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Kicking off Lisio Italian Studies in Arezzo

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.

Life Post-Arezzo: Social-Distancing but Virtual Connecting

The time between 12 am, Saturday 29 and 12 am, Sunday, March 1st definitely made me realize so much can change within 24 hours. On the Friday of that week, we just had a meeting about the current COVID-19 situation in Italy and decided to shift the course schedule one week early, since we might have trouble traveling to other European countries in Spring Break. I felt relieved. One week ago from that time, I happened to be in Milan visiting my friend when cases in Lombardy region were found. So that entire week, my program mates and I had been worried about the suspension of this beautiful program and being sent back home.  

It still happened. On Friday late night, US CDC raised the alarm level to number three, and the university decided to have us purchase the flight tickets back to the US right away. So within one hour, we bought the ticket; the next morning, pack; then we had the last Italian lunch and gelato with everyone; in my last hour in Arezzo, I bought some gifts from the antique fair for my friends and family. Then at around 4 pm, Leticia, Estelle, and I stepped onto the train to Rome. Abby and Eddie left the morning after.  

Losing our upcoming time in Arezzo and being forced to say goodbye to Italy, we were definitely upset, on top of the 14-day self-quarantine coming right after. However, our professors and program director managed to work out some ways of virtual learning one week after and enlightened our home-life. Yes, we started it earlier than most American colleges. Our Italian Professor Silvia managed to use the conversation window and the screen-sharing on Zoom as the blackboard, Professor Baroni asked the on-campus librarians to scan the textbook pages and post it online, Professor Siniscalco still set up several virtual meetings with the new students from University of Siena (UNISI)…  

As part of the cultural education, our program director Donna sent us several videos and newspaper articles describing how Italians systematically and individually cope with COVID-19, and we discussed the comparison to the situation in the US and our social well-beings via Zoom on a weekly basis too. 

More excitingly for Estelle and me, our resourceful Donna, together with the professor of Chinese in University of Siena, Gianluigi Negro, set up tandem partners for us! For the next few weeks, Estelle and I will have some new friends to practice Italian every week, and they will in turn learn Chinese from us. What can be better than learning languages from native speakers while killing the time of staying at home? 

Outside of classes, we are spontaneously reminiscing our time in Italy, through cooking, or not-cooking. Estelle and Leticia carried on the Wednesday Food and Movie Night tradition and cooked for Leticia’s family. Abby asked for the recipe of Zuppa di Farro from Donna, so she will cook it for her mom. I have been making the salad with the Italian dressing (salt, pepper, olive oil, fresh lemon juice) at least 3 times week since I got back and am still not tired of it. Eddie is considering writing an article to record our specific experiences with Italy and COVID-19.  

I found it very comforting that I am still able to learn from and gain social energies through interacting with the whole Arezzo 2020 crew, even if the pandemic set us apart. As well-put by Donna in one email to me, we aren’t going to let this distance get the best of us! 

Saying Goodbye

It’s difficult figuring out how to say goodbye to something you never properly got to say hello to in the first place. I originally meant to write this blog right after we were sent home – that is, at the very end of February, when the CDC raised Italy’s travel alert level to 3 and the University told us we had about a day to get our things together and find flights out of the country – but I’ve been busy with a rush of work since we got home. I’ve honestly also been a little reluctant to talk about my feelings about the abrupt end of our time in Arezzo while I’m still not totally sure what they are, but time has flown by and now we’ve been back home for almost as long as we were in Italy. My goodbye to Arezzo is overdue. 

There are so many things about my time abroad in Italy that I miss, and for the sake of both my heart and your patience, I won’t regale you with long lists of food, art, and places that everyone on my program wishes we didn’t have to leave behind, for now. It’s strange how it’s only in their absence that it has really registered for me that they were real. I still wake up sometimes thinking I have to get dressed (much more nicely than anyone expects you to in the States) and hurry out through Arezzo’s centro storico to class, I occasionally default to Italian to answer simple questions, and I sorely miss the daily (or more) place of Italian coffee in my life. As these things fade from my everyday routine into the realm of memory, I’m struck with the one-two punch of realizing I can’t just pop out the door of my apartment at Le Gagliarde for them anymore and then understanding that I took them for granted in the first place. 

Maybe this is a little over-dramatic for somewhere I only got to be for a little over a month, but it’s not like the month I’ve spent back home has been remotely as eventful. I’m also not trying to preach to the choir about what it’s like staying at home – by this point, that’s an experience we all share – but the transition from physically being somewhere thousands of miles and an ocean and a half away from home to not being there anymore, and not really getting to do anything to take my mind off it, is especially jarring.  

That being said, and at the risk of sounding sentimental, I can’t bring myself to feel completely crushed by all this. I am genuinely so grateful for the time I did get to spend in Arezzo, and I’m happy that I made the most of as many moments as I could there, so that the memories still feel as real as they do. It’s been a month, but I’m still going to miss it in a year, and ten years, and getting sent home early has only made we want to go back sooner. Being in Italy for a month and a half accomplished certain fundamental things for my education that five full semesters at home didn’t.  

