Venice Week 1: January 27, 2018

Ciao to All of Our Readers!

We have begun our ninth year for the FVCC Semester in Venice. Our focus this week was to begin our understanding of the history and culture of Venice through their Political Structure as a Republic, the rise of their Economic Power, Strategic Maneuvers, Social Factors of hierarchy and ways of life and tradition. We looked closely at the Ducal Palace and the Basilica San Marco. One disgustingly wonderful aspect I always enjoy seeing. It makes the presence of the Pilgrims in the Medieval period during the Venetian Republic real to myself. When you are standing in the area where the believers worshiping would have stood as there were no chairs offered in those days, you will see four large square pillars in this space. People could sit on these stone benches and did sit there as the evidence proves their presence. Over the centuries they rested their heads on the square pillars and left of a brown ring where the backs of their heads would rest….they didn’t bathe much then…

My aim is to always give the students a rich and authentic experience living as temporary citizens of Venice. As we finish our first week together it has been just that. Our students have learned to move around the city on the waterbus system, navigate the labyrinth of cobbled streets and narrow Calle, shop in Super Mercati as well as Mercati Aperto (open air fish and produce markets), and we bonded together cooking authentic Venetian recipes with my dear friend, Anna Santini from our sister language school, The Istituto Venezia. Other highlights for me were sharing the artisan workshops of some trades that have been carried through for centuries. We visited my friend Paolo Brandolisio who is one of four artisans working in various types of wood to specifically create Forcole (Fulcrum) and Remi (oars) for the boats such as the Gondole, and the Traghetti. Paolo is always kind, generous, and humble in his demonstrations and explanations of his ancient trade. After thirty plus years in the business, Paolo has apprenticed a young man who is now one of the four artisans I spoke of earlier. After a lesson in the oldest fornace (glassblowing factory) on the Island of Murano where we learned about the ancient and famous glass from a maestro named, Davide, we were delighted to indulge in an authentic Venetian meal just a ten-minute walk from the Fornace. This unmarked venue, is one of the oldest establishments owned by our new friend, Bruno, proved to be an exceptional experience. We have where we make our assignments that are handmade made by another good friend of mine named, Marina de Grandis. She fashions the journals into the folios in the style of the Thirteen Hundreds. Marina also restores books and documents some also dating back as far as the Thirteen Hundreds from the Old Venetian Maritime Republic. She reads the old Italian language. In our world that is ever progressing and changing, how fortunate we are to have access to witness these ancient art forms and important ancient practices. There is a real beauty in tradition. By pausing to consider traditional methods and engaging in traditional activities, we are forced to look beyond the “self” and our own “world” to the world gone by, to that which man came from, reminding us of our vulnerability, immorality – and, ultimately, our connection to something larger than ourselves.
We have nine tremendous students on this year’s team. They are settling in nicely in the city and are ready to begin their first day of Italian Language classes. We have had a busy week with surprises at every turn. It is my joy and privilege to share the Elegant Old Woman who once the Queen of the Adriatic. I am having a very enjoyable time getting to know each student and all they bring to the table individually. I am finding this group to be present and engaging and super inquisitive. Our discussions are lively exchanges. I am looking forward to the semester as it unfolds and to see each student’s growth, their struggle, their triumphs, and being confronted with themselves as the deepening of their world view expands. For an Educator such as me, it doesn’t get better than this!

Thank you for your interest in our Program and following our journey as your read the weekly entries.

Warmest Regards from the Lagoon!


Susan Guthrie
FVCC Semester In Venice Program, Director


My first week in Venice went by fast yet it feels like I’ve been here longer; I feel at home. Already I have learned a considerable amount about the history of this city and visited many ancient historical places of the city to reinforce our lessons. So far we’ve toured Museo de Correr, the Doge’s Palace, the clock tower in San Marco, St. Mark’s Basilica, and some other places. We learned how the Venetians built buildings in the muddy marshland by driving thousands of wooden poles into the more sturdy soil and then building a foundation upon that. We also saw the Arsenale where the Venetians used to turn out a large war ship each day! Although we’ve visited many monumental places, everywhere in Venice is historical. Our apartment, like most of the buildings here, is over 800 years old. By now I’m getting a good feel of the area around our apartment and slowly expanding my mental map of the island. I am also beginning to catch on to how they do things here, like eating a quick bite at the bar instead of a table to avoid an additional “cover charge.”

