Study Abroad: Italy

This summer, a group of NYSID students traveled to Italy on the “Immersion in Renaissance Florence: Bridging Art & Life” study abroad trip. See photos here. Guided by NYSID instructor and art historian Maria Chamberlin-Hellman, students explored the art, architecture, history, and culture of the Renaissance by visiting museums, historic churches, residences and sitew such as the Uffizi and the Bargello. Recently, we caught up with recent MFA-1 graduate Carrie Anne Li who shared her impressions of the trip.

What is unique about the art and architecture in Italy?
It seemed like nearly every modern building sits atop a Roman ruin of some sort. There was an amphitheater under the Palazzo Vecchio, a Roman laundry under a restaurant, and retail stores with see-through floors to reveal the Roman foundations beneath. There was also an abundance of religious art, everywhere you turn there was a crucified Jesus!

What was it like having Maria Chamberlin-Hellman as your guide?
I've been to Florence on vacation before, but traveling there to study gives the city an entirely new perspective. Studying the Renaissance in Florence with Maria was like having our own personal tour guide through the Renaissance. The way we looked at and discussed art, frescoes, and landmarks was not like the rest of the selfie-stick-using tourists. Maria is so knowledgeable, and it was really a treat to see things through her expert eyes. 

Did you have a favorite experience on one of the tours?
One of the most fascinating tours we did was of the secret passages in the Palazzo Vecchio. We saw the tesorettos (little treasure rooms) of two members of the Medici family, Cosimo I and his son Ferdinando. Our tour also led us above the enormous ceiling of the famed Hall of the Five Hundred where we could view the wooden truss structural system designed by Giorgio Vasari which is holding up the ceiling and roof.

What are some of the most interesting aspects of Italian culture?
All the cars were very tiny! A normal, regular sized sedan in the States is a large car in Florence.  These tiny cars were necessary to navigate streets that looked like pedestrian walkways. The food was also to die for. The days were paced well with breaks during the afternoons to allow us to truly experience Florence like a local, living the sweet life, "la dolce vita."  We enjoyed relaxed lunches, good fresh food, and tasty gelato. Never has ice cream seemed like such a necessity! Cappuccinos were also the elixir of life. Only €2 per cup, because it's essential. Everyone has an espresso machine!


Phyllis Greer