Among the Etruscan Ruins


(Courtesy of Julia Friedrichson)

By Christina Giardinelli

While many University of Utah students settling into the fall semester have found themselves complaining about Utah’s dry heat, other students are lamenting the humidity. Logan Prete has just begun his second year in pre-architectural studies at the U and describes his current learning environment as “gorgeous, but still hot and humid.”

Prete is among a number of students obtaining credits at the U while attending the Architecture, Design, and Planning program in Volterra in the region of Tuscany, Italy. The program will last the duration of the fall semester and just a few short weeks into it, some students already want to stay as long as possible.

“I love it so much, I’m kind of dreading going back to the States at the end of the semester,” said Stephanie Chawla, also in her second year of pre-architectural studies at the U.

(Courtesy of Julia Friedrichson)

Volterra is a small town with a resident population of only 10,410 and an average age of 49. To give some perspective, the U reported an enrollment of 31,860 students in 2017. At 1,770 feet above sea level, nestled in between the Era and Cecina rivers, this quaint location is renowned for its ancient Etruscan and Roman ruins. The remnants of Etruscan-built walls surrounding Volterra, or Felathri, as the Etruscans called it, stand as a reminder that the town was once an important part of the Etruscan federation.

The town is also a chief location for alabaster work. U students attending the program will take a course in alabaster work from a local alabaster master. Other courses include a project-based studio course with Anne Mooney, U faculty director of the program, and an Italian language and culture course with Giulia Munday, who sits on the Board of Directors of the Volterra-Detroit foundation. A group of senior students attending the program will skype into lectures at the U campus.

(Courtesy of Julia Friedrichson)

Julia Friedrichsen, a second year U pre-architectural student attending the program, was able to respond to interview questions for herself as well as relay answers from other U architectural students via Messenger while they were driving back to Volterra from a weekend hiking trip to the Matterhorn in Zermatt, Switzerland. Friedrichsen will be blogging for the U’s Learning Abroad Center this semester. She stated that she feels the program will “definitely help [her] creative flow of ideas,” adding that she believes it will allow her to “develop better social skills and all around become more culturally aware.”

Chawla was enthusiastic about the program and stated that she would “definitely recommend it,” adding that she believes it is a great way to “experience another culture without being a tourist the entire time.” She stated that “you get a better understanding of what Italian life is actually like.”

Hayley Gatchell says she believes the program is important “specifically for architecture students” because “there’s nowhere else you can really be immersed in history and understand architecture like Italy.”

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