Sunday Funday!


We had a wonderful, restful Sunday here in Spoleto! In the morning, students had several options of supplemental activities to choose from, including a hike, a trip to the cemetery with Jan, a swim in the public pool, going to church (and hearing Angelo play the organ), and helping the nuns around the convent. We had a delicious Sundaylunch at the Clitunno (vegetarian lasagna - one of their specialties) and an afternoon off to explore, do some laundry, and rest. After dinner, we heard some of the faculty perform at our first faculty recital. Since today is the final day of the Spoleto Festival, we were treated to a wonderful firework show to finish the evening!


Student Spotlight: Vocal and Instrumental Music



Favorite thing eaten:
Vegetable soup with pasta

Favorite part of class: Getting to listen to Lorenzo talk about the art and architecture in his hometown - it feels much more organic than a normal lecture.



Favorite thing eaten: Lemon gelato

Favorite part of class: Doing fairy tale tableaux in movement class



Favorite thing eaten: Pistacchio gelato

Favorite part of class: Angelo, our fabulous accompanist



Favorite thing eaten: Cherry gelato

Favorite part of class: Movement classes



Favorite thing eaten: Pasta with vodka sauce on the first day 

Favorite part of class: Duets and Angelo



Favorite thing eaten: Pasta with vodka sauce on the first day

Favorite part of class: Ability to practice on my own and have freedom to work on what I need to work on



Favorite thing eaten: Prosciutto sandwich with delicious cheese and eggplant

Favorite part of class: Private lessons



Favorite thing eaten: Cream puff from a bakery in Spoleto

Favorite part of class: Practicing my Mozart duet with Elle

Jill, Niccolo, and Angelo

Jill, Niccolo, and Angelo



Jill, Laura, and Angelo

Jill, Laura, and Angelo

A Sunny Day in Florence!

We had a wonderful trip to Florence today!  We started the visit with a stop at Piazzale Michelangelo, giving us a beautiful overlook of the city from a hill across the river. 


We then made our way to San Marco, a Dominican church an convent.  There we looked at some gorgeous manuscripts and the beautiful work of Fra Angelico.


Next, we walked to La Chiesa di Santa Maria Novella, which famously houses Masaccio's Holy Trinity.  We then walked to the the Duomo, and had a couple of hours of free time to explore the city.  Students enjoyed seeing the city and finding some treasures in the leather market!  Afterwards, we took the bus back to Spoleto for a relaxing evening!


Spotlight: Music

Today was a regular class day here in Spoleto, but we ended the evening with a ballet performance as part of the Festival dei Due Mondi (the famous Spoleto festival with a partner festival in Charleston, SC). The Hamburg Ballet performed several pieces, one of which featured live music by Chopin. The performance took place outdoors in the Roman Theater, so we got to experience some of the ancient history of Spoleto at the same time. 

Today was a regular class day here in Spoleto, but we ended the evening with a ballet performance as part of the Festival dei Due Mondi (the famous Spoleto festival with a partner festival in Charleston, SC). The Hamburg Ballet performed several pieces, one of which featured live music by Chopin. The performance took place outdoors in the Roman Theater, so we got to experience some of the ancient history of Spoleto at the same time. 

Spotlight: Vocal and Instrumental Music

Spotlight: Vocal and Instrumental Music


We have a fantastic group of musicians at Spoleto Study Abroad this year! All of the music students spend an hour together each morning. The morning class ranges from movement and acting class to music theory and history of opera. 

Each afternoon begins with choir, where we are learning a wide range of music including a piece by a 17th-century nun, a Mendelssohn trio, and some Rodgers and Hammerstein. Our rehearsals take place in the Chiesa di Sant’Agata, and the acoustics are glorious! Angelo, an incredible local organist and composer, accompanies the choir and coaches the singers in their solo and duets work. After choir, the instrumentalists meet with Niccolo for private instruction.

The rest of the evening classes for the singers are divided into private voice lessons and work on their operatic and musical theater duets. Each singer has a duet from Le Nozze di Figaro, so this week we have focused on proper Italian pronunciation and solidifying the technical elements of the music. Next week, we will start blocking. The singers have all been incredibly supportive of one another, which makes all of our music-making that much better. It’s a great, talented, funny, and kind group of young women!


Spotlight: Visual Arts

We had yet another wonderful day of classes and exploration. After morning classes, students followed Lorenzo, the Art and Architecture instructor, to the Casa Romana (Roman House) here in Spoleto. There, they learned about some of the specifics of a Roman house and Roman living.