As an aspiring chef I have been paying close attention to the food here. While visiting the nearby island of Murano for a glass blowing demonstration, we got to experience an authentic Italian meal at a family owned restaurant. Our multiple course meal included fragolia beans, homemade rolls, clams and mussels, and squid ink pasta! It was all delicious and the type of Italian experience I’ve been waiting for! We also got to shop at the Rialto market where there was endless stands of fresh produce and fish. I was in awe of how vibrant the fruits and vegetables were! Afterwards we had a cooking lesson with our theatre teacher that lives in Venice and is an amazing cook. We learned how to make pasta and prepare lots of different seafood. Some of the ingredients can only be found in Venice or parts of Italy so it was exciting for me to learn about them and how to prepare them. I was also able to learn about the Venetian mentality for preparing seafood such as cheese is never part of a seafood dish. Venice also has a plethora of sweet treats in almost every shop window it seems. I’ve had some excellent gelato, tiramisu, and a beignet with sabayon filling. It is exciting to me to get to try desserts here that I learned about and prepared in cooking school. It is also exciting that I know a decent amount of information about Italian pastries and can translate many items on menus.

This city is altogether beautiful, surprising, and unlike any place I have ever visited. I am so thankful for this great experience!

Savannah Cooking


Today I made the realization that adventures are the best way to learn. I can say that I have learned more in the last week than in any classroom. I have gained information on not just Venice itself, but it’s culture and its history. There have been some struggles like not knowing how to read Italian and accidently buying laundry softener instead of detergent or trying to get to Lido by the waterbus, but instead taking an hour detour in the wrong direction. All these errors that I have made in the last week don’t matter though because at the end of each day I still feel accomplished. I feel accomplished in the fact that this is why I embarked on this study abroad experience. I wanted to try new things, gain new experiences, and retain as much information as possible. The people who created this incredible city on a lagoon where miracle workers. I can’t even imagine the work that went into creating such a brilliant city. It is neat to be able to learn not just about the thousands and thousands of trees that sit below where I am currently residing, but also to learn about how Venice made its way to glory. The Venetians worked with what they had to survive. They traded salt and fish and slowly gained more and more power. They even stole the body of St. Mark to secure them as a religious power in the world. Every time I walk around this city I just admire the architecture and find it almost unbelievable that people built this city from the ground up with their hands, no modern-day machines. It is truly breathtaking.

Another realization that I made was that being abroad can really push your limits and make you do and try some stuff that you never thought you would. As a kid growing up I was a very picky eater. My signature dish pretty much every day was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but only creamy peanut butter and only grape jelly. Yesterday I tried some very interesting food that would maybe disgust some people. I didn’t really enjoy some of it but I am glad that I tried it. The food is a huge part of the cultural experience and sometimes you might just be surprised and find your next favorite meal. Personally, I really enjoyed the fried shark that we all prepared with Anna during our first cooking lesson. I have also pushed my limits in other areas than just food. Every time I walk out my apartment I am pushing my limits because I get to take new routes and go into new buildings and restaurants and meet new people. Before leaving to Venice I was almost regretting buying plane tickets and committing to this program because in a way it scared me to be out on my own. It wasn’t a pleasant thought to me to have to be in uncomfortable situations. I am so happy that I pushed myself to embark on this journey. It has only been a week and I have already made some wonderful memories with the most wonderful people.

Libby in the Fornace-Isola di Murano


My first steps in Venezia were filled with love and excitement. Upon my arrival I was greeted by my lovely instructor Susan and two other girls in our group. We had a great time chatting about the many wonders we had yet to see and I could already tell this journey was about to change my life. A couple hours later my roommates and I had a chance to explore our apartment (my first one ever!). It is in a very local part of Venice in the Castello district. I soon discovered while buying boots that very few people spoke English near us. Needless to say, I didn’t end up getting any boots because of this obstacle. One thing I definitely know how to buy however is the food. Even the worst slice of pizza here in Venice is better than the best ones back home. Everything is made and bought fresh so I already feel 1,000 times healthier in just this first week. I absolutely adore my group, they are all so sweet and just as interested in our studies as I am. Susan tends to dive deeper into topics and it really helps us to get a deeper understanding of Venice, which we all appreciate. The most awe-inspiring places so far have been the Basilica San Marco and the fish market. From the high, golden ceilings of the basilica and the mess of colors in the market it seems the entire city is teeming with art. I’m glad to call it home.

Through this first week we have focused a lot on the history and culture of Venice. I think it’s amazing that the Romans were pushed out of their homes by the barbarians and had to find an entirely new way of life in the lagoon. By sinking wood down into the sediment so they could build on top of the lagoon and live there, they founded one of the most amazing cities in the world which soon became an empire. I had no idea how massive of a trade center Venice was when it was in its prime. Because it was the “middle man” between the East and West it had a monopoly on all the trade in that region. You can see all those major influences just by walking around the city: in the architecture, the stores, even the general setup of the city shows where merchants would come to sell their goods. The Arsenale could put out one warship a day when Venice was the major Empire of the world (after Rome fell in the 5th century) which is impressive, even today. I’m proud that I’ve retained so much information this week just exploring Venice. As I learn about this wonderful city I continue to learn more about myself.


