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Food Studies Program Students Intern At Italian Winery

Experientia docet is the motto of the Umbra Institute: Experience teaches. Two Food Studies Program students, Julia Rackow (Tufts University) and Kimberly Goldman University of Wisconsin), just finished a month working at the Lungarotti Winery in Torgiano, near Perugia. The two students began preparing for the internship in January, working with Umbra Institute staff member Mauro Renna to learn search engine optimization and other skills. The two students then spent an intensive month at the winery, working with Lungarotti personnel on the winery’s English-language site. We sat down with them recently to hear what they thought about their time at Umbria’s best winery.

Why did you decide to do this internship?
Julia: I am interested in food culture and history, and am interested in a career somewhere in the food industry. After completing the Food Studies Program here at Umbra, I jumped at the chance to learn more about wine and wine culture in Italy. I had no previous experience with SEO, so learning about it on the job was an appealing bonus.

Kimberly: I thought it would be awesome to do an internship in a foreign country while learning a valuable skill, I love wine, and honestly, I wanted a reason to stay in Italy longer!  I also like to write, so I wanted to learn how to optimize an article or blog post.  If I ever want to publish my writing to a website, it will be more marketable now that I can have the added skill of optimizing it to improve traffic to the site.  


Could you describe what you did during the internship?
Julia: Every day we met with Mauro in the mornings, then caught the bus to Torgiano for the afternoon. Our actual research and work involved selecting several important pages from the Lungarotti website and creating a list of recommendations for how the pages could be optimized. We also analyzed Lungarotti’s presence on external sites and social networking sites. It was a lot of sitting and staring at a screen, of course, but working in the winery and in the hotel was a lot of fun.

Kimberly: We worked with Mauro in the mornings (best tutor EVER) and he would guide us and help us come up with a plan for what to work on for the day.  Then, we’d take a beautiful busride to Torgiano where the winery is located, and continue our work on SEO.  We switched off working at le tre vaselle (the hotel/spa) and the main site.  We spent a lot of time working on the computer, and each week we focused on a new topic that had to do with SEO.  

What did you learn about wine during the internship?

Julia: I learned a lot about the production of wine. Before, information about aging times and barrels and “rounder” flavor was all gibberish. Even after just taking the tour of the Winery with Grazia, everything became clearer. A lot of what I learned is completely intuitive–if you have the right context and framework to see it through. I think that’s what I got from the internship: the framework. There’s still so much to learn about wine, but I’m not scared of the monolithic walls of wine in the wine shops anymore.

Kimberly: Before this internship, I knew there was white and red- but thats about it.  Now when I cook, I find myself thinking about things I never thought about before- like which type of wine would compliment my food.  Sweet or spicy, mild or strong, Brezza or Rubesco… etc.  I’m starting to understand the passion behind it.   We toured the winery and saw that there’s so much time and work that goes into it before it arrives in the bottle.  On one day, we learned how to give a wine tasting and a few days later we were able to assist in a tasting (and taste it too!)  We also toured Lungarotti’s wine museum and learned a lot about the history of wine.  Basically, we learned to appreciate wine to a whole new level- I can’t wait to host wine and cheese parties when I get home!       

What was it like working in an Italian company?

Julia: I loved the experience of using Italian in a real-world situation. Speaking to locals socially is fun, and great practice, but testing out my language skills in a business setting was really exciting. It’s difficult to think of working with Lungarotti as a “foreign” experience because everyone was so friendly and supportive.

Kimberly: It was really cool.  I enjoyed practicing my Italian in a different setting than I was used to.  Sometimes it was hard for me to communicate everything I wanted to, but when I was able to it made it that much more gratifying.    

Any note on the support you had during the internship?

Kimberly: Yes. Mauro and Zach are seriously the best, nicest and most fun people I have ever met.  I felt very comfortable knowing that they were always there for us no matter what we needed.  Mauro went above and beyond my expectations, in fact, I can’t even imagine having better support.  If I ever had a question about anything (SEO related or technical difficulties in our apartment), he was always helpful.  Also, the people at Lungarotti are very friendly and it was fun to work with them.       

Julia: Zach and Mauro are two of the most wonderful people I have ever been lucky enough to meet. Kim and I were constantly astounded by how nice, fun, and generous they both were through the entire process. They went way beyond what the formal titles of “Tutor” and “Internship coordinator” might imply in the average internship setting–from taking us to coffee in the mornings, to helping us deal with paperwork, to staying until the wee hours of the morning while we perfected our final report. The employees at Lungarotti were also incredibly helpful and welcoming. Never before have I been offered so much free coffee!

Would you recommend this internship for future students? If so, why?

Kimberly: Yes! It was a life changing experience that I will never forget.  You get to learn valuable skills in a beautiful setting, with the most wonderful people.  I wish it didn’t have to end.  

Julia: Absolutely. Doing an internship at a winery in Italy is the definition of an idyllic experience. And being able to learn such an incredibly valuable skill (SEO) in a fairytale setting is the definition of perfection.

Click here for more information on the Lungarotti Wineries.

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