Our Director of Studies, Lavinia Harrington, explains why she couldn’t be more excited about the launch of our new 3-week Late Summer Course this year. A deliberate appeal to all five senses; this course embraces music, drawing, gastronomy, archaeology, ecology, poetry, opera, history and, of course, breath-taking art.

I grew up in Italy and I thought I knew it well – later I specialised in Italian art and history for my undergraduate degree and MA and thought I knew it even better. However, nothing could have prepared me for the journey of discovery that I embarked upon when I started travelling Italy and teaching with AHA six years ago. AHA gave me, and continues to give all our students, the greatest gift: the opportunity to experience how a flesh-and-blood encounter with the creativity of the past can generate new dimensions in one’s own creativity and understanding.

For over three decades, AHA tutors have been setting out on adventures across Italy with small groups of students, on a mission to share their passion for art, history, and culture without the pressures of exams or the constraints of a classroom. This year, we’ve jumped at the opportunity to design a course for 17 – 22 year olds around a new festival in Florence which shares our appreciation for what can happen when young talent and promise engage with the classical past and create for the future.

The New Generation Festival ran last year with triumphant success and this year’s eclectic mix of drama, opera, and classical music, together with late-night post-classical sets, will bring the private gardens of the Corsini Palace and secret pop-up venues in Florence to life once more. A constellation of young stars will gather from across the globe to include internationally-acclaimed violinist Charlie Siem, cellist Erica Piccotti, pianist Itamar Golan, and the extraordinary soprano Anush Hovhannisvan. Festival-goers are invited to swap their wellies for Renaissance masks, and feast their eyes on costume designs by 17-time Oscar-winning Tirelli Costumi. With their motto being: GREAT MUSIC IS GREAT MUSIC – this festival was designed to make opera and classical music enjoyable for everyone – even if this is all new for you.

This three-night extravaganza will be the centrepiece of our 3-week course. Either side, we’ve orchestrated a series of experiences bringing together the best that Italy has to offer. Starting in Venice, which will be showcasing the world’s leading contemporary architects at the Architecture Biennale, students will also get a chance to learn the traditional “voga veneta” (gondoliering) and decorate their own Venetian mask – which will come in handy later on!

Our days’ discoveries will range from the Renaissance world of Bellini and Titian to that of legendary modern art collector and fashionista Peggy Guggenheim. We travel on to Verona, city of pink marbled streets, to celebrate opera in the truly unforgettable open-air Roman amphitheatre before hopping on a train to Florence. By day we’ll think about Michelangelo and the study of anatomy, have a go at life-drawing and learn some tricks of Tuscan cooking then by night we’ll launch into the festival.

Filled with memories of the greatest music and art, we will retreat to a small hilltop castle in the Umbrian countryside, where we will walk, swim, and savour local foods and wine. This idyllic setting will turn our minds to Italian literature and our own writing before we head on to Naples – the city of extremes. Naples is full of stunning mosaics, life-changing Caravaggios, and a tangle of streets to explore but it is also the perfect base for day trips: Paestum for brilliantly-preserved Greek temples and a buffalo mozzarella farm, the harrowing Pompeii, and the sublime Vesuvius for an unforgettable climb to look into the crater and out over the bay of Naples. We will spend our last few days in the island paradise of Ischia, where we will be surrounded by vivid colours and heady scents in the gardens of La Mortella.

As you can see, it’s easy for me to get carried away day-dreaming about this course, but I really do urge you to consider making it a reality. Whatever your academic background, all you need to benefit is enthusiasm and curiosity. As an AHA almuna said, “I would recommend AHA to anyone and everyone. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity and will completely change your life for the better”.

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