Upon arriving in Florence, Italy, we had a walking tour that ended in the Uffizi Gallery that held renowned art pieces by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli, and more. The breathtaking gallery of paintings and busts had various styles and time periods in which they were made. I was particularly impressed by the incredible detail of the paintings and the busts that were made using marble or fine strokes. It is fascinating to me that these artists made these paintings up to 700+ years ago with such detail and that I was able to see it the original pieces.
The men, when depicted in the paintings, were almost always naked. They rarely wore clothes, and therefore, could be depicted as “masculine” and “powerful.” Fashion for men now is somewhat different, and the most powerful men wear a well fitted, crisp and sharp suit with matching shoes, belt, and coordinating shirt and tie. These men are often the CEOs and wealthy millionaires of the world. This has changed very much from the semi to completely naked images of men to full dressed images of men.
Women, however, dressed much differently than med had. Women that were wealthier were dressed in more clothing, and her status as a mate was determined based on a hairstyle (single women had long flowing hairstyles whereas married women had jewels and an and upward style in her hair. Additionally, if a woman was captured wearing a belt just below her breasts, it was a sign that she was pregnant with a child. This is entirely different than in fashion today, where relationship status can only be determined by a ring on the fourth finger of the left hand or the lack there of, while pregnancy is considered a taboo topic to talk about early on in a pregnancy (to avoid offending those who were not pregnant but appeared to be). It is also interesting to note the differences in wealth and fashion for women from then and now. As I had previously mentioned, wealthier women dressed in more clothing, but now the reverse trend seems to have taken place. I found this 180 degree change to be fascinating.
Because Florence is has been the third stop on our trip so far, I decided to begin reflecting on my individual and personal issues and observations since I began studying abroad. For example, I, as well as my other peers, have just discovered this past week how huge the language barrier is between Italians and America. I had been grateful to have encountered many bilingual citizens that were able to speak in English, but I had never been anywhere where English has not been the primary language spoken. I have been able to learn a few Italian words, but nothing well enough to have a fluent conversation with anyone in Italian. I did discover, however, that if you are able to get past the initial difficulty of the language barrier, how receptive some people are to trying to communicate. When a few students and I went to go get gelato, we were ordering from a man who very little to no English. However, we were all eager to communicate with one another and with some maps, drawings, pointing, and speaking in a mutual language like French, we spent an hour speaking with him.
I have noticed that some citizens are more receptive to “foreigners” like us more than others. For example, almost all of our encounters with citizens have been welcoming and friendly. We try to use our Italian when we can, and I have noticed they greatly appreciate the effort as compared to some citizens that quickly recognize us as tourists and are either more annoyed or then are able to target us for scams or pick pocketing. Meanwhile, I have seen a lot more openly homeless people in my travels than at home. I am not sure if it is due to Milan, Como, and Florence’s large tourist attractions, but I usually do not see as many people sleeping in sleeping bags right outside of stores at night like I do when I am in the U.S.
Because of America’s intense political relations at the time, we are often looked at much differently and have various reactions to us being American. For example, when we were all ordering gnocchi at a restaurant and everyone wanted the same thing, our manager that was waiting on us commented that it was “as easy as Trump.” We did not understand and weren’t even sure what it meant until he apologized and hooped we weren’t Trump fans. Even when visiting students from the Catholic University, they seemed much more interested in American politics than they did with their own politics.
These are some of the key differences I had noticed since I have been here, and I am curious to see how many more we will continue to discover as we continue to relocate to new places in Italy.