Day 13: Caltagirone

Today we check out from the hotel and leave at 9:30. We took around one hour to reach the farm and where we will be making cheeses. Arriving to the farm, we have to wait for around 15 minute for the owner to come back. The owner of the farm first took us to walked briefly near where the cows and sheep are, and then he took us to the restaurant to show us how to make cacciocavallo. Caciocavallo is a typical cheese only produces in Caltagirone. To make cacciocavallo, you have to heat the milk and add rennet in order to get the most basic cheese. After this is done, you put the cheese into boiling water and make it hot in order to stretch it. Once it is ready, we made the cheese into a pear shape and put it in cold water. And depends on what taste you want to decide how long it should stay at water and salt. After that is just aging. After we made the cheese, we had lunch at the restaurant and prepare for our afternoon.

Karsten Chan


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Erice & the Trapani Salt Pans: Day 11

Today we had travelled to a very ancient small town above the mountain. It was 700 meters above the sea. It was built before the Trojan war. The symbol of this small town is dove. The town had three entrances; it also surrounded by walls. The was built 3000 years ago. It also had 67 churches. The town was famous of corals. During the summer times, many people will put tables in the main square and sit together. There is a big castle in the town. It was built in 12 century, also used as prison in the 18th century. This castle was well preserved, placed on a cliff. It was founded in the Middle Age. But unfortunately, it was closed to the travelers. Near the castle, there is a garden which built by a noble in 18 century. In the garden, we can see a very beautiful land scape of a part of the Sicily. At the second doors, we see the ruins of the 67 towers which protect the town. When this town was under the control of the Spanish people in 16 century. The Spanish built a court to place soldiers in the town. There is a legend about the court. In that time a Spanish solider fell in love with a local woman. But the girl’s fiancé tried to stop them. So the solider killed the girl’s fiancé, and punished by hanging. When he got hung up, wind whispered and blew his red hood off. He became the ghost of that place, still remaining today. Then, we go to a local museum which recorded ancient tools in the town. We also took a picture at the empty place in front of the museum. 

Ricardo Xie

In the afternoon, we visited the salt pan in Culcasi. This salt pan has a history of more than 600 years and follows the traditional producing procedure from 2000 years ago. Although some parts of the process have been improved by modern techniques, we could still have an idea about the original sea salt producing traditions by visiting the museum established by the sea pan. There are three key elements to make good sea salt: sunshine, wind, and seawater. Culcasi is the only producing area of sea salt in Sicily, because it takes advantage of its perfect climate and geographic location: the flat terrain welcomes wind four seasons a year; the bay connected to Mediterranean Sea provides plenty of clean seawater; the Mediterranean climate makes sure that the region can enjoy the consistent sunshine and dryness from April to September. The sea pan built up four pools with different depth and width. Workers use traditional pump to drain the sea water through these pools, and the concentration of salt keeps increasing in the process. In the summer, the scorching sunshine will dry out the last pool with highest concentration, and salts will appear. The salts made through this process have a better quality than mineral salts do because they contain trace elements from the sea and are healthier for people. Another interesting fact we learnt about the sea salt production in Sicily is that in ancient times, salts were tax free goods in Sicily but not in other parts of Europe, so many people smuggled salts to the mainland of Europe and made Sicily salt very famous.

Dehe Liu (Mark)






Palermo: Day 10

Today we started the trip with the biggest tree in Europe that is located in a garden that was built originally for the purpose of hunting and was decorated with symbolic fences around. This gigantic tree is a type of banyan and was originally from Australia. It was so big that we could even see its top standing out from the other plantations in the garden far away. There was also an interesting story about a police officer from the States who came to Italy to investigate the Mafia that was related to the States and was murdered a few steps away from the tree.

We then walked through the blocks in Palermo and were told that this is a very catholic city that has 200 churches in total and we were going to visit 180 of them and walk five kilometers in total during the tour. While visiting several important churches in the town, we have found out that this city has a great amount of cultural and religious combinations. They were reflected on the style of architecture and history of the churches. For instance, many of the Catholic Churches in Palermo were once used as the Moor churches, and the sign of this historical significance could be seen through the floor decorations such as the patterns made by red and green marbles, which represent the concept of god in Muslim. In addition, it is also interesting that the art styles of different time periods could also be seen throughout the churches. For example, in another churches that we visited, we saw that the architecture styles can be actually divided into two sections, which is shown by the way that the ceiling and the paintings on the wall were partially made by small pieces of colorful stones, forming more simple and ancient looking images of the story about the church, indicating that this church was built in gothic style in the medieval period. Other parts of the church, however, was rebuilt or restored with more realistic paintings and patterns during Renaissance. At the same time, there are still walls and floors that are Moors style. Another interesting incidence is that we encountered a movie-making scene while visiting a historical block.

After visiting some marvelous churches in town, we went to a street market, which has lots of interesting products, especially cuisines and vegetables that are distinct and local to this area. The lunch also took place in the market. We got a chance to see the process of rice ball making and made a few by ourselves as well.

