Images of Villa Corsi Salviati

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Villa Corsi Salviati - A view of the garden two large water basin: the "vasca lunga" and the "vasca tonda"

Villa Corsi Salviati  - A partial view of the garden with statues and  of the south wall.

Villa Corsi Salviati - A partial view of the villa and garden with statues and potted lemen trees.

Villa Corsi Salviati - View of the Garden south wall (to the left)  with statues on top

Villa Corsi Salviati -  Close view of some statues on the south wall - Peasants at work

Villa Corsi Salviati - West wall - The huntress Diana  with a wild boar overlooking the "Vasca tonda", or Round large pond.

Villa Corsi Salviati -  A round water basin with lilies in the English part pf the garden

Villa Corsi Salviati - decorated gate  iron gate and railings over a small bridge in the English part of the garden

Villa Corsi Salviati - One of the many marble statues decorating the formal garden

Villa Corsi Salviati -  One of the several ancient vases used to pot lemon trees.

Villa Corsi Salviati -  Enlargment of the relief decoration seen on the pot above

Villa Corsi Salviati - Gardeners loading a large vase with lemon tree to be taken to the "Limonaia" for the winter season

Villa Corsi Salviati - An exeptional view of the central fountain and garden under snow (detail)

Villa Corsi Salviati - A view the large roud water basin and of the western part of the garden  under snow.

Villa Corsi Salviati - One of the south-wall garden gates

Villa Corsi Salviati - A turret  with a statue on top of the  Villa east side

Villa Corsi Salviati - A statue  on the east turret window overlooking the formal garden

Villa Corsi Salviati - Top west corner of Villa with arches and staues overlooking the formal garde.

The column of images from Villa Corsi Salviati will continue


Villa Cosi Salviati - Garden .  Partial view of Long  and Round Ponds
Villa Corsi Salviati - Florence Program Campus

A Historical Sketch2

The origin of the Academic Year in Florence goes back some thirty-five years, to 1972, with the first University of Michigan summer program directed by the late Professor Charles Trinkaus, a renowned Humanism and Renaissance scholar. But in reality the first roots of the program go back even further. Before coming to the University of Michigan in 1970, Charles Trinkaus was teaching at Sarah Lawrence College. And while at Sarah Lawrence, he played a fundamental role in the college summer program in Florence. His affiliation with the program began in 1958, and since then he was its director for several years. In the meantime the University of Michigan began co-sponsoring the Florence Summer Program with Sarah Lawrence College in 1965—forty years ago3.

At the University of Michigan the summer program was managed by the Center for Western European Studies (CWES). The program went on for some ten years under the direction of several eminent professors of that institution. During this period at Michigan the idea of a program for the academic year had been taking an ever clear and coherent shape and form with the passing of every year and the accumulated experience provided by the every Summer Program. The design of an year-long program, the exploration to find a suitable location for it, and the search to find a partner to make it happen were pursued by a small but determined group of Michigan faculty4. The choice of a partner fell on Wisconsin. Thus in the early 1980's Dean Peter Steiner of the University of Michigan and Dean David Cronon of the University of Wisconsin agreed to form a consortium and to found the Florence Academic Year Program. Associate Dean James Cather of Michigan was the director of study abroad programs, and his counterpart at Wisconsin was Associate Dean Robert Mulvihill. As mentioned in the "Basics" section, since the very beginning the conception of the Florence Program had been that of creating a residential college. In addition, the framers of the Florence Program designed a program in which the curriculum of courses of each semester would center on a different topic, so that students could participate for either one semester or the full academic year. The concept of a "topic" meant that all or most of the courses taught in the same semester would be interrelated. Thus in the very first semester of the academic year program courses focused on the art, literature, and thought of the Renaissance—including its use of ancient Roman works. And during the second semester the focus was similar, but the stress was on history, philosophy, architecture and Florence in the early Renaissance.

