This is a compilation of student blog entries from the Summer 2015 study abroad program to Italy with Psychology professor Dr. David Earnest. Enjoy!
Day 16 (Pt. 2): The Farewell Dinner
On our last night in Italy we went out as a group for our Farewell dinner. We went to a quaint little restaurant called Mama Eat in an area most of us at previously had previously visited while in Rome. After being seated by the warm staff, we all chatted about our trip and reminisced on the last two and a half weeks that we had spent in Rome and Florence making good memories. During our outing we were given a starter of Bruschette Miste, which was two pieces of bread covered in mushrooms and eggplant decked in mozzarella. After, we were given our first dish of Bucatini alla Siciliana, which was a delicious pasta dish, covered in herbs, vegetables, and olive oil. While most of us were filling up at this point we knew we needed to finish because the most delicious part of the meal was yet to come. For our main dish we were given the options of Bombette, Pollo con Limone, and Patate con la Scamorza. Most of us choose to eat the Pollo con Limone, which was chicken and lettuce, covered in olive oil and lemon juice though some choose the Bombette (meatballs and stuffed meat bombs). We all scarfed down our dish and while we were completely satisfied we were still craving more of the delectable food we had grown accustomed to in Italy. To finish off the night we were brought crispy pastry bread filled with warm Nutella. By the end of the dinner we were all incredibly happy and full but also not wanting the night to end because we knew that meant leaving Italy in the morning. The Farewell dinner was an amazing last outing as a group, team, and family. It brought us together one last time in the place most of us had grown and fell in love with. We all got to say goodbye to Italy together and there is no other way I would rather have spent the evening.
Day 16 (Pt. 1): Free Day!
The last day before leaving Italy we had a free day in which we could explore Italy at our leisure. This was a perfect way to end the trip because it allowed us to unwind before a long trip home. Many of us choose to go to Lago Albano, a crater lake, while others decided to continue their exploration of Rome and shop. For most of us, two busses and an hour and a half later we arrived at the lake. A big reason we decided to go to the lake was to get away from the city life and enjoy nature. It was nice to be away from fast passed city life and enjoy a relaxing day at the lake.
From the shore of the lake we were able to see the Popes summer home which is something we never thought I would be able to say. The lake offered various day activities such as paddle boating and boarding, canoeing, and kayaking. Many of us decided to go kayaking/paddle boarding. We were actually able to jump right into the lake from our kayaks and it was so refreshing. The water was warm and clear and the further you went out into the lake the more serene it became. We paddled out close to the other side of the lake and we were hit with a calm sense of contentment as I took in my surroundings. The environment was so serene and we were able to reflect on our adventures in Italy so far and being out in the water with the fish swimming around with us was a memory that will stay with me forever.
After three hours kayaking and paddle boarding around the lake, we were ready for lunch. For lunch Chris, our program director, showed us a food place that served fresh pork sandwiches. This was a great way to end the day trip because after this some of us decided to head back to Rome on our own. This was one of the coolest parts because we were finally able to navigate the transit systems after a long two weeks and get by in Italy without help. It was like the final test before leaving to go back to America. We were very happy with the opportunities that were provided on our free day and were happy that we took advantage of such a beautiful place.
Day 15: Lecture with Dr. Matteo Pretelli
It is our final morning in Florence and today we had the privilege of speaking with Matteo Pretelli. Dr. Pretelli gave us a wonderful history lesson on the relationships between Italy and the United States between 1861 to today. This lecture covered Italy’s transitions from city states to the democracy it is today, with a little help from the Unites States, and the stereotypes that have developed between the two countries. We discussed the immigration of Italians to the US, prejudice that existed against Italian immigrants, and the transitions from Italian heritage being a negative to the positive image that heritage has today. Our time with Dr. Pretelli ended with discussion of the documentary “Girlfriend in a Coma” which chronicles the economic and social issues that plague Italy today. Based on our experiences in Italy to date we were able to have a positive and engaging discussion about Italian culture and where Italy appears to be headed in the future. Overall this experience with Dr. Pretelli was a productive morning in which we learned much and we took away some thought provoking topics for our train ride back to Rome.
Day 14 (Pt. 2): Leonardo de Vinci Museum
The Leonardo de Vinci Museum was one of the main excursions I was looking forward to on this program. This interactive museum allowed patrons to both view and work/play with replicas of de Vinci’s inventions while also appreciating some of this drawings and recreated paintings. Leonardo de Vinci was an engineer, artist, and scientist who overcame social adversity as the illegitimate son of a noble man to become a great historical figure. De Vinci learned from nature, observation and self-study. His dies and inventions exemplify the Renaissance movement and the new ways of thinking of the time.
