“Florentine Literary Walks” Joins FUA-AUF’s Course List

written by Isla Herring for Special Project: Experiential Learning in Journalism

Florence University of the Arts – The American University of Florence has recently been expanding its curriculum and adding more classes for students to take. One new class that has been introduced this semester is Florentine Literary Walks. This course does not have a classroom but is an experiential class where students are led by their professor around Florence to connect their learning material to real life. According to the new courses description, “Students will gain knowledge about the origins of the Italian language, they will learn about war literature and poetry, discover the key venues wherein literature flourished, explore the works of the locals, and also that of illustrious foreign authors who studied and wrote in Florence, and ultimately uncover the new literature developing in the city.”

When speaking to the students about why they chose this course to take, many of them said that they wanted to fulfill their English credit with their home university in a more engaging way, rather than sitting in a lecture room. A student expressed to me that she felt walking throughout the city while studying the literary material was a better way for her to grasp the information. She also explained that she felt more alert during the lesson because the delivery of the coursework is more alluring. 

Another student in the class said they feel they have a better chance at fully experiencing Florence while studying abroad, whereas a lecture does not offer that same immersion. “Lecture style classes do not necessarily suit all types of students, and I am grateful that they offer these walking classes to us,” he stated. He also elaborated by explaining how it is good for your health and your brain to stay active during the day and to retain more information that is being taught. 

Another student described to me that she feels she learns better with visuals. Even though it is a literature class, being at buildings and streets that connect to works of literature and authors that they are learning about, helps her in retaining information as she is a visual learner. She also expressed that she feels it can be more difficult to keep up with the material in a lecture because she is a hands-on learner, therefore she has a challenging time digesting strictly vocal teaching methods. 

When Professor Gian Lorenzo Dini was asked about why this class is relevant to have a walking structure instead of a lecture structure, he explained that there are many perspectives of history and that lecture style classes only provide one. The true history of Florence and its literature is often not fully elaborated to students. Mostly, scholars are only educated about Renaissance Florence, or the artistic perspective of Florence when studying abroad, but there is a secret hidden truth behind architectural Florence that directly connects to its compositional past. He explained how, in history, artists worked closely with literary workers and that people are often not aware of their unique connection. A deeper literary understanding and approach to the city is an effective and better way to understand what Florence is and was. “The city is the starting point to a deeper and more profound understanding of the authors at the time,” Professor Dini noted.

Throughout this course, students will read pieces of literature or poetry as they visit the sites that correspond to the works so the members of the class can make direct comparisons in person. For example, students were assigned a reading, A Song for Bacchus, by Lorenzo de’ Medici, and for the lesson they visited the Piazza de’ Pitti to focus on the Medici family and their Dominion. This is for FUA attendants to gain a deeper understanding of the importance of the writings and how they relate to the city's rich history. 

Overall, the structure of this course works well for students who may not learn best in traditional lecture style classes and can offer a more unique learning experience while studying abroad. Florentine Literary Walks wants its attendees to immerse themselves in the Florentine culture and the vast history that the city possesses, while instructing the students of its valuable literary background. 

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