This is the fifth installment of a series of #content meant to illuminate the first study abroad trip for UConn student Sten Spinella.
In-between thinking of the tireless sandwich-makers at Antico de’Vinaio, which is right outside of my apartment, and deciding how much Italian I need to learn in order to get by, and deciding whether or not I should eat pizza every day, or whether or not to buy cigarettes in order to fit in. Thinking about the unstoppable force of a man so possessed to build a beautiful cathedral that he bankrupted an entire city and the task outlived his own life, and deciding whether or not that was worth it (I believe it was), I question whether the idea of “home” is still a reality. I believe it is, but the concept has dissolved since the inception of things like planes and vacation homes. Our thinking has changed. We used to be tied to one place. Now we know that place can change in an instant. I can decide to get a job in Florence, if I like it so much, and simply leave Connecticut behind. While this is a conclusion drawn straight from privilege, more people can afford to think like this every day. Or rather, some people have to decide to leave their home because of war or poverty or another extenuating circumstance. No matter the reason, the prevailing, I think, universal attitude for millennia was to stay home no matter the cost. Maybe a move away from that thought also means the disintegration of family, or a placing of consequence on other things aside from your blood and where you come from. Family, home and religion are antiquated ideas. Whenever I hear claims otherwise, they seem to be calls for a renaissance of sorts, or a desperate defense of what we’ve known for so long. I’m not sure what’s important to most people now. As we travel and learn more, we seem to draw importance away from the aforementioned things. Maybe that leads to a selfishness, to seeing ourselves as the most important thing. As borders fall down, so does our capacity for compassion for community, or a collective society which we all contribute to, fall.
The refute to this is the common knowledge to which many subscribe that we are experiencing, in fact, the exact opposite: we are all becoming more connected. The Internet, that ability to travel, inventions that allow translation across languages, a potent spread of information – these all support such a belief. My response would be, how can we have a functioning global community when we are so deeply fragmented and belong to so many factions in our own country, state, city, street? No, my friend, we must take care of ourselves, first! I don’t mean complete withdrawal, I mean a realignment of what we hold dear in order to include our neighbor.
Speaking of neighbors, Italians seem to feel more comfortable sharing benches with people than Americans do. Or maybe it’s just my colorful shirt full of tuna fish that makes me seem unintimidating/welcoming to strangers.
Learning about the history of Florence while being here is adding another layer to it. I know now that the structures under the glass floor of a clothing store are actually Roman foundations. I also know that Florence is subject to change, as it has been under siege, used as a military town, belonged to varying regimes, and has had its emblematic walls destroyed under 200 years ago. Things happen. Although this is from a tourist’s perspective, to have the majority of people here at all times be non-Florentines is probably not a positive for the autonomy of the city. That’s the next change.