Students Share Experiences Living and Learning at University’s Campus in Italy

A group of students recently returned from a monthlong trip to Tuscany, Italy, as part of the Hospitality and Tourism Management Department’s study abroad program. In their travel blogs, they discuss their experiences and research as well as what they learned while exploring the country and immersing themselves in a new culture.

July 28, 2022

By Izzi Hancock ’23, Olivia Jimenez ’22, ’23 MBA, Eimy Mena Medina ’23, Julia Motchkavitz ’23, Angela Carter ’24

Students enjoy a beautiful day in Italy.
Students enjoy a beautiful day in Italy.

Nearly a dozen students from diverse majors recently returned from the University’s campus in Prato, Italy, as part of the Hospitality and Tourism Management Department’s study abroad program.

Students immersed themselves in a new culture while visiting Italy.
Students immersed themselves in a new culture while visiting Italy.

“A Taste and Tour of Italy” a unique and immersive month-long program, enabled students to create travel blogs documenting their experiences, sharing their research, and highlighting what they learned. While none of them had ever used ArcGIS or WordPress software before, they learned how to create an engaging online travel blog while exploring a new country and immersing themselves in the culture.

Jan Jones, Ph.D., a lecturer and coordinator for hospitality and tourism management and the students’ professor, says this was an exciting and meaningful experience for students. “This was an absolutely amazing group of students to travel with,” she said. “They showed up on time, engaged in learning, shared their experiences, and developed high-quality work. I was so sad when it was over.

“As a professor, the best words you can ever hear is ‘this trip changed my life,’” she continued. “To have students say these things and see their confidence build each week makes all of the hard work worth it. I can’t imagine a better group to travel with after two very hard years for my industry. This trip will always hold a special place in my heart.”

‘The perfect way to highlight the restaurants’

As part of their blogs, students focused on a specific theme, developing content that included research and related it to their own experiences in Italy. Because of the pandemic, this was the first time the Hospitality and Tourism Management Department hosted the trip since 2019.

Dr. Jones hopes the exciting experiences these students had will encourage future students to visit Italy while providing important information that could help guide their fellow Chargers’ future trips.

“The first time I went to our Prato campus, I absolutely loved that we had a meal plan that exposed us to different eaters in Prato and Florence,” she said. “I wanted to share the stories of these restaurants and tips for what students should know before visiting them. This project was the perfect way to highlight the restaurants, and to include information someone might want to know before they get there. Eating out at a place can be overwhelming when you do not know the language, and I hope we continue to build on this information for any future faculty, staff, or student traveling to Prato!

Below, in the second part of the student reflections, five of the students reflect on their experiences abroad as part of their travel blogs, discussing everything from produce to Prosecco.

Jan Jones, Ph.D.  (second from left) and students in Italy.
Jan Jones, Ph.D. (second from left) and students in Italy.
Izzi Hancock ’23

When first getting off the train in Florence, I was very overwhelmed by the number of tourists scrambling around. However, once I started to ignore all of the commotion, I was able to focus on the rich history and beautiful architecture around me.

I wish I could touch on a fraction of the rich stories from this town, but we would be here for hours. Therefore, I will discuss my two favorite spots. The first is the famous Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. It is the largest and oldest church in Florence. Construction began in 1300 and was not completed until the 19th century. It made all of our heads turn as soon as we saw this unique marbling design.

The cathedral also houses the most famous dome, which was considered a miracle because it was the largest one made without wooden scaffolding. The goal of this grand building and its massive dome was to have something more significant than ancient Greece.

My other favorite area of ​​Florence is the Ponte Vecchio, which translates to “old bridge.” It has always been grounds for shopping and trading. While the bridge used to have butchers and farmers, it now serves to honor Benvenuto Cellini, a master Florentine sculptor, and master goldsmith. A bronze statue of him stands above a fountain in the middle of the Ponte Vecchio that was made by Raffaello Romanelli.

Additionally, a mile-long corridor above the shops enabled the Medici Family to cross without difficulty. Today, travelers can walk along this path and get a fantastic view of the Arno River.

Olivia Jimenez ’22, ’23 MBA

This trip was my first time in Europe. During this trip, I went to Prato, Florence, Bologna, Rome, Pompeii, Pisa, Rimini, Venice, and Turin.

My favorite places to visit were Rimini and Venice. I loved seeing the water. While in Rimini, I had so much fun on the beach and exploring. Venice was such a unique and beautiful place to finally visit.

Overall, I had a great time in Italy. I was very nervous to go, but I am glad I did. I have seen and done so much over the four weeks! My confidence as a young independent female traveler has also grown. On my first independent trip, I was really nervous about something bad happening, but by the third weekend, I felt like an expert traveler. I would 100 percent recommend to anyone that they should visit Italy, and, if they have the opportunity, to study abroad.

