A Tale of Two Cities: Cross-Cultural Analysis Trip to Florence and Rome
posted by LIM College
Every year I accompany a group of LIM undergraduate and graduate students, alumni, and faculty to Europe for the College’s annual Cross-Cultural Analysis (CCA) trip.
While this 10-day journey always helps expand my knowledge of Europe’s fashion business, culture and history, the most rewarding part is getting to know my fellow travellers and members of the College community on a deeper level by sharing the joys and wonders of international travel.
This year’s CCA trip took 31 of us to the Italian cities of Florence and Rome. Professors Grailing King and Nancy Miller coordinated the trip, arranging one amazing activity after another. I’m tremendously grateful for all the effort they put in to make this the experience of a lifetime.
While I can’t possibly cover everything, I’ll share a few highlights.
First, the food! Our first stop upon landing in Italy was, naturally, lunch. We were welcomed with a meal at Locanda della Chiocciola, a charming restaurant in the town of Orte. Between the picturesque countryside setting in the rolling hills and the delicious Tuscan meal, we couldn’t have gotten off to a better start. And that was only the beginning. No matter how cold the weather, LIM students made it a point to eat gelato every day. During the second half of our trip, in Rome, we even did a walking food and wine tour of the ancient neighborhood of Trastevere, including tastings of pizza, cookies, meats, cheese, and more
In addition to learning about some of Florence’s major sites and history from our exuberant tour guide Francesca, our “field trips” in that city included a stop at the Officina del Profumo Santa Maria Novella, a 600 year-old pharmacy and cosmetics shop which still uses ancient recipes to make perfumes and skin care products.
We also visited Torrini Goldsmith Manifattura Orafa, where its Director, Fabrizio Torrini, showed us how their artisans create jewelry, from concept to execution, as well as the Santa Croce Leather School, where we saw the steps involved in producing handmade leather goods. It was fascinating to learn that this school was originally established after World War II for the purpose of turning war orphans into skilled craftsmen.
Throughout the trip, in both Florence and Rome, we had several opportunities to watch immensely talented artisans at work. It was astounding to witness the effort and artistry that go into in the construction of luxury apparel and accessories — from someone hand-painting a trim on a piece of leather or working meticulously on the hardware of a handbag at Gucci, to a seamstress stitching a fur over an old-fashioned sewing machine at Fendi.
The trip included visits to several major luxury brands. At the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo we saw foot molds for famous Ferragamo clients that ranged from Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn to Britain’s young Prince George. We toured Gucci’s iconic headquarters, saw unbelievable jewels at Bulgari, and had the red carpet rolled out for us during a private tour of Fendi headquarters. And, not surprisingly, a “rest stop” at the Prada outlet proved to be a big hit with our group of savvy bargain hunters.
Speaking of shopping, in Rome, in addition to visiting Coin, an upscale Italian department store, we were fortunate to meet with Eleonora Attolico at the famous Caffè Greco. Ms. Attolico is a fashion journalist who has written for L ’Espresso and Vogue. She gave us her perspective on the Italian fashion scene — and was kind enough to direct us to some local shops and boutiques off the beaten path.
Our time in Rome wasn’t just about the fashion business. There were also guided tours of major historical sites, including the Vatican and Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Coliseum, and the Great Synagogue, one of the most spectacular synagogues in the world. The context provided by our guides (thank you, Irene) was invaluable, and provided a sense of context that no amount of reading can match.
I’ve been fortunate enough to make several trips to Europe throughout the years. Yet no matter how many times I return, every visit holds something precious and new — while each group of students impresses me with their own sense of curiosity and enthusiasm. I’ve only been back in the U.S. for a few weeks, but I’m already looking forward to the next CCA trip in January!