Italy Archives - St. Stephen's University

A Vast Empire

By | 2017, Europe | No Comments

I remember the first time I ever saw a Roman aqueduct. When I was about six or seven years old my family took a trip through Syria. I specifically remember being really excited about it because we had learned about them in class not long before. It was three arches high and seemed to stretch on forever.

Being from a place that was no stranger to Roman ruins, I found a particular interest in these systems. The first running water in history and how much these masterpieces have shaped society all around the world is fascinating to think about.

Yesterday we toured the town of Perugia, in Italy. When we were heading to supper, I had the great joy of getting to walk on one that had been turned into a path. As I stood on the cobblestone path built so long ago, I was instantly brought back to seeing the aqueducts in the Middle East. In the moment of reminiscing on childhood memory one thought came to me. I was just in Rome the other day, and now I’m standing in one of the greatest architectural achievements of their empire. Thinking back to the ones in Syria I was suddenly hit with the true span of the empire the Romans had. Thinking about how far away the Middle East is and how they have the same things built by the same people really hit me hard. I always knew the Romans had a massive empire that reached the Middle East, but thinking about how far away I am has been on my mind lately. These last few days have really put into perspective for me how vast and great the empire truly was.

The He{art} of Preserving Cultural Heritage

By | 2017, Europe | No Comments

Cultural heritage is an expression of a certain way of living, that often impacts our identities and world views. Generally, it’s a tradition, custom, or practice within a culture that gets passed down from generation to generation. But what happens when that tradition starts to become uncommon? Over the years some traditions have slowly begun to fade, and rather than just living out our cultural heritage from day to day, we begin working to preserve it, instead.

In the Province of Umbria (Italy), we had the opportunity to visit a local textile studio, located in an old gothic church, within Perugia’s historic city walls. As the last one of it’s kind, we became witness to the lengths that people will go to preserve old world culture and heritage.

Upon our arrival, we met Marta Brozetti, the last in her family’s line to continue her great-grandmother’s weaving enterprise that began in 1921. Weaving has always been a longstanding Umbrian tradition dating back to the mediaeval and renaissance periods, and the Brozetti family has sought to ensure it’s continuity. Using manual pedal looms and jacquard machines to reproduce authentic textiles and designs, dating back to it’s original time periods.

As much as weaving has been Marta’s lifelong passion, you can hear from her story that upholding a dying tradition hasn’t always been easy. Household weaving faded quickly when automated machines began producing quick and cheap fabric. With authentic weaving being so labour intensive, her beautiful work doesn’t come cheap.

In this experience I was inspired to embrace the importance of cultural heritage, and learned how much heart and meaning goes into preserving it. With that being said, it’s important for us to be intentional about continuing our own traditions, and learning from new ones.

kind of like buttons.

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

I don’t think I am an emotional mess; I’d like to call myself ’empathetically emotionally aware’.

Confession: I have cried almost every single day since returning home from Europe.

I cry in beauty.

Watching my brother coach his son’s soccer team. When I heard about a ‘young Mother’s’ meeting at our Church continuing to meet together long after the formal meetings ended. Reading about a coastal town in Italy that has been setting a trend of welcoming refugees in with open arms. Every time I put on the Les Miserables album.

I cry in anguish.

Listening to a friend talking about his wife’s struggles through cancer and radiation. Learning about the incumbent divorce of close friends. Reading about the reality of Tunisian refugee camps.

An event didn’t used to grasp my attention unless I personally identified with it.

In Dachau we saw a crematory that had disposed of tens of thousands of denigrated human bodies. In Dresden we toured where the all-consuming inferno had swallowed up the whole town. In Paris, we stood near where the guillotine had sat. In Assisi we learned about one man’s life lived for peace. In Munich, we learned about Sophie Scholl and her sacrifice for freedom. Just when human life seemed irredeemably disposable, it became more precious than ever.

My perception of institutionary Christianity took a beating on the trip, yet my adoration and appreciation for people – Christian or not – bringing about the love, peace, and graceful equality of the Kingdom of God grew to overflowing. Life is so precious. Life is too precious not to share it.

Travelling Western Europe expanded the boundaries of my ‘self’. At least, I’d like to think that my identity was enlarged; I have been introduced to my history, my roots; my heritage. I’ve become aware of my shared history, shared roots, and shared heritage. With this and the realization that life is too precious not to share, I think I’ve adopted a clearer purpose and meaning for life.

I’m not saying one has to cry to be ’empathetically emotionally aware’. I hope I can grow to process through life without looking like an emotional mess, but for now I appreciate my tears as a God-given way of expressing my joy and pain, and I don’t want to lose them, not yet.



kind of like buttons. disposable? precious.

[Nicola Gladwell is currently slack-lining and reading the first volume of Les Miserables for stress-relief as she battles through post-trip academia and looks for a job that’s hopefully pertinent to her IS degree. She has a lovely habit of collecting discarded buttons and calling them gifts of grace. She misses her friends and professors, yet is grateful for the near-completion of her first-rate liberal arts university education at SSU!]




