Venice Week 2: January 31, 2018

Ciao Tutti!

This Monday I couldn’t help but be a proud “Mom” taking the students to their first class of
Italian I at the Istituto Venezia where they were greeted by their teacher, Deborah. They were both excited and nervous as I left them to commence in their nine-week journey. Six of our nine students have a measurable amount of either Spanish or French language from high school. We have two native speakers of Spanish. The three students who have not had much language immersion will be surrounded by great tutors at any moment. I predict this group will do exceedingly well!

The focus of this week was on the cause and effects of the decline and fall of Venice. We looked at Political, Economical, Strategic measures…or lack of…and Social factors that eventually ended the thousand-year reign of Venice as the greatest Maritime Republic in the world at that time. One of the effects of the elegant decline was the result of wealthy families given the opportunity to pay Venice large sums of money…Venice coffers were bankrupt… in return, the family was given the privilege of being accepted in to Venetian nobility. This would include having their names written in the Golden Book and were given all the rights as if they were native Venetians. They bought luxury palaces on the Grand Canal from which the former Noble family who had lived there had gone bankrupt. An excellent example of this is the Ca’ Rezzonico, one of the finest examples of the 1700’s lifestyle where “old family fortunes” were squandered on endless lavish parties, public entertainment, gambling, cortesans, and it was decided to extend Carnevale to a six-month mask festival. The masks leveled the social class hierarchy so commoners could mingle with the high society and visa versa. License and pleasure were encouraged. You could be anybody and do anything you wanted. There were no rules. The Ca’ Rezzonico, one of the best preserved palaces, and is an interesting and lively visit where we can see the rooms and furniture of the day (not all originally belonging to the Rezzonico’s family but in the fashion of the day). One can see where these people lived and partied endlessly while paintings on the walls depict the people who actually sat in those chairs and tables and danced in those rooms. While the rest of Europe was adapting to the Era of Enlightenment, the Venetians of the Republic were resisting any notion of changing. The people didn’t want to work or serve…they were stuck in the mud and kept to themselves in their luxury palaces. In 1797 Napoleon flooded the lagoon with his troops and the last Doge gave his horned crown to a servant and said “I won’t be needing this anymore”.

As my first class comes to a close, I am pleased to tell you our wonderful students are off to a great start in their new home and are settling in to their new routine! Four students voluntarily sacrificed sleep to come to my apartment at 7:00 am to help me with my bags to my airport water shuttle This is the caliber of character we have on the ground in Venice. They are proving to be vibrant engaging students that make our Nation, State, Community, and our FVCC shine. Carnevale has begun and the next class of the History of Theater and Music of Venice will begin with the remarkable Anna Santini and her colleague, Stefania. A lot of happiness happening here. Good Times!

Ciao Ciao,


Susan Guthrie
FVCC Semester in Venice Program, Director



It feels as if I just arrived in Venice even though I have been here for about two weeks already. It is strange how time really flies by. Learning here is so different than the usual classroom. We spend our class time walking about the museums and learning with our eyes. It so much easier to understand the history and culture of Venice when a picture is being painted right before my eyes. When walking into the Ca’Rezzonico palace I am transported back through the years. Instead of arriving with my classmates I am arriving in a gondola, ready to attend the party. When walking into the ballroom I can almost see the costumed figures dancing about, laughing, eating and enjoying the luxurious lifestyle of the times. Venice was at the height of their glory and even as the snowball begun to tumble, the Venetians continued to pursue a lifestyle of riches and fun. This is the spectacular thing about Venice; the fact that you don’t even have to have a fantastic imagination to picture these images. The images come naturally because the buildings, streets, canals, and culture are almost exactly the same. It brings a sense of joy to me and in the end the feeling of complete content.

This last week has been a week of smiles. The first smile was at the beginning of the week when walking home from class one day. A young venetian boy of about four years old ran up to me giggling like crazy. He stopped before me and then tossed up confetti, getting it all stuck In my hair. He laughed once again and then ran onto his next victim. My heart melted right then and there. Other laughs came from the many comments that belong to Callie and the week winded down with an evening full of cheeriness. The whole group attended a dinner where I had a fun filled evening sitting next to Savannah. We ate yummy pasta and had fun making faces into the distorting mirror that hung across from us. Today I got the chance to visit Padova which was quite a treat. I spent the day wandering around outdoor markets and eating some super amazing chocolate that I had bought. The best part was on the train ride home. Savannah had a mini sized deck of cards so we began a game of war. The couple sitting across from us didn’t speak English and was intrigued by our card game. They watched us the whole time trying to figure out what kind of game we were playing. To finish up the night on our walk home we ran into a band playing music on the street, people were gathered around and we danced the night away. Now I sit in bed and my feet are tired and my mouth sore from all the laughs and smiles shared. My heart is happy.


