So I arrived in Ferrara about two weeks ago and have been slowly exploring the city. I’m living with 3 italian students – one from Sicily, one from Puglia and ove from Venice – in a wonderful but small house right in the center of the city. (i’m attaching a picture of the narrow street i live off of) The city is small for a “city” but is full of students and feels almost like a college town. There is a beautiful castle (complete with moat) and a brilliant white cathedral right in the center of the city. The piazza between the two is always full of people and very lively until 3 am most nights. Also, becuase Ferrara is relatively small (130,000 people) and doesn’t have the fame of Rome, Venice or Florence there aren’t as many tourists or English speakers. This makes for a much more beneficial environment in which to learn Italian and actually feel integrated into he community.
As far as the architecture program – the building is an old palace that was converted into this school. It has huge rooms and windows, and is a really inspiring space to be in. As far as work, I’m still really unsure about what courses I am taking as the responsability for selection is all on the shoulders of the Middlebury student. Italian students at the school have fixed courses for 4 of their 5 years, but middlebury students are essentially given the option of picking any available single class in the first 3 (or 5 if you ask reeeallly nicely) years. This is a really daunting task. Today i went to the first year design studio to see what it was like. It is actually composed of two classes, one traditional studio much like middlebury’s intro or intermediate studio, and one geometry class. There seems to be a huge focus on geometry, partially to give a better understanding of early italian architecture (churches, monasteries etc.) and why certain shapes appear more often than others. We’ll see how it unfolds.
Tomorrow i am going to go to a 2nd year studio as a point of comparison, and thursday i’m planning on going to an upper level urbanism class. The program seems structured to the point that it might be worth just starting at the beginning, so that as the second semester approaches (at least for students staying the year) you will be completely prepared. I think second semester of freshman year is very very CAD intensive and most upper lever classes depend on that – but i’ll know more by the end of the week.
Middlebury also has a required language/literature class for all Middlebury students in Ferrara. So far it has been somewhat interesting as we are reading works about Ferrara or by authors who lived here. It is looking like it will be in conflict with whatever classes i take at the architecture school (because they meet from 9am until 6 or 8pm on some days) but all of the professors seem understanding – so i’ll keep you posted about flexibility in scheduling as i learn more about arch classes.
I’m going to return to class picking.. drawing.. and italian poetry for the night, but i’ll keep you updated as the week unfolds.