May 14, 2012
Jess Eccher, a rising senior on the Vanderbilt swimming team, is participating in the University's Maymester program, studying in Perugia, Italy. Eccher will provide periodic updates of her experience for VUCommodores.com. Eccher is majoring in History of Art with a minor in History of Architecture and Corporate Strategy. She is in Perugia to study History of Art and Raphael and the Renaissance.
Ciao! I'm Jess, a senior on the Vanderbilt Women's Swim Team. I am currently participating in Vanderbilt's Maymester Abroad in Perugia, Italy where I am studying Renaissance Art. Today marks the day I that I have officially been living in Italy for a week! Thus far, my experience abroad has been absolutely wonderful! I am in love with the city of Perugia and all it has to offer in terms of the scenery, the people, the education, and the food. Prior to this trip, I didn't know much (ok any) Italian and I was a bit worried about how I would survive in a foreign country given the language barrier. While I am picking up some Italian phrases little by little, I have primarily relied on the pointing technique and the confused gesture approach when ordering food or trying to find a location. Yet despite my continual and almost certain butchering of places and phrases, rather than cringe, the Perugians have been so willing to help my classmates and me with our transition into their country.
Tuesday, May 8
After a full day of travelling from Jacksonville, Florida through Charlotte, North Carolina en route to Rome, Italy, I finally arrived in Perugia, Italy quite tired and jet lagged, but nevertheless thrilled to begin my adventures here in Europe. After settling into our adorable townhouse, which I share with five other Vanderbilt students, we officially kicked off our stay in Perugia at a local Italian restaurant where we enjoyed a huge four-course meal. Besides the deliciously authentic Italian food, this dinner most importantly served as a way to acclimate the twenty-three Vanderbilt students, staff members from the Umbra Institute, and Vanderbilt's own History of Art Professor, Professor Shaneyfelt. A great way to start our 3 ½ week adventure!
Wednesday, May 9
My first morning in Italy began with a group welcome breakfast at a place called the Café Living. The café not only had the most delectable pastries and espresso, but also provided the most beautiful view of the neighboring town of Assisi. I will most definitely be frequenting this location during my stay here to satisfy my love of European coffee and to revel in the picturesque postcard views. After fueling up, we toured the city of Perugia in order to help us get our bearings and then we rode on these "petite" trains, known as the "Mini Metros", to visit the Italian supermarket to stock up on staples. Today also marked two firsts for me in terms of my culinary experiences: my first authentic Italian pizza and REAL Italian gelato. Those who know me will tell you that I am an ice cream aficionado. I would say my biggest issue of the day was having to make the dreadful decision between "Stracciatella" and "Café" flavored gelato. In the end, I went for the "Stracciatella" flavored, even though it was impossible to make an incorrect decision.
Thursday, May 10
Today was the first official day of classes and served as an introduction to main themes of the Italian Renaissance and its art. Being an Art History Major, with a minor in the History of Architecture, I am completely in my element here and am enjoying every bit of the art and architecture that we are studying. I am so grateful to have been granted the ability to study in Perugia at the Umbra Institute and to see firsthand the works that I have been studying for the past three years at Vanderbilt. Tonight we arranged another organized group dinner where we went to a favorite local restaurant "Dal Mi Cocco," where you pay a fixed price for endless amounts of real Italian food. My favorite thing was the gnocchi in tomato sauce. In case it hasn't become apparent to you yet, I am a total foodie, and being here in Europe, I feel as though I have died and gone to Italian food heaven.
Friday, May 11
Our class spent the morning in the classroom at Umbra. We then ventured to an off-site session at the "Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria" where we took a tour of the location and admired some of the local Italian art that we have been studying. My roommates and I attempted to cook our own Italian meal tonight and it was a success. We decided to make homemade Bruschetta and two pasta dishes. Everything was delicious! It was a nice change of pace to stay in and cook for ourselves, not to mention the fun bonding time we shared over music while dancing and preparing the dinner.
Saturday, May 12
After hunting down much some needed caffeine for an early morning meeting, our class boarded the train and began our day trip to the tourist town of Assisi. There we toured the Basilica of St. Francis and then St. Clare. The architecture and frescos of these sacred sites were absolutely breathtaking and the town of Assisi was absolutely adorable and full of character. I have to say that this was my favorite day so far because I got to experience European Art firsthand and really felt the impact of seeing the works up close.
Sunday, May 13
After our wonderful trip to Assisi yesterday, our schedule permitted for a "Free Day" where students were able to decide for themselves how to spend their time. Some classmates decided to venture to local towns, but I and a few of my friends decided just to stay local and prepare for tomorrow's day trip to the town of Urbino.
Until next week! Arrivederci!