Category Archives: Italy

Final day in Italy

Today was our final full day in Italy, and we spent it in Roma. Taking the early train from Orvieto to Romani Termini (the central train station in Rome), we then hopped a local bus to Vatican City, but could not gain admittance until later in the morning. So we shopped.

Upon entering the Vatican, strict security was employed with lots of paperwork. We survived it, and were led by an English-speaking guide (Tonya), who took us through the hallways filled with sculptures and paintings and mosaics and tapestries. What a wonderful collection of the greatest art pieces in the world!

I’m not even going to try to explain the beauty of Michelangelo’s painted ceiling in the Sistine Chapel. No pictures were allowed, so just think “heavenly.”

We walked and strolled through the largest cathedral in the world (St. Peter’s of course), and then just stood in the square outside this magnificent structure and sighed in unison.

We are now safely back in Orvieto, and all the students are packing their suitcases and cleaning their rooms. Our bus ride to the Rome airport begins at 6:00 a.m. tomorrow (Tuesday). Our ten-hour flight over the ocean will take us to Atlanta’s airport, and after clearing customs, we should be able to board our last flight to Chicago. Hopefully, we will have WLC people to pick us up about 8:30 p.m. (Central time) and take us back to Wisconsin Lutheran College. Anticipating our jet lag, please be understanding. We will be arriving in the circle in front of the college at 5:30 a.m. (Orvieto time).

It has been a pleasure writing to you about Italy. God has blessed our trip in many, many ways, and I am one grateful professor.

My thanks to Dr. Janis Flint-Ferguson and Dr. John Skillen, who have both helped us tremendously while we were in Italia.

Arrivederci from Orvieto!

Dr. Martin Moldenhauer

Sunday in Orvieto

Dear Readers,

Dr. John Skillen
Dr. John Skillen of Gordon College at Orvieto lectures about the fresco cycles within that Duomo

Today was a Sabbath day in Italy, one that we recognized and acknowledged with our own little worship service at 10:00 a.m. We were given permission to meet in a small, private chapel of an old medieval mansion, and did some singing of familiar hymns, a couple of appropriate Scripture readings, spontaneous and sincere “ex corde” prayers, and the reciting of the Lord’s Prayer (in English and Italian).

After worship, we were invited into the private lodging of Dr. John Skillen, who served us “poco” pastries in front of a blazing wood fire. His hospitality has been generous and kind throughout our stay here at Gordon College in Orvieto. What a wonderful example of a humble Christian leader! We were well served to meet up with him.

When this light lunch was finished, our group walked down the steep, cliff-side path to the ancient Etruscan necropolis (burying ground). These are the people who populated this area before the Romans conquered them. In other words, we were viewing the gravesites of Italians who lived 2500 years ago! My students were awe-struck, and so was I. After spending an hour there, we struggled up the sheer cliff on a strenuous footpath to return to our walled city of Orvieto. Our large group then split into various smaller units who chose to climb the bell tower, visit the ruins of a Roman fort, eat something Italian, or take the tour of the underground caves that exist beneath this town. The weather was perfect for exploring with temperatures in the 50s and sunshine galore.

By 5:30 p.m. we were back in the classroom for a session of American/Italian literature and a writing reflection about ancient Rome. Right now everyone is out eating at their favorite Italian ristorante, and nobody is alone or unsafe.

Tomorrow (Monday) is a “Return to Roma” day which should involve a visit to the Vatican and a tour of the Sistine Chapel. It is our last day of Italian exploration so we hope to make the most of it.

Tuesday will find us making the long flights from Rome to Atlanta to Chicago.

We have been having a wonderful educational and cultural experience. God is good.

May our good God continue to be with us and you.


Dr. Martin Moldenhauer


Today we have a guest blog post from Dr. Janis Flint-Ferguson of Gordon College in Massachusetts, who is traveling with Wisconsin Lutheran College’s group in Italy.

Greetings to my friends and colleagues in beautiful Milwaukee. It has been such a delight for me to get to know the WLC students who are here with Dr. Moldenhauer and me for our “Special Topics in Italian Literature” class. Dr. M has generously offered me the opportunity to add my reflections to the blog.

Today was Rome. We have basically been spending a day “on the road” and then a day in classes here in Orvieto. After viewing Charlton Heston in “The Agony and the Ecstasy,” we focused on good ole Michelangelo, whose art is so much a part of this huge metropolis. Well,?Michelangelo and the early Romans, of course.

