Arrivederci Italia!

Buongiorno Amici! Students in the Faculty-Led Study Abroad Program, Connecting Art and Science – The Cultural History of Art and Anatomy in Italy, have just completed the final component of their course.

These last four days were split evenly with stays in Bologna and Padua, as well as a day visit to Venice. As we gathered for our Arrivederci Dinner on our final night in Italy, the mood was both joyous and melancholy. Students celebrated new friendships and their incredible travel experience, yet lamented their time in Italy was now over.

These last four days transitioned from the Renaissance (and touristy) city of Florence, to the university towns of Bologna and Padua. Here students visited arguably the oldest university in the world, the University of Bologna founded in 1088. We were hosted by Professor Alessandro Ruggeri, a neuroanatomist (now retired) from the medical school, and at two separate museums we viewed an amazing collection of wax anatomical figures from the 17th to 19th centuries. These artistic and didactic sculptures are the foundations of patho-anatomy, as maladies from acromegaly to small pox were created to train physicians. This is the oldest collection of its kind in the world.

We also visited 16th and 17th century anatomical theaters, where bodies were publicly dissected as a component of the medical curriculum in ornate rooms complete with statues of Hippocrates and Galen, and an elevated chair for the professor. The theater in Padua is the oldest such structure in the world, where the likes of Gabriele Falloppio (discoverer of the fallopian tubes) and William Harvey (the father of cardiac physiology) both studied anatomy. Our students also stood before Galileo’s lecture podium! In Padua we visited the Basilica of Saint Anthony to not only appreciate its architectural wonder and spiritual intensity, but to view the saint’s relics and contemplate the body as a vehicle for religious expression.

Our students considered the role of these wax anatomical models and historic dissection theaters in the training of health care providers. We discussed how while today we have so many advances in medicine, the fundamental training of providers is not all that different in some ways. As future physicians, nurses, physical therapists, trainers and more, this is a humbling notion.

Most of our students returned last weekend, while some extended their stay in Europe. All of them in the coming weeks however, will complete a unifying journal that applies the interdisciplinary and cross-cultural themes addressed in the course with the lived Study Abroad experience. It is my hope they have a new perspective concerning the nexus between art and anatomy, and that this international experience has permanently changed their world view.

This post concludes my blogging for SDSU: Be International. It was my absolute pleasure to share our experience with you. My sincere thanks to you for following us, and to the SDSU international programming folks for their support, especially my dear friends in the Faculty-Led Study Abroad office.

Vi ringrazio e saluti a tutti!


Kevin Petti is a professor of human anatomy and physiology at Miramar College. He teaches the faculty-led study abroad program “Connecting Art and Anatomy in Italy” for SDSU, and will blog from Italy this summer.

2 thoughts on “Arrivederci Italia!

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  1. Testimony of a nursing student abroad:
    Our last four days in Italy were a mix of excitement and deep sadness, as our time in Italy was coming to an end. My most expected tours – to both Dissection Theaters at the Universities of Bologna, and later Padua – happened during that time. As a nursing student, these were some of the most extraordinary and relevant visits that we made, since so much was connected here about the study of the human body and how Medicine studies developed thereafter.
    I will honestly never be able to characterize with mere words the feeling of complete awe that overtook us students, being present in those dissection theaters.
    While Prof.Petti gave us an interactive lecture on the history of the dissection halls, It was as if we all felt this same deep connection to the students and professors, whom had been there before us, writing the history of medical education within the walls of such theaters.
    Our last day in Venice passed in a blink of an eye, as if the hours on the clock were indeed running against us. Nevertheless, we were able to enjoy an incredible tour, that described to us the deep historical culture of Venice and how so much has changed because of tourism.
    Venice offered us one of the best meals that I personally had during my time in Italy, and after an afternoon of shopping on the Venician streets, it was time to say goodbye.
    I feel grateful to have been able to experience so many amazing tastes, smells, sounds, and just the overall culture of a people full of passion and full of history.
    I deeply encourage my fellow students from the Health Science Department to give this program a try. I urge you to go, you will not regret it. In fact you will not want to leave!
    As science majors, I feel that we are not acquainted enough to Humanities and to the building fibers of our culture. Having said that, there is no better way to expose yourself to a new level of learning about Italy and the history connecting Art and Anatomy, than under the leadership of Prof. Kevin Petti and his program – Anatomia Italiana.

    Liked by 1 person

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