Dorothy enjoying the sunshine


When asked if I was nervous to be traveling to Italy this semester my answer was always no. And it was true. I wasn’t trying to act cool or collected, but frankly I just didn’t know enough about what I was signing myself up for to really be scared. Upon arriving however, fears did begin to surface, one of which was a fear to spend money.
The difference in currency had me very nervous to make my first purchases. I was afraid of overpaying or being short-changed.
The first night in our apartments Kimy, Preston, and I realized our fridge needed some stocking, so we walked down to the grocery store. We began our shopping very conservatively loading our cart with items we recognized such as bread, milk, eggs, etc., and all was fine. The problem arose when we were looking for lunchmeat, yogurt, sugar, flour, and pepper due to the Italian labels that we could not read. The three of us laughed knowing that we weren’t totally sure of what we were putting in our cart and realized our basic Italian wasn’t enough to even get us through the grocery store.
We employed tips that Susan had equipped us with such as the rule that you do not touch the produce without a glove. If you do you will surely be scolded.
As we approached the cashier, after our lovely game of guessing, it was time for the big step. Paying. The cashier spoke what our total was in Italian and after my moment of hesitation she pointed to the screen revealing the grand total of 25.23 euros. I swiftly pulled out a 20 and a 10 euro bill; she took the money and handed me a receipt.
What was one of my biggest fears here in Italy turned out to be just as anticlimactic as spending money in the Unites States. I had just conquered the unconquerable and was now out 30 euros. Nevertheless; the three of us walked out of the store with our bags of groceries feeling accomplished. Who knew how empowering making a quick run to the store would be. I now had confidence in my understanding of Italian currency. This purchase was the first of many bills that would be spent fearlessly in beautiful Italy.

Savannah and Preston learning to shop


This is my first time outside of the country, and my first time being away from home for such a long time. I was so excited for this trip, but also nervous. I came here only knowing a handful of words in Italian and was hit with the reality that I was so far from home and felt like a bit like a fish out of water on my first day. Trying to find the store was the first challenge which we didn’t actually find it until the second day. Instead we found a small restaurant where we ordered some dinner and then returned to our apartment deciding it might be best to try in the daylight. After consulting our map, we found we had gone the wrong way right as we left our building! So, going the correct way, we did find our store. Walking in was an abrupt reminder that I don’t speak the language and that I was in, seeing things and having no idea what they were and having to guess on some. It was an interesting challenge trying to identify food from pictures and what words were similar to those I know in French or English words. We managed to find what we needed and headed home feeling victorious. For me the small victory of getting groceries chipped away at my nervousness and made me feel more at home. Between that and having also figured out how to work our stove to cook our first breakfast I felt a lot more at home and ready to see what Venice is really about.

I feel like we have done so much, it’s hard to believe it’s been a week already! I have to say so far my favorite thing was St Mark’s Basilica. The outside of the building is beautiful with the mosaics telling the story of how they stole the body of St Mark. Then when I entered the building I was taken aback by the mosaics covering the entire ceiling and undersides of arches. The angels and depictions of stories from the Bible were in such beautiful detail and were surrounded in striking gold. It nearly brought me to tears seeing it, even thinking of it now I feel overwhelmed. Just seeing the size of it all, the angels had to be at least twelve feet tall. It was incredible to think how it could have possibly been done and that it was done it the twelfth century just by incredibly skilled people just astonishes me. For me the Basilica was truly awesome in the old meaning of the word, completely awe inspiring.


Venice is a city with many personalities, she is busy and filled with tourist during the day. Hundreds of people wall the streets shopping, laughing, and exploring an old historical town. However, if you look closely you can see a whole new Venice. Early in the mornings is my favorite time to see Venice. Around the time of sunrise and slightly after Venice is a marvel that hums with a feeling of being one big happy community. Every single morning this week it was my goal to get up early and try and see a new part of the town. Each day I would take a new route down through the city to see the sun rise over the water. Its beauty can rival that of the sunrises over the Rockies. I see many people out bustling and setting up shops for the morning, and starting their work days. Many shopkeepers yell and joke with coworkers or stop to talk to people on the side of the street. Multiple times Isaw people stop whatever it was they were doing to shake hands and begin chatting with a passing friend. I went for a lovely run through the park one morning and saw people of all ages running and taking their dogs for walks. Elderly people would walk slowly just enjoying the scenery and the peace of the morning. There’s really no crowded streets or busy areas in the early mornings and that’s the Venice I enjoy.