2014-in-RomeWe started the day with those early Romans and the Colosseum. I always love that image of coming out of the subway station and having that huge structure right in front of you. A few gasps are always the initial response. The Italians are doing a good deal of renovation so our gasp was also for all the scaffolding, but it did not stop our explorations of this Flavian building. They did their best to eliminate any remnant of the former emperor Nero’s lake and did a darn good job of it.

From there we visited the Basilica of St. Pietro in Vincoly. Michelangelo’s Moses sits in a side chapel, glaring down at the Hebrews and at visitors alike. He is a stunning sculpture. Legend has it that he was “too perfect” and that Michelangelo smashed his knee to show a bit of the imperfection of humanity.

The Pantheon is an old Roman site, taken over by the Christians and now home to the Church of Saint Mary and the Martyrs. It is also the home to Vittorio Emmanuel, who is actually everywhere in Rome. His arch dwarfs the ancient forum and market place. Rightly so as he united the provinces into one country in 1861. His tomb is guarded by military officials and reverently visited by Italians. He is “padre della patria” father of the country. Also in the Pantheon is the tomb of the Renaissance artist Raphael. 2014-Pizza-in-RomeGuarding his tomb is a sculpture done by one of his students – I am sure that any professor is proud to be remembered by their student in such a grand fashion.

We ate together at a local ristorante – fresh Roman pastas and Coca-Cola – the typical along with the global. It was a long day for us all, but an excellent one. Our photos of the day will be populating Facebook even as I write this blog.

It has been a pleasure to be part of the WLC program this J Term.

A respite day in Orvieto

Dear Readers,

Today was a much needed restful day between trips to Florence and Rome. We had a leisurely breakfast followed by a couple more student presentations on Italian authors. Then we professors did some train ticket ordering and some schedule planning for Rome while students explored Orvieto and climbed the bell tower in the center of town. Everyone had stories to tell about the Italian cuisine they tried and the conversations they attempted.

Walking in Orvieto
Walking in Orvieto

Later this afternoon we all viewed the movie “The Agony and the Ecstasy” about the painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling by Michelangelo. We will see it in person on Monday since we are now going to old Rome (Colosseum, Forum, Senate, etc.) tomorrow, saving the Vatican for Monday.

The weather is still holding without rain and giving us mostly cloudy skies in the 50s. Every night as we walk around town we smell the wood fires that heat most of these houses. The few cars in this city slow down for pedestrians because we all walk in the single lane roads without sidewalks. Many Italian cafes and ristaurantes compete for our business, and they greet us in a friendly manner as we pass their individual eateries. No McDonald’s or Subways here. Eating late and leisurely meals is a big part of the Italian culture, and nobody is in a hurry.

We are all happy and healthy, loving Italy as our home away from home.

God be with you all.

Dr. Martin Moldenhauer

Florence and Pisa

Dear Italy blog readers,

Well, the past two days have been momentous and exciting. On Wednesday, we arose early, ate our modest provided breakfast (cereal, fruit, and bread), and carried our backpacks over to the funicular which took us to the bottom of this steep cliff. There we boarded a train bound for Florence. After nearly two hours of train riding, we got off in the heart of old Florence and began exploring the city which gave birth to the Renaissance. It was the Florentine Medici family who encouraged art, literature, and the re-birth of intellectual endeavors in the 1300s.

At the Medici Palace
At the Medici Palace

At this point, I am going to condense the things we saw in Florence over two days into a list, and hopefully some of these places will connect with my audience.

  • San Marco church and cloister
  • David!
  • Ponte Vecchio bridge
  • The Duomo
  • Santa Maria Piaza
  • Santa Croce church and cloister
  • Other famous statues
  • A climb to the top of the dome of the Duomo (some of the more energetic students did this)
  • Medici Palazzo
  • San Lorenzo
  • Graves of Michelangelo, Galileo, Rossini, Marconi, and Machiavelli

Suffice it to say, we experienced Florence in both quality and quantity.

Our Wednesday evening was spent in two separate hostels in Pisa, a short train ride from Florence. We journeyed there on Wednesday afternoon, checked into our hostels, and walked the streets to the Leaning Tower and back. Every student took multiple photos of that iconic structure, and I have no doubt that you will see some of them.

The Duomo in Florence
The Duomo in Florence

Early on Thursday (the 9th) we returned by train to Florence to complete the list above. Our feet are sore from the cobblestone walking, but our hearts are glad, and our minds are filled with marvelous memories.

