For the first time this fall, the Faculty of Arts is offering a “Mosaic Course” in Cortona, Italy to alumni and the general public for nine days of learning and adventure, led by academics who live, work and research in the region — including History & Classics professor Helena Fracchia, archeologist and director of the UAlberta School in Cortona. Participants will enjoy academic discussions on ancient and modern Italy, visits to museums, traditional Italian cooking (including an olive oil and truffle lesson), language instruction, wine tasting and guided archeological tours.
A strong believer in adult education, Fracchia is excited about the new course, especially given the rich cultural and historical setting of Cortona. “It’s not just look and see,” says Fracchia. “The ancient archeology in itself, which is based first on the Etruscan population, and then the Romans, shows a continuity of place and of practice that makes this an excellent area for showing long-term development mixed with traditions: culinary, artistic, historical and economic,” she says. “This course is about showing a process of development and evolution to make the interconnections clear.”
Fracchia’s interest in the region derives from her own childhood experiences growing up on a farm, which inspired studies in ancient and modern agricultural practices, and led to her career as an archeologist specializing in the reconstruction of ancient cultural landscapes. “The Tuscan hilltowns are all built on Etruscan towns, which became Roman towns, which became Medieval and then Renaissance towns,” says Fracchia. “And of course they are modern towns today, so the cultural developments show a remarkable continuity and interweaving.”
“What this course allows is someone to plan a vacation, take this educational course and look at the cultural landscape of Italy from ancient to modern times.”
According to Fracchia, the structure of the course, as well as its limited number of participants, will allow for a more informal and personal contact between the instructors and the participants. “We don’t do lectures per se, but rather conversations over a glass of something, over a cup of something,” she says. “This encourages exchange but also allows people to take the conversation where they might want it to go, to add their own personal experiences.” In every way, the Mosaic Course in Cortona exceeds the standard, more “touristy” introduction to Italy, and is designed specifically for those seeking immersive and authentic interactions, including hands-on cooking lessons and language instruction. “The Italian language component is purely conversational and will bring our participants in contact directly with the shop keepers,” says Fracchia. “It’s a good way to get people to feel at home in the town.”
Perched on a hillside 600 metres above the Val di Chiana (Chiana Valley), Cortona and its breathtaking vistas – featured in the film Under the Tuscan Sun – is the incredible backdrop to one of the most unique experiences available to the intellectually curious traveller. “What this course allows,” says Fracchia, “is someone to plan a vacation, take this educational course and look at the cultural landscape of Italy from ancient to modern times. That is why it’s called a mosaic course – bits and pieces that make a spectacular and functional whole.”
The Mosaic Course will take place October 12-20, 2015. Registration closes Wednesday, July 29, 2015, with a maximum of 20 spaces. For more details or to register, please visit uab.ca/ArtsTours or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a lively take on the area, read English & Film Studies graduate Alex Migdal’s posts from Cortona: http://www.woablog.com/author/alex-migdal/