Arrivederci, Firenze!

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It certainly doesn’t feel as if a month has passed together. The time flew by and after just a few days the group went from being total strangers to best of friends. For our last day, we walked up to San Miniato al Monte (a lovely church on a hill overlooking the city) and heard Gregorian chanting. Then, we headed down to Piazzale Michelangelo to get some last pictures with a view of our home away from home.

We ended the evening with a dinner at a local restaurant where students enjoyed everything from pizza to pasta to tiramasu. We signed our yearbooks throughout the dinner to remind each other of the great memories made. Finally, at 3:30 in the morning, most of the group was up to head to Rome for their flight home. There were last minute tears and laughter (mostly delirium at that hour!). We are happy to report the group flight is currently at their gate awaiting departure. It has been an excellent summer with a fantastic group of kids. From your staff: we wish you all the best in your future endeavors and hope to see you again, perhaps on another Summerfuel adventure! Ciao!

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Balliamo!

As we wrap things up, we wanted to give the students a chance to share what they learned this month, their work, their art or even their talents. Last night, after dinner, we hosted a student showcase. Students were invited to bring any special projects they had completed during the summer, samples of their work to display or to prepare a presentation or performance for their peers. We had many different entries from fashion portfolios to sketches and photos. The first part of the showcase was a gallery viewing where students could walk around and check out their friends’ work.

Whilst some were gallery viewing, Nastya offered her talents to do individual portraits of anyone who wanted. She was able to complete each portrait in just a few minutes and everyone was amazed with her incredible talent. She gave those who participated a priceless souvenir and memory of an incredible summer together.

After the gallery viewing, some students presented work. Marina and Cara presented a pizza and foccacia bread they had made in cooking class. They talked about the ingredients and why they are typical products of the region. Finally, Eli and Jack each performed country songs to get us ready for a night of dancing. We were blown away by their amazing singing talent (and humbleness). We were so happy to have had them share their talent with us on one of our last nights. It was a very special night and a great way to start the beginning of the end.

To celebrate a successful summer, and after much persuasion, we decided to hit the club for a night of dancing. Everyone got dressed up and went down to Space club together.

The club quickly filled up and the music was exactly what the students were hoping for. Everyone was singing, dancing and enjoying each other’s company. When it was time to go, we still had to pull some off the dance floor because they were having so much fun. We were so happy to be able to celebrate the end of the program together in such a fun way. Tonight we are heading out to get one last view of the city before our final dinner and night in the residence. We cannot believe it is coming to an end but we are so grateful to have had the experience and shared it with your child, sibling, friend, etc!

 

“Caccia” me if you can!

We began the course at the beginning of July with a scavenger hunt challenge so the students would get to know the city in a fun way. They had to decipher the meaning of clever clues and navigate their way to key sights and landmarks that they would later need to know by heart throughout the summer. The first scavenger hunt was such a success and our students have come to know the city so well that we decided to put them up to a new challenge. We set the bar higher with clues to less known landmarks and photo challenges such as, “high five strangers,” or, “take a picture with someone’s pet.” You can take a look at the full scavenger hunt below.

Here is Team 1 and the pictures and tasks they were able to accomplish during the allotted time:

And here is Team 2 with their entry:

Who should win?? So many great pictures! Both teams ended the race with a ride on the carousel.

 

Scavenger Hunt

Rules: Each team has 1 hour to complete as many of the challenges as possible. You will document each challenge by taking a picture of it, showing at least one member of your team. The staff will judge the pictures on creativity, and for each challenge completed, teams will get 1, 2, or 3 points (best gets 3 points, 2nd best gets 2 points, 3rd best gets 1 point), plus 1 bonus point for any picture including their whole team. The team with the most points wins!

Riddle challenges—Find these Florence-specific landmarks and get a picture with them.

  1. Feed me money, rub my snout

Watch the money tumble out.

Your greatest wish you’ll surely gain,

If it falls into the drain.

  1. Find the doodled face on the palazzo wall

that Michelangelo got bored and scrawled.

  1. This Italian author is popular as hell,

His “Inferno” is where naughty students dwell.*

Adventure challenges—complete each task and document it with a picture. How you accomplish these is up to your interpretation of the challenge and your imagination. Interaction with the locals is encouraged (but as always, be polite!). The more creative, clever, cute (etc.) your picture, the more points you can get!

  1. High-five a stranger.
  2. Find some cool street art.
  3. Find the smallest alley in town.
  4. Florence’s name comes from the Latin root for “flower”—get a picture of one team member giving a flower (of any kind!) to a teammate or teammates.
  5. Sit on a horse.
  6. Ask for a picture with a street musician.
  7. Ask for a picture with someone’s pet.
  8. Get a view of the Duomo from somewhere up high.

 

 

A Summer in Florence is no boar!

Last weekend, some students took the opportunity to spend Sunday visiting the outlet malls! Just 45 minutes outside of Florence, we took a fancy shuttle bus to reach, The Mall. At The Mall, you can find all the top designer brands for reduced prices! As soon as we arrived, the shoppers were running off the bus to get the deals…and they didn’t stop until 5 hours later! All were pleased with their purchases and can’t wait to show off the goods stateside soon!