We got back to Orvieto (home base for these ten days) last night, and we will spend the day with two student presentations (Cicero and Michelangelo) and the viewing of the film ?The Agony and the Ecstasy? about the painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling in preparation for our trip to Rome tomorrow. Of course, we will do more exploring of this Italian city, and some of us plan to climb the bell/clock tower in the middle of the city. The weather has been good, allowing us to take pictures and feel comfortable on our many walks.

As for pictures, I will enlist the aid of some students who have better cameras than I do, and we will try to post some photos of our travels in the near future.


Dr. Martin Moldenhauer

Students in Florence


The entire group on the steps of the Santa Croce Cathedral in Florence

Assisi Day

Dear Blog readers,

First of all, we send our sincere sympathies to those of you suffering with below zero temperatures back in Wisconsin and the Midwest. Alas, we cannot empathize, however, because our 60-degree temperatures do not cause us stress or discomfort at all, although it was a bit chilly in the shade.

2014-AssisiToday was designated for Francis of Assisi, the originator of the Franciscan Order of monks, a humble man who dedicated his life to the poor and unfortunate people of the 1200s. His hillside home is one of the most picturesque towns in all of Italy, located high above the plains of Umbria. Leaving Orvieto early, we traveled by train and bus to Assisi. Once there, we walked a steep road to the pinnacle of town to gaze at the olive tree-clustered hills below. Most of us removed our jackets, and we needed frequent rest stops along the way. The view was worth it, as was the great Basilica, built in honor of Francis himself. We thoroughly enjoyed the venture to the west, and we have many great pictures to show for it. (Some of these may be posted here in the near future.)

Outdoor nativity scene in Assisi
Outdoor nativity scene in Assisi
Arriving “home” in Orvieto’s train station a few hours ago, we walked across the street to board the funicular, the cable car tram that takes people from the bottom of this city to the cliffs high above, where we live. After dinner (a later supper, actually) we heard more student presentations in the classroom, wrote about our experiences in Assisi, and headed back to our rooms to pack for an overnight trip to Florence and Pisa.

Tomorrow will be doubly exciting because we will spend the morning and part of the afternoon in the city that spawned the Renaissance, Firenze (Florence). This city connects with our ancient Italian authors as well more modern American authors who have lived and traveled there. By mid-afternoon we will board another train to take us to Pisa, home of the iconic Leaning Tower of Pisa. We’ll stay overnight in a couple of hostels, ladies in one, guys in another, and then return to Florence again on Thursday for more explorations.

The blog entries may be delayed for a day or two because of this “overnighter,” but we will return soon afterward. Keep reading. Stay tuned. Stay warm.

God bless all of you.

The Italian Connection

Dr. Martin Moldenhauer

Arrival in Italy

Dear Blog readers,

Ready to travel from O’Hare

Apologies for the lack of news and information during our travel days (Saturday and Sunday). Traveling by bus and plane and then bus again for a day and a half is an exhausting enterprise, and internet access was unavailable.

The good news is that we are all safely lodged here in Orvieto, province of Umbria, Italy. The plane flights were long, but uncomplicated. The weariness with which we arrived was expected. Our hosts (Dr. John Skillen and Dr. Janis Flint-Ferguson of Gordon College) met us at the Rome airport and oriented us for the ten-day adventure while we traveled by bus to our convent, hostel-type lodging. The rooms are bright and clean with showers and bathroom facilities in each room. We have our own little cafeteria and classroom, with a library and office to use too. The history of this convent goes back to 1280, and parts of this structure are indeed that old!

A duomo (Italian cathedral) was built here for Pope Urban IV in 1264, and it has fresco walls that relate to Dante’s “Divine Commedia,” one of our featured Italian authors for this course.

Dr. Flint-Ferguson of Gordon College and Dr. Moldenhauer of Wisconsin Lutheran College with (lower) Orvieto beneath
Dr. Flint-Ferguson of Gordon College and Dr. Moldenhauer of Wisconsin Lutheran College with (lower) Orvieto beneath

This quaint little town (population 6000) sits on top of a volcanic plateau and has rich history and lovely Italian beauty all around. The cobblestone streets are narrow and winding, but we managed to walk all over town last night (Sunday) in the misty evening.

Our convent has a palm tree in the courtyard, and the Italian sun this Monday morning is brightly shining with blue skies everywhere. We are off to explore this city and its history.

My 15 students show signs of tiredness, but they are excited, cooperative, and ready to learn, that’s for sure.

