Month: November 2013

Svolta: Introspection in Florence

What am I doing here? What did I come here for? Philosophizing is an age old tradition in Italy, and not without good reason. A sincere, introspective conversation about those thoughts you avoid, yet yearn to talk about, can yield some extraordinary, and perhaps unexpected, results. I sat at a sidewalk cafe with Matteo (my good friend, an Italian native and recurring character in my stories from abroad) during a weekend trip we took to Florence. We spoke openly of our lives; the influential events that transpired and left their mark, our hopes for the future and our feelings of the past. Maybe it was this place that brought it out, with its nearly indescribable, dominating grandeur. I stared at the Duomo Santa Maria Del Fiore, feeling small, almost intimidated by its presence. It took a 140 years to build, beginning in 1296. It is one of the most inspiring things I have seen. Any lens or pen is hardly up to the task of relaying the experience of seeing it in front of your …

All Thoughts Fly Away: The Sacred Woods of Bormazo

Things are a bit different here. What you see isn’t exactly what you get, at least after first glance. Traveling puts you in different cultures, various situations and, if you’re doing it right, challenges your preconceived notions and conceptions of what you know. These cerebral scenarios are daily occurrences when living or traveling abroad. You will be hard pressed to have the eye-opening experience of cultural awakening, or shock, in the classroom. I wanted to find this out in person, and for my sins they gave it to me. They took me to the place of monsters. They took me to Bormazo. In the wooded valleys of Central Italy lays a sprawling collection of sculptures, some freestanding amongst the shaded gullies while others emerge out of the natural bedrock. They’re tucked away in the landscape, not so much hiding but waiting to engage you, ready to take you to school in a way you’re most likely unprepared for. At least I was. Bormazo was built in the mid-16th century, a project commissioned by the very …

We’ve Been Expecting You: Roadtripping in Europe (A Two Part Series)

The strike is on for tomorrow, be warned. My ten day road trip began with an imminent transportation strike slated for the day of my departure from Rome to Paris. I was traveling with my friend Cody for the weekend, and as far as we knew, this demonstration was only effecting the bus lines beginning at 9:00 am. “No problem,” I thought. We hit the ground running early in the morning, caught the bus to Roma Termini and then jumped a train to Fiumicino airport. We’re right where we need to be, and three hours early in fact. “See, that was easy,” I reassure myself. Reading my book, I glanced at my watch in quicker successions as our departure time approached. I’m ready to get this show on the road, but there is a commotion at our gate. Not wanting to miss out on watching the ancient art form of Italians publicly freaking out, I go in for a closer look. To all of our dismay the strike has gone into effect, and in fact …

Part 1: The Blues in Paris

I emerged from the Paris subway into the electric atmosphere of the St. Michel. district on a Friday night. My wide-eyed gaze panned from left to right, scanning over the Seine River and fixing upon the glory of the Notre Dame Cathedral under a full moon. The tension of the past 15 hours is cut in an instant, and a calmness floats in. I can’t make this stuff up, it’s too wild and I’m not that smart. Only a few hours ago I was counting floor tiles in an airport, wondering how bad it would really be to sleep on them. Now I am in the midst of The City of Light at midnight. Traveling will always present the unexpected, it is one of its most beautiful traits. These unforeseen events can be manifested in the annoying fashion of a cancelled flight or missed bus, but other times they appear in the wonderful form of making new friends or stumbling across a marvel of human construction. We walk along the bustling sidewalks to meet up …

Part 2: Perfect Strangers

I’m back in the Roma Termini station, shuffling through the masses of the morning melee. Fuzzy intercom announcements, hissing espresso machines and screeching iron brakes of train cars serenade the chaos. I’m on my escape route destined for the Italian Riviera. The railway takes me north three hours, through farmlands and industrial zones, to Riomaggiore, the southernmost town of Cinque Terre. I disembark right in front of the Mamma Rosa Hostel, my home for the next three days. Mamma herself is there to greet me, beckoning from across the platform. “Ciao bello! Mamma Rosa Hostel, si? Buongiorno!” Her petite frame was wrapped in a heavy black trenchcoat, her wispy gray hair and thick glasses beamed out from the upturned hood. I was ushered to my room with an outpouring of generosity. “Grazie mille bello!” I felt as if I was returning home from a long voyage I didn’t know I had taken, and my sweet granny had been waiting for me, counting the minutes until I arrived. It was fantastic. I was waiting for her …