Leonardo’s inventions and machines included flying machines, automatons, war engines, levers, drills, and toys. His inventions spanned all areas of human life. His paintings and artworks illustrate his perfectionism and tireless work to represent the beauty he saw in nature. Leonardo’s interests, in flight, the human body, animals, and the human condition reflect many of the Italian ideas of the renaissance and today of enjoying life and appreciating nature. Being able to see his pieces in person and reading about his live was an experience I truly enjoyed. Another great experience added to the list.
Day 14 (Pt. 1): Uffizi Gallery
Entering the museum, you encounter an ornately designed room with lofty archways and painted ceilings – even the security check room is wowing. As you walk up the grand stone staircases you are met with busts of various historical entities from Italy’s past, including Menandrus, a famous playwright from Athens. Three flights of stairs later, you’ve entered into the gallery. This first room boasts fine, multicolored tile flooring, holding ancient statues of political figures, two empty sarcophagi, and sculptures of dogs that were meant to guard these tombs back when they were occupied. Beyond this room lies various corridors displaying the tastes of the gallery’s founder – Granduke Francesco dei Medici. This 100 opulent structure built by Vasari in the 1500s, and was originally used as office space for the royal family. Throughout these halls and chambers hang numerous paintings by numerous artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, and Lorenzo di Credi, to name a few. One of the major works that we saw in the Uffizzi is the famous Birth of Venus, a beautiful piece done by Botticelli. What paintings that are not of mythological beings or prominent members of the royal family are mostly of religious scenes, such as the Nativity, the Crucifixion, and pieces honoring the Blessed Mother Mary. In all, the Uffizzi Gallery was a remarkable place in which one is given the opportunity to truly place himself back in time. As with every other place we have visited on our journey so far, we are thankful for such an awesome once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!
Day 13: Republic Day
Today, the second of June, we had the opportunity to attend an Italian national holiday. Festa della Reppublica, also known as Republic day, is a national holiday in Italy which commemorates the transition of government in Italy from a monarchy to a republic. This change took place shortly after the fall of Mussolini after World War II. Now every year this decision is celebrated throughout Italy. There is a huge parade mainly in Rome that the president usually attends. In other major cities, like Florence the holiday is celebrated in the same way by not in as large of a scale.
While attending a Republic day celebration in Firenze (Florence, Italy) I was intrigued by the similar feeling given off just as that of the 4th of July in the United States. While not nearly as full of energy and celebratory as in the United States, there definitely were feelings of patriotism and national pride in the air. Over the course of our observation we saw a military band march through the city as well as a wreath laying at a monument to commemorate the sacrifices of soldiers who had given their lives for the country. There also was additional fanfare such as concerts and speeches by politicians and other local officials. Unfortunately, given my lack of knowledge of the Italian language I was unable to get a full grasp of the speeches made but the general feelings of celebration transcended beyond the limits of language.
Day 12 (Pt. 4): Italian Cooking Class
Today we had the opportunity to take an Italian cooking class at Apicius, part of the International School of Hospitality of the Florence University of the Arts. This was by far one of my favorite activities of the trip. Our instructors separated us into groups and them provided us with the recipes for our made from scratch dishes. For two hours we took turns chopping vegetables, deboning chicken, stirring sauces, kneading pasta dough, using the pasta press, melting chocolate, etc. My favorite part of the session was making fresh pasta from scratch. We made tagliatelle al pomodoro (tagliatelle pasta with tomatoes), pollo alla cacciatora (chicken cacciatora), and panna cotta (vanilla dessert with chocolate sauce).
After experiencing this class, I understand the importance of cooking food in Italian culture. Italians pride themselves on their ability to make a very fresh dish with care. In the Unites States or fast food philosophy emphasizes quick, processed, cheap food whereas in Italy the slow food movement of using fresh ingredients and making a meal with care is most important. This class has inspired me to make food as fresh and unprocessed as possible because it really is not that difficult to make fresh and delicious meals from scratch. Also, I will work to stress the importance of caring for the foods we eat to better our health and enjoy our meals a lot more.
