6 January 2023 Embracing Italian Culture By Colin Spencer '19

Rome experience provides HWS students with a close-up view of Italian life outside of the classroom.  

Led by Professor of Writing and Rhetoric Ben Ristow and Associate Professor of Media and Society Lisa Patti, a group of students spent the fall semester studying Italian cinema, craft culture and other facets of Italian life throughout Rome. 

As part of the abroad program, students took five classes including “Made in Italy,” “Digital Rome,” “Roman Media Exhibition,” “Italy: Food and Culture” and “Italian.” The experiences outside of the classroom instruction were extensive — exploring set design and artifacts of Italian cinema lore at Cinecitta, screening films on an island in the middle of the Tiber River and walking the red carpet with celebrities at the Rome Film Festival. 

“Italians and Italian culture are not something or someone you can learn in a textbook, and proof of that is in living here and in encountering the beauty of Rome and Italy. It is not one place or one people, it is many, and we have been reflecting, questioning, and processing what it means each and every day,” says Ristow. “We hope the students take home all 100 or more days to see how it changes them and their worldview.”  


Students also met contemporary artists, visited the American Academy in Rome and practiced their Italian at the Scuola Leonardo da Vinci — and with the people they met in Rome.  

Claire Kapitan ’24, a studio art and English double major, says visiting artists in Rome as part of a class helped influence her writing. “The entire city was our classroom and I’ve never felt freer to explore different avenues of my creativity than when I was abroad,” she says.  

Italian cuisine played a large part of the program as well, with the group trying Tuscan and Lazioan cuisine made from wild herb pesto, making pizza and pasta, and how to select, grade and evaluate wine.  

Kennedy Jones ’24, a writing and rhetoric major with minors in Italian studies and women’s studies, says her favorite moment was realizing the new friends she had made during the final group dinner. 

“New friends were sitting with each other while the Italian staff came around to each table to personally say goodbye,” says Jones. “When we first began the trip, there were a few people who knew each other, and even fewer who were close friends, but a majority of the group was getting to know each other for the first time.”