All good things must come to an end…

The world is a book and those who do not travel only read one page.
Saint Augustine

A semester abroad…..4 months, 18 weeks, 126 days and a million moments I will never forget.

My Facebook status 4 hours before leaving Florence:
As I spend my last few hours in Florence, I realize how cliche this all is; how students come here step out of their comfort zones, live and fall in love with this city. However, I know one thing and that is that these buildings may or may not last a thousand more years, but the memories and friendships that I’ve made will. Thank you everyone and fly safe. Keep in touch and expect a visit from yours truly. 

I didn’t think this status was that good. But as the likes accumulated and comments came I guess it was pretty good. These last few months have been more than extraordinary. The people I met and the sites I saw will forever be ingrained into my mind. The utter grandeur and amazing people I met will walk with me for a long time if not forever. Going abroad is such a temporary “thing” with such a lifelong impact. It’s kind of crazy. My status in retrospect is perfect in explaining it. Living in a foreign or at least my case, barely foreign place, alone, forces you to step out, forces you to do things you usually don’t. It makes you take initiative. Mom isn’t there to wash your clothes or make your bed or feed you or do groceries or anything. You have you, yourself and the people you meet. I’ve been trying and trying to grasp or put my finger on what it is that could, in one simple thought, describe studying abroad in its entirety and I just can’t.

I think the sites and images in your mind eventually disappear. Everything you saw, smelled and heard. All that fades away, hence why pictures are seen as so essential sometimes even though they never do the scene justice. But what doesn’t fade are the people. The people you meet abroad, whether local or other students, are literally growing as you are. The moments lived with them….will change you. Knowing all these people abroad and all over the US now, opens so many windows. Oh I’m in California, let me see what ______ is up to or hey I’m in Baltimore, I wonder if _______ wants to grab lunch or dinner. Even better, hey I’m going to visit ______ down in Charleston or the Cape for the weekend, ciao! I don’t know what you think but that’s awesome.

I mean, I’ve never been the type to get soft and sappy over things like this because people come and go in your life but this was different. It was so cliche and everyone saw it coming everyone knew it was going to happen. Millions of students that go abroad experience this but it happens anyways. I don’t know, maybe I am overdoing this but, who knows.

All I have to say is I’m more than grateful to have been given the opportunity to study abroad. More than grateful to have met the people I have met, do the things I’ve done and experienced what I’ve experienced. I wouldn’t have changed a thing. And I promise you I’ll be back. AND you best believe I’m planning some type of reunion. Already have a standing agreement with some of the boys that if one of us makes it one day we’ll reunite and buy a place out in Tuscany and open a club in Florence and put all the others out of business. Haha….one day. Nonetheless, I’m almost at a loss for words becuase it hasn’t all happened  or set in yet. Maybe there will be a part II of this post. Anyways, thank you for reading.

Alla prossima.

Ciao

M

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Londontown

Late post but as always, better late than never.

It was funny when I first went to write this. I went to write, Cherrio! As in the English way of saying goodbye? And it auto-corrected to Cheerio’s like the cereal. Found that to be a knee-slapper.

Anywho, a few weeks ago I met my mother in London. It was awesome to see her again since homesickness was starting to set in. So I hopped on a plane, packed some clothes to send back with her and flew out to London.

Well, of course I had no service and found my way to the hotel. There she was sitting in the lobby, slightly uncertain that her 20 year old son that has recently traveled all over Europe would somehow not make it to the hotel. Nonetheless her face breathed a breath of air after she saw me walk through those doors.

First day we hit the city hard. Got on one of those classic red double deckers and hit the streets. Buckingham Palace, Westminster, Trafalgar Square, Tower Bridge and London Bridge just to name a few places. Had lunch and dinner in some pubs and a steak house. English food is pretty terrible but I lucked out on my selections. I actually found it nice that in many of the pubs (Silver Cross @ Trafalgar) you have to pay first then eat etc. So much easier and you’re not stuck waiting for the check like you usually are in Europe. Had a couple cheeky pints with Mom and hit the hay.

Day 2&3 were comprised of going on the Eye of London and the Castle/Fort of London, a still standing medieval castle that allowed London to be what it is today. View from the Eye was sick, basically was a Ferris wheel on steroids and the Castle was sick. Saw the Crown Jewels and some sweet English accents. At night we went to Harrods. That place is ridiculous, there is everything. When I say everything, I mean like everything. You can get a haircut, pick up some milk, a Louis Vuitton bag, some tea and crumpets and be on your jolly way in one stop. Literally redefined, “one stop shopping.” What was actually really interesting was the Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed memorial with in the Egyptian staircase in Harrods. As the owner of Harrods, I don’t know the specific details of their relationship but as some may or may not know they both died in a car accident years ago that was pretty controversial. Nonetheless, in the memorial there is a absolutely decked out ring that Dodi was supposedly going to give Diana from what I understood. Sitting there in a solid glass pyramid was this massive shining ring. Impressive, well done Dodi.

Overall the city was awesome. A great combination of old and new. Such an old city with such a new and wealthy history. London was definitely the most pricey, but I could see myself living there. Don’t know why but I just did. Maybe it was being with Mom that gave me that impression. Don’t know. But being with her, she does whatever, pretty go with the flow, was fun because she doesn’t complain when it comes to traveling. We walked in the rain, wanted to kill a couple people and possibly slash the tired to a couple of those double deckers at one point but laughed it off. After all, it isn’t London if it doesn’t rain. Overall great time, would do it again anytime. Can’t thank Mother enough.

 

That was London. This is now. Buona notte.

 

M

The Role of Italian Grandparents

“Quando niente sta andando bene, chiama la Nonna”
Italian Proverb

When it comes to Italian culture, there is something truly special about the role that grandparents, or Nonni, play. The Nonni are looked to for anything and everything. As the quote translates above, “When nothing is going well, call Nonna,” is the mentality of many kids today in Italian society.   Unlike many cultures, where a grandparent’s involvement in both their child’s and grandchildren’s lives decreases as they age, the presence of Italian grandparents in a family tends to be seemingly limitless.  In fact, in many cases, grandparents provide significant aid to their own children when it comes time to raise the newest generation of the family.  This aid often comes in many forms, whether it be contribution of time and experience, financial support, or a sense of emotional support and love, it seems as though Italian grandparents are constantly working to better their families.

One may wonder how it is that Italian grandparents are capable of being so involved in the lives of their children and grandchildren.  That being said, in most Western cultures, it is uncommon for three generations to live under one roof, however it is considered a cultural norm amongst Italians.  More often than not a grandparent will either live with their son, daughter, or grandchild. This “extended family,” as anyone with parents can imagine, this sense of constant “togetherness” can be seen as both a blessing and a burden. When it comes to the constant influx of help with child rearing, housework, and general familial connection, live in grandparents are certainly a blessing.  That being said, when an adult feels as though they cannot escape their own parents or embrace a sense of independence, the feeling of burden can begin to weigh heavy on the adults shoulders.  Nonetheless, the positives generally outweigh the negatives, especially when it comes to the ways in which the grandchildren benefit.

In the last forty years, dynamics of Italian families and the roles that different individuals play within them, have changed drastically. Many attribute this to the ever-changing gender roles within Italian society.  Up until the second half of the 1900s, Italian women, as well as the majority of women from other cultures, were seen through a purely domestic lens.  Their responsibilities revolved around their children and the importance of maintaining a well-functioning home and marriage.  While these are still highly important aspects of an Italian woman’s life, the past few decades have shown a drastic broadening of options when it comes to the complex role that women play.  The recent evolution of the female gender role in Italian culture has allowed for an increased acceptance of women in the workforce; whereas prior to this, women were forced to choose only one path.  This exciting shift often forces women to split their focus between the importance of motherhood and a successful career. While this is a highly difficult task for any parent, the ability to find a positive balance becomes possible with the help of grandparents and other familial outlets.  Due to the change and advancement in roles in Italian society, the emphasis on grandparents being highly involved in family life has increased dramatically.

