My Cultural Introduction to Italy
Trenedy, Fall 2021, Florence
September 24, 2021

Trenedy enrolled in the FUA pre-semester traveling course: Cultural Introduction to Italy. This one week 3 credit traveling course, taken prior to regular program coursework, provides students with an in-depth introduction to Italian culture and broadens their awareness and understanding of the role of cultural heritage in Italian customs and lifestyles. The field learning course pairs lectures with visits to many cultural sites and food tastings. The Fall and Summer courses visit Rome, the Tuscan coast and Cinque Terre, while the Spring course visits Rome, Orvieto and Perugia. 

 

Since this was my first time traveling to Europe, I wanted to take a course that would allow me to learn about Italian culture and places in depth. I signed up for Fall Cultural Introduction to Italy with Professor Cecilia Ricci. This trip started in Rome and then went to Bomarzo, Bagnaia, Caprarola, Cinque Terre, and other small towns in Tuscany. Everything was scheduled for us: walking tours, garden visits, church visits, winery visits, and much more. We also had occasional lunches and dinners as a group.

Villa Lante

Site Visit Highlights

My favorite part of the trip was the visit to the Sacred Forest of Bomarzo and Villa Lante in Bagnaia.

  • The Sacred Wood of Bomarzo was my favorite place I visited in this course. It combined nature and art. It was a pleasant experience to walk through the land. It was built in 1552 by Prince Francesco Orsini, also known as Vicino, and dedicated to his beloved wife Giulia Farnese who died too young. The garden has beautiful sculptures in a Mannerist style designed by the artist Pirro Ligorio.
  • Villa Lante in Bagnaia is also a Mannerist garden. The garden consisted of three or more levels and beautiful frescoes in the buildings. The estate was constructed in 1566 by the architect Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola and was commissioned by Cardinal Gianfrancesco Gambara.

Additionally, I enjoyed learning about the importance and significance of water and fountains as a status symbol in ancient Rome. We saw various spectacular and storied fountains in Rome that shape the feel of the city.

The Sacred Wood of Bomarzo

The Vatican was also a significant experience for me. It was marvelous to see famous artwork, such as the Pietà and the Last Judgment by Michelangelo. We also had a fantastic tour guide who was very knowledgeable about the church, the Pope, the artwork, and the mosaics.

The Vatican

A Typical Day

Each day of the course was different, but a typical day started by packing up our bags in our hotel and meeting in the lobby to head out for the day. We’d take a car or bus to our first few sites, where our professor discussed the topics of the day as we explored the sites. We generally had some time to wander the area on our own after the presentation, and then we would meet for lunch. After lunch, we’d head out to our next site visit. In some instances, like at the Colosseum, we had site tours lined up, but typically our professor was our guide at each location. We’d end the day with some free time and dinner, and then it was time to work on homework. We completed a journal entry at the end of each day, as well as answer some questions about what we learned that day.

 

The Food

One of the main points that I am sure everyone would like to know about is the food and wine. Some of our dinners and lunches were planned through the class course fee, and others were on our own. We also visited a winery and had wine with each dinner. Most of the food was great, and for dinner, we had three-course meals. Three courses with wine is the typical way Italians eat dinner. I had a hard time eating all the dishes (I’m a slow eater), but it was great. When we toured the winery in Bolgheri, we tried three different wines, one white and two reds. One red wine was dry and had a complex flavor profile compared to the other red wine. During our tasting, we were served a selection of cold cuts, vegetables, olive oil, and cheese.

Winery in Bolgheri

A Few Tips to Keep in Mind

  • Be sure to pack light! You’ll do a lot of unpacking and repacking, and you’ll be pulling your luggage on cobblestone streets. I overpacked and wished I’d thought about that.
  • All the travel and most meals were covered in the course fee, so I spent very little money the whole time (200 Euro max).
  • The course is somewhat intensive – it’s just a week long and there is a lot to cover. We had daily homework, journals, readings, a final exam, and a presentation. Just stay on top of it and you’ll be ok.

Overall, it was a great experience, and I am so happy I signed up for Cultural Introduction to Italy.

Trenedy is a Fall 2021 Florence student from Winthrop University.

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About SAI

SAI is dedicated to providing academic and cultural learning experiences abroad that enhance global awareness, professional development and social responsibility. We concentrate our programs in Europe, with a focus on in-depth learning of individual European countries and their unique global role in the geopolitical economy, humanities, and in the arts.