Monthly Archives: October 2008
Wednesday night American and Italian students braved the rain and thunder to come together for another meeting of the TANDEM language exchange. This weekly program, organized by the Umbra Institute, brings American students together with Italian students wanting to learn English. And since Umbra students have been eagerly following the election news from the States this semester, what better way to start the conversations this week than a discussion of the political differences between Italy and America? How many political parties participate, why does Italy have both a prime minister and president, and why does Ralph Nader always run for president? Students talked about these and other issues while enjoying nutella and its perfect complement, alta mura bread from Puglia, a region in the south of Italy. As always, the result was a noisy room with clusters of students speaking in two languages to each other – and with very sticky fingers!
Every year from November 1st through the 5th, Perugia hosts a local fair, Fiera dei Morti, in celebration of “Tutti Santi” or All Saints Day.
This year, the fair will be held as usual, down at Pian di Massiano, near the stadium as well as in the historical city center. At the stadium they’ll have the usual rides, fair foods and gigantic market where you can find clothes, home goods, local specialties as well as other foods from around Italy. The market continues into the city center with stands in Piazza della Repubblica, Piazza Matteotti, along Via Indipenenza and down Via Oberdan.
Take the mini-metro down and get off at the last stop “Pian di Massiano” to ride the rides and see the sprawling market. Otherwise stop off in Perugia’s main piazzas to browse around. But don’t miss out, it only lasts five days!
In November 1907, with 70,000 lire in initial capital (about $35.00), the Perugina Chocolate Company was founded. From humble beginnings in a small kitchen in Perugia’s historical center, the Perugina grew to its current huge size. Though “la Perugina” has had many successful marketing campaigns, the most famous is the “bacio.” Literally a “kiss” the bacio is chocolate-covered nougat with a hazelnut on top – but the best part is the message. Wrapped around each bacio is a little sheet of waxed paper with famous quotes about love in four or five different languages. “A kiss is forever. – Un bacio è per sempre.”
La Perugina will of course be present at next week’s chocolate festival. Eurochocolate, Perugia’s counterbalance to the summer’s Umbria Jazz Festival, begins on October 18th. An eight-day frenzy of chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, the festival draws hundreds of thousands of people from all over northern and central Italy and beyond. Umbra Institute students, though on their Fall Break, will have time to sample chocolate-covered bananas, hot-pepper chocolate, and…a bacio from la Perugina!
Frescoes are everpresent in Italy, and practically everyone gets to the point that they wouldn’t cross a street to see another “early work of a minor Tuscan master.” But who wouldn’t cross a room to make a fresco? Like the new fresco room in Umbra’s Bartolo building. Umbra’s newest course, taught by Professor Bill Pettit, instructs students in the classic Italian buon fresco techniques. Have you ever seen the Sistine Chapel and wanted to give painting on fresh plaster a try? If so, check out the course description!
In Italian the word for tongue and language, is one and the same: lingua. That’s why, in addition to the week of Intensive Italian and the obligatory Italian classes, the Umbra Institute sponsors the Tandem program. Run by staff members Mauro Renna and Rachel Bethany, the Tandem program is a sort of mixer where American students and their counterparts from Perugia’s universities get to know each other. The low-pressure environment and activities often lead to friendships that last the whole semester and even beyond – it’s not uncommon for Umbra alumni returning to Perugia to visit the friends they made in Tandem! Last night students met for the second meeting at the Cinastik Enoteca on Via dei Priori, just up the street from Umbra I. Conversations flowed long past the official end of the event… perhaps tongues were loosened just a bit by the wine and prosecco aperitivo.
The obvious translation of this sentence is, “A coffee, please,” but if you’re expecting a Starbucks-size jug o’ Joe, you’ll be surprised in Italy. The standard coffee here is the espresso, made with hot steam (no drips!) and a very fine grind. Oh, and you’ll get about three quarters of a shot glass full of liquid, so take small sips – or do as the Italians do and throw it back in one gulp. This facts and more were the basis of last night’s Coffee Safari, one of the Umbra Institute’s series of food workshops. Students learned not only about coffee’s botany and history but also about the biochemistry of roasting. The best part, though, was the coffee. After learning the differences, students tried caffè macchiato, un marocchino, even the meringato. The next workshop in the food series is the Olive Harvest – see Zach or Mauro for details.