Italy: Culture & Psychology

Follow along with Towson University Psychology professor Dr. David Earnest as he leads a group of TU students to study abroad for Minimester 2016 in Italy!

Day 12 (Pt. 2): Italian Cooking Class

Student Author:
Victoria Zemil

Today’s cooking class was a pretty interesting experience overall. When I was first told that we would be doing a cooking class, I was expecting something very different than what we actually did. Not to say that the class wasn’t enjoyable or educational, but it was different from what you would see in the movies. We were separated into pairs and were assigned dishes to create, some people making a vegetable dish and some making the dessert/ pasta sauce. I was assigned the vegetable dish, which I was excited about because we were cooking with eggplant, which is one of my favorites! Learning the steps it took to create a dish was exciting because I have never really cooked a meal like that before. At school, I usually just eat basic foods such as grilled cheese, or pasta over the stove with canned sauce. It was awesome to make food for myself and everyone else that we could all enjoy together. This class has definitely taught me lots of things, other than just the recipe! It taught me that I could start at one point and make it to the end and actually be accomplished with myself. This lesson has made me feel as if I want to cook more unique dishes at school for both friends and myself. This cooking class relates back to psychology because food and psychology can become intertwined. People tend to be happier when they eat good food, and enjoying good food leads to a happier mindset. The experience overall was really fun and I would definitely do it again!

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Day 12 (Pt. 1): Uffizi Gallery

Student Author:
Ben Scanga

The Uffizi museum was started as a tribute to the Grand Duke Francesco I and was designed to amaze anyone who entered. The museum does not disappoint. During the 1700’s paintings and sculptures were collected and hung along the walls to celebrate Florence and its ruling families. The museum is organized chronologically with earlier 2-dimensional works at the beginning of the tour and 3-dimensional works using shadowing and detail towards the end of the museum. Throughout the museum busts and sculptures of classic works lined the corridors and portraits of famous Florentine citizens greet visitors as they tour the gallery spaces. As we entered the first room it was filled with a Galla full of sketches, many done by Federico Barocci, highlighting the natural human form.  It was quite interesting that each picture was uniquely incomplete.  But you could visibly see the image and emotion Barocci was displaying.  The sketches embodied what looks like a individuals struggle through life and the metamorphosis that many people undergo.  As I continued the tour I entered a hall filled with more paintings, sculptures, and with most Italian museums we’ve gone to, a high beautiful ceiling covered in paintings. Other artist works from famous Italian artists, such as Leonardo da Vinci, graced the halls of the museum and these impressive works illustrate the beauty and skill found in the artwork of Italian masters.

Day 11 (Pt. 2): Lecture from Dr. Matteo Pretelli

Student Author:
Jill Taylor

On January 13th, we heard a guest lecture given by Dr. Matteo Pretelli regarding the relationship between Italy and the United States throughout history. Dr. Pretelli is 100% Italian, has a Ph.D. in history, and has been able to travel to numerous places throughout his life. He teaches US students who are studying abroad and specializes in migration studies. Dr. Pretelli began by explaining the relationship between Italy and the United States during the period of “Risorgimento” (aka unification of Italy). During this time many wealthy American families sent their children to Europe to get an education. Some people saw Italy as the country of art and landscapes, while others saw it as a country of dirty bandits, beggars, and dishonest and lazy people. Later on in history Americans began to appreciate Italy for its neoclassical architecture and artwork. Dr. Pretelli continued on to teach us about how the relationship between Italy and the United States went back and forth during the two world wars until we talked about the present. Today the United States strongly promotes cultural exchange with Italy; as a result we students are able to be studying psychology here right now. Dr. Pretelli taught us a lot about our relationship with Italy and got us talking about how we view other cultures. We learned to be more open-minded of others, and to do our best not to believe stereotypes. We discussed our opinions regarding various cultural and political issues in Italy and I am very grateful for the opportunity to learn from Dr. Pretelli on this trip.

