My journey studying abroad in Montepulciano has been life changing. I wanted to polish my Italian language skills, and I knew that if I wanted to make friends with the natives, I would have to put myself out there.I was glad to not only make new friends, but also to receive one-on-one Italian lessons socializing with them as well! I learned to correct some grammar mistakes that I was not aware of making. I also got comfortable enough to barter in Italian with street vendors, and I was able to get a decent price for a butterfly brooch that I will give my grandmother for her birthday!
However though my whole trip I was able to learn more about myself. When I am at home, I tend to worry about things. Seeing the beauty of the everyday life in Montepulciano has certainly transformed me into a more relaxed person with more of a positive outlook. I know I will always feel good when I think about all of the friendships and the beautiful things I have seen. I recognize that I may never have this experience at home in the United States but I know I will remember how I felt in Montepulciano. Now that I have experienced these beautiful traits, I can share these experiences with friends and family and hopefully they will learn from it as well.
–Annie Tullo, SCSU
One thing I learned while in Montepulciano is that I prefer the slower pace of life, and I don’t look forward to returning to the faster pace of life in America. Back at home, there is a McDonald’s, Burger King, or a Dunkin’ Donuts on every corner. They encourage the busy, non-stop lifestyle that has most Americans flying by the seat of their pants! The grocery stores are overstuffed with junk foods and useless products. I couldn’t begin to imagine how many of these products go to waste before they are even purchased by consumers. It’s a shame.
I truly enjoyed and appreciated the simpler approach in Montepulciano. There’s a grocery store at the foot of the city, which has everything one could need. It is well-stocked, small, and affordable. There aren’t end-caps on every single aisle cleverly displaying junk food with large sale signs enticing naive shoppers to indulge and waste their money; yet these foods are available if you want them.I indulged a couple of times and enjoyed every second! My life here in Montepulciano made me feel as though one of the main themes of the American lifestyle is: “consume, consume, and consume”, quantity over quality. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to partake in another way of life. I learned that the simple things are more than enough.
–Roxanne Esteves, SCSU
When I first read Dante’s Inferno, I knew it was a political allegory, but I didn’t focus on that at all; instead, I chose to pay attention to its mythological aspects. I read the story initially because I thought minotaurs and dragons and demons were cool. What I hadn’t realized initially is how EVERYTHING in the story is political; nothing was put there just for imagination (this initially disappointed me, but I eventually grew to love this aspect).
Despite the fact that Professor Palma’s class on Dante’s was about the political aspect of the story, I discovered something about myself that I did not realize: I know ALOT about ancient mythology, to the point where my hobby became an invaluable tool in understanding the examples Dante was giving. Taking this class helped me realize that my choice of major was wrong, and that, using the knowledge that I have gained through an interest, and not just school, I can actually be successful.
This journey has also taught me that I am in fact capable of learning another language. For years I’ve doubted my abilities, but I was finally able to understand and use Italian as a skill. Ironically, this did not come from the classes I took, but from the culture clash I experienced when I arrived. I had to learn Italian or be completely unable to do things for myself.
I owe Dr. Palma a big ‘thank you’ for letting me come on this journey through Italy… and the Nine Circles of Hell. Because of this trip, I was finally able to choose what I want to do with the rest of my college career!
–John Zibluk, SCSU
Words cannot describe how grateful I am for this opportunity to learn the Italian language and literature in Montepulciano. The trip started for me when my parents dropped me off in front of the Lyman center at Southern Connecticut State University. I felt completely vulnerable and nervous because I was about to embark on an extremely long trip with six strangers. As the journey progressed, the seven of us began to talk and get to know each other better. Once we were more comfortable, we shared many laughs together before we even arrived at JFK international airport.
The first day that we spent in Montepulciano was fascinating. The views were breathtaking; I felt like I was walking through a postcard! The architecture and culture in Italia are two aspects I love to learn about. We are surrounded by beauty here. Once we arrived, we freshened up and headed to dinner. The typical family style food and environment made me feel like I was at my nonna’s house. We had three wonderful courses, and after dinner we went for a relaxing walk and took in the beautiful views of Toscana near “La Val d’Orcia”. Shortly after, we retrieved home to our apartments and fell asleep. The view outside of my apartment window is amazing; it’s something you cannot duplicate back in the Stati Uniti.The landscape is something I have never seen before. I love the trees, hills, mountains, and beautiful houses that are in town and even in the far distance.
My goal for this trip is to improve my Italian and feel more comfortable speaking. I also hope to improve on the different tenses and grammar. In addition to the language, I hope to learn about Dante. I have never taken a literature course like this, and I believe it will be an amazing experience to learn about him in this atmosphere. Credo che studiare Dante in Italia sia molto interessante!
Montepulciano is a beautiful, unique place and I am so lucky to be here!
