Monthly Archives: February 2006
Last weekend, a group of Umbra students departed for Sicily on the first optional weekend trip of the semester. After an early morning flight to Catania, the group arrived at their hotel in Giardini di Naxos, on the eastern coast of Sicily.
Throughout the weekend, students toured several coastal cities – the lava city of Catania, archeological remains in Siracusa, the chic coastal town of Taormina, and fishing villages Acitrezza and Acicastello.
The Umbra weekend trips are planned so that students tour nearby cities during the day and return to their hotel in the afternoon for dinner and free time to explore Sicily on their own. For many students, the afternoons were spent walking the beach and watching the sun set behind Mount Etna in the distance.
“Sicily is breathtaking,” said Alex Chartrand, a student from the University of Missouri. “Many of us were just happy to be in the sun, to walk the beaches, and to explore the little towns.” It wasn’t only the natural beauty of Sicily which attracted students, but also the local cuisine. Sicily’s famous granite (the original Italian ice), ricotta-filled cannoli, and arancine (fried rice balls filled with mozzerella cheese) tempted the crowd.
The next optional weekend trip is scheduled for April 7-9 when a group from Umbra will head south again to Naples, Sorrento, Pompeii, and Capri.
In photos: the main piazza of Taormina, a fisherman on the rocks in Acitrezza, the beach of Giardini di Naxos in front of the hotel, and a guided tour of the ruins in Siracusa.
Professor Cynthia Clough and 26 students traveled to Rome to learn about several writers and their influence on Italy. These students, all members of the Creative Writing: Italy of the Imagination course had been preparing for the visit by reading selections by the famous Romantic poets, John Keats and Percy Shelley.
The visit to Rome was to an opportunity to visit the the Keats-Shelley House, home to the Keats-Shelley Historical Association, and to the Protestant Cemetary where Keats, Shelley, and other poets have memorials.
The Keats-Shelley House, situated at the base of Rome’s Piazza di Spagna, was the home where Keats spent his final three months alive, but is now a memorial dedicated to both Keats and Shelley. Inside the building are paintings, manuscripts, and objects celebrating their lives and the lives of other British Romantic poets.
After a tour of the house, students spent time at Café Greco, Rome’s oldest café. In its earlier times it was an artistic hangout for the likes of Lord Byron, Goethe, Richard Wagner, and Franz Liszt. The café exists to this day with period furnishings and a wait staff prepared to take one back in time. Throughout the trip, students used their surroundings as inspiration for their essays describing the presence of the past.
This excursion for Creative Writing was one of many co-curricular activities offered in conjunction with courses taught at the Umbra Institute. This weekend, students studying Renaissance Art will take a weekend trip to Florence.
>All Umbra students arrive in Perugia anxious to learn more about Italian culture and society. A significant aspect of Italian industry, tradition and daily life revolves around wine, better know as to Italians as vino. One of many Umbra activities which is not only educational but enjoyable, is the Umbra workshops on the wines of Italy.
Last Monday, a group Umbra students enjoyed a private wine tasting at Enone, a local enoteca, to learn more about Italy’s wines. The degustazione was led by Flaviano Rossi, sommelier and owner of Enone. Student Services Director, Regina Tingle (shown, photo right) was on hand to assist in the tasting. Students were invited to sample three very different wines. Besides sampling wines, students learned the correct way to open a bottle and table etiquette when serving wine. Flaviano started with a sparkling white wine from Lombardia. I Germogli was a 2004 IGT wine from the winery Monsupello that was vinified from red Pinot Nero grapes and goes well with antipasti. Students then moved onto another white wine also from the north of Italy. Manna from the vineyard Franz Haas in Alto Adige was a light-bodied white that can be paired with poultry dishes. Manna was also a 2004 IGT wine. To finish up, students tasted a red wine from Puglia, in the south of Italy. The Negramaro Cantalupi from Conti Zecca was a unique wine in that, the grapes used to create the wine, negramaro grapes, are found only in Puglia. A smooth red wine, the Negramaro Cantalupi would compliment meat dishes.
