Lost in the Clouds

Elisabeth Hawthorne
April 22, 2015

Earth Day is this week and as an IES blogger I was prompted to share how it is celebrated in my host-country.  Well, joke's on all of us - in Rome the Giornata Mondiale della Terra is completely overshadowed by the holiday of the city's birthday on April the 21st.  I have never seen the city more frenetic.  On the way to my internship I saw thousands of people converging like a great horde of insects in Piazza Venezia, the shiny carapaces of automobiles clogging streets and emitting exhaust into a perfect spring morning.  Special exhibits, symphonic performances, and light shows were all planned and executed in the honor of Rome’s 2,768 years.  It is impressive that this city has been continuously inhabited for 2+ millennia; how trivial my single year of experience is, like I’m passing through for just one night.


Back to Earth Day, what I can do is share a few observations of Italians and their relationship with nature.

1) Italians, like most Europeans, are far less wasteful than Americans (these are generalities).  Recycling and composting are prevalent, though made challenging by the close living situation in the city.  You had better finish the food on your plate or you will answer to the good matriarch, The Nonna.

2) Italians are obsessed with seasonal produce.  In the fall it is zucca/pumpkin, in the spring carciofo/artichoke, summer brings fico/fig; grapes, strawberries, lemons, zucchini, asparagus, all have their time and corresponding use in cuisine.  This dedication to seasonally appropriate ingredients ensures fresh food, but also responsible consumption.

3) Italians have had a special relationship with water since Antiquity, when they recognized the importance of fresh (non-Tiber) sources and built the great aqueducts.  Clean water initiatives keep the beaches of Italy among the best in the world, and drinkable water from spigots is free on the streets of Rome.

4) Italy has always been a country of producers and farmers.  Despite its major exports being machinery, automobiles, and luxury goods, Italy has its roots in agriculture and will never relinquish the long-standing agrarian tradition of its regions and their specialties.


This past weekend I visited the Cinque Terre - a region near the Italian Riviera known for its jewel-box towns, perched where rock meets sea - to hike and to celebrate the birthday of a friend.  We skipped the tourist path, instead opting for those high in the hills, getting lost as banks of fog rolled in over the landscape.  I worked for the beauty I saw and am counting the days until my next hike.  Living in a city I forget just how much I need nature to clear my head and quiet my thoughts.  Happy Earth Day.



Sleepy Riomaggiore


Monterosso Church


Foggy Day


Green Store


In the Clouds


Hike to Vernazza




Madonna di Reggio


Spring Forest


Distant Vernazza




Along the Path


Vantage Point





Vernazza Color


Relaxing in Cinque


Vernazza Harbor


Rough Seas




Manarola from Above




The Hiker




Manarola to Corniglia



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Grazie, Roma! Bella cosa tosto è rapita.

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Elisabeth Hawthorne

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">I&rsquo;m your standard artistic mutt, head on the ground, feet in the clouds, brought to you by a serious case of wanderlust. Small-town Minnesota girl, ex-expat of Singapore, international traveler, art history major, varsity fencer, opera singer, aesthetics junkie, curious soul, gelato votary, far from home at Haverford College in Pennsylvania, making distance and immersion my teachers during a year abroad in Rome, Italy. You can follow along as I happily consume art and carbs in la bella città, but be warned I might not stay in one place for long!</span></p>

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