Photo by Valerie White
Florence was the epicenter of the High Renaissance, one of the most well-known locations for the history of art and architecture. However, the history of Florence began long before the Renaissance. FUA’s new Spring 2018 course, Florentine Art Walks, was designed to create an experience of actually learning within the landscape of the city; the city becomes the classroom. Through guided walks of Florence and the surrounding areas, professors teach the students about the history of the city.
Students will learn how the buildings, streets, squares, and monuments can be mapped as living traces of multiple, overlapping layers of a complex past, and how to encode them in their personal appropriation of the city. The course begins by teaching them how to decode the artistic environment of the city and to unveil its traces, both visible and invisible. The intention of the course is for the students to understand the main social and cultural reasons underlying the existing shape of the city.
A few of the class lesson include excursions such as visiting major sites and landmarks in Florence that remain from Roman times. The students also explore areas from Cardo Maximus at the northern gate, to the south, east and west gates of the city. Decumanus Maximus was a Roman way of city planning. The Decumanus was an east-west oriented road while the Cardo was the main North-South oriented road. The Cardo served as a hub of ecominc life. The main cardo was called the Cardo Maximus. Along Via Torta students can see where the Roman amphitheater once stood. Another lesson includes visiting Fiesole, just 10 km away from Florence, to see the well preserved Roman ruins as well as the preserved theater and Roman bathhouses. Another lesson will take students to the Tempio Maggiore located on Via Farini, which is one of the largest synagogues in South-Central Europe. The design of the synagogue integrated the architectural Italian tradition with the Moorish style used for the decoration.
Students have stated that they are engaged and excited at the opportunity to learn about the sites and history in person. This approach to teaching provides a much different experience than seeing photographs or reading about monuments in books. With FUA focusing on experiential learning they are always looking for new and exciting ways to engage their students.
Interview with Dario D'Ambrosa and Cecilia Ricci, Spring 2018 course instructors:
How does having this class take place in the city change the way students learn?
DD: “The students learn the history of the city through its art and they are able to understand how buildings, monuments and streets can be seen as traces of the past. Students learn by being exposed to different learning environment. Skills and knowledge are acquired outside the classroom.”
CR: “This course allows the he students to be more involved in the Florentine community. It allows them to have a wider view from the historic point. They can see the identity for themselves rather than solely through textbook images.”
What is it like to teach a walking History class?
DD: “It's a great experience because I feel I can help the students to have a better experience while in Florence. With my help (hopefully) students will be able to understand better the city of Florence, its history and its art.”
CR: “It allows the students to be more active and to stay engaged in the experience and the moment.”
Do you find that your students actively participate, possibly more than in a classroom setting?
DD: “The students actively participate with questions and presentations. I also try to interact with them as much as possible during the walks.”
CR: “Yes, they become more curious and feel more driven to engage through questions and comments.”
Could you cite a favorite lesson of yours?
DD: “For now it would be lesson on Florentine guilds and medieval Florence."
CR: “For me the most important part is the aesthetics and materials of the buildings, monuments, and sculptures. My favorite lesson so far was on Baptistry because of the intricate details and materials.”
Future editions of this course can be consulted at the FUA academic schedule.