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Day 11 (Pt. 1): Galileo Museum

Student Author:
Thomas Shaw

One of Florence’s most famous sons is the scientist Galileo. Galileo stands in history as a legend and founding father in the fields of astronomy, physics, and geometry. He was a rock star scientist in his time and openly challenged church doctrine with his rebellious theories, such as providing evidence for the sun, and not the Earth, being at the center of our solar system.

As one of Florence’s favorite sons, of course Galileo’s Museum would be housed in a prestigious location off the Palazzo Catellani. This palatial building is one of the oldest building in the city acting as a justice courts during Galileo’s lifetime.

The museum is filled with much scientific wonderment of the Renaissance world, and not just those of Galileo. I was surprised to learn that much of his work was en-Vogue at the time and had ties to the recent introduction and emerging prevalence of firearms and cannon in warfare. The antique rifles and tools used to calculate ballistic trajectories on display hint to the impact of Galileo on our understanding of ballistics. He even wrote a military manual on the topic.

Another of my favorite works on display was the telescopes he built and improved, stellar achievements on their own. He used these early but powerful telescopes to describe the surface of the moon in great detail for the first time. With his improved instruments, he could observe and sketch the craters and mountains never before seen by man.

With his wit, new found wisdom, and the intelligence to apply it, Galileo was able to shatter the held views of the universe at his time and thrust mankind into the harsh light of truth, that we did not sit at the center of the universe. This type of revolution often has a cost and Galileo paid the price by being placed under house arrest for the last 8 years of his life by the Roman Catholic Church.

Day 10: Day Trip to Panzano

Student Authors:
Gabrielle Silgalis and Ben Scanga

We were fortunate enough to visit Panzano in Chianti today, which is amazingly only an hour bus ride from Florence. We left the bus stop early in the morning, many of us still partially asleep.  As we left the city and started to get in the wine country, the view was incredible.  The bus started to climb the hillside towards Panzano, you could start to see some of the vineyards, olive trees, and various farmland spread out across the land.  To be honest it looked like something out of a movie. Once we got of the bus we stopped at the butcher shop where we would later have dinner. There people were very friendly serving us bread combined with various smoked meats. Soon after we set out up a very steep hill to the top of the village.  I recall thinking that this is what you come to Italy to see; this is what a true Italian village looks like.  At the top of the hill there was an old church that over looked the small village.  We turned to the right and walked out to a hillside and could see for miles.  Overlooking the entire countryside.  Savoring every last sight we stood mesmerized by the true beauty Italy has to offer.

While in Panzano we had the opportunity to visit the famous butcher, Dario Cecchini. Mr. Cecchini has been featured multiple times on Food Network and prides himself on using every last bit of the animal that he slaughters. We were greeted with plates of salami, lardo, and bread all of which went excellently with a glass of red wine. We did some exploring of the village and finally were able to visit the famous restaurant, Antica Macelleria Cecchini where we were able to sample the multitude of meats.

One of my most favorite parts of the restaurant was oddly enough, the place mat. The place mat had a photo of a cow and showed which body parts each piece of meat came from. This made me feel very comfortable about what I was ingesting. In the states, you rarely have people fessing up about where the food they are serving comes from. This also exemplifies the pride that this restaurant has for butchery. There was not one piece of the cow that was not used.

At lunch, we had a wide assortment of food. All together, we ate spicy meat ragu on toast, garden vegetables with olive oil and a special salt, Tuscan bread, garbanzo and white beans, beef roast, boiled beef and vegetables, braised meat, Vittorio’s wine, and finally, olive oil cake for dessert. Each entree melted in your mouth and was cooked to perfection. My personal favorite was the braised meat which had this wonderful sauce over-top and simply left me wanting more. Overall, the food stood apart in regards to quality and quantity, none of us left hungry.

