Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Day Five of Dispatches From Abroad

By Ellis Ross

A group of 52 students from the School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi recently traveled to Italy for an immersive learning experience that provided rich exposure to Italian culture and cuisine, while affording myriad opportunities to capture their experiences in written and visual formats.

The group explored Italy from May 11 to June 6.

The majority of the trip was centered in Florence, with excursions to Sorrento and Rome, the last leg of the journey. Leading the tour were professors Jason Cain, Mark Dolan, Ronnie Morgan, and Chris Sparks – all of whom teach courses in integrated marketing communications and journalism. 

The students enjoyed many cultural experiences, while writing in-depth features, gathering documentary photos, exploring international brands and exploring relevant topics in media studies. 

With Florence being the birthplace of the Renaissance, there was history to be found everywhere, from town piazzas adorned with statues, to buildings and cobblestone streets that have remained in place for centuries. 

Shared here are some student observations. We hope you enjoy.

Photographers and writers sharing their work with HottyToddy.com are Sally Anderson, Ellie Boos, Tatum Chenen, Jack Clements, Catherine Cline, Cameron Cooley, Ellie Ducharme, Ava Ferree, Addie Flasck, Olivia Flax, Claire Hendry, Kenzi Howton, Will Johnson, Hillary Kaniecki, Bella Kraft, Lexie Kratky, Lauren Lucas, Ali Mattox, Grace Mitchell, Sarah Moore, Olivia Morgan, Kaylee Plowman, Olivia Ray, Emily Reib, Ellis Ross, Laurie Sanford, Rhiannon Schaeffer, Hannah Skinner, Maggie Sligh, Ryan Strickland, and Emily Sutermeister.


By Ryan Strickland 

I

Madonna and baby. Madonna and baby. Madonna and baby. Literally, everything I see is some form of a Madonna and baby. Walking around the Bargello Museum, every corner has a painting, drawing, sculpture, or woven banner of a Madonna and baby, literally everywhere.  

The beauty of the art did not diminish my appreciation of the work, it just got a little repetitive. I was told by a friend who had already ventured to the museum that there are lots of sculptures and, you guessed it, Madonna and baby paintings. However, I would rather be looking at art in Florence, Italy than working at the country club back in South Georgia, that is for sure.  

Hoping to find more than another Madonna and baby, I made my way through a variety of rooms. Each room was filled to the brim with different types of art: sculptures, paintings, coins, and holy and historic relics. This is when it started to get interesting.  

Snapping random pictures of statues and paintings to show my mother when I get back, I stopped. I saw a sculpture in a room filled with sculptures. I paused, took a moment to just look at the piece, and found myself in a trance, not wanting to look away from this singular marble sculpture.  

Enraptured by this single piece that was not the focal point of the room, but had its own dedicated place in the room, I was drawn to it. The piece laying in front of me was Vincenzo De’ Rossi’s piece, Dying Adonis. I had never heard of the artist, the art, or anything to do with it. But, yet, I could not stop looking all around the sculpture.  

The carving is laid on a block, lifted from the ground, with the statue resting on top. There laid a young man, wounded. A boar fighting under the man’s knee. I had never seen photos, never read any articles, never had any idea who or what this sculpture was. I am almost glad I had never seen it before because of the power it had on me.  

An overwhelming sense of, stay here and do not look away, entered my mind. I did not want to move. I did not want to look away. After five or six minutes of standing in front of the statue, not worried about the strange looks I was getting from strangers, I looked away. 

Shifting my gaze to the plaque in front of the statue, it told the story behind the sculpture. The portrayal of the youth of rare beauty is an accurate anatomical representation of the incident where the goddess, Venus, was too late to reach the young man. The 16th-century art piece shows just that. 

Rested on his side, Adonis’s striking theatrical pose shows him mortally wounded by a wild boar. The boar angrily rests under the young man’s knee pushing its head upward, as if it is trying to harm Adonis one last time. There is a gash on the man’s leg and chest that shows a steady drip of blood from the wound.  

