Monthly Archives: January 2008
Perugia has always been on the avant-garde of public transport. In the early eighties the city built a series of parking lots around the base of the hill on whichPerugia stands, where people could leave their cars and go up on escalators.Perugia’s newest innovation is the MiniMetrò, a light rail system that extends from the valley below the city, past the train station, and on up to the center. The MiniMetrò was inaugurated on 29 January, the feast day of the most important of Perugia’s three patron saints, San Costanzo. It was a marvelously sunny day, the normal January weather, and everyone was in good spirits. The light rail was free for the day and many citizens and many “temporary citizens” (like the Umbra students) had a ride and even a free piece of San Costanzo cake (a fruitcake called torcolo). One of the stations is right below Umbra’s Via dei Priori building, so students can go right down the escalators and off to the train station!
One in a series of food adventures, the Coffee Safari, took place last week.Coffee is not only a drink inItaly, it’s a passion…and Italians have a series of cultural “rules” about how to drink it. After a brief tutorial on the botany, history, and economics of coffee, students were taken on a roundabout tour of Perugia’s many cafés. The tour ended at the Caffè di Roma, where the waiters brought out a variety of different coffees, whose significances in Italian culture were explained. For example, the cappuccino, which Americans consider the hallmark Italian coffee, is only drunk in Italy until eleven o’clock, and then only with a croissant. Hopefully students went away with a better sense of their favorite morning drinks!
Umbra inaugurated its new “season” of the Tandem language-exchange program with a double-header of mixer and aperitivo. The first part of the night’s program took place in Umbra’s Via Marzia facility, where American and Italian students met each other and broke up into groups where relaxed conversation drifted from Italian to Englilsh and back to Italian again, depending on the subject. After the mixer both groups of students were invited to a local restaurant, Eden, to eat an abundant before-dinner apertif, though students claimed that the abundant portions of spelt-salad, oven-roasted potatoes, prosciutto, and Umbrian cheeses and salami were plenty for their evening meal. The Tandem program will have its next meeting on Wednesday, January 30.
In photo: Umbra students gather for the first TANDEM language exchange program. In photo, at left, is visiting University of Perugia student and current Umbra intern, Marijana Gudelj.
Forza Grifo! Perugia played host to a determined Sorrento last Sunday, the hometown griffons unable to fight back from a goal down to capture a point. It was a sad day for the club, but a lively introduction for the seven Umbra students who watched the game, foul weather and all. One of the new fans, Caitlin McCarthy, who until then hadn’t experienced Italy’s national passion, had this to say about the match:
“I absolutely loved going to the Perugia soccer game this weekend! It was one of my favorite experiences in Italy so far. Although Perugia lost, they never gave up. With five minutes left in the game, Perugia shot the ball and almost scored at least four times. One shot was punched out by the Sorrento goal keeper, then it was shot again from the top of the box… it hit the cross bar! The crowd was crazy…but that was probably one of the most fun parts about it. Perugia Calcio has found itself a new #1 fan… I plan on going to as many home games as I can for the rest of my time here!”
(pictured above: Umbra students Kat Black and Paige Hannah)
Interested in Perugia’s squad? Check out the link: www.perugiacalciospa.it
As Umbrian food expert Andrea Mecozzi says, the best way to get to know a city is to taste it. Last night more thantwenty-five Umbra students went to a unique Perugian restaurant, Al Mangiar Bene, which uses only organic and local foods. Mecozzi (who, as he pats his belly, insists he’s not an expert but rather “just likes to eat”) explained where the Perugian area fits into Italian gastronomic regionalism – this just after he had said that there is no such thing as “Italian cuisine” but rather only lots of regional cuisines.
After this brief introduction students got right down to the eating. First out were two unsalted Umbrian breads, pane sciapo and the famous torta al testo (the latter cooked on round, flat pieces of stone), followed directly by a variety of cold cuts, among them prosciutto andcoppa. Patè was next, followed by tripe (students liked it, then reconsidered when they found out what it was) and two pasta dishes.These were tagliatelle (a long, wide pasta whose name comes fromtagliare, “to cut”) with duck sauce, and the typical Umbrian worm-like pasta, umbricelli.
Students were not left to go thirsty, and wine included an organic, unfiltered Grecchetto, once again typical for the region, and a national premier of the Fragolino Bianco, which tasted strongly of strawberries. Mecozzi finished up with the Perugian dessert cake torcolo (made in honor of San Costanzo), and told a story about Perugia’s patron saint to be celebrated on January 29.
When you walk down Corso Vannucci for the first time, something changes. It’s that simple. Perugia, for reasons that become obvious when you study here for four months, or a year, or a summer, has a wonderful charm that captures a part of you, that changes you. And when you leave, all you can think about is coming back, when you’ll make the return journey to that Etruscan home away from home.
“Whether for a semester, a year, or summer everyone finds their ownspecial meaning of their time here in Perugia, Italy. Coming back to the place, that still to this day, enriches my life in everyway, I find Perugia just as I had left it, in the fall of 2006. Right now I am currently studying fine arts for a month in London and had a couple of vacation days, which gave me the opportunity to travel back to Perugia.