Last Monday we began our Italian 1 class. One week of living in Venice without knowing the language, except for a few general terms, was enough to excite me for a four-hour-five-day-a-week class of Italian at the Istituto of Venezia. Knowing some basic grammar and parts of speech in your native tongue is an imperative key to learning a foreign language. Due to this universal rule, Italian 1 has been an intro to Italian and a bit of a refresher course on English.
We have a very nice teacher, Deborah, who has introduced us to the Italian menu. She broke it down and taught us what some of the most commonly mentioned dishes consist of. Often times we hear of dishes such as, risotto, minestrone vs minestre, lasagna a la bolognese, and the topping peperone, etc, but not everyone knows what they actually mean. For example, Risotto is a rice dish were broth is slowly added so that it may cook into the rice. There are two forms of the soup Minestrone which people just lump together as the same thing. Minestrone is the soup with broth and vegetables while Minestra, is the same soup except it is made with meat. The bolongnese part of lasagna means that it is a meat lasagna. Often times here in venice you here people talking about peperone which sounds like peperoni and is not at all the same thing. Here in Italy to ask for peperone is to be ordering a plate of peppers. And what we all know and love in America, peperoni, is actually called spicy salami. These two are not to be confused.
After learning what a typical Italian menu consists of she taught us some simplistic phrases that are used when ordering a meal. She encourages us to order in Italian when we go out. I have tried this several times and I seem to get what I ask for, so I know she must be teaching us right.
It has been fun being able to apply the lessons we learn in Italian to our real world. This full immersion in an Italian speaking country creates an urgency and desire to learn the language in order to enjoy Venice further.


Another great week has flown by in Venice! We started Italian class this week and I’m now feeling more confident pronouncing common phrases such as for ordering food. It’s difficult forming phrases because I really have to think about what tense to use as well as the correct gender of the word, unlike English. The best way to learn for me is listening to the lingo of local Italians, mostly in shops and stores, and then trying to interact as well as reading, menus, signs, etc. For the most part when I need help pronouncing or saying something, the Italians have been very helpful; sometimes they are even amused and start a short conversation in English. One of the highlights of my week was visiting the Ca’Rezzonico Palazzo. For us girls we put on our imaginary extravagant dresses and makeup, and piled our hair high, weaving in pearls and other fancy adornments. We walked through the museum imagining we were guests of the wealthy Rezzonico family. We would have arrived in a gondola, danced in the ballroom, which is basically as big as my house, and been entertained by acrobats, fireworks, games, and/or musicians. At this time in history, Venice is losing it’s power but choosing to party and act carelessly. The streets were full of sludge and they were spending money they no longer had due to loss of trade ports and other factors. They even let wealthy people, such as the Rezzonico family, buy their way into the noble Golden Book in an effort to make money. I really enjoyed learning about this wealthy family and palace as it related to the historical timeline of Venice we’ve been studying.

Carnevale has officially begun and it is exciting! Some people go all out with costumes, wigs, and expensive masks consisting of crystals, feathers, and such. This is a serious party! The masks I’ve seen ranged from 50-150 euro for even a simple one. People come to Venice from all over to partake in the multiple week event. The first night of Carnevale a group of us stumbled upon a live band performing outside of a restaurant! We got to sing and dance along which was a lot of fun. I love that the festival is something everyone can enjoy. My heart was full watching little kids throw confetti in the air and laugh in the squares. Another highlight of my week was discovering Tonolo’s bakery. Grabbing a fritelle (a Carnevale treat that is basically a doughnut filled or not filled with different fillings) and a caffe macchiato was such a treat! It is a family owned place and I have so much admiration for Tonolo’s. I keep thinking about how I wish Kalispell had little cafes like the ones here. The food here is a reflection of caring about fresh ingredients without additives. I am enjoying the simplicity behind food preparations. My gnocchi at dinner, for example, was so lightly dressed with a white wine sauce that at first I thought it didn’t even have a sauce. Each ingredient was already so flavorful that the dish did not need to drown in a sauce for flavor. Needless to say, I am loving this culture and am hungry for more!


After a long day of Italian classes, Susan Guthire took us to the Scuola Grande di San Rocco to explore the collection of paintings left behind by the artist, Tintoretto. He was known as on of the 16th century’s masters of Venetian painting. As I walked through the building, I expecting to find myself rushing to get through the imagery, but I was wrong. I was awe struck by the simple fact that a single man was able to create a world of magic and mystery with the simple use of a brush, paint, and canvas.

