by Anna Bratulic
Poring over piles of photographs strewn on a coffee table and swapping memories of being lost in Venice, Liberal Arts College students reminisced about the trip they took together last summer.
Every three or four years, the College organizes a major trip overseas to a country that has played a significant role in the history of the Western world. For about three weeks last May and June, LAC students, staff, and friends of the college revelled in the beauty of Florence and Venice, as well as other historic towns of Italy. Previous LAC trips have included Israel, Greece, and Russia.
"We stopped following the rest of the group and we went off on our own," said second-year LAC student Caroline Krzakowski, referring to their time in Venice. "There was a maze of streets. They make you want to wander and get lost in them."
Krzakowski, who has traveled widely and had already visited many Italian cities, said that going there as a student of the city was more valuable than going there as a mere tourist. Seeing the art and architecture she had only heard about or seen in books also made the trip worthwhile. "It's very different to see something in real life," she said.
Professor Fred Krantz took students on a walking tour of Dante's Florence. Dante's Divine Comedy, required reading for LAC students, mentions several monuments and locations in the city. Florentines, proud of their native son, have placed plaques around the city with inscribed quotations from the Divine Comedy relevant to that part of town.
"Some of us were walking around with copies in our pockets," said third-year student Lindsay Armstrong. They visited Dante's grave in Ravenna, and the Chiesa di Dante where the writer first laid eyes on his beloved Beatrice.
They also stopped by the octagonal Cathedral of San Vitale to look at the mosaics of Emperor Justinian and his wife Theodora.
All participants, students and staff alike, were asked to do some research on an aspect of the trip, such as an artist or a building, and do a three-minute presentation when they encountered it on their itinerary. Armstrong did her presentation on Benozzo Gozzoli, a Renaissance painter whose work hangs in the Medici Chapel.
Some exhibited a flair for acting when an impromptu commedia del arte (a Renaissance theatre form) was directed by theatre aficionado and Loyola College grad Bob Burns. It featured stock characters typical of the period, who incite laughter through various misunderstandings. The plot centred around love and "that certain something about the air" in Venice.
Bread and cheese were the staple foods for this trip. But Armstrong remembers a night when many of the students got together and cooked a potluck dinner for one another. "We all just went to the markets and splurged."
When the official LAC trip ended, students were free to wander off on their own to other parts of the country, some to Rome, others to smaller seaside villages.