Due Blog In Uno!

Posted on Friday, December 17th, 2010 by Mike Manchester

My plan for the final blog entry for the Fall 2010 semester wast to simply post a bunch of student’s pictures.  To tell you the truth, that’s still my plan.  What better way to sum up the semester that through the eyes of the students who lived it?

I think, however that before I get to those pictures that today’s events deserve some attention.  Today, as the students were taking their final exam for Italian class, this started to happen:

San Domenico as the snow started...

…And then some more fell…

Jillian in the snow

…And enough snow fell throughout the day, that I was able to make this in front of my house:


So I guess the snow is Siena’s gift to us all after a semester’s worth of hard work.  Now, with no further ado, student photos!

click fall semester 2010 (the resolution isn’t the great, but it’s the best that our site can do.  The same video is on the Siena Italian Studies facebook page.  The resolution’s a bit better.)

Thanks to Jillian Marziglaino, Elizabeth Viles, Rebekah Smith, Chelsea Flaim, and Gabriella Baetti for the photos.

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FICCS (Il Libro!)

Posted on Thursday, December 2nd, 2010 by Mike Manchester

There’s quite a lot to recount and I’ll admit that this is partially due to the fact that I’ve fallen a bit behind on the blog updates.  Before I make any more excuses, let’s just get down to business.

First on the bill are congratulations to be awarded to Lavinia, Antonella, and generally all of the staff here at SIS for the long-awaited publication of our FICCS (Full Immersion: Culture, Content, and Service) teaching method.  We actually have a real book that explains our entirely unique system that we invented right here in Siena.  We’ve been using it for years now and the publication of the book doesn’t change life here around the office, but it means a great deal for the program and all of our futures.  Bravi tutti!

Next up would be Thanksgiving, I suppose.  Last Wednesday night, Marco Laporta and I started preparations for the big dinner.  By Thursday morning we had a lot already done and it’s a good thing that we started early because we cooked from 8:30 in the morning until 8:00 in the evening.  There were a few moments during the day when it seemed like we weren’t going be able to finish in time.  By 8:30 it was evident that the hard work was worth it and I have to say that I think that although it seems excruciatingly cliché that this Thanksgiving was probably the best that we’ve been able to organize as far as the food was concerned.  Everything was there including two 15 kg  (33lbs each!) turkeys.  We were very grateful to the brand new bookstore that has a bar/restaurant inside (www.sicsiena.it) for providing us with the kitchen, space, and also the catering contacts in Firenze who were able to get us things like real cranberry sauce and all of the ingredients for pumpkin pie.  In total, somewhere around 60 people went home with very full bellies.  This is the one time of year when the Italians eat American food…. and like it!

Last but not least, Friday was a day off for the students last week.  “Days off” are often the days when staff takes advantage of the students’ absence get things like “home improvement” done around the office.  In anticipation for next semester, the student room got a much-needed makeover and a few couches made their way up to the Salicotto office.   What was really fantastic is that a number of students stayed in Siena for the weekend to help out!  Grazie mille!  Everything looks great.

This week has been rather quiet so far.  Things get eerily calm towards the end of the semester.  I have a hunch that it might have something to do with those 10-page papers and tests to study for.   Buoni studi!

The two authors with their book.

A close-up for proof that their names are really on the cover.

Long after thanksgiving dinner was over, the students were sill hanging out.

Juan Carlos (Giancarlo) getting the "hard to reach" spots.

Special thanks to Sara Ketcham, Chiara Colette, Sophia Lind, Rebekah Smith, and of course... Roni and Juan Carlos.

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Posted on Wednesday, November 17th, 2010 by Mike Manchester

It’s been a little while since last I blogged.  I’m sure that all of you who studied here and are eagerly awaiting the latest news can sympathize with the fact that the ever-expanding world of SIS keeps us tremendously busy.  For those of you who haven’t been here (yet!), just ask anyone who has, and they’ll confirm that indeed everyone here has their hands full.   That’s a good thing though, right?  Yep.  It means that we have lots of students who want to be involved in as much as they can be.  It’s up to us here to make that possible.

