Monthly Archives: January 2006
This Saturday, Umbra students were led to Città di Castello, a small Umbrian city famous in Italy as being the cradle of the country’s modern printing industry. The students had a tour of Italy’s oldest still-working printing company, run by Signor Gianni Ottaviani. Sig. Ottaviani is the seventh generation of owners of the family business, and explained that he has been setting type since he was a child. The students learned about the typographic, lithographic, and engraving processes and were given demonstrations by the enthusiastic Sig. Ottaviani in each one. The students also discussed the “ins and outs” of modern offset printing and saw how graphic layout and pagination programs are turned into printable files.
“It was cool to see, in one big room, the development of printing from 1450 to present,” said Nicole Magpayo, a student from Northeastern University. This activity, offered for the first time in the fall 2005 semester, draws interest from students of all academic disciplines. The group was led by staff member Zach Nowak and professor Cindy Clough.
In the first of Umbra Institute’s “Lost Weekend” trips, fourteen students boarded a chartered bus with few details about their destination. The first stop for the group was a surprise dinner at “La Cantina,” a classic Umbrian restaurant in the center of medieval Castiglione del Lago, which sits on a hill high over Lago di Trasimeno. After an “antipasto misto” of cheese and Umbrian salami, the students had “picci all’aglione,” a hearty, garlic-laced pasta dish with handmade pasta.
After a fruit dessert, the students reboarded the bus and continued on to the hot springs of San Casciano dei Bagni. Italy is volcanically active and there are a number of hot springs that well up in the central Italian hills. These springs are in the valley below the hill town of San Casciano. The students soaked in the hot sulphur springs under the stars until midnight, when they had to board the bus and return to Perugia.
(photos by professor of creative writing, Cindy Clough)
The Umbra Institute signed an agreement with the City of Perugia recognizing Umbra’s contribution to the local cultural and economic life.
On January 19, Umbra Institute Director Charles Jarvis (in photo, right) and the City of Perugia’s Assessor of Culture, Signor Andrea Cernicchi, signed an historic accord giving the Institute use of number of the city’s most popular venues. In doing so, the City of Perugia recognized the considerable (and ever-expanding) contribution Umbra has made to the cultural fabric of an already international city, as well as the economic importance of the Institute – both in the short term of bringing in students and in the long term of popularizing Umbria and Perugia in the United States.
“This is, indeed, a momentous accomplishment for both the Institute and the City of Perugia,” said Jarvis. “For the Institute it marks one of several planned agreements with the institutions of Perugia that will help us in our educational mission to better integrate our students into Italian culture and the City of Perugia. I wish to thank those both in the Comune and in the Institute in helping make this agreement possible. In particular, a very special thank you goes to Professor Francesco Gardenghi of the Umbra Institute and to Dr. Cernicchi of the Comune of Perugia for his openess, vision and spirit of cooperation.”
The magnificent Renaissance main room of Perugia’s town hall, the Sala dei Notari, as well as a number of other meeting rooms and exhibition halls, will be available for use by the Institute. In addition to the Institute’s Orientation ceremony (already held in the Sala dei Notari), activities such as art shows and academic events can now take place in the city’s ancient rooms. Also part of the agreement was the permission for all Umbra students to visit any of Perugia’s many museums at absolutely no cost.
In photos: UI Director Charles Jarvis and the City of Perugia’s Assessor of Culture, Signor Andrea Cernicchi, sign an historic accord reinforcing an existing international relationship; some faculty and staff members were present to witness the signing of the agreement.
In an era when most college students consider dining options based on what is offered on campus, the need to prepare meals in Perugia requires some skill in the kitchen. And not all students come to the Umbra Institute with culinary experience. Recognizing this predicament, staff members Mauro Renna and Dave Dickson – along with sous chefs Reid Williamson and Dave Wyman – led a cooking class for students. The meal consisted of two pasta dishes, a main course, dessert, and of course, wine. Instead of preparing food for the students, the chefs led an interactive course where students did all the chopping, cooking, and serving. And the most valuable lesson – students helped with the cleaning!
Il menu – primi: caserecce con sugo al basilica e penne lisce alla Norcina; secondo: tacchino in padella con pomodorini ciliegino e oregano; dolce: panettone; e vino rosso.
Friday, January 6, 2006: A herd of bedraggled, jetlagged American students arrives in Italy, wide-eyed and expectant. At the airport, we’re met by the energetic members of the Umbra staff, and with suitcase(s) in hand, we commence our journey towards life, liberty, and the pursuit of property (for those whose luggage didn’t quite make the transatlantic jump). For these students, la dolce vita has just begun.
As eight chartered buses take us to Perugia, the excitement builds. The bus is eerily silent; some people are dozing, others sit with faces glued to the windows, entranced by the scenery flying by. After a few hours, the bus begins its winding ascent towards the center of town. A testament to the leisurely Italian concept of time, Christmas decorations still hang in the streets, lighting our path: prickly stars of white light piercing the cold night air. And suddenly, we’re in Perugia, the medieval hilltop city we’ll be calling home for the next four months.
How does one describe the experience of smelling, savoring, soaking up Perugia? We’ve already met quite a few Americans who say they’ve been seduced by this place, and it’s no small wonder. To succumb to the labyrinth of ancient cobbled streets, to surrender yourself to the melodic sounds of the language…this is what it means to live here. Perugia seeps into the soul.