Students got a taste of Italian culture while visiting.
Students got a taste of Italian culture while visiting.
Eimy Mena Medina ’23
Prosecco, Venice, and Pizza!

I can honestly say that writing this blog has been enjoyable. Another interesting fact about me is that I believe I have discovered my favorite drink in all of Italy.

In Italy, wine is an essential part of most people’s daily lives. According to research, Italy is one of the largest wine producers in the world, producing more than 50 million hectoliters per year. The population consumes more than 20 million hectoliters of wine per year.

Now that we’ve established how much wine Italians enjoy, I’d like to share my thoughts on the subject and introduce you to the best sparkling wine!

I was able to visit the original Mionetto Prosecco production facilities. Mionetto has been producing sparkling wine since 1887, and despite the fact that the grapes are not grown on the same land, the winery’s good quality and taste are the result of a solid relationship between the winery and the best winegrower in the area.

On our tour, we were able to see how the wine is made and learn about the history of the Mionetto. It was an enjoyable experience that was unexpected. We didn’t make the wine or see anyone else do it. We did, however, see the packaging process and more.

Finally, during this tour, we sampled three different types of Mionetto wine, and let me tell you that you should go to your local supermarket and look for this prosecco because it will change your life. It did that for me.

Julia Motchkavitz ’23

You simply cannot go to Italy and don’t spend a day or two in Rome. There’s just too much to see and so much history. Don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes and to bring a strong sunscreen!

Once you get off the train, make a beeline to the Colosseum. You will be blown away by how magnificent it is. After getting the perfect picture, head over to the center of the city to the Forum. The Forum was the location for all religious, political, and social activities. It even dates back to 500 BC

After taking in the views, head over to the Trevi Fountain. You can throw in one coin to return to Rome, two for finding love, and three for finding love and staying in Rome. But don’t forget to turn around throw it over your left shoulder, because the right is bad luck!

Now, take out your scarf and head over to the Pantheon. It is free, and the line moves quickly. There is only one source of light, and it is through one hole on the ceiling. If you still have energy after a long day of exploring, try to climb up all 135 steps on the Spanish Steps.

While you’re in Rome, you might as well head over to Pompeii. It is not just a Bastille song. The city was destroyed in 79 AD. when the volcano Mount Vesuvius erupted. The volcano covered at least 19 feet (6 meters) of the city in ash and other volcanic debris. The debris was able to preserve the city before it was discovered in the late 16th century.

You can also visit the historical site for €15.00. There, you can see what is left of the Amphitheater of Pompeii. It is one of the oldest surviving Roman amphitheaters. Scientists were able to find six bodies. You can also see several buildings including mansions, restaurants, and gladiator barracks.

Chargers spent a month studying abroad in Italy.
Chargers spent a month studying abroad in Italy.
Angela Carter ’24

I had the best month I could ever imagine. I didn’t know the other people going on this trip, and I’d never been to Europe, so I thought I would be alone and would experience Europe primarily by myself. I was so wrong. I met fantastic people on this trip, and we explored Italy together. I bring this up because I ate with these people almost every day, and we experienced culture shock, at times, bringing us closer together.

What made me happy was how fresh everything was, not only the ingredients but the local produce. Everything just tastes better to me. I could be biased because I love Italy, but Italians love fresh produce and only use produce if it is in season. I was lucky enough to be in the kitchen a couple of times while I was here, and everything was in season and never frozen. The meals just taste better that way.

Learning more about it was exciting, and it made me realize that American and Italian cultures and cuisine are not as similar as I thought. I live in Philadelphia, and there is a big Italian market that spans more than 20 streets of Italian restaurants, stores, and produce. Little did I know that it’s not the same thing in Italy. I realized that although they have the same roots, Italian Americans have their own way of preparing and eating food, running restaurants, and socializing with each other.

For those wishing to travel to Italy, you should expect some culture shock. The biggest culture shock was the food and the restaurant culture. Expect to be in a restaurant for longer than usual. There is no bill splitting. Carry cash with you if you are planning to eat with friends.

Some areas are known for traditional food. If you want great seafood, don’t expect it in a landlocked part of Italy. Go toward the coast. The same goes for pesto in Genova and many other areas in Italy. So, try not to stay in one location.

If you come to Italy, I hope you have as good a time as I did. Do your exploring and come up with new suggestions. I hope you enjoy it!

Izzi Hancock ’23 and Julia Motchkavitz ’23 are hospitality and tourism management majors at the University of New Haven. Olivia Jimenez ’22, ’23 MBA recently graduated with her bachelor’s degree in international business management and is now a candidate in the University’s MBA program. Eimy Mena Medina ’23 is an international business major. Angela Carter ’24 is a business management major.