Monthly Archives: November 2006
Starting December 20th, Perugia’s Sant’Egidio Airport will clear it’s runways for a welcome addition, Ryan Air. Perugia will soon have direct connections to one of Europe’s most popular travel destinations, London, England.
Ryan Air is Europe’s original and largest low fares airline carrier. This year, 35 million passengers have traveled on 437 different low fare routes across twenty-four European countries.
From Perugia, flights are currently scheduled three times a week, Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays and arrive directly to Stansted Airport.
Let’s hear it for fish and chips, pints and London fog!
Paintings of Italian landscapes, of raw meat, and of abstractions; poems of love lost and laughs had; songs about living on Venus and cold beer at five; homemade wine and an olive orchard in the backyard. It’s Umbra Institute’s own Bill Pettit. Professor Pettit is known here in Perugia as the affable and patient painting and drawing teacher who spends long hours with his students in Umbra’s art studio in Via Danzetta. A quick look at Pettit’s website, however, shows that this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
An American living for the last five years in Italy, Pettit graduated with an MFA in Painting from Tyler School of Art, but after a long period of residences in various artistic locales like New York City, Martha’s Vineyard, and Rome, he has now settled in a small town in the north of the region of Lazio, just across the border with Umbria. Bill has been a professor with Umbra for the last six years, teaching at various times both drawing and photography in addition to painting. While he’s having an opening next month at a prestigious Parisian (Parisian, not Perugian!) gallery, Pettit’s latest accolade is becoming a father – congratulazioni e auguri!
Today I had one of the best experiences of my Italian adventure. We didn’t take a train anywhere. In fact, our destination was about a twenty minute walk from our school. There were no famous pieces of art or history where we ended up. It was an Italian elementary school, where we had an hour to observe and talk to the students.
I love working with kids. I did a bit of student teaching fall semester last year in a kindergarten classroom, volunteered in a third grade room all last year, and spent last May in Chicago in a high school. (Not to mention working with children all summer long at camp!) Needless to say, I was really missing that part of my life over here.
However, this morning we had the opportunity to go in to talk to third graders about schools in America and ask them questions about their own. Talk about overwhelming! Kids at that age are stressful enough. Add in the fact that they’re talking a mile a minute in a language you’re far from fluent in and that discipline is FAR more lax in Italy…all six of us were immediately wondering what our professor had gotten us into as soon as we arrived. But as we stood there in the doorway, debating what in the world to do, all of the kids turned around and greeted us, with huge smiles, “GOOD MORNING!” It was adorable.
We situated ourselves in front of the class, and the teacher, who spoke a fair amount of English, explained that they wanted to introduce themselves. So they went around the room, saying their names, then, with a slightly hesitant (but excited) glance at each other, all chimed out at the same time, “What’s YOUR name?” It was obvious they had been taught a few key phrases before we arrived and were eager to try them out with REAL Americans.
The six of us introduced ourselves and then performed a short skit demonstrating a typical day in an American elementary school. Our plan was then to ask if the students had any questions, have the “maestra” translate, and then ask the question back to get an idea about the Italian school day. However, as soon as we had finished, about five hands shot up and waved eagerly in our faces, another handful of kids simply started shouting out questions, and yet another bunch jumped out of their seats to go talk to a friend across the room or come right up to us with their question. We quickly looked at the teacher, who looked completely nonplussed by the behavior, and nodded at us to go walk around the room to talk to individuals. I’m sure it was the most amusing thing in the world for these nine year olds to hear students in their 20s stumbling over asking basic questions in Italian like, “How do you get to school?” They were absolutely adorable though, and completely in awe of us and everything we said or did.
After our skit, the students were so excited; they wanted to put on their OWN skit for us about their own school day. So they did just that.
The kids were incredibly animated. The stereotype that Italians are overly enthusiastic when it comes to gesturing and using their hands while talking is completely true–even in children. When the teacher explained we would be doing a skit, one little boy, Filippo, clapped his hands together and shouted, “Oh, BELLO!” When we finished, he kissed his fingers dramatically and cried out, “Elision, bellissimo!”
Our hour flew by, much to our disappointment. We all wanted to stay for much longer. The teacher told us that the class is putting on a school play in December and we’re invited. We can’t wait. As we waved ciao to the class, they all eagerly called out “goodbye!” to us. Is there really any better way to start a day? I didn’t think so.
Chocolate lovers from all over Italy and Europe descended on Perugia this weekend as the thirteenth annual Eurochocolate festival began on Saturday. Eurochocolate is a ten day chocolate festival where vendors from all over Europe exhibit their newest chocolate creations as well as classic favorites. Many companies from Switzerland and Holland as well as local companies such as Perugina and Augusta Perusia display their chocolates as tens of thousands of people crowd the center.
