The fall ACM Florence: Arts, Humanities, & Culture program has begun and the students have hit the ground running — or at least walking quickly — as they go from their Italian language classes to the city’s fabulous museums to their new favorite spots for coffee and gelato.
We asked Program Director Jodie Mariotti about the students’ plunge into Italian culture, both the current group and participants in the winter/spring London & Florence: Arts in Context program. Here are her responses to our questions.
How do you introduce students to the city of Florence?
In the fall and in January, students enrolled in the intensive Italian language courses arrive on a Saturday afternoon and have Sunday to settle into their new lives in Florence before beginning Italian studies and moving to their homestays on Monday. We spend Saturday evening getting to know one another over an enjoyable Italian meal.
On Sunday, our walking tour begins at the church of San Miniato a Monte that offers a breathtaking view over Florence with Brunelleschi’s dome dominating the landscape. We then walk to nearby Piazzale Michelangelo and get a closer panoramic view of the valley, identifying monuments and landmarks along our way. The short walk down to the city takes us through ancient walkways and into quaint neighborhoods down to the Arno River passing by Ponte Vecchio, the Uffizi Gallery and other spectacular monuments of the city.
By the end of our walk, students begin to acquire a feel for the layout of the city and claim that the walk has made them hungry enough for another enticing evening of Italian cuisine and gelato!
Time for gelato!
What are some of the unique components of the fall semester in Florence?
The Florence fall program is a full immersion Italian experience. Students study intensive Italian for four weeks as soon as they arrive, combining their morning lessons with afternoon excursions to significant historical sites and museums.
Two days after arrival everyone transfers to their homestay, a home abroad where Italian is the spoken language of everyday life. The students’ progress in speaking the language is often truly remarkable, not to mention that the homestay families often, if not always, become cherished life-long friends of the students.
Elective courses are designed to give the maximum exposure to the treasures that Florence holds, not only in the visual arts but also in other fields of knowledge and creation, such as music, literature, and the thriving artisan tradition, where students have unique opportunities to participate in workshops of skilled restorers and gilders.
Students who already have, or acquire during the four-week intensive Italian study, adequate language skills are also eligible for internships at prestigious museums in Florence.
In short, the fall program explores multiple aspects of Italian culture and life, allowing students to come away speaking the language and understanding the mentality and culture of this richly-endowed city and country.
Jodie Mariotti teaching a class on site.
What is distinctive about the spring semester program?
The London & Florence program attracts students who want to compare two cities and two cultures rich in history and culture. Although the students’ residence in each city is not a full semester, there is ample opportunity for them to truly acquire a profound understanding of both.
Opera and music in Florence create a parallel with the emphasis in London on theatre and performance. In the program’s museum studies courses, students can explore the history of collecting from its early origins in Renaissance Florence to the extravagances of 19th- and 20th-century Londoners, comparing this fundamental cultural component linking the two cities throughout their history.
Daily life on the program presents another comparative opportunity. In Florence, students live with families and speak another language; in London, they live in apartments and learn to navigate one of the most dynamic and exciting cities in Europe.
As students explore both Florence and London, they gain precious knowledge and familiarity with two cities that can claim primacy in the development of the culture and heritage of Western civilization.