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Italy Study Abroad: Plazas, and squares, and museums, oh my!

Justine Hollingshead, Chief of Staff in the Division of Academic and Student Affairs, is on location in Italy for a University Scholars Study Abroad trip. Her blog posts will appear from time to time between her architectural, historical, and gelato experiences.

Plazas, and squares, and museums, and bridges….oh my! These are some of my favorite things, at least so far. Right now, I am in Florence (aka Firenze) and have taken a day trip to Venice (aka Venezia).

Let’s start with plazas – they are everywhere and called piazzas. Most of them are quite historic, usually involve lots of uneven cobblestone, lots of vendors, and are packed with people. In Florence my favorite so far is the Piazza del Duomo. The “Duomo” as it is affectionately called, is actually a cathedral named in honor of Santa Maria del Fiore. It is a huge, maybe even ginormous, gothic structure with construction starting in the 13th century but it was not finished until the 19th century.

Piazza del Duomo

The scary part is that they had to rely on intuition along with trial and error to figure out how to lift 37,000 tons of material, including over 4 million bricks. I have not had a chance to climb to the top of Brunelleschi’s Cupola, but I will before the journey is over. More to come on the Duomo.

One of the most famous museums in the world is just down the block from my apartment in Florence. I am considering myself pretty darn lucky to be staying so close to the Uffizi. This museum holds works from the Renaissance period including Botticelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Raffaello. I am not a huge art connoisseur, but can tell you the Uffizi held my attention. I did get an scolding from a woman for taking a picture in room that I guess had a sign stating no photographs, it must have been in Italian <insert smile here>.

Venice – a city of waterways, canals, and streets where buses are large boats and taxis are small boats. We have a location on campus at NC State that was designed in the European tradition and is similar to a famous place in Venice. Have I peaked your interest? Can you guess the location? Ok, let me help you, it has a lot of bricks…..that is right University Plaza, or more affectionately known as the Brickyard. It has been described as reminiscent of Saint Mark’s Square in Venice. Who knew????? See if you can see the similarities. I am sure that Harrelson Hall has no place in Venice and soon will not on campus either J

Lastly, bridges – they too are everywhere. Some of them quite famous like the Ponte Vecchio over the Arno River in Florence or the Rialto in Venice spanning the grand canal. To some they are just bridges, to others they hold the pathway in a look back at history. Next time you journey across a bridge, think about those who have traveled the same path before you.

Until next time – Ciao!

Saint Mark’s Square in Venice