With 40% of Italians between the ages of 18 and 28 unemployed, Italy is facing one of the worst economic job climates in its history.  That being said, as the job market continues to deteriorate, having a family with only one source of income is quickly becoming a disappearing luxury in Italy.  There is no doubt that as a result of the economic crisis and the change in the traditional role of women as the faithful housewife, the average Italian family is experiencing a cultural reshaping.  Furthermore, grandparents are quickly becoming the cornerstone of the family.  It is the involvement of grandparents that allows both halves of couples to simultaneous work and raise their children in a comfortable manner. According to a study cited by Cecilia Tomassini and Karen Glaser, “In Italy, as in other Southern European countries, around 40 percent of grandparents provide regular childcare for their grandchildren compared with less than 20 per cent in the Nord European countries” (Tomassini, Glaser). These numbers demonstrate that Italy is not alone in the rising trend that shows an enormous percentage of grandparents regularly providing childcare.  By not having to pay for childcare, Italian families witness intense financial benefits. While these saving are helpful for individual families, grandparent provided child care also factors into the struggling economic situation. A 2009 study conducted by the Milan Chamber of Commerce calculated, “ savings of 50 billion euros, supposedly based on how much it would cost Italian families to find babysitters and/or housekeepers for all Italian children under the age of 14” (Gilbert, Stranitalia). The benefits that families experience with grandparents living in an extended family, only bolsters this growing trend.

Due to these factors, Italian grandparents have had to take on a much more active role in their families. This role sometimes forces the grandparents to take care of their grandchildren more than their actual parents.  In some cases as well, the grandparents are sometimes seen as a haven from the parents due to their more patient and “spoiling’ nature typical Italian grandparents have. Another rising trend to keep in mind is the slowly rising number of divorces in the once catholically fortified Italy. In a 2003 national survey conducted by the Italian Statistical Office found that, “new generations of grandparents are more likely to experience divorce,” indicating that now more than ever, grandparents are faced with the fact that their children are divorcing, with and without children, thus leaving both their children and their grandchildren in their hands (Tomassini, Glaser). This survey was called the “Indagine Multiscopo sulle Famiglie e Soggetti Sociali,” which is explained by Tomassini and Glaser to be a survey of “over 60,000 people with the response rate well above 90%, though is lower for very old people. A section of the questionnaire is devoted to analysis of the structure and the exchanges within family members. Information on presence, proximity, and contact with grandchildren are included” (Tomassini, Glaser). Therefore, with splitting households, grandparents are exponentially becoming more of a refuge for the children experiencing the divorce of their parents. Having a stabile home or another source of parenting becomes more familiar and comforting than that of their parents. As King also reinforced in his article Consequences for ties between Grandparents and Grandchildren, “Grandparents step in children’s family breakdowns. They are often seen as the next level of parenting or nurturing that the child identifies with.” Italian children today are not only raised by their mother and father. Every child either has their mother’s or father’s parents as well that act as parents in their everyday lives. It will be an interesting phenomenon, how these children today will grow up to be due to these circumstances.

The Nonni of today’s Italy have taken a gigantic role in today’s Italian family. Without many of the grandparents of today, many families would not be able to survive the economic climate. In addition, the empowerment of women and the progress women’s rights have experienced in the last 40 years would also be at risk if it were not for the willing grandparents in Italian society. Without someone to take care of the kids, whether it is while going to work or during divorce, the Italian woman would be seriously disadvantaged without the convenience of someone to take care of their children. Without i Nonni, it would also be extremely difficult for single mothers and mothers in general to pursue careers. In the Italian culture there truly is something different about grandparents. The roles of Italian grandparents go far beyond the expected. From essentially raising their grandchildren, to being the last minute babysitter to even providing financial help. Italian grandparents live for their grandchildren, have been the glue of Italian families for the last 40 years and very well may become more and more needed as time continues.

Works Cited

King, V. (2003) The legacy of a grandparent’s divorce: Consequences for ties         between Grandparents and Grandchildren, Journal of Marriage and Family,       65, 170-183. Print.

DC Reitzes, EJ Mutran (2004) Grandparenthood: Factors influencing frequency of            grandparent–grandchildren contact and grandparent role satisfaction,       Journals of Gerontology. Print.

Glaser, Karen, Dr. “Grandparenting in Europe Project.” Grandparents Plus.            Krystal, 28 June 2012. Web. 11 Nov. 2013.      <http://www.grandparentsplus.org.uk/grandparenting-in-europe-project&gt;.

 

Gilbert, Sari. “Grandparents Supposedly Saving Italian Families      Millions.” Stranitalia. Petar.org, 20 Aug. 2009. Web. 12 Nov. 2013.    <http://www.stranitalia.com/home/index.php?option=com_content&task=vi            ew&id=237&Itemid=1>.

“Report – Italian Families – FCE Preparation.” Lang-8. Lang-8.com, 9 Apr. 2012.   Web. 11 Nov. 2013.

<http://lang-8.com/371812/journals/1412789&gt;.
Tomassini, Cecilia, and Karen Glaser. “Unmarried Grandparents Providing Child   Care in Italy and England: A Life – Course Approach.” EPC 2012.         Princeton.edu, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2013.

<http://epc2012.princeton.edu/papers/120948&gt;.

The Lives and Legacies of Catherine & Maria de Medici

 

If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.

Benjamin Franklin

If there is one thing that is, was and always will be constant between today and the time of the Medici, is that wealth is power and power is politics. However, talent in one does not mean talent in the other. What changed throughout the time of the Medici was exactly this. As extremely able bankers, the Medici sought power after three generations of successful, love fueled marriages. The marriage of Lorenzo the Magnificent to Clarice Orsini was the first of its kind and the turning point in Medici history. Besides the fact of Lorenzo’s extraordinary contributions to Florence and his family’s social position, the marriage was politically motivated. For the first time, the Medici family sought its power through marriage. This marriage signified the beginning of a political future for the Medici family as the Orsinis from Rome were wealthy and had blood in the Catholic Church. This change in direction would affect not only the Medici family, but eventually change the course of European history. Two results of this change were two French Queens, Catherine de Medici and Maria de Medici; both with rather interesting stories and a legacy that would transcend their time.

Catherine de Medici was born in 1519, great granddaughter to Lorenzo the Magnificent. Protected by Pope Clement VII, Lorenzo Duke of Urbino and Maddalena de la Tour d’Auvergne orphaned daughter Catherine, grew up to become a very powerful lady, Queen Consort of Henry II, son of King Francis I of France. However her early life was nothing of that of a typical queen. An orphan at a young age, Catherine lived in Florence when the Medici were not the most popular family in the city. In fact, after the invasion of Italy by the German barbaric tribes, many Florentines wanted to kill off the remaining Medici; which led Catherine into living in a convent most of her youth, hiding from the turmoil that was Florence. In addition to this, after her parents’ death she was passed from the care of Alfonsina to Clarice Orsini. This childhood formed Catherine a very resolute and cold character that would attribute to her legacy as Queen of France. After the restoration of order in Italy and Florence, Catherine stayed in Rome in the hands of Maria Salviati. But it was in Rome where under Pope Clement VII, she would marry by proxy, Henry of Valois the Duke of Orleans. The Duke of Orleans, was the second son of King Francis I of France. Her time thereafter in France was rather interesting. Unhappy with her husband and without the sympathy of the French people, Catherine was a one woman army. Miles away from home and any type of family, it is here that her childhood and character would distinguish her as a very strong woman. Catherine was a woman of sport; she loved hunting and very skilled with a bow (Catherine de Medici, Frieda). She complimented her sport equally with her knowledge in science and math as well being a more than generous patron to the arts. Catherine was not the most beautiful of women but wasn’t ugly. Her features were not abnormally displeasing and she was not absolutely stunning but what was always seen was her sinister appearance. In 1536, the heir to the throne died, Francis II, leaving Catherine’s husband, the next in line. As a mother, after nearly nine years of nothing and threat of divorce, Catherine bore ten children including three later French Kings; Francis II, Charles IX and Henri III. In 1547 however, the King of France died, Francis I, putting her husband in power over France. The next few years proved extremely trying for Catherine. Besides the death of her husband in 1558, she also had to deal with her husband’s mistress, Diana di Poitiers. However, after the death of her husband she became Queen Consort of France, a regent, because her son Charles’ young age. The years following her Queenship earned her the nickname, “Madame Serpent.” As one can probably guess, this was due to her political behavior as queen. Defending not only her, who was not French but nonetheless Queen of France but also her young son during a time of religious conflict.

