Dante at Biennale 2015- BeeBee Hale

If you’ve been keeping up with the blog then you’ve already heard about the incredible art show, Biennale, in Venice that Alexis blogged about. If not, just know that this art exhibition is like no other in that it features just one artist from each of the 89 countries involved. This exhibition only takes place once every few years and to have had the opportunity to see it in person was truly incredible. One piece in particular stood out to me as the artist drew inspiration from Dante’s Divine Comedy.

The work itself is a celestial chart depicting constellations constructed from red and yellow taillights against a black background made to look like the night sky. According to one very helpful exhibition worker this is what the piece means: the use of every day, man-made materials represents humanity and its accomplishments, while placing the taillights in the shape of constellations represents humanity’s constant desire to both figuratively and literally reach for the stars. Each of the three books in Dante Aligh-

IMG_9692ieri’s Divina Commedia- Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso- end in the word ‘stelle’ or ‘stars’ and just like the art piece, this is to call attention to humanity looking toward the heavens to find meaning, purpose, and inspiration. Dante’s Inferno, in particular, deals with the theme of human desire and how if we succumb to our baser desires, we might just end up in hell suffering grotesque, albeit creative, tortures for all eternity. Interestingly enough, the Australian artwork has the word ‘desire’ written in three different languages along the top curve of the circular celestial chart. This is to tie in the common thread of desire throughout all humanity despite cultural differences or boundaries.

One of the greatest things about this trip is that the knowledge we have been gaining in class is very applicable to the places we’ve been visiting. In Dr. Streufert’s class we read selections from Dante’s Inferno and even on a non-school funded trip to Venice, my friends and I saw a modern artwork that was referencing Dante. It just goes to show that everything we are learning about, even if it’s a comedy from the Renaissance period, remains relevant in the art world and is still affecting different cultures and people around the world today.

First Impressions vs. Life As a Temporary Local: How My Florentine Experience Has Evolved Over Time by Alia Pappas

Somewhere along the way during our stay in Italy, my GATE friends and I became temporary locals of Florence. Having been here for almost a month now, I’m finding that my perspective of the city that all of GATE 15 now calls home has changed since our plane touched down on May 20th.


Upon our arrival in Florence, my roommates and I remedied our jet lag with a nap in our apartment and then set out to find some dinner. We quickly realized that we didn’t have to travel very far to find it. Turning the corner of our block, we were met with the sight of a piazza sporting restaurants, cafes, and a stunning cathedral that would remain nameless for many days until we became more familiar with our neighborhood and discovered it was called Santa Maria Novella. At this point, we were in the “honeymoon phase” and the pizza that we ate at a restaurant that I now realize caters to tourists seemed like the best we had ever eaten. Our immediate impression of Florence on that first night was that it was a city that was exciting and beautiful, which was only furthered as we walked around the block for gelato and then back to our apartment to the tune of street musicians playing “Beauty and the Beast.” At this point, we were giddy and nervous, and every moment was a lifelong memory waiting to happen and we were eager to receive each one.

Alayna Sims, Becky Dixon, Penny Dutton, and I enjoying our first dinner in Florence next to Santa Maria Novella.

Alayna Sims, Becky Dixon, Penny Dutton, and I enjoying our first dinner in Florence next to Santa Maria Novella.

For our first few days in the illustrious Firenze, my roommates and I discovered the city and made a few tourist faux-pas. I remember us searching for tourist destinations with our noses pressed to the pages of maps, jittery at the possibility of pickpockets and trying to avoid annoying waiters beckoning us into their restaurants. In our apartment, I remember being nervous about living without an air conditioner and fearing that the infamous mosquitoes would eat me alive.


The mosquitoes did eat me alive, and Vape (vah-pay), an Italian brand of mosquito repellant, has since become my new best friend. Despite this one negative, however, my extended stay in Florence has opened me up to a plethora of positive experiences and realizations. Meeting locals and discovering more of Florence are the two things that have most helped me to integrate into life in the city. One of the most prominent locals that I have met is actually one of the aforementioned “annoying” waiters that kept trying to persuade my roommates and I to eat at his restaurant. We have had to pass by “the best restaurant in the world” every day, so we have become friends with this waiter, getting high-fives from him on our way to take our midterms. He and other locals have helped me to better understand the Italians’ lifestyle and customs, which I have discovered that I love, especially walking arm-in-arm with friends and enjoying the slower pace of life here.

Becky, Penny, and I walking like Italians through the streets of Siena.

Becky, Penny, and I walking arm-in-arm like Italians through the streets of Siena. We do this all the time in Florence, too!

By exploring the city, I now walk with confidence and, although I remain aware, I am no longer terrified by pickpockets. I have come to rarely need a map and have found many restaurants and grocery stores to frequent. Sometimes, when I am walking to these places I even find myself growing a little annoyed with the lost tourists, but I remind myself to have sympathy for them because I know what it is like to be in their place. One of my shining “local” moments was when one of these tourists asked me for directions and I was able to easily give them.


