ends. Not with a bang, but with a whimper – T.S. Eliot.  

When people think of a volcano they think of lava flowing, rampant and out of control, burning the trees and covering the earth in hard new rock. But it wasn’t like that in Pompeii. The eruption there was not sudden, but slow and deceptive. Everyone pictures volcanoes exploding with a bang, but in Pompeii the estimated 2,000 people who stayed behind as the rocks rained from the grey sky were killed in a much slower way. The most striking image in my exploration of Pompeii was that of the ancient man who sat down and tried to cover his face as the fumes cut off his breathing forever. Or perhaps he prayed in vain, wondering what he and his people had done to offend Vulcan, the Roman god of volcanoes, but then again most of them hadn’t even known that Mt. Vesuvius held that heated fury within it before it was too late. I imagine that the people felt the effects of the fumes before they hit fully – giving them just enough time to know they messed up by staying, just enough time to panic and feel the fear. They perished not with a bang, but with a whimper.

It was hard walking through Pompeii and seeing all of the places people used to live. Seeing animals and little children frozen in time was one of the hardest parts as well – they had no choice but to stay. We look at Pompeii and we can appreciate the historical value of the perfectly preserved city, with the paintings and mosaics of many houses and villas intact, and the evidence of the civilized society rampant in all the fast food places and chariot traffic regulations. At the same time we sympathize with the dead, but we cannot speak badly on their behalf when really, we haven’t gotten much better. It’s so easy to see people’s mistakes in retrospect. Every time a disaster occurs today people come out with claims of what they would’ve done differently. But it’s no help after the fact.

The decimation at Pompeii occurred 1,940 years ago, and we’ve come a long way since then, like how we can monitor seismic activity and offer faster transportation. Still, that doesn’t change the fact many people today can try as much as they like to be proactive with natural disasters, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. 14 years ago Hurricane Katrina ravaged all of New Orleans and it was the low income individuals with no place to go and no possibility of finding another future if they left their only properties and possessions behind, that suffered the most. The city is still not fully rebuilt. Pompeii was forgotten through the years after it was destroyed, only the records of Pliny the Younger who saw the destruction himself can help us to know what happened. The same thing occurs in developed countries all the time where the media will cover an event nonstop until the next one comes along, no one pays any more mind, but the issues persist there. I think that the history of Pompeii should serve as a lesson to the people today of the importance of taking the wrath of nature seriously, but also of having sympathy for victims with no control, and enough compassion to follow up and be certain that no city is forgotten. We can do better than that.

Firenze As Text


Mozelle Garcia of FIU at Firenze Italia – Uffizi Gallery, Instagram @mozelleg99

The David is praised and singled out for the distinct and immaculate way that it captures humanity. The tension of the young man’s body and the look of doubt in his eyes in combination with the aura of confidence and bravery that exudes from him all the same and makes the viewer appreciate their own humanity and potential. What could be more impressive than the David? Brunelleschi’s Dome? Giotto’s tower? Well, impressive is a relative term, and so is impactful, but from my experience the hall adjacent to the gallery leading up to the David was more impactful than the David himself. I explored this wing alone after sifting through the trinkets in the gift shop, somewhat bored and not expecting to be moved so much once again farted having seen the David for the first time. This wing contained rows and rows of sculptures and busts of mostly women, along with children and animals. I had not seen anything like this in all of my time traveling through Italy. Most were nameless, made by unknown artists most likely for familial commissions. But as unimpressive as these marble and plaster sculptures – most of them partially reconstructed – may be by themselves, all together they made me feel like I was walking through a happier side of history. The David celebrates courage and masculinity. All it takes is one gigantic 17 foot sculpture made by the renaissance master Michelangelo in the early 1500s to overpower one’s senses, but the hall will all the women overpowered me in a different way. It just made me happy and relieved in a way to see that some fraction of ancient art was devoted to the everyday women, not even necessarily deities. While the David is undeniably humanistic and empathetic I can’t quite call him warm, not in the way that the women in this hall are. A picture can’t capture the feeling of walking through and seeing all of the hairstyles and expressions of maternity and gentle in interacting with children and dogs. The hall of women easily emits warmth. I feel that it is important to represent historic moments and religious stories in art, but the purity of celebrating everyday moments brings a different sense of peace and inspiration to me. The final sentiment that I had when leaving the little gallery and glimpsing the David again was that perhaps one man may be very strong, but while one woman can do the same, many women coming together can do even more.  