Day 12 (Pt. 3): Galileo Museum
Along the Arno river in Florence, Italy is the Museo Galileo – which holds an impressive collection of Galileo artifacts and other scientific tools from the Lorraine and Medici family collections. Featuring artifacts such as telescopes and thermometers, this museum gives insight to the science that took place during the Renaissance era. Karen, our tour guide, was filled with extensive knowledge regarding Galileo’s time. We learned of the negative stigma against science in Italy at that time. This was evident through the animosity towards Galileo both from the church and general populace. Galileo, now known as the father of modern science, was heavily criticized by the Catholic Church; showing the rift between science and religion in Italy’s culture. For many, it challenged the beliefs and values of religion. Others however, were fascinated by the draw of science. Examples of the museum’s collections include the Armillary Sphere, which was used for astrology purposes as well as reading horoscopes, and Galileo’s telescopes, inventions, and finger bones. The Museo Galileo truly exhibited the innovations of the Renaissance time as well as the intellect and forward thinking of Galileo.
Day 12 (Pt. 2): Basilica of Santa Croce
Today we visited the Basilica of Santa Croce. Other than being an operating church, Santa Croce is the final resting place for many famous and wealthy citizens of Florence including Michelangelo, Galileo, and Marconi. The basilica is also home to a memorial for Dane Alighieri, the writer of Inferno. Dante, famous for his descriptions of the nine circles of hell, openly spoke against the Pope and was exiled from Florence. Though his body is buried in neighboring Ravenna, the people of Florence built the monument to commemorate the great artists.
Visiting the basilica greatly changed my perspective of Florence. This visit gave me insight into how many influential people helped shape the city and the world beyond. Prior to this visit, I did not truly understand the impact these influential and wealthy individuals had on their home city and the pride that the people of Florence have for their ancestors.
Day 12 (Pt. 1): Lecture on Intercultural Communication
This morning we attended a lecture at the Florence University of Arts on intercultural communication. This lecture focused on many elements of intercultural communication including the differences between US and Italian customs. We discussed obstacles to communication such as stereotyping (generalizing to a group of people), prejudice (assuming that all members behave in the same way), and ethnocentrism (evaluating another culture according to preconceptions originating from one’s own culture). We also discussed several differences between the US and Italy. First, in Italian culture great importance is placed on appearance and fashion in all activities. Casual attire is reserved for home and the beach. Second, the Italian motto “hurry up but with a slow pace” illustrates the Italian perspective of getting work done but at a leisurely pace that allows a person to enjoy life rather than living to work.
Attending this lecture allowed us to think about the meaning of culture, why it is important, and what components of society are part of culture. Engaging in this lecture was a thought provoking experience because it allowed me to think about how studying here in Italy has impacted my personal perspectives of the world and others. Learning about the importance of intercultural communication inspired me to continue learning both here in Italy and further abroad.
Day 11 (Pt. 2): Antica Macelleria Cecchini and The Butcher of Panzano
An hour outside of the captivating city of Florence lies Panzano, a small Chianti region town in the Tuscany countryside. It is in this small town where one can find Antica Macelleria Cecchini. This famous restaurant is run by Dario Cecchini a legacy butcher who prides himself on turning all parts of a slaughtered animal into culinary delights. Let us introduce you to Dario Cecchini; the man, the butcher, the culinary wonder. Dario Cecchini is an internationally acclaimed butcher because of his sustainable, local approach to the commercial meat industry that is continually growing in quantity and drastically lowering in quality. He has dedicated himself to advocating a return to local butchering wherein quality, sustainability, and price are all one in the same.
Upon arriving outside of the restaurant we were greeted with a free buffet which offered a variety of cured meats, cheeses, lardo (herbed lard), fresh bread, and wine. The most striking part of it all was that it was set out for the whole village to take part in. Once we sat down at his restaurant, we were greeted with cheery service evident of a sense of pride in their product. Our first interaction with the man was when he announced the arrival of our first round of steaks cooked particularly for us. The experience was like no other. Then one of the cooks came out of the kitchen, bellowing to the heavens the arrival of this beautiful gift of meat, after which Dario began to periodically blow a horn which sounded something akin to a medieval call to arms as well as a children’s’ birthday party act. To put it simply, they were proud of their product.
In regards to the meal itself, it stood apart as huge in quantity and quality. All together, we ate beef tartar (slaughtered the same morning), seared rump carpaccio, Florentine style steak, Panzanese steak (slaughtered within the village limits), garden vegetables which we dipped in local olive oil that was garnished with Profumo del Chianti (a local herbed salt), Tuscan beans in olive oil, baked potatoes with Lardo (herbed pork fat) and Profumo del Chianti, Tuscan bread, Vittorio’s wine from the surrounding area. While this meal was astounding in size, it never failed to impress in quality. Amongst the group we were offered over 50lbs and did our best to be good guests and finish our portions.
