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Students make Way to Florence

Brian Wittman ’16 – We left Wabash at a reasonable time of 2:30 pm, and discussed potential sites we would see. Undoubtedly on the car ride to O’Hare Airport old Wabash stories were swapped between riders. Upon arrival at O’Hare this untraveled blogger learned that we would be flying out of the county nonstop. So I buckled up for my first international flight. The flight would take eight hours which no one slept the entire way. So the hope for a night of full rest was too optimistic.

We landed in Zurich, Switzerland and my passport received its first stamp styled tattoo. It was a proud moment for a 22-year-old that has never seen the coasts of his own country. Of course Euchre was played during our layover in Zurich. After a group photo we boarded our hour-long flight to the beautiful city of Florence, Italy. Unfortunately when we landed in the city it was being showered from the sky. We knew there was supposed to rain, but hope still lingered in my heart. Still, my introduction to the city (which was a crammed bus ride to our hotel) was full of small oddities and differences that my mid-west desensitized eyes darted to one after another. I’m excited to experience them all, eat some wonderful food, and see some beautiful art. I’ll include all of that in my next blog.

Marcus Kammrath ’16 – Today was the first day we had for a walking tour around Florence! We had somewhat of a typical Indiana day, with all four seasons presenting themselves in the form of weather. We all persevered however and made it a fantastic time! I started my day by exploring our assigned spaces for presentations, the church Santa Maria Novella. Luckily my “exploration” did not take long because Santa Maria Novella is on the doorstep of our hotel! The use of space in Florence cannot be understated, and the way that saying “all roads lead to home” works because by following any street you will find a grand work of art or a place of significance.

We followed up our independent explorations by meeting at the Loggia dei Lanzi. The space could be described as a “patio” of sorts with many sculptures that resemble ancient Roman works. Something that we were able to see throughout the day was the use of Renaissance artwork to showcase how artists portraying various types of Florentine characteristics brought religion and the state together. For instance, one piece we saw in one of the chapels had multiple people sitting down outside of a building on benches what symbolized their commitment to their respective patron.

The best part of the trip so far has been the camaraderie that everyone is bringing to the table as well as the know-how and ability of our professors to engage us in the works and texts that we are seeing in front of us for the first time after reading about some of them in the first half of the course! I’m looking forward to more good history, connections to the texts, stories, food, and wine! Ciao!

Tyler Trepton ’16 – As my first time out of the country, everything from the culture to the buildings amazes me. The clouds and rain could not keep us away from the beauty this city holds, as we explored the views Florence had to offer on our first day. Seeing the detail and artwork of the different frescos and buildings which are hundreds of years old, and how these artists were able to craft these different pieces with the technology they had at the time, is something unfathomable at times in addition to the stunning views crafted in this city in the valley. As we made our way throughout the city for lunch, we stopped at what I would consider a giant food court from the heavens with some of the freshest meats, cheeses, pastas, and vegetables I have ever seen. After sitting down and ordering some pasta and their form of a fried pizza which was basically fried bread dough with pizza sauce – accompanied with a small glass of wine – we had the perfect start to the week. As I walked about the food court to find a place to sit, I saw a number of dogs with their owners which at first glance seemed a bit different to back home, but as a dog lover I could not complain. The conclusion I have come to already is that throughout the week my head will be on a swivel, as everywhere you look there is something new to see and think of the previous history of the space and the stories it holds.

Blair Littrell ‘17 – Taking part in this immersion-learning trip to Florence has been nothing short of amazing, and we just got started! After a long day of travel yesterday, we got to sleep in and start our day at 9:45 a.m. For the first 45 minutes of our day, each student spent time on his own to explore and get a feel for a particular place that he will be presenting on later in the week. I went to the famous Florence Baptistery, and was immediately put back by the sheer beauty and magnitude of this historic structure. After going to our individual places, we met up at the Loggia dei Lanzi in the Piazza della Signoria to begin our discussion of how art and architecture shaped the political landscape of Florence.

We visited the Orsanmichele, a small church turned museum right in the old political, economic, and religious center of the city. This museum housed several beautiful statues made by the likes of Donatello, Ghiberti, and Brunelleschi, which was incredible to see in person. After this, a few of us had lunch at the Mercato Centrale and visited the Bigallo. The Bigallo, located right next to the famous Baptistery and Cathedral, was very interesting and housed several gorgeous paintings of the Madonna and Child. To finish off our studies for the day, we visited the Chiesa di Ognissanti, a church with patronage to the Medici family. This church housed several beautiful paitings of various saints and depictions of Christ, and was just downright astonishing to look at as there are not really any churches that look like it in the United States.

While walking through the city, I was amazed at how narrow and compact the streets were, as well as how there was an abundance of small shops and restaurants. This type of city layout is very different from how cities are laid out in the United States, and offers a unique perspective on daily life and also on how powerful families and their allies in 14th and 15th century Florence would have interacted and fought with each other. Walking through the city has given me a really unique perspective on life in Florence that I just haven’t been able to get from reading the various works of Machiavelli. All in all, today was a great day and I cannot wait to see what the rest of the week has in store for us!