As it has been mentioned above, the idea of a program for the academic year evolved and was strengthened by the ten years experience offered by the summer programs. At the same time, the great success of the first four summer programs at Villa Boscobello (see further) — 1982, 1983 and 1984 under Professor Graham Smith's direction, and 1985 under the direction of Professor R. Ward Bissell — plus the enterprises of the Alumni groups who stayed at the Villa and paid the rent, were crucial to the academic year financial viability during the first three or four years of its operations.

In so far as the year-long program, the first group of students participated in the 1982-83 academic year. The first academic semester began under resident director Professor Graham Smith, of the University of Michigan (now at the University of St. Andrews). Professor Smith gave the Program a solid imprint the traits of which were to last many years to come. In the Fall of '82 there were some 22 students. The group may have been relatively small, but the students were treated superbly both materially and academically. Students and faculty were provided with three generous and delicious meals a day, and full cleaning service for their quarters. Academically, with three professors from the two home institutions, in addition to the director, students could choose from an array of some eight well-coordinated courses centered on some aspects of Florence and the Italian Renaissance. In addition, a local instructor was hired to teach Italian language courses. For the Winter semester of 1982-83, the number of students had practically doubled. And because of the limited space the new Resident Director, Professor Frank Casa, and all the faculty did not live in the same facility where students were housed. And this was the first exception—although compelled—to the residential college idea. As with the first term, the second semester curriculum was very focused and courses well correlated. (Please see 1982-83 courses). Thus, from an academic point of view, Fall and Winter semesters 1982-83 satisfied almost completely the rationale for the concept of a central topic, as well as for the program being located in Florence. Further, they provided a model that was followed by a number of resident directors for several years. Finally, 1982-83 set a solid cornerstone for the very good fame enjoyed by the Program in subsequent years.

As it was alluded to above, the Program was then located at Villa Boscobello in theVilla Boscobello, near San Domenico di Fiesole northeast hills of Florence at the very edge of the city limits and on the main road that connects the City to Fiesole, practically adjoining San Domenico di Fiesole and close to Fiesole itself. Boscobello was a quite and pleasant place for students and faculty, but it could lodge only a small number of students, and during the first term the faculty was confined to rather cramped accommodations. Consequently, in 1983-84, the squire house in the grounds of the Villa was also leased; and this gave additional space for students and professors and took pressure off Boscobello. CWES entrusted the operation of the villa to a fiduciary who acted as villa manager.A map showing  the greater-Florence area (detail) Due to an increased student demand to study in Florence, and to disagreements that arose between the manager and the villa owner, the lease was not renewed and the Program had to be relocated in a very short time. The new location turned out to be Villa Corsi Salviati in Sesto Fiorentino. (As it can be seen from the map to the left, which outlines the greater Florence area, the linear distance from Fiesole to Sesto Fiorentino is only about 5 miles—to see a larger map, click on the image. You will also be able to see where San Domenico di Fiesole is located).

Much preparation and effort had gone into the process of identifying and securing what has turned out to be an exceptional fine long-term home for the Program. And although there was some active opposition to the Sesto location, the goodwill and support of Count Giovanni Guicciardini, the new villa owner, was critical throughout, as was Dean Peter Steiner's at Michigan. In Florence Dr. Susan Scott-Casaritti was also of paramount importance. But perhaps all the preparation and effort would not have materialized if it had not been for the diligence, hard work and determination of Professor Graham Smith who was then Director of CWES at Michigan and thoroughly committed to the continued success of the Program.

The transfer from Villa Boscobello to Villa Corsi Salviati took place in December of 1985, and the 1986 Winter (Spring) was the first semester to be held at the new villa in Sesto.
The first semester at Villa Corsi Salviati there were some 35 students, and there would have been space to house also the Resident Director. But since during the previous semester, because of the limited space at Boscobello, the Resident Director was permitted to live in a private home outside the villa, the same arrangement was allowed, reluctantly, also in Winter 1986. So Winter 1983 and the academic year 1985-86 constitute two exceptions, as they are the only three semesters, in the history of the program, in which the Directors did not live in the same building where students were lodged—although in the Fall of '85 and in the Winter of '86 the faculty did live, respectively, in the squire house at Villa Boscobello and at Villa Corsi Salviati.