The religious conflict in France would later be known as the French Wars of Religion that lasted from 1562 to 1598 between French Protestants and Catholics. This religious conflict translated directly into the politics of France, of which Catherine clearly had to deal with on a daily basis. While Charles IX was still king, Queen Catherine had arranged the marriage of her daughter Marguerite de Valois, to the Protestant Henry III of Navarre.  The wedding took place in Catholic Paris despite the Pope’s rejection of the marriage. A few days after the marriage, on St. Bartholomew’s Day, 1572, Admiral Gaspard de Coligny, a Huguenot leader and admiral, was murdered. The Admiral’s death spurred the killing of dozens of Huguenot nobles still in Parts after the wedding, and the rounding up and massacre of hundreds of other Huguenots in Paris and then throughout France.  The St. Bartholomew’s Day and subsequent massacres are regarded in history to be the work of Catherine. Historians point her motives to be that of obvious political power and stability. The resulting deaths and conversions of St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre solidified Catherine’s son’s throne and diminished the political threat caused by the French Protestants. Protestant Henry III of Navarre became Catholic Henry VI of France, and when the half Medici Marguerite died, he married the full Medici Maria de Medici. Catherine later died in 1589 and was buried in Castle de Blois, where another Medici would one day reside (Catherine De’ Medici, Havemeyer & Malone).

Catherine’s tough youth and life was not only plagued with years of war and conflict but also self-reliance and struggle. Although one of the more prominent figures of the 16th Century, her legacy will go on as the same manner in which it was created, out of violence and hardship.

A later Medici daughter Maria was born in 1573 at the Florentine Palazzo Pitti, daughter of Francesco de Medici the Grand Duke of Tuscany and Joanna Archduchess of Austria. Maria also became Queen Consort of France by marrying the first French Bourbon King Henry IV by proxy, also known as the Protestant King of Navarre and then later, Henry IV Catholic King of France. Of her childhood, there was nothing very out of the ordinary for Maria other than the early deaths of both her parents. Similar to Catherine, she was orphaned at a young age and put into the care of other relatives. However, unlike Catherine she did not take to them as well. Her father, like many powerful men and Medici husbands had a mistress in which both her and her mother despised during her youth. Maria lived in Florence for the first 25 years of her life until she was sent off to marry Henry IV of France at the age of 18. Nicknamed “the foolish,” she as well was not particularly liked by the French people. However, unlike Catherine who was cultured and had a strong nature, she was uncultured and frankly unintelligent. Her figure was short and stubby with blond hair. She unfortunately had the characteristic bulging Medici eyes and with age she slowly became fat and inelegant, not a typical French Queen. Having another Queen from the Medici family made Florentines ecstatic, unlike their French counterparts. The French counterparts had reason to hate her though. She was known for spending outrageous amounts of taxpayer money for vanity and the famous artist she provided thousands in patronage to, Rubens.  During her time in France she became a puppet of two of her closest confidants. She was not the wisest of women and remained oblivious to Leonora Galigai and Concino Concini who were out for power but luckily never resulted in anything major (Brittanica). 1610 came with the assassination of Maria’s husband, leaving the throne to her son Louis XIII, who would then have to wait because he was only 9 years old. After the death of Henry, the queen became snappy, irritating and unappreciative. After getting even with Henry’s mistresses and various courtiers, and advised “unscrupulous Italian” Concino Concini and later the famous Cardinal Richelieu (Brittanica). Maria managed to overcome Henry’s death and overstay her regency to 1617. When son Louis XIII took over, Concini was assassinated, Richelieu became even more powerful as chief minister, and the half Habsburg half Medici Maria was exiled to Castle de Blois due to her political ties with the Hapsburgs and Spain. After two years in the Castle she allegedly escaped by rope with the help of her artist, Rubens. Later, with the help of Cardinal Richelieu she then reconciled with her son. Despising Cardinal Richelieu however, for being so close to her son she attempted a coup to remove him in 1630, but failed.  Her failure led to her exile for good to the Netherlands in 1631 as Bourbon France took on Habsburg Spain. However it was not here that Maria would leave her mark. Maria left her mark on history and her legacy in those that would come after her. Among Maria’s descendants would become the most famous Louis XIV, “Louis the Great,” “the Sun King,” who also became the longest reigning king in French history. In addition to Louis XIV, she would give birth to Elizabeth, later the Queen of Spain, Christine, later the Duchess of Savoy, Henry, later the Duke of Orleans, Gaston later the Duke of Orleans, and lastly Henrietta the later Queen of England. Her legacy unlike Catherine’s ended on a much higher note as her children would start long lineages of royalty all across Europe, coining Maria’s nickname as the “Grandmother of Europe” (Saward, 311).

The two Medici queens had many similarities and many differences. One can quickly see that both of their childhoods were one of sadness and hardship. They were both arranged to marry a man they had never met, that lived thousands of miles away. They both were shipped off, away from the little family they had left. It is quite possible that it is exactly their upbringing and youth that shaped them into the negatively connoted queens they are regarded as today. Both were not seen as fit queens and hated by the French people. Unfortunately as well, both queens were not regarded as the most aesthetically pleasing women either. In addition both of their husbands passed before them leaving them in power of one of the most powerful countries in Europe.

The queens’ differences are interestingly many. Although studied in a mostly negative light they both seemed to do a decent job of keeping France afloat and staying in power. However, Catherine was much more instructed, with both her mind and body she was a much better queen, especially under her circumstances. As a woman highly known for her wits and hunting abilities she presents a much more independent woman that simply fought back for not only herself but her sons. Maria on the other hand was not intelligent and actually let herself be manipulated by her confidants. She had no admirable skills that are ever mentioned and let her husband off with his mistresses. Although their upbringings may have been, with a few exceptions, very similar their time in Paris was not. They were two different French queens but very similar Medici women. In a way they were opposite ends of the spectrum in regards to their political life. Catherine was extremely involved, knew the court well and how to impose her will and push her agenda whereas Maria seemed to barely hold onto power. Then when her son came of age she was quickly sent away and basically kept away from any position of power. Their relationships with their sons were also very polar opposite. Catherine is depicted in literature and films such as 1994’s Queen Margot directed by Patrice Chéreau; where she is shown to be very affectionate to her sons and very family oriented. Whereas Maria was the absolute opposite in this respect, her son exiled her twice after her incompetence on the throne.

Nonetheless, one can see the utter differences and peculiar similarities between these two queens in their early years and their time as French royalty. However the main difference lies in their legacies. Although a better queen all around, it was the state of affairs she had to deal with that ultimately led to her violent and infamous legacy. Known by some to the extent of being a “Poisoner, besotted mother, despot, necromancer, engineer of a massacre: the stain on the name of Catherine de Medici is centuries old,” clearly demonstrated the more gruesome depictions of the Queen (Catherine de Medici, Frieda). Then on the other hand, Maria, the more incompetent queen who ruled rather poorly, ended up with the greater legacy thanks to not necessarily her intent but more so how her children wed after she passed. As much as the French may have despised the Medici queens and how poorly they represented Florence, but thanks to them Florentine blood would forever run throughout the bloodlines and history of regal Europe.