After visiting the Casa Romana, students continued their classes, enjoyed lunch at the Clitunna, spent their freetime in the afternoon around the town or at the covent, and finished the day with evening classes and dinner.


Spotlight: Visual Arts

Claire Lerner – Instructor

"The idea of conceptual versus naturalistic drawing was introduced to the visual arts students through a series of fun and enriching studio-drawing exercises. We began the week with blind contour drawings of fellow students, followed by a slowly revealed upside down drawing. These warm up exercises develop the student’s powers of careful observation and facilitate an understanding of the difference between conceptual art and really seeing. Visual art students took a quick field trip to the local Spoleto art store where they were exposed to the endless possibilities of media available.               

We spent some time looking at and discussing art from the Italian Renaissance, including the Proto-Renaissance, Renaissance, and High Renaissance. The work of important artists such as Brunelleschi and Masaccio, along with many others, was discussed in the context of that same progression toward naturalism introduced earlier in the studio work.

During the next three weeks, students will be working with one point and two point perspective as they go out and sketch scenes of Spoleto.  Sitting outside and quietly drawing develops a keen sense of observation along with sensitivity of their immediate surroundings. Students were surprised to find that they attracted casual observers as they worked. This contact with the public also encouraged the students to try out their newly acquired Italian language skills on several occasions.

Students will develop one of these outdoor sketches into a final drawing and then into a finished painting back in the art studio. Students have also been introduced to the history of Italian portraiture and have studied the proportions of the face and will be creating a self-portrait from life in a media of their choice."

Travel to Siena

Today we left bright and early for our day trip to Siena! After a long drive, we headed into the center of the city for a tour led by Andrea, our Italian instructor. The tour began at the Duomo, which has elaborate decorations outside and inside (including two pieces by Donatello). The Duomo also includes a beautiful library full of chant manuscripts with ornate illustrations. 



Next, we walked to Piazza del Campo, a shell-shaped piazza at the center of Siena. Each year, this huge piazza turns into the site of the Palio, a horse race between representatives of the different neighborhoods of Siena (the contrade). Andrea took us into the Palazzo Pubblico, the center of Siena’s government. This building has nine rooms with elaborate frescoes, and we focused on a room commemorating the Risorgimento and a room depicting the effects of good and bad government. 



After the “official” tour was over, students had free time to explore the city in smaller groups. They were challenged to take pictures with their contrade (for our Spoleto Study Abroad Palio, they’ve been divided into teams) in the neighborhood of their contrade. Many students enjoyed some of the local cuisine and gelato, and some climbed all the way to the top of the tower in the Palazzo Pubblico! 



The day ended with a quiet bus ride home, another wonderful dinner at the Clitunno, and some time to relax afterward. 

Spotlight: Creative Writing and Screen Writing

Classes are officially in full swing! Students have been hard at work learning, exploring and creating within their perspective disciplines. It is exciting to see them light up when they talk about what they are doing in their classes. It is clear that they are passionate about what they are learning.  

Aida, Photography Student 

Aida, Photography Student 

Today, visual arts students enjoyed the beautiful weather and scenery and took class outside. As they were working, two Italian children came up to Kayli, visual arts student, and asked if they could draw in her sketchbook. Kayli allowed the two girls to draw and it was a beautiful way for them to get to know each other. Since Kayli doesn't speak Italian and the children do not speak English, they communicated through drawing. Kayli learned that the little girls have chickens that live in a chicken coop and a pool at their house. Kayli shared with the girls that she is an American student who loves art. 

Kayli, Visual Arts Student

Kayli, Visual Arts Student


John Warren, Screen Writing Faculty:

"Story, story, story...   Structure, structure, structure...  Why does Mr. Warren keep repeating himself?   What’s his problem?   Doesn’t he know it’s more fun, you know, just to kind of make stories up as you go along?  Also, frankly, does he really know what he’s talking about with all this ‘building the story, one protagonist, one objective’ stuff?  I’m not so sure.  Besides, this is starting to feel like work or, as Warren says, craft.  

Nevertheless, he might be right.  It kind of makes sense.  I mean, we are watching films.  That’s fun/interesting.  These films do have a protagonist with a flaw, an objective and all that other story stuff - believe it or not.  And we are going to write scripts for short films.  That could be good.  

This afternoon we pitch stories for the movies we want to write.  I dread that.  But, maybe, it might be fun.  I hope Mr. Warren’s not too big a pain about, you know, story, story, story, structure, structure, structure.  But he might be.  We’ll see!"

