Monthly Archives: September 2008
Anyone who speaks English can finish this phrase: “Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffit, …” but what are curds and whey? Students who participated in last night’s Cheese Workshop learned just that. The first part of the workshop was the nerdy, theoretical part: the chemical content of milk, why cheese made sense for early pastoralists, and how ageing cheese changes its flavor. The second part, however, was the delicious part! Students tried a number of cheeses – softstracchino, creamy chevre, mozzarella made from buffalo milk, aged pecorino, and parmesan’s cousin, grana padano, to name just a few – and learned about their use in Italian cooking. These workshops are part of Umbra’s effort to offer cultural enrichment both inside and outside of the classroom. The next workshop (about the history of coffee in Italy) is next Tuesday.
Summer is over, and the next season is here. Italian uses autunno, from earlier Latin autumnus, a word probably of Etruscan origin. In American English the word for this season is Fall, while Brits use Autumn (though “Harvest” was the English name for the season until autumn began to displace it 16c). Call it what you will, the mild season is here. Despite the heat of the first few days of the semester, Fall has now arrived in Umbria. Students who spent this past weekend in Cinque Terre (five picturesque little fishing villages on Italy’s Ligurian coast) enjoyed perhaps the last opportunity to take a jump in the Mediterranean.
This morning the temperatures were low enough to make long sleeves obligatory, and one could see people in sweaters in Corso Vannucci (to see Perugia’s webcam, click here), though afternoons are still around eighty degrees. Luckily for Umbra students, Fall in Umbria is sunny and mild, and soon Perugia will host both a chocolate festival and the festival of the new wine. Buon autunno!
Did you know that some of the best dessert wines come from a special kind of mold growing on the grape vines? A group of twenty Umbra students learned this and some of the basics of wine making and tasting from Sommelier Sylvia Bartolini this past Monday evening at the Enone wine bar. After braving the unseasonably cold and rainy weather during the walk down to Corso Cavour, students warmed their palettes with three glasses of typical Umbrian wines and a plate of bruschette and small gusti. After examining the colors and smells (black cherry? peach? toothpaste?!) of the 2006 Fanini Robbiano Chardonnay, 2004 Antonelli Montefalco Rosso Riserva, and 2005 Lungarotti Dulcis, the Montefalco Rosso won out as the favorite wine of the evening, pairing nicely with the bruschetta as well as the heavier mortadella and cheese.
There’s no better way to get to know a city than taking a tour…or three! The Umbra Institute offers three different tours to its home city, Perugia. The first is during Orientation, and is a practical walking tour, focusing on pharmacies, the post office, and ATMs. The second, led by Prof. Paola Chiarulla, is a historical tour which gives students a sound background in Perugian and central Italian history. The third tour, though, is pure entertainment. Led by staff member Zach Nowak, the “Perugia Nooks & Crannies Tour” is purely entertainment, though there is some real Perugia history mixed in. Students followed Nowak through back alleys to spectacular panoramas yesterday, and heard about Why Perugia Bread Tastes Terrible (a result of the Salt War), the Aqueduct That Brought No Water, and Alexander Dumas And The Carabinieri. A reprise of the tour will be held later in the semester.
Seven hundred year birthdays are not uncommon in Italy, but yesterday was a special one for Perugia. The University of Perugia celebrated, with great pomp, its founding on September 8th, 1308. The University, the fifth-oldest in Italy, was originally chartered by the Pope but had as one of its lectors none other than Galileo Galilei. The festivities yesterday were in Perugia’s main square, where flagspeople in medieval garb and speeches in Latin (then translated into Italian) added to the mood. A number of Umbra students, in the piazza mostly by chance after their afternoon Italian lessons, looked on with their Italian counterparts and of course the Perugians. The Umbra Institute wishes a happy birthday to its Italian counterpart here in Perugia, and hopes to continue its tradition of cooperation and exchange. Buon compleanno, Uni!!!
This week the halls of the Umbra Institute are humming from early morning (early at least by college student standards) to late afternoon. You won’t hear “Where’s Classroom 2?” or “Wanna go for pizza?” but rather “Dov’è Aula 2?” and “Andiamo per una pizza?” Some of this semester’s student body have never had an Italian course, and given that they’re on a “crash course” with Italian culture, the first week of classes are all dedicated to “survival Italian.”
Multiple hours a day of lectures and interactive activities prepare students for a variety of situations. How do you read the schedule for the Perugian buses? How many grams of prosciutto do you need for two sandwiches? What size shoe do I wear? These basic concepts are the focus of this week’s lessons, aimed at developing grammar and vocabulary for practical use. Benvenuti!!!!
Yesterday’s Orientation for the Umbra Institute’s Fall semester was in the Oratory of Saint Cecilia, a beautiful chapel next to the just-renovated San Filippo Neri Church. In the Catholic tradition in Italy, an oratory was an unconsecrated building where the faithful gathered to concentrate themselves on prayer before the actual mass in the next-door church. It was somewhat appropriate today that students and staff met in such a building to center themselves and prepare for the important academic (and spiritual, in the larger sense) journey that they will have this semester.
The Orientation began with a greeting from the staff, after which each member introduced him or herself. Orientation is supposed to both energize the students for the semester and answer questions that may be common to all. Themes covered included academic policies, free time and extracurriculars, and travel. Special guest Chief Inspector Michele Caneschi of Florence was also present and talked at length to the student body about health and safety, and how to be streetsmart in Italy. The orientation concluded with an exhortation to study hard and learn both inside and outside of the classroom.