We thank our God on this Epiphany day, and we are filled with good will and gratitude.


More later from Orvieto.

Dr. Martin Moldenhauer

Trip preparation

Our first day of classes during J Term was a success. We met in the Wisconsin Lutheran College dining hall at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday to discuss our upcoming trip. I reminded the students about some packing tips, gave advice on travel, and fielded some questions. After an hour we moved to a classroom where we heard two presentations on the Italian author Boccaccio. Each one of my 15 students has written a research paper about an Italian author or topic, and they are each obligated to give an oral presentation on their investigations. Some will be done here in Milwaukee before we leave, and some of the students will give their talks in Italy as we travel.

2014-WLC-Snow-SignAfter a lunch break, we viewed the classic (and old) film, “A Roman Holiday.” I knew that my fellow travelers would be skeptical at first since the movie stars Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn, and it was filmed in black and white! However, I also knew that it was filmed entirely on location in Rome, and the story would capture their interest and their hearts, which it did!

The current temperature outside is well below zero, and we have enough snow to make deep piles on campus. While we will have to experience two long plane flights tomorrow (Saturday) as we head to Rome, the temperature there at this moment is 59 degrees with some high clouds.

Feel free to follow this blog as we travel. I will try to post daily entries with some pictures, and maybe I can get some students to write about our experiences too. Don’t worry about us. We are under God’s protection in Italy just as surely as we are in Wisconsin.


Dr. Martin Moldenhauer

Italy 2014

Hello, my name is Dr. Martin Moldenhauer, and I am a veteran English professor at Wisconsin Lutheran College. If you would like to follow me to Italy for the next two weeks, please feel welcome to read this blog.

Starting on January 2, I?ll be teaching 15 WLC students on our campus. We will discuss Italian authors and literature, view a couple of films about Italy, and get ready for our study abroad experience which commences with a flight to Amsterdam on January 4 and our arrival in Rome on January 5.

There we will meet Dr. Janis Flint-Ferguson who is a full professor at Gordon College in Massachusetts. Gordon College has an international program located in Orvieto, Umbria, and we will be staying in their facilities and using their classrooms. Orvieto is located midway between Rome and Florence, so our travel destinations will include those two important cities, as well as Assisi and Pisa.

Although this three credit course is offered as a literature elective, we intend to investigate the additional aspects of Italian art, architecture, history, cuisine, and culture. Of course, we will read the classic Italian authors of Dante, Boccaccio, and Petrarch (in English), but we will also link our travels to previous American authors who have visited Italy and wrote about it. These include Mark Twain, Henry James, DH Lawrence, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Edith Wharton.

Having led various student study groups to New England, England, Germany, and Italy in the past, I am quite experienced in these kinds of ventures, and I look forward to the opportunity once again. Please return to these blog entries from Italy as often as you wish, and God bless you in the year ahead.

Home again

Dear Italy Blog watchers,

Here is my final entry for the Italy travel/study abroad tour of J Term 2013. I list it that way because these blogs stay ?up? for future readers in future years.

We left our Roma hotel yesterday morning at 6:45 am local time, making the 30 minute drive to the large Rome airport. It is interesting to see how foreign airports arrange their facilities, hardly any seating spaces and fewer shops and stores than American airports provide. Due to some rain and fog, we left Rome a bit later than scheduled and then fought a very stiff headwind across Europe and the Atlantic. Watching the on-board computer screen, I could see times when the headwind was over 200 mph!

Naturally, this slowed our progress and increased our airplane flight time to Atlanta to over 12 hours. We landed at the busiest airport in the world (Atlanta?s Hartsfield Airport) around 5:30 pm local time, but that would be after midnight as we were experiencing it. We passed through customs quite easily, and moved over to the area of our domestic flight to Chicago.

Chicago?s O?Hare Airport is the second busiest airport in the world, so we hit the top two airports in succession. We landed around 9 pm, retrieved our luggage and boarded the WLC bus for Milwaukee, arriving back on campus about 10:30 pm last night. Of course, it felt like dawn to us, having left Rome 24 hours earlier. We said our fond goodbyes and each left for our separate ways, content in the knowledge that this trip had been educational, fun, invigorating, and worthwhile. God was so good to us.

Special thanks to Dr. William Braun, my traveling comrade and WLC music professor, and I would like to compliment each of the 17 students for their cooperative spirit and engaged participation. It was my pleasure to keep all of you informed about our trip.


Dr. Martin Moldenhauer