So what started as a move by Piero the Gouty and Lucrezia Tornabuoni to marry their famous son Lorenzo the Magnificent to a wealthy Clarice Orsini as an arranged consolidation of power, then served as a catalyst in the Medici family marriages. This trend of arranged marriages was not only spurred by the Medici success but also their ambition for power and prosperity. Their ambition succeeded, with a bloodline that can be traced to even modern day royalty, these two unanticipated Medici women’s legacies, made it possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Frieda, Leonie. Catherine De Medici: Renaissance Queen of France. New York: Fourth Estate,    2003. Print.

Havemeyer, Janie, and Peter Malone. Catherine De’ Medici: “the Black Queen” Foster City, CA: Goosebottom, 2011. Print.

Saward, Susan. The Golden Age of Marie De’ Medici. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research, 1982. Print.

Queen Margot. Dir. Patrice Chéreau. Perf. Isabella Adjani, Daniel Auteuil, Virna Lisi, Jean-Hugues Anglade. Miramax Films, 1994. DVD.

“Catherine De Medici.” Catherine De Medici. History Learning UK, n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2013.                  <http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/catherine_de_medici.htm&gt;.

“Marie De Medicis (Queen of France).” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 25 Nov. 2013.      <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/365073/Marie-de-Medicis&gt;.

 

Dante’s Inferno: Themes & Symbols and their Attraction to Modern Poets

Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’entrate

Dante Alighieri, Canto III, line 9

Dante Alighieri and his work La Comedia have had immeasurable influence on Western literature since the 14th Century. However, it has now become common for people to reference the Comedy simply by its first canticle, Inferno. Many suspect this happened because Inferno has experienced the greatest response from its critics and readers over time. An analysis of motifs, themes and symbols used by Dante in the Inferno will shed light as to why writers have always gravitated towards the Inferno more than the Comedy as a whole. From Ezra Pound, T.S Eliot and Osip Mandelstam to more recent W.S. Merwin, Seamus Heaney and Robert Pinsky, modern poets at every bend have been drawn more so to the Inferno than to the other two canticles. Dante’s Comedy is an example of poetry’s world-creating power, a perfect manifestation of the locus amoenus, an ideal imaginary place and of a poet’s success throughout his own spiritual and political exile. It is impossible to simplify the iconic complexity of Inferno to a diminutive list of noteworthy symbols. Because this poem is predominantly an allegory, it exploits its themes, hundreds of symbols, and literary devices. Dante even indicates that his works must be read through more than one lens. The Comedy must be read literally, allegorically, morally, and anagogically; therefore not making this epic poem the simplest of reads. That being said, an analysis of major symbols and motifs and will offer an explanation as to why Dante encrypted his work with these symbols and why the Inferno is sought after much more than the rest of the Comedy.

Dante’s Inferno is rich in themes. As you flip through the book, these themes jump off the page and soak its reader with irony and provide examples of symbolic retribution. This term represents the punishments sentenced to the souls, directly and equally according to the sins committed on earth. In the Third Circle of Dante’s Hell, there are many examples of this poetic righteousness. The gluttonous reside in a valley of muck, awaiting the terrifying jaws of Cerberus. Gluttons are people who overindulge in their desires, whether it be for others or their own finances, hospitality, or food. Gluttonous people in Dante’s Inferno suffer this punishment for a reason: they are both punished by the endless rainfall and by Cerberus. The symbolic reckoning demonstrated here is that of the glutton’s endless overindulgence during their time on Earth. Therefore, now they must endure an eternity being indulged by eternal God’s wrath. Dante’s use of irony in the Inferno openly allows the reader to relish in the misery of the eternally punished for committing these sins. This equivalence represents a sense of balance, almost to the point of echoing Hammurabi’s “eye for an eye” ideology. The sinner suffers to the degree of his sin. As Dante continues into the 9 circles of Hell, the sins as well as the punishments become worse and worse.

Initially in the Inferno, Dante shares very compassionate relationships with those he encounters in Hell. He builds great sympathy for the sinners and souls around him. However, the farther he travels, the less pity he feels for the souls he encounters. This again relates to God’s equal judgment in terms of the severity of  every sinners punishment. The farther Dante travels, the less pity he has for those he sees.

Dante’s Inferno can also be seen as an imaginary classification of sin. How he classifies sin is a reflection of his morals and judgment as a Catholic and as a man of politics. We see that a man that accepted a bribe is in a deeper circle of hell than a man who committed murder. Dante’s narration of Hell with Virgil follows first and foremost that of Christian doctrine and then Dante’s personal ideology. Dante’s political affiliations also affect the severity and position a sin holds in Hell. Additionally, just as God’s judgment, none of his structures are explained or reinforced. Dante offers every form of background and introduction but never any explanation of why each sin, is where it is.

Immortality for many writers comes through their stories. This is a theme that has transcended time. For Dante, this immortality and legacy was of utmost importance. Not only do the many souls ask Dante to retell their stories but he also sees his own immortality when he cites himself among the best poets of all time. He sees Horace, Ovid, Virgil and many others including himself. Although suffering in Hell, many of the souls hope that through their stories, they will live longer than their mortal lives allowed. For example in the Eighth Circle of Hell Dante actually denies souls the favor of bringing words of warning to men on Earth. Although being directly denied, in the greater perspective he is granting their wish through his writing. Keeping in mind that all these stories are of sinners, he allows for some to “continue living” through his literary legacy. However, while emphasizing the legacy of others, he also takes advantage to advance his own legacy. In Canto XXIV, in his description of the Thieves’ punishment, Dante asserts that he has exceeded both Ovid and Lucan in his ability to write and depict metamorphosis and transformation. This is in reference to Ovid’s Metamorphoses which focuses entirely on transformations and Lucan’s Pharsalia, an interpretation of ancient Roman political transition and chaos in the first century B.C. By claiming to have outdone these two renowned classical poets he seeks to secure his own immortality in the literary world. Therefore Dante uses storytelling as a vessel for many legacies. It is not only the storyteller but also the subjects of the stories he includes that continue with him and transcend time.

On the other hand lays an indisputable motif. Dante also pursues many political arguments. An extremely significant part of his agenda in the Inferno was to comment on the disastrous political atmosphere in 14th century Florence, while keeping in mind his biased and his exile from the city.  He not only condemns political enemies ruthlessly but also predicts and condemns figures ahead of time due to the Inferno being set years before. Thirdly, Dante asserts his position as a White Guelph in his supported ideology of separation between Church and state. However, due to the sensitivity of the topic he cautiously emphasizes its divine and political importance. The last scene in the Inferno also emphasizes this Christian and political duality as Lucifer is chewing on both religious and infamous political figures; by chewing on Judas, betrayer of Christ, and Brutus and Cassius, infamous betrayers of Julius Caesar, the most famous classical politician. Betrayal and mutiny of religion and state both merit the most severe punishment in Hell according to Dante. However, an important note is that with this political and religious sin, there are also instances where these two spheres cross. It is here, where the instance of a priest accepting a bribe that warrants a deeper circle in Hell than one who commits murder. This is another example to Dante’s emphasis on religion and state. These examples are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of this concept Dante presses on throughout the Inferno.

References to the classics and mythology are also present motifs in the Inferno.

As much as Dante refers back to Greek and Roman mythology, he also references Christian morality. It is interesting how Dante includes mythological creatures and ancient creatures in a Christian Hell. He includes beasts from Centaurs and Minos, to figures such as Ulysses and places such as the river Acheron and Styx. As mentioned before he also mimics the styles of great classical writers, Homer, Ovid, Lucan and Virgil. He mixes and includes all these classical and ancient traditions not only to create a “hybrid,” or ode to the classics, but to also represent his supremacy and greatness as a poet. Dante also recognizes the dramatic potential in using these ancient elements. By including all these traditions, with the overarching one being that of Christianity, he is pushing Christianity to the top while simultaneously acknowledging that all others are real, but simply, of the past.