Dario’s passion exemplifies the passion of many Italians in regards to food. Italian cooking incorporates hospitality and togetherness into the environment and every single dish. It felt like we were in someone’s home instead of at a restaurant. The meal was absolutely incredible and really brought to life the relationship between culture and food in Italy. We will be incredibly lucky to find such great quality food anywhere outside of Italy.

Day 9: Foodie Tour

Student Author:
Alina Langley

There is so much I want to say about this tour, but only so much space. The Sant’Anbrogio Market was amazing. We had some amazing fruits that were in season and fresh. Then we went into the meat and cheese area and had aged cheese and prosciutto and mortadella. After we were done at the market, we went to a bakery and had Focaccia and cenci, a sweet, crisp bread. We ended at the San Lorenzo Market where we had buffalo mozzarella, an assortment of meats, a truffle platter, and an assortment of fried foods. Food can be used to get a sneak peek into another culture. Italians use a lot of fresh ingredients in their food and you can tell through tasting the food and seeing the chefs cooking how much they care about the people enjoying the food. The chefs put so much passion into their food that I’m not sure how I’ll be able to go back to American food.

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Day 8 (Pt. 2): Florence Walking Tour

Student Author:
Clarie Dorey

Tonight we went on a night walk in Florence with a local guide. She lead us around the city and shared many local legends including historical figures and famous events. One such interesting story involved the “Gate of Paradise” outside the Duomo Baptistry. The grand gold door received its name from Michelangelo who said the door looked like the gateway to heaven.

Another story we heard concerned a girl who was engaged to a man who was a good financial fit for her family but that she did not love. However, she loved another, Antonio. After marrying the rich man she become depressed and sometime later her seemingly lifeless body was found by her parents. In the traditional fashion, her body was placed in an open casket in the local church for a time of mourning. However, on the first night she was left alone in the church, she awoke to find herself alone in the church and proceeded to seek help. She went to her husband’s door to ask for help and the terrified husband assumed she was the ghost of his wife and turned her away. She then went to her father’s house and was met with the same reaction. Lastly, she went to the house of her true love Antonio. Happy to spend any time with his love, Antonio welcomed her with open arms. Because she was pronounced dead, she was no longer married to her husband and could spend the rest of her life with Antonio.

These legends and the wonderful views of Florence by night helped us to better understand the history and culture of this amazing city.

Day 8 (Pt. 1): Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens

Student Author:
Kathryn Henderson

The Pitti Palace was the home of the powerful Medici family that supported the Renaissance movement in Florence. The Palatine Gallery was created during the end of the 18th century and occupies the whole first floor of the Pitti Palace. It was the former residence of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany and later became a royal palace. In the left wing of the palace, Medicean masterpieces were collected along with other Italian and European masterpieces from the Renaissance to the 18th century. In the right wing of the palace lies the Royal families apartments including the King’s bed chamber, the room of the “Parrots” (which connects the King and Queen’s apartments), and the throne room which hosted the meeting between the Rome Deputation and King Victor Emmanuel II. Napoleons bathroom was also included in the right wing area of the palace which was renovated in order to accommodate the Emperor and his wife.
The Boboli Gardens is one of the most extravagant gardens in Italy and extends far behind the Pitti Palace. The garden was very open and gave an expansive view of the city with many ancient Renaissance fountains and statues. The beauty of the garden behind the palace, overlooking the city of Florence was truly breathtaking. It is definitely a must see for anyone traveling to Florence, or Italy in general.

Day 7 (Pt. 2)

Student Author:
Jonathan Holy

I found the transportation in Rome to be a bit daunting at first. Mostly because of my lack of familiarity with the area. As I became more used to Rome, and finding where I was going, I felt it was a lot more like either the New York or D.C. Metro/buses. The urgency and attitudes of the passengers are the same with people being quiet or having small conversations with others.

The train ride to Florence was interesting. Particularly our attitudes towards the dangers of traveling. Being in an unfamiliar country we were more wary and aware of potential pickpockets and other potential issues. Back home we may not have even thought about the potential dangers of traveling. Beside the unfamiliarity and wariness the ride was actually about the same as a typical train ride back home.

