Study Abroad: Art Education with Italian Dressing

Bart Flores
El Vaquero Staff Writer

It is impossible to study art and architecture in Italy without being drawn into the emotion and love and life that fills the air here, even when the themes are pervasively religious. In Florence, religion radiates from the walls in technicolor.

Santa Maria del Fiore, called the Duomo, is covered with pink, green and white marble and topped with a red terra cotta roof. It is flanked by a baptistry which boasts guilded bronze doors. It is positively breathtaking.

Often, when a Renaissance Italian painting is cleaned and restored, art historians are shocked at the brightness of the colors. But spend a week among the Florentines, and the brightness makes perfect sense.

The three men and 22 women in our study group are all making our individual discoveries here. Suzi, for example, was at first homesick and sorry she’d committed to the trip. But just a few minutes ago I ran into her in the cyber cafÇ across from Eby’s bar and she glowed with happiness and a confidence that was missing for the first few weeks of our stay.

The Italians themselves are worthy of study. My roommate Chris and I attended a party in Fiesole, a beautiful hilly area overlooking the lights of Florence. It was a perfect opportunity to mix with the locals without the sound of American students babbling loudly in the streets. Our friend Massimo drove us up the narrow wiggily roads to a sculptor’s studio set for a formal dinner. We ate beside a roaring fireplace and got to know our new aquaintances, who ranged from 25 to 60 years old.

As we sat in the afterglow of our meal, the following scenario unfolded:

“The cook is Indian?”

“Yes, from Sri Lanka.”

“Bravo Indiano!”

“Claudia is going to sing ‘Summertime’ now, while Massimo plays the piano!”

“Bravo Claudia!”

Claudia, an aspiring actress, sang a few verses, and everyone appplauded wildly.

The party lasted all night as we danced, sang and drank wine. After a point someone went to the stables and let the old horse out, and the four-legged friend poked her head in the door to join the festivities.

The whole thing was a bit like the set of a Fellini film, and this suited us perfectly.

We’ve even engaged in the time-honored tradition of suffering for art. While in Rome some of us got late tickets to a show featuring several paintings by Caravaggio rarely seen together. We missed the last train back to Florence, and with no money for a hotel simply slept on a bench on Via Nazionale.

It’s precisely this sort of thing that has each of us with a permanent case of the sniffles, not to mention very sleepy eyes.

We’re about half-way through the trip, and we may well not survive the sensual overload provided by our accommodating hosts.

Los Angeles will undoubtedly seem quite colorless by comparison, but then some of us may need the rest.

Ciao ragazzi, a dopo!

Bart Flores is reporting from

Florence, Italy as a part of GCC’s Study Abroad program