Monthly Archives: March 2009
Yesterday was the second edition of the Umbra Institute’s Pizza Workshop. Staff member Zach Nowak led fourteen students through Perugia’s back alleys to the little neighborhood pizzeria, Pizza e Musica. The first part of the night was what Nowak himself defined as the “nerdy part”: he described the history of pizza, especially how it took off in the States after returning soldiers brought back the hunger for a Margherita. Then master pizzaiolo Felice showed the students how to actually make pizza, extending the doughball on the marble counter and pulling it out to a nice flat disc before popping it in the oven. And after the lesson to eat! All the participants had a Neapolitan pizza, dessert, and…caffè!
While most often associated with Florence, the city at the center of the Italian Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci spent 17 years early in his career working for the Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan. This past weekend Umbra Students taking the Special Topics in Art History: Leonardo Da Vinci course left Perugia for a field trip to see some of da Vinci’s most celebrated works in Italy. When Da Vinci left Florence in 1482 to go to Milan, he left behind his unfinished first commission, the Adoration of the Magi. Students visited the Uffizi Gallery in Florence Friday to see this piece, and then hopped back on the bus for a sunset drive past the rolling landscapes of Italy’s breadbasket, the Po River Valley. First thing Saturday morning, students had a chance to see one of da Vinci’s most precious works, the Last Supper at the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie.
As one of the great innovators of his time, da Vinci had a habit of constantly inventing and trying out new methods for fresco painting. Unfortunately, the technique da Vinci used to paint the Last Supper for his patron Duke Ludovico Sforza was not one of his great successes, and the fresco has undergone numerous restorations over the years in an effort to preserve what little remains. Visitors may only enter in groups of 15 at a time, and must enter the room through a serious of vaccuum-sealed glass doorways to maintain a precise level of humidity in the former dining room of the convent. Despite the tight security, the Last Supper remains a truly impressive piece, and students all agreed it was worth the early wake-up on a Saturday morning.
After leaving Santa Maria delle Grazie, the class spent the rest of the first day of spring under a perfect sunny sky day taking in the Milan Cathedral, the Sforza Castle, and the first gorgeous day of spring in Milan.
Da Vinci students posing with Professor Adrian Hoch in front of the fountain at the Sforza Castle in Milan.
Louis Daguerre announced the perfection of the “daguerreotype,” the first photograph, on 7 January 1839, and as he recounted the procedure, notes about it were relayed by people in the hall of the French Academy of Sciences to those outside and people were making their own daguerrotypes by that night. For years the Umbra Institute had its own darkroom in Via Danzetta, where students would transfer photographic paper from one tray of chemicals to another, in a process not too radically different from Daguerre’s.
But the Millenium and its technological wonders have caught up with this. The daguerrotype gave way to the cyanotype, the cyanotype was replaced the wet plate process, and in 1884 George Eastman (the founder of Kodak), developed film…and that’s where we’ve been ever since. Until Fall 2008, when the Umbra Institute made the switch to digital photography. Professor Philippa Stannard now teaches two courses, beginner and advanced, and instead of dodging and burning under an enlarger, students use these tools in Photoshop. The result? We think you’ll agree that it’s spectacular.
1. Louis Daguerre 1844. 2. “Boulevard du Temple”, taken by Daguerre in late 1838 in Paris, was the first photograph of a person. The image shows a busy street, but because exposure time was over ten minutes, the traffic was moving too much to appear. The exception is the man at the bottom left, who stood still getting his boots polished long enough to show. 3. “Untitled” photo by Umbra Alumni Jennifer Dirvianskis.
Last week Mary Danahy, Linda Moore, and Bethany O’Connell took a mini-bus down to the Perugia airport (one terminal, two check-in desks) and flew to London’s Stanstead airport (three terminals, about seventy check-in desks). Like Grand Tourists of centuries past, the ladies saw all there was to see: Big Ben, the London Eye, the Big Red Bus tour, and of course some of the City’s best pubs and best fish and chips. Yum. But that happy journey had to come to an end and, like all the rest of the Umbra Institute’s students, they have come back to Perugia to hit the books again. A consolation, though, is that the chilly weather has broken and Spring, if not quite upon us, seems around the corner. Sunny days on the cathedral’s Steps aren’t too far away!
Congratulations to Christine Mallia from Elon University for her photo of “Love Locks.” Christine will enjoy a free meal from Quattro Passi Pizzeria. Auguri!
As tired eyes and sore feet descend back “home” to Perugia, stories fill small Italian kitchens over boiling pots of pasta. Umbra Institute’s Spring Break 2009 has come and gone, leaving little undiscovered and even smaller amounts in our bank accounts [eek!].
If Spring Break was anything it was a wakeup call in the best way possible. WAKE UP EVERYONE! This experience is half way over, its funny – I feel like just yesterday all of us were bleary eyed and overly sensitive barely uttering things like “ciao.” Now, not a day passes where I don’t see Umbra students fully immersed in true Perugian culture- lunch on the steps, strolling at night, cappuccino’s and conversation with locals, and no one is still wondering if this whole “la pausa” thing is a joke. We’ve acclimated and learned, taught one another and more importantly allowed Italy to change each of us.
Half way there, after this week it’ll be officially more than half, while some may be eager to head home and see loved ones, I know that undoubtedly most of us will be sad to say goodbye to the city that we fell in love with, the country that stole our hearts, and the continent that changed us.
We’ve made new friends, been new places, spoken new languages, and done things that most will never be able to say they had the opportunity to try – and while ‘half way there’ may surprise you, above all else I hope it wakes you up tomorrow morning with a little pep in your step, a little bit more Italian accent in your voice, because after all… the Italian compositions, business presentations, the papers and flashcards won’t be what we remember most, what we remember most about what we learn, is how we learned it, used it, and ultimately – where it all happened.
So make the most of your final weeks in Perugia everyone, and to our loved one’s back home- we miss you, but we will always have you – we won’t always have Perugia.
Written by Kalin Franks of Columbia College in Chicago