Hello from Saxony!

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

I (Shelley Perry) am now taking over trip updates from Angela Stanley who has moved into the role of overseeing the entirety of the kitchen component of the trip.

We have now entered the second half of the trip and with it has come some changes. The group ended their time in Italy with the first real rainfall of the trip. Venice brought with it new leaders (Shelley & Kendall Kadatz and I) while testing us (and our tents) with a thunder storm. Unfortunately the poor weather continued as we crossed the Alps but spirits remained high as clips of the Sound of Music were played during the long bus ride to Zell Am See–a picturesque ski town in Austria.  There we took a day trip to Obersalzburg to a museum called The Eagle’s Nest which was once Hitler’s retreat centre and bunker. Now the site houses an extremely informative exhibit on the rise of the National Socialist Party in Germany and the effects of Nazism on Germany.  The campground, set quietly on a pristine lake was a stark contrast to the noisy, busy sites in Italy to which the group had been accustomed.

From there we made our way to what was once the cultural centre of the Holy Roman Empire, Vienna!  With espresso to die for, Beethoven, the waltz, Gustav Klimt and copious amounts of Baroque architecture, what more could we ask for in one city? We even had the privilege of scoring tickets to the Opera (standing room only) to see Wagner’s Die Walküre!  Vienna also brought relief from the rain and the arrival of Peter and Mary Ellen Fitch. Sadly this meant saying goodbye to both the Thiessens and the Barhams as the trip leadership officially changed for the second half.

From Vienna we made a brief stop in Prague, Czech Republic where we met up with SSU alumni, John and Roberta Bartos, currently living in Moravia. Students were intrigued to see evidence of a country still emerging from decades under Soviet rule. Truly it is a city where Eastern Europe meets the west. The visit to the Museum of Communism was particularly helpful in understanding the countries tumultuous past and relatively peaceful revolution in 1989 (the Velvet Revolution).

After some more rain in Prague, the group was more than happy to arrive at our current accommodations near Dresden, Germany.  This is SSU’s second time at Rohrsdorf, a castle that has been turned into a Christian artist community. Here we will spend our 4 days cooking gourmet meals (with an oven), sleeping indoors, and taking an intentional mid-trip break to catch up on rest and work.  Our only program time took place today with a phenomenal tour of Dresden with a new friend and guide, Grit, who enlightened us on Saxon history, the firebombing of the city by the Allies in 1945, and the complicated process of transition for East Germany after the unification.

All in all everyone is doing well and we (the leadership) are continually impressed with everyone’s positive attitudes and care for one another.


Goodbye for now!

Shelley Perry

From Florence to Rome

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

Whether Florence, Italy was an anticipated stop for us or not, many
were quickly enchanted by this city and its rich history, culture and
scenic and architectural beauty. One of our first stops, and arguably
one of the most memorable, was the Accademia, the museum that houses
one of the world’s most famous sculptures, Michelangelo’s David. This
sculpture, as well as other pieces we saw at places like the Uffizi
Gallery and Opera del Duomo, reminded us, as we often have, that
pictures in text books just do not do justice to these works of art,
and it really is a gift to be able to learn on the road as we are
right now. Also during our stay in Florence we made a day trip to
Sienna before stopping at a three century family owned winery where we
had the chance to taste some Chianti Classico wines and organic olive
En route to Rome we made a short stop in Orvieto, a quaint city atop a
mountain with spectacular views that stretches for miles.
Rome was another ‘long’ stop (4 nights!), but filled with planned and
unexpected adventures! Our stop coincided with the 150th anniversary
of Italy liberation. The streets and transit, as well as many of the
sites were bussling with people who had come to the country’s capital
to celebrate.  A stop to Rome would not be complete with out a trip to
the Vatican museum, Sistine chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica,
interestingly the same morning as the Pope’s address from that very
location. Other highlights included the Capitolini museum (which over
looks the ancient Roman Forum), the  Collusium (a AD 72 arena still
intact enough to catch a glimpse into what ancient Roman life might
have been like), the Pantheon (a temple built around the of Christ and
boasts one of the Roman’s most impressive architectural achievement,
the dome), the Trevi Fountain, Spanish steps, and the Catacombs (said
to have been the burial ground of Peter and Paul for some time).
Our stop in Rome has led many to wrestle through the connection
between tourism and pilgrimage, causing many to realize the importance
of creating intentional spaces to interact and engage with what we see
both mentally and spiritually so as to not get discouraged or
overwhelmed with the tourism around us.

Angela Berry (for the 2011 Europe Leadership Team)

My pilgrimage through Assisi

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

Today I roam Assisi alone. The city is on a mountainside, overlooking miles of farmland. After our visit to San Damiano church, where St. Francis himself first took up his ministry, we individually began our hikes back up to the city of Assisi. For the first time on this trip, I truly felt my pilgrimage coming to life. As a descendant of both German Catholics (mother’s side) and French Huguenots (father’s side), my journey has been one of truly attempting to dissect identity, specifically my own.

