Entry 3: June 17, 2012
Parks, Piazzas, and Passeajate Journal Entry
A huge part of Italian culture is family and community. Parks, piazzas, and passeajate are all prime spots for family and community interactions to be observed. I enjoy people-watching in America, so people-watching in Italy is even that much more fascinating. I enjoy watching people’s interactions and these “three p’s” are the perfect place to do this.
Parks are important, especially in cities without a lot of grass or open play space, like Sansepolcro. Outside a little, there are houses with land, but otherwise there are not very good places for children to run around safely and play. Even playing around on the streets can be dangerous because of the cars. Parks provide a great spot for children to play while their parents supervise from a nearby bench. I went to the park near the Pam several times. This park has swings, a few play sets, benches, and plenty of space to run around. It is gated for safety. From what I observed, it is used in the same way as American parks. You can see parents pushing their children in swings or just watching them play and run around. In Rome, I walked around near the Borghese gardens in park more similar to Central Park in New York. This park was more spread out. There were people with their dogs, people on picnics, and people exercising. All of these are activities that would be seen in any American park. The only difference I saw was the amount of PDA. I counted at least four couples in the park in Rome who were making out. It caught be off guard at first because that is not as common in America. When I considered the possible explanations, I remembered one thing we talked about in class. If over half the population under the age of 35 still live at home, the young people must find somewhere to show their affection outside of their homes. Apparently, the park is a prime spot for this.
Piazzas are another place of social interaction. They are a main square where there are stores and restaurants. Often times there are monuments or fountains in the middle of the piazza. In Sansepolcro, there is nothing in the middle of the piazza, but there is a market often set up there on the weekends. In Rome, we passed one particular piazza often, Piazza Republica. There was a beautiful fountain in the center. It was sort of in between the train station and our hotel.
When I walk through a piazza, especially at a meal time, the seats outside restaurants are full. There are teenagers sitting around the fountain or on benches. People are stopped talking to each other. It is a great meeting place for people and important events happen in them. Two important events have happened in Sansepolcro’s piazza while we have been here. There was the preschool millennium celebration, which was wonderful. There were so many people there supporting their children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. It is such a great example of the strong community Sansepolcro is and how ideal the set up of the piazza is. It was a beautiful scene, the town celebrating their millennium with the children in the center and all of the people who love and support them surrounding them.
Passeajate is a central tradition in the Italian culture. It is when the people walk up and down the main road talking and socializing. It happens mainly on Friday and Saturday nights. People of all ages walk up and down. I have gone out to observe this phenomenon several times and it is fascinating to me. I feel like I am watching animal planet, as I watch the people interact in their groups in a ritual that is so foreign to me. Literally ever age group is represented in passeajate.
The infants and toddlers are asleep in their strollers, unfazed by the loud commotion going on around them. Most Americans would be shocked to see babies out and about past midnight, but in Italy it is normal. This does serve the purpose of turning Italians into hard sleepers. At family dinner last night, Sara’s youngest daughter, Veronica, fell asleep. There was loud music playing and everyone was talking, but she was fast asleep. I think this is a great gift Italians give to their children, immunity to noise while sleeping.
The children run around with each other, eating gelato. The tired children are also either in strollers or are held by their parents. The teenagers are out and about as well. The teenage boys stick together in groups with the girls in a group following a little behind. Young teenagers never seem to mix the boys and girls as they walk. In America, teenagers go in groups to the movies, bowling, or just hang out at each other’s houses.
The young adults are out with their group of friends or significant others. This is the population seen in the bars or pubs drinking and socializing there. It is true that they do not walk and drink. They go in and drink and then walk the main road. All adults are seen out as well. From the younger adults, to middle adults pushing their children in strollers, to the older ones, they all enjoy this tradition that is so uniquely Italian.
There are great advantages to living in a community like this. Parks, piazzas, and passeajate highlight these advantages. The community supports itself and thrives on the small-town feel that Sansepolcro offers. Sansepolcro as a town is a community. I value community greatly and I think that is why I am so drawn to it. Wherever you are, whether in a big or small town, you can find a community to support you and that is essential. In my life, Meredith is a community, my church is a community, and my family and friends offer another smaller community.
I think Italians value community and family in a way Americans can learn from. They make each other such a priority, while America is full of many workaholics who are never with family and teenagers who cannot wait to get away from their parents. Here, people take a three hour lunch to eat with the ones they love and live with their parents for as long as they please.
Entry 2: June 15, 2012
Italian Families Taking Care of Their Own
In class, we have had some intriguing discussions about hot topics in Italy. The idea of women and how they are treated sparked an interesting conversation. The problem of unemployment due to strict labor laws also lead to a thought-provoking discussion. Both of these topics have many contradictions. A theme I have noticed is that Italians seem motivated to “take care of their own,” referring to their families, but are not as willing to help Italy as a whole.
Women are loved and appreciated in Italy. The Virgin Mary is definitely praised above all others. All Italian men seem to fall into the category of “mama’s boys.”
We learned in class that 43% of Italian men live less than half of a mile from their mothers. In addition to this, Italian women have equal rights with Italian men. All of these things set the stage for a respectful, loving view of women, but that is not the case. Women are very sexualized and gawked at as “pieces of proschutto,” as one of the articles said. Men whistle and stare as women walk by. And the media is full of half-dressed women. There is a disconnect, an extreme contradiction in the way women are viewed. They treat their mothers and sisters with love and respect, as family is of the utmost importance to Italians. The anonymous model on the TV or woman walking down the street is not treated with that same respect. They are whistled at and ogled like a piece of meat. It is as if Italian men forget that the women they are staring down are somebody’s sister, daughter, or mother. They seem to have this attitude that I’ll respect the women in my family, but these other women are outside of that so that does not apply. The idea of “I’ll take care of my own” is how they seem to view women. I’ll take care of the women in my family, but the others are fair game.