One of the paintings that really stood out to me was the Gathering of the Manna. This painting illustrates Moses as an angel, handing out manna from the heavens to the several Istraelites that surround him below. I could feel the warmth and light coming from Moses as he hands out the manna to his faithful servants. Everything around Moses looks dark and eerie as though he were a gateway towards God. The contrast Tintoretto used with his lifelike paintings felt dramatic and mysterious. I was left captivated at the thought that a single human being could create such masterpieces. So if you want to find yourself lost in the world of Tintoretto, I would highly recommend the Scuola Grade di San Rocco. It will leave your hungry for more.


Hello & Ciao!

What a week it has been. I was sick for most of this past week, but I’m happy to say that I’ve made a full recovery! We have now settled into the groove of our school schedule since we are now taking Italian 1 (hooray!). There’s so much more people here in Venice for Carnevale, which has already kicked off, and it’s already feeling a little too crowded. We’ve seen some very interesting things so far. For example, there have been people dressed in lavish costumes and masks that don’t quite fit them too well, confetti and streamers all over the place, and venues being built up in San Marco Square. Personally, I’m excited for Carnevale! I’ve heard many interesting stories, so I can’t wait to see what’s in store.

We just finished our first week of Italian classes, visited even more churches, explored the Jewish ghetto quarter, viewed more art pieces by Tintoretto along with many other masterful Italian artists, took an educational stroll in the Ca’ Rezzonico Pleasure Palace, and discovered the infamous pastry shop mentioned countless times by Susan: Tonolo. We learned what Venice was like during the 1700’s-the 1800’s, and how people during that time were trying to buy their way into a higher social status so that they could give back to the city, which was losing money fast at the time no thanks to complacency of the people and lots of unnecessary parties. We also learned how art influenced the Venetian society during the plague, what actions contributed to the city’s decline, and how the city changed all throughout history up until now. I am constantly fascinated by everything we are taught about this culture. It’s absolutely incredible to think about how much history just this city holds!

Lastly, being here now feels unusually normal. It feels like I’ve been living here for awhile. However, every now and then, I think to myself, “Oh my goodness. I live in Venice, Italy, and I go to school here. I’m actually an Italian citizen. This is seriously the best!”. I’m ever so excited to see what the rest of this semester brings!

Ciao from Venice


This week was even more adventurous than the last one; I’m beginning to find where I fit into Venezia. Walking with Libby along the square near my apartment, a young boy (about 6) and his little sister ran up to us giggling, then proceeded to shower us in confetti. The spirit of Carnevale is something I have looked forward to seeing since I was in 5th grade, so being included in little things like that will stay with me my whole life. Another tradition of Carnevale is a local cake called frittelli. Abby, the culinary arts major on the trip, is fascinated by them. We both agree they taste amazing. It’s so great to see her in her element experimenting with the food of Venice, she loves it! Just on Saturday night Carnevale’s festivities officially kicked off and some of the group got to experience a very local, free concert. All of us were dancing in the front with other strangers who were enjoying the lively saxophone and deep tones of the lead singer. Though my feet hurt from exploring the open-air markets of Padova earlier that day, it didn’t stop me from dancing with an elderly couple from England on holiday. The connection I felt with everyone in the crowd, despite language barriers, backgrounds, and beliefs, was one I’ll never forget.
Throughout the week we visited many more churches and began our first studies in the Italian language. I’m really grateful I took Italian 1 at home before this semester because it has helped me to gain a better understanding in my classes here. It has also enabled me to create easier study guides for the whole group (which I use religiously). Now I can even order in Italian restaurants without looking like a deer in the headlights. One of my favorite places we visited this week was the Scuola Grande of San Rocco or “Tintoretto’s Sistine Chapel”. The artwork and carvings housed there are absolutely awe inspiring and recount the stories of the New Testament. We all walked around for about three hours learning about each one, from the stories behind them to the style and color scheme of the artist (Tintoretto). On Monday we will begin our third class focusing of the theatre and music of Venice. As I’ve been involved in music my entire life I’m THRILLED to start this one. There is much more to come… Ciao for now!


