Winter term program in Italy incites the senses

by Victoria Slater, English Department Intern

prosciutto sandwich

Prosciutto Sandwich This past winter term, Miami University English professor Jason Palmeri, and Italian professor Daniele Fioretti taught a study abroad program that allowed students to experience Italy with all their senses — and write, about it, too.

The program, titled Visions and Contrasts in Italy, took place in Florence January 3 through 24, and was designed with one professional writing glass geared toward travel, art, and Italian food, and another focused on Italian film.

"I was excited to teach Travel and Food Writing with Italy as our classroom," Palmeri said. "The students had experiences that made great content for them to write about."

He added that they chose Florence as a location because of its blend of historic Renaissance art with more contemporary flairs, and its close proximity to other historic attractions in Italy. 

Palmeri and students

Professor Palmeri and Winter Term students

Fifteen students attended the program, all mostly English and communication majors with a variety of different minors. Junior Carolyn Turner, a professional writing and chemistry double major with a minor in philosophy, said she chose this program because its content worked well with her various fields of study.

"Miami offers plenty of J-term experiences, but the opportunity in Florence stood out to me both for the courses it included and what great things I had heard about the city,” Turner said.  "After meeting with Professor Fioretti, who was born and raised in Florence, I knew this was the program for me. Not only was I able to take engaging classes that counted towards my majors, but it became clear to me that this would be an opportunity to dive head-first into a different culture."

The program was structured so that classes were held Mondays through Thursdays, with weekends free for students to explore other regions of Italy. Intheir writing class, Palmeri took students to museums and open markets to experience Italian art and food, and subsequently students reflected on their observations on a blog and in travel essays. In the film studies class, the students discussed film concepts and history. Turner said, on long weekends, the students were encouraged to travel outside of Florence to gain a full understanding of Italian culture.

Palmeri said much of the focus of the writing class was Italian food, with trips to two open markets. Many students also participated in a wine tour in Tuscany.

"It was a great opportunity to learn about unique Italian foods without paying high restaurant prices," he said.

He added that he hopes to incorporate cooking classes into the curriculum of future classes.

Turner said her favorite aspect of the trip was her immersion into an unfamiliar culture, and meeting especially friendly Italians with which she had to work to communicate.

"My favorite experiences in Italy all involved meeting people that were different from me and learning from them,” she said. "For me, the ability to have these experiences came down to not being afraid of miscommunication and willingness to learn from someone else … These are just a few of my favorite memories because they involved me learning about Italy directly from Italians, which I believe is the most accurate way to learn about any place."