But lest we get too carried away in mystical revelry, let’s not forget the intrusion of a few harsh realities: Why are shops closed between 1 and 4 pm daily? No laundry machines in our apartments? Heat for only eight hours a day? Our time thus far in Italy, like any time in a foreign country, demands some level of adjustment, a willingness to accept the inevitable inconveniences of a vastly different culture.
When we disembarked at the Rome airport one week ago, eyes glazed and muscles aching, we were all strangers, vaguely exhilarated and mildly terrified, completely unaware of what lay in store. Today, after a whirlwind week of orientation, moving into apartments, blossoming friendships, cultural immersion, daily language classes, cioccolato, vino, and (of course) pizza, we know this town a little better. We’ve all become better navigators, thanks to the brilliant pocket-sized map included in our Umbra orientation packets. We’re starting to be able to do Euro-Dollar conversions without the help of a calculator (though not always with pleasing results; see US government with complaints).
Students and staff have cooked and eaten together, and copious amounts of pictures have been taken. By now, most of us have ordered a cappuccino at an Italian café, even those with limited language skills. And the girls have become quite skilled at fending off amorous Italians. Our daily routine has started to sink in and feel like normal. But then we pause to take a peek out our balconies, and what do we see? A lush valley of green and brown, speckled with warm rosy homes, an occasional church steeple cresting the skyline; hillsides bathed in rural rainbows of gold and crimson and burnt orange, with massive mountains looming in the distance beyond. No; this is most assuredly not normal. Some sights remain unconquerable, defying capture by all digital conventions, equally inexplicable by prose. And we are lucky enough to be in this place.
It seems merely a trick of memory that little more than a week ago, we were living in the US, engrossed by McDonald’s, satellite TV, and central air and heat. Each day here provides a new opportunity for travel, growth and exploration, for memories to be made and chances to be taken. I wake up every morning, look out the window, breath a sigh of incredulity, and laugh at my life. Spring semester 2006, Perugia, Italy…get ready. The adventure of a lifetime awaits.
This Sunday, approximately sixty students of the Umbra Institute were guided on a “behind the scenes” tour of Perugia by Zach Nowak. A five year resident of Perugia, author of a major guidebook on Perugia, and peer-acclaimed Perugian scholar, Nowak was the perfect person to lead such a tour.
Winding through the labyrinth of Perugian streets, Zach uncovered hidden historical landmarks, places of importance, and even gave an impromptu lesson on winemaking in his vineyard near Porta Sole. The excursion lasted approximately two hours and gave students a better understanding of their home for the next few months. (text and photos by David Wyman, Student Services Intern)
In photos: Nowak speaks to students from Porta Sole, the highest point in Perugia; students and staff gather in Piazza della Repubblica along Corso Vanucci.
Since the Umbra Institute was founded in 1999, more than 1000 American students have come to Perugia to study. Certainly, much has changed in that time-the Institute now hosts close to 200 students per semester, there are 3 classroom buildings in addition to an art and dance studio, and there are more opportunities for students to immerse in the Italian culture. But many things have also remained the same, including the Institute’s founding mission to utilize Perugia and the surrounding area to enhance the educational experience.
Alumni, we want to hear from you! We want to hear your stories, your reflections on how your term abroad has impacted your life, and we want you to stay connected with your former classmates. This spring, the Umbra Institute is scheduled to launch a newly developed Alumni Program. At that time, you will be able to post your personal and contact information, share photos, and search for other alumni. Until that time, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to sharing your memories of studying at Umbra!
Nearly 200 students arrived in Perugia last week to begin the Spring 2006 semester. These students, like the ones who have studied at Umbra before them, have already begun the language immersion program at the Universita per Stranieri and at the Institute. This intensive program is one of the unique benefits of studying in Perugia.
In addition to attending courses, students are kept busy with extracurricular
events–walking tours, pizza nights, and the obligatory orientation meetings. It will take time to adjust to life in a new country, but we’re already seeing students making the effort to fully immerse.
Continue to check the Umbra Institute blogspot as we post photos from the students’ study abroad experiences this semester.
In photos: Umbra students take a break from orientation for a group photo on the steps of Perugia’s duomo; students ask questions of Lindsey Thompson, student services associate, and Francesco Gardenghi, director of Italian language, during orientation sessions.
Strickland’s short story on discovering Pompeii was written as a creative writing class assignment at the Umbra Institute in Fall 2005. The course, Creative Writing: Italy of the Imagination, is offered regularly at the Institute and taught by Cindy Clough, Ph.D.
From the editor: “While guidebooks are useful, telling us where to go and what to do, stories about what people experienced are powerful. The better they’re told, the more we feel as if we are participating in them ourselves. Accompanying Heather Strickland in “Not As Seen on TV,” we are told that no guidebook could have revealed Pompeii to her the way discovering it on her own did.”
“The people we meet in these stories live in a state of peace. They are generous, curious and welcoming, and we can happily interact with them through the magic of our travelers’ stories. These stories provide little oases in a crowded and fast-paced world. For us co-editors, they re-awaken urges to travel every time we read them.”