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2017: Spoleto Picture A Day 5

Posted by: Christine Ragusa | May 27, 2017 | No Comment |

by: Bret Lott

Creative Writing Professor Bret Lott is leading the summer, 2017, study abroad program in Spoleto, Italy.


Classes began in full today. For years we have been meeting on the third floor of Palazzo Ancaina, a beautiful old building that fronts on Piazza della Libertà. But because the building sustained some damage from the terremoti last fall, Gilberto Giasprini, the director of the office of tourism for the city of Spoleto, and our old friend for all these years, arranged to have us moved to the extraordinary Palazzo Mauri, built in the mid-1600s by the Mauri family, nobility in the region all the way back then. Recent renovations have revealed Roman mosaic floors and foundations about six feet below the present building—these can be seen through the glass floor in places on the ground floor. But now it’s the biblioteca, the city library, and we have the honor of meeting in one of the primary room on the second floor (what they call the first floor here). The photo showing the students seated in a circle really is our classroom, and those really are 17th Century frescoes on the walls—the originals. The photo of the window shows (1) more frescoes, (2) the thickness of the walls, keeping the building cool all summer long, and (3) the incredible view out the windows of our classroom. That really is what it looks like out there.

Nothing other to say than that we are humbled to be here, thankful for the generosity of the city, and looking forward to our studies in this grand building.



Palazzo Mauri, a couple streets up from the old classroom.

This really is our classroom.

Yep, that’s our view. That’s our sky. That’s our light.

under: Publications

2017: Spoleto Picture A Day 4

Posted by: Christine Ragusa | May 26, 2017 | No Comment |

by: Bret Lott

Creative Writing Professor Bret Lott is leading the summer, 2017, study abroad program in Spoleto, Italy.


The weekend is almost over—7:30 Sunday evening. Tomorrow we head into town for the first full day of classes at the biblioteca (more than likely there will be photos of that incredible place!). But until then, here are actual unretouched photos of students in their native habitat already hard at work for their travel writing and short fiction courses.

A student (Nicholas) glimpsed studying with his foot actually akimbo (the foot thing may be a result of jumping off that funivia yesterday).

Student study conditions at the villa.

Mary and Alex spotted hard at work for classes.

under: Publications

2017: Spoleto Picture a Day 3

Posted by: Christine Ragusa | May 25, 2017 | No Comment |

by: Bret Lott

Creative Writing Professor Bret Lott is leading the summer, 2017, study abroad program in Spoleto, Italy.

Cari Lettori (look it up):

Day 3 is our first Saturday, which means our first day trip. In honor of Italy’s greatest poet, because these are writing courses we’re teaching over here, we visited Dante’s beloved little medieval town of Gubbio, and the hill beside which it sits, Colle Eletto. In Canto XI of Paradiso, Dante writes, “A fertile slope falls from a high mountain, between the Tupino and the Chiascio, the stream that drops from the hill chosen by the blessed Ubaldo . . . .” This is Colle Eletto, at the top of which is a monastery over a thousand feet above the town. Inside the minor basilica there you’ll find the mummified body of Sant’ Ubaldo in a crystal coffin, his body in regalia, replete with miter and jewel-encrusted vestments.  Almost sixty years ago, the townspeople decided to create an easier access to the top of the mountain, and therefore to the basilica and Sant’ Ubaldo, than the mountain trail up to it  and set about building the coolest ride in all of Italy: The Funivia Colle Eletto. It’s a chairlift-birdcage, a one-person stand-up contraption that was a blast to ride up all the way up the mountain. And so, on this august literary excursion, we went to the top, where we had cappuccino and espresso and ciocollata calda at the little café there. Yes, we saw mummified Sant’ Ubaldo, and later toured the extraordinary Palazzo Dei Consoli Museo in town, a towering medieval palazzo filled with the history of Gubbio.

But that Funivia thing was cool!

Arrivederci, i miei amici.

The beloved medieval town of Gubbio, noted in Dante’s Paradiso, Canto XI, as seen from the funivia.

As demonstrated by Professor Lott, the means by which one commences the ride up: run, and then jump on that thing!

Note the glee with which Kaileigh laughs at the vaunted professor’s less-than-graceful embarkation.

And how one gets off, Nicholas demonstrating the proper egress etiquette: jump off that thing!

under: Publications

2017: Spoleto Picture a Day 2

Posted by: Christine Ragusa | May 24, 2017 | No Comment |

by: Bret Lott


Day number two broke bright and early and gave us the view below of the fields sloping down into the Umbrian Valley. This was taken at 6:00, when the rooster next door got to work in earnest. It’s the same view as every time we are here, but different nonetheless, and always beautiful. We had classes in the morning, then walked for the first time into town for the annual tour of Spoleto with Luca, our guide, who seems never to get any older—he’s been leading us for eight years now. Students were suitably agog at the history, the architecture, the art and gelato (of course we stopped for gelato) of their new home for the next month. But, sadly, there was some evidence of the earthquakes (“terremoto” in Italian—a lovely and terrible word) last fall here in Umbria, including one building next to the library riddled with newly installed high-tech earthquake bolts and a metal support frame to keep it from falling down. Charleston has more in common with Spoleto than simply the international arts festivals they both stage each year. Both cities have a history of terremoti; earthquake bolts in Charleston are one of the architectural elements you’ll hear carriage tour guides point out, the same element Luca points out in the buildings here. Despite the recent earthquakes, Spoleto’s beauty and stateliness and charm remain intact, timeless characteristics the students appreciated all day long.

Creative Writing Professor Bret Lott is leading the summer, 2017, study abroad program in Spoleto, Italy.

A building next to the library, with earthquake bolts on two sides and metal support frame installed to hold it together (there are dozens of them to the left of the door).

Luca and the students looking out on Spoleto from the top of the town.

The gang and Luca at the duomo.

The view, yet again.
















under: Publications

2017: Spoleto Picture a Day 1

Posted by: Christine Ragusa | May 23, 2017 | No Comment |

by: Bret Lott


This is our eighth year in the villa, a 15th century farmhouse just outside town that looks out on the Umbrian Valley toward Assisi. This year we have fourteen students from five different states and with six different majors, and I send the pictures below to introduce you to them all, and to give you a look at the villa itself. We all arrived safely after almost two days of travel, and within a half hour some of the kids were already in the pool (yes, there’s a pool). Later, just after sunset, they all sang Happy Birthday to Brett, who turned 20, celebrating with a tiramisu cake they’d bought for her at the grocery store down the hill. A good group of kids, we can tell already.

Creative Writing Professor Bret Lott is leading the summer, 2017, study abroad program in Spoleto, Italy. 

Brett, Kara and Aimee

The Villa

Chris, Nicholas, Bryan and Alex

Jenna, McKayla and Mary

Liz, Caroline, Mattie and Kaileigh

The Varallos: Gus, Malinda, Ruby and Tony

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