Thursday, July 11, 2013

Coins and Shopping

I woke up earlier than usual today, 7:10am to be exact. The Global Scholars were headed to Banca D’Italia, Italy’s central bank, and the unpredictable nature of Rome’s public transportation was not going to keep us from getting to the bank on time. Besides, we needed the extra time in case we got lost and needed to ask for directions. At 8:45am, I met up with my fellow GloSchos at the Colli Portuense tram stop. Public transportation decided to be nice to us today and we arrived to Banca D’Italia twenty minutes before our tour began (GO Global Scholars!).
At Banca D’Italia we visited The Money Museum at Palazzo Koch. At the museum, we admired Mesopotamian clay tablets, various collections of coins made out of precious metals, modern coin collections and banknotes. Walking from room to room to see the different collections felt like traveling through time and retracing the steps of the development of money and the global economy. Most importantly, the museum taught us the crucial role that money has played in the history of both independent nations and the international system since ancient times. For example, I was amazed to learn that at one point, the denarius, a silver coin used in the Roman Empire in 300 B.C., served as global currency, and allowed the Roman monetary system to create a fixed exchange rate between silver and bronze.     
After leaving The Money Museum and the Italian central bank, I decided to leave the numbers, currencies and exchange rates behind and turn my tourist mode on. Friends and I visited the Piazza di Spagna, where the famous Spanish Steps are located, and then walked through Via dei Condotti, a large street with high-end fashion stores and brand names boutiques. Something that grabbed my attention was the amount of foreigners I saw. Well obviously I was in the middle of one of Rome’s most famous tourist attractions, but even as my friends and I walked down Via dei Condotti and window-shopped at Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo and Gucci, the number of different languages I heard was astonishing. People from China, Mexico, England, France and many, many more countries were going in and out of the fancy shops. At this point, I could not keep the numbers, currencies and exchange rates I had learned at Banca D’Italia out of my mind, and I started thinking about how there are currencies nowadays that are just like the Roman denarius. Currencies such as the U.S. dollar, the Euro and the Japanese Yen are used around the world and are easily convertible. The tourist and foreigners shopping at Via dei Condotti must have exchanged their national currencies for Euros, just like people in 300 B.C. exchanged the Roman denarius for goods or just like Romans exchanged silver and bronze through the coin.

*The images of The Money Museum and the Roman denarius are taken from the Banca D’Italia website since we were not allowed to take pictures inside the museum. Visit the website:;internal&action=_setlanguage.action?LANGUAGE=en

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