Today we left the tourist destination and made our way to the crossroads of the area, Verona. Upon entering Verona, I noticed how quaint of a town it was compared to the ones we have visited recently, but I will go into the details on the comparison later in the blog post. Upon getting to our hotel, we were taken on a guided tour of the city. It was a lot bigger than I expected. I originally thought that it would be a smaller city, without much to offer to tourists. Instead, upon arriving at the main square, the Roman amphitheater really jumped out at me. Our guide explained to us that the city was founded by the Romans, so the extent of the Roman city grounds has the traits of Roman cities, such as parallel and perpendicular street layouts. Then, during medieval time, the city was extended, so a second set of walls was built farther outside the original city. Finally, when the city was under the rule of the Venetians, another extension was added onto the city, so a third set of walls was built. These extensions to the city, made it so much bigger than the original Roman foundation, which can still be seen in the city. The levels of the Roman city are about six feet below the level of the streets now. During the tour, our guide took us to Juliette’s balcony, as made famous in the Italian tragedy Romeo and Juliette by Shakespeare. The balcony in which Romeo climbed that is described in the play is located in Verona. There is also a statue of Juliette located in the courtyard, and it is good luck in love if you grope the statue in a rather suggestive way.
The main thing I looked for was the difference between our base city of Milan and Verona. To start, Milan is very modern. The World’s Fair was held in Milan in 2015, so the city was updated from the older buildings to a very modern downtown in order to host the festival. Some of the buildings were changed in order to do this. In Verona, none of buildings have been destroyed; everything is recycled. For example, during the extensions to the city, houses were built using the old walls of the city. Another example is San Nicolo and San Sebastián churches. The façade of San Nicolo was put onto the structure of the other church in order to make a mixed design of the two. Because of the recycling process, there is a wide mix of design and culture in Verona. The mix of Roman, medieval, Venetian, Gothic, Romanesque, etc. designs add a hodgepodge of buildings and street designs to make the city a very cool place to walk around. Also in the design of Verona, the streets are a lot closer together than that of Milan. The Roman way of building cities offered a lot of inner courtyards for the residences of the city. Also in design would be the specific marble of the region, a red/pink color which is noticeably difference compared to the marble of Florence or Milan. Also, the original heavy Roman influence on the city (a.k.a. the presence of an amphitheater) shows the difference between the two cities. The second thing I noticed was the difference in people between the two cities. Milan is really not a tourist destination in Italy, compared to Verona and Florence. Milan is really the business center of Milan, so the people living and working there are mostly there for business reasons. Most of the people walking around Verona during the day are tourists there to take in the shopping and sights of the city.
As of this far in my life, I have never been to Europe. I have been to the Caribbean and to Mexico, but have never experienced a culture that has been so different than my own. These places were mainly for vacation, and I could speak the very little broken Spanish I knew and definitely English on these resorts. Italy was a new experience. This has added a bit of a culture shock to me, and I can see that now that we are about a week into the trip. The first thing I saw was the fact that none of the Italians wore shorts. I felt incredibly out of place in my khaki shorts and t-shirt during our first day here. This difference in dress comes from the fact that the weather does not reach the cold weather that we experience in Midwestern Chicago. The other thing that the Italian people are very interested in is our opinions of our current president, Mr. Donald Trump. They all have their own beliefs about him, and even take some of his policies to work it into their own personal political beliefs. The political system is very different than that in the United States. It is a constitutional republic with a multiparty system, compared to the two-party system we have in the United States. When selected to this program, I really hadn’t learned/researched much about Italy and its culture. I have learned so much in the short time that I have been here. For example, I had no idea that many of the Italian citizens knew English. Many of them speak very well, without much of a struggle. In the United States, many people can only speak English. It was different to hear them able to speak my language without much of a problem. The other thing I thought was interesting about the culture here was the lateness of the school year. When we met with students from the Catholic University in Milan, they told us about how their semester went into June, when ours ended at the very end of April. It is very cool to see the stark differences between the cultures of two completely different countries.