This carries over to the roles of women. They are expected to do all of the household chores, while many struggle to balance those household duties with jobs outside of the home. Studies say that 95% of Italian men have never used a washing machine.
In class, we all agreed this is an issue, but struggled with how to fix it. It is extremely difficult to try to change something like this, especially when it is so imbedded in the culture. The government could start a campaign against overtly inappropriate depictions of women. It might give women a starting point to stand up for themselves. The question is do Italians want to give the government that power. The women in the advertisements and on the TV shows are just as much to blame as the producers and consumers. Will they be willing to give up paying jobs for these ideals?
The second point has to do with the unemployment rate and the strict labor laws. Our generation in Italy is seriously unemployed. Youth unemployment is at 30%. This is not for a lack of education. Many of the unemployed are highly educated and still cannot find work. If they are able to find work, they are underemployed, considering their education and qualifications. The reason unemployment is so high is for two reasons. First, the labor laws in Italy are strict which makes it hard to fire people. Once you hire someone, you are pretty committed to them. Secondly, the economy is really suffering. These two combined make people very hesitant to hire any new employees.
This raises serious issues. What does the future of Italy look like if none of the young people have jobs? The older generation cannot live forever. When they retire, the younger ones will have no experience because they were not given the opportunity to work and learn from the older ones. Also, this makes it impossible for the younger generation to support themselves. This issue paints a grim future for Italy.
The older generation holding on to their jobs because of the strict labor laws are the ones keeping the younger ones from getting jobs. This seems to be yet another contradiction. Over half of the population under 35 years old still lives with their parents. The parents are supporting their children, but at the same time they are the ones keeping their children from getting jobs. Since this relationship is not seen as that direct, Italians are not motivated to do anything to promote change. As long as they “take care of their own,” support their own biological children, the others are not their problem. Figuratively speaking, the younger generation of Italy is their children.
A campaign for the sake of “the children of Italy” might evoke some sense of compassion and motivation to modify the labor laws. This could be couples with some incentives for hiring young people.
In conclusion, if Italians unified more it might solve to of the major issues we spoke about in class. Italians are known for valuing family and that is something to be proud of. Family forms a strong and permanent bond. When family members are in trouble, we help them and sacrifice for their good. It is time that Italians think of all of Italy as their family. All of the women are their sisters, mothers, and aunts. All of the younger generation is their children. Italians need to reform their labor laws and they need to respect all women. They need to help the younger generation as their children. They need to respect women, as their female family members.
Entry 1: May 9, 2012
The Colosseum may be the most famous of Roman ruins. This was built in 80 AD with a mix of Roman structure and Greek columns. The official name of the Colosseum is the Flavian Amphitheater after the Flaviam family, who commissioned the amphitheater. It was the largest amphitheater in the empire, 160 feet high and almost covers 6 acres. It took around ten years to build the Colosseum (Rick Steves audio guide). The foundation of the Colosseum is forty feet deep. They used slaves they had conquered in their conquests to build the amphitheater.
One thing that surprised me is that it used to be painted bright white (Rick Steves audio guide). I also learned that there used to be a 100 foot tall bronze statue of Nero right outside of the amphitheater. Standing in the amphitheater, the sun was beating down and it was very hot, so it made sense to hear that there used to be wooden beams holding up an awning to shade the crowds (Rick Steves audio guide).
The arches of the Colosseum create an open feel to the huge amphitheater. The columns are Greek in style, including the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian style columns. There are two possible explanations for why the Flavian Amphitheater got the name the Colosseum. It could be for the colossal size of the amphitheater or for the colossal size of the statue of Nero outside.
There is much history behind it and it would be easy to just go in, note how big it is, take a few pictures and leave. This experience had a huge impact on me. Gladiators, criminals, and animals fighting is what Romans found entertaining and it considered appropriate and normal for them. They were desensitized to violence. I learned that whenever two gladiators were fighting and one went down sometimes the Emperor would let the crowd decide if he should live or die. They would use thumbs up and thumbs down. Rick Steves explained that they loved having the power like that over people’s lives. It makes sense since the Romans were people of conquest. That is how they became so powerful.
This idea of their entertainment is hard for me to grasp living in America in a time when both human and animal rights are highly valued and nothing like that would ever be condoned. It did cause me to reflect on what America looks at as entertainment and how that entertainment desensitizes us. We may not enjoy people actually fighting to the death in front of us, but we do like movies about it. I am ashamed of what Americans find entertaining and some of the things I watch fall into that category. The fact is that the more you are exposed to something, the more desensitized you become to it. I think this really relates to the younger generation in America. Modern entertainment seems to desensitize boys to violence. For girls, the message sent is all about body image and sexuality. Many of the things we consider entertainment simply perpetuate the gender stereotypes that we resent.
The popular book series, The Hunger Games, seems to be getting at this point. It has a lot of similarities to the Colosseum. The tributes are like modern day gladiators and they have an arena, which is their “Colosseum.” It looks to the future of entertainment and what could be reality TV gone wrong.
Media and culture have a complicated relationship. Media affects the attitudes of the people. The culture and preferences of the people also affects what media is popular and therefore successful. Preference in media varies from person to person. For example, I find Victoria’s Secret commercials and certain TV shows offensive that others might not.
The Colosseum led me to reflect on what people of the future might think of our entertainment in 2012. Will they find it offensive? It seems to me that American culture is becoming more desensitized and I predict television shows and commercials will become more explicit and inappropriate as time passes. I cannot think of anything similar to the gladiator fighting that exists now and will be seen as barbaric in the future.