Monthly Archives: June 2008
Students in Professor Peter Fischer’s History and Culture of Food class were treated to a day at a Tuscan farm specializing in biodiversity. Students headed to the small Tuscan village of Montespertoli and spent time at the Poggio Antico farm. The community at Poggio Antico use a diversity of plants in order to balance each other out. They concentrate on the harmony between their crops, planets and sun signs and plant certain crops at certain times according to the sun and the stars. After a brief tour and introduction to the bio diverse farm, students were able to taste some of the products. A large spread of cheeses, yogurts and milk was easily finished quickly. The rest of the day was spent dining on a typical Tuscan meal.
Perugia is renowned for its ability to preserve its cultural past. Indeed, when you walk its tiny alleyways, peruse its quaint shops and charming farmers’ markets, you can’t help but feel that time has slowed for this city upon a hill.
But aside from an aesthetic retention of its two millennia plus history, Perugia has also managed to hold onto a plethora of artesienal traditions, which only lend to the city’s sense of Italian authenticity.
As a part of the summer session’s Intensive Italian through Culture program, students are given a tour of these artesienal workshops and crafts guilds, in order to become better acquainted with what their city has to offer.
This morning, students made their first stop just up the street from Umbra’s main academic building, on Via dei Priori, in a small ceramics shop known affectionately in Italian as “Il Pozzo delle Ceramiche Tattichi”. Students crowded into the small but neat and well kept shop, where they were given a demonstration on how exactly the artist-owner, Maria, plied her intricate trade.
And granted, while Maria didn’t have time to finish one of her Deruta-made ceramic pieces, students nonetheless had ample opportunity to see the finished product. Nestled on shelves rested countless gorgeous works of art, all done of course by Maria in her shop.
From there it was onto Perugia’s beloved “rilegatoria”, or book-binding shop, that sits slightly off of a creased tourist map. Here students were guided through the medieval process of bookbinding and leather making, and the “rilegatore” even showed students how to paint the leather bindings, made of goat skin.
The students then set off to the opposite side of Perugia to a hand woven fabric artisan. The Brozetti workshop uses 18th century hand looms (the only in all of Italy who weave fabric by hand) to create beautiful and intricate tablecloths, centerpieces, tassels, etc, out of cotton, linen and even silk. The factory is housed in the church of San Francesco delle Donne and it is a truly magnificent place.
Fortunately, as the students left the Brozetti workshop, some of the bad weather that had hounded the students since they started their journey earlier in the morning moseyed on down the valley, making way for a little bit of summer sun. And how befitting! The last stop of the trek, a chocolate workshop, required a healthy amount of rays, naturally! The shop, Augustia Perusia, is run by a true master of the cocoa bean. Students saw his various tasty wares, and even had the chance to sample some of the fine dark stock. It was a wonderful end to an eye-opening day!
Last Friday Umbra students hopped on a bus bound for Orvieto, without a doubt one of Italy’s most striking cities. Perched on a butte of volcanic tuff and protected by towering vertical walls made from the same stone, the once major center of Etruscan civilization now plays host to one of the greatest examples of Gothic architecture in Europe. Touring Orvieto’s travertine and basalt striped Duomo, with its reaching and magnificent façade surely made for the most breathtaking moment of the day, although the views offered from Orvieto’s looming battlements came in a close second.
Having taken a tour of the city’s historical center, it was off to the small and imminently charming village of Titignano, where students were treated first to a wine tasting, and then to a lunch boasting course after course of traditional Umbrian dishes, which included, among other things, pasta with a wild hare sauce and papardelle with a boar ragù. Contentedly full and certainly ready for a mid-afternoon nap, students boarded the bus and headed back to Perugia. What a day!
(in pictures: a panoramic view of Orvieto; Professor Giampiero Bevagna leads students on a tour of Orvieto, including it’s famous Gothic cathedral)