In the past few weeks we’ve had a few interesting excursions.  Students went to a local pecorino cheese farm/factory and got a close look the process of making the local delicacy.   After tasting all of the various types of cheese produced by the Azienda Sanna, the next stop was a pig farm.  Mr. Barruffaldi’s pig farm, like most pig farms, is generally a muddy experience however, that’s about all that his farm has in common with regular pig farms.  His pigs, the Cinta Senese, are a rare breed of pig left over from medieval times that live on whatever they find in the forest.  Their diet is the main reason that their meat is so sought after for its health benefits.  It turns out that the type of cholesterol in the fat produced by these pigs is actually good for you!  Of course, all things in moderation.

Still on the subject of pigs, (pork is an important meat in Italy) Carlo Tozzi, Marco Laporta, Marianna and I took a small group of brave students to La Villa Ferraia (www.villaferraia.com) to see the process of how a pig becomes sausage, prosciutto, and everything else.  The process was carried out respecting centuries of tradition. It was if we stepped back in time to the Tuscany of 200 years ago.  The experience was humbling and made us realize how important it is to use absolutely every part of the animal, not only for our benefit, but out of respect for the pig.

By now, I’ve probably scared away any vegetarians interested in the program.  Fear not!  We always have a good number of vegetarians on the program and there’s always plenty to eat for everyone.  I’m actually planning another excursion to La Villa Ferraia in the spring have students participate in the spring planting in their enormous organic garden.  The methods they use in their garden reach far beyond what we know as organic in the U.S.   It should be fun.

Next week it’s our turn as Americans to do some cooking.  Thanksgiving is just around the corner.


Gwen helping make sausage

Zach stirring the polenta over the fire

Staff relaxing

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Posted on Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010 by Mike Manchester

It’s hard to believe that we’re halfway through the semester.  It’s also equally amazing how fast weeks and months seem to breeze by in a place like Italy where the pace of each individual day is apparently slower than the American one.  For everyone’s benefit, I’ll stop short of getting into the physics of space and time and just say that, indeed, we’re moving ahead in the fall, 2010 term.

The school is currently silent and I’m actually writing this installation from home today because we’re on break right now!  Roni went back to the US for a week to spend some time with friends and family while the rest of the staff is taking it easy and working on some of the things that never get done while we’re concentrating on the students.  The students? Well, they’re all over Italy and Europe until next Sunday.  I hope they’re all having fun!

Last week one of our professors, Alfonso Casella, had much to celebrate as his second book to be published was released.  I picked up a copy and I have to say that it is very unique approach to a book.  Complimenti Alfonso!

We had a visit from an Italian student who will be working with Marianna on a project that may bring students from the former Yugoslavia to study here in Siena with us.

Last but not least I’ve been meaning to mention Lavinia, Nate, and Eliza’s work for our conference in the spring here on our site.  Check it out if you have a moment.        http://www.sienaitalianstudies.com/intercultural_horizons.php

Ciao Ciao!


Alfonso's second book!

No photoshop here, just the colors in the driveway as I wrote the blog.

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Posted on Friday, October 22nd, 2010 by Mike Manchester

Our participation in local schools is now at full speed.  More students went into the elementary schools this week and we started our 6-week long project with a local high school that I run where students confront cultural and linguistic differences with 5th year students (yes, they go to high school for 5 years in Italy!) who are mostly 18 and 19 years old.  I coordinate and run the classes, but it is the students that do most of the talking.  The classes are relaxed and the ulterior motive is to initiate friendships.  Right away, our students exchanged contact information and set up appointments to meet outside of school all on their own.  Hey, when something works… go with it, right?

It is getting noticeably colder here as we approach winter, but the past two days have been gorgeous fall days with warm sun penetrating the clean, crisp air.  We couldn’t have asked for better weather for Friday’s olive harvesting activity in the SIS garden.  We don’t have quite enough olive trees to make oil, but we picked all of the olives that we have using local, traditional techniques and we taught everyone who came how to cure the olives in two different ways (with dry salt, or with a briny salt-water).  If you want to eat olives you have to take this step otherwise they’re pretty disgusting.

That’s all for this week!


Bottles in the sun awaiting olives

A tree full of students

learning to cure olives with salt

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