Yearly Archives: 2012
While the world hovers on the brink of 2013, Umbra faculty and staff members are preparing for the incoming students, who will be met by Umbra staff at the Rome airport, Fiumicino, starting Friday morning. Upon their arrival, students will be whisked away to Perugia on a private bus, and receive orientation packets full of the weekend’s plans before eating an authentic Italian dinner (read: many courses) with their new classmates at the favorite Hotel Gio.
Enjoy the last few hours of 2012, and we look forward to meeting you, new students!
The world did not end yesterday, but the Umbra Institute Fall 2012 semester did.
The last few weeks have seen Umbra students bustling about school and city, cramming for finals, purchasing token Italian gifts, and soaking in their remaining time in Perugia.
Students were offered the opportunity to share what they learned during their semester abroad.
On Dec. 3, Creative Writing students read aloud the stories they labored over all semester before an applauding audience in the Umbra library. Fresco and Digital Photography students displayed their semester’s work at the art show in the Via dei Priori building on Dec. 11. The artists — some of whom had not taken an art class since elementary school — explained their techniques over appetizers and drinks to Umbra faculty, staff, and fellow students. The following day, students who participated in Umbra’s Community Engagement programs presented their experiences to a packed auditorium at the Baroque-style Santa Cecilia Oratorio.
To celebrate all students’ accomplishments, Umbra hosted a farewell aperitivo at the favorite Birraio last Thursday. After taking final group photos in front of the picturesque view behind the local brewery, Umbra students, staff, and faculty reminisced over drinks and appetizers.
A few short hours later, the first wave of students boarded the 1 a.m. bus to the airport in Rome, teary-eyed but happy. The final group of students left Perugia, their temporary home, in similar fashion early this morning.
Thanks for a great semester, Umbra Fall 2012. We wish you happy holidays!
After watching his work in “La Meglio Gioventù” for an Umbra Institute class, students attended a lecture by Italy’s beloved actor Luigi Lo Cascio at l’Università per Stranieri di Perugia last week.
“I stayed the whole time and was able to go get a picture and chat with Luigi a little bit — it was great,” said Effie Morway. “We just finished ‘La Meglio Gioventù’ the day before, so it was amazing to be able to see this famous actor in person right afterwards. He has been in a few of the movies we watched, and we really enjoy his work — he seems quite big in the Italian film world now.”
Morway and her classmates watched the film for Dr. Elgin Eckert’s course, “Blockbusters and Bestsellers: Italian Cinema and Literature of the Twenty-First Century.”
“It was great to see that the Italian cinema and literature course inspired several of my students to move out of their ‘comfort zone’ and attend an academic lecture held in Italian, a language several of them have only begun to study here at Umbra this semester, at an Italian university out of their own initiative,” Eckert said. “Perugia and its two Italian universities offer a lot of great opportunities of this type, and because of its manageable size and the frequent interactions of Umbra Institute’s students with local students, partaking in university classes and special lectures is a distinct possibility.”
During the afternoon on Thanksgiving, the Urban Engagement class worked up an appetite by helping the Borgo Bello Neighborhood Association clean street numbers along Corso Cavour. Alongside Italian volunteers, students took turns climbing the small ladder to scrape the numbered stones clean before applying soap and paint. The Borgo Bello Neighborhood Association taught them how to properly use the tools and the techniques needed to keep from scratching the stones.
The Borgo Bello Neighborhood Association and Umbra students had met before to discuss the regeneration of the neighborhood and the problems and opportunities in such an undertaking. Helping to paint the house numbers brought students even closer to the community and their time volunteered to improving the appearance of Corso Cavour was much appreciated. Even mayor Nilo Arcudi came to thank them!
This Urban Engagement Academic Seminar is led by Professor Giampiero Bevagna and urban planner Raymond Lorenzo. In this course, students focus on urban planning and exploration to understand the relationships between people, places, and values.
