Sixteen HWS students spent the fall semester studying the traditional cuisine and culture of the ancient city of Rome, Italy. Led by Professor of Chemistry Walter Bowyer, students were immersed in Roman culture as they observed the city through an interdisciplinary lens and prepared the food that is integral to the Italian lifestyle.
“We combined history, classics, archaeology, art history and science to appreciate the amazing sites Rome offers,” says Bowyer. “My main goal was for the students to learn to make sophisticated connections between what we read and what we see. We also worked on looking actively and becoming more careful and critical observers.”
Students were also enrolled in courses studying Imperial and Renaissance Rome, as well as traditional Roman food. Alexandra Townsend ’18, a writing and rhetoric major, says her favorite class was “Food and Culture in Italy” offered through the Gustolab Institute where the first educational program in Italy dedicated to food studies originated. Throughout the semester, students traveled to specialty bakeries, farms and wineries throughout the Rome and Lazio Region and spent hours in their professor’s kitchen learning to make pasta, lasagna, bread and pizza. They shopped for their own ingredients at the famous Roman markets and, Townsend says, learned about the value Italian people place on high-quality goods.
“At each location we visited, we spent time talking to the owners and workers – learning about the time and skill that goes into their respective jobs. These visits also included many hands-on experiences as we filled our own cannoli, strained our own cheese and tasted the homemade products. Each visit was incredibly personal, allowing us to see the pride the people take in what they do and create,” Townsend says.
For Jonathan Tuttle ’18, the most interesting aspect was studying how some of the dishes they learned to prepare have changed over time due to regional differences, globalization and tourism.
“We studied the history behind certain Italian dishes and how they have been modified, while others have remained a constant over time. It was interesting to examine the differences between tourist-type places as well as traditional Italian places,” Tuttle says.
Both Townsend and Tuttle say the most significant part of their experience was making the transition from a tourist to a resident.
“When I first arrived in Rome, I was a bit intimidated,” says Tuttle. “I decided to do some exploring on my own and it was amazing how easy it is to gain a different perspective when you enter an entirely new culture.”
Townsend says she felt like a resident of Rome when she was able to order a panino in Italian and was familiar with the route to her apartment.
“The Italian way of living differs so much from our own. I’ve learned to appreciate the slower paced, passionate lifestyle,” says Townsend. “Rome is an amazing city full of beautiful people and endless opportunities to learn.”