Our first stop was Rome, to visit the good folks at American University of Rome (AUR)! They provided a great welcome to their university, and we are very excited about developing a dual MBA program, strengthening our study abroad commitment, and discussing faculty exchanges. I stopped by the Vatican but Pope Francis was busy.
After official business was done, off to Sicily for a personal spring break. We began in Palermo, and toured famous sites of the city before heading to the Norman Abbey at Monreale (Murriali). Sicily has had a variety of peaceful residencies by foreigners as well as invasions by Greeks, Turks, Arabs, Berbers, Romans and Normans. The long-standing presence of the Mafia, and efforts to combat their influence, is familiar to everyone. But the diversity of cultures that contributed to Sicilian history deserves more appreciation than it receives.
We followed Monreale by visiting the scenic seaside village of Cefalu, and had one of many fabulous meals. Agrigento was next. It is best known for fabulous Greek temples dating back to 6 BC, a humbling sight for visitors from a country as young as the U.S. Tuesday we toured the wine region of Erice, and paused at a Greek amphitheater in Segesta. Taramina, the next day, and its Roman House, was a highlight of the trip. The site is more like a compound than an ordinary house. In the year 1 BC, a landslide buried it, and it was left undisturbed until the 17th century, when a farmer found the ruins by chance. The Sicilian government has been restoring the Roman House ever since, pausing for WWII, but still at work today.
The most interesting aspect of this ruin is intricate mosaics that were miraculously preserved and appear in every room in the compound. Contrary to popular belief, the bikini was not first introduced in 1946 by French model Micheline Bernardini. Bikinis were worn by eight women, depicted in life-size images, in the Roman House in 1 BC. When we say fashion is evolutionary, not revolutionary, we really mean it, as the picture below proves.
Thursday we were off to Siracusa, home of the great mathematician, engineer and astronomer Archimedes, and the island of Ortygia, which was mentioned by the poet Homer, and today is an extremely popular shopping and entertainment site.
Friday was the last day of the trip. We took an all-terrain jeep up volcanic Mount Etna: there were no rumbles, but great views of the sites of historic eruptions. Only two weeks before, a small eruption blanketed miles of the landscape with ash. All and all a productive and exciting trip—too much to put in a blog. But you get the picture, literally!
Michael P. Londrigan is the Dean of Academic Affairs.