Pisa as Text

Calls to Heaven

Mozelle Garcia of FIU at Pisa, Italia. Instagram @mozelleg99

Quite often throughout our study abroad journey we have been truly surprised. Our calendar and syllabus only reveal so much, but in the moment when we are finally experiencing the things that our grand tour has built up to, there are always amazing details to blow us away. The demonstration of the acoustics inside of the Pisa Baptistery of St John was one of the most pleasant surprises of its kind. A unique architectural style termed Pisan-Romanesque – for the Romanesque influences are apparent in the heavyset structure and the simplicity of the colors and designs – the Baptistry connects to the gentler side of Heaven in what is personally my favorite way.

The dome in this Baptistry from 1363 is nothing to boast of, and the oculus isn’t even open, but nonetheless it is full of light, and with a single call for silence and a few moments of vocalisations a simple guard turned the bland space into a capsule for the voices of the heavens. I loved this feature of the Baptistry so intensely because I think it highlights how beauty is not only present in a visual sense, but through other medeis as well. In the digital age we live in, pictures are taken, crafted, shared, picked apart until they emulate perfection in the eyes of their creator. But just looking at pictures can’t compare to witnessing the total beauty of a place which in my opinion should account for sounds, smells, even the temperature of the air within it. The emphasis on sound within this Baptistry shows that the Pisan people were more interested in their connection with God than with opulent beauty on earth. I think that learning of places like this can help people to realize that there are more ways of connecting to spirituality, to other people, and to feelings in general than just through visual media. It’s no wonder that the Baptistry is located in the Piazza dei Miracoli (the Plaza of Miracles), it doesn’t get as much love as the famous leaning bell tower, but from my experience it has even more heart. 

Cinque Terre as Text

A Place For Reflection

Mozelle Garcia of FIU at Cinque Terre, Italia Instagram @mozelleg990547B95F-CDDC-45C2-B180-B664B414C40E.jpeg

As a member of generation Z, I naturally am influence by the trends and stereotypes of young people’s intimacy with technology. The prospect of hiking for 18 miles and nearly 8 hours seemed rather daunting to me before I had to opportunity to embark on the journey. These days, people can’t be bored at all. They don’t know how to deal with it. They desire content stimulation of the mind, or at least what passes as stimulation. A lot of it is oftentimes really just a simulation, as one treks mountains and explores ancient cities through a digital screen. When these coastal towns were built, some during the Ancient Roman era, the people never expected it to grow to the desirable tourist destination it is today. Their trails were functional, not scenic. That part came as a bonus, possible because of the natural beauty and wonders present in the landscapes of Liguria, the region of Italia where Cinque Terre is located. To be honest, I was tempted to fill the silence with some music such as Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” to keep me going through the endless expanses of stairs and steps along the way. (I also assigned the same title to the stairway pictured above as it lead right to a gorgeous panoramic view of the sea and of Manarola). I held back from listening to music however, electing to remain alert in case there was an issue along the trail.

We were told that Cinque Terre was a place for reflection, but at the times I was not slowing down or stopping to take a photo I was staring at my worn down sneakers and  trying very hard not to fall off the side of the trail to my certain doom. I didn’t quite reflect on my life or my decisions, but rather focused on on the challenge before me, “just get to the end and think about it later” was the mentality. Perhaps that’s a good thing, as I imagine it was the one that the ancient people had when traveling from town to town in such a laborious manner. We are so used to convenience today that we can’t be bored and we can’t enjoy the simple things in life  because we don’t know how to face them. I certainly tried; I kept a slower pace, smelling flowers and taking useless photographs. They’re useless because they could never capture the real scenery with all its depth, it’s perfection in color tones and imperfections in power lines and fleeing figures intruding on the scene. We were told that Cinque Terre was a place where we should reflect. The peace of the mountain sanctuary, with the warm atmosphere stomping out the cold air, helped me to do just that after our long hike, and so I saw how I can change to live more for the moment rather than to pass the time.  

Venezia As Text

The Flower in Adveristy

Mozelle Garcia of FIU at Venezia, Italia. Instagram @mozelleg99


“The flower that blooms in adversity is the rarest and most beautiful of all”
It was not a great poet who said that, this quote actually comes from a Disney Movie of all places. They are the words spoken by the Emperor of China in the film “Mulan,” and they were the words that came to mind on several occasions during my time in Venice, as no volume of incidences could take away my wonder when I would see little flowers blooming in the most improbable places.

