Trans-National Identity

by Riley Hubby, NYU Florence student 

There are two types of bigotry in the world: one born from hatred and one born from ignorance. The second is more forgivable; people aren’t born knowing everything, and as time progresses, society’s morals and values change. This is a normal part of life.

When I was packing for Italy, I prepared for open bigotry. As a genderqueer, non-binary trans person who usually presents more masculine than feminine, I was prepared for transphobia, or more likely, homophobia. I knew Italy was Catholic, I knew they had pretty regressive views on gay people, I knew about statements the Pope put out about trans people. I was ready.

Instead, what met me at the airport, was invisibility. I wasn’t read as queer. I wasn’t read as trans. No one saw anything different because, as a concept, my identity didn’t exist.

It’s hard to explain the frustration of not being seen as different when difference has defined your life. It’s even more difficult when the people you are confiding in have no grasp of the concept you are trying to describe. Much of my first month here was explaining what genderqueer meant to everybody I met, and then following up with “yes, ‘they’ as a singular pronoun is grammatically correct in English.”

But I can’t be mad at these people. They weren’t trying to be hateful. Even in America, trans issues aren’t widely discussed, much less issues specific to non-binary people. I fully believe everyone who asked just didn’t know any better.

However, for me there’s a difference between being genderqueer in the US and in Italy. I had a community in the US. People I could go to who knew how frustrating the little microaggressions were. People who could sympathize and distract me with a story about how ignorant this one guy they met was. Friends who I could see, and who could remind me, that I am not alone in this identity. I did not make this up. My feelings of binaristic dysphoria are valid, because they feel the same way.

I don’t have that here. I’m the only genderfluid non-binary person in Italy I know. And it’s lonely.

To be a non-binary person in Florence is to be out and closeted at the same time. Think of Schrodinger’s cat, which was both alive and dead until the box was opened. This, instead, is Schrodinger’s closet, except the door is open and the paradox remains. People don’t know I’m supposed to be different. That I don’t see myself in their binary. That their language has no room for me. To them, I’m just another American woman stumbling on basic Italian.

The worst part about it is the internalization of this invisibility. When I arrived, I flinched when people used my birth name, or referred to me with female pronouns. Now it’s happened so many times I barely realize it. I stopped wearing my binder because no one noticed a difference, and all the walking made it hard to breathe. On days when I feel more femme, I hesitate to wear dresses, because pants are the only symbol I can cling to to remind myself I am non-binary. Then I wonder why go through the trouble in the first place? No one will be able to tell anyway.

There are two types of bigotry in the world: one born from hatred and one born from ignorance. I believe the second is more exhausting. The second is explaining your life, your experiences, your humanity over and over again to everyone you meet. The second is politely correcting someone that, after knowing you for three months, still forgets your pronouns, even though they’re “trying really hard” to remember. The second is slipping up on your own pronouns after months of getting it right.

It’s constantly reminding yourself that you are not the person everyone around you sees. That who you really are is someone that doesn’t even exist in their world. And trying your hardest not to get used to that.


(View this post on LPD’s new blog)

Art and Imagination

By Eden Florence Guill, NYU Florence student


Transformation from old to new

I am not the greatest activist but I am not afraid to take a stand

It’s the people, not the government

There will always be colors and contrast

Vissi d’arte, vissi d’amore

Talent no one is born without

… because forever cannot belong.


This poem is a cento styled, inspired by and in collaboration with the dialogue Kathy Engel gave on “Art and Imagination in Building Campaigns and Socials Movements”, in Villa La Pietra on October 11th, 2017. At the beginning and the end of the dialogue Kathy had attendees write on small strips of paper a word or phrase that was in their heart at that moment. The keywords are listed below and with these the collective whole could guide me in finding poems that either have the word or a line that embodies the idea of the keyword they provided. This poem provides a glimpse into the shared stimulating and reflective experience the group had that day guided by Kathy Engel.  




Artistic Activism


Contrasting color

Vissi d’arte



Healing by M.L. Kiser

I Grow Where I am Planted by Simeon Austin David Pangu

Without Mask by Curtis Johnson

Rebuilding by Franklin Prince

The Best is Still Seen by Heidi Sands

Tosca by Puccini

Now by Jennifer Ratcliffe

(View this post on LPD’s new blog)

EU in Focus Day 3: Down to Business

A group of 20-year olds infiltrated the EU Commission building and held back-to-back meetings this past Monday, October 30th. The young adults were all students travelling in representation of New York University, forming part of the institution’s annual trip to Brussels, Belgium.

