Monday, March 21, 2011

Roma! Firenze! Italia!

This semester, I have been taking an international public relations course that has studied integrated marketing campaigns, using Italian tourism as a case study. Much like the Media in Latin America course I took last spring, this IU School of Journalism course has a required travel component that takes students abroad for a week-long intensive experience that combines culture and journalism for a full week of fun and meetings with real-life professionals.

There are 600 churches in Rome alone, and 4 major basilicas. We visited the largest, St. Peter’s, on our third day in Rome. For nearly four hours we walked through the Vatican Museum where literally hundreds of thousands of pieces of art are housed from Ancient Egypt to modern Rome. The Museum includes collections of the papal tapestries that show the outreach of the Catholic Church, and no surface has gone un-painted, sculpted or mosaicked. I truly could have stayed there all day.

We traveled into the Sistine Chapel and for twenty minutes I sat on a bench on the side of the room and just looked up. The floors are mosaicked; the lower portions of the side walls are painted to look like the papal tapestries that are hung in the adjacent hallway; the upper portions of the side walls have 12 panels depicting scenes from the Bible; the wall at the front where the alter and cross sit houses a fresco by Michelangelo that shows from floor to ceiling more than 200 characters from the Bible; and the famous ceiling has more than 300 individuals depicted from the apostles to the story of the creation of man.

The Chapel itself is just a large room off a hallway of a part of one wing of the main building of the Vatican. I don’t know if I had expected a stand-alone building like Westminster Abbey or Notre Dame, but it was like so many other things, a pleasant mixture of ornate art in an unassuming location. Even the most inconspicuous looking churches have turned out to have the most incredible art on the inside and it was where I spent most of my sight-seeing time.

Built in only ten years, apparently what remains of the Colleseum is only one third of what originally existed. Unfortunately we did not have the benefit of having our tour with the building’s original canopy and were soaked and freezing from the constant less-than-downpour-more-than-drizzle rain and wind with random strong gusts. Our tour guide took us back through much of the rest of Ancient and downtown Rome and explained many of the things we had seen which provided a nice mix of education and understanding to the fantastic wandering we had done.

By the time we left Rome and traveled on to Florence, I knew I was in love with the culture, the people and, of course, the food. If your department has travel abroad opportunities like the School of Journalism, I highly suggest taking it. Mine have only been week-long travel experiences but I can promise, even that short of an amount of time gives you great insight into other cultures that will open your mind and give you a new outlook.

No comments: