Beautiful fountains embellishing the walkway at Villa d’Este
“I heard and I forgot. I saw and I remembered. I did and I understood.” -Anonymous
This quotes truly embodies how this experience has transformed “school” for me.
As I write about the events from last week and the memories made, I cannot help but be stunned that I am in the midst of living such a beautiful life. Living in such a rich culture is equivalent to diving straight into the pages of textbooks. We are gaining a very cultured perspective because we are seeing with our own two eyes the very things that have made Italy the reservoir of art and history it is. During our third week as students in Italy, the group learned about Roman parks and gardens, ancient architecture typologies, wine tasting, Western thought and philosophy, Roman history, and we even traveled to Tivoli and Pompeii. Some students- myself included- journeyed to Positano for the weekend on the first optional trip of the program.
The most amazing thing about the Joseph S. Bruno Study Abroad Program, in my opinion, is how experiential all of our learning is. For instance, in class we had a lecture about Roman parks and gardens. We heard all about Hadrian’s Villa and Villa d’Este, the founders, the history, the layouts. I found it especially interesting that the cardinal who owned Villa d’Este wanted to be the pope, but, when he did not become the pope, the man who did get the position required him to be banished from Rome because of the threat he posed. Consequently, the villa was built outside of Rome in Tivoli. It is ironic though because he is much more well-known for his gardens than he would have been if he had become the pope. When we walked through the massive gardens, I was awestruck. It seemed to me that with every step you took, there was more ground to cover. The fountains were so beautiful and peaceful. Being there, seeing the expanse and glory of the gardens, the history of Villa d’Este became real to me and the knowledge will stick with me forever simply from being there and seeing it for myself.
We also had a lecture about wine tasting. Maurizio took us on wine’s voyage through history and myth. We learned about Greek and Roman gods of wine, that a good wine is a good wine because of the climate and soil its grapes were grown in, and heard about Italy’s competition to have the world’s best wine. Shortly after the lecture, we had a wine tasting. Yes, one of our classes was a wine tasting. It was so much fun, and I also emerged from the evening with a larger understanding of different flavors in each wine.
Later that week, we put to good use our knowledge of vino at the aperitivo we hosted in the palace. The girls all came together and each room brought dishes such as cheese, meat, stuffed mushrooms, sausage balls, and fruit. Friends of the program and our instructors joined us for a night full of sharing stories, laughter, and full bellies.
Thursday was action packed. We climbed a mountain- a mountain that erupts every 2,000 years and has once buried cities in its ash, that is. We hiked up Mount Vesuvius. Then later that day, we explored the ruins of Pompeii, the city most well-known for perishing at the hand of Mount Vesuvius. It felt surreal to walk around its streets and imagine people going about their lives on the day of the eruption, unaware of their eventual demise.
This trip has been incredible. History used to live on the pages of the textbooks I read in class. Now, history has come to life before my very eyes. In the short three weeks we have been living in Italy, I have truly learned more than I could have ever imagined and seen more than most people will see in a lifetime. Knowledge truly comes from experience.