Field Trips

If going to school in Cortona wasn’t enough, we get to go on a field trip each week for each course.  Since I’m taking two (I’m one of the few) I get to go two places each week which is really awesome because a lot of these places I haven’t ever heard of before.  It’s a great way to really grasp what we’re learning.  We’ll discuss a topic in class and then we’ll get to go see first hand examples of it.  Literally the best setup ever.  My first field trip was for my Fascist art and culture history course and we went to San Gimignano.  The countryside was picturesque and there were so many vineyards! I can’t wait until I go back there with Rachelle in August!  We toured the city museum there and climbed the Torre Grossa, which is the largest tower in the town.  People built these towers just to show off wealth and who was on top.  Once a lot of the feuds died down many families tore down the towers since upkeep was quite substantial.  During the Fascist regime they rebuilt the remaining ones  and we watched a propaganda video by Mussolini in class which showcased San Gimignano.  It was definitely cool to walk through the town and recognize a lot of the shots we had seen in the video.  My favourite thing we got to see however, was the Ropert Capa exhibition which showcased all his WWII photographs.

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View from the top of Torre Grossa

My next field trip was to Perugia and it was for my Italian banking and comparative economics course. I was and actually still am a tad curious as how you do economic field trips but I did learn some cool, random facts throughout the day. Back in the 12th-15th century when a city needed a loan in Tuscany usually it came from huge banking families. In the process of building their government building in Perugia, however, they weren’t able to pay back their debts to the families so instead they gave them rooms inside as repayment. We went to the guild Arte de Cambio and Arte del Mercanzia that were the institutions for bankers and Merchants inside the government building.  They were all painted ornately inside and as I now know blue and red paint were the most expensive and details about those colors and the use of gold were all set out in the contracts between the guilds and painters.  Afterwards we went to the Cathedral of Saint Lorenzo because it’s impossible to go anywhere in Italy and not see at least one church.  The paintings and amount of detail within the church were insane.  From there we went to the National Gallery of Umbria, which I’m still not quite sure how it ties into my course but was awesome nonetheless.  All I really learned was that the people  always in the front in the pictures with blue and red robes are bankers and that during the 12-15th century bankers often put themselves in paintings as the three kings in the manger scene.  Those bankers definitely knew how to be modest…

Afterwards our professor bought us gelato because she is just a gem like that.

On Thursday I went to Orvieto, which is in the region of Umbria, for my field trip in my Fascist course. We started the day off at the Duomo di Orvieto. The construction of the duomo began in the 1300s and lasted into the 1700s. They decided to build the duomo after a miracle called Corporal of Bolsena happened. A travelling priest broke the bread and blood apparently came out proving that the bread does truly turn into the body of Christ. Inside there is the cloth that has the blood on it because apparently that proves everything. Anywhoo I’m not shocked it took them around 400 years to build when you see the amount of detail on the church. The mosaics are all made with glass and were done by hand. For the gold pieces they actually put a gold foil in between two sheets of glass. That is some amount of dedication. Signorelli was hired inside to do the roof (he’s from Cortona and there’s a ton of things named in Cortona after him). We went after to see these huge marble statues in another church that is now converted into a museum. These statues were originally in the duomo but Mussolini had them moved because they were considered to be too ornate and decadent. Now the town is divided about whether or not they should be returned to the church because they aren’t sure what’s more historically relevant – what it was like in the far ago past or how it’s been for like the last 100 years. Italians take their history extremely seriously and they all know so much about their country it’s mind-boggling.

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