The symbolism in Dante’s work is endless. It is impossible to diminish the iconic intricacy of the Inferno to a short list of significant symbols. Because the poem is an extended metaphor, it uses symbols, ranging from the painstakingly small, to the major symbolic representation of the entire story of The Divine Comedy itself, to the spiritual journey of human life. For example the white banner representing the Uncommitted in Canto III representing the insignificance of their lives. Many of the symbols in Inferno are clear and easy to identify, such as the beast Geryon, with the head of a man and the body of a snake, he characterizes deceit and fraud. Some others are much more nuanced and difficult to recognize, such as the three beasts that stop Dante from the path up the mountain in Canto I. While reading the Inferno, it’s critical to take each element of the poem into consideration in accordance to how it fits into Dante’s allegory as well.

Arguably the more significant, yet less obvious examples of symbolism in the Inferno are woven in the damned figures and their punishments which, as mentioned, correlate to their sins committed while they were alive. For example, the Lustful, who are blown around in a violent storm but never come into contact with one another as their punishment. Another important symbol Dante uses are figures who represent human qualities, such as Virgil and Beatrice. Virgil is the representative of reason and Beatrice is the representative of spiritual love. Settings also represent Dante’s emotions, such as the dark forest in Canto I, demonstrating Dante’s confusion and fear. Figures in Hell also represent something more than merely their sins. An example of this is Farinata, who characterizes qualities of leadership and political dedication that surpass his character as a Heretic in Hell.

A brief but contextualizing analysis of all these themes, symbols and motifs, as a whole lead to why Dante’s Inferno has always been so appealing to contemporary writers. Concepts such as death, the afterlife, Hell, judgment, strife and suffering have always been easy topics to relate to not only on a Platonic level but also very intimately. Love, leading to suffering and the conquest of women, has fueled many writers in many different ways. Both T.S Eliot and Ezra Pound take their works to an even closer connection with Dante by making clear references to Dante’s work. Eliot, in a more subtle fashion, takes concepts and methodologies from Dante; whereas Pound literally names his work Cantos. Eliot wrote The Wasteland partially about his personal struggles and experiences, but many have seen it as a portrayal of a modern Inferno, a depiction of a shattered Europe, filled with entire societies missing optimism or vision.  Pound had begun work on the Cantos even before the publication of The Wasteland in 1922. Like Eliot, Pound liked using multiple perspectives. However, Pound often pictured his Inferno as an economic inuendo, full of the costs of man’s economic inhumanity to humanity.

The troubles of World War I profoundly influenced both Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot.  The utter destruction of Europe’s physical and psychological aspects, no longer unified by belief or culture led the two poets down different paths. Eliot chose to remain in England after the war, and his personal issues and struggles as a poet led him to become both a British citizen and to join the Church of England. Pound on the other hand, found London intolerable and in an attempt to understand the economic causes of World War I, moved to Paris and later to Italy. Paradoxically this led him to support Mussolini in Fascist Italy. Both however, continued to recognize Dante as both a literary and spiritual idol.

Eliot’s Wasteland, is filled with the imagery of anguish and disappointment, the ideal torment for the self-conscious soul. The Wasteland is an enigmatic poem filled with many references to other works with equally complex frameworks and imagery. In the world of The Wasteland, this isolationis torment and Eliot explicitly uses lines from Dante to emphasize the degree of this modern existence, as well as to ironically belittle the difference between both “infernos”. The world in Eliot’s poem has no religion or God to unify the poem or the characters under one rule. At the end of Wasteland Eliot provides commentary on some of the parts that seemed to only add to the confusion of some of his imagery. However, whenever there was a reference to Dante’s Divine Comedy there appeared to be more of an explanation for what motivated him to write what he did. The lines taken from Inferno set the tone for the first section of his poem, “London seems full of not living souls but the dead who are on their way to hopeless damnation” (Wasteland, Eliot). Just as Dante and Virgil near the gate of hell in the third Canto and Dante recalls:

“I saw a banner there upon the mist.

Circling and circling, it seemed to scorn all pause.

So it ran on, and still behind it pressed.

a never-ending rout of souls in pain.

I had not thought death had undone so many

as passed before me in that mournful train” (Inferno, III, 49-54)

Here Eliot is associating a similar link he makes in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock in which the existing people found in the modern world closely bear a resemblance to Dante’s souls Hell.

“No torutured wailing rose to greet us here

but sounds of sighing rose from every side,

sending a tremor through the timeless air.” (Inferno, IV, 25-27)

Eliot’s souls of the contemporary world that are without hope and without choice, Eliot parallels them the opportunists Dante and Virgil encounter. Eliot’s judgment on his world connects in a different sense. The real world for Eliot is full of the condemned souls of Dante’s Inferno.

Throughout Pound’s Cantos he makes numerous references to politics, their injustices, and genocide in the same manner Dante does to not only the political world but also the Catholic Church, due to the beginning of the Jubilee in 1300. Whereas in comparison, Canto XXII continues with witty narratives comparing Pound’s philosophies of economic rational with the hardheaded, avaricious economics which Pound thinks have created his modern Inferno. On numerous occasions in the Cantos Pound overtly refers to the likelihood of a paradise on Earth, but once again is stopped by what he saw as bad economics.

Both Ezra Pound and T.S Eliot saw Dante as not only one of the greatest poets, but also as a man who had written an epic poem, one which would serve them better than the classical models of Homer and Ovid or any other classical poets for that matter.  Both of them also saw the medieval Catholic dimension of Dante’s work could not be used in a modern poem without substantial modifications. However, it is exactly for those themes and concepts used by Dante that have attracted so many other more contemporary writers to his work, more specifically, to his Inferno. Both Pound and Eliot chose to use drastic positions with drastically different voices to present their modern Infernos and they reached fundamentally different ends in terms of how to deal with life in the wake of World War I, just as Dante did in the wake of his exile. Through the connection of personal struggle, a concept that has, and will continue to transcend time, these writers have been able to relate not only to one another but also to their literary works, hundreds of years later.

Bibliography

Eliot, T. S. The Wasteland and Other Poems.  NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovitch, 1958.

Lummus, David. “Dante’s Inferno: Critical Reception and Influence.” Stanford.edu. Stanford       University, n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2013.

<https://www.stanford.edu/dept/DLCL/cgi-bin/web/files/lummus-inferno-influence.pdf&gt;.

Pound, Ezra. The Cantos.  NY: New Directions, 1972.

Terrell, Carroll F. A Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. Berkeley: U of Cal P, 1980.

“Dante Alighieri (1265 – 1321).” Ipl2 Literary Criticism. Drexel University, n.d. Web. 21   Nov.2013.

<http://www.ipl.org/div/litcrit/bin/litcrit.out.pl?au=ali-104&gt;.

The Life and Legacy of Lucky Luciano

He downsized, he restructured and he used Standard & Poor’s as much as Smith & Wesson to change forever the face of organized crime
Time Magazine

 Born and deceased in Italy, Salvatore Lucania is considered the innovator of organized crime in America. Once immigrated to America he reinvented himself, more commonly then known as Charles “Lucky” Luciano. Then, he reinvented the mafia. Along with his childhood friend Meyer Lansky, they’d come to change to face and future of the Mafia in America. Luciano’s rise to power however was not an easy one. Granted with gifts of ambition and intelligence, Luciano worked his way to the top. Between his knack for business and ruthlessness he forever changed his face and the face of organized crime. Growing up in Manhattan’s Lower East Side he became one of the first bosses of the American mafia that grew up in the States. However like all good things, Luciano’s dominance also came to an end after a series of unfortunate events that led to his arrest and eventually his death in 1962.

When Luciano was 10 years old he immigrated to New York City. At 14, Lucky dropped out of school and got a job delivering hats throughout all five boroughs earning $7 per week. School just was not for little Sal Lucania. But it was down on Manhattan’s Lower East Side that Luciano first met his friend and later lifetime associate, Meyer Lansky, a young Jewish boy also living in Manhattan. This during the time was unusual. Mixing of races back then was frowned upon and not accepted by many Italians. This small example is only a taste of Luciano’s perspective for the greater picture. He wasn’t old school; he didn’t care about how the old bosses ran things. Luciano was after one thing and one thing only, money. Luciano never saw color or race as a problem and knew that business was business. His philosophy was simple, “There’s no such thing as good money or bad money.There’s just money” (SearchQuotes). Allegedly, after winning $244 in a game of dice, Luciano quit his hat delivery job and turned to the streets for money. It was this street sense that separated Luciano from the rest.