While their friends and family ate turkey back home, the Umbra History and Culture of Food course students celebrated Thanksgiving weekend by eating prosciutto and parmigiano reggiano in the celebrated food capital of Parma, Italy.
“Going to Parma during Thanksgiving
Through hands-on tours of family owned factories and cooperatives, the Food Studies students learned about the traditional and complex processes involved in creating some of Italy’s most famed food products.
“This trip was the ultimate foodie experience,” said DePauw University student Madeline Vering. “It’s one thing to hear abou the production of food, but it’s really incredible to see it in action!”
The trip was not complete without a tasting at each of the factories. Students could finally put into practice the curriculum from the classroom and the information they learned on the tours and actually experience the food. The favorite part of the trip was tasting aged parmigiano reggiano and the unfamiliar but decadent treat of balsamic vinegar on top of vanilla ice cream.
“Like the other co-curricular trips, the goal was to learn about the production of these important food products but with a historical-cultural context,” said Food Studies Program Director Zachary Nowak, adding: “And it doesn’t hurt to try some great cheese, prosciutto, and vinegar!”
Editor’s note: This story is by University of Denver student Marisa Pooley, a Food Studies Program student.
“Look — they are really experiencing it,” said Umbra Art History Professor Adrian Hoch, surveying her “Leonardo da Vinci” students’ reaction to the Renaissance artist’s celebrated “The Last Supper.”
“What do you think?” she asked as the group filed out of the Convent of Santa Maria della Grazie in Milan. “Worth the wait?”
The students agreed wholeheartedly – as they do every year without fail, Hoch reported.
Over the last two weekends, the art history professor has led two field trips for her courses. After months of lectures accompanying PowerPoint pictures, the students saw the artists’ original work.
“Any photographic image does not relay the sense of the object,” Hoch explained. “On field trips, students get a sense of it in the context – how it was meant to be seen. They also get a sense of the historical context in which the work was created.”
Nov. 9-10, “Leonardo da Vinci” traveled to Florence and Milan. In Florence, students wandered through the Uffizi and the Palazzo Vecchio, pausing only for a quick caffé before hitting the road for Milan. The next morning, the group reconvened to visit “The Last Supper,” walk through the church of Santa Maria Novella delle Grazie, marvel at da Vinci’s larger-than-life murals – along with original full knights’ armor – in the Castello Sforzesca, gaze at the grand Duomo, and read original pieces from da Vinci’s notebooks (written backwards) at the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana.
Last weekend, “Survey of Renaissance Art” embarked on an art history odyssey through Florence. Friday, the class also walked through the Uffizi before visiting Santa Croce, Santa Felicita, and Santo Spirito. Saturday, they wondered at the Cappella Brancacci, walked through Santa Maria Novella (more than just a train station!), and Bargello. They waved to the David at the Accademia before visiting the Florence Cathedral Museum, a recently-reopened site that Hoch had wanted to show students for the last 20 years it was under construction. One train ride later, the students were back in Perugia.
This semester, two students in the Contemporary Italy: Culture, Society, and Trends course are participating in the Famiglia Italiana Project. Annie Bodian and Taylor Speranza meet with a local family once a week to participate in their daily life, go on cultural outings, and get a taste of Italian family life.
“This experience goes alongside my sociology classes at Wake Forest and now I can see parallels in my Contemporary Italy class,” said Taylor.
As an Italian Studies major at Brandeis, Annie agreed, “It definitely puts everything into real context; it also gives us a little aspect of a homestay because we get to be in a real Italian home.”
Annie and Taylor have made fresh pasta with Francesca and her 6-year-old daughter Elena (“I didn’t realize how much work went into it!” said Taylor) and recently went to a “Christmas House.” They both agreed that the Famiglia Italiana Project has given them a taste of normal life beyond being a student living in the historic center of Perugia.
Their Italian skills have also improved:
“I love this experience because I’m also a Teacher Education minor and am hoping to teach at an international school so speaking with Elena is great. It’s good exercise in slowing down when I speak and in translating. We’ve found a good balance between English and Italian,” Annie explained.