On Monday night, some students opted into a Secrets of Florence night walk, programmed through the university. We met Johnny, our tour guide, who walked us around the city center and explained the stories behind some odd statues, drawings and buildings. Our favorite, however, was learning that you can make a wish with a wild boar! But, your wish will only come true if you launch your coin from the boar’s mouth to the drain below. If you miss, no wish!

Finally, here are our final RA group photos that we took this week for our yearbook, which is almost ready to print! These groups have become so close it is going to be hard to say goodbye…in just 3 days! Wow, time flies!

We have a lot of exciting end of course activities planned and we can’t wait to show the pictures we collect! Ciao!

Italy has a Pisa our hearts!

On Saturday, students took a trip to visit the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa! We found out that the tower was built on marshy land so all of the buildings are slanted, not just the tower, though it is the most pronounced. The tower was built by at least three different architects in three different stages. The second two architects both tried to correct the lean with little success. Finally, in the 90s, much of the soil on the north side of the tower was removed to correct the lean by 6 inches. Today the tower is stable, though still definitely inclined!

After taking the iconic Pisa pictures, students had lunch and explored the town. Others met back to check out the duomo and take a tour with Charlie. We also went inside the baptistry where you can go up to the second floor and look down into the baptismal font. It was a fun day checking out Pisa and taking some memorable pictures!

Towers of San Gimignano

After spending a morning at the farm, we headed to the small, medieval town of San Gimignano. The town is known for its towers, specifically 14, that still stand today. In the past, people would build towers with wooden staircases going up to the top. When enemies arrived, those being attacked would run up their towers then set the stairs on fire so no one could reach them. Pretty clever! San Gimignano is one of the few towns in Italy that has preserved these towers so that they still stand today.

Students spend the afternoon eating lunch in this quaint town and doing some light souvenir shopping. The highlight, however, was trying the best gelato in Tuscany at Gelateria Dondoli! Yum!

Fattoria dei Maiano

Yesterday, we left the big city and took the kids to the farm! An olive oil farm, to be specific! Fattoria de Maiano is just a 20 minute drive outside of Florence but feels like a completely different world. From beautiful open lands to wild animals and plants, the property is nothing like the city. We began our day with a hike around the property. Our guide, Tomasso, the son of the owner, explained the fascinating history of the land. The Pazzi family built the original building on the property just outside of Florence in the 15th century. The family had been banished from the city after attempting murder on the Medici family in church. They also built a large tower to show the Medici just how powerful they were, regardless of their expulsion.

Later, the land was taken over by an Englishman, John Temple, who also funded the facade of Florence’s duomo. There have been many famous visitors to the property over the years. Queen Victoria was a guest here and has been famously been pictured painting the lake that lies below. Also, Leonardo di Vinci famously tested his flying machine here (it should be noted that it failed and he was not the one doing the testing- no wonder they called him a genius!). Lastly, A Room with a View was filmed on the property as well (you will see just how beautiful it is in the pictures!).

We hiked all over the property talking about the plants, animals and history that accompanies it. While it was a very hot day, it was a nice shady path for us to explore and we loved hearing about the rich history of the land.

After our hike, we got to pet some of the animals on the farm. There was quite the selection from donkeys, cows, ducks, and even an ostrich!

After our petting zoo experience, we classed things up for an olive oil tasting! Tomasso explained that you first should smell the oil. It should smell fresh like herbs or grass. If it doesn’t smell fresh, it means that something was wrong with the olives, plants or the pressing process. Then, you take a sip and move it all around your mouth while sort of clicking your tongue to bring out the flavors. You should taste the earthiness of the oil and later you should feel a bit of residual spiciness. Students loved the experience and many purchased olive oil to take home!

It was a fantastic day on the farm, after which we headed to San Gimignano for lunch. Stay tuned for more about our trip there later! Ciao!

Un’altra settimana en Firenze!

This week we have had so many great activities to check out and places to visit in Florence. Monday through Wednesday students rotated through activities including a visit to Santa Maria Novella Church, the Leonardo di Vinci museum and the Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy.

In our visit to Santa Maria Novella Church, Charlie toured us around and talk specifically about the magnificent art housed in this church. We had the opportunity to see a restoration taking place and we talked about its significance to the church and the history about why not all works were well preserved. It is a beautiful church with some amazing history!

Another activity was a visit to the Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy. It is the oldest (still running) pharmacy in the world. It is stunning inside with displays of old bottles and medicine cabinets but also sells some deliciously fragranced treatments today. Students did some shopping (hopefully for their parents!) and ended up with candles, lotions, perfumes and more. It was such a nice place to visit with a lot of history but modern appeal as well.

Finally, students had the option of visiting the Leonardo di Vinci museum. For once, we went to a museum where touching everything was not only permitted, but encouraged! Students were able to test some replicas of Leonardo’s designs and theories. It was a great first-hand view into the genius of this man and what inventions he thought up that we still use today!

On Tuesday night, there was a Bastille Day Bash in Florence in Piazza Ognissanti. They had a DJ playing music all night and crepes being prepared to order! By 9pm, the square was packed with people rocking out to classic hits, singing along and breaking only to grab another crepe. It was a very fun way to spend a Tuesday night!