While still in his teens Lucky started his own crew. Unlike other groups of kids during that time, Lucky didn’t deal with the small petty crimes to make money. Lucky and his crew offered other gangs Italian, Irish and Jewish protection for ten cents per week. It was from this crew that his friendship with Lansky grew and where both became well known in Manhattan’s neighborhoods. It wasn’t long until Lucky became a key player in New York’s crime syndicate at the head of the Genovese crime family.

During the United States’ Prohibition Era, the American Mafia thrived to its peak in the 1920s. Bootlegging operations ran from Chicago to New York, New York to Philadelphia, down to Tampa Bay, Florida and everywhere in between. Various sources say that in 1925, at age 28, Luciano was making around $1.2 to $12 million dollars per year from his illegal activities that ranged from bootlegging, racketeering, gambling, waterfronts, unions, food marts, restaurants, bakeries, textiles, loan sharking, extortion, narcotics, fraud and prostitution (Time Magazine). Their operations slithered their way into every aspect of society, politics, legitimate businesses and law enforcement. During his time, Luciano was one of six major bootleggers, between Meyer Lansky, Louis Buchalter, Jacob Shapiro, Long Zwillman and Bugsy Siegel, they ran the alcohol trade all along the East Coast (Biography.com). In 1929, Luciano finally got his nickname after surviving a violent stabbing, leaving him with the characteristic droopy right eye. Who ordered Luciano’s stabbing was rumored to have been his former boss Joe Masseria. However a year later, Luciano, with rival boss Salvatore Maranzano’s blessing would have his revenge when he killed and replaced Masseria in April of 1931. By June of 1931, at age 34, Luciano was sitting at the same table as infamous mobsters such as Joe Profaci, Vincent Mangano, Tom Gagliano and Joe Bonanno. With the world in Luciano’s young hand, Maranzano quickly saw Luciano as a threat after the death of Masseria and wanted Luciano dead. However, little did Maranzano know that Meyer Lansky’s loyalty to Lucky was greater than his loyalty to him. The Luciano-Lansky duo led to the death of Salvatore Maranzano a month later in September of 1931. Both assassinations taking place methodically and thoroughly. After Luciano took out Masseria and Maranzano, he was now the boss of all bosses. His new position, the head of the Genovese crime family, now allowed him to make the changes that forever immortalized him in the history of the American Mafia.

Luciano is considered the father of modern organized crime in America for structuring the five New York City crime families along with other families all across the United States. By creating a hierarchical council and chain of command, he revolutionized not only the Mafia in New York City but also that of all the United States. With a unified council or panel of leaders from every family, the Mafia was now efficient and organized. Luciano saw that war was bad for business and after seeing the effects of the mafia wars, Luciano sought peace. This council, which was named the Commission, was a conglomerate of families that comprised the American mafia. After enjoying years at New York’s luxury hotels, the famous “Waldorf Astoria in Waldorf Towers, custom tailored suits and chauffeurs;” Lucky’s luck was running out (History.com).

The special prosecutors name was Thomas E. Dewey. In 1935 he was ordered to look into New York’s organized crime activities. Following his investigations, Dewey found Bronx mobster Dutch Schultz involved in many illegal activities and was planning to convict Schultz. However, when Schultz came to find out that the detective was on his tail, he planned to murder Dewey to prevent his investigation from continuing, but there was a problem. Realizing that this murder would cause a major crackdown in the mafia’s activity, the Commission ordered Schultz to stand down. When Schultz decided to disregard the Commission’s decision, the Commission murdered Schultz in a New Jersey tavern. With his suspect dead, Schultz’s murder only led Dewey straight to the Commission and ultimately Charlie Luciano. With Dewey nipping at anything he could get on Luciano, in 1936, he caught his break. Luciano’s luck ran out when he and some of his men were brought to trial and convicted of prostitution and extortion. The trial started in June and by May of 1936 Luciano was sentenced to 30 to 50 years in prison.

During the 1930s, while the mafia ran the streets of New York, the United States had also entered World War II and was storming the beaches of Normandy. With the next Allied advancement heading for southern Europe, Sicily was to be their first stop. Seeing an opportunity in the situation, Luciano offered help with his contacts in the New York waterfronts as well as over in Sicily in exchange for a conditional release from prison. Time Magazine also cites this exchange with Meyer Lansky taking a key role in Luciano’s release in reference to his involvement in the Allied Operation Husky:

Stymied intelligence agents turned to the underworld for help. Lansky, known in the ’30s for breaking heads at pro-Nazi meetings, acted as liaison and was allowed to visit Luciano. Lucky put the word out to cooperate, and formerly mute dockworkers,          fishermen and hoodlums became the eyes and ears of naval intelligence. Soon eight German spies, who had landed by U-boat, were arrested, and explosives, maps and blueprints for sabotage were seized (Time Magazine).

So in exchange for important information and local cooperation, Luciano was released with parole and banned from US soil. Briefly after his deportation, Luciano couldn’t stay away. He traveled to Cuba months after his deportation to Sicily to rendezvous with old associates. There Lansky and Siegel met him and helped him continue running his operations. Unfortunately for Lucky, after the war in 1947 the United States government pressured Cuba into sending Luciano back to Italy. With the ability to keep a better eye over him, he was forced to stay in Naples by the US government. His time in Naples ultimately led to his demise on January 26, 1962 due to a heart attack. Even though Charlie “Lucky” Luciano’s last days were spent in Italy, his body was allowed to be returned to St. John’s Cemetery in Queens, New York where his parents buried him in their family vault (Time Magazine). However here, he was laid to rest under his birth name; Salvatore Lucania.

Charlie “Lucky” Luciano was not a model citizen. He made the best of his situation with the cards he was dealt and used his talents to the best of his abilities but simply in the wrong world. Luciano’s legacy will forever continue and forever be known as the architect of the American Mafia. He will be remembered not only for his ingenuity and cunning but also his ruthlessness and understanding for a greater perspective.

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Bibliography

Buchanan, Edna. “LUCKY LUCIANO: Criminal Mastermind.” TIME.com. TIME Magazine, 07             Dec. 1998. Web. 04 Nov. 2013.    <http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,989779,00.html&gt;.

“Charles “Lucky” Luciano.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 04 Nov. 2013.             <http://www.history.com/topics/lucky-luciano&gt;.

DAILY MAIL REPORTER. “The Moment ‘Lucky’ Luciano’s Luck Ran Out: Black-and-white    Pictures of Notorious Mob Leader and the High Class Prostitutes Who Led to His 1936          Arrest.” Mail Online. Associated Newspapers Ltd, 28 May 2012. Web. 19 Nov. 2013.            <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2151027/Black-white-pictures-mob-leader-   Charles-Lucky-Luciano-high-class-prostitutes-led-1936-arrest.html>.

“Lucky Luciano Biography.” Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2013.             <http://www.biography.com/people/lucky-luciano-9388350?page=2&gt;.

“Lucky Luciano Quotes.” Lucky Luciano Quotes. SearchQuotes, n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2013.             <http://www.searchquotes.com/search/Lucky_Luciano/1/&gt;.

Get me to the Greeks.

Greece.

Probably the longest I’ve been on a boat, about 15 hours later and a transfer of ferries it was definitely worth it. Once we got the the island of Corfu we were picked up by a pink bus that brought us to the Pink Palace. The first day we went on an ATV tour of the island, beautiful views, crystal clear water and some fun on 4 wheels. We rode through towns, dirt roads and main streets, all the way down to a beach for lunch. No casualties just a lot of inept female drivers, what else is new. That night we had a makeshift Halloween party with a pretty included dinner.