During my journey through Assisi, I encountered three South Korean girls about my age, who were self-proclaimed tourists. Through conversation and sharing with the one who spoke English, I learned that she too was a Christian, and we connected on many levels. I spent about half an hour with these tourists, and what I found changed much of the way I view tourists. They took their time everywhere they went, and were in awe at the beauty they witnessed. They greeted every nun they passed with respect. Though they weren’t on a proclaimed ‘spiritual journey’, they too are finding parts of themselves in travel; enjoying the world. I find that many of us, in travels, come to despise tourists.

Just as I can be both a descendant of Huguenots and Catholics, we are all inextricably bound in each other’s humanity. Just as St. Francis knew: we should learn to love, and not to judge. Where there is hatred, let us sow love.

– Madi


By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

Tonight, in Assisi, I am contemplating peace and am overwhelmed by a sense of blessing, a new realization of the incredible gifts that God gives us, ones we are not deserving of in the least. Here is a little cross-section of my trip so far in poetics:


Triangles and tree trunks,
The perspective of a lifetime.
Tomorrow will be just like today,
except not at all the same, and quite thrilling.
Speedos on the beach,
It’s sunnier than it has been.
Everyone’s chillin.
Beers, frisbee, the roar of the nearby waves
breaking onto the beach
The Spaniards Dream


No self-respecting exploration of Italy is complete without ?Gelato, and we were fortunate enough to be in town for the Florence Gelato Festival!!! Madi, her friend Priscilla, and myself all loaded up our gelato sampling cards and went to town on those little guys!!! The flavors were exotic, and every bite as rich and fresh as the first. We discovered such whimsical flavours as mushroom, rosewater, ginger-pineapple (excellent), pear and red pepper, almond biscotti, and red wine! Delicious, one and all, but our collective favorite was a white wine and florentine cream, which was positively sublime. Food is one of the best ways to experience a country’s culture, and the Italians have stolen my heart by way of my tastebuds.


The Pantheon is currently an active church, and the following is a blessing that was displayed at the entrance as I was toured around Rome by Greg and Dan:

“I beg you, Mary,
Throw me a flower,
So that I may scent it’s perfume.
This is like the token of love
That made me suffer so.
Throw me your bouquet;
Not now and not ever
Will I be satisfied with you.”


I led a “gathering” time, in which a lone white bird made a conspicuous appearance, and Madi and I played and sang the song Falling Slowly by Glen Hansard. We added a verse, turning it into a prayer, and this remains my constant creed:

“Lord please meet us
We invite you
Let your will be done

Here today and
in tomorrow,
Keep and cover us”

This I also pray for you, dear reader.
Until next time,

Rich Travel

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

Florence, Italy has captured a piece of my heart, as cheesy as that may sound. There is something magical about this city, I felt it in my first moments of wondering the streets. I was awestruck and overwhelmed right away, in the best way possible! This city is filled with so much history and character, it has a story to tell of the people who have gone before us. It is bits of this story that I’ve learned through doing my prep work, bits I’ve learned while here, bits that are still to be learned and bits that are a mystery and may always remain a mystery.

Walking through the streets and coming into the Piazza D. Signoria for the first time was striking, as it’s continued weaving lead me to the bottom steps of the Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo). I was so awed by this that it was a while before I turned around, once I did I was facing the East Baptistry doors of the Battistero Giovann. The next day my amazement continued when I found myself standing, quite literally, at the feet of Michelangelo’s magnificent David– this experience was so unique and rich, there are no words to describe it.

It has been quite incredible to see and experience so much history; history that I’ve known about for years and have recently researched more in depth for this term. What a rich experience I am in the midst of, an experience of a lifetime.


“A dream is a wish your heart makes…”

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

When I was a little girl, I used to dream of what it would be like to be in Italy. I imagined the incredible artwork, the amazing food and scenery, and the quintessential Italian restaurant run by a wonderful old man where I would sit and watch the bustle of people go by. But, like so many other childhood dreams, this one was forgotten as I was swept up into school and every day life in my own country.
Being here in Rome, I am becoming re-acquainted with my dreams as they are continually coming true before my eyes. Nothing is exactly how I imagined it would be (few dreams ever are), but there’s something even better about being here; it’s real. I’ve sat at perfectly Italian restaurants with the wise and friendly old men running them, I’ve tasted the most amazing food of my life, and I’ve seen some of the artwork that epitomizes the European experience.
Maybe I’m romanticizing it all (definitely) but I think there’s something about being in Europe that makes that feel okay.
– Mo.


By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

Long Live Italy!! Today we saw an amazing and cultural thing. We went to a parade celebrating 150 years of Italienne unification. Everywhere you looked there were thousands and thousands of people standing out in the hot sun. As sweat dripped down their backs they waved flags, clapped, and cheered. They were proud of their country’s past victory. Italy is here to stay and they will make sure of that. We have been learning a lot about the European Union lately and many people believe that soon their will no longer be any countries, their will just be Europe. After today’s display of national pride and various other encounters on the trip I don’t think any country will disappear culturally. There will always be someone holding onto the culture, especially ones so loved by their people.