Taylor added, “I came to Italy as a beginner and I pick up on a lot of what they say. It has given me more opportunity to speak Italian and Francesca can help me if I have questions. I am also remembering more in class when I use new skills.”
Through this experience, Taylor and Annie have gained unique insights into Italian culture and everyday life. Taylor has noticed that while there are small differences, she has found many of the same values in both Italian and American family life. Annie agreed, saying, “Their home life and parent-child dynamic is surprisingly similar to the US and there are little differences, but one of the things I love the most is getting to spend time with a family in their home.”
Everyone is familiar with the image of a connoisseur pushing wine around in his or her mouth and describing the quality and the “notes” of this and that in it. Umbra Institute students learned to do the same last week during a workshop dedicated to Umbria’s “liquid gold.” The workshop, part of Umbra’s Food Studies Program, was led by Maurizio Cozzi, a local food expert.
Maurizio first talked about the history of olive oil, and how in the past the farmers were more interested in producing more oil, not better oil.
“Don’t think that everything in the past was better. When I asked my father how the oil was, he would reply, ‘Good. 20 liters per 100kg.’” It was quantity, not quality that a poor farmer looked for. Nowadays excellent quality olive oil is available to everyone, but Maurizio explained that you need to know how to find it.
“Price and place of origin are the signals we most often look for,” he said. “But excellent olive oil can be had for €4-5, and awful oils are made in Tuscany.” Maurizio showed the assembled students how to suck just a little bit of oil into their mouths and wait for the burn to die down. “See, you don’t need years of experience, you’re ready to find good oil tomorrow,” he said.
The workshop is in a series that acquaint students with Italian food culture. The next workshop is about cheese.
On Tuesday, November 13th, Pizza & Musica hosted Umbra’s Pizza-Making Workshop. Ten students listened intently to the history behind Italy’s famous dish before crowding around the pizzaiolo to learn the art of the perfect pizza. First, students spread the dough into a circle by spinning it right to left on the table while simultaneously spreading their fingers. Once the dough was in the correct form, circular and thin with a bit of a crust, they spread one spoonful of red sauce and sprinkled a small handful of mozzarella di buffalo on top. There were numerous toppings to choose from so every pizza was personalized!
The next part was a little more difficult: getting the uncooked pizza into the oven using a pala. Pala means shovel in Italian and is a long-handled tool with a wide surface at the end to scoop up the pizza. Swift movements were key and many students made the transfer without a hitch! The pizzaiolo then taught students how to rotate the pizza while in the oven using a paletta (a similar tool with a smaller circular surface at the end). In a wood-fired oven, pizzas only take 3 to 4 minutes to cook so students had their personal pizzas in no time.
New culinary skills, delicious pizza, and good conversation with friends made for a fun and successful evening!
On Friday, November 2nd and Saturday, November 3rd, the Roman Empire class trekked through Rome to see first-hand the monuments, forums, and geography of their class material. The first activity was a walk that followed the same path as the ancient Triumphus tour, a celebratory parade through ancient Rome to display the spoils of victory and military heroes. Next on the agenda was a tour through the Capitolini Museums.
“This way, students can see the real monuments and the real places where everything we say in class actually occurred, so they can use their imagination to make those places living back into the Roman times,” explained the course professor, Giampiero Bevagna.
Saturday began with a tour of the Roman Forums. Professor Bevagna led students through the ancient public spaces, explained their importance, the history behind them, and the emperors they were associated with.
Seeing the forums enhanced the material students are learning in class. “We were able to apply knowledge from the classroom to a real world setting,” said Max Richards.
Charles Hancock added, “It put a location to our studies – it made everything tangible and relatable.”
The field trip ended with a tour inside the Colosseum. For a final project in Roman Civilization, students will each focus on a different Roman emperor; now, they will have the images of ancient Rome in their minds to bring these figures to life. All in all, a great start to the weekend!