Good evening from Vicchio! Today is our third full day in Italy, and we will soon be meeting to have our fourth dinner of the program. We have had quite a few adventures since we arrived! Here's what we have done during the past few days:
On Monday, we had the annual first dinner of the program and began to refresh our brains with Italian as we ate. We also met Simone and began to get settled in the "Locanda," the "hotel" that we will be staying in for the next six weeks.
Tuesday was the first day of class. After a breakfast prepared for us by the lovely Lucia, we split into three different teams to explore Vicchio. Each team found a handful of different and important locations in the town and marked them on a map. After our fun exploration, Professoresse Fognani & Lerner introduced us to Giovanni Boccaccio's "il Decameron" from which we will be reading during the first part of the program. We then went to the library to research Firenze (Florence) and Fiesole, two of the places historically relevant to the Decameron, and to prepare travel arrangements for the next day's excursion to both areas. We had quite a busy morning!
However, the day was not finished yet. Alessandra and I led the students to "Casa del Prosciutto," a restaurant on one of the lists that we had not previously found but of which we knew the general location... or so we thought. We walked for quite awhile on a few perilous roads without sidewalks and asked a few locals if we were headed the right way, and after walking for quite a bit, we found "Casa del Prosciutto!" How exciting! There was one slight catch - the restaurant was closed as it is every Monday and Tuesday. All was not lost, however; there was a sign for a pizzeria right down the road! We decided to investigate, but alas, that too was closed as it was too late for lunch. So, we had no choice but to return to Vicchio the way we had come, taking a short cut up a quite steep hill, finally finding a nice restaurant in Piazza Giotto, the plaza right next to our hotel. Finally, we (tiredly) ate a delicious lunch of Italian handmade sandwiches and drank plenty of water. Here's a picture of the students with their sandwiches looking much happier after we had settled in the shade with some food. Some even managed to have fun on our first adventure in Vicchio!
Yesterday, we took our first trip to Firenze to visit Santa Maria Novella, an important church of the Renaissance and the location from which the characters of Boccaccio's "Decameron" left Firenze for the countryside to save themselves from the plague. A few of our students chose various parts of the church to find information about, such as "Il Crocifisso di Giotto" (The Crucifix by Giotto), one of famous painter Giotto's first notable works, "La Trinità di Masaccio" (The Trinity by Masaccio), a fresco depicting the Holy Trinity, and "San Filippo scaccia il dragone dal tempio di Hierapolis" (Saint Phillip slays the dragon from the Hierapolis temple), a fresco in one of the chapels of Santa Maria Novella. Below is a picture of "la facciata" (the face) of Santa Maria Novella that has a history of its own!
After having a delicious lunch in Firenze, we took a bus to the town of Fiesole, the town in the countryside where Boccaccio's characters arrived and stayed for 10 days to recount their 100 stories. We saw and learned about "La Chiesa di San Domenico" (the church of Saint Dominic), "il Museo di Fiesole" (the Museum of Fiesole), and "il Teatro Romano" (the Roman theater), an amphitheater situated in the Museum of Fiesole. We also climbed another hill, though not as steep as the one from our Tuesday adventure, to see "la vista" (the view) of the entire city of Florence. Although this picture definitely does not do it justice, it was absolutely amazing!!
We then descended the hill and returned by bus to Firenze. Led by one of the students, we found our way back to the train station and rode the train back to Vicchio. In another adventure, we almost left behind Professoressa Fognani, who was waiting for us at the front of our platform but did not see most of us walk by. Luckily for her (and us!), she made it to the train right on time with our tickets. How interesting it would have been to ride the train without our professor... and without any tickets!!
This morning, we learned a new past tense in class called "il Passato Remoto," a tense of the distant past used mostly in literary works such as "il Decameron." We then went to the open air market in Vicchio that occurs every Thursday morning. Each of our teams from Tuesday bought an item to share with the group after our return, and each student interacted with at least one vendor at the market. Hopefully we can go in the future, too! After discussing selections of Boccaccio that we had read, we broke for lunch and have had a nice, relaxing afternoon since then.
As you can see, the past few days have been quite busy but definitely a lot of fun. I can't wait to see what adventures we have next!