MVNU students experience ‘magical’ Italian culture

Over the course of spring break 36 participants headed to Italy for the cultural and educational experience of a lifetime.

The trip, which takes place every other year in affiliation with the art and design department, was led by art professor John Donnelly.

MVNU students of any year and major could take the Art and Architecture in Historical Italy class to fulfill their Explorations in Crossing Cultures credit in tandem with the trip. Course requirements included a journal detailing their experience and a group presentation on a certain aspect of Italian art.

During the two-week trip, students traveled all over Italy visiting Milan, Venice, Bologna, Florence, Sienna, Assisi, Sorrento, Rome and the ruins of Pompeii. Each city offered a unique look at Italian culture and history.

“My favorite part of the trip was Venice,” junior family consumer sciences major Michelle Landon said. “I have been dreaming of going to Venice forever, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to fulfill my dream.”

Other students agreed that Venice in particular offered an experience unlike anywhere else.

“I really, really loved Venice,” sophomore graphic design major Olivia Swartzentruber said. “It was so far from any city I had ever been to! This may sound cheesy, but it felt magical. It was small yet exciting, beautiful yet mysterious — it was altogether amazing.”

The group rode gondolas through the Venetian canals, walked the Roman forum and the ancient ruins of Pompeii, visited iconic sites like the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain, toured countless beautiful churches and ate as much gelato as they could handle. Each area was also rich with a variety of work from prominent artists, including the undeniable influence found in the work of Michelangelo.

My favorite part of the trip was seeing the Sistine Chapel ceiling painted by Michelangelo,” senior fine arts major Alyssa Stadvec said. “I was amazed, because I had seen tons of pictures of it before but didn’t understand the gratification of it until I was there.”

The Vatican City tour guide informed the group that, despite Michelangelo’s experience solely as a sculptor, Pope Julius forced him into painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. As a result, Michelangelo’s hard work culminated in a creation unlike anyone else of his time could’ve achieved.

“You could see how his history of sculpting came through in the ceiling,” Stadvec said. “Parts looked like collage and really seemed to come out at you like a sculpture.”

Stadvec called the Sistine Chapel ceiling “an unbelievable space for viewers to interact with.”

“Painting, sculpture and installation can all be very different art mediums, but Michelangelo somehow rolled them all up into one mind-blowing art form,” she said.

But the incredible artwork was just one component of the rich and varied Italian culture the group explored. “What really stuck with me was the vast amount of rich culture and history Italy has to offer,” Swartzentruber said. “It was incredible. Everywhere you looked.”

Landon was also impressed by the rich history of Italy.

“Our country is so young in comparison,” Landon said. “We just got an idea of how much history Italy contains, and we only scratched the surface.”

One thing students all agreed on is that this trip was truly an unforgettable experience. Swartzentruber’s sentiments summed it up for everyone: “Take me back.”

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