I’m no scientist or biologist, so I can’t know the technicalities of it all, but to me it’s amazing and beautiful how a seed can end up in a place as remote as a pillar above the Bridge of Sighs and find the means to grow into a flower. I don’t have a picture, but try and imagine it; an open window leaving the courtroom in the Doge’s palace, a view of the bridge from very close, and to the left on a rooftop above, a little flower. It was a beautiful moment, enough for even a picture-happy Generation-Z like me to forget to whip out her phone. But you know, there were flowers like that blooming all around the city, and in the cells of the prisoners there was no exception. I was very struck by the art on display in one of the ancient jail cells now open to the public. Many of the prisoners drew women – what they missed in jail I suppose – but one prisoner, well, they doodled the same basic little flower that adorns the margins of every schoolgirl’s notebook.

I don’t know exactly why it struck me so. Without being educated about history, we feel a bit disconnected from the people in the past. It was during the Grand Tour that I learned for the first time that while society’s practices and the way we do things with the aid of technology may evolve, people are largely the same, with the same talents, interests, concerns, etc. I think that this doodle on the prison wall captures that well. It captures feeling trapped, longing to see green, or maybe just passing the time. Just like a schoolgirl with her notebook. All over Venice is evidence of the shared humanity we have with the people of the past. I believe that it is only right to have felt more connected with the city  than any other as this was our final destination on the Grand Tour.

Venice may not have as much in the way of churches and historical wonders as other places I’ve been, but the lack of automotive traffic or modernized constructions along with the romantic, almost mystical energy that fills the city as the night falls and the tourists ship off altogether provided a feeling of authenticity surpassing all others. Looking at the past as if it were disconnected from the present is a mistake that is made all too often. Perhaps it is that we are used to seeing movies that tell legends of the past, and at the end of them always remind ourselves that they aren’t real. While much of the history we say may be fictionalized or exaggerated, it is important to never forget that the stories come from true events and involve real people with real emotions.

Going through the prison cells was an odd experience. One thinks that surely the people kept in here were for the most part criminals that had done bad things, but the conditions in which they were kept, and the distinct justice system under which they were prosecuted left me feeling like it may all have been far too harsh. The ancient world may have been harder, but that doesn’t mean that people were innately stronger. I feel that it is important to keep in mind the perspective of the oppressed, of the peasant, and even of the prisoner as we explore great ancient cities like these where the wealthy and the poor lived as neighbors but yet in different worlds. Venice itself was relatively good about that, making all nobles wear black and have black gondolas, for example, in order to prevent them from flaunting their wealth. But still, it is important to once again see the similarities in people then and today and to learn about the importance of these kinds of cautions, and of preventing disparities that border on the unjust from being so rampant.


The Influence of Ancient Rome in The United States Judicial Structure

Mozelle Garcia

For the context of this website, “Ancient Rome” refers to Rome between the 8th century BCE, when Rome was founded, to its fall in the 5th century CE (1).

Legal Basis

The Twelve Tables were established around 439 BCE. They were the backbone of Roman Law throughout the height of the empire until they were replaced by the Justinian Code around 529 CE (2). The influences of the Justinian Code permeated continental Europe and most European colonies, all the way to the United States today (3).

Judicial Structure

Ancient Rome

Under the Twelve Tables, from the 5th century BCE to the 2nd century CE, the first step in “legis actiones” or “Roman legal procedure” was for the plaintiff to approach the defendant in public and call him to court. The defendant could be brought in forcefully if necessary (4). A trial was divided into a preliminary hearing where a magistrate decided if there was a case worth hearing. A magistrate is a civil officer or lay judge who administers the law, usually only in minor areas. This was a very formal process in which precision of language was a key factor in determining success or failure. If a case passed a “judex” would then try it (4). A judex was not a lawyer or magistrate, but rather a person with professional knowledge in the subject. The role of a magistrate judge in the U.S. court system is similar to that of the original magistrates in Ancient Rome. The judex would make a decision in the trial, but had no power to enforce anything. Uncooperative defendants could be brought to a magistrate who could get property seized or even make the defendant a slave to the plaintiff to work off his debt (4).

As time passed in the republic, cases became more complex and as such it was required to write issues down to present them to the judex. This led to the formulary system where the magistrate had greater power in deciding if the case should go to the judex. Later in the republic power increased for the courts again as summons could be issued by the court, trials were held exclusively before the magistrate, and it became the court’s responsibility to see through the sentence (2). These changes occurred under the “cognitio extraordinaria” period of Roman Law. Herein an appeal system also developed, which is a core component of the justice system in the United States today.