Students in Screen Writing Class 

Students in Screen Writing Class 

John Warren, Screen Writing Teacher 

John Warren, Screen Writing Teacher 

AJ Fitzgerald, Creative Writing Faculty: 

In the last two days we’ve started from very fundamental principles of language and storytelling. We read essays on the difference between representation and the thing being represented, on the nature of words, symbols and icons, and how these acquire meaning.

This morning we spoke about the realm of experience vs. the realm of storytelling: how some events and objects bring baggage with them when transferred into the world of fiction, while others leave a piece of their significance and meaning behind when stripped of their real-world contexts.

So far we’ve worked to illustrate these points with essays by Scott McCloud and Charles Baxter, stories by Aimee Bender and Tim O’Brien, as well as writing exercises both in and outside the classroom.

Starting Thursday we’ll dive more specifically into elements of fiction-writing: characterization, setting, time and story clocks, narration and framing. All the while students will be thinking toward their two main projects: a new original short story of their own, and a major revision of a previous work.

Creative Writing Students Working Outside 

Creative Writing Students Working Outside 


A Full Day of Classes and a Scavenger Hunt!

Students started the day with a regular weekday schedule of classes. Each student had a class in the discipline that they chose to study, an Italian language lesson, an Art and Ideas class, and Art and Architecture class in the morning. After lunch students had free time until we began Master Classes in their disciplines at 5pm. 

Throughout the duration of the program students will be competing against one another in contrade (teams) in the Spoleto Palio.  Each contrada has a name and emblem based on Siena’s infamous contrade.  Tonight the contrade participated in a scavenger hunt around Spoleto!


Since we would like to highlight each discipline, we are going to designate themes for each day’s update.

·      Monday: Photography

·      Tuesday: Creative Writing and Screenwriting

·      Wednesday: Travel

·      Thursday:  Visual Arts

·      Friday: Vocal and Instrumental Music

·      Saturday: Travel

·      Sunday: Student Focus and Life in Spoleto

Sara Kerr, Photography Faculty:

"On Sunday, our first day of class, we had an introduction to photography and we got to know one another. We talked about our photography experiences, what we want to achieve in Spoleto, what we want to improve on, and how we want to develop our photography skills. We then learned about the history of photography and we learned about the buttons on our cameras!

Today, we jumped right into the technical stuff. In the morning we learned about the exposure triangle: namely, how to use shutter speed, aperture and ISO to create a good exposure. We drew some pictures of aperture and shutter speed scales and we ate biscotti to try and help our brains take in all of this technical information! 

In our afternoon class, we put this information into practice. We went out and about around Spoleto and practiced using manual mode, shutter priority and aperture priority modes on our cameras. We also learned about how the shutter speed can control the way we depict motion! We practiced blurring motion and freezing motion. We learned also about depth of field (and how the aperture can make things look sharp all the way to the horizon or blurry and romantic). We were very lucky that we found a cat that was a wonderful model and he continued to sleep as we practiced our techniques! 

For the rest of the week we will be focusing on cementing our technical skills by photographing landscapes and architecture in Siena and around Spoleto. We will also learn a great deal about composition, by looking at the masters of photography and analyzing their photographic works."

First Day of Classes (kind of...)

What a wonderful end to our weekend! We began the day with a quick walk up a hill to visit the church of I Cappuccini. Although it sounds like the beloved coffee drink, as Lorenzo explained, I Cappuccini is in fact an order of monks. They take their name from the Italian word for "hood", cappuccino, which the monks wear. Upon arriving at the hilltop church, students rested in the shade and looked out over the valley below. On the walk down, we stood in awe of the breathtaking views of Spoleto from afar. 


We then took a stroll through the antiques market which was set up throughout the town of Spoleto. Locals brought out their handmade goods, including jewelry, bags, and linens. Students also sampled local honey, cheeses, and even smelled the some of the truffles. 

After the market, we headed to yet another fabulous three course lunch, which began with pasta and ended with fresh cantaloupe. In the Italian fashion, we headed back to the convent after lunch for some much needed rest and relaxation.

Beginning of Classes

After our siesta, students prepared to meet for classes for the first time. We walked to the school and met with faculty. Students were introduced to their class formally for the first time, and learned about what they could expect throughout the course.

Visual Arts



Vocal and Strings



Student Focus: Photography, Screenwriting, and Creative Writing




Q:What is your favorite Gelato flavor?