Day 7 (Pt. 1): Santa Maria del Fiore, Duomo, & Santa Croce

Student Author:
Alaina Langley

Comparing Santa Croce and Santa Maria del Fiore to St. Peter’s and the other churches in Rome has been interesting. It took me until today to realize exactly how the Renaissance era was different from Baroque and other eras. While both eras have very large, orate pieces, it seems as if the Renaissance era churches are more welcoming. They seem to be built to intimidate people much less than the Roman churches did.

I climbed to the top of both the Duomo and the bell tower which gave me a very unique view of Florence that I would not have gotten if I had not climbed up the approximately 400 stairs each. Visiting these two sites allowed me to see the Last Judgement painted on the interior dome of the Duomo and the tombs of famous Florentine thinkers and artists like Galileo and Machiavelli at Santa Croce. Comparing these churches with those in Rome gave me the opportunity to see how the church has changed over time in two culturally different cities. These Florentine churches seemed more welcoming compared to the imposing nature of the churches in Rome.

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Day 6: Museo Laboratorio delle Mente

Student Author:
Charlotte Basch

Today we went to Museo Laboratorio delle Mente, a museum about mental health housed in a former mental institution. The museum’s focus is normality and diversity. This is due to the institution being a place of exclusion; it held the mentally ill and anyone who violated social norms. Their legal and civil rights were taken away until a late 1970’s law that started the closing of the hospital and the release of the the patients. We also saw a small room where ‘difficult’ patients were strapped to the bed. It’s chilling to look at this room and realize the mentally ill were being treated this way not even 50 years ago. The power of the psychiatrist was absolute, and it lead to a lot of harm. As a psychology class, it’s an important piece of history to remember.

The museum’s other feature was a challenge to perception and time, putting you in the place of someone ‘abnormal’. One of the walls reads ‘da vicino nessuno e’ normale’ or ‘from up close no one is normal’. This an important theme in the museum. This certainly makes you reconsider how you judge others, and what it really means to be normal. We take classes in ‘abnormal psychology’, but don’t consider who defines normal.

There were four exhibits. The first, on visual perception, involves a room which makes one person look tiny and the other giant by putting them at different distances and with different sized doors. The second was a room with a microphone and a screen. Every time a student spoke into a microphone, there were moving images of a mouth with a voice talking over them. The next room had a mirror with a screen inside it. The screen shows a recording of the person while in the room, but rewinding and fast forwarding. The object is to match up the images, but we struggled to catch up with ourselves. The last room played back the words we said into the microphone, but the sound kept moving. We found these rooms made us anxious and gave us a glimpse of how it feels to be unable to trust your own perceptions. It really makes you think about how fragile your own perceptions are.

In addition, we got to experience some other things the patients did. Some students got their pictures taken like the patients would have. Others sat in a chair with their hands over their ears and were played voices. Overall the museum was disconcerting, but one of the most interesting things we have done. It was very effective in making me empathize more with people who are different and reminds me that the history of psychology is not all positive.

Day 5 (Pt. 3): Rome by Night

Student Author:
Kathryn Henderson

Seeing Rome’s quintessential piazzas and monuments at night was absolutely stunning. Not only the lights and beauty of the city, but the history of the city and its monuments was remarkable. We began the tour at St. Peter’s Basilica where St. Peter, the first pope, was crucified and buried. Currently, pope Francis is the 267th pope and when he was appointed, the first words he said was Bueno sera (good evening in English) and the crowd went wild. Popes do not usually address people using that type of greeting. Also, the last words he would say to people leaving the Vatican, were Bon Appetite!

