pasta italy smithsonianstudentadventures wanderingscholar travel high school scholarship

Cacio e pepe. Image credit: Food and Wine

The Eternal City is full of delicious and enticing food that really expresses the beauty of Italian culture.

Roman food is rich in flavor and history. There are many family-owned trattorias (small and casual restaurant) and pizzerias. The food is based on vegetables and of course, pasta. Pasta reigns in every part of Italy and in Rome there is the pasta cacio e pepe, pasta all’arrabbiata, pasta e ceci, and more. I am very excited to try the pasta and especially the pasta cacio e pasta (pasta in a creamy olive oil, pecorino cheese, and black pepper sauce).

Produce is also very important in the making of Roman food, and artichoke is the king of the group.  It is prepared in two ways alla romana (Roman-style) or alla giudea (Jewish-style). Carciofi (roman for artichoke) is stuffed with bread crumbs, garlic, mint, and parsley and then braised in a bath of olive oil and water. Abbacchio alla scottadito (“lamb finger-burning style”)  is lamb chops seasoned with salt, pepper, and herbs like thyme, tarragon, and rosemary and it is traditionally eaten with hands.

Roman street food is amazing. Pizza is popular and customers can buy a rectangular slice and have it doubled over to eat while walking. There is also the trapizzino (cousin of the pizza) and warm, freshly baked baguettes to fill up with. A visit would not be complete without trying some delightful gelato. It would be very hard not to find a savory and tasty dish while walking around the gorgeous city.

Meal times are bit different in Rome than it is in the United States. Romans eat lunch at 1:00 and dinner after 8:00. The meal times may surprise many people because of how much later it is in the day. Another surprise may be the portion sizes. The meat portion is smaller than in the US but it is made up by a large amount of pasta that is served with it.

The food alone is a reason why many people head to Rome. The food is amazing just like the art and architecture. The inviting and delectable dishes shows the rich culture and past of the great city. I look forward to taking a flavorful bite out of history. read more →

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Note: To help our scholars familiarize themselves with their host country, we asked each to watch a different 25-30 minute youtube video about a particular region of Italy. Each video stars Rick Steves, a foremost expert on European travel. After they watched their assigned videos, Scholars were asked to provide a summary of its contents and highlight a topic it covers that especially interests them – this could be anything from a moment in history to a place or a person. In addition to explaining their personal interest in the topic. 

Rick Steves stated, “no trip to Italy is complete without Milan and Lake Como.” Many people often overlook Milan, but it has high fashion, some of the fanciest delis, grandest cemeteries, and the greatest opera house. Milan is Italy’s “industrial, banking, publishing, and convention capital”. It overcame four centuries of domination by Spain, Austria, and France, but ended with Italian independence and unity.

Architecture was influenced by the mood and story of what was going at the time. An example is the train station which has a fascist sense to it left by Mussolini. The train station is enormous and was meant to make people feel small, too small to believe they were great enough to betray or question Mussolini. The Pirelli Tower expresses and displays the rise of Italy after the fascist period. The abundance of churches, their size, and the gothic style of architecture represents the era of religious movement. Every detail of the churches from the marble floors up to the golden Virgin Mary conveys the importance of the churches and how critical it was to perfect them.

As people gather at Milan’s Great Square, they admire the great statue of Victor Emmanuel ll who is looking at The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele ll that was a gift for him from the people of Milan because he was their first King. Now, it is the pride of Milan and has prestigious shopping centers where millions of people visit. Along with these centers is Milan’s “world-class shopping zone” called The Quadrilateral. As for prestigious food, there is a deli in Milan titled “Peck” which is where most entrepreneurs and others with prominence go to eat. It has food from sandwiches, cheese, a wine section, and even the displays show the time they take into making the food desirable enough to pay for them.

The Sforza Castle was built with brick and made large for military use but has now turned into a public space for people to visit and tour. The Cimitero Monumentale is a monumental cemetery in Milan whose detailed structure of every statue and painting is precise and accurately conveys the devastating message from death. Having researched Renaissance artists like Leonardo Da Vinci, it was interesting to find out that he was the essential influence to the aesthetics by being a sculptor, musician, dentist, scientist, engineer, and architect. He designed the largest equestrian monument in the world, but one of his greatest masterpieces is the decoration in the Monk’s Dining Hall. The Last Supper has a history of surviving when nothing else did and representing the rush of emotions in the painting perfectly. Da Vinci identified himself with Milan more than any other city which explains the significance and reasoning for his statue. Another great tourist attraction is La Scala which has been devoted to performing the grandest opera’s and having a museum with the greatest actors for those who cannot acquire a seat for the opera.

Lake Como gives off the vibes of relaxation and deja vu. It has not been renovated in many years which is honorable that people get to see what artists viewed. Bellagio is elegant which delivers what “5-star visitors what they are accustomed to”. With the large pools, the elegant food, and care for their poodles. Along with these is Varenna which is a small town with romance and may be considered the ideal harbor. It is like walking in history where artists would paint, fishers would fish, and others would go to enjoy the peace.

