Epsom College students soak up Italian culture

22 Apr 2013

An enrichment trip to Tuscany transformed a group of eight students and two teachers from the English Department into practising artists and critics as they explored three Italian cities and soaked up the country’s culture.

The week-long visit during the Easter holidays was organised by Head of English Nick Russell, assisted by English teacher Katie Cloonan.

Greeted by their guide and host, Julian Hyzler, the party spent their first day in Rome visiting The Coliseum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and ruins of the Empire. Such was the inspiration from their surroundings that Jack Harrison and Jake McGrath began to craft a play primarily set in Piazza Novona and inspired by Shakespeare, while a presentation from Lara Treherne on Keats’ home foreshadowed the next day’s study.

On the second and fourth days, pupils were in residence at Julian Hyzler’s studio and villa, sketching landscapes and enjoying the hospitality of Julian and his wife, Amanda, as well as their vivacious truffle-seeking dog, Tartuffe.

Lydia Sheils and Katie Scott developed their drawing skills and Katie drew portraits of each member of the group. While one half of the party created visual art, the other half read and discussed extracts from English literature, art history, and Dante’s Divine Comedy, which resulted in an illuminating mix of art, text, creation and criticism.

A visit to Florence on the third day provided an opportunity to appreciate the city’s plethora of cathedrals, artwork, and gelato. Philip Fiuza gave an enlightening presentation on frescoes while the group took photos galore.

Florence has produced some powerful – and notorious – leaders over the years. The group learned about Girolamo Savonarola, the mastermind behind the Bonfire of the Vanities, and Niccolo Machiavelli, who promoted ends rather than means. It was perhaps with this in mind that Jack and Jake continued to craft their play, The Knights of Novona, and its Evildoers.

On the fourth night, an Art Showcase was staged, giving pupils and teachers a chance to contribute at least one piece of art (poem, visual piece, video or drama). Particularly impressive pieces were contributed by Cara Steel (an ifonographic video of the trip), Brian Oosthuizen (a poem inspired by the Tuscan countryside) and the budding playwrights, who called upon the whole party’s acting skills to perform their play.

The final day saw the tourists ascend the Tuscan hills in a cable car to visit Orvieto, known for its cathedral and leather products, where they savoured their last views of Italy and bites of authentic pizza before heading back to England.