Goodbye Italy! You will be missed

Venice Grand Canal from Hotel Ca' Sagredo

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It feels unreal to be here. I know I say that a lot but it just doesn’t feel real. And it’s a little overwhelming for me.

This post may be a little more personal than the rest, so bear with me…

I’m Catholic. In Italy — specifically in Rome and now in Venice — my beliefs are reaffirmed again and again. I’m human and, like any other person — catholic or not –, I have doubts. Because it’s human nature to doubt. It’s human nature to think about the future and to think about the bible and to think about things that are, in a sense, out of this world.

And, for me, it’s been difficult to function because there’s so many ideas in my head. I’m young and it’s the 21st century and, to be completely honest, it’s hard to believe in God. It’s hard to believe in the history of God, in everything that the bible teaches, in the disciples, in the stories, in the Saints… In everything. Especially because you can’t actually SEE God — which is what faith is all about: believing without seeing.

And I’ve had a hard time with this. I’ve had a hard time believing what I believe and yet also living my life as a 20-year-old in college. But that’s why I’m so incredibly happy and grateful to have gone on this trip. To have gone on this semester abroad. Because, in a way, I’ve found myself.

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I’ve been able to reaffirm by belief through this trip and through everything I’ve seen because I’ve witnessed so many different things in Italy that connect to religion.

Here, it’s real. Here, I can SEE it.

I’ve seen St. Peter’s tomb, I’ve seen St. Mark’s tomb, I’ve seen the pope and the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel… I’ve been able to say goodbye to some of my doubts and to truly be in the NOW.

And, if you know me, you know that’s incredibly hard for me to do.

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St. Mark’s Square: West

I’m very impressed by the kindness of Venetians. I thought that, since this city was 99% touristy, people would be rude and mean and maybe annoyed by tourists. But that’s not the case. Once again, I’ve found what I found in Rome: kindness and compassion from complete strangers.

Although the people are different here, this place reminds me a lot of Miami. It’s humid and hot and there’s water everywhere… It definitely feels a little like walking down Miami Beach because there’s stores and water everywhere. The architecture also reminds me of that — especially in the western area of St. Mark’s square. All the buildings and the architecture are different. Just like in Miami. In other words, there isn’t really a theme when it comes to structural and building styles. Everything is different and completely random so things just don’t go together.

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In St. Mark’s, the buildings don’t match. One has pillars, one is taller, one has arches. You can tell that they were all built at different times — kind of like how everything in Miami is. Some things are old and others are fairly new. It’s very similar.

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Every Venetian I’ve met knows English. And almost every tourist I’ve met is American. Yesterday my friends and I were at the square when we found these guides dressed in some medieval clothing. We were curious so, naturally, we approached them and started to talking to them.

Twenty minutes later, we met Carmen (who is Colombian) and Antonio (who was Italian but spoke great English and Spanish) and we had tickets to an opera. Carmen lives on the outskirts of Venice, away from the constant tourists. She was telling me that, here, there aren’t really places to go dance and that a lot of things close early. She said that there’s a lot of places where you can grab a beer or a bottle of wine and sit down but that, to dance, you had to get away from the city.

After the opera — which was great and a combination of all the great operas in Italy — we found ourselves exploring the Venice nightlife. In particular the nightlife in St. Mark’s.

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Usually, in every city I’ve been to, the most famous buildings attract the most tourists and the most nightlife. In other words, in Rome the Pantheon and the Colosseum always had people at night. In Florence, the Duomo area was always filled with people. In Cinque Terre, Monterosso always had tourists in every corner.

But, in St. Mark’s, this isn’t really the case. I’ve found that it’s kind of dead at night. Or at least it was dead last night. There weren’t that many people and, aside from the very expensive restaurants and the violin and cellos that play under the tents, there’s nothing there once the basilica closes.

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Venice is a really small city with a small nightlife. But it has a great influx of tourists — especially throughout the summer.

As I’ve mentioned, the people are very nice to tourists because everything they need comes from them. The restaurants, the shops, the bars… Mostly everything is for tourists. I’m not sure what the ratio, in regards to population, between Venetians and tourists is, but I’m sure that — at this point — there’s a lot more tourists than there are Venetians.

Miami is kind of like this, too. Except that, although there’s a lot of tourists, there is also a lot of people who live there. And there are places where you could get away from tourists — like if you live in Doral or Kendall or another city. In other words, there are places in Miami where you won’t find tourists, yet in Venice (in the actual city) I don’t think that exists.

As my time in Italy comes to an end, I’m very humbled by the experiences I’ve had and I really can’t believe it’s over. I wish it could start all over again.

Italy is something that everyone should experience and I’m so glad that FIU, the FIU Honors College, the FIU Office of Study Abroad, FIU Student Media and the Gilman Scholarship organization allowed me the opportunity to truly find myself and experience so many new things.

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I’ll be eternally grateful for all the experiences, the friendships, the inside jokes, the laughs, the overwhelming feeling of belonging to something greater than yourself, the feeling of being a part of history and art… Just everything.

I’ll never forget it. And I’m definitely coming back.

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Thanks to everyone for going in this journey with me and reading this blog. Now it’s time for you to get up and get over here! I promise it’s the best experience you’ll ever have.

Italy, I’ll see you soon. Ti amo con tutti!

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