At the end of our dining experience, Dario gave us hugs, shook our hands and wished us a well journey. The man left quite an impression between his large stature and baseball mitt sized hands. Given the Italian pride in food and the endless supply of fresh, local ingredients it is no surprise that we ate so well. Dario’s passion illustrates the passion of Italian culture for food. As such, Italian cooking incorporates hospitality and togetherness into the environment and every dish. Sitting at one of his tables, I was introduced to new dishes and new friends. For Italians, good food is cherished as a luxury that is meant to be savored and taken to heart. If we can give anyone any beneficial advice about visiting Tuscany it would be to meet and eat with incredible man who is known as “The Butcher of Panzano”. He will provide a one of a kind gastronomical experience that cannot be replicated in any other spot on the globe.
Day 11 (Pt. 1): Day in Panzano
Italy is a country full of culture and regional differences. Prior to today we had spent time in major cities, Rome and Florence. We had experienced the hustle and bustle of crowds, traffic, shops, corporations, and big city life. Even Florence with is relaxed atmosphere and cobblestone streets could feel stressful at times. However, today we left Florence on an hour bus ride to the small town of Panzano.
After traveling through the rural Tuscan countryside of open fields, vineyards, farms, and sleepy towns, we arrived in Panzano. This quant town was our home for our day in the Chianti Countryside. We walked through the town, had class on the steps of the town church, eat at Antica Macelleria Cecchini, and some of use even took short hiking tour of the local countryside and vineyards. The architecture of Panzano was less extravagant than what we have seen in the cities but complimented the beauty of the Tuscan countryside.
Personally I have always been fonder of city life. Panzano has encouraged me to grow and appreciate rural settings more. Being able to look out into the distance and see only small communities, trees, grass, vineyards, and unspoiled nature was incredible. The psychological stress and anxiety of city life melts away in a place like Panzano. For the short time I was there I felt at peace. This day excursion was an awesome experience that gave me a new perspective on Italy and lifestyle.
Day 10 (Pt. 3): Boboli Gardens
The Boboli Gardens are an 11acre park that stretches from the hill behind the Pitti Palace to as far as Porta Romana. The Boboli Gardens have been maintained by the Medici and Lorraine families since 1418. The gardens hold a variety of sculptures as the Medici family were supporters of the arts and principle funders of the Renaissance in Florence.
When walking the gardens, it was hard to miss the beauty around us and the hot Tuscan sun. I reflected on how hot individuals in the 1500s, particularly the women in heavy dresses, would have been. My modern clothing made of lightweight breathable materials seemed too much for the aggressive sun. Upon further reflection, I grew to admire those women of the 1500s with their tiny fashionable fans. These women braved the heat to enjoy nature and the beauty around them. After laying down in the shade and watching the clouds go by, I realized that modern luxuries and technology have kept us from the beauty of nature and gardens such as these. Once I stopped complaining about the heat, I was able to appreciate the beauty of nature and the sculptures that adored the gardens. This visit not only taught be something about the women of the renaissance but also about myself and our society.
Day 10 (Pt. 2): Palazzo Pitti
This afternoon we visited the Palazzo Pitti, it is a palace that the Pitti family built while they were feuding with the Medici family. While building this extravagant building, the Pitti family ran out of money. Eventually their rivals, the Medici family bought the palace for a fraction of the price. The view of the palace from the outside alone shows that this palace was one that could only be bought by the same family who funded the Renaissance. The museum of the palace included many sculptures, elegant vases, old documents and other artifacts. Some of the artifacts were written documents and letters from the Medici family members. Knowing that these articles were still reserved shows just how much pride Florence takes in these artifacts and how much they honor the Medici family.
The art and overall look of this palace was breathtaking and makes one appreciate art in a new way. From the floors to the ceilings, we were all amazed by the art and the amount human artistic talent. The paintings on the ceiling were just as beautiful as the ones on the walls. Each room was a different adventure on its own. Every room had paintings, beautiful wall art, drapes and overall showed us that we were walking the halls of where royalty once resided. Pictures of the Palazzo Pitti may be available on Google, but not even a photo with the most high tech cameras can do this place justice.
