Picture or Imagine: An Italian Wonderment Retrospective

By Maddie B. ’21
Photos by Alex V. ’21, Mae B. ’21 and Annika K. ’21

Photo Essay By Alex V.

My constant objective as a photographer is to capture fragments of life that can connect to the individual viewer. During this trip, my goal was to create a series of powerful, expressive images to encompass the inspiring environment I was surrounded by for 10 days. I hope you enjoy the series.

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Picture sitting on a bench in front of an illuminated fountain, centuries old, surrounded by street musicians and architecture with a richer backstory than you would think possible. Or imagine strolling down a cobblestone street while the setting sun filtered through the buildings lining the sidewalks. Seventeen students were extremely fortunate to live in that feeling of peace and history for a little more than a week over spring break as we explored Italy with Dr. Pomponio, Mrs. Turner, and Mr. Bostock.

Starting off our trip in Florence (or Firenze, in Italian) directly following 20 hours of airport naps and multiple flights was an exhausting yet refreshing endeavor. The chill air relaxed us as we walked toward the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, or St. Mary of the Flower. Commonly referred to as “il Duomo,” meaning “the Dome,” this red-bricked architectural feat designed by Brunelleschi is a staple of the Florentine skyline.

The next few days we spent in Florence were packed full of adventure and history. The medieval town of San Gimignano, just south of the city, captured our hearts with its tall stone towers and picturesque views of the Tuscan countryside that made it feel as if we were living in a fairytale picture book. In the city, ordering coffee at a local bar (cafe) and painting frescos with an Italian artist in his studio introduced us to Florentine culture and gave us a chance to practice our Italian conversational skills.

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What struck us most was our visit to the Galleria dell’Accademia, the home of Michelangelo’s David. No words can describe the intense feeling of awe as you step into the sunlight cascading down the 17-foot statue and you realize no picture could ever capture the true magnificence of the sculptor’s artistry.

Following our three days in Florence, we headed to the region of Umbria, where the town of Assisi sits among the hills. With bright blue skies overhead, we hiked to the fortress above town and enjoyed some serene moments gazing across the rolling fields. After exploring the town, we visited the Basilica of St. Francis and the Basilica of Santa Chiara (St. Clare), where we took in the original San Damiano cross, before which St. Francis is said to have been praying when he was called by God to rebuild the Catholic Church. The silence and attention within these churches created an atmosphere of admiration and reflection felt by everyone.

Pompeii prompted a similar reflection on the history of the civilization that once thrived, only to face violent destruction at the hands of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Walking across the stepping stones, you could almost see what life had been like, even as the constant reminder of what caused swift, fiery end loomed above.

Our second day in Campania took us across the Bay of Naples to Sorrento, from which we took a ferry to the island of Capri. Once off the boat, we immediately understood what made Capri such an appealing vacation destination: On the winding roads up the hill to Anacapri, we had a perfect view of the beautiful turquoise water, the colorful houses on the hillside, and the lemon trees that have become as much a symbol of Capri as the Faraglioni (three famous rocks, carved by waves just off the coast).

Traveling inland once again, we spent the remainder of our trip in Rome. We began by entering Vatican City, where we saw amazing collections of art culminating in our arrival at the Sistine Chapel. As we craned our necks in an attempt to take in every square inch of fresco, a sense of wonder rose at the fact that Michelangelo was not a painter but a sculptor. That night we strolled through the streets, simply enjoying the culture and history surrounding us, and ensuring our return to Rome by throwing coins into the Trevi Fountain.

We spent our last day at the ancient ruins of the Roman Forum and the Colosseum, where we could see where they had once been buried deep beneath the ground. Rome is referred to as the “lasagna city” for that very reason: You can see the layers where buildings were built on top of others over the centuries. It is an overwhelming feeling to sit in the middle of a piazza and picture the chariot arena beneath your feet that the shape of the buildings still resemble.

Picture sitting back home reflecting on a trip filled with astounding architecture and beautiful settings everywhere you look. Or imagine looking at pictures of eating gelato and laughing with friends. We are fortunate to have left Italy with a greater understanding and appreciation of its history and culture, as well as a closer group of friends.