Although I have grown accustomed to life in Florence, some aspects of it never get old. I still smile when I hear “Beauty and the Beast” outside my apartment, even if I have every note memorized. Florence is still just as beautiful and captivating as ever. When I first arrived here, I thought that every little experience was worth documenting. Today, I think the same. I have learned so much on this trip, such as how to be more accepting, patient, innovative, and caring. I never want to forget this life-changing experience of living in Florence, my home away from home.

My wonderful roommates and I in front of the Duomo. Florence wouldn't be the same without them!

My wonderful roommates and I in front of the Duomo. Florence wouldn’t be the same without them!

Bargello- Omar Rodriguez

This trip to Italy has been an amazing experience. We have seen an incredible amount of beautiful paintings, and sculptors by different artist. As time goes by I have noticed that my knowledge about art history as increased. It would be nice to talk about all the different museums and sites that we have visited, but I will just talk about two museums that we visited today.

The visit to the museum Bargello left me speechless. The statues of the David’s by Donatello and Verrocchio were both made by bronze. The David by Donatello was the first David and it was made in the 1440s, while the David by Verrocchio was commissioned by the Medici family. In the statue by Donatello we can see that he is wearing a hat and boots which cause some controversy.IMG_3352

While being at the Bargello museum I also learned about the contest that Ghiberti and Brunelleschi had to see who would get to construct the doors of the Baptistery in Florence. The contest was that the one who would make the best Sacrifice of Isaac would win the contest. Ghiberti won the contest and was the one to make the golden doors of the Baptistery.The beautiful art and the history behind it here in Florence, and all over Italy is just fascinating. I am also fascinated by how much appreciation the people here in Italy have for their art. It makes me happy to know that people here take their time when doing something that way it can come out as perfect as possible. I am definitely planning on coming back to Italy sometime in the future. I have fallen in love with this country and their culture.




After staying in Italy for the last two weeks, I have noticed something astonishing: there are way too many tourists. Aren’t I a tourist though? No. I am not. Tourists to me is a horrible word, it evokes the feelings of only going to a new place to look at the monuments or taking selfies in front of stuff. I am not a tourist… I am a visitor.


Yes, yes there is. I think of it has going to somebody else’s house. When you visit somebody’s home, you respect their rules and customs, no matter how crazy they sound to you. You eat the food that they prepare for you and you try to talk to them in their native language. To me, many tourists do not do that. Tourists only care about running to the next monument or eating at a restaurant that looks like it came from their home country or only speaking to people who know their native language. Tourists don’t care about attempting to try a local hole-in-the-wall eating place or adapting their schedule to fit in with the local customs or even attempting to speak their language.

Learn from my bad example

Learn from my bad example


So, how can you change from being a tourist into being a visitor? Well, for starters learn a little bit of Italian (or the country’s most popular language or that region’s most popular). It is that easy. I really thought that people were being melodramatic when they told me that Italians really like it when you at least try to speak their language… well they were right. Italians will be very happy with you if you at least learn the most basic words. Do not assume that everybody speaks English, ask: “Parle inglese?” If they say yes, then great if they say no, well then that is why you learned the most basic Italian phrases. Also, do not get mad or frustrated when they do not speak English, it is not their fault that you don’t know Italian. Why did you come to Italy if you wanted to go somewhere where English is the primary language? Moral: learn some Italian.

After you have learned some Italian, the next thing to do is to stop stopping in the middle of the sidewalk to look at the map glued to your hand. There is nothing wrong with having a map (I use it when I am going into a part of town I have never seen before) the problem is when you are blocking the street for other people who need to get to school or work or something else. How would you feel if you were trying to get to work and a pack of tourists stopped right in front of you to figure out where they are because they took a wrong turn? Pull over to one side, out of the way, and get your location there. Moral: don’t block streets or entrances.

So, you know some Italian and you are not blocking any streets, next try some different kinds of restaurants. Italy is known for its food but don’t limit yourself to only tourist locations, try something off the beaten path. How do you tell the difference between a place for locals and a place for tourists?

  • Is it next to a monument? Yes – it is for tourists.
  • Is the menu mainly in English? Yes – it is for tourists.
  • Are there a dozen different gift shops around? Yes – it is for tourists.
  • Is the menu in the host country’s language (or a language other than English)? Yes – it is for locals.
  • Does the restaurant play music other than English songs? Yes – it might be for tourists or locals. Is the restaurant a McDonald’s or another fast-food chain? Yes – it is for tourists.

I know trying new food can be scary and somewhat hard, but if you put yourself out there and try something new, then I know you will have more fun than if you only go to the “American” style restaurants. Moral: try different types of food.

So, you have learned some Italian, stopped blocking walkways, and are eating new food, the next step is simple: talk to people. I do not mean to only talk to the people in your group or class (which you should talk to them because they are in your class) but also locals around town. What do you talk to locals about?

  • Lost? Ask a local.
  • Want to find the best restaurant? Ask a local.
  • Want to know how to get to that certain monument? Ask a local.
  • Need to find the nearest bathroom? Ask a local.
  • Looking to make new and awesome friends? Talk to a local.

By talking to a local you are not only practicing Italian but you are also forming a friendship with that person that could last the rest of your lives. Moral: talk to locals.


I know it can be hard to see yourself as anything but a tourist when you are traveling to a different country, but by taking these steps you will no longer be seen as that annoying tourist but as a respectful visitor.