Modern United States

It is important to note that the United States Judicial Structure is built on a system of appeals. This system of appeals originated in Ancient Rome, as cases became more complicated and the legal system became more intertwined with bureaucracy (2).  As this occurred, a distinction between civil and criminal disputes began to arise. This has further developed so that the difference is major in the United States. Civil disputes involve people, companies, entities, or other groups, who have allegedly harmed another. Criminal cases on the other hand are brought by the state. A criminal act is different from a civil wrong in that it is considered harmful to society as a whole, rather than a single person or group (5). Criminal cases end in a guilty / not guilty plea or verdict, and criminals will receive punishment from the state that can come in the form of a fine, imprisonment, or in some cases the death penalty. The structure of the appeal system is depicted by the chart below.


Personally, I find the shift of the justice system in the United States to being more specialized a positive thing. This gives lawyers more flexibility in what they choose to study and practice. Being able to focus on what interests you allows you to serve the public in the most effective way, as you have greater job satisfaction and motivation (5). I am not particularly interested in working as a prosecutor or defense attorney, but rather aspire to work in the corporate sector of the law. Because of the formal institutions separating these areas in place today, that is achievable. I have the late Roman empire to thank for starting this evolution.

The judicial system in the United States also demonstrates Roman influences in that it begins with a grand judge and / or a preliminary hearing. In many States, the accused have a right to have a jury decide if there is enough evidence to go to trial (7). Furthermore, both the prosecution and defense had advocates speak on their behalf as is the practice in the United States today (8).

In Ancient Rome It was not uncommon for the trials of lower class citizens to be held outside, with much jeering from the crowd of the market or square. While all judicial proceedings take place indoors in the U.S., the less serious the offense the more informal the proceedings. An example is the chaotic, quick pace of traffic court where several cases are addressed in the span of hours. This is another manifestation of court culture in the U.S. brought from Ancient Rome where we see that there is leniency on formality depending on the case.

The Death Penalty and Discrimination

Executions were rare for Romans of high status, but for slaves and common criminals it was quite common. Imprisonment was not a legally sanctioned punishment in Ancient Rome, the most that one would be locked up was when they were awaiting trial (8). Criminals were killed publicly, for the public to rejoice in their punishment (9). The trials of lower citizens on the whole tended to be very open to the public.

In the U.S. the death penalty is highly controversial. 20 out of 50 states do not allow it (10). In those where it is allowed, it is typically very difficult to attain, and when they do there are several regulations that go along with it. To end the life of the criminal a lethal injection is usually administered (10). In Florida, for example, the jury must unanimously recommend the death penalty in order for the judge to be able to impose the sentence (10).

There are prominent arguments in the U.S. which note how, similar to in Ancient Rome, the distribution of the death penalty is not equally applied to all citizens. For example, a 2014 study found that a death sentence was three times more likely to be recommended for a black defendant than for a white one in a similar case (11). Furthermore, black sentences account for 34.2% of executions when they only make up 13.4% of the U.S. population (12). It is well known that in the United States minorities are disproportionately affected by poverty and poor education (13). On the other hand, those with greater resources can hire better attorneys and achieve more lenient sentences in that way.

This is a negative practice to have inherited from the Romans as it perpetuates an inequality in the Justice system, but it is a manifestation of Rome in the US that must be pointed out nonetheless. The systematic separation of classes is something present in many societies, but that does not mean it has to stay this way. While our judicial system has drawn inspiration from Ancient Rome in many ways, we have also refined several practices, and the application of capital punishment is an area where adjustments are still needed.

Legal Education

While education in law is considered a “distinctively Roman development,” legal education in Ancient Rome was much more informal during the earlier years of the empire (14). However, formal legal education began to rise and become more bureaucratic under the later empire. Law became increasingly centralized as the power of the state grew (14).

In the U.S. today, a legal education entails enrolling in a Law School, typically for a period of three years with exceptions being made for part-time programs. Prior to this, students must obtain a bachelor’s degree and pass the Law School Admission Test. In Law School, students are not directly taught the law, but rather are taught how to think like a lawyer. Emphasis is placed on analytical reasoning and logical thinking. With this it is clear that the core competencies of a good attorney remain the same as they were in Ancient Rome. Particularly in litigation, the teachings of Cicero are still used to teach young lawyers to be good orators.

Public Speaking

Public speaking is an essential part of being a good litigator. The devices that people use today to write their arguments and prepare for trial were also emphasized in Ancient Rome. While Greece is considered the true birthplace of rhetoric, the Romans adopted the Greek teachings and expanded upon them form around 90BCE (15). Marcus Tulius Cicero 106-43BCE) lived during the decline of the Roman Republic but was considered the greatest of Roman orators. He was a lawyer, as well as a politician and philosopher. He wrote De Inventione and De Oratore, which offered theories of oral discourse and emphasized the five canons of rhetoric, Invention, Arrangement, Style, Memory, and Delivery (15).