Day 10 (Pt. 1): Santa Maria dei Fiori (Duomo)
For our third day in Florence, we visited the Santa Maria dei Fiori, better known as the Duomo. This massive building served as a Catholic Cathedral for many centuries, with its construction beginning in 1296. The Duomo wasn’t completed until 1436, due to a lack of money for the construction of the 114 meter high dome. The dome was inspired in part by the Pantheon in Rome, being engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi. The ceiling of the dome features a painting that represents different sections of life ranging from Giorgio Vasari’s depiction of Hell at the bottom with the devil and demons torturing damned souls to depictions of God, angels, Christ, and the 12 disciples towards the top. Overlooking the souls on earth at the top of the dome were the 12 disciples of Jesus, Christ, and God seeming to look down and observe all of God’s creations.
After climbing the 463 steps to the top of the Duomo, you are presented with a perfect view from the heart of Florence. After descending from the dome, we visited the crypt of the Duomo where Florentine Bishops were buried here, including Brunelleschi. Overall, I was very inspired by this building. I was amazed to learn that the building was over 7 centuries old, and yet still in such pristine condition. I think that this building reflects the entire city of Florence, a combination of history, art, and function. After being here for a few days, I have fallen in love with this city. The narrow streets lined with cozy apartments and villas, the simple yet classic food (especially prosciutto), and the overall relaxed atmosphere of the city.
Day 9 (Pt. 2): Ganzo Teaching Restaurant
Today we visited Ganzo, a teaching restaurant, to learn about the food and wine culture in Italy. The manager of Ganzo gave us a brief lecture on food and wine in Italian culture in which he discussed how wine in Italy is tasted and not drunk. In Italy, wine is considered part of the hedonistic virtue of the country. Everything that is consumed should be enjoyed and savored rather than simply ingested. In terms of wine, the sight, smell, and taste of the wine should enjoyed with every sip.
After learning about the culinary culture of Italy, we took part in a wine tasting. We learned about how to swirl wine to look for how the wine moves in the glass, smell wine to identify flavors, and finally taste the wine. This wine tasting taught us how to properly experience wine so that the complexity of the wine triggers your senses. It was fun to discover the complexity of wine and how to enjoy it. I’ll think of wine in a different way and will try to take on the laid back attitude of enjoying wine once I return home.
Day 9 (Pt. 1): Foodie Tour of Florence
Florence, Italy is known for its food. After finding out we were going to do a foodie tour as part of our visit, everyone was beyond overjoyed. Our tour began at an outdoor market where we laid our eyes on stand after stand of fresh colorful fruits and vegetables. After a brief walkthrough tour of the market with stands selling all manner of foods, clothing, and jewelry, we were treated to a sampling of fresh produce that included fresh peaches, cantaloupe, tomatoes, kiwi, strawberries, and cherries, and more.
Our next stop was a local hidden bakery that our guide assured us makes the best focaccia bread in Florence. He was absolutely right! The focaccia bread was brushed with just the right amount of olive oil and salt. After quickly finishing off our delicious bread, we made a quick coffee stop. Though the espresso in Italy is wonderful, from personal experience, I can say that the caffé latte was absolutely incredible.
Our final stop on the tour was an enclosed market that contained a variety of restaurants and food stands. Here we had the opportunity to taste fresh buffalo mozzarella, varieties of specialty cheeses, prosciutto and other cured meats, trip sandwiches (cows stomach), and bread with truffle butter. All were amazing and the last two dishes were foods that most of us had never tried before. Most of us answered the challenge, tried everything, and enjoyed it. Overall the tour was filled with incredible food and truly gave us a glimpse into why Florence is known for its delectable meals.
Day 8: Florence Walking Tour
Florence is beautiful. When comparing Florence to Rome, it almost feels as if we are in a completely different country. The difference started on the train ride as the graffiti we saw in Rome quickly vanished and was replaced by rolling fields and countryside. Our walking tour of Florence stated with a peaceful stroll down Florence’s busy streets. Though there are many tourists in Florence, the city seems more peaceful and quiet than the residential areas of Rome in which we stayed. The streets are narrower with less traffic and congestion.
Our transition to a Florentine pace of life has been smooth, partly because of this being our second week in Italy and our becoming more accustomed to Italian culture. The city has a friendly feel and individuals we pass on the streets are noticeably more forward in their greetings. The alleys are lined with stands and racks offering all sorts of goods and gifts, one street was filled with coats and purses and smelled entirely of leather. Like most of the places we have visited in Italy, Florence and its sites appear to be from a postcard. Today we scratched the surface of Florence by seeing the outside of the magnificent Duomo, as well as walked the Piazzale Michaelangelo, which provided a beautiful panoramic view of Florence. We are eager to explore more of the city and experience all of the adventures it has in store for us. With a city so charming, it only takes a day to fall in love.