The transfer to Villa Corsi Salviati included also the transfer of the fiduciary who was managing Boscobello, and the arrangement between CWES and the manager continued at the new Villa. However in 1987 Michigan decided to exercise direct control also on the premises. In the month of October of that year the University of Michigan, through its lawyer in Florence, drew up a deed and deposited documents of its decision to establish formally a campus in Italy. Villa Corsi Salviati was designated as its official and legal seat5.

At the beginning CWES was leasing the first and the second floor of Villa Corsi Salviati east addition with the exclusion of the gardener's apartment. The ground floor was used for a dining room and a kitchen, an office for the manager, and two small apartments for faculty. The upper floor over the dining room is a long terrace. The rest was used as bedrooms for students. Also leased were the basement, first and second floor corresponding to the east façade of the Villa proper overlooking the lawn and stage. {See sketch of east façade}. The basement was used for the library. The first floor included the "salone", which was used as aula magna, and various rooms used as classrooms, director's and professors' offices, as well as the administrative assistant's office. The second floor was used, part as classrooms and the rest as student bedrooms. The Resident Director had an apartment inside the villa right courtyard. {See the villa plan}.

From early May through December of 1988 the Florence investigative unit of the Guardia di Finanza (GdF), a body similar to the US Internal Revenue Service, began scrutinizing fifteen American programs in Florence including the Michigan-Wisconsin Program. GdF contended that tuition and program fees paid by students and remitted to Italy for the operation of the program were subject to IVA (VAT or Value Added Tax), as well as income tax. After several months of investigation of the Florence Program GdF issued a long document with the number of students who had attended both the academic program and the summer program since their inception, and the amount of dollars sent to the program by Michigan over the years. A heavy fine was levied on the program, and against the Villa Manager and all directors who had served in Florence since the start of the program. This caused the immediate mobilization of all US programs in Italy—through their Association of American College and University Programs in Italy (AACUPI)—to draft a bill aimed at clarifying their individual legal status in Italy. Through the good work of the Association, and the timely intervention of the US Ambassador to Italy, Maxwell Rabb, a clause in the tax law was passed by the Italian government on April 29, 1989. It granted tax-exempt status to all affiliates of foreign colleges or universities or institutions of higher learning that are non-profit entities in the US and Canada. It also listed specifically a number of programs which were granted tax-exempt status. The Michigan-Wisconsin Florence Program is one of the programs listed. The law is retroactive and effective from the inception of the Program.

During 1989, the Office of International Programs (OIP) replaced the Center for Western European Studies (CWES) as the overseeing agency for study abroad programs. In the early part of the year the University of Michigan thought it opportune and advantageous to negotiate the lease directly with the villa owner, and its Office of International Programs proceeded to do so.

Due to an increased demand from students who wanted to participate in the Program and because of other urgent needs, in early 1989 the Resident Director—on behalf of the Florence Program sponsoring universities—initiated talks with the Villa owner aimed at leasing additional villa space. The most pressing need for more space was necessitated by the urgency to relocate the library. The basement rooms where the library was situated were very humid, musty and dark. A situation not at all conducive to study. It was agreed that the Program would lease all the space of the villa "piano nobile", the monumental villa second floor, that is the entire floor directly over the ground floor reserved by the owner and indicated by R in the sketch {See villa plan}. The result was that the Program, in addition to the east wing, was now leasing the entire monumental villa, with the exception noted. The arrangement provided space for 10-12 additional students; two rooms for the library, one large and one normal, with tables and desks; one additional reading/class room; and an apartment for the Resident Director consisting of one bedroom, a large living-dining room, and a small kitchen. This setup made possible to house 63-65 students, two or three professors from the home institutions and their family, the program director and family