The study and practice of rhetoric has hardly evolved since the days of the Romans. For example, today as part of the Pre-Law Certificate Program at Florida International University, students are required to learn about rhetorical theories and practices. These courses place great emphasis on the teachings of cicero and other Roman influencers. The canons of rhetoric are easily identifiable in the speeches given by politicians and senators as they strive to achieve the same goal of persuasion that their Roman counterparts had. L

Legal Jargon

One of the most prominent ways in which the influences of Ancient Rome manifest themselves in the United States Judicial Structure is through the use of Latin terminology and principles. Through classes under the Pre-Law certificate program here at FIU, an undergraduate aspiring to go to law school such as myself will become well-versed in terms such as “stare decisis, culpa en contrahendo, and pacta sunt servanda.” (2). These translate roughly to “stand by things decided” (a legal principle wherein things are decided according to precedent), “fault in contracting” (which points out the importance negotiating with care), and “agreements are to be kept” (16,17).  The prevalence of these terms as well as the principles they uphold is a clear indicator of the extent to which Ancient Roman custom is alive within the U.S.’s legal system. Stare decisis is actually outlined by table XII, as it states, “whatever the people had last ordained should be held as binding law”. This helped shape the common law system of the United States today (2). Common law is a system which builds on precedent; decisions are made by considering the outcomes of previous similar cases (17). The Ancient Romans began building the common law system as they kept records of proceedings in the later periods of the empire.

Why so Roman?

The founding fathers of the United States drew inspiration from Ancient Rome in a number of ways. Entire projects can be devoted to identifying the influences of Rome in U.S. executive and legislative strict, as well as in federal architecture and culture. Certainly, the influence of Roman judicial structure was no exception as the structure of the courts was outlined, and the system for keeping laws determined.


Taken collectively, the influences of Ancient Rome are present in nearly every aspect of the Judicial Structure in the United States today. The Romans were the first to conduct the classic trials in the way we know today, and they paved the way for the study and practice of law to become one of the most respected positions. As I prepare to enter this profession as well, I will continue to be exposed to many terms from the Latin language, rhetorical techniques, and the same system of law used in ancient times. With new knowledge about the roots of the Judicial System, I will understand more readily how everything goes together while at the same time be able to look at the negative commonalities and plan my role in changing them.


  • All images are in the public domain. The chart depicting U.S. Court Structure is shared publicly via slide-share on LinkedIn.

1.—. “Ancient Rome | Facts, Maps, & History.” Encyclopedia Britannica,

2. “Law in Ancient Rome, The Twelve Tables – Crystalinks.” Crystalinks Home Page,

3. Syam, Piyali. “What is the Difference Between Common Law and Civil Law?” Law Degrees Available Online | @WashULaw, 28 Jan. 2014,

4. Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. “Roman Legal Procedure.” Encyclopedia Britannica,

5. Haskins, Paul A. Essential Qualities of the Professional Lawyer. Amer Bar Assn, 2013.

6. Toth, Bryan. “Organization Of U.S. Court System.” Share and Discover Knowledge on LinkedIn SlideShare, 24 May 2009,

7. “The Criminal Justice System.” Welcome to the National Center for Victims of Crime,

8. “Crime and Punishment.” Life in the Roman Empire,

9. CMHypno. “How and Why the Romans Executed People.” Owlcation, 27 Oct. 2011,

10. “30 States with the Death Penalty and 20 States with Death Penalty Bans.” Death Penalty, 13 Mar. 2019,

11. “Facts about the Death Penalty.” DPIC | Death Penalty Information Center, Apr. 2019,

12. “U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: UNITED STATES.” Census Bureau QuickFacts,

13. US Census Bureau. “Income and Poverty in the United States: 2017.”,
12 Sept. 2018,

14. Riggsby, Andrew M. “Roman Legal Education – A Companion to Ancient Education.” Wiley Online Library |Scientific Research Articles, Journals, Books, and Reference Works, 2015,

15. “Origins of Public Speaking: The Roman Republic’s Adoption of Rhetoric | Public Speaking.” Lumen Learning – Simple Book Production,

 16. US Legal, Inc. “Culpa-In-Contrahendo Doctrine Law and Legal Definition.” Legal Definitions Legal Terms Dictionary | USLegal, Inc,

17. —. “Pacta Sunt Servanda Law and Legal Definition.” Legal Definitions Legal Terms Dictionary | USLegal, Inc,