To stroll through Florence

Vancouver Island University Adventures in Mind program in Florence

Half of the spaces in the program have already been taken

  • Dec. 15, 2016 6:00 p.m.

Vancouver Island University (VIU) professor Dr. John Black was strolling through the Convent of San Marco in Florence, Italy, delivering a lecture to his Study Abroad students when he turned a corner in the hallway and was struck speechless.

“It was on the wall illuminated by light streaming through a window. To me, it seemed like it was glowing. It stopped me in my tracks,” said Black.

The Annunciation, painted by Fra Angelico in the mid-15th century, is a fresco he says he “was always captivated by in the art history books.” On that day, he was standing in front of the original for the first time, and it moved him almost to tears.

“I wasn’t expecting it and I couldn’t continue the lecture. When I saw the Annunciation in real life it was just overwhelming,” said Black. “But those are the kinds of things that can happen in Florence. Think of all the reasons people read the book Under the Tuscan Sun:  It’s the history, the art, the food, the wine, the markets … when you go for a walk in Florence, every step of the way you’re experiencing something unique. It might just be an Italian couple arguing, but even that is a brand new experience.”

This year VIU is launching a program called Adventures in Mind — not for students but specially designed for anyone who has a burning desire to explore the history and culture of Florence with a knowledgeable guide from VIU.

In 13 of the last 20 years Dr. Black, who is also the Dean of Social Sciences, has spent a month teaching the Liberal Studies Abroad program to VIU students in Florence. Both that and Adventures in Mind focus on the European Renaissance of the 14th-17th centuries, widely regarded as the cultural bridge between the Middle Ages and modern history. Almost 60 percent of the art surviving from the European Renaissance was made in Italy and 60 per cent of that work was completed in Florence.

“This is a living, vibrant city with so many beautiful sites. Most of the buildings people live in are more than 300 years old,” said Black.  “It’s stimulation for all the senses, a place where everywhere you turn you can literally touch history with your hand.”

Adventures in Mind is a 22-day immersion in art, architecture, literature and philosophy, covering the works of such figures as Dante, Giotto, Donatello, Brunelleschi, Masaccio, Leonardo, Michelangelo and Gentileschi. Activities include presentations, seminar discussions and visits to museums, galleries and other sites in Florence and elsewhere.

Black says the program will include 10-15 participants and is designed for life-long learners who are inquisitive, open-minded and looking for something beyond the usual tourist experience.

Adventures in Mind is scheduled to get underway in May 2017 and already half of the spaces are taken. To see a tentative itinerary, learn more about the program and join in on the adventure please go to this part of VIUs website: www.viu.ca/adventures-in-mind.

— Submitted by VIU

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