The First Persian Gulf War (1990-1991) had a devastating effect on the Florence Program in several ways. The US-lead coalition intervention in the war took place on 17 January 1991, scarcely a week after the students had arrived at the Villa for the Winter semester. The instant effect was that a few parents demanded the immediate return of their children to the States. Of course, because of the situation, fear with parents was mounting high and, at least in one case, it must have reached a state of severe anxiety—if one is to judge from the actions of a father who had his daughter picked up at the Villa, at midnight, by a car coming from Rome, accompanied by a special agent, and driven back to Rome airport for an early morning flight to Washington, DC!
In reality the state of affairs was very critical. Towards the end of Fall 1990 the Florence Program—as a handful of other US university programs in Florence—had received a severe threat from a group of unknown militants in the City. The Resident Director took immediate steps to inform the Director in Michigan, and to contact the appropriate Italian authorities. At first the Italian military stationed in Florence decided to guard the Villa and took position on its roofs. But three or four days later, an order from Rome abruptly stopped the military surveillance of the Villa. They gave the explanation that since the Villa was leased by the University of Michigan, an entity of the State of Michigan, the grounds were considered as a foreign state and hence the presence of the Italian military would be seen as an invasion of a foreign territory.
Steps were then taken with the City of Sesto. The City of Sesto cooperated fully with the Director's requests and ordered the patrol of the Villa perimeter, and that no car be parked in front of the Villa, day or night. However, at Michigan, this was not considered sufficient security especially at night. Thus special private night guards were hired by the Program for the surveillance of the Villa and the protection of the students, with the consequence that considerable funds had to be diverted and allocated to this task.
Finally, and perhaps more serious and longer lasting, Gulf War I had long-lasting negative repercussions on the student demand for studying in the Florence Program—as in other programs in general. Student enrollment declined sharply to the point that OIP was compelled to cancel its 1991 summer program at the Villa.
Perhaps it may be relevant to relate that, during this very critical situation, some of the downtown Florence programs that had received the threatening letter left the City and went on "extended field trips", making their temporary home other Italian cities. The Michigan OIP Director felt that leaving the City was, perhaps, not necessary for a program located outside Florence. However, students were made fully aware of the seriousness of the situation and were advised not to travel in groups. The first priority of the resident director was that of monitoring closely the state of affairs. Also the resident director, in consultation with the Michigan OIP Director, developed a contingency plan and a state-of-readiness arrangements to move the students out of Italy and into Switzerland, if the necessity required it.

In the meantime, the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning (TCAUP) made an agreement with OIP to become a Florence associate, and to send a professor every Fall to direct a Graduate Design Studio for its own students (up to a maximum of 15) as well as to teach a course open to all program students. Fall 1993 was the first semester of TCAUP participation in the program. After a three-year trial (Fall 1993, 1994, 1995) the TCAUP studio component has become an integral part of the Florence Program Fall curriculum, with two regular courses: one titled "Architecture Studio Design", and the other "Experiencing the City".

In 1997 Duke University joined the Florence Program and became a consortium member but, as mentioned in the "Basics" section, only for the Fall semester.

For many years the Florence Academic Program has enjoyed a wide reputation—among the more than seventy full-fledged American College and university programs in Italy—of being one of the best US academic programs in Florence. The Program is now very solidly established. After fifteen years, the effect of Gulf War I is only a distant memory. The Villa is full to capacity every semester, and presently (Winter 2005) it has a student body comprising 61 participants, plus the director and three professors from the home institutions.

The 1983 wishful projection of Professor Raymond Grew, one of the program founding architects, that "within a decade, nearly a thousand students will have had an intense educational experience in one of the world's great cultural centers"6 has come to fruition—at least numerically. In the twenty-three years of the Program life so far, an estimated 2000 plus students have participated7. To be sure, judging from the curriculum of courses offered, after the first few years, the Florence Program has changed much from the framers' original conception. How much, it will be for others to assess.


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