Students return from School of Art program in Florence, Italy

Michelle Bender

A trip to Florence, Italy, to study art may have set nine Kent State students back $7,500, but what they experienced during their stay was priceless, they said.

The program, offered through the School of Art, lasted five weeks and immersed the students in the art, culture and history of Florence. The students earned six credit hours for participating in the program. During the trip they stayed in apartments in Kent State’s Palazzo dei Cerchi in Florence and traveled to Venice and Rome.

“I liked being able to experience another culture,” said Ashley Pucci, senior art education major. “The views and natural beauty was amazing.”

Associate professor Gustav Medicus directs the Art and Culture in Italy program along with Marcello Fantoni. Medicus lectured the students twice a week, and Fantoni lectured another two days.

“Medicus’ class was all taught on the spot,” Pucci said. “We heard his lecture right in front of the piece. Marcello taught in the Palazzo. He would talk about the trips coming up.”

The students went on guided field trips one other day a week and were also taken on two three-day weekend trips.

One of the trips the students took was to Siena, Italy, to see the famous horse race, Palio di Siena. The horse race has been a tradition in Siena since the 13th century. Medicus said 17 neighborhoods compete against each other in the race and around 70,000 people show up to watch the horses race around the town square.

“It’s not done for tourists (and) it’s not a historical

re-enactment, it’s a living medieval tradition,” Medicus said. “The students got to see how intricate this rivalry, this medieval mentality, is still alive in Siena.”

The students traveled to Rome for three days. They saw famous landmarks such as the Colosseum, the Pantheon and the Sistine Chapel, but those landmarks weren’t the only famous things they saw.

Medicus said while the students were in Rome they passed by President Bush’s motorcade, and they saw Clinton Kelly of the television show “What Not to Wear.” The students even got a chance to see a movie being filmed.

“We were walking home and there was Ron Howard filming Tom Hanks for the ‘Angels and Demons’ movie,” Medicus said. “We stopped and watched for more than an hour.”

In Venice, the students went to an 18th-century palace that preserved the life of the aristocracy. Medicus said Fantoni toured them through the museum and told the students about different aspects of the life of the aristocracy.

The students also went to the Peggy Guggenheim collection in Venice to view the modern art there.

“I appreciated all the art,” Pucci said. “There was a good balance of city, of art and views of the countryside.”

Pucci said she loved the experience but is glad to be home. She recommended the trip to everyone and said it is worth the cost.

“People go to Italy and they go to Florence especially because between 800 to 400 years ago people in most cities thought it was important to make things of beauty to decorate their cities, houses and churches,” Medicus said. “Obviously, people need it and that’s why people are streaming to Italy every year by the millions wanting to find out about it.”

Pucci said the professors teaching in the program are knowledgeable and make the students passionate about Italy’s art and culture. She said during the trip she learned not just about Italy but about the world in general from the mix of people and experiences.

Medicus said he hopes more students learn about the

program and go on the trip in the future.

“Kent State has the choice real estate in the city of Florence. We have a Ferrari of a facility in the Palazzo dei Cerchi,” Medicus said. “It’s something we should treasure and take advantage of.”

Contact School of Art reporter Michelle Bender at [email protected].