Usually, in one’s college experience, it is rare to be spend a Friday afternoon in the hills of Giogalto Italy, cooking a homemade Italian meal. At SRISA, this is just another typical start to a semester. Director Rebecca Olsen and her family were kind enough to invite us into their home, (and braver still to let us into their kitchen) where we got to learn first hand, how to make Italian specialties including: homemade pasta noodles, vodka sauce, pesto, bruschetta, meat and cheese crostini, roasted potatoes, sausage, rabbit, and Tiramisu. The hit of the party was definitely the vodka sauce, which I myself got to make with fellow classmate Maddie. We were happily surprised at how easy it was, hoping to replicate the sauce back at our apartments this semester.
Rebecca’s dad Dennis, and his wife Meredith also gave us a tour of their printmaking studio, just to the left of the house. A one room, white walled building held a small printing press, a work table, and counters filled with in progress work and tools. Dennis explained to us his intuitive process of building up multiple marks and patterns until a human figure emerges. Each figure becomes a character and gets a “flash fiction” story made of only 3 lines, hooking the viewer into spending time and thinking about the work. My favorite piece of his was called “Beatrix.”
Meredith’s work begins with hiking adventures through the valleys, hills and mountains in Italy, where she stumbles across items like wild boar hoof prints, and intricate leaf and stick patterns, which she later replicates back in her studio. The representations of thee findings are made into wood magnets, and then stuck onto a wall into an ever changing composition. The viewers are invited to move the individual pieces to create new compositions and new ways of viewing the art.
After our meal, some of us wandered the area surrounding the home, hoping to ease our aching, stuffed stomachs. I don’t know if we had such luck, but the views certainly filled my stomach with butterflies. The dense green hills just seemed to roll on and on, going up and down, into peaks and valleys, a farm crop here, a village there. Cameras were snapping and the sun was setting. We wondered what would happen if we just kept roaming and didn’t get back on the bus to Florence. But being the good students we are, we made our way back to the house, had some espresso and tiramisu, and rode down the hills back to school.
It’s a day we will not forget. The Olsen’s made us feel at home, comforted, and safe, knowing that while we are in Florence this semester, though we may be far from our first homes, we are welcomed here with open arms into a new one.