In the afternoon, we have had the best “Gelatto” (ice cream) in Sicily, and had some free time to go around the shopping area. In fact, there are thousands of artifacts in this city and even stopping by an ordinary street corner, there are some defensive walls that are over one thousand years old. We gathered in front of the largest theatre in Italy, the third largest one in Europe at 3:15 and went back to hotel from there.

By Haochen Long


Largest tree in Europe.


Only in Palermo: Norman-Moorish Architecture.


The only Byzantine mosaics in Sicily.


Palermitan carriages.

Palermo: Day 9

On another breezy and windy morning, we started our day by taking a bus to the location where we met up with the local guides. Our day mainly involved hiking grand natural landscapes of Palermo. Although hiking was exhausting, it was definitely worthwhile. The two main locations we visited were the church and the cave. Along with being pleasured of the beautiful views, we were told stories and legends that those places have within them.

Today we visited Natural Oriented Reserve of Pizzo Cane. First, we took an hour and eleven-minute bus trip to the bottom of mountain, and we changed to small vans. After climbing on a short track, few broken walls appeared in our sight. The guide introduced that those broken walls were the remains of the outer structure of a church that was built around 1700AD. The church was soon abandoned; so local people usually referred this church as the “bad church”. Archaeologists from a university from Netherlands excavated bones that belonged to a baby girl and a young man here. This discovery gave the strong proof of the theory that Palermo had human settlement during that time period. Because of Palermo’s sensitive location in the Mediterranean, Arabs conquered it earlier, and later it was taken over by Normans. There were wholes that were built on the walls of the church. Those wholes were used for placing weapons such like canons. So this church might have defensive using purpose as well.

Ingrid Zhao

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Home made ice cream bars

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Cave exploring.

Pietraperzia & Rocche: Day 8

Today is the seventh day in Italy. Like yesterday,we are going to the site to excavate antiques, pottery and so on. There are three different parts in the site: eastern,middle, and western parts.According to Dr. Giannitrapani, there are 124 caves in total.The most consistent group at Le Rocche is found on the eastern hill. After walking around those three parts we started to work. First of all, we cleaned up the grass and then we can see the ground.There are many big rocks next to the cave. After that, we picked our tools and use the ropes to set up an area. We named our area Ricardo. We divided the area into three small parts, Ricardo one, two, and three, with two people working per area. We found the first piece of pottery very soon. It is a red one. I still remember I found two blue potteries in Area Ricardo Two .About five minute later,One of our team member found a big piece, it is the bottom of bowl.

Our group did not find a lot of stuff in the morning. We went to eat lunch after two and a half hours of work. After that,we went to the tomb again.We found a lot of pottery and also a lot of worms. We were working very hard. Because of that,we discovered many big rocks under the soil.

Bill Wang

When we finally climbed on top of the cave, we could see a clear landscape of the area. Then, we started talking about the history of the cave and how it was connected to the Famous Greek mythology, The Odyssey. There was one scene in the movie when the giant cyclops was blinded by Odysseus using his intelligence to trick the cyclops. We walked towards inside of the cave and discussed how the opening looks like Virgin Mary, therefore, some people referred this to a religious site.

Kana Mikami, Ellie Yu, and Ingrid Zhao

Pietraperzia & Rocche: Day 7

Since we arrived in the small city of Pietraperzia in Sicily, we’ve been focusing a lot on archeology and its many different fields. Today specifically, we got to work hands on in one of the sites with the supervision of the archaeologists themselves. The site itself was an ancient cave that was used in the Archaic Greek period for sacrifices and adorations. It was located up on a mountain which we had to hike, and on our way, we saw many other different sites situated on the rocks that were used as ancient tombs.

Once we located ourselves in the cave we were going to dig around, we first had to clean up the soil by taking all the little plants and their roots out so we could start diving it into small squares. Once we finished cleaning it up and dividing which spaces each group was going to work on, we started actually digging with the small shovels at the same time in only one direction. From the soil that we excavated, we had to sort out through it on a bucket to see if we found anything valuable or of interest (ex., pottery, animal bones, & charcoal).

We did this all day and by the end of the afternoon, we were all pretty worn out; but nevertheless excited about all this new experience and information about archeology. Tomorrow hopefully we’ll get to see and experience more of it and leave Petraperzia with the feeling that we did a good job.

By: Beatriz Rigueira, Eugênia Affonso & Lulu Chavez

After lunchtime, our team members are back to the area Ricardo, where we has dig in the morning, and we continued digging. Even though we did not find many potteries this morning, we still kept working and had not given up yet because we believed that there are something that we have not discovered covered by the dirt. At first, we only discovered so many huge rocks, which made us a bit disappointed. However, after removing them, we found a few small red potteries. Those pushed us to keep digging. One of the most unforgettable things is that in the area Ricardo III, we found plenty of blue potteries and some small red potteries. Most of them are from the modern age after asking archeologists. Then, we removed other big stones and finally reached the layer of the rock, and the dirt started to be cleaned out. There was a gap between rocks, and it was said that it was done by human beings according to archaeologists. After a few diggings, we are back to the hotel.

