Ozarks Abroad to offer Grand Tour of Italy in spring 2012

Release Date: 10/26/2011

For those with a desire to find out what Italy is like, now is the time. This spring, Ozarks Abroad will offer "Italy: From Rome to the Renaissance," a course which fulfills the requirements for social analysis or global awareness credits and includes an intensive 10-day trip to Italy from May 16 - 25.

Assistant Professor of History Karen Frank and Walton Professor of Music Dr. Sharon Gorman will accompany students on their journey.

"We will have the lectures on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the spring as a sort of cultural history of Italy," says Professor Frank, who organized the course and trip. "The point is to get everyone prepped for the places they'll encounter abroad."

The class will begin with early Roman history and culture and move forward to the High Baroque period, which includes the Renaissance. "That includes some of the most famous art in the world," says Prof. Frank. "The works of Michelangelo, for example - which we'll see on the trip."

The travel itinerary includes the cities of Milan, Venice, Florence, Assisi, Sorrento, Pompeii, and Rome. "There is a lot to see and do in 10 days," says Frank. "In Venice, the home of Marco Polo, we will see the palace of the Doge, who was leader of the Venetian Republic, as well as St. Mark's Square, the Grand Canal, and an exhibition by Venetian glassblowers; from Assisi, a lovely medieval hilltop town and burial place of St. Francis, we will take a day trip to Pompeii, which was buried by volcanic eruption in A.D. 79. It's one of the richest archaeological sites in the world. In Rome we'll visit Vatican City, the Sistine Chapel, the Spanish Steps, the Roman Coliseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and St. Peter's Basilica, among other places."

Frank says she plans to offer an optional course one night a week in basic conversational Italian in the weeks before the trip for those interested. "I always find there's a lot of personal satisfaction in being able to function in the language of where you are," Frank says.

Frank is an experienced Italian traveler. "My area of specialty is medieval Italian history," she explained. "I spent my last undergraduate semester in Italy, outside Florence. It was a wonderful experience because I got to interact with Italians who weren't used to dealing with tourists all the time. I've been also on several research trips, and I spent a year there on a Fulbright scholarship doing research for my dissertation."

She wants her students to be able to go on a trip like this to "get their feet wet traveling, but in a very controlled kind of way. We'll be staying together as a group, and there is a curfew, which is good since we'll be leaving early each day and everyone will get a chance to get plenty of sleep." She believes that Italy as an excellent place for a new student traveler to go for a first time to get over the "I'm really far away from home in a foreign country" feeling.

"In addition to the many other reasons to study abroad," Frank says, "it does look really good on your résumé to travel. Medical school, law school, grad school, and even employers like to see that you are a well-rounded individual. It sets you apart from a lot of others no matter what your major and makes you more interesting."

The group will fly from Little Rock non-stop to Milan, where they will be met by a dedicated tour guide who will remain with them 24/7 during their visit. "We've arranged it so we don't have to stand in long lines," Frank says, "and at each major site we visit, for example St. Peter's, we will have a guide there who specializes in that area."

Frank describes the students' days as a combination of structured activities - time together for tours and some meals - combined with free time so students can explore a little on their own. "They can always have lunch with me, or ask me for suggestions for good places to eat," she said. "It's a good opportunity for them to spread their wings a little. They'll also have my Italian phone number in case they need to get in touch with me no matter where they are."

Having gotten their feet wet in the wonders of Italy, the travelers will return home on May 25. "I want these students to know just how much they can do," Frank says. "I want to train them to travel, which includes issues such as what to think about when they first arrive in a city. (Hint: Find lodgings.) It's going to be a wonderful experience."

For further information on the event, email kfrank@ozarks.edu.