I’m currently finishing up a week in Italy, spending much needed time away from the American news and the monotony of adult life. To be honest, Italy was never at the top of my travel bucket list. I don’t LOVE pasta (I know, I hate to admit it too but I may have turned a corner here), and I feel as though I’ve had my fill of churches and museums to last a lifetime. Of course, there’s much more to a culture than those things, but that’s where my head was. Now, even though I’ve only spent a few days in Rome, Florence, and Bologna, it’s easy to see why people fall in love with Italy and I will most certainly return. There are many more cities to visit, and much more wine and food to be enjoyed.
I haven’t taken a complete break from real life though. It’s hard to when technology makes it incredibly easy to stay connected. Part of me misses the days when I traveled to Europe without the benefit of my iPhone, MacBook, and iPad. I think I probably spent much more time being lost in foreign cities, but I wasn’t concerned about checking email or posting photos immediately. I wonder what happened to all of those internet cafés?
There are some interesting connections to my real life here. My professional career has been built on the belief that communities are better when there are associations amongst people and when those people play an integral role in governing the polity. Italy is home to one of the first republics, and I appreciated the reminder that republics and democracy can indeed, endure for centuries.
It was an especially welcomed reminder when I woke up this morning to the news that President Trump has committed to ending AmeriCorps. It was rumored in the “skinny budget,” and now we know that the proposal in the FY 2018 is to provide minimal funding to support the shutdown of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), presumably making it obsolete in the coming year. As I’ve written before, support for AmeriCorps and Peace Corps is bi-partisan. These programs strengthen communities, support veterans, provide critical support after natural disasters, and foster the skills and attitudes that we all want in our young people. They also lead to long-term civic engagement.
Leaving the news behind for a just a bit, I took a day trip to visit to Bologna to visit the Archiginnasio, the first seat of the University of Bologna. Founded in 1088, this is the oldest university of the Western world. Much like when I visited Trinity College in Dublin, and Oxford and Cambridge Universities in England, I felt incredibly humbled. There’s nothing like walking the grounds of a university that is thousands of years old and knowing that people infinitely smarter than you walked those same halls. Higher education was very different back then, of course, but there’s something both familiar and awe-inspiring. And there’s a sense of coming back just a little bit better and smarter for having gone. Until next time, ciao!