Monday, March 17, 2008

Sun and Moon over Monteluco

The region of Umbria is filled with sites that were important to Francis of Assisi and his brothers. Francis, it seemed, was always on the lookout for places of solitude and spectacular natural beauty. And one of the great rewards of living here is to discover them – especially with friends and students. Of course, places of solitude are by necessity hard to reach, and by the same token, places of spectacular beauty are worth the effort. One such place is Monteluco and we’ve been there twice already. (I got this picture of the moon zooming over Monteluco on a bright sunny February afternoon! On the right is a hazy shot of the Spoleto valley seen from Monteluco. If you look closely you can see a small white strip on the hillside at the center of the picture. That's Assisi, about 23 miles away, a view I am sure that Francis himself once enjoyed.

The first was organized by our colleague and ex-pat extraordinaire, Cindy Clough. “Cinzia” had emailed the entire Umbra community with an invitation to a communal hike. Knowing that this was an important Franciscan spot I encouraged my students to join us on the trek. Sure enough, that Saturday about three of them spilled into the last early train to Spoleto seconds before it left the station. Arriving at Spoleto, a wonderful town that merits a blog post of its own, we walked from the station to the Piazza della Liberta, where our plucky gang of pilgrims had gathered and we begain the hike proper. The weather was wonderful – one of those spring-like February days that often happen in the Italian February -- but I am sorry to report that the hike itself gave new poignancy to the question, “are we there yet?” as we walked switchback to switchback up to the 2,700 foot summit. Awaiting us were the spectacular views of the Spoleto Valley, the Sacred Grove, forbidden to woodcutters by an ancient Roman law, and the Primitivo Convento, established by Francis who visited in 1218. But our primary objective was Ferretti’s trattoria and its famed porcini-stuffed ravioli in lemon sauce. (On the left above is a shot that helps explain why this grove has been considered sacred for thousands of years; on the right is the graffitti fresco over the door to Francis's cell in the Convento Primitivo; the door is about a meter high, mattress a plank, and his pillow a log as you can see on the lower left.)

Sadly, our slow climb (and ravioli) plus our concern about making the last train back to Perugia did not allow us to linger at the peak. I was able to break away from our pranzo long enough to walk through the convento and the sacred grove, but not long enough to take in the view which was just beyond the woods and convent. Meanwhile, back at Ferretti's gli studenti await their secondi piatti. (That's Andrea, second from bottom, followed by Heather in center.)

The following week we returned with our friend Gilberto, for a more leisurely – but much colder – experience of this most remarkable place. To the left is a picture of a triumphant Gilberto, having conquered Monteluco in his Fiat Panda and trusty GPS. Bravo Gilberto!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Franciscan Heritage Program

The Franciscan Heritage Program is a study abroad program sponsored by St. Bonaventure University at The Umbra Institute, Perugia, Italy. The program is open to all students at Association of Franciscan Colleges and Universities member schools. FHP courses are offered at the Umbra Institute, a broad-based study abroad center in Perugia, and its courses are normally available to all other Umbra students. Shown on the right are students in RSFT 351 at San Damiano, Assisi.Students: Clockwise: Maggie, Andrea, Brit, Heather, Anthony, Teresa, Charlie, Steve, Mrs.C, Amber, Adam, Alex and Philip at San Damianio, 1/25/08. Missing: Dwight.

This year FHP is offering two courses: RSFT 351. Contemporary Global Issues: The Franciscan World View, taught by Dr. Chiariello. The class is open to FHP and non-FHP students. Mrs. Chiariello is offering SPED 230, Special Education: A Comparative Approach for education majors in the program, Heather and Teresa, from Neumann College.

New Opportunities for Business and Education Majors
Two new elements of the program this year are practical experience for students in
preprofessional programs.

Heather McDermott and Teresa Marino are two students in Professor Judy Chiariello's Introduction to Special Education class. Teresa and Heather have been part of an exciting educational opportunity--they have been tutoring Italian students at the Liceo Scientifico. What subject are they tutoring? English, of course. The Italian students have a two hour block of English language every day and they must speak only English during this block. In her reflection journal Teresa noted: "The best part of this whole experience has been giving these students a chance to learn about American culture while improving their English. Making learning my language easier for them made me feel so good because I am in the same boat with learning Italian. I know how hard it is when Stefania (the teacher) says they can only speak English and all they want to do is speak Italian."
(Shown below: Teresa, Mrs. C, and Heather at the Liceo.)

Heather noted that there are some differences between the Liceo and an American high school. One major differene is that the students stay in the same room all day and the teachers rotate from class to class. Heather and Teresa both found that the students were very interested in American culture and asked many questions about American schools, music, movies and TV shows. One of the lessons taught was based on the words of the song “Time of Your Life” by Green Day, a group popular with Italian teens. As the Italian students read and comprehended the words, a discussion developed around the comparative significance in Italy and the U.S. of such life milestones as high school graduation and moving out of your parents’ home.On Teresa's last day at the Liceo her students presented her with flowers and a card. But it turns out that the experience has been so positive for Heather and Teresa that their "last day" will not be their last day -- they have volunteered to continue with their tutoring.

Business. Another exciting opportunity introduced this year is the International Business program. The Umbra institute has courses in International Business, including marketing, management, comparative bus ethics, global economics and the economics/politics of the European Union and Italian language. Students may use the semester to satisfy almost all the minor requirements in International Business. The most exciting development here is the the work we're doing with a Bona grad, John Burke, '73, who spent 5 years in Rome directing Colgate- Palmolive, Italy and who has extensive business contacts here. We are grateful to John for contributing his time and expertise to his alma mater and its students. As he says, "among the best years of my life are the four years spent at Bona's and the five years spent in Italy. This program allows me to bring the two together." John and his wife Patsy
will be here at the end of the regular semester to set up and supervise our first internships and mentor our international business students. From a practical standpoint, doing a semester program here will put our students miles ahead of students who have no international living/study experience. Shown on the right are Charlie, Alex, Brit, Maggie, and "Dodger" at our apartment last month planning for John's visit and the internships to come. (Not shown is Andrea.)

Future semesters will see the introduction of opportunities for our new Art History major and a proposed Italian Studies minor. If you are interested in these opportunities, please visit our website, where you can find more information and application forms.