To admire the work of great architects like Leonardo Da Vinci and analyze the history through the stories that are expressed in the art, Milan is the optimal city to visit. It also has prestigious delis and shopping centers for those who enjoy the shopping and spending of money. For a time to relax and take a visit in history, Lake Como, Varenna, and Bellagio would be the ideal places to visit. There are many places to relax and admire the calm skies above them and water below them. People often visit the elegant hotels to experience the absolute beauty of them. read more →

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Note: To help our scholars familiarize themselves with their host country, we asked each to watch a different 25-30 minute youtube video about a particular region of Italy. Each video stars Rick Steves, a foremost expert on European travel. After they watched their assigned videos, Scholars were asked to provide a summary of its contents and highlight a topic it covers that especially interests them – this could be anything from a moment in history to a place or a person. In addition to explaining their personal interest in the topic. 

Rome was once the capital of the western world. Today, its ruins show the monumental architectural accomplishment, culture, and history of the great city.

Classical Rome lasted from 500 BC to 500 AD. As the legend goes, Rome was founded by Romulus and Remus. These two brothers were abandoned as children and raised by a she-wolf (I hope those three years of middle school Latin pays off). In reality, the first Romans mixed and mingled in the valley that became the Roman forum. An example of Rome’s great architecture is the Via Sacra. It served as public relations tools. Romes economy was fueled by plunder and slaves gained by war. The Capitoline Hill, which sits among the other buildings of the modern city, is the home of the city’s government. The Pax Romana was a time of stability, military dominance, and good living. Roman history of the Pax Romana can be found in Roman art. A statue of Caesar Agustus -one of the first great emperors of the peace- has trusting and strong eyes that create a feeling of stability and well being. Another statue shows that the peace was coming to an end. The statue is of a boy that is about to become head of state, surrounded by nervous senators (expresses the lack of confidence in the government).

The Romans created many amazing structures, such as the Roman aqueducts and the Appian Way. The Colosseum is an incredible demosntat=raion of the Roman genius. The structure was used as an entertainment house for the million inhabitants of the city. Criminals, warriors, and animals fiercely fought each other to the death as the raging crowd watched and cheered. I would definitely prefer the modern day football over the gory fights of Roman entertainment. The colossal building was made possible by the Roman made concrete and their well-known arches. They respected they Greek culture by decorating the structure with greek of columns-Ionic, Doric, and Corinthian. The passageways under the wooden floor, allowed people and animals to be shuffled around out of sight.

Buildings like the well-preserved Pantheon showcase roman greatness (Its one-piece columns are so huge it takes four tourists to hug one). Modern days architects still marvel at its brilliance. The dome is made of poured concrete which gets thinner and lighter has it rises. The highest is made of pumice, a volcanic stone. The building was used as a place of worship. Emperor Constantine eventually legalized Christianity. As  Ric Steves states ” In the year 300, you could be killed for being Christian. In the year 400, you could be killed for not being Christian. Church attendance boomed and Constantine built the first Christian church “San Giovanni in Laterano”. The adjacent holy stairs are a major stop for pilgrims Thousands scale the Scala Santa on their knees, the stairs believed to be the stairs that Jesus climbed the stairs on the day he was condemned.

Rome collapsed after decades of corrupt rulers, and instability of the great Rome fell in 500 AD. Although the ancient civilization fell, Rome’s political, cultural, and architectural accomplishments are still felt today. Buildings and art are beautifully preserved and can be found today in the equally beautiful country of Italy. I am very excited to see the greatness of Ancient Rome in person. read more →

Florence Italy Art travel scholarship high school

Fra Angelico: Annunciation(c. 1440–45), fresco, north corridor, monastery of S Marco, Florence; photo credit: Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY

Note: To help our scholars familiarize themselves with their host country, we asked each to watch a different 25-30 minute youtube video about a particular region of Italy. Each video stars Rick Steves, a foremost expert on European travel. After they watched their assigned videos, Scholars were asked to provide a summary of its contents and highlight a topic it covers that especially interests them – this could be anything from a moment in history to a place or a person. In addition to explaining their personal interest in the topic. 

Italy has always had a unique relationship with modernity and religion. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the power of the pope increased considerably. Although Italy’s political structure changed drastically, the influence of the Catholic church stayed prominent throughout Italy. From the Florence Cathedral to the Vatican City, the presence of religion on the Italian peninsula is indisputable, and yet Italy also played a large role in the Renaissance. We have all heard of Donatello and Di Vinci, Italian natives whose artwork helped shape the Renaissance.

Located about 273 km (around 168 miles for my fellow Americans) from Rome, Florence is called the “home of the Renaissance, birthplace of the modern western world” by Rick Steves . The Florence Cathedral features the famous Dome, a common architectural feature of the Renaissance. That Dome was, in fact, the first great dome to be built in a thousand years, and the first dome of the Renaissance. The city’s location allowed it to flourish financially, as it was the center of trade between the East and the West. Money was invested in creative genius, so numerous talented artists made their way to Florence during the 13th and 14th century.