Just in the week I have been in Venice I have learned so much. I feel like I have been all over the town just getting a little taste of everything this city has to teach me. I’ve learned about bell towers that have been passed down through generations for hundreds of years. I’ve walked through palaces with hallways wider than my apartment and rooms covered in gold. At first glance it reminds me of movies and TV shows, like it’s a whole different world. We explored St. Mark Basilica which holds the body of Saint Mark himself, one of the four prophets to write the Holy Gospel. That building has its own special feeling. I got chills thinking about just how sacred and special this place is. The most wonderful part for me though is the history behind what I saw. Learning about these places while physically standing there gives it a whole new meaning. Never before have I been so amazed by the history behind the tours and museums here. It’s hard to wrap my head around the idea that these building were the homes to thousands of people over the years and have witnessed some very historical events. They are a testament of time and showcase the power of mankind to build such marvels that have lasted for so long. It’s an understatement to say that I am in awe of all these incredible things.

Venice at Sunrise


Ciao tutti!!

This has not been my first time to Venice, but so far, Venice has been something very special. It feels like it’s my first time here all over again. The journey from Montana to this mysterious city went ever so smoothly, until my bag didn’t arrive with me when we landed in the Marco Polo Airport. That wasn’t very exciting to deal with, but long story short, I have my bag again!

There is so much history, cultural pride, and kindness here. From the multicolored buildings plastered in plants, to the frequent churches and basilicas sprinkled throughout the city, there is always a picture perfect sight to see! During our tours, classes, and adventures, I am constantly in awe of how magnificent this city is. The architecture takes my breathe away because of how magnificent these buildings tower throughout the city, and the stories they hold. The art makes me fall in love and tear up all at the same time because it truly portrays what life and politics were like during the Renaissance/Baroque/Rococo eras. The people make me feel happy and welcomed with their fun and bright personalities. Also, the food is a little too good because there’s none of those gmo’s or preservatives in the ingredients. All the food is crazy fresh here! Hallelujah! Oh, and you wouldn’t believe how delicious the hot chocolate is here! It’s almost as thick as pudding, and leaves you completely warm and satisfied. I am very afraid for my weight.

This semester has helped me realize so many things about Venice such as: the history of the town clock and the family who was in charge of it in San Marco Square, the Doge’s Palace and the purpose of each of the government officials during the time, the importance of certain customs (not being able to use a bathroom for free in cafes unless you buy something), and the history of the Venetians from the very beginning. It has opened my eyes to see what the people who live here see: a treasure of a city that is truly worth being prideful for. If I could write all about the history of Venice to explain this more, I most definitely would.

I am ever so excited for the rest of the semester! I cannot wait to have an even better understanding of the language, life, culture, and history of this city. This really is the opportunity of a lifetime, and I’m so blessed to be a part of this wonderful group of students.

Ciao for now!!


If you struggle to unbury your car from the three feet of snow that swallowed your car the night before, you might be living in Montana. Normally I look forward to the simple comforts of Montana, such as meat and taters, snow shoeing Glacier Park, and drinking hot chocolate and coffee as if it were water. It as a way to recuperate my body from the numbness of the icy cold days, but this year, I decided to venture off into the magical world of Venice, Italy.

Coming to Italy has been a complete 180-degree change from Montana. Instead of snow, I find myself surrounded by canals, ancient architecture, and rich culture. It’s an unbelievable experience to see the history of Venice kept alive after all this time, a complete world of its own.

Although I stereotypically thought of Italy as a small island full of spaghetti, heavy Italian mustaches, and passionate Italian men riding Gondolas while pouring out their hearts, I learned that there was a lot more than what meets the eye. I indulged in gelato and carbed up in the endless amounts of pizza and pasta. I fell in love with cioccolate caldo (hot chocolate) and witnessed the breathtaking art of the basilica and the unbelievable architecture. Overall, Italy has been an adventure full of wonder and mysteries around every corner waiting for its hidden splendors to be rediscovered.


Hello America from the bright and sunny streets of Venice, Italy. As expected the transition from Montana to a living museum was practically seamless with very few hiccups. It truly is a wonder to be in a completely car free city whose only transportation are blue-green canals and cobbled stone walkways with each turn and twist giving way to elaborate churches or colorful pastel buildings blooming with flowers. I feel lucky to be here everyday getting lost in the labyrinth of Venice and slightly taken back by how right it feels.

The weird thing is that every museum and palace we see and every tour we go on is a lesson for a real college class. To put this into context every oil painting we gape at on the ceiling and walls of a palace are most likely being doodled on in a textbook by a bored student in a traditional classroom. This concept truly warps my thoughts but also falls right into place because the best way to learn something is to be interactive with the subject if not performing it. This means we are learning and retaining more than those in a standard class situation and connecting to the information better. Plus, who wouldn’t want to study in Venice? It is an amazing city that had to be built from the ground up with without being able to touch solid ground. I am dazzled by the beauty and proudness of Venice and dumbfounded by the richness of her history. I am undoubtedly grateful to be here and sharing it all with you.