Follow the students of the ECU Italy Intensives Study Abroad program, Fall Semester 2014.
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At the end of last week, we took another excellent art history trip to the Tuscan city of Lucca. The city is famous for having the most complete medieval city walls in all of Italy, as well as have many beautiful churches, palaces, and piazzas.

Our first stop was Palazzo Guinigi, a tall tower with oak trees growing from the top. After, we met our art history teacher Silvia for a tour of several important sites around the city. Finally, we had a chance to explore the city with a few hours of free time. Many of our students and faculty took the opportunity to rent bicycles and bike around the top of the walls, which are now a beautiful bike/walking path and park. It was a wonderful time and many of us are looking forward to the chance to return soon!

Our first weeks in Italy have been very busy! Classes are in full swing, and we’ve already had day trips to Florence and Siena! Our students are really excited to be learning Italian, and they’re finishing up several great projects in Book Arts, Photography, Enameling, and other classes!

One of our favorite things about the program is that Art History classes, which include every student, usually include tours to cool places around Italy and Tuscany. In Florence we’ve already seen many important classical and Renaissance sculptures, while in Siena we got to the visit the Duomo, the so-called Crypt, and the Opera del Duomo museum, which includes the climb to the top of a medieval wall to look over over the whole city!

After our first week in Certaldo, we took advantage of the beautiful, still summertime weather and took a trip to Cinque Terre, five small towns along the coast of the Italian Riviera. We got up VERY early for our first long train trip of the semester, but once we arrived in our home base of Monterosso al Mare, checked into our hotel, and got to the beach, it was all worth it! Students and staff enjoyed lunch with an oceanfront view, and then spent the whole afternoon enjoying swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing!

The next day, many of our students and staff got up early to explore the other towns, including Riomaggiore and Vernazza. Some even hiked the mountainous trails along the coast between towns! Everyone eventually made it back to the beach in Monterosso to enjoy a little more fun in the sun and sand before getting on the train back to Certaldo! What a great way to spend a weekend early in the semester! Now back to classes!

Our first week in Certaldo was very exciting! After arriving safely from our travels beforehand, we settled in to our new home. After a “survival Italian” class with our Italian teacher Claudia, we had a welcome ceremony with the newly-elected mayor of Certaldo, Giacomo Cucini. After he welcomed us, it was our turn to introduce ourselves, all in Italian! After a nice dinner, our local performance company Compania del Drago Nero, led by Leandro Faraoni, put on an amazing show with fire breathing, fire dancing, and finally a big medieval style dance for all of us! 

We also arrived at a great time, because the first two weekends of the semester in Certaldo were Boccaccesca, a yearly artisan food market! We got to sample and buy some many different Tuscan and Italian foods!

Welcome back to another semester of Italy Intensives! We’re so excited to have a brand new group of students this semester, from majors include Anthropology, Metals Design, Illustration, Accounting, Animation, Biology, Classical Studies, and more! We arrived in Rome and got right to exploring the city! We also toured the Vatican Museums and St Peter’s Basilica, as well as the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Roman Forum. After a few days there, we took a bus and visited Orvieto, a hilltop Etruscan town, and Assisi, home of St Francis. After all that we finally arrived in our home of Certaldo! We’re looking forward to a great semester!

After almost three months together, these past few days have been our last. After tearful goodbyes to our local friends on Sunday night and Monday morning, we boarded our bus and headed for three days in Venice. It was a little cloudy our first afternoon, but the weather was amazing for the rest of the time.

On Tuesday most of the students went with History teacher Ryan to explore Venice’s picturesque fish and vegetable market, which takes place every morning just steps from the Rialto bridge. Afterward, we met our tour guide Louisella for a tour of San Marco Cathedral and some other neighborhoods and back streets throughout the city. After that, we had a day and a half of free time to explore the alleys and canals of Venice. Finally, on Wednesday night, we had our very last dinner together, and each student and faculty received a small notebook to pass around and collect memories and messages.

Thursday morning, students and faculty got up early and boarded a boat to the bus station, and then caught a bus to the airport. After a last round of goodbyes, students boarded their planes for home.

Now that the semester is done, we want to thank every student, parent, faculty, staff, and administrator who has worked to make this program so life-changing for so many people. And thank you all for following us on this journey! We’re sad to lose such an amazing group, but we’re already looking forward to our next set of students in just a few weeks!

It’s our last few days here in Certaldo! We’re all sad to be leaving, but last night we got to say goodbye to all of our local friends as we hosted our final exhibition and reception! We all worked really hard together to clear our whole school, and then converted our multipurpose room into a beautiful gallery. Students brought in things they’ve been working on all semester and we were happy to display all of it! We’re really proud of all the work our students have done!

Now that the exhibition is over, we just have a day left to break everything down, clean, and pack for home! We leave tomorrow morning for Venice and our last three days together!

On the last free weekend before our final week in Certaldo, we all took a couple of days off to go to the beach!

We had to deal with a national train strike on the way, but we made it to Pisa (where we took LOTS of photos of the Leaning Tower) and then onward to Cinque Terre. These five towns along the Italian Riviera are one of the most beautiful places in the world, and we all had a great time. Our students and faculty got to enjoy amazing weather, and loved visiting all of the little towns and swimming and snorkeling in the crystal-clear Mediterranean waters.

Now that we’ve made it back, though, it’s time to buckle down and finish the semester strong! Just a couple of days of classes and exams, then we have our final exhibition! 

It’s been a busy few weeks here in Italy, but it’s finally starting to feel like Spring! We’ve been working hard in our classes, but have also had some time for a few trips around Tuscany.

Last weekend, we visited two of our favorite places, Volterra and San Gimignano. Volterra, founded by the Etruscans thousands of years ago, features an Etruscan museum, alabaster workshops and stores, and lots of nice parks and other places to walk around. Afterward, in San Gimignano, we visited the church (with frescoes by Domenico Ghirlandaio) and then had the world’s greatest gelato! (Really! They won the world championship a few years ago!)

But it’s not all fun and games - we’ve been doing lots of work in our classes as we get down to the last few weeks!