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Students Hit the Ground Running in London and Florence

Students Hit the Ground Running in London and Florence March 24, 2015
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In Florence … Days filled with Italian language and cinema, seeing art by the Renaissance masters, visiting a Medici villa in the Tuscan countryside, taking a private tour into the depths of St. Peter’s Basilica. And did we mention the delicious meals during your home stay?

Carnevale in VeniceThe Florence group enjoyed the celebration of Carnevale going on during the program trip to Venice.

Meanwhile, in London … Talking with Shakespearean actors at Stratford-upon-Avon, attending performances ranging from a rock ballet to the symphony and opera to hip hop dance, and exploring ethnic neighborhoods and lively markets.

By itself, either itinerary would add up to an eventful semester. Students on the London & Florence: Arts in Context program do both, as they live and learn in two historic, compelling cities, with a week in between for independent travel in Europe.

At the program’s midpoint, when the two groups of students trade places, the directors in Florence and London gave quick updates on what the students have experienced so far.

Florence: The insider’s tour of historic sites, ancient vines and a Medici villa, and (always!) great food

By Florence Program Director Jodie Rogers Mariotti

Coffee break in PisaA coffee break on the trip to Pisa.

During the time our first group of students was here, Florence had unseasonably beautiful, dry, warm weather. Our weeks were punctuated by Italian film screenings and the students, as usual, enjoyed the delicious home-cooked meals at their home stays. Some also learned to prepare their own Italian cuisine, which no doubt will come in handy during their upcoming weeks as Londoners, where they will live in flats and are responsible for their own meals.

As a group we traveled to Pisa, Siena, Rome and Venice. In each of those cities, we toured the main monuments, including the famed Camposanto of Pisa and the magnificently ornate Cathedral of Siena.

While in Venice and Rome, as always, the program offered students access to very special venues. These included a private entrance to the Basilica of San Marco in Venice, and for the students, high water did not flood out the fun of being in the city for Carnevale.

Florence groupThe students who called Florence “home” for half a semester have now moved on to London.

In Rome, we were guided by archeologists through the ancient Roman necropolis under the Basilica of St. Peter’s that ends at the tomb of Peter himself, directly under the high altar of the church. We also had a specialist guide us through the ancient Roman Forum and Coliseum.

As a closure to a productive and enjoyable term, we rented a bus and drove through the countryside of Florence to the Medici villa of Poggio a Caiano and to one of the oldest vineyards in Tuscany, dating back to the ninth century, where we toured the ancient cellars and had an elegant winetasting.

Student art showThe student art show.

The session ended with a group dinner, following the very impressive student art show at the Charles H. Cecil Studios, where students can take an elective course to study the historic sight-size technique for drawing. The studio is the oldest Florentine atelier still in active use.

After bidding farewell to Florence, the students set out for London via Prague, Paris, Barcelona, Dublin, and other European destinations to test out their newfound knowledge of art history and the rhetorical nature of cities.

London: Exploring cultural and artistic perspectives, from Shakespeare to hip hop

By London Visiting Faculty Director Elizabeth Carlin Metz (Smith V. Brand Distinguished Professor of Theatre, Knox College)

We hit the ground running in London with plays that were stimulating, entertaining, and provocative and that tied into our site visits in both courses the students take here. Right in the first week, we attended a play, Dara, that debated 15th century Muslim views on literalist and interpretive perspectives on the Quran that set the stage for our term long exploration of immigration, assimilation, and nationalism.

London groupThe London group on a site visit to the stately Kenwood House in Hampstead.

The group hit the streets for class and personal explorations — investigating the ethnic neighborhoods of Brick Lane and the East End, the wealthy enclaves of Mayfair and Notting Hill, the historic role of Britain in trade as revealed by the Greenwich Maritime Museum and the Docklands Slavery Museum, as well as the markets; Petticoat Lane, Portobello Rd., Camden Lock, Brixton, Bermondsey Square, and Borough Markets.

Stratford-upon-Avon gave us wonderful productions of Loves Labors Lost and Loves Labors Found (or Much Ado About Nothing) set in 1914 and 1918 respectively, and presented as a bookended look at love, gender, and culture before and after the First World War. We also were able to chat with the star of both plays, Edward Bennett, who was as dashing in person as he had been on stage, and then met several more of the actors we had just seen in the productions.

Edward BennettEdward Bennett

Further productions led us more deeply into our investigation of the South Asian immigrant British experience, culminating in a visit to The Tricycle Theatre to see the very provocative Multitudes, in which traditional British and Muslim immigrant cultural values collided in a moving depiction of the current threads that make up the contemporary London social tapestry.

MultitudesThe students saw Multitudes by John Hollingworth at The Tricycle Theatre.

Other highlights included the Thomas Rasta rock ballet of Romeo & Juliet, followed by a visit to the Globe Theatre (complete with verse lesson!), the hilarious stage production of Shakespeare in Love (in which the bard is composing Romeo and Juliet), and a fantastic evening of hip hop dance and music with Blue Boy Entertainment — a company of about 75 dancers ranging in age from seven to 45 years old and representing many cultures, races, and ethnicities.

Some of us saw our first symphony concert with Carmina Burana at Royal Festival Hall, some saw our first opera with La Traviata at the English National Opera, and all of us were transported by Kooza! by Cirque du Soleil performed in Royal Albert Hall.

Our final night was spent back at The Victoria Pub in Paddington for the last of our series of “pub quizzes” composed and hosted by London natives Roger and Jean Burton — a celebration of how much we had learned, as evidenced by the close point spread and high scores. Well done!


Courses in Florence and in London

Field trips in Florence and in London

Internships at museums in Florence

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