Monthly Archives: February 2009
With mid-terms coming to an end, (HOORAY!) and spring break fast approaching (HIP-HIP HOORAY!) we know that many of you Umbra students will leave your text books behind for the week and head out of Italy on an adventure across Europe.
As you’ve probably already had the opportunity to experience this semester, Italy’s central European location makes jetting off to popular destinations like Paris and Prague pretty easy. From Perugia, you’ll take a two-hour bus or train ride to Rome where you’ll hop on a low-cost airline which will take you to your chosen destination.
Depending on where you’re going, you’ll probably experience even more means of transportation once you arrive. If you’re going to Paris, you’ll hop on the metro. If you’re in London, you’ll “mind the gap” and get on the tube. If you’re going to be in Amsterdam, you’ll see that bicycles are a popular choice for getting around. And if you go to Greece or Croatia, you’ve probably got a few ferries to catch.
Wherever this break may take you, from Croatia or the Canary Islands, happy trails and safe travel to you!
Thursday night, after a long day of Italian mid-terms, seventeen Umbra Students (as well as two staff members, Paul Schiller and Zach Nowak) headed to the soothing waters of the hot springs in San Casciano. The event was just what the doctor ordered after the stress of studying and bitter cold weather (not to mention snow) in Perugia, the relaxing hours in the hot thermals was the reward for the student’s hard work and definitely the week’s high point. The hot springs, nestled in a valley below the medieval town of San Casciano, are free and open to the public. The hot water bubbles up and is channeled into two large pools where bathers can sit back, relax, and see all the sky’s stars.
Umbra students are constantly on the move. Visiting cities and sites all over Italy and adventuring through Europe as well. With Spring Break just around the corner, students have already began to get their feet wet by traveling to some popular destinations. Below is an excerpt from Umbra students Erin Costello and Chris Smith about their time spent in London:
If you have at all thought about going to London, we highly recommend it.
We know this is something that’s always said, but there are so many interesting sights in London and there’s something for everyone to do. We saw Big Ben, Parliament, The London Eye, Platform 9 3/4 (oh yes), the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, the Rosetta stone at the British Museum, the Tower Bridge, Kensington Gardens, Notting Hill, and other things that would make this sentence even harder to get through. Oh, we should mention that all of this was for free.
We also ran into a parade complete with children on stilts and double-decker buses filled with elderly ladies from the Red Hat Society. In Notting Hill we came across the most delicious hot chocolate we’ve ever had. One night we were even able to ride the swings in a carnival which we stumbled upon in Covent Garden.
London is a fantastic city to visit. It was amazing to get to see so many things that are so well known throughout the world.
Text and photos contributed by Erin Costello and Chris Smith of Northeastern University.
The third in a series of wine tasting concluded yesterday evening at local enoteca Enone. Professional sommelier, Silva Bartolini, was on hand to guide the students through the wine tasting. All the tastings consisted of local Umbrian wines (one white, one red and one sweet) paired with food (parmesan, mortadella and a fritatta). Silvia discussed the three forms of analysis-visual, olfactory and tasting. Then the students had a go at it themselves, some smelling berries, pine and flowers in the wine. Silvia dicussed the process of making wine, how to open a bottle and which glasses are correct for each one.
Why have such a distinguished people like the Italians chosen to represent themselves through their cuisine? Why could a humble food like pasta advance to become the most “Italian” food item? Umbra Professor Peter Fischer (History and Culture of Food in Italy) posed (and answered) these questions and others last night in his lecture. Fischer argued that starting with Artusi and his historical project of a “culinary Risorgimento” over the definition of a unified Italian cuisine in the Little Italies of early 20th century America, up to the development of a pronounced culinary conservatism in post WWII Italy, the construction of a common Italian culinary identity became the nucleus around which Italians where able to create a sense of distinction and resistance to cultural assimilation in a modernizing and globalizing world.
The lecture was well-attended by both Umbra students and faculty, as well as by the public. The lecture was part of a series, a collaboration between the Umbra Institute and a local foundation.
Traditionally, during Lent, parties and feasts were prohibited. The last days before the beginning of Lent were the opportunity to eat and drink and make merry, and this became known as Carnival. There are differing interpretations but the most likely etymology is carne vale, “goodbye to meat,” as the eating of meat was forbidden during Lent as well. Though Americans have Venice in their mind as the spot for Carnival, in reality the Italian city of Viareggio’s carnival is the most frequented by Italians themselves (and this year will be by Umbra students as well!). But for those studying that week of Martedì Grasso (Mardi Gras), there will be a number of Carnival celebrations in Umbria too
The Seattle Channel released a video of Perugia, Italy, and its relation to the American sister city of Seattle, Washington. This video traces the history of Perugia back to the Etruscans, while also exploring issues of modernization in the city. Spend 26 minutes with host Mike James to learn more about the city, people, art, music, food, and shopping which provide the “human side of life” in Perugia.
Did you ever wonder where coffee houses acquire the names for all those beverages with the double consonants? You guessed it, Italy! Although Italy does not actually grow the bitter red bean, Italians have no problem boasting the best coffee. When bringing this small matter to their attention, they reply that it is their coffee machines that process the ground to its finest contextual flavor.
Due to cultural differences, study abroad students often feel the pull of simple absences in their daily routines. Dependent on their American coffee-house chains, café grandes, and the typical heavier breakfasts, the morning routine may be one of the hardest to readjust for Americans. In Italy the morning breakfast norm is a simple pastry and a cappuccino, or an espresso (shot of strong coffee). But beyond those two, there is a myriad of other combinations of formed from the essential ingredients: ground coffee beans, hot water, and milk – not to mention lots of rules when to drink which one.
Last night at Caffè di Roma (led by Umbra staff member Paul Schiller) some students enjoyed un caffè all’italiana! Armed with their new vocabulary, they learned how to order like an Italian and which robust gusto they preferred.
There was also a short demonstration on how to use a caffetiere (the typical Italian stovetop coffee maker, and a curious-looking object that most students have in their own apartments) in order to make their daily bright-eye brew. The workshop also enlightened participants briefly on the subject of coffee’s absolutely non-banal history and history in Italy. If you want to know more, click here for a short essay on coffee.