Day 7: Lecture with Daniel Williams (ex-patriot blogger)
This morning, our group heard from Daniel Williams, an ex-patriot blogger now living in Rome, on his experiences immersing himself in cultures different than his own around the world. His first point was that “going native” can never be fully accomplished because as a foreigner in an unfamiliar society we will always be different in some way. In fact, being a foreigner in a new culture may come with advantages (greater hospitality) and disadvantages (exclusion from certain social events). Williams also stressed the importance of communication through language and using languages, other than English, as a way to form relationships. Many people will be more open and friendly when you attempt to speak a language other than English. Attempting to learn and use another language can go a long way to building relationships with others. Using the host country language allows American’s abroad to be seen and treated like ordinary people and not simply tourists. The final point of the discussion was that understanding cultural norms is an important part to understanding a country and its people. He stressed that these norms, spoken and unspoken, take time to learn and that the act of trying to understand the culture goes a long way with local people. The willingness to insert yourself in a place that you aren’t familiar with is a great way to grow personally and professionally. I felt that Daniel Williams really motivated the class to appreciate and embrace the uncomfortable differences that we may encounter. The knowledge that we are bettering ourselves and developing a broader perspective of our world is exciting.
Day 6: Colosseum, Palatine, and Roman Forum
Today we visited the 3 of the most historical sites in Rome: The Colosseum, Palatine, and Roman Forum.
The Colosseum dates back to 80 AD during which time the Emperors Vespatian and Titus erected this structure in an attempt to leave a lasting impression of their reign, while also trying to win over the citizens of Rome. Gladiators fought in the Colosseum, fighting either each other or even animals in the arena. The Colosseum also featured executions, animal vs gladiator battles, and even mock sea battles. The Colosseum is not only a representation of Italy’s history, but the history of humanity. The environment of the Colosseum exudes a sense of openness and change, which pours from the ancient stone walls of the stadium. The open view of the sky represents the openness of the horrific past of Italy in terms of enslaving people and forcing them to fight to the death, while the weathering walls portrayed the decaying of these practices and the harsh reign of Roman emperors. While the Colosseum used to exemplify status, power, and sport back in ancient Rome, the once dominating structure represents change into a better way of life for Italy and all who visit it. While we as humans are not perfect it is important that structures like the Colosseum remain intact to remind us not to repeat the ways of our gruesome past.
The Palatine is one of the most ancient parts of Rome. This historical Roman city is located adjacent to the Colosseum. Romans began to live here as early as 1000 BC, but this site later became the exclusive home to the emperors of Rome. This structure sits about 70 meters from the Forum, and has many temples dedicated to various gods, including a temple to Apollo. My favorite part about the Palatine was the views. From the top of Palatine hill, you can overlook the majority of Rome and view such sites as the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Roman Forum.
Finally, our last stop was the Roman Forum. This site was the center of Roman public life for many centuries. The Forum refers to a rectangular shape plaza that catered as a marketplace, while serving as a stage for elections, criminal trials, and even gladiatorial matches (before the Colosseum was built). The most amazing part of the Forum is all the different social events that were held in the plaza. The multiple use of the land truly showed the embraced culture of socializing here in Italy.
Day 5: American University of Rome
This morning we met at the American University of Rome to learn about Italian workplace culture. Many topics were discussed such as how “Italians work to live” which is the opposite of how “Americans live to work” and how Italian companies are still fairly prejudice towards women. In Italy, prejudice towards women in the workplace is partially due to the perception that women are a liability to the company because they could get pregnant and the organization would have to give them PTO/maternity leave for a total of 5 months (2 months before birth and 3 months after birth). In which case they would need to either find a replacement for her or her colleagues would need to bare the burden of her absence which may not be viewed as fair by the rest of the team. On top of this, the company may have to provide “paternity leave” to woman which consists of a 1 year absence without pay.
We also discussed how Italians spend their money differently than Americans. Americans are more typically more focused on buying things were as Italians spend their money on the things they see as being important in life. Italians care more about making the money they need to enjoy life and they would rather spend their money on nice cloths or a vacation with their companion then have a new car or cable tv. Our discussion comparing the US and Italy was very informative and provided me with a new way of thinking about the country that is so dear to my heart.
Day 4: Eataly
Eataly is a multinational organization with stores open across Italy, the U.S., Asia, and Europe. At first glance, Eataly in Rome is incredible! Upon entering the store, all you see is room around every corner. This store has four humongous floors with almost every Italian ingredient and dish you can imagine. Before exploring Eataly on our own, we were treated to a guided tour of their bakery, brewery, mozzarella, and pasta labs.