A: Pistachio!

Q: What are you hoping to work on throughout the program?

A: Finding my own style in my photography.




Q: What's the best thing you've seen so far?

A: The church of St. Francis in Assisi

Q: What you hoping to work on in your discipline?

A: The technical part of photography.




Q: What are you most looking forward to in your photography class?

A: Learning how to use a camera and working on technical skills.

Q: What's the best thing you've eaten so far?

A: Stracciatella gelato!



Q:What's the best thing you've eaten so far?

A: Limone gelato!

Q: What are you most excited about for your photography class?

A: Being able to work beyond the classroom and explore the technical elements of photography while out in the town.


20180708_145835 (1).jpg


Q: What's the best thing you've seen so far?

A: The view from La Rocca (the castle) in Spoleto.

Q: What are you hoping to work on in your discipline?

A: Improving technical skills and editing skills.


Creative Writing




Q: What's the best thing you've seen so far?

A: The aqueduct in Spoleto.

Q: What are you most looking forward to in your discipline?

A: Getting inspiration for writing from Spoleto and Italian culture. 




Q: What's the best thing you've eaten so far?

A: Margarita pizza!

Q: What are you hoping to work on in your discipline?

A: Breaking out from the usual categories of writing and using the town for inspiration.




20180708_150059 (1).jpg


Q: What's the best thing you've eaten so far?

A: Spaghetti! 

Q: What are you hoping to work on in your discipline?

A: Having more ideas and being exposed to new ideas.




Q: What's the best thing you've eaten so far?

A: Spicy broccoli

Q: What is your favorite thing about your class so far?

A: The teacher. He is very fluid in his teaching, and he allows you to interrupt him!




Q: What's the best thing you've eaten so far?

A: Calzone with prosciutto and mozzarella

Q: What are you hoping to work towards in your discipline?

A: Having a solid idea for a screenplay and beginning my own screenplay by the end of the program.




Q: What's the best thing you've eaten so far?

A: Prosciutto and melone!

Q: What's your favorite thing about your class so far?

A: The teacher! He is very knowledgeable about the industry and the basic building blocks of screenwriting.

Buona notte!

Day Trip to Assisi

Spoleto Study Abroad had an adventurous first full day in Italy! We spent the day exploring Assisi, the town most commonly known for St. Francis and St. Clare. Andrea Muti, the students' Italian instructor and tour guide, did a wonderful job teaching us about the history of Assisi. 

The first place that we visited was Rocca Maggiore, a grand castle that dates back to the Twelfth Century. It is perched atop a walled hilltop overlooking the city of Assisi and surrounding countryside. Students were able to explore the castle and enjoy it's beautiful views. 

Students outside the Rocca Maggiore in Assisi, Italy. 

Students outside the Rocca Maggiore in Assisi, Italy. 

After our visit to Rocca Maggiore, we ventured down to Temple of Minerva, an originally ancient building. It has since gone through a lot of change since it was built, and it currently houses a church, Santa Maria sopra Minerva - which translates to Saint Mary above Minerva. 

The Temple of Minerva

The Temple of Minerva

Students then had an opportunity to explore Assisi. Many of them went and got pizza, gelato, and found some unique souvenirs. 

To finish off our day in Assisi, we toured the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi. 

Students inside Rocca Maggiore

Students inside Rocca Maggiore

To finish off our day together, we enjoyed a delicious three course dinner. We started with pasta with fresh vegetables, then moved to steak or cheese with roasted potatoes, and finished with gelato. Overall, it was a great day! Tomorrow we will be seeing some of the wonder in Spoleto and having our first day of discipline classes. 

Students enjoying dinner. 

Students enjoying dinner. 


Benvenuti a Spoleto!

We are all together in Spoleto! As soon as the students arrived we went straight to lunch
at Hotel Clitunno, which houses Ristorante Lorenzo where students eat lunch and dinner
each day.

The convent, our home for the program!

The convent, our home for the program!

Students are in different rooms around the convent and each room is named after a fruit (in
Italian of course). The rooms are Mela (Apple), Pesca (Peach), Arancia (Orange), Ananas
(Pineapple), Fragola (Strawberry), Limone (Lemon), Melone (Melon), Cocomero
(Watermelon), and Lampone (Raspberry).

After lunch, students settled into their rooms, rested and got to know their roommates.
We had a more formal introduction of faculty and fellows and a brief overview of the
program from Jill and Lorenzo Muti. This was followed by icebreakers, such as playing telephone in Italian!


