13 things that surprised us about
Arezzo and the Accademia dell’Arte
1) The Food
Obviously food was on my mind when I chose to study abroad in Italy. Pizza, pasta, gelato, olive oil, wine, cheese—the list goes on and on. Arezzo and the surrounding towns have so much to offer in the way of cuisine, but the biggest surprise was the Accademia’s own Mensa (which is the fancy Italian word for dining hall). The kitchen staff—just as friendly and welcoming as our teachers—cook amazing food three meals a day/five days a week. In the two weeks since coming I’ve been surprised at every meal by the pasta, the tomato with mozzarella, the tiramisu, the breads—it makes me never want to eat out. In addition, as a vegetarian I was nervous about finding meatless food in Italy, but the Mensa staff accommodates for every dietary restriction, from gluten and dairy intolerant to vegetarian. They surprise me every day; we’re extremely lucky to have them.
2) I can wear my slippers everywhere
My morning routine has gotten exponentially easier since coming to Italy. My room is just a flight of stairs above the Mensa, which is just down the hall from my classrooms, which are a five second walk from the teacher’s offices, and I’m always just a few steps away from a gorgeous view of Arezzo. There’s a certain level of comfort that can only grow from a community where one beautiful building holds places to socialize, work, eat, and sleep… and therefore I never have to take off my slippers (I’ve shamelessly gone to class in them before).
3) Beautiful views in every direction
Before coming to Arezzo, I was living in a crowded city, where a stressful day resulted in hiding in my room. But in Tuscany, there are mountains in every direction… hills, orchards, farms, old buildings, low hanging clouds—I’m not quiet used to it yet. At the end of a stressful day here, instead of going to my room I need to get out, take a walk, and get in touch with my surroundings. It’s made me feel healthier, more energized, and gives me more time to think and less time to sit at my computer. I’ve never heard silence like I have here… it’s the kind of silence that makes my ears buzz as if I’m in the middle of a bustling city. I’m surprised by how much I needed that silence.
4) ADA Teachers
All of the teachers at ADA not only have different styles of teaching, but they come from all over the world. Every teacher has a different background, different methods of teaching and a different approach to pacing. We’ve already worked with several guest teachers, which has exposed us to extremely talented and inspiring artists, and allowed us a glimpse of where they come from and what their work is all about. The teachers often eat lunch in the Mensa with us, making themselves available and approachable even outside of the classroom. I feel extremely fortunate to experience so many new techniques and different styles of teaching.
I didn’t have many expectations about classes coming here because I have never trained in a conservatory setting, but my classes blow me away day after day. Voice class and Movement classes are especially mind-blowing, and it’s usually the simplest concepts that affect me and make me think the most. The fact that one simple action, such as scratching an itch, is an action of our whole entire body is crazy to think about. I have much more awareness of my body than I did and I’ve only been here for two weeks. One thing that will take a while for me to get used to is the length of classes – two hours! For physical classes the time flies by, but for our academic courses it is definitely a challenge as I am used to shorter classes. Especially that hour before lunch…
6) Studio Spaces
For such a small campus, there are so many studios! They are open and available to the students 24/7. Most of them are in the main building where many of the students live, which means we can literally roll out of bed, walk down the hall, and have a studio to work in. As the semester goes on and we have more projects to work on, the studios will probably become less available but as of now they are almost always free! They are also a great place to Skype or get some “alone time,” which is definitely a rarity here.
7) The Internet
I was warned before coming to Arezzo that the wifi connection would be, let’s just say, slow. An outdated system to say the least, the internet connection in the villa has a funny sense of humor all its own. It’s like that friend you have that you love so much but who can easily frustrate you. In other words, there will be days when you want to throw your computer across the room… but it’s not all bad! As erratic as the wifi is, there are surprising benefits that come from living with poor internet connection. The inability to be attached to our social media outlets at any given time forces us to focus on other methods of communication. Not only this, but suddenly a sense of unlimited time opens up; it feels as though there are more hours in the day! This feeling of freedom and awareness of your surroundings helps stimulate focus towards your craft during the three months at the Accademia.
Before arriving to the Accademia we were all introduced to Monica through our Facebook group. Monica is our director of student services, aka our Italian mom. We knew that she would be the person essentially taking care of us and our needs, but it wasn’t until we got to meet her in person that we learned how awesome and funny she is! She really is our sassy mom away from home who helps us get around the beautiful town of Arezzo while teaching us its history. If you need a good laugh just go to Momma Monica for some sarcastic stories or Star Wars jokes!
10) Walking up hills
Tuscany is famous for its beautiful views of rolling hills, but no one tells you about walking up and down them! If you are planning on visiting Arezzo make sure you bring your best pair of walking shoes because it takes a good 20 to 25 minutes to get into town, another fact that I was surprised to find out about. The first week and a half I believed that I would never get used to going up and down so many hills, but I was surprised to find how easily my body has accustomed to them. The best news is you will get a great workout and by the end of these three months I will be ready for summer!
11) City Life
With a population of just over 100,000 people, a decent amount of whom live in the hills, it didn’t seem like Arezzo was going to have much going on….wrong! Antique fairs, markets, jousting, museums, churches, shopping, eating, clubbing, bars, random carnival rides, parks, and lots and lots of walking – there is so much to do in this beautiful medieval city! I have seen the main street, Corso Italia, filled with hundreds of people after dinner time. Fun Fact: Italian students have classes on Saturdays, so Friday nights are when the older adults go out on the town and Saturday nights are when all ages are out and about!
“Eh, I don’t need to pack a ton of warm clothes, I mean, I’ll be living in the rolling, sunny, and warm hills of Italy!” First weekend in Arezzo: snow. The city doesn’t know how to handle the six inches (wild guess, but it was a good amount) of fluffy snow that has randomly landed on their home. They have small cars, they use rakes and brooms to shovel their driveways. My toes get cold… but it’s gone by the next day and the snowcapped hills and villas in view are breathtaking. We’ve gotten a touch of snow here and there since, but it’s not horrible. Just don’t let people fool you: Arezzo, Italy, gets snow.
13) Famiglia means Family
I have been pleasantly surprised by the sense of community the Accademia has facilitated for us since Day One. Not only are we artistic collaborators with each other and our teachers, we are also challenged to push our minds and bodies past their comfort zones in artistic exploration daily. That’s not even the most surprising part… this is: we are a family. That’s what the Accademia calls us, that is what I am now seeing as a possibility. I have been received with open hearts and arms by each and every one of my colleagues, making moving to a different country away from my dearly loved ones much easier. I feel that I can walk into town with, go to dinner with, or sit in the living room with any one person or group of people knowing that I will be included…and entertained!
By: Matt Macca, Rachel Durante, Gabriela Campos, and Beverly Diaz