In the dinner, we sang the song Happy Birthday to Ms.Hart because today is her birthday. We all had good time and we will continue digging tomorrow.

Frank Fan



The excavation site.

Pietraperzia: Day 6

Due to the bad weather condition, we canceled the outdoor activities (an Archeological Camp for digging and excavating relics). Instead, we went to a painting restoration site.
It was a big room where the restorers can work on the process of preserving and restoring the artifacts. There were several canvases in here. The restorers explained how would they restore the painting step by step. First of all, they glued the original canvas that started to falls apart onto a new canvas in order to give more support to the old one. Then, they used a frame-like pine tree wood that releases sap, which is capable to resist the attack from insects to stabilize the two canvases. After all of these process, the restorer showed us by using three different types of chemicals that has different PH value to restore some of the imperfections of the paintings. One of the most impressive point that the restorer mentioned was that they will not perfectly restore the artifacts as same as what was it like in the ancient time, and all of the restorations are reversible. They want to respect the historical evidences that the canvases maintain.

After visiting the restoration site, we were invited to the Town Hall by the mayor and the vice mayor of Pietraperzia. On the second flood of the Town Hall is a room where they classify and observe the detail and structure of the ancient artifacts such as Flintstones and potteries. According to the archaeologist, 30 percent of their time was spent on the archaeology site; 30 percent are spent in libraries; 30 percent were spent in that room. Lastly 10 percent of their time was spent on paper works. Tomorrow, we are going to experience how the archeologists work normally by going to a site to excavate antiques.

Bill Wang & Sam Qin


Ross students learn the painstaking details of art restoration on a 17th century Madonna and Child.


Dr. Giannitrapani explains how to orient pottery fragments.



4300 year old pottery!


Students learn how to re-frame a 17th century painting.

Our visit to Pietraperzia has been in association with Arkeos, a local archaeological service camp that arranges opportunities for students of archeology and others interested in archeology to participate in excavating local sites and help catalog discovered artifacts. Dr. Enrico Giannitrapani, the organization’s leader, identified two sites near Pietraperzia, Tornambe and Rocche. Tornambe, he explained, is characterized by the presence of a late Copper Age settlement (~2400 BC), while Rocche, where our students will be excavating, is a Greek settlement that dates from the 5th century BC. After showing us several artifacts from both sites, Dr. Giannitrapani said that although there remains a wealth of undiscovered items and artifacts at both sites, lack of funding prohibits routine excavations. He hopes that through Arkeos he can spark further interest in archeology and cultural sustainability as well as raise money for further excavation of Tornambe, Rocche, and other sites in Sicily. Our group of 19 Ross students, he explained, was something of an experiment, as in the past Arkeos has only hosted a handful of university archeology students but not a large group of high school students. Both Dr. Giannitrapani and the Ross Southern Italy Field Academy hope that our visit will inspire other secondary and postsecondary students to visit Pietraperzia and get their hands dirty with Arkeos!
-Kyle Helke

Rome: Day 1

We started the day by living our hotel at 10 AM and going straight to the Colosseum. As soon as we arrived there, we got an Italian tour guide that spoke English to explain us about the history of the monument. So, basically, the Colosseum used to be called “Amphitheater”, but, then, after some time, people started calling it the way we know it nowadays because of a gigantic bronze statue of the Roman emperor at that time, Nero, the one responsible for its construction. The Colosseum was an arena created to host fights between men, the gladiators (usually war slaves that started being trained in specialized schools) and wild animals (such as lions, leopards, tigers, etc.) or criminals that ended up being executed there. The seats of the audience were organized based on social order: the higher the seat, the lower the class, and, so, the emperor used to seat in the fifth row. The animals used to be imported from different parts of the world, especially Asia and Africa, being kept in cages in a basement underneath the stage (it was kind of a backstage where not only the animals, but, also the people used to stay before the fights). Such basement used to have many elevators that took the animals up to the arena, so the fighters never knew what to expect. Once, one of the senators (they used to seat in one of the first rows) got attacked by a panther, being violently killed by it. Since then, a security fence separates the spectators from the arena. After the Colosseum, we went to one the biggest gladiator’s school in Rome and saw some of its ruins. We, then, went back to the Colosseum, where we got to explore the Forum, the center of the city, where all the main buildings, temples and noble houses were. There, we also saw the remains of the Vestal Virgins’ temple. The Vestal Virgins were noble women who were chosen to be virgins for the rest of their lives and their only job was to keep the temple’s candle lighting (it symbolized life). After a great Italian lunch we went to the Casa Romana, which is an archaeological site that consisted of buildings built in 200 A.D. that approached shops and houses for the middle class Roman citizens. We, then, went back to the hotel and after a little of resting, we went out for dinner in one of the most famous squares of Rome, Piazza Sidney Sonnino.

Beatriz Rigueira, Eugênia Affonso, & Lulu Chavez