Granted, there is more construction happening throughout the city and updates that have been made to the Umbra Institute, but there is still something special about this place that I cannot put into words. However, if you ask any alumni about their experience at Umbra you will probably be overwhelmed by the stories they tell you of specific teachers they had, nights out on the town, traveling on the weekends with friends to various cities in Italy or even the Italian friends they met while studying abroad. For me Perugia means home, comfort, laughter, friends, family but most importantly Perugia means living the simplicity of life. Here as a student I learned about who I was and who I wanted to become, which I only hope that for you are able to find some sort of significance to this special place I called home for almost 4 months.
Until I return again, for Quattro Passi pizza, the endless array of pasta, gelato and pastries to name a few, I trust that you find Perugia in your own way, a part of your college experience, to be the best months of your life. Seize every moment you have and take the time to get lost in the city. I say take a winding road here and follow it because you never know where you might end up. Who knows it might just be what you have yearned for all along.”
Hilaire Pickett, in photo (left) with her Perugia roommates, is currently a senior at Elon University. You may read her profile, and those of other former Umbra students, by clicking here.
Sometimes Italian experiences happen almost by accident. Umbra staff member Zach Now has been fiddling for years with Italian foods, but decided last year to try his hand at prosciutto, a type of cured ham that sits almost as high on the Italians list of favorite culinary delights, as the perpetually classic pizza.
Last January Zach prepared his ham according to his butcher’s recipe and, after the requisite forty days under salt, hung it up in his attic to cure.
In talking with new students last week, it stuck Zach that it was almost time to make the new prosciutto, and try out the one that had been waiting patiently for almost a year in his apartment’s dark attic. After mentioning this, a number of students voiced their desire to engage in this time honored tradition Italian tradition. The result? Last week Zach and four Umbra students (Andrew Ward, Kelsey Naro, Nicholas Todd, and Katherine Wiseman) rubbed down a thirty pound fresh ham with salt and put it up in the cold recesses of Zach’s attic and then, with much ado, helped sample the January 2007 ham, now a certified prosciutto. Even though it was a smidge saltier than might have been hoped, the ham had a savory taste. That night’s table hosted a fabulous meal: rigatoni with a prosciutto-pea-cream sauce. Buon appetito!
In 1717 the leading Perugian noble families decided that Perugia would always be a backwater provincial town if it didn’t have an opera house. They pooled their money and built the Teatro del Pavone, the Peacock Theater, which was the exclusive preserve of the upper class until the building of the other local theater, Teatro Morlacchi. The Pavone was renovated once in 1848 and again in the 1980s but is more or less as it was in the early eighteenth century: a beautiful opera house with four horseshoe-shaped ordini(levels) of box seats, an orchestra below, and a grand wooden stage. Don’t miss the peacock above the stage, either!
Umbra students usually fall in love with the Pavone one of the first Monday evenings of the semester. The Pavone opens the week with a movie in original language, mostly English, for the movie crowds in Perugia. Students are amazed at the experience of watching a movie in an environment without concession stands, stadium seating, but then again, tickets are only 4 Euro. It is all about having new (and sometimes a little less high-tech) experiences. See you at the movies!
Unseasonly mediocre weather has dampened spirits around Perugia these days and so staff member Zach Nowak did not expect much of a turnout for his Perugia Nooks & Crannies Tour. The guided tour intentionally eschews discussions of art and political history, focusing instead on anecdotes and entertaining stories about Perugia’s lesser known inhabitants and visitors. The first tour, which began at noon under persistent rain, was attended by fifteen students. The second, though, had a record fifty-two.
The participants trekked up and down Perugia’s hills and heard stories about the Salt War (subtitled “Why The Bread Here Is Terrible”), Mussolini’s March on Rome (which started at a famous Perugia hotel), and of course the orphanage where so many people named Alunni came from. Nowak will hold his tour one more time next week on Sunday – signups are in Via Mazzini.
In addition to bringing presents to Italian children all over Italy, the Befana (Italy’s kindhearted “Christmas witch”) brought over two hundred students to Perugia this past weekend. Having braved winter storms, trans-Atlantic flights, and fronts of crummy weather here in Italy, Americans from Hawaii to Maine finally climbed the ancient Umbrian hill, settling in to what will be their homes for the next semester.
Students were heartily welcomed by the Director of the Academic Program, Dr. Carol Clark, and the rest of the Umbra staff at the Institute’s Spring 2008 Orientation. After what must have seemed like a blur of practical walking tours, appointments for cell phones, and registration formalities students made for their new apartments, some offering sweeping views of the valley, or even frescoed ceilings.
This week students will complete Umbra’s intensive Italian program, designed to provide practical Italian for everyday life, but regular Umbra events will start soon – keep checking for updates!
In photo above, Danielle Scugoza, Coordinator for Italy programs at Arcadia University’s Center for Education Abroad, joins the Spring 2008 students at Orientation.