“This is an extraordinary group”, reluctantly admitted Professor of Comparative Politics at NYU Florence, Nicolo Conti.

Well, perhaps ‘infiltrated’ is the wrong word. Yet being granted the privilege to take part in a conversation held at a EU conference room felt quite surreal. This is what I mean by infiltrating; we jumped a few steps. We were by far the youngest crowd within a 5-mile radius.

Our first session was held in the Council of the EU at 10:00 a.m. with Maurizio Di Lullo. Di Lullo is a Political Administrator, focusing on climate change, he also takes part in the Coordination and Horizontal Affairs Unit; he is a member of the Environment, Education, Youth, Culture, Audiovisual and Sports Directorate and the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union.

Throughout the meeting, Di Lullo discussed several characteristics behind one of the most recent outbreaks in Environmental Politics: The Paris Agreement. The speaker put much emphasis on the gravity behind the eminent threat that is climate change and explained the measures the EU is taking to help combat the issue as well.

At the end, several questions were raised by the students; some oriented towards the US’ withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and how the decision might affect the treaty’s effectivity. Di Lullo responded by saying, “I think that there is no way back from the Paris Agreement. Because everybody is in and is convinced that this is the only way. In the US, basically what I see, is some people who are not willing to go along. But that is something that we have seen already for the last 20 years. In the conservative (atmosphere) there is apparently a reluctance to go along with this but what we see in the rest of the US is that action is being taken, what matters the most is not the legal framework”.

Our next speaker was Susanne Nielsen, also a Political Administrator, member of the External Relations, Asylum and Migration Unit, Home Affairs Directorate, and General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union. Nielsen’s focus is immigration policies, a currently very heated area given Europe’s on-going immigration crisis.

Nielsen presented the immigration policies that have sprouted from the EU’s current crisis, and the many issues arising. Nielsen informed the students of the degrading conditions of the Hotspots claiming this to be one of the pressing concerns. Hotspots are locations where the asylum-seekers remain before they are legally transferred into another European country for refuge. In her conference, Nielsen claimed “some have given up, some have asked for voluntary return to their country of origin. Which is why we are seeing very low number of crossings”.

The morning meetings were followed by lunch with Walter Parrs who is a Programs and Exchanges officer at the US Mission to the EU. Parrs had much to say regarding the manner with which the United States is perceived abroad. He re-assured many students that the GOP has not swayed the EU’s willingness to work with the United States, yet that many were left stunned after the elections.

Parrs also touched on his personal experience, explaining how he conceived the position he currently holds.

After lunch, NYU Students had two more presentations to attend, both taking place inside the European Commission building. The European Commission is occupied by what some would call the EU’s ‘government’ as it is the governmental entity in charge of proposing new policies.

At the European Commission, we were greeted by Alexandra Kiel. Ms. Kiel forms part of the Unit Inter-institutional Relations and Citizenship, Directorate- General Migration and Home Affairs.

Kiel’s session focused on European immigration policies and enumerated some of the objectives the European Commission is attempting to achieve, amongst them: “the abolition of people smuggling networks, and emergency relocation proposals”.

To conclude our day, we had Mr. Pascal Delisle walk us through the main characteristics of the Paris Agreement. Delisle went through all the major threats that are direct effects of global warming and emphasized the need of a treaty such as The Paris Agreement.

All conferences were equally valuable, and presented the students with unfathomable opportunities such as visiting these typically off-limits institutions and highly influential officials. When asked about the trip, the NYU Florence Student body agreed on the trip’s effectivity in widening the student’s understanding of the European Union and its institutions.


(View this post on LPD’s new blog)

EU in Focus Day 2: Acting, Museums, and Waffles

Museums, role playing, waffles, chocolate, without a doubt Day 2 in Brussels was filled to the brim with back-to-back activities that kept us on our feet 24/7.

Thankfully, we all got a good night’s sleep since our adventures were only scheduled to start at 10 am. So right after a nostalgic and finger-licking-good American breakfast, we all meet in the hotel lobby to begin our walk to the Parlamentarium.