Glaring at the boar, almost in disbelief, Adonis looks as if he had given up and knew his fate. His arm is draped over his torso and the other arm is used as a prop for his head. It, to me, shows a young man who knows he will never see his lover again and has embraced what has happened. I can almost imagine the scene playing out.  

Adonis, judging by the sculpture, looks extremely fit, and does not look like a man that would be taken out by a wild boar. His athletic features are what made the sculpture so surprising. There is a story that is being told just from this frame. The frame of Adonis in acceptance of his destiny, though it is not the one I would have prophesied. 

The sculpture found its way to the front of my mind throughout my time in the museum. I would walk to other exhibits and still think about Rossi’s piece. Looking again at another Madonna and baby, I went back to that one room to glance at the sculpture one last time. 

II

I do not climb cliffs. I have never climbed a cliff. So, why does this start with me climbing a cliff? One foot after the other, I grip the side of a wet, slick divot in the rock on the side of a massive mountain. Holding on for dear life, I try not to utterly embarrass myself in front of at least thirty people swimming on the coast of Vernazza, one of the five villages in Cinque Terre. 

Looking down, I can see a few of my friends treading water below. It is all or nothing, now or never. Do not dive in headfirst. Let my feet hit the water first. Hopefully, I do not get too much water up in my nose. Right before I leap, I take a moment to look around and find the most picturesque scene I have ever seen in my life.  

Locals were scattered around on the flat rocks peeking out from the shore, children’s parents slathering sunscreen on them, and tourists snapping photos of every nook and cranny of the village. Children are swimming in the shallow, yet surprisingly rough shallow parts of the beach. Friends are gathered around smoking cigarettes and listening to music through a small, hopefully waterproof, speaker.  

The colorful umbrellas, with locals and tourists sipping on a spritz or eating gelato, made the scene more enrapturing. The fluctuations of the tide rolling onto the rocky beaches made it look like a scene out of a classic film where a couple would have a romantic moment, enjoying each other’s presence and living in the moment. 

I heard someone yell, “DAI,” which means, “Come on!” So, obviously, I had to jump right in. There is no way I can chicken out after a local told me to jump in. I believe that the walk of shame back down from the ledge would be worse than the actual jump. 

I look back and behind me, and a line had started to form to jump off this small ledge leading to the water. There are birds perched on rocks below, one is eating a fish which I could smell from a mile away. I think I could be happy living on this rock, no need to jump. 

I had to jump at some point. I settled my feet one last time as if that is going to make me any more confident. I close my eyes and hoped my legs would leap me far enough so I did not hit my head on the stone.  

The picture of the town quickly rushed past my line of sight while my mind goes blank. While freefalling to the crisp water below, there is nothing else happening at that moment. I can hear the faint excited squeals from my friends in the water as I plummet towards the water. I did it. I jumped.  

I knew in the back of my head that it was not going to hurt, or that if I belly flop, I cannot understand what the locals are saying anyway and I will never see them again, so why did it even matter in the first place what my jump looked like?  

This small, minor task might seem ordinary for some people, but the cliff jump was just half of the story. Do you know the type of people who ease into a pool if it’s too cold for their liking? That’s me. I never like to jump headfirst into something like this. I like to test the water and see how I will like it. To me, everything has a place and purpose. There should be order to everything and chaos can sometimes be frightening.  

For 20 years I have always liked to step out and try intimidating things, but there is a limit. That limit includes jumping off cliffs. The moment in itself took the step to widen that limit. The calculated steps it took for me to get to this cliff were more than enough for the job. 

I made a promise to myself right after that jump: Seize your moment. Take the moment for yourself, live in it, and bask in the adrenaline.   

With the thrill from the first jump still rushing through me, I make my way over to the barnacle and algae-covered rock and make my way up to the ledge once again with a new promise in the back of my mind.


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