Inside the Mind of Leonardo

FUA-AUF's New Class Reveals da Vinci’s Wide-Ranging Impact

written by Kyla Pehr for Special Project: Experiential Learning in Journalism

FUA-AUF’s new class, titled Leonardo da Vinci: Art, Botany, Alchemy, and Recipes began with students being prompted to write the first seven words and expressions that came to mind when hearing: “Leonardo da Vinci.” The instructor read out some of the most popular answers:

Art. Genius. History. Italy. Creative. Renaissance. Talented.

Satisfied with the results of the icebreaker activity, Professor Lapo Morgantini continued on, explaining the relevance of each word to his course, and providing context on da Vinci, a “strange man from his own time.” 

The class, which counts for three semester credits, serves as an overview of da Vinci’s life, art, and his experiential and interdisciplinary approach to the exploration of nature, according to the class syllabus. The class also has a particular focus on da Vinci’s contributions to gastronomy. These contributions include the study of table manners, the creation of kitchen utensils as well as early cooking devices. In addition to traditional lectures and discussions, students learn about da Vinci and his range of accomplishments through field learning activities, guided visits to locations relevant to his life and art, and workshops with culinary professionals on recipes written and inspired by the renowned polymath.
This new class has no prerequisites, though Morgantini recommends prospective students have the flexibility to empathize with historical thinking. Morgantini himself has been teaching art history at FUA-AUF for eight years and has a strong appreciation for da Vinci, who he considers to be "a brilliant man." Morgantini hopes that students will take inspiration from da Vinci during the course, exploring alternative approaches to life and opening their minds to perspectives from the past.

“We are working inside the mind of Leonardo,” Morgantini said. “This mind is a jump from today [and] how we approach science, [so] we have to learn to think more elastically.”

During the class prior, students went upstairs to the kitchen to participate in a cooking lab with Grammatico, baking a “torta rinascimentale con crema al limone e mandorle,” otherwise known as a Renaissance tart with lemon custard and almonds. Students were led through a series of interactive lectures, describing da Vinci’s background — making many references to American pop culture to bolster the understanding of concepts for the students.

The class then went on a brief walking tour through the San Marco neighborhood of Florence. During this experiential learning activity, the group paused at multiple historical locations to explain their significance to da Vinci as well as to Renaissance culture, art, and society in Italy.

“The students are here to learn about Italian culture, [and] we are in Italy’s cultural capital,” Morgantini said. “I can see the relevance of the cultural experience; the art, the history, the food, it speaks for itself.”

Leonardo Da Vinci: Art, Botany, Alchemy, and Recipes offers students with an interest in art history a unique way to better acquaint themselves with Florentine culture. Morgantini serves as a passionate course protagonist and is well-versed in the topic, jumping at the opportunity to share his admiration of da Vinci with others. Overall, this class would be a welcome addition to any summer schedule.

Tiny Florence: A Student Exhibit

Hosted at Via Ricasoli, 21’s Palazzi Community Center on May 30, “Tiny Florence” showcases the work of summer semester FUA-AUF study abroad students enrolled in both the courses of Introduction to Digital Photography and Intermediate Landscape and Architectural Photography.

A Class Without a Classroom

The city of Florence replaces the traditional classroom setting for students enrolled in FUA-AUF’s Painting En Plein Air class.

Cultural Introduction to Italy

Arriving in Florence for my semester abroad, I felt a mix of excitement and uncertainty. Having
never left the United States before, I was eager to explore this new chapter of my life. Enrolling
in a Cultural Introduction to Italy Course seemed like the perfect way to dive into the experience.

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