Lorenzo Muti describing his love for his hometown, Spoleto.

Lorenzo Muti describing his love for his hometown, Spoleto.


After our games and introductions, students were given a tour of Spoleto.
We enjoyed a delicious gelato for dessert and are back at the convent settling in
before tomorrow's day trip to Assisi.



The Aqueduct 

The Aqueduct 

Photography: Intensive or Traditional program?

Today marks 3 short months until our Photography Intensive begins! If you are a high school student, ages 15-19 wondering whether to apply for the one-week intensive or the traditional three weeks-long program at Spoleto Study Abroad, we’d love to help you decide!

Here are some considerations as you prepare your application:

1. I’ve used a camera before but I’m still a beginner.

The one-week intensive is probably right for you. During the intensive, we will help photography students develop a personal style of shooting, using all sources of light, to create a stunning photographic portfolio. The instructor will discuss technique, intent, composition and the creative use of the camera and lens.

The three-week course allows for a deep-dive into the technical skills and tools of photography during the morning workshop. The afternoons The afternoon photography seminar will afford students individual mentoring opportunities with the instructor and collaborative peer learning during field trips and photographic shoots. The course is very hands-on through on-location photo assignments and some photo editing. You will be also be introduced to a wide variety of portraiture, documentary, and street photography genres through the study of masters in photography.


2. I want to explore Italy as much as possible while taking photographs!

Both the intensive and the three-week program will allow students to explore and photograph the rich daily life of Spoleto, Italy as well as neighboring hill towns. The intensive will visit La Bruna to capture the sunflower fields, as well.

The three-week program will allow for weekly trips to such cultural centers as Urbino, Florence, Siena, Assisi, San Benedetto, Orvieto, and other medieval hill towns throughout Umbria and Tuscany.

3. Can you tell me more about what I will take away from the two courses?

For the intensive, participants will receive daily feedback on their works-in-progress from the instructor and during peer group discussions. The final day of the workshop will culminate in an art exhibition.

For the three-week program, a final photo essay capturing the Sense of Place and Culture will be the culminating project. Many Spoleto students use this as a portfolio piece when applying to colleges.

4. How can I find out more about the equipment needed for both courses?

You can find out more information about the program faculty, the equipment required, as well as how to apply here:

More details about the Photography Intensive
Intensive application

More details about the three-week Photography program
Three-week program application packet

Away They Go


All the students are at the airport or with their families!  We had an incredible summer, and we are so grateful for each and every one of our amazingly talented students.  Grazie a mille!

In closing, we wanted to share a few of our favorite photos from the program. Enjoy!

Last Dinner, Performances and Farewells.....

The time has gone so quickly, but we have all made new friends and experienced new things. Today began with a wonderful Visual Arts, Photography and Film Showcase at the school. It was great to see the end results of three weeks of work. We finished the evening with our last meal at the Clitunno and our final Performance Class. Creative Writing, Vocal Music, Filmmaking and Drama showcased their final works.


The winner of this years Palio was Lupa! Team members went out for a gelato after the performances.


The bus for Rome is leaving early tomorrow morning.  Thank you for a wonderful summer!

Il Palio

This morning, we had the final event of our program-long competition: Il Palio! The official Palio, a horse race between different neighborhoods of the city, takes place in Siena every year. Our final race was up at the base of La Rocca. Each team, or "contrada," chose a runner who had to skip, powerwalk, and run around the track. For the final leg of the race, the rest of the contrada had to carry their runner to the finish line. The Chiocciola contrada won the footrace, but we will learn the final results of the competition tomorrow after lunch. Enjoy some pictures from the day below! For the rest of the day, they had free time or did final work for tomorrow's showcase. 

Also, enjoy a couple of photos from one of last night's faculty dinners!

Final Day of Classes, Concert, and Faculty Dinners!

We cannot believe it, but today was the final day of classes here in Spoleto! Students spent Italian class at the local market, practicing their new language skills and using up some of their remaining Euros! Creative Writers spent the afternoon completing a workshop and some independent writing in preparation for their final presentation on Sunday. The strings, drama and vocal students attended the first concert in the Incontri Musicali series and had the opportunity to see four different chamber music pieces performed by musicians from around the world. 

Tonight is always a favored night during the SSA program because students have the opportunity to attend dinner at different restaurants around Spoleto with faculty members! 


Tomorrow is a free day here in Spoleto for students to finish working on projects, to start packing and to enjoy their final days in town!