blog post by Eddie Hock ’21
History/Archaeology, Technology, and Historical Studies
The Lisio Italian Studies Program in Arezzo has started off the spring 2020 semester with such a whirlwind of activity that it’s difficult for us to sift through all the places, people, and memories (and food!) we’ve encountered in order to come up with a cohesive blog for you. The five of us arrived in Italy from very, very different parts of the world: two from New York, one from Orlando, one from Shanghai and one from Kunming, China. After just under three weeks of serious cultural immersion and rapid-fire visits to some of the most extraordinary archaeological sites in the world, all of us are starting – or continuing, in the case of the two of us who attended the Lisio Program in Procida in 2017 – to find our feet as Italians.
The historic center of Arezzo, a Tuscan city and art history haven of just over 100000 people, is our home base for the semester, but we had just a week to get to know it before embarking on our Grand Tour to the most important sites for Roman archaeology and engineering across Rome and the Bay of Naples. Between visits to the extensive Medieval archives at the castle of Poppi and the gorgeous Franciscan abbey in the mountains at La Verna, we learned about Dante, religion, art history and everything in between from Professors Donatella Stocchi-Perucchio and Alessandra Baroni. Both Tuscan themselves, they were happy to share with us the beauty and history of their home province and its imposing legacy in literature and visual art, and we were thrilled to be along for the ride.
Our first week was hardly laid-back – we were fueled by more caffe macchiati than we care to admit publicly – but things became even more intense after we left for Rome to begin the Grand Tour. Professor Renato Perucchio led the way, taking us through world-famous archaeological site after site after site, and with help from Professor Paolo Vitti, we – along with Professor Doug Kelly’s wonderful family – learned about both the beauty and the functionality of places like the Colosseum and the Roman Forum from some of the foremost experts on their architecture and engineering. None of us will ever look at an arch, a vault, or a truss the same way.
We said goodbye to the Kellys and Professor Vitti and headed south to Naples and the shadow of Vesuvius. Powering through the fatigue with the help of Neapolitan cuisine – Campania is, after all, the birthplace of pizza and mozzarella di bufala – we visited Pompeii, Paestum, Pozzuoli and more, discovering masterpieces of Roman engineering and urban design and learning in great depth exactly why they’re so spectacular.
But, without a doubt, the most memorable part of the first few weeks of the program was its namesake. Dr. Arnold Lisio welcomed us at the airport in Florence, helped us get adjusted in Arezzo, and stuck around for the Grand Tour in its entirety, inspiring everyone with his boundless enthusiasm, diligent desire to learn, and legendary sweet tooth for gelato. Dr. Lisio and his wife, Dr. Anne Moore, who joined us in Rome, also happen to be some of the sweetest people any of us have ever met, and we hope they had half as much fun with us as we did with them.
If any of this sounds exaggerated for publicity, we understand the skepticism, but you’re going to have to take us at our word for how hectic, eventful, delicious, and genuinely rewarding the beginning of this program has been. As we get settled back in Arezzo – this is being written on the Frecciarossa high-speed train home from Naples – we’re going to enjoy a little more of that relaxed Tuscan way of life, and we hope you’ll stay tuned as we continue to blog about the rest of our semester with the program.