Images of Italy seem as they are from a distant, foreign time. But there are many aspects of modern Italian culture that haven't been changed for hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of years.
The photo to the right is St. Peter's Basilica, completed in 1590 by Michelangelo. This Renaissance basilica, and many others in Rome and Florence, show the immense wealth and power of the Catholic Church during the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries.
The Catholic Church still holds great sway in Italian culture. Catholicism in Italy today fosters a deep investment in tradition and ritual, superstitions and patron saint worship.
The photo at left is from a canal in Venice. Venice is a city with water for roads and boats for cars. Venice was once home to explorer Marco Polo and 18th century playboy Giacomo Casanova.
Venice has been around for 1,500 years, but may be nearing the end of its days. The city is sinking due to rising sea levels and shoddy building foundations.
The trades that make Venice famous today, like fishing and glass-making, are those that for centuries the city has been revered for. Some places in the world, it seems, modernity doesn't touch.
The photo at left is the quintessential Italian herb, basil. Whether with mozzarella and tomatoes in a caprese salad, on a margarita pizza, or mashed up into a pesto, basil is a staple of Italian food.
Ancient Romans would use basil to freshen their breath after meals. This herb has been a hallmark of Italian cooking for thousands of years, proving that some things in society don't need to be improved upon.