The European Union’s Parlamentarium is the visitors’ center of the European Parliament. The attraction is not only educational, but also extremely engaging. Its main objective is to lead visitors through the creation of the European Union and the ins and outs of the European Parliament.

We started off our visit with an interactive role playing game. The simulation had us pretending we were Ministers of the European Parliament. It even divided us into different political parties and gave us objectives on which we had to reach a consensus.

The process undergone by proposals before becoming directives was the entire basis of the game. We experienced how ministers of parliament work within the Committees, the European Parliament itself, and even inside the party’s offices.

“To see what they go through, not only on a day-to-day basis, but also how the laws are passed. It’s hard to compromise. For me personally, I would have preferred being in a different political party that disagreed more with my own personal views. I definitely agree that it gave me a better understanding of how the European Union works, which is why I wanted to come here” NYU Florence student Isabel Schmieta kindly gave her opinion on the stimulating experience.

And the day did not stop there. Two museums came into play after our lunch at the Parliamentarium’s café. We first visited the Parliamentarium’s own museum. The exhibit was organized in such a way that as you walked through the institution, you were going through a timeline of the European Union. Videos, complimentary audio recordings, and interactive displays all led you through the European Union’s way of coming into being and the various challenges its even facing today.

By the time we exit the building, it is 3 pm and we are ready to move on to our next activity: the Magritte Museum. The Magritte was a 20-minute walk from the Parliamentarium—a great excuse to see some of Brussels’ tourist attractions and insane architecture. The name kinda hints at what the museum focuses on: surrealist Belgian artist René Magritte.

Trust me, you know who René Magritte is. Ever heard of the picture of the pipe with the footnote: “ceci n’est pas un pipe”.

The Treachery of Images by René Magritte

If you haven’t, now you have. That’s the guy.

The museum held an extensive collection of his works. Including student Matilda Mahne’s favorite: Treasure Island. Take a look.

“Treasure Island” 1942, Renè Magritte.

We wrapped up the evening with a dinner at ‘Le Cercle des Voyageurs’ composed of a 3-course meal, salmon and all. Can’t remember when was the last time I ate at that level ever since I went into college.

But the best is yet to come. Tomorrow, Monday October 29th, we will be meeting with political administrators and general secretariats at the European Commission. Stay tuned.


(View this post on LPD’s new blog)

EU in Focus: An Insight into European Politics Day 1

Let’s start from the very beginning. Which, and I am definitely not complaining, would be incredibly early in the day. 4:45 am to be exact. You know they do flights around these hours so people end up missing them. You just know it.

The first batch of students, Antonio Di Meglio, Dylan Liang, Brian Wang, WanChen Zhao, Jordin Tafoya, and me, Oriana De Angelis, were the lucky winners of Lufthansa’s 6 am morning flight to Frankfurt. From there, we would catch a second plane to Brussels.

Yet, you know what was beautiful? The fact that despite it being 4:45 am, the time when Ana Dicu—the head coordinator—requested we meet up and ride together to the airport, everyone was up on that bus, radiating smiles and 110 percent ready to take on this journey. We had been waiting for this ever since that first EU in Focus session with the distinguished NYU Florence Professor, Nicolò Conti.

Fast forward to 2 pm when we arrive to the hotel—I slept through most of the flights, sorry kids. We drop off our bags, then instantly set out in search for food and do a little sightseeing around the city, waiting for the next set of students to reach Brussels.

A brief description of Brussels: aligning the streets are christmast-townish looking homes, the after-math of the city’s Art Noveau oriented design. The skies are cloudy, and the temperature slightly chilly, Brussel’s climatic characteristics.

It was 3 pm when the rest of the students arrived. Around an hour after they joined us, we were taken to the House of European History by our lovely coordinator. It was an astonishing museum, with tablets guiding you through their exhibits and narrating the history behind every piece on display.

NYU Florence student Syanne Rios gave her opinion on the museum, saying how “the way everything was displayed was very contemporary. It presented very interactive and engaging exhibitions.”

Isabel Giacomozzi, a NYU junior stuyding abroad in Florence as well, expressed a positive experience too, describing the museum as “wonderfully self-aware of all the flaws and triumphs underlying Europe’s history”.