Next we visited St. Angels castle, the tomb of emperor Haden who ruled after Christ. When the Christians arrived, they transformed it into a castle and whoever wanted to rule over Rome had to first conquer the castle. The castle was passed from one family of the pope to another and eventually became a personal fortress for the pope when war erupted. We also visited the bridge across from St. Angels castle, St. Angels bridge, which is 2000 years old. This was the only bridge that survived the fall of Rome. In the middle ages, Rome became a city of pilgrims in which the first holy year was celebrated in 1300. Thousands of pilgrims arrived from Europe because Spain and Rome were the only two places where they were able to be free. Because it took the pilgrims three months to walk there they founded national pilgrim centers and built many national churches. Consequently, there were over 400 churches built, which is the reason why Rome has so many churches. In the fifteenth century, aqueducts were built and the pope celebrated this by building the Trevi fountain representing the triumph of water. Today this site is one of the most popular sites for visitors in Rome. These historic sites tell the story of Rome and its people and I am glad that I was able to experience them during our night tour of Rome.

Day 5 (Pt. 2): Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica

Student Author:
Thomas Shaw

As we approached Vatican City you notice the large groups of people moving like flocks of birds guided by their leaders. They ebbed and flowed through the city with a singular purpose of visiting a truly unique site. In the air you hear many languages spoken in excited tones; German, Korean, Spanish, English…and yes, even Italian. People from around the world all gathering to enter this ancient city of Popes and ancient kings. Some have made long journeys as a pilgrimage to this holy site – the heart of Catholicism; others have come as tourists. No matter their reason for visiting, all cannot help but be awestruck at its enormity and magnificence.

One of my favorite parts of Vatican City was touring Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. I was most struck by Michelangelo’s bravery in artistic expression as he feared nothing, except God’s judgement. Proof of this is that he declined the Pope’s request that he paint the Sistine Chapel many times before he finally agreed. Once he agreed, he devoted himself to the work wholeheartedly and without compromise. Upon hearing that some members of the Church took issue with his abundant celebration of the unadorned human form, Michelangelo refused to cover up his representations of human form and even went so far as to paint his greatest critic into the Fresco as a damned soul. It was really amazing to see such drama and intrigue played out in such a momentous and eternal way on the walls of the chapel in the heart of the Vatican.

Day 5 (Pt. 1): BE FREE / Casa Internazionale delle Donne

Student Author:
Victoria Zemil

Today we went to the Casa Internazionale delle Donne, a home for abused women and and an organization that seeks to end violence against women of human trafficking. It was so interesting to learn about the differences between the laws in Italy and the U.S. when it comes to gender, domestic abuse, and even abortion. This experience has impacted my personal perspectives of the world because I realized how much more prominent violence in Italy is than in the states. A woman in Italy is killed every two days from violence, usually by someone she knows. Although violence against women is very prevalent in the U.S., it is not that common. Learning this statistic really helped me gain perspective of how different our cultures are. Going to this facility helped relate the trip back to psychology because when women are abused, it causes intense psychological damage. Anxiety, depression, and even suicide are all results of violence. When women are abused, it is important to seek counseling. This also altered the way I see other individuals different from myself because luckily I have never been a victim of violence, so I have respect for those women who have overcome it. It takes a lot of strength to walk away from someone you love, whether it’s a husband, father brother, or even friend, who hurts you in any way. Overall, seeing this organization was a very interesting experience and it helped me grow as a person.

Day 4 (Pt. 2): Colosseum, Forum, and Palatine

Student Author:
Gabrielle Silgalis

Today, we had the opportunity to explore three incredible historical sites: the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and Palatine. The Colosseum, which took 10 years to build, could hold approximately 50,000 spectators at one time and used a clever ticket system for seating and that could allow all 50,000 spectators to evacuate in thirty minutes. To celebrate its completion 100 days of celebration were held that included one day in which 3,000 men fought and another in which 9,000 animals entered the games. Public killings of men and animals were a Roman rite, with overtones to religious sacrifice, perpetrated by the myth that gladiatorial shows inspired the populace with “a glory in wounds and a contempt of death.”

