The Empty Ballroom
by Perri Klass and Larry Wolff in Healing not Broken, a special issue of The Florentine
The opening of the spring semester at NYU Florence began with orientation at the end of January on an unexpectedly springlike day, when the sun was shining and the new students were visiting the gardens. We greeted them all in shifts in the ballroom of Villa La Pietra, talked about how thrilling it had been for us to come to Italy, and Florence of course, for the first time when we were college students in the 1970s; we tried to give them some idea of the range of beautiful and interesting things that they would discover over the course of a semester in Florence. We explained about the Acton Collection that surrounded us in the ballroom, pointed out the magnificent 18th-century Aubusson tapestry, Palace of Circe, which came out of restoration and returned to the ballroom wall last fall. Read more
Villa Ulivi cafe
The NYU Florence Campus
NYU Florence campus is set on a 57-acre estate, overlooking the city of Florence, with five villas, open grounds and olive groves. The La Pietra campus lies one mile outside of the medieval city walls and a fifteen minute bus ride from the center.
The centerpiece of the campus, Villa La Pietra, is a magnificent 15th-century villa and house museum that contains a collection of early Renaissance art and home furnishings. Villa La Pietra has classrooms and offers a wide range of lectures and seminars open to NYU students. You’ll be able to attend a talk on Italian cinema in the villa’s grand and beautifully restored ballroom, or listen to chamber music or a jazz ensemble in the grand salon which is filled with amazing art and period furniture.
Four other villas complete the estate: Ulivi, Sassetti, Natalia, and Colletta. Villa Ulivi, the academic heart of NYU Florence, is where you'll take the majority of your classes. Ulivi contains classrooms, a reading room/library, computer labs, conference and seminar space, faculty offices and an Italian-style café. There is a separate art studio nearby, and music practice rooms. Ulivi is also home to the student information center where you may attend lectures, meet with faculty and staff for advisement, learn about planned day trips and excursions, or just relax and hang out with your classmates.
In addition to the facilities in Ulivi, the two villas that are residence halls, Viilla Natalia and Villa Colletta, are equipped with reading rooms and a computer lab.
Computers and Library
Students have access to three computer labs on campus and a small reading room/library with internet access to the local online catalog and BobCat on the main campus. All on-campus buildings have wireless access in common areas. Some student residences also have internet access.
The Writing Center, located in Villa Ulivi’s Aula Volterra, offers feedback on any type of writing, at any stage in planning or drafting. Students may schedule an appointment and submit a working draft or ideas a day in advance to email@example.com. Drop in for a consultation M-Th, but appointments are given priority.
Florence is one of the three most visited cities in Italy. It is famous as the birthplace of the Renaissance when, from the 15th century onwards, there was an extraordinary flowering of the arts and a return to classical ideals. At this time, some of the most important artists who have ever lived were at work in Florence, including Donatello, Masaccio, Brunelleschi, Ghiberti, Botticelli, Raphael, Leon Battista Alberti, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. Indeed, the last three stand out not only for their artistic achievements but also for their writings and 'universal' talents.
Florence, with a population of around 380,000, has become an international city, with its great monuments, magnificent churches, and most famous museums concentrated in a small area. While you study at NYU in Florence, you’ll have time to discover the charming side streets with the tucked-away cafes and restaurants as well.
The historic center is remarkably well preserved and the low hills which surround the town have retained their vineyards, olive groves, and handsome villas which provide a prelude to the beautiful Tuscan landscape. No visitor should leave Florence without seeing the city from a raised vantage point, from the top of the Duomo or the Campanile, or from one of the surrounding hills.
Italian Culture & Customs
Italians are renowned for being a warm and welcoming people. You'll find that the majority of Florentines, especially shop keepers and restaurant workers have some English language ability and it is not hard to navigate the city with limited Italian language skills. However, it is best to learn some Italian before you arrive.
When Out and About
When out and about you may notice a few unwritten rules of etiquette that come in handy to any visitor to Italy. Greetings, even when meeting someone for the first time, are warm and friendly. Though smoking is prohibited in all public places, it is still an acceptable habit and it is not considered offensive to non-smokers in the same way that it might be in the United States.
When dining out, "il coperto", or a cover charge, is customarily added to the check. Tipping a specific percentage above the final bill is not the norm, though it is always considered a polite gesture to round the check up and leave a few extra euros after the meal. When ordering food it is important to remember that in Italy you cannot send your food back without getting charged for it. Make sure you know what you are ordering first. It is also important to know that in Italy lunch or dinner is usually composed of several courses.
Something that is important to know about Italy is that despite their reputation for being open and friendly, Italians are a very political people. Italy has had over 60 types of governments since World War II. The political environment is both fragile and steeped in controversy. In a country such as this, the Italian people find staying abreast of their leaders and the decisions they make extremely important. You are likely to learn a lot about current politics once you arrive, though there is nothing lost in doing a little research beforehand.