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Arno River

Italy is very different from home. But sometimes when we travel to the countryside or get above the city, the hills and the trees remind us of Oregon and especially the Rogue Valley. The weather is also similar at times, another one of those "if you don't like the weather, wait 5 minutes" kind of places. Other than that, Florence is so far from home. The people are different, the food is different, the streets are different, the cars are different, the noise is different. There is a lot of adapting that we have to do.

I have seen many things in the three weeks that I've been in Florence. I've spent many hours walking throughout the city and have noticed that there lies exquisite detail within every square centimeter of absolutely everything. There is passion, love and dignity within every ounce of wood, marble, stone, and glass. Even the cobblestones that we walk on have an artistic nature. No surface has gone unaccounted for and some surfaces are re-coated with the new era's artwork.

The unfortunate side of this town is that the unevenness of the roads doesn't allow for the direct line of vision to be upward. I find myself Emily Bertlantconstantly looking at the ground in order to avoid physically tripping. This requires mental tripping because my sight is directed at my feet rather than the beauty above me, beside me and in front of me. In the countryside, the earth is the beauty beneath that is thirsty for recognition. In the city, what is beneath my feet is dirty and unattractive and what is beside me is what craves the attention, what holds the majesty. Here the ground is for walking, for human use, a canvas for architectural indulgences. From those, beauty beams.

All the outer walls are equipped with ornate light fixtures; all were used in the past but some no longer. Accompanying those are ornate doors, door frames, windows, window sills and balconies. The exteriors of buildings are so beautiful and hold so many mysteries that sometimes the interior is overlooked. Makes one wonder if there even is beauty on the inside. Locked doors and security systems prevent entry. There is no way of knowing the beauty within all these buildings. And those mysteries just enhance the splendor.

There is no doubt that this is a beautiful place filled with opportunity. Just have to get comfortable first.


RCC Students Emily Berlant, Patricia Halleran and Morgan Daugherty during the Florence, Italy study abroad program at the Villa of Vignamaggio at Greve in Chianti, Italy on October 14, 2010.

OCCThe villa, surrounded by an elegant Italian garden in a stunningly beautiful corner of the Chianti countryside, offers an authentic testimony of country life during the Renaissance period. The main part of the villa dates back to the 14th century.

The Gherardi family, who bought the villa from the Gherardini at the end of the 16th century, was responsible for its present appearance.

Mona Lisa, the daughter of Anton Maria Gherardini, was born at Vignamaggio in 1479. The Gherardini were a noble family in Tuscany, probably of Etruscan or Roman origin.

They began to construct their castle at Montagliari on a hill dominating the Greve river valley. From this position the Gherardini often robbed the merchants on their way to Florence, who in 1302 finally decided to put an end to these episodes and besieged the castle.

After a long hard battle the Gherardini moved to the other side of the valley at Vignamaggio where they built the first part of the villa.
The estate was bought in 1925 by Contessa Elena Samminiatelli, whose family restored the Italian gardens and the villa.
Since 1988 Mr. Gianni Nunziante the new owner has undertaken an extensive renovation of the buildings, the gardens, the vineyards and the wine cellars.

Research carried out at the Datini archives in Prato has brought to light a number of documents relating to Vignamaggio. One of these, in particular, dated 26 October 1404, consists of a letter to Francesco Datini signed by Amido Gherardini, at that time the owner of the estate, which talks about "vino inbotato a Vignamag(i)o" (literally "wine placed in barrels at Vignamaggio"). For this reason, in 2004 the estate celebrated six hundred years of winemaking.