This was the second of three wine tastings that will be held this semester at Enone. The Umbra Institute offers wine tastings as a regular activity available to students while they study in Perugia.
The Tandem language exchange program continued this week with a special Valentine’s Day celebration. The evening was celebrated in honor of San Valentino, a saint from the Umbrian town of Terni. Italian and American students came together to exchange written Valentine’s messages and, of course, Baci chocolates from Perugia. The famous Baci candy means “kisses” and each one is wrapped with a love message written in several languages. “It was so great to see everyone smiling and having fun together,” said staff member Mauro Renna. “It’s great for us to see students improving their language skills and making friends at the same time.”
Among the love notes there was a consistent message from Italian students: “Buon San Faustino ci affidiamo a te,” which translates to “Good Saint Faustino (saint protector of singles) we trust in you.”
The Tandem language exchange program will continue throughout the semester. The next meeting will be a special celebration of Carnevale in a local establishment.
When most Americans think of Italy, they think food. Nicole Magpayo, a full-year student from Northeastern University, took a journey to the Emilia-Romagna region to learn more about those food products which make Italy famous. “A major part of this trip was experiencing the Italian culture, including the amount of patience and dedication it takes to create amazing food,” said Magpayo. Emilia-Romagna is the gastronomic center of Italy, boasting parmiggiano reggiano, aged balsamic vinegar, prosciutto di parma ham, and fresh stuffed pastas among its creations. The following are reflections from Magpayo’s trip to the cities of Modena and Parma to discover how two traditional Italian products are made:
“This weekend had to be one of the most interesting and educational trips I’ve been on since I arrived in Italy in September. Witnessing the making of balsamic vinegar and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese was not only interesting, but allowed me to learn about foods that I eat daily. The balsamic vinegar “farm” was actually situated in a family home in Modena, Italy, where this particular family made the infamous Aceto Balsamico Traditionale di Modena. Here, fermentation occurs during the summer in wooden barrels, each with a different wood providing a distinct flavor.”
“Parmigiano-reggiano cheese begins first with skim milk, whole milk, whey, and rennet. After mixing and heating, the mixture begins to curdle naturally and the cheese is cut into two pieces and strained through cheesecloth. The leftover liquid is centrifuged to remove any cream and fed to pigs nearby (which is why proscuitto di parma tastes so good!). Each cheese spends one day in a wooden molding, one day in a steel molding, a month in a salt-water bath, and finally two or more years in the warehouse.”
In addition to this gastronomic journey, Magpayo will continue to learn more about the role food and wine play in Italian culture. She is currently enrolled in The Culture and History of Food in Italy, one of the most popular courses offered at Umbra.
After the first month of intensive Italian language classes, it was encouraging to see such a large group of students appear for the first Tandem language exhange activity. More than 60 students – both Italians and Americans – gathered for icebreaking exercises and activities. Mauro Renna, student services associate and coordinator of the Tandem program, was excited to see so many students and to hear that many of them had made plans outside of the program with other Italian students.
“I believe Tandem is one of the greatest activities we offer at Umbra,” said Renna. “There’s no better way for our students to learn Italian or to acclimate themselves with the city.” Future Tandem events will
occur every two weeks at the Institute or at local establishments.
With a techno-savvy generation of students who show up in Perugia with laptops, iPods, and digital cameras, it’s no surprise that there are plenty of photos being taken. In the first Photo of the Month contest, Rachel Paton won the award of best photo among tough competitors. As students leave Perugia for distant sights in Europe or stay close to home in Umbria, most of them have their cameras ready. Rachel’s winning photo, “A Cemetery that Meets a Vineyard,” was taken near the town of Gubbio. Rachel wins free dinner at Quattro Passi Pizzeria for her entry. Complimenti!