KEVIN CORRIGAN & BENJAMIN FOSTER — We began our afternoon with another pitiful look from the sandwich maker at the local bakery. Yet again, Kevin and I made the unforgiving mistake of ordering the wrong prosciutto with tuscan bread. We took our panini’s and contemplated with each bite where it all went wrong.

The mind is tested when entering a country of new language, customs etc. and even more so when one is placed into the countryside of Tuscany. Avoiding the tourist infested city of Florence, we are asked to fend for ourselves and embrace the cultural aspects of Montespertoli, Tuscany.  

For many city-goers, abroad means clubbing in Berlin with your closest Denison friends–for us it means hitchhiking to Florence on a dark October morning or enjoying a bottle of red wine cultivated on the very grounds we study.

It means slowing down, spending your evening with a four-course meal, and enjoying the quirks of new relationships within our sixteen student program.

The country around us is simply beautiful. With great delight, our daily walk to the grocery store, wine shop, or gelateria promises views of ancient Tuscan farmland that has resembled its current topography for six hundred years.

*A passerby nods and offers a “ciao!” from beneath a thick brow as a Vespa wizzes by followed by a plume of cigarette smoke.*

As we consciously attempt to fit into the cultural identity of Montespertoli, we attend class instructed by Italians with an accent thicker than your mother’s best pea soup.

Our program is unique: centered around local food regimes and sustainable agriculture. We have been deeply immersed in the rich Tuscan culture of Montespertoli, a small village southwest of Florence, where we live, study, and intern surrounding wine, olive oil, and the organic food industry.

Dr. Riccardo Simoncini, a professor at Castello Sonnino (where we study), preaches the importance of looking at economics through a lense of sustainability in his class. Simoncini, along with the other professors do not take this opportunity for granted.

“This location here, the environment here, [the] internship placement, the farmers is about human relationship. It is not some sort of university [with a] rigid environment.  [This program] is something that is developing. This is fascinating, this place is fascinating” Simoncini said.

Building off of Simoncini, there is a valuable relationship between the professors and students due to the fostering capabilities of the landscape around us.

The french windows that cascade into the iconic rolling hills of Tuscany nurture this bond and offer more comfort than any smartphone could ever supply. That being said, a simple glance over the shoulder is enough to help regain focus and commit ourselves to our professor and the lesson at hand.  

As we spy over the olive groves from a simple country balcony, we are reminded how lucky we are to be guests of this small but prideful town. Nonetheless we do hit the bars in Florence regularly.

Join us for a glass of wine!