So, goodbye for now, Arezzo. I’m sorry our introduction was cut off halfway, and I’m sorry my goodbye is coming so late, but I’m going to come back someday, and I hope you’ll welcome me when I do. 

My Foodventure Journey

by Estelle Li

“Buongiorno! Volevamo …”

“Due Caffè Macchiati, vero?”

“Sì, Grazie!”

Although it’s only been a month and a half, we start our daily routine just like the Italians by going to our favorite Caffè, Caffè Pascucci, and ordering some macchiatos before our morning Italian class. Even before we say what we want, the baristas already know our orders because of our perfect attendance at the caffè compared to the 9 AM lectures in Goergen. The most exciting moment is always guessing what the latte art will be before the barista brings our coffee. A star, a smiley face, or a peacock, they are just equally as pretty and it almost feels like the coffee tastes better with the latte art. A simple macchiato costs only 1.1 Euro and once you’ve tried one, it’s impossible to go back to Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts. If we are running out of time, we can skip breakfast, but we can never skip coffee!

After speaking Italian for two hours, our stomachs start doing the same to us. Here comes the most difficult decision to make, should we go to Panini & Co. or La Tua Piadina? Unlike choosing between Douglass and Danforth because lunch feels more like a mission, panini and piadinas are so delicious that we almost feel guilty picking one over the other. Piadina is typical Italian street food with flatbread and your choice of protein, cheese, and vegetables. Our most ordered Piadina is Piadina Classica which has prosciutto crudo, arugula, and soft cheese inside. Don’t worry if you go alone to get a piadina, because the pigeons will keep you company and finish your scraps if necessary 😉

If you are expecting to get dinner at 5:30 PM, it’s too bad that you might just need to go to the supermarket and get some snacks. Dinner is much later here than in the States. Most restaurants open at 7:30 PM, including the ones we go to the most, Ciao and ’O Scugnizzo. Ciao is a typical family-owned restaurant that serves Tuscan cuisine. Francesco, the owner of the restaurant, serves the customers while his mom stays in the kitchen and performs magic tricks to feed hungry college students as well as other customers. With a generous capacity for friendship, Francesco never fails to put a smile on our faces and delicious food in our bellies. The plating at Ciao is deceptively simple as it delivers flavors that can surprise your palette. With simple ingredients of pecorino cheese and black pepper served on some homemade pasta of pici, Cacio e Pepe, a famous Roman dish, is the most ordered pasta among the five of us. Together with delicious roasted potatoes, gyms might be the only option if you want to stay in shape.

’O Scugnizzo, on the other hand, is a famous pizzeria with more than 30 options of pizzas. From the classic Pizza Margherita to the “Warning: Extremely Hot Vesuvio Calzone” that made my ears ring, all your cravings for pizza will be satisfied.

How can you call a day perfect without having some desserts? Not only is mid-February the midterm season, but it also marks the beginning of the carnival, and carnival sweets are definitely something you can’t miss. Getting the sweets from the street vendors is easy but making them is even more fun. Chiacchiere is one of the traditional carnival sweets, and although I am not sure if the name is derived from its meaning, I certainly chatted a lot with our program director when we made them together. Mixing, kneading, rolling, and frying the dough in a pot with 370°F of oil, time will fly by if you follow exactly what the name of the pastry suggests.

Standing up after a meal like this will be the hardest thing for you to do just like how saying goodbye to you now will be the hardest thing for me to do. If you really start craving for some authentic Italian food and gelato, don’t worry! Flights from JFK to Florence will only be ten hours and while you look for a flight, I am going to go and get a cup of espresso and get ready for my foodventure tomorrow. 

Buon Appetito!

Estelle 

A Quick Passeggiata through Arezzo

blog post by Letícia Ruffo Roberto Daruge

International Relations and Psychology, Take-Five Student

At first glance, Arezzo seems like a peaceful, quiet town in the heart of Tuscany. After a few days here, however, we soon learned that Arezzo is also vibrant, charismatic, and very welcoming. On weekends, the narrow streets and beautiful piazzas of the historic center are filled with people of all ages and places, who come to enjoy the delicious restaurants, interesting museums and churches, multitude of shops, and the lovely landscape of the town. Although we are still exploring the city, I have picked two of our favorite areas in Arezzo – Piazza Grande and Corso Italia – to share with you this week. 

  1. Piazza Grande

Piazza Grande is one of the most important and popular squares in the city. There, you can find restaurants, museums, and shops. Twice a year, the piazza hosts the famous Giostra del Saracino, a biannual joust that dates back to the time of Dante Alighieri. In the Divine Comedy, the great Tuscan writer describes the “clash of tournaments” and “rush of jousts” of Arezzo. Unfortunately, the Giostra del Saracino will take place in June, after our program ends. We can only imagine the beauty of the festival, which fills Piazza Grande with knights, horses, and the flags of the four competing quarters of Arezzo. The owners “Ciao,” one of our favorite restaurants in town, are enthusiastic participants of this event.