The museum’s appeal was evident, large credit goes to the wide variety of artifacts that put emphasis on every historical event, giving Europe’s history a strong feel of realness, even to non-Europeans (most of the NYU student body).

Afterwards, we all walked back to the hotel, where we had dinner with another of NYU Florence’s star professors, Gian Luca Sgueo. Professor Sgueo provided students  with a brief overview of his work in the European Parliament Research service. Sgueo described his work as a policy analyst, claiming that the institution “takes requests from European Institutions to conduct research on certain policies, particularly European citizen’s rights, lobbying, and democracy”.

The professor answered several questions from the students as well, creating an immersive dialogue and providing us all with an ever more extensive understanding of the European Union’s values and tasks.

And this was just day one. Can’t wait to see what else Ana has in store for us!

(View this post on LPD’s new blog)

Salute to a Republican

By Devin Lee, NYU Florence Student

Like most angsty college students, nothing makes me feel more alive than watching accredited intellectuals bash political parties that my grandparents belong to and confirm that every policy I had already decided was terrible is, indeed, terrible. It is that spirit which has rallied so many Millennials against conservatism, painting the Republican Party as the force of all evil, and Donald Trump as its sociopath-in-chief. And I would be lying if I told  you that I didn’t have that in mind when I planned to attend a panel on the future of American politics this last week at NYU Florence. The discussion, hosted by La Pietra Dialogues, was set to include panelists from both sides of America’s political spectrum, including a couple of prominent Republican strategists, who I expected to defend Donald Trump and the party he heads against all complaints and concerns from young people like myself, who filled the room at Villa Sassetti on Friday.

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Encountering Poetry: A Student’s Perspective

By Alexandra Daley, NYU Florence Student

No one I know could imagine me at a poetry reading. They know me as the physics-obsessed, horse girl of Ocala, Florida. My closest experience to a poetry reading was when my teacher played audio from a poet while we read along, and up until this month my impression of one was from the movies. I could only expect a scene where people in a dimly lit coffee shop snapped away for a poet on stage.

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Caterina Guidi: The EU’s Response to the Migration Crisis

By Katia Taylor, NYU Florence Student

On Tuesday, October 3, migration analyst Caterina Guidi presented an overview of the European Union’s migration policies as part of NYU Florence’s “EU in Focus” lecture series. Hosted by La Pietra Dialogues, it was an informative session that delved into the EU’s response to the arrival of migrants and refugees over the past fifty years. Guidi also shed light on Italy’s own controversial response to the current European refugee crisis. Read more

Italian Politics Adesso!

By Katia Taylor, NYU Florence student

When I first left to study abroad in Italy, it occurred to me that, despite committing to live in the country for several months, I knew nothing about Italian politics. I didn’t know the Italian prime minister’s name. I didn’t know how active Italy participated in the EU. I didn’t know how the Italian political system functioned, what the parties were like, or what issues were pressing Italian politicians today. This is why I looked forward to “Italian Politics Adesso!”, an event hosted by La Pietra Dialogues to give students a general overview of Italy’s contemporary political landscape.

On Monday, September 25, Alessandro Chiaramonte, professor of Political Science at the University of Florence, and Roberto D’Alimonte, Director of the Italian Center for Electoral Studies (CISE), came to present an introduction of Italian politics and discuss Italy’s upcoming general election. Knowing that a majority of the students in the audience weren’t familiar with the country’s political situation, the two experts started by delving into the country’s historical background.

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Remembering Primo Levi

Video by Riley Hubby, NYU Florence student


Auschwitz in Florence

By Matilda Mahne, NYU Florence student

(This piece is reprinted from the La Pietra Dialogues website).

I reached out to a non-existent tissue in my bag. I would understand Primo Levi’s words and depictions of Auschwitz better if I could only see through the tears that forced their way to my eyes. While my vision was momentarily impaired, the experience of the night was far from curtailed.

“Everything was as silent as an aquarium, or as in certain dream sequences”

The stage in the middle of the amphitheatre was unadorned. There was a small background screen that had a wooden wall projected to it, and in front of it there was a stool, a bench, and a man. English subtitles were projected on both sides of the screen.

“Hell must be like this”

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