–Kelly Costin, SCSU
It feels like it was just yesterday when it was snowing and it was the beginning of the Spring semester and I said to myself, “I just want this semester to end so I can go to Italy this summer”. It is hard to believe that I am finally here! Since I fell in love with the Italian language I knew I wanted to study abroad. I wanted to spend the semester abroad because I wanted to speak exceptional Italian, but that did not sit well with my overprotective parents. Eventually they changed their minds, convinced by a professor of mine. This made me glad; yet I was told by certain students that it would not be a good experience, that it was only a month and I would be in class for most of it. Though I have been here for only three days, I can say that person is very wrong! I have already been introduced to so many people.
I imagined Montepulciano as a very small town with just natives and few tourists. I have noticed that it is bigger than I expected and that there are a good number of tourists (though few from the United States). I also thought my room would be a lot less elegant. I thought I would be in a small room like the dormitories at SCSU, shared with one of the girls. I was completely wrong; I have a huge bed with curtains and I feel like a “regina”.My apartment has a beautiful rustic feel, and I feel so blessed that I am living in the beautiful city in this gorgeous apartment. I am the luckiest person in the world!
–Annie Tullo, SCSU
After our long journey from New York to Madrid to Rome, we finally boarded the bus for Montepulciano. We fought not to fall asleep during the two hour long trip, but it was a losing battle for some of us! All around us, mountains and hills were rolling with beautiful farmland. There was not a single shopping center in sight. As we neared Montepulciano, I knew that it was going to be a beautiful place. The views out the window were promising, characterized by charming, quaint cottages and rolling hills bathed in sunlight. My heart was overwhelmed with gratitude when we set foot in Montepulciano.
So began our first day in the town. We were exhausted, as expected, and we were determined not to sleep until evening came. As I noticed the differences between my new surroundings and what I knew back home in America, I was utterly impressed. I was simply honored to be in such an environment. I noticed there was plenty of farmland and not a single shopping center in sight. I admired the scenery and this refreshing, simple way of life. Electricity is expensive, so the locals work with what is available. They are much less wasteful and are very disciplined and frugal. This doesn’t bring them grief, they seem to embrace this way of life with enthusiasm and ease. This is truly refreshing.
As we approached our apartment, I was overcome with admiration. Everywhere we turned, we were greeted with breathtaking views defined by endless landscapes and beautiful architecture. The windows and stoops are garnished with beautiful flowers. The streets are clean and well cared for. Every detail is strikingly beautiful.
The shops are small and independently run. There are no chain restaurants or stores. And you can find everything you could possibly need in the small shops within the town, and the supermarket just outside of town.
The locals are friendly and approachable. They are more than willing to help you stumble through your sentences in broken Italian. They enjoy that you make an effort to speak the language.
I don’t ever want to leave. I’m honored to be here in Montepulciano!
–Roxanne Esteves, SCSU
The beginning of the trip from SCSU to Montepulciano was one full of anticipation, nerves, and expectations. There were many factors weighing on my mind. Not knowing any of the students on the trip well, not knowing what to expect in regards to the travel itself, and most importantly how I was going to interact with the people of Montepulciano, having spoken virtually no Italian in my life. I was somewhat comforted by many who told me the language was similar to Spanish, with which I am familiar. I have always been sure of my ability to adapt to different environments and change, but this would certainly be an undertaking the likes of which I have never attempted before. The travel itself was fairly straightforward. We set out from JFK to Madrid and flew overnight as planned. There was a slightly hurried layover in Madrid, but overall the entire trip went smoothly. By the time we arrived in Roma and gathered our luggage and boarded the bus to Toscana, I was truly exhausted and ready to deal with anything if it meant getting to a bed!
Preparations for the Bravio delle botti, an annual barrel rolling contest between 8 contrade, or neighborhood teams, which dates to the 14th century.
We arrived in the early evening, and after a quick tour of our apartments it was off to dinner. The first experience that I had with true locals was meeting our waiters, Oliver and Scardi. The pace and accents with which they spoke were greater than I imagined; although I was able to pick up overall trends in the conversation due to their inflection, tone, and hand gestures, I was quickly seeing that—if I were going to reach my goal of functioning conversationally on my own—I had my work cut out for me.
Whatever my trepidations about the language barrier, they were second in my mind to the true beauty and architectural wonder of the city itself. They say in life that few things are truly as expected, and most things will not live up to the hype. But the city of Montepulciano is more original and authentic than I could have imagined: its blend of old-world feel with modern convenience and charm is an irresistible combination. Having the privilege of staying within these walls for a month will surely be one of the most memorable experiences of my life!
Already I have been picking up some small bits of conversations and other Italian phrases, just from ordering foods from vendors. This, coupled with my lessons, have me confident that I will be learning a vast amount of the language and able to make speedy progress towards my goal of being conversant in Italian!
— Andrew Perillo, SCSU