Having only been here for two weeks I feel like I’ve only explored a very small part of Venice. Sometimes while walking on the way to class or while on the vap I see a street or building I want to go check out. As this is usually on my way somewhere, I don’t have the time to stop and wander around as I would like. So one day on the way home Savannah and I got onto the vap to head home and we decided to seize the moment and get off at a stop that we hadn’t explored yet. So we got off at the Salute stop and admired the church from the outside in awe of it’s size and the detail included in the decorations. From the steps in front of the door Mary looks down at you while holding baby Jesus looking as if she is welcoming you to the church. It’s such a small touch but it makes such a large and imposing building feel welcoming. After taking some photos we started walking along the southern edge of the island as the sun set. It was beautiful and quiet. A few locals were out walking or jogging but for the most part the street was quiet. We stood on a bridge and admired the view for a bit before we went down a different street away from the water. This street was much more busy. There was a café so crowded with people socializing they spilled into the street. And just a bit farther down found a small shop stocked with tons of art supplies and bought ourselves some supplies to add a bit of color to our journals. Our new purchases in hand walked farther down the street eventually popping out into the campo (the word means field but it looks like a sort of square) that was very close to our school. It was amazing how far we had walked without even realizing it. It was fun just exploring to see what we could find and seeing a new part of the city.

It’s amazing how much learning can take place in such a short amount of time. It’s only been two weeks and we are already finished with our first class. Actually seeing what I’m learning about in person while learning about it just makes things so much more interesting. There’s only so much you can get from a book but you can’t really get the scope of the buildings and how people actually lived unless you see it. For instance, those that were well off during the Renaissance period lived incredibly lavishly. Their homes were huge with several rooms dedicated to entertainment, every square inch was decorated. A text book might show pictures of how extravagant it was but actually being there and looking at the fine detail of the wood carvings on chairs the painting on the walls or even the doors is just amazing. In one of the bedrooms that we visited in the Ca’ Rezzonico the floors were made of small pieces of marble that are in a sort of cement making a smooth surface that looks beautiful. This style allows the floor to have the beauty of marble but is also light in weight. The floor in our apartment are also done in the same style. What was different about the floors in the bedroom of the Ca’ Rezzonico house had what looked like small bits of black marble making a perfect border around the room. Now this wasn’t exactly a great show of wealth but it did show in amazing amount of detail that went into building and decorating just a bedroom. I love that going to museums and churches is a part of school here because its exactly what I would want to be doing any way.


Hello Montana. For this week’s newsfeed, we will be going through our now normal days in Venice. School begins at nine o’clock, one AM in Montana time, making seven-thirty the time to get up if one allegedly wants to workout and fit breakfast into the schedule. We then become enlightened in the Italian language for four hours until one o’clock where we have a quick lunch. Unfortunately, this was the last week for Susan Guthrie in Venice, we had to pack in some museum tours after school and some exploratory side trips. We will miss having our flamboyant little instructor, tour guide, body guard, and friend with us, but now we can almost call ourselves “true Venetians.”

Of the places we did visit this week I must admit the little pocket church of miracles, The Miracoli, that was made completely of marble was one of my favorites. I cannot fully say why but I adored the quaint size and the eloquent use of colored marble with the complementary gold trim and murals. The Pleasure Palace is Ca’ Rezzonico was also a very lavish and fun place to see. Upon entering the palace for balls and parties one would arrive in a jet-black gondola and make their way up the white stone stairs to immediately enter a grand and awesome ballroom. It is truly something to think that people would commonly attend lavish parties fully dressed up with powdered faces and wigs. Lucky for us we might have an opportunity to see such powdered patrons for the next two weeks in celebration of Carnevale which was originally a binge period before lent began. Stay tuned for next week’s update. Arrivederci.


This week our group began Italian 1 language class at the Istituto, and personally I’m terrified by it. This is the first time in all of my life I’ve ever attempted to learn another language other than English. Something I take for granted almost everyday, is one of the hardest things for me to learn. Learning Italian, with its new rules and exceptions, grammar and spelling is a struggle. I tend to make the whole class laugh with my incorrect pronunciations and confused looks buts it’s a true learning curve for me. I know Deborah, our Italian teacher, has come to realized she will have her hands full with me, but I’m getting a lot of help from everyone else. All the girls understand my confusion and they are always super helpful at explaining things to me so I really appreciate that. I’m stepping up my game and have been studying everyday the things we learn in class. My favorite part is going over to the other apartments to study. They quiz me and we practice with flashcards and have dinner together which is nice. It’s definitely rewarding when I learn new words in class and I can walk around town and understand and converse more with people, so I’m excited for the weeks and the conversations to come.

This week I explored more of the city and learned even more routes throughout Venice, which is one of the most exciting things for me. I tried to help out a couple the other day who were trying to navigate the town, I believe they spoke Portuguese, so after a couple minutes of pointing and hand gestures I was able to lead them to their destination. It was nice to help someone else because I know the feeling of being lost in this labyrinth. It’s was a great week and hope for more cool adventures to come.