​One stereotype many students (myself included) had shattered was that lions were typically one of the main attractions during the Colosseum games. However, Romans used an assortment of animals from wild pigs to hippopotamuses. The Colosseum illustrates the machismo associated with Italian culture and how blood and fighting was associated with eternal glory for the winner. I found this experience incredible and humbling because the Colosseum has such a rich history which I remember reading about almost every year in a history class!

​Unfortunately, once we finished up with the Colosseum, we had to wait till the following morning to see the Forum and the Palatine. Before becoming the political, administrative, and religious center of Rome, the Forum was an inhospitable marshland. Forum is the Latin word meaning “open space or market place”. The Forum was the public meeting place of citizens, lawmakers, and politicians and included the Senate House, making it the most important of all Forums.

​According to legend, Romulus founded Rome in 757 BCE at the site of the Palatine. The emperor Augustus lived at Palatine his entire life, while during the Renaissance, members of wealthy families established gardens on the hill. I found the Forum and the Palatine to be such a unique experience because you are able to walk along where past citizens walked. I was amazed at how well preserved it all is after so many years. I found it inspiring that when you made it to the top of Palatine, you were able to see across Rome especially since it is the most central of the Seven Hills. Overall, I thought it was a very unique experience to visit the Colosseum, the Forum, and the Palatine that illustrates the rich history of Rome.

Day 4 (Pt. 1): Eataly Visit

Student Author:
Jacob Dolch

Food is a part of a culture. Here in Italy it is really amazing. Nowhere else is this as evident as it is at Eataly in Rome. At Eataly we were able to experience a whole country’s culture through food and how it is made in only a few hours. We had pizza with pumpkin…something that hadn’t crossed my mind to put on pizza, and cured meats and artisan cheeses that could knock a person’s socks off. And to top it all off, we got to try two types of pasta, explore a store that seemed to have every kind of Italian food ever known, and managed to get some of the best desserts any of us have ever tasted in our lives.

This experience and the overall quality of the food has made me think about food and culture differently. Literally any food choice at Eataly is about one hundred times better than anything you can get back in “the states.” Much of the quality comes from the care and long process of making the food. In the bakery section of Eataly, we learned that it takes forty-eight hours just to make a loaf of bread. With the exception of seeing something on food network, one doesn’t typically find a food place in America that takes that kind of time and commitment for just a loaf of bread. My time in Eataly and Italy has given me a new perspective on food quality and the role of food in culture.

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Day 3 (Pt. 2): Capuchin Crypt

Student Author:
Kelsey Robertson

When I decided to apply to this program, I glanced at the itinerary and one of the activities that caught my eye was the Santa Maria Della Conciliazione of the Capuchin, I initially thought that it was a tiny chapel that contained the human bones, but we later found out that the bone “art” was made underneath the church.

Before entering that underground mini chapels that made up the crypt, there was a museum with various materials from the monks and background information on the Capuchin Order. The crypt, which contains over 3,500 bones, is divided into several small chapels.

A couple of us were hesitant, including myself, about the frightful news, and morbidity of this exhibit, but when you are actually in the crypt it is more artistic than you would imagine. It is strange that bones of deceased monks were made into something beautiful. The artist of this crypt was very purposeful in their placement of each bone making bones take on the illusion of something more than bones (wings, vines growing on walls, etc.).

There was one chapel that didn’t contain any bones that is used as an alter for reflection and prayer. Being Catholic myself, I originally thought it was odd that there were chapels like this, but I came to realize that these meticulously crafted chapels were made to express an important message. We leave behind our physical selves when we die because mortality is inevitable, but there is a place that souls go after death. We should therefore use our time here wisely and maximize the important time we have here on Earth.