Exhibits include chocolate sculptures, a six-foot wall made of chocolate, as well as panels and discussions with chocolate makers. Perugina unveiled their new Bacio chocolate, flavored with cherry to go along with their classic hazelnut flavored Bacio. Needless to say, students are enjoying hot chocolate, churros con cioccolato, even chocolate with Habanero peppers.
Umbra alumna, Julia Gabrick, an all-year student from 2004-2005 is back in Italy. This time, though, it’s not as a student but as a teacher. Julia will be working as a language assistant teaching English at a local high school in Lago di Garda, in northern Italy, in the region of Lombardia.
Julia found out about the opportunity through one of her Italian professors back home. The region of Lombardy offers internships to recent graduates who have a good understanding of the Italian language. Julia’s teaching stint will start in January and end in May. She’ll be in a homestay so that she will get plenty of practicing the Italian language that she loves so much. “I just can’t ever seem to get enough of Italy,” says Ms. Gabrick.
Julia graduated with a degree in European Studies from Mount Holyoke. We’re glad to have you back on the Vecchio Continente, Julia!
In Photo: Lake Garda
>“Founding libraries is like once again building public granaries, amassing reserves against a winter of the spirit which from many reports, my own included, I see coming.”
- Marguerite Yourcenar, Memorie di Adriano
A library is a special place, a room that holds centuries’ worth of knowledge – beauty of many literary traditions, the copious annals of history and the fruits of intellectual and moral progress. Lest we forget, it’s also a quiet place to read, reflect and put our thoughts together in an orderly, logical manner.
The Umbra Institute is proud of its library, and rightly so, we say. Started over five years ago in the corner of a classroom with just a few dozen books, it now occupies two large central rooms in the Palazzo Danzetta, Umbra’s newest building in the historic center of Perugia on Via Mazzini.
The collection has a wide range of titles, from art history to the latest texts in international business practices. The Umbra library’s latest and most beautiful acquisitions, however, are the complete Codex Atlanticus and Codex Madrid, two extremely rare collections of many of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks, including drawings, sketches and writings on a wide range of subjects all in da Vinci’s characteristic reverse handwriting. The Codex also feature modernized transcriptions of the texts and commentaries which will help students to benefit from da Vinci’s extraordinary intellect.
“Experentiae docet”, learning from experience, as the Umbra logo says. In Via Mazzini, Umbra students from all over the US and Italy learn from experiencing the best writers the world has to offer.
How long does it take to cook a pizza in a wood-burning oven? Who is the pizza Margherita named after? Do Italian pizzaioli (pizza makers) really throw the pizzas in the air? If you answered “about two minutes, Queen Margherita of Italy, and of course not” you might have been at the Umbra pizza night the other night, as these were among the questions that were bandied around between students and staff.
Pizza has obscure origins, mostly because flat bread baked with vegetables on top is a recipe common to many early cuisines around the Mediterranean basin. But pizza as we know it started in Naples, in southern Italy many years ago. It was poor man’s food until the Queen of Italy, the famous Margherita, decided she could not resist the delicacy. She noted also the color combination of the red-white-green made from the tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and basil, which of course was and is the color of the Italian flag. She hired her own pizza chef, and soon pizza became all the rage and defined itself as the food that symbolized Italy.
Nealy all pizzerias in Italy make their pizzas in wood-fired ovens which creates a unique and of course incredibly delicious taste…and that’s Umbra and local students got to savor this past Thursday at the traditional and monthly Umbra Pizza Night.
Winter is getting closer, and on the streets you can smell the intense perfume of those golden chestnuts, hinting that Christmas is coming. It’s also time for the new wine, the vino novello. That will be the theme for the last Tandem at The Umbra Institute: two hours roasting chestnuts, tasting the new wine from Sicily, Umbria, and Tuscany, and mixing Italian and English to improve a foreign tongue. Tandem, Umbra’s Language Exchange Program, is going to end for this semester. We’ll see you next time to say goodbye to your Italian friends at the last Tandem Night.
>It was an intense and beautiful trip that took Umbra students from the little Perugian train station to the enormous one in Milan (with a stop-off in Florence). The subject of the trip was Leonardo DaVinci and Umbra’s own internationally renowned Leonardo expert Michael Kwakkelstein guided the students through all the genius of Leonardo. The whirlwind tour included six museums, from the Florence Uffizi to the Last Supper in Milan- students not only gazed at the masterpieces of art but also got the chance to play with wooden models at the Galleria di Leonardo. Even an unofficial fan club for the professor was created on Facebook by one of the students of the DaVinci class. Jen Keehner, the moderator, explained: “…with one look with those piercing blue eyes and a witty comment in that crazy accent, Michael makes all of our days (and lives) a little bit better.” … “I think we can all agree that we experienced a life-changing event on our field trip to Florence and Milan.”
Above: two moments of the field trip in Florence and Milan in different museums.