The four floors of Eataly Rome are arranged like a grocery store and split into sections based on food categories. The store also contains 13 restaurants spread throughout the store so that you can “try before you buy” Eataly’s products. For example, there is a pasta restaurant located next to the pasta section so before buying any of the fresh homemade pasta you purchase a sample to enjoy to ensure that you will like the product.
During our visit to Eataly, they were extremely generous and provided a mountain of food for us to sample. First they started with fresh baked bread and pizza. Then we moved on to the brewery that is inside the store. They gave us both a light and a dark beer to sample. After this there was a mountain of prosciutto ham and various kinds of cheeses to try. They also gave us honey to dip our cheese in, which was a new experience for me but was delicious. Our final spot was the pasta restaurant where they gave us heaping samples of two different types of pasta with delectable sauce on them.
Our visit to Eataly was filled with learning and delicious food. It was incredible to see how generous the people were and how well they treated us. Eataly was an overall A+ experience that illustrated the strong food culture of Italy.
Day 3: Vatican Museum
Today we visited Vatican City and had the incredible opportunity to spend time at the Vatican museums. The museum, founded by Pope Julius II in the 16th century and spanning 54 galleries, displays many works of distinguished classical sculptures and some of the most important masterpieces of Renaissance art.
Though all of the museum galleries contain many beautiful paintings and sculptures, the Egyptian and Hercules exhibits were my favorites. The Museo Gregoriano Egiziano which houses a collection of Ancient Egyptian material including the use of mummification to preserve the body that played a critical role in the funerary rites of Ancient Egypt. I was also enthralled with the towering statue of Hercules. This bronze statue was found in 1864 in the area of Pompey’s Theatre and shortly afterwards was given to Pope Pius IX. It had been struck by lightning and following the Roman custom, had a ritual burial with the remains of a lamb until exhumed.
Both of these magnificent pieces of art related to the context of psychology and culture as both were inspired by cultural beliefs that have been passed on through the centuries. Viewing and learning about these work allowed me to better understand how the history of each piece is linked to the cultural beliefs, mental practices, and behavior. I am excited to experience more of Italy’s artwork and cultural works.
Day 2 (Pt.2): BE FREE / Casa Internazionale delle Donne
Today we had an incredible opportunity to visit the Casa Internazionale delle Donne and listed to the president of the BE FREE organization (Dr. Oria Gargano) speak about woman’s rights. She discussed her experiences with women’s rights not only in Italy, but in the U.S. She had once worked at the John’s Hopkins University in the center of Baltimore and Human Rights Watch in D.C. When asked about what she found as a key difference between Italy and the U.S. she explained two main factors, funding and support. When in Baltimore, the amount of funding was never an issue as companies like for Ford provided funding for many causes. In Italy she mentioned that it was difficult to get enough funding from the government and other sources. In terms of support, she talked about how when working in Italy feminists must “shout” to be heard when defending women’s rights. In contrast, in the U.S. she stated that there are several organizations nationwide and knowledgeable people willing to defend against gender inequality. The BE FREE program works towards helping women gain independence from domestic abuse situations. They work with hospitals to train personnel to become more knowledgeable about domestic violence warning signs so that woman can get appropriate help and provide other services that help women gain and retain their independence once free from abusive situations. Finally, the president of the organization showed us around La Casa Delle Donne where we got the chance to see the old detention center that had been used to detain then considered “disabled” women of the mid 19th century. These rooms were incredibly small and also contained names of women who have been killed through domestic abuse. One fact we learned was that one women is killed every three days by someone they know in Italy. Though intense, I really enjoyed my time and truly believe it is incredible that women like Dr. Gargano fight so hard to create programs that better the lives of Italian women living in fear.
Day 2 (Pt. 1): Guided Rome City Tour
Our guided tour of Rome included several historic and famous locations throughout the city including the Largo di Torre Argentina, various Palazzos, the Pantheon, Campo dei Fiori, and the San Luigi dei Francesi. Our first stop, Largo di Torre Argentina, contains four roman temples including Pompey’s Theatre and the Temple of Fortuna (goddess of luck and those who carry themselves with great ambition). These temple ruins lie in the center of Rome surrounded by the modern hustle and bustle of everyday life. These runs have also become a cat sanctuary for strays sponsored by the city. This and other Roman architecture on the tour portray a unique style with a heavy focus on strong pillars and intricate designs.