Day 3 (Pt. 1): Lecture with Amir Issaa

Student Author:
Jill Taylor

Early in the morning on January 5th, our class made our way to our on-site classroom to meet with our second guest speaker, Amir Issaa. Amir is a rapper who was born in Rome, to an Egyptian father and an Italian mother. Amir told us that he became a rapper in order to fight for his rights. He raps with a purpose and desire to spread messages about immigration, racism, his lifestyle, and other topics that are important to him. He said that he makes an effort to rap about things that matter, rather than just rapping about money, cars, and girls. Amir told us that rapping about these topics “gives him wings” and gives him a place to express himself and his feelings. He told us about how since he is part Egyptian and part Italian, he is discriminated by his skin color in Italy. Italians often label him as a Muslim and tell him that he is not truly Italian because of his name and mixed blood. One of his albums was placed in the ethnic section of iTunes instead of the rap section solely because of his name. One of his raps is called “Stranger in my Country” which talks about his feelings regarding the prejudices against him. Amir’s presentation helps describe a lot about the social culture of Italians. He explained the culture to be ignorant and close-minded about certain things such as race. He taught us about the tension between North and South Italy as well. Amir encouraged our class to find something that you can use to express yourself, and to think more open-mindedly about immigration and race. Our class got to listen to his music, watch his music videos, and create some raps of our own with Amir’s help. Amir is a very wise man and I am very grateful for getting the chance to hear about his experiences and lifestyle.

Day 2 (Pt. 2): Lecture from Professor Bruno Grazioli

Student Author:
Charlotte Basch

Today’s lecture by Professor Bruno Grazioli, “Made in Italy: Italian Design and World Culture” discussed the perception of Italian life as “la dulce vita” regarding the architecture, fashion, and vehicles. This lecture really changed my perception of Italian culture. His assertion that the culture is both far older than the country and has only been shaped in the last seventy years was a very interesting point. Because Ancient Rome is something I have been taught about for so long, I forget that Italy is such a young country with an old history. According to the professor, both of these elements are reflected in the way Italian culture is viewed. He spoke about the way fashion is a form of art and how the American films of the 1950’s would shoot in Italy due to tax incentives and the film’s stars would wear Italian clothes, which popularized luxurious Italian fashion. This created the norm of Italians dressing more nicely than others. I’d always thought it was just a cultural ideal to value appearance in public. But now I realize that their culture is more complex.

Professor Grazioli also talked about Mussolini’s architecture. Mussolini attempted to connect his government to the glory of Ancient Rome’s empire. He demolished buildings to clear the road from the Colosseum to his headquarters. He also created the “square Colosseum” to evoke the layered arches of this monument. This is something subtle to psychologically manipulate people but probably effective. Lastly he addressed the Fiat and Vespa, which used the idea of relaxation and fun to sell their products.

Overall I thought the lecture brought up some interesting points. We all have certain perceptions of Italian culture, but do not think about the context or formation. I would have loved to know how Italians feel about these ideas. It also makes me wonder about our own culture and in what ways it has been manipulated and shaped by other forces.

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Day 2 (Pt. 1): Rome City Tour

Student Author:
Malik Johnson

Today’s Rome City Tour was very informative and full of interesting facts about the city and its history and buildings. Though we learned many interesting facts about the city and saw many wonderful sites, the Pantheon, Colosseum, and Capital building sites stood out above the rest.

The Pantheon is one of the best preserved of all the ancient Roman buildings due to its being used as a church during the Middle Ages. The interior of the Pantheon is lit by a 27 feet diameter oculus in the roof that illuminates the tombs of two kings of Italy and the church alter.

Although we will learn more about the Colosseum and tour the interior later in the week, it was very cool to learn about its history on this tour. We learned that travertine was used to build the structure and that iron rods (many stolen during the Middle Ages) held the giant stones together. The structure could hold between 55 to 80 thousand spectators and is located next to the Roman Forum. We also learned the true story about the gladiators that fought in the arena and how their stories have been altered over the years.

We learned many other things on our tour including the meaning behind S.P.Q.R. (The Roman Senate and People) and how different aspects of Roman and modern day Italian culture is influenced by psychology. Coming to Italy has validated my perspectives of the world in that there are so many differences and we should try to experience different countries. I want to share these experiences with my family.

