19 November, 2007

The Old Country

Having been born in South Jersey and raised in the Philadelphia area, I've known a thing or two about Italian culture. Talking with one's hands, last names ending in a vowel, eating pasta, having wine with meals, meeting with family, etc etc etc etc. So I sort of knew what to expect with the culture of the place. But what I didn't expect was how incredibly nice all of the people were. At first I thought it was going to be somewhat similar to my native City of Brotherly Shove, and as I got off at Roma Termini station and shady people were trying to offer me a room, I thought it might be rough. But not before long I realized that the people, especially in Tuscany, were incredibly nice, very helpful in terms of giving directions, and I was shocked to discover that they all at least spoke some English. Whether it was picking out the right bike to take along the river or picking out the right wine to bring back home, the Italians made me feel at home during my stay in their country.

And in terms of the quality of the architecture, I was expecting to see a sort of museum of architecture in the city centers, basically just roman architecture that we have already seen in the Barri Gotic and such. While it is true that there is very little brand spanking new ground-breaking architecture in Italy, the old architecture is diverse and always contains a lesson to be learned. Whether it's the spaces within Bruneleschi's cathedrals, the monumental nature of Roman buildings/streets/plazas, or the integration of the landscape in the urbanity of Siena, there is some kind of genius thinking that went into the historic elements that you don't always see in Spain. Another interesting note...each region and subregion has its own character based on its history. We were only in Rome for 24 hours, but it was long enough to see how the it had an ancient Roman monumental character as opposed to Florence's Rennaisance-style decour, and Florence's southern Tuscan counterpart, Siena, had more of a hill town medieval setup. Each of these places reflected the character of their peak periods in history. One thing they all had in common though; there is an abundance of places where you can get a beautiful view over the cities.

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