Our last site on the tour was the Pantheon. This historic 7th century site, that many of us learned about growing up, is nearly impossible to truly understand until experienced in person. The church’s size is overwhelming at first site with its expansive stone pillar entrance and vast open interior. The walls are covered with various statues and tributes to historical figures such as the famous, talented artist, Raphael who was entombed there after his death. The Pantheon’s painted dome ceiling with spotlight center opening add to the church’s grandeur. The visit to the Pantheon and other historic sites was breath-taking and incredibly memorable. Structures as old and beautiful as these are not present in the United States. Exploring these sites and buildings opens your eyes to how much history and culture are out there to be explored.
Day 1 (Pt. 3): Welcome Dinner
After a long 9 hour flight and a day of exploring Rome, it was nice to finish the day with a relaxing dinner in Trastevere. The restaurant we went to was called Ai Spaghettari. The atmosphere of our restuarnat, Ai Spaghettari, was quiet and cozy. We started off meal with appetizers of suppli, Pizza Bianca con mortadella (my favorite) , and prosciutto cruel. Next, came the entrée, a choice of rigatoni all amatriciana (pasta with tomato sauce and 2 types of cheeses), paccheri al carbonara (pasta with white sauce, cheese, and bacon), and cacio e pepe (white sauce and cheese). Accompanied by house read and white wine, our meal represented true Italian fare. Lastly we finished the meal with a very light cake called un pezzo di torta.
This meal taught me a lot about Italian food culture. For instance, in Italy it is customary for restaurant patrons to complete their entire meal as taking left overs home is considered rude. If there is still food on the plate, the waiter or waitress may ask if something is wrong with the meal. I also learned that most wait staff know a little bit of English but are happy when someone tries to use Italian (even badly). This interaction was a great way to get comfortable saying these common phrases. The welcome dinner was a really important way for us to get to know one another and begin our introduction to Italian culture. Though some of us may not be familiar with Italian customs and language, this dinner was a great way to learn more in a group setting.
Day 1 (Pt. 2): Walking Tour of Travestere
Trastevere seems to be one of Rome’s favorite neighborhoods. The neighborhood’s colorful buildings, flowers, and fashion, were both welcoming and stunning. We were able to travel down different streets and cobblestone alleyways that allowed us to see Rome from the neat little areas that many tourists will never discover. As we traversed Trastevere, we passed many restaurants with street side tables, booths and vendors selling their crafts and goods, and Romans enjoying the beautiful day and their city. Done one street, we stopped for the first of many great meals, authentic Roman style pizza and sandwiches. This tour break and meal gave us time to explore the Santa Maria Fountain. Here we were able to sit on the fountain steps with locals, listen to an accordionist, and realize that we were actually in Rome.
As our first experience in Rome, this tour gave us our first look into Roman culture. Right from the start you could definitely notice many cultural differences between Italy and the USA. These included women (and men) not wearing shorts despite the warm weather, small cars and mopeds weaving down streets and alleyways despite pedestrian traffic, the polite and down to earth nature in which everyone communications and interacts, the up rather than out architecture and apartment design, speedy tram and bus system, and the vocal cat calls made by men when the see an attractive woman. Spending the afternoon exploring the neighborhood of Trastevere was a great start to our program and a exciting glimpse into what is yet to come.
Day 1 (Pt. 1): Galleria Borghese
After arriving safely in Rome, we began out study abroad program with an adventurous and compelling tour around parts of Rome on the sunny afternoon of May 21, 2015. Our first official visit was to the Galleria Borghese in Rome, Italy. Galleria Borghese is a quaint art gallery with two levels, each containing historical art from Rome’s past in the form of paintings, portraits, sculptures, and furniture. I found this museum to be particularly interesting because it contained the many different art styles of early and renaissance Italian culture. I found the many historical works which included strong religious themes from ancient Roman gods to more modern Christian beliefs. For example, there was a collection of art focused just on Angels and another collection that appeared to be about Demons. I also noticed that the art showcased was less conservative than we are used to in the U.S. in that the human form presented in paintings and sculptures was very exposed. The architecture and design of the gallery was my favorite part. The light was a warm glow and made the experience feel welcoming while the ceilings were meticulously painted with various portraits and depictions of historical or religious scenes. Though I wish I understood more of the Italian language, in reality, the beauty of the artwork needed no explanation.
Introduction: Summer 2015- Culture & Psychology in Italy
Welcome to the 2015 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 2.5 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.
Program Faculty Director and Assistant Professor of Psychology