On the first Saturday and Sunday of each month, the Antiques Fair of Arezzo takes place at Piazza Grande. Despite its name, this big outdoor market is not only for antiques, it includes clothes, jewelry, china, food, and much more. We were able to visit the Antiques Fair this month and we are undoubtedly coming back in March!

Moreover, the wonderful museum of Fraternita dei Laici is located in the western area of the piazza. Its collection includes paintings, sculptures, books, and other works from various time periods. At the top of the building, there is a sixteenth-century clock that functions to this day. As you can see in the pictures, visitors are allowed to climb the clocktower and enjoy a wonderful view of the city. Our Art History Professor, Alessandra Baroni, worked in this museum for many years and she was able to give us a great tour of the place. In addition to Fraternita dei Laici, Giorgio Vasari’s Palazzo delle Logge and the beautiful Church of Santa Maria della Pieve are also located in Piazza Grande. 

2. Corso Italia

Corso Italia, one of the main streets of Arezzo, is the perfect area for shopping, dining, and socializing. From clothing to antique stores, there is a wide range of businesses on the street. On late afternoons, the area is filled with Arentines and travelers taking passegiatas. Two of our favorite cafes – Coffee O’Clock and Caffè Pascucci – are also on this street. Luckily for us, our school is located one minute away from Corso Italia, so we spend most of our study breaks walking in this area. The street begins near the Fortezza Medicea, a military fort built in the sixteenth century, and it ends near the train station. Hence, Corso Italia cuts through the middle of the historic center of Arezzo. 

The gelato lovers in our group (all of us) would argue that the best part of Corso Italia is “Cremì.” The store sells great artisanal gelato for reasonable prices, with delicious flavors such as nutella, pistacchio, and fior di latte! “Cremì” definitely ranks among the best gelaterias of Arezzo. If you are not an ice cream fan, that is okay – this store also sells wonderful crepes, pancakes, and waffles! 

It would be impossible to talk about Corso Italia and not mention the great restaurants in the area as well. From sitting outside cafés and enjoying a nice aperitivo to going to restaurants for a primo piatto of homemade pasta, the street offers different kinds of dining experience. For the food enthusiasts among you, you do not want to miss our next blog! We will share with you some recipes of Tuscan cuisine and reviews of local restaurants.

A presto!

Letícia

Classes and More!

blog post by Abigail Combs ’21

Neuroscience

As we have been getting settled back to Arezzo, our home for the new few months, we have also been keeping ourselves very busy with the start of classes and further exploring everything that the most warm and quaint Tuscan city has to offer us! Starting with a concert for the people of Arezzo at the city’s beautiful cathedral, which included grand choir singing, and live playing of both the guitar and the cathedral’s organ. It was a truly amazing experience to attend and the first of many spring concerts in the Tuscan region of Italy.

Come Monday, regular lectures in the Italian language began! Learning a new language most definitely has its challenges, but out experiences with the teachers at Accademia BRitannica in Arezzo, have been nothing but positive! With eight hours on in0class language lessons a week, we have high hopes to be much better Italian language students by the end of the program. Tandem language sessions have also been arranged through the school, where we students of Italian are able to speak with Italian students who are studying English.

In addition to Italian lessons and eating lunch at all of our now favorite local spots, Art History and the Observational Documentary classes have also officially begun in the classroom! Alternating every other day we are continuing to learn about various pieces of art within the city of Arezzo, much more of the history of the greater Tuscan region, and the beginning stages of shooting and production knowledge for our own eventual created documentary about the Lisio program! This past sunny Friday, involved an art walk of the city of Arezzo, seeing many original art works.

Something that is very special to all of the students and which we are all grateful for, are the weekly dinner and movie nights at the home of Professors Logan and Sinascalco. Each week will be a different student’s chance to cook a fabulous homemade Tuscan meal with Donna Logan, our program director, and then enjoy the wonderful food with the rest of the students and Professor Siniscalco. This week was out first dinner, in which an authentic multiple-course Tuscan meal and delicious homemade tiramisu was joyfully prepared and served. Trust me, everyone was begging for another serving! After dinner, as part of the Observational Documentary course, there is a film for us to watch and eventually discuss later in class about the techniques and story messages behind the work. This past week, we watched the 1954 film, Journey to Italy, which was a black and white, neo-realism film directed by Roberto Rossellini.

Another super exciting aspect of this past week was a day trip to Florence on Saturday, to attend an Italian soccer match! We students took the train (which I think we have the hang of now!) to Florence in the morning for some time to explore and walk around the city. We walked along the Arno River and also visited the Renaissance architectural style Pitti Place. After already walking many miles, we made our way over to the soccer stadium in Florence to watch Fiorentina play against Atlanta. When Fiorentina scored the first goal, the stadium burst into immediate cheering and pure joyful support for the love of their team. Unfortunately, Fiorentina did not win against Atalanta, yet it still was a great match and the support for the Fiorentina soccer team was made quite obvious to all. If possible, we were hoping to try and return for another game later in the season! After coming back to Arezzo that night, for dinner, we went to an Italian aperitivo at a cafe in the heart of the city-center for a lovely ending to a great day!

More updates to come, from the city where truly, “Life is Beautiful”!

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