The Renaissance is often viewed as a time period in which religion took a back seat, and all of Europe became focused on celebrating the achievements of humans rather than praising God. Too some extent, I agree. Advancements in science were encouraged, and the Church could no longer put a limit on learning. But I think an important distinction must be made: a decrease in the influence of the Church doe not necessarily mean a decrease in the influence of religion. There was a definite shift in the mindset of individuals about how to worship God. Whereas following the word of the Pope and spending hours in prayer were the accepted ways of showing your commitment to religion during the Medieval ages, it became common to use art as a form of expressing religious devotion during the Renaissance. Painters used realism to draw scenes from the life of Jesus. Sculptures embraced the idea of creating nude sculptors to celebrate how perfectly God had designed the human body. Artists wanted to showcase the wonders of being human by adopting a more realistic form of art, but much of their artwork was inspired by stories from the Bible. For example, in one of Michelangelo’s masterpieces, David, the nude David’s considerably large right hand symbolizes the hand of God. Donatello also created a sculpture of Mary Madeline, highlighting her deteriorating body through her hollow eyes, but also her strong spirt as she stands straight and tall.

I think it’s strange that I identify with this city. Its history of balancing religion with modern ideas parallels my own efforts to stay devoted to Islam while embracing progressive ideas. All of this just makes me even more excited to visit Florence, cross the Ponte Vecchio bridge, admire the doorway of the Baptistery, and of course devour the food. read more →

venice italy travel scholarship high school international

Venice in twilight

 

Note: To help our scholars familiarize themselves with their host country, we asked each to watch a different 25-30 minute youtube video about a particular region of Italy. Each video stars Rick Steves, a foremost expert on European travel. After they watched their assigned videos, Scholars were asked to provide a summary of its contents and highlight a topic it covers that especially interests them – this could be anything from a moment in history to a place or a person. In addition to explaining their personal interest in the topic. 

As a curious child, I am honored to invest time in researching about my future travels. My assigned city is a well preserved masterpiece known as Venice.

Although its history is doused in blood, the end result was a safe haven for the general public. One of the many locations on the lagoon is the sight of the great beginning of Venice, Torcello. Torcello is now a depopulated location that is surrounded by forest land and the oldest church. After the fall of Rome, the barbarians began to burn down and rampage villages, causing the people to abandon their own towns/villages. They moved out to the lagoon, deforesting part of Italy along the way, to build their new homes. They used the raw materials to create a level in which to build upon; the mud and raw materials would make a great asset to the stability of Venice. As they developed on the outskirts, they became a village/town of fisherman, and not of farmers. Venice became a trading empire with economic and military power. They were the first mass produced military Arsenal, that could build an entire warship in 24 hours.
In Venice, many of the local tourists stay between the Rialto Bridge and St. Marks. St. Marks is known to be the political and religious center. Most travel on the island is on the many boats located in the waters. These are know as vaporettos; vaporettos are similar to trains, they have numbers and stops. Other forms of travel would be the gondolas, traghettos, and vaporettos. (The gondolas are $100 for 45 minutes; travel expert Rick Steves recommends splitting the cost between six people as it is one of the most beautiful forms of travel.) The traghettos are “gondola like”, but they travel through the grand canal. The vaporettos are city bus boats that go beyond and reach the internal heart of the lagoon cities. Torcello is actually one of the cities that a vaporettos can travel to, others include Murano, the city of glass, and Burano, a pastel wonderland(lace). St. Marks Square, also known as the main square, faces the Basilica San Marco and Campanile. These locations both hold true treasure, and are relics of the ancient past. The Basilica is a political and economic staple, while the Campanile a magical “orchestra”. Simply put by Rick, “People complain about the $25 cost of a beer, but it’s not $25 for the beer, it’s $25 for a table at the most expensive piece of real estate in Europe, listening to the live orchestra, surrounded by the wonders of Venice, and it comes with a drink. Come on, don’t complain.”

The Doge’s Palace and the Bridge of Sighs are also some of the most memorable places to visit. The story says that prisoners were taken through the Doge’s Place and the Bridge of Sighs, prisoners would sigh at the beautiful sight of their Venice as it was their last remembrance. As a town of 70,000 people that entertains more than a million people each day, we hear about and see many entertaining sites. So, because Venice is a wealthy city, we as travelers, are able to explore more of what it truely means to be a Venetian. The wealth started with the Renaissances movement through Europe, it began in Florence, traveled to Rome through their pope, then in 1520 after Raphael death, it established itself in Venice. This was due to the wealthy merchants, and their thirst for art-signifying wealth. This art came to be know as “situ art”; most of art is located in the Church of the Frari. The contain “masterpieces by Giorgiore and Titian”, as well as classics of the Venetian Renaissance. This is amazing because all these great art pieces are meant to be there/ intended to be on the walls of that estate. There are places like galleries that showcase many art pieces like the Uffizi, the Vatican, but in Venice it’s known as the Accademia.

All in all, my research has lead me to a ton of amazing facts. As a Wandering Scholar it’s easy to get lost and like Rick Steves said, “it’s okay”. The great thing about traveling to/touring Venice is that at every restaurant or business, they have cards that tell you your location. This excites me, because I know as wandering scholars, we’ll all have some sort of aid along our way. read more →