Day 1 (Pt. 2): Trastevere Tour

Student Author:
Megan Moerson

So far, the adventure in Rome has been amazing! It is such a beautiful place filled with unique people. During our walking tour of Trastevere, I began to become familiarized with the neighborhood we will call home for the next week. After checking into our hotel, Chiara, our on-site coordinator, lead us on journey to explore our local surroundings, learn aspects of Italian culture, and take in our first sites of Rome.

Our first stop was a small pizza restaurant down the street to have our first taste of Italian pizza. I was surprised to learn that in Italy pizza is ordered by the weight instead of by the slice. Actually, so far ordering any food or drink here has been challenging due to the language barrier. However, I am looking forward to becoming more familiar with that and with experiencing more of the Italian food.

As we explored the area, visiting churches and other historic sites, I was surprised to discover how quickly we could travel from one area of the the city to another by walking, using trams, or taking buses. Traveling around Rome today gave me a glimpse into the culture of Rome and its people. Even though it has only been a day, I feel like I have already gained so much knowledge. As a speech language pathology major, I am excited to learn more about the Italian people and how their culture has influenced the way people in Italy speak and communicate. This trip is helping me to learn that all of my patients will be different and have different dialects when I am working in the field later in life. By the end of this trip, I hope to grow a lot as a person! I am looking forward for what is to come!

Day 1 (Pt. 1): Welcome Dinner

Student Author:
Claire Dorey

For our welcome dinner, we went to a small restaurant called Meridionale where we enjoyed a wonderful four course Italian meal. Our first course consisted of a variety of fried and baked dough with different contents and sauces. Then we enjoyed three different pasta dishes: orecchiette with vegetables, rigatoni with beef rage, and bucatini with carbonara. The carbonara contained what Chiara (our on-site program director) called “improved bacon” that lived up to its description. Though most of us were beginning to voice concern about how full we already felt, the third course of chicken with roasted potatoes was served. Finally we were served our fourth course of a rich chocolate cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Chiara explained to us that eating an Italian dinner is a skill that is developed over time. Italian dinners are all about pacing and socialization. This large amount of food is meant to be eaten over the course of several hours while you converse with those sitting with you and not eaten quickly as we do back home. Despite the amount of food eaten by Italians, we noticed that we had not seen many overweight Italian. During our meal we learned that one explanation or this is that most of the food served is locally grown and more natural than what is typically served back home. I would definitely encourage those visiting Italy to try a four course Italian meal. Between good food and good friends it would be impossible to not have a good experience.

Introduction: Minimester 2016- Culture & Psychology in Italy

Welcome to the 2016 Culture and Psychology Study Abroad Program to Italy blog space!

Italy, particularly the cities of Florence and Rome, have historically been centers of culture change and expansion for generations. The Roman Empire, Roman Catholic Church, and the Renaissance represent just a few of the far reaching cultural influences to have started in Italy and touched many other cultures across the globe. Psychology influences and is itself influenced by culture in many ways. As such, traveling to a rich and diverse culture is an ideal way to illustrate first-hand how culture and psychological concepts are intertwined. By immersing ourselves in an unfamiliar culture, we will be able to see and experience the cultural differences and similarities that exist between the Unites States and Italy and grow on both professional and personal levels.

I would like to offer those of you at home the opportunity to join us on this adventure by following our posts.

While abroad, students participating in this program will be posting about the culture, people, excursions, speakers, their personal stories and reflections, and other activities they experience during this 2 week trip to Rome and Florence, Italy. I invite you to share in this unique experience with us as we explore Rome and Florence while examining the similarities and differences between Italy and U.S. culture from a psychological perspective.

David Earnest

Program Faculty Director and Assistant Professor of Psychology

Read about Summer 2015 in Italy

Read about Summer 2014 in Argentina