Follow the students of the ECU Italy Intensives Study Abroad program, Fall Semester 2014.
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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!

It’s the end of Spring Break here in Italy, and we’re all just getting back from our adventures!

Our first few days, we all traveled together to southern Italy, where we had an amazing time. After a brief stop in Naples, we continued on to the charming little town of Vico Equense, which was our home for our time in the south.

On our first full day, we got up early and took a bus to the archaeological site of Pompeii, where our tour guide Esther gave us a really interesting walking tour! After a bite for lunch, we left the ruins of Pompeii and headed all the way up to the top of Mount Vesuvius! It was a tough hike, but the views from the top were breathtaking. The hurricane-force winds at the top were pretty breathtaking (and hat-taking!) too!

On our second full day, we toured the famous Amalfi Coast, by both bus and by boat! We made stops in Positano for sightseeing and even a little swimming in the frigid Mediterranean, and also in Amalfi, where we toured Europe’s oldest paper mill and visited lots of neat shops.

After our few days in the south, we were sad to split up and go our own ways for different Spring Break locations! Keep an eye our for some of those photos soon!

It’s been another great week here in Italy! Our classes are going well, and we’ve gotten to take some time for lots of fun too!

Last weekend we took our first trip to Siena, another great Tuscan city! Our Art History teacher Silvia led us through Palazzo Pubblico (the Town Hall), where we saw masterpieces of Sienese art.

Saturday night, as a treat for such good work during the week, we hosted a potluck dinner and movie night in the classrooms! Who knew our students and staff were such good cooks? Everyone also loved our movie selection: “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” Now everyone is trying to find copies of the books to read in their spare time!

Finally, Sunday marked the beginning of Carnivale, which in Certaldo meant a big party in the streets for all of the children in town! Our big children (students and staff!) still had fun, spraying each other with silly string, throwing confetti, and buying delicious treats! It’s sad that it’s only for one day a year!

This past Valentine’s Day weekend, we spent two AMAZING days in Florence on another overnight trip. The main point of the trip was for the Art History and Art Appreciation students (which is basically everyone!) to get a chance to see some masterpieces of medieval and Renaissance art. Trips this weekend included the Bargello national museum, where they saw work by Brunelleschi, Ghiberti, and Donatello; and the Uffizi Galleries, which include work by Cimabue, Masaccio, and Botticelli, among others!

We also took a long hike across the river from the center of Florence up to the Basilica of San Miniato al Monte, where we took in the absolute best view of Florence. Arriving just before sunset on Valentine’s Day was a special treat!

After all of their class work was done, students and faculty got to have some free time to shop, visit museums, go to soccer games, and even get a photo with a new bride and groom coming out of the church! We can’t wait to get back to Florence in just a few weeks for our next trip!

Last Friday we took our first of many trips to Florence this semester. We picked a good day, too, because it was one of the few days without rain that we’ve had so far! It also happened to be the first weekend of Florence’s annual Chocolate Festival, which was very exciting (and delicious)!

After taking their first train journey and arriving at Florence’s Santa Maria Novella train station, students got a tour of the major landmarks of the city led by History teacher Ryan and the other returning staff members. Some of the points of interest included the Duomo (the main cathedral of the city), Piazza della Repubblica, Piazza della Signoria, and a couple of the major leather and clothing markets in the city! The students and faculty then had a few free hours to get lunch and do some shopping before meeting with our Art History teacher Silvia for our first tour of the world-famous Uffizi Gallery.

The students all had a great time, so we’re looking forward to another two days there this coming weekend!

Classes are in full swing here in Certaldo Alto! This semester our selection of classes includes: Metals Design Survey, Advanced Metals Design, Design 2, Drawing, Figure Drawing, Painting, Photography, Book Arts, World History, Art History, Italian Language, and Italian Literature! Busy, busy, busy!

Even in their first week, however, students have already completed some of their projects! Looks like it’s shaping up to be a very productive, creative semester!