My time spent in Italy this summer was quite possibly the most exhausting, draining and thrilling experience I have ever had in my life. Cramming years worth of knowledge on art and Italian culture into only five weeks kept us all on our toes and gave us little time to rest. Personally, I would not of had it any other way. Rather than sitting back at some resort or going to only the most well known, touristy places; I was able to experience the most authentic parts of Italian culture and to see famous, but obscure paintings, sculptures and buildings. Not only was I able to have fun and enjoy each and every day of my trip, but also I was able to learn things from each tiny experience.
When I first signed on for the 2010 Art and Culture in Italy trip, I was vaguely familiar with art, having studied it briefly beforehand. Now, at the end of the trip, I am certainly no expert, but I can now tell you with certainty the difference between a Baroque and Renaissance painting, find the clues that would inform a viewer that the building they are standing in was designed but Filippo Brunelleschi, and discuss the difference in they way two different artists depict the Biblical David. Professor Gustav Medicus was lively, knowledgeable and passionate about what he was telling us, which made the learning experience all the more enjoyable and helped to peak an interest in art that had barely been there before.
Professor Kristin Stasiowski, who took over the culture part of our studies, had enthusiasm equal to, if not greater than Professor Medicus’. She related extremely well with the group and, since she was an American living in Italy for several years, she knew how to create connections between Italy and the United States that made it easy for us to understand. Professor Stasiowski educated us with historical facts, Italian legends and other stories that captivated our attentions and filled us with the same passionate enthusiasm that she had. The most thrilling and excited Italian tradition that she introduced us to was the Siena Palio – a medieval tradition that is still alive with fire today in the Sienese people.
Even without Professor Stasiowski to help us, we picked up on Italian culture through our everyday experiences that ranged from shopping for souvenirs, to buying coffee, to getting dinner for that night. The Italian people were very friendly and helpful as we dived into a culture and language that was far different from our own. The owner of the café near the Kent State University building was the one who taught me how to correctly ask for my coffee to go, and the waiter at one of our favorite restaurants explained the difference between saying “grazie” and “grazia” (“grazie” meaning “thank you” and “grazia” meaning “grace”). The relaxed atmosphere was contagious and we were soon having meals that lasted for hours without anyone one caring to notice the time.
The trip ended all too soon and yet just soon enough, our quick dive into the Italian world left us all exhausted and absolutely breathless from the beauty and the wonder we saw there. An experience by far worth having, I will never forget my five week summer trip to Italy and what it taught me.
By Kristen Milius