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Day 2 consisted of the “booze cruise.” Throw 85 people on a small wood hull boats with no life jackets and beer and wine and that’s what we had. The captain was in a hat, typical captains shirt and whitey tighties, classic. What went on, on that cruise will forever be held secret by many. Unfortunately not for here, this is another ask in person clause. During the cruise we pulled up to a formation of rocks in the water, what they called cliffs. So, jump off the boat, swim to a jagged rock formation in the middle of the water, climb up the jagged rocks in my Nike flip flops, because you know, impossible is nothing, get to the top and then pencil dive 60 feet into blue Greek water. That shit was no joke, some people that landed wrong got bruised and really shaken up. 1 casualty- female, 20, fractured back due to jump & still in Greece due to needed surgery (prior to jump had scoliosis; aka shouldn’t have jumped). After the booze cruise it was nap time. Then time to get into your pink toga and bust a move. Toga party was a success, dancing was hilarious. Overall good time. Next day presented itself with a hangover worth of putting out a large horse. However I rallied and joined a trip to Corfu town. Cool little town, cool Venetian fort, typical small island town. However would hate to live there. They still have cars from World War II, like, I was surprised the palace had wifi. Overall great trip “saw some great views.” Once in a lifetime chance to see the worlds most famous hostel.

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That’s all folks. Thanks again for reading, hopefully you’ll want more and come ask me a few questions!

Stay classy & Yamas!

M

10 Days | 5 Cities | 4800 km

Ello folks. Hope all is well. Just dropping in again.

Two weeks ago now I finished my 10 day 5 city tour of Western Europe. 42 hours of bus and 4800 kilometers later and I’ve seen more than 99% of the world has. This is going to be a brief overview of everything I did and saw with a little of my 2 cents of each city. My trip started in Berlin. Berlin was very unique. The mixture of history and German modern architecture/fine engineering made Berlin so memorable. One of my first stops was the historical Reichstag which for a long time in German history simply represented a false promise of democracy. The phony parliamentary building was barely put to actual use during its early years when Germany was still ruled by monarchs. It was used slightly during the Weimar Republic but then was burned down and bombed during the rise of Nazi Germany. During the reconstruction of Berlin after World War II it was reconstructed with meaning and symbolism. It now stands with a steel and glass dome. In this building now, visitors can freely walk up and around the dome, which is situated directly above the elected German parliament. A symbol not only of transparency but also the people standing over the government. This is just a taste of this historical but modern Berlin. Other than that, I visited the Brandenburg Gates, the Holocaust Memorial, Checkpoint Charlie, the Berlin Wall and a myriad of other memorials, gardens and monuments. To sit here and give you a history lesson would be boring and lame so if you’re that interested, let me know and I’d be glad to fill you in. Berlin and most of northern Germany in general has a big rave and metal scene. Your stereotypical guys in black skinny jeans, chains and ridiculous Mohawks are common pedestrians. Likewise goes for nightclubs, they’re your typical stone arch basements with sketchy huge bald bouncers. We went to the most well known club in Berlin named Matrix. Entry is sort of hard but we managed. Place is pretty big. On a packed night, all 7 dance floors are shuffle room only,no room for the Holy Spirit out here boys and girls, and every room is playing a different genre of music. Pretty sick and a must if you can in Berlin. Nonetheless prepare yourself for a good time & try to stay away from the insanely attractive hookers.

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My next stop was Amsterdam. Amsterdam was one of a kind, filled with thousands of canals, it is a unique city. With an aspect of magic and beauty with a splash of mischief in its coffee shops and Red Light District. It’s one of a kind and for stories, you’ll just have to ask me in person. Amsterdam I noticed had an interesting demographic as well, I’m  assuming because it’s government is so tolerant and opens its arms to refugees seeking asylum because I felt like a Dutch person was 1 in 6 people I saw. Possibly due to being in the more touristy areas of the city, nonetheless, just an observation. Last note about Amsterdam, definitely visit the Heineken factory and don’t be out in the Red Light too late, scene gets sketchier than it already may seem. Overall, great impression. Its Europe’s city of sin.

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After the mischief of Amsterdam we headed out for Brussels. The center of the European Parliament, the grand palaces, Belgian waffles and their renown pommels frites (since saying French fries wouldn’t make any sense in Europe). Brussels was everything I expected. Clean, wealthy with a whisk of sophistication in the air, everything you’d expect from a country stuck in between France and Germany, the best of both worlds.

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My trip only spent half a day in Brussels, plus everyone was anxious for Paris. So that afternoon we shipped off to Paris. After another long and uncomfortable bus ride, we arrived in Paris. We stayed in the Montmartre quarter and to my surprise the bus dropped us off literally right in front of the famous Moulin Rouge. Montmartre is an interesting neighborhood, originally not even a part of Paris it sits on a hill with a beautiful white church (Sacre Croix) on top. From that church you had a beautiful view of east Paris. In Paris I visited Notre Dame, many of the palaces in the city, the famous lovers bridge covered in locks, of course the Eiffel Tour, the Louvre, the Arch of Triumph, the famous Champs Élysées, all of the gardens in between and Versailles. Knowing I wouldn’t have enough time to calmly see the Louvre, I decided to leave that for another time, figuring I wouldn’t do it justice if I rushed through it. Versailles however was impressive, it’s immensity and grandeur was as expected. I was impressed more with the gardens than the actual structure. Versailles interior has been renovated several times, with the possible exception of the famous bedrooms of King Louis, his queen and mistresses. So a lot of the inside simply didn’t seem original. My favorite room was the Hall of Battles, a long hall with huge paintings of Napoleon’s battles. Lastly I noted that the city of Paris, more so the city center, is extremely clean but as soon I stepped outside of the city, that standard completely disappeared. Oh and one more, you wonder why they picked a rat to be the animal cooking in Ratatouille? Because in Paris these things are everywhere and they’re f-$&/&:?! huge. I fed a few under the Eiffel Tour and my God they put New York’s to shame.

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Next stop, Barcelona. Off to the Catalan hub and home of Lionel Messi. After doing the walking tour of Barcelona, seeing the Olympic Park, Gaudi’s Segrada Familia, the Gothic District and all the sites, we had some free time. I ate paella for lunch and hung out by the port and beach, it was much hotter than I expected but it didn’t matter, I was in Barcelona. I wasn’t sure what to expect of Barcelona but it surely didn’t let me down. The first night we went out to a couple well known bars and ended up at club Opium right on the beach, the place was awesome(warning, the drinks are 10-15€ right off the bat so heads up) but the DJ absolutely killed it. We literally couldn’t leave the dance floor because the next song was always the best. It was absurd, we were out until 7 am where we then exited the back of the club and sat on the beach to watch the sun come up. Got back to the hostel around 8:30 and passed out until 2ish. Woke up and had a day to ourselves. I got up and checked out the port a little more but then got in contact with an old high school buddy studying there in Barcelona. Lucky for me, I come to find out il Classico was going on that night, in Barcelona! I don’t use exclamation points that much but, it was a big deal. After meeting my buddy studying there we went to a bar, grabbed an early table and watched the biggest rivalry game in Spain surrounded by Barca fans. It was glorious, granted I wasn’t at the stadium, it was still great. I mean when the game at the bar you’re at is on a projector and there are people on the second floor leaning over the balconies waving Barca flags and cheering, that’s as close as you can get without dropping €350 on a ticket to actually go to the game. However, final result, Barcelona 2 – Real Madrid 1. With one questionable non call for Cristano Ronaldo in the box, Barca fans got away with a 2-1 win over their rivals over in Madrid. After the win we all went to Piazza Catalunya to celebrate. Slightly partial to Barcelona I joined right in. It was unbelievable, wouldn’t have changed a thing. Good company good time, great timing.

 

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And that was my night, called it an early one after stopping in at a bar with a couple of my roommates and then got up for the last 12-15 hour voyage back to Florence.

 

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There you go, a small taste of my fall break. Hope you enjoyed it.

Thanks for reading.
Stay classy

M

10 Quick Tips on Living in Florence, Italy & Europe

Wrote down a couple things for those studying abroad and those thinking about it. I kept it to 10 for sanity’s sake. If you are looking for more, just let me know.

1. Do everything faster.
This is Italy, the country of fast and efficient cars, espresso and breakfast standing up. So walk fast, bag your groceries quickly and don’t stop in front of every monument or statue for a selfie and if you do, make it quick. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

2. Don’t be a tourist.
Live long enough in a city that is mostly a tourist attraction and you’ll see why native people hate you. Just don’t be that guy.

3. Become a regular.
Whether it be your coffee stop, gelato stop or nightlife spot become a regular. And if possible, at more than one. The more they see you, the less of a tourist you are.

4. Go to places & spots nobody else goes.
If you’re in Florence, grab a friend grab some food and drinks and go sit on a column of one of the 5 bridges over the Arno. If you’re clumsy you may want to skip it. Go to small restaurants and check out some of the large group deals, they’re always worth it.

5. Reality check
No Italian your age lives in the tourist city center like you probably do. Those apartments are way out of their budgets. Apartments in the city are either owned by older crowds that have had the apartments passed on for generations. Anyone in the city center is old, wealthy and not your age, or foreign. So if you’re looking for Italian bars and clubs, put your walking shoes on ladies. Heads up on how clubs work, watch out for lame cover charges.

6. Work first, play later.
Want to go out every night? Unless you have a quiz/test stay in. Otherwise, it’s easier than you think. Schedule your classes later in the day. And don’t be lazy, get out of class, do the homework right away. Is it a reading? Google it. Thank Sergei and Larry. Doing your homework right away instead of being lazy will pay off. Promise. Lastly, you’ll get some lame oral presentations and some crazy research papers with ridiculous requirements, do the lame presentations early and prepare for war with the keyboard.

7. No money, no problems.
You’re in Europe. Quite possibly the last time you may ever get this opportunity to travel. If you’re a junior, you have one more maybe two more summers until you get a job. Know how much time an entry level employee gets off? Zero. Don’t lecture people on how broke you are, everyone else probably is too. Save the pity. Would you rather have regrets or pay off a couple grand of debt once you have a job next year? Trust me, paying this off will be way more worth it than college loans. Don’t blow money, make every dollar count.

8. Hipsters.
Stay away from hipsters. Seriously. “Let’s check out this place” are fatal words. You’ll end up having a bad time, spend more money than you ever intended and you’ll just be pissed off. More often than not I find people going to these dumb places, paying ridiculous money, for nothing. They aren’t use to Europe, this isn’t the US anymore, their hipster ways do not fly the same way here. If you’re shaking your head right now in disapproval, no worries you’ll see.

9. Don’t start drinking at 7.
In Europe, unless you’re at Ocktoberfest or the UK, you won’t last. You can’t be done with class and just crack a beer when you’re out. Europeans, especially Italians, don’t go out “out” until at least 11-12. The clubs and bars sometimes won’t fill up until 1. And on this continent if you’re at the bar going wild at 9, you’re the biggest dumbest asshole there. Same thing with dinner, if you’re eating at 7, you’re doing it wrong. Eat later, it’ll help the whole going out later thing as well. Hey cheer up, 90% of Europe doesn’t have an open container law so always grab a roadie.

10. Take your travels with you.
Most of you reading this are American, if not applies to you as well, but any-who. You’re considered by 75% of your fellow earthlings to be the dumbest and most ignorant people on earth, don’t go back home and continue to be the person you were when you left. Bring what you’ve seen, learned, experienced and lived with you. Don’t dress the same way, don’t eat the same way, don’t think the same way. When you go back home, what you’ve experienced, very few others will have…very very few others. Your opinion now, your mentality (hopefully), is much much more mature than that of others. You’ve seen and lived what very few others have. Remember that and be thankful. You’ll realize at one point how much smarter, quicker and better you are in that respect as a result of living out of the US. Use this privilege wisely and humbly. Let others trip on their shoelaces, while you sitting back in your chair in silence, because you know.

Be a traveler not a tourist.

Hope this helps.

Cheers

Se beccamo,
M

Il Derby

Il Derby is a big day. It is the rivalry soccer match that happens twice a year between Roma and Lazio. A rivalry that has been going on for years, it has been the fight over the capital. Lazio has precedence in terms of history, but AS Roma is named  after the city. So who is the proprietor? This match is the judge every year. As someone who more often than not has watched it, along with other rivalry games from behind the TV screen, this will be my first time seeing the glory or tragedy in person.

After a spontaneous phone call from my Uncle Angelo Friday, I’ll be hopping on a train at 0300 and shipping down to Rome for the night and tomorrow afternoon. From that point, I’ll let you know how it goes and finish this. FORZA ROMA.

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Roma 2 | Lazio 0

“Roma e nostra. Alla prossima belli andate a casa

“Abbiamo rimesso la chiesa al centro del vilaggio.”
Rudi Garcia

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What a game. First time to a Derby (Roma vs Lazio rivalry game, check link below) lived up to its infamy. The build up was crazy. The history behind today’s game was insane. Roma had been on a cold streak these last few years in terms of the rivalry and the squads strength in general, but not today. With a wisp of magic in the air, I knew today was going to be a good day. It was one of those games where you just couldn’t see your team loosing, like you didn’t have a doubt in your heart. Maybe it was my greenhorn mentality kicking in since it was my first time out for this game. I’ve been to Bruins playoff games, Patriots playoff games and Red Sox playoff games but between it being my actual hometown team and the fact that the stadium is filled with the most passionate fans you’ll most likely meet, puts this game above the rest. The only comparable game was Game 5 against the Canucks a couple years ago when the Garden was simply electric. Today was just utter spectator-ship to the extreme. I couldn’t video some of the intense fans because it was all fast and in crossing but it was crazy. Crazier than any other of the games I’ve been to. When people say they bleed black and gold etc, they’re referring to these guys. Legit bleeding red and yellow for their team.

The night before I went to Pizzeria Remo a Testaccio with people whom I all consider family. Great pizza, even greater company, and the best wait staff. Because you know what the best part was? Our waitor, was a Lazio Ultra. Meaning he was banned from the stadium for 8 years after igniting a Carabinieri truck on fire and can’t go back until 2015. You pickin up what I’m puttin down? Crazy right, but the guy was the best waitor I’ve ever seen in my life. Treated us like family even though we were Roma fans. It’s guys like him that exemplify the fans around here. Put them in a square mile of that team during a game….all bets are off, put him in his element, he’s the best friend you never met. He was the best, his only defect was that he was just a fan of the wrong team. Oh and he loved how I could open the liter beer bottles with my iPhone, he said “Only in America,” while subtly grabbing another bottle putting it on the table and cracking it open with his wedding ring….”Only in Italy.”  However, best part of the night was when my _________ leaned over to me and said “Aho, la parte piu bella e che vedi, noi magnamo, e i Laziali c’e servono“, translation, “Hey, you see, the best part is were the ones eating and the Lazio fans serving us.” I almost died laughing, even though I realized it was this type of back and forth that makes this rivalry what it is on game days. This field for 90 minutes turns into a Colosseum, the Olympic stadium a battlefield and soccer, a means for an eternal military campaign.

Closing notes on the game as I wrap this up. State side fans need to come up with some chants man. Fans over here out sing out chant and out noise Americans by a billion decibels. Its insane how many songs and chants (Cori) they have, especially for Lazio. Imagine 60-80 thousand fans screaming and singing together in unison, its breathtaking. Lastly, between the flares, banners, flags the size of billboards, and colored smoke grenades it was very impressive. The smoke grenades create this like lingering fog of war over the field. I can’t imagine being on that field playing or scoring a goal or playing through 33 Derbies like Francesco Totti has (age 38), while still outrunning more than 90% of the guys out there. Unbelievable and I can’t thank my Uncle enough for bringing me. Grazie mille.

World Soccer Rivalries Link: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1730264-why-roma-lazio-is-one-of-world-footballs-fiercest-rivalries

Thanks all folks. – Alla prossima.

B&A,

M