Author: Judy Donahue

Undergraduate program advisor for electrical engineering and computer engineering majors.

Villa Lante – hydraulics engineering to delight

Villa Lante is one of the earliest and unique garden designs in Italy. It is built on a wooded slope in the 16th century. The initial designer was Italian architect Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola. The water designs were created by hydraulics engineer and architect Tommaso Ghinucci. Pirro Ligorio also contributed to the designs. A maze of shrubbery, statues and water was created at the bottom with a geometric design. Two 16th century casinis, built by different owners 30 years apart, one in Romanesque style and the other baroque. The gardens are built on levels and designed to delight guests outdoors, and includes a dining table with water handy. Visitors begin at the lower level, and ascend level to level, finally to a grotto at the top.

Civita di Bagnoregio

The photo of this place swayed me to choose USAC Viterbo. I was privileged to join the Travel Photography class on their field trip to Civita di Bagnoregio. The land around this city has been destroyed by wars, and earthquakes over centuries and this is what’s left. The only way to get to it is by foot on that long bridge!  This was one of my most fun adventures – exploring Civita di Bagnoregio! A few people, nine(9), live there today. I saw evidence of how the Etruscans lived ~2500 years ago in tunnels under this medieval city.


Medieval History Class

In our Medieval History and Dante’s World course, we studied historical events, political and social change, literature and language history from the fall of the Western Roman Empire to The Black Plague when Medieval times ended and the Italian renaissance began. This course was especially interesting due to our setting in the Midieval walled town of Viterbo. I could listen to Professor Marco for hours without getting bored! He is truly an expert in many related topics.

At Chiesa di San Pietro, built 8th century atop ancient Etruscan hill town.
At Chiesa di San Pietro, built 8th century atop ancient Etruscan hill town.

Our class field trip to Tuscania showed the development of the Midieval town through the ages. Midieval towns had two city centers, one for the Church cathedral and one for the city administrators. We saw architecture styles from the Etruscan, Roman and Medieval  times.

Towers at the cathedral San Pietro, likely built for protection.
Towers at the cathedral San Pietro, likely built for protection.
Facade of Chiesa di San Pietro
Facade of Chiesa di San Pietro
Public water trough from Midieval times. Tuscania.
Public water trough from Midieval times. Tuscania.
Roman-built road, 4-5 feet below today's ground level. Tuscania, Italy
Roman-built road, 4-5 feet below today’s ground level. Tuscania, Italy
St. Maria Maggiore
St. Maria Maggiore
San Maria Maggiore
San Maria Maggiore

Monster Park

Monster Park of Bomarzo, Italy, in the Viterbo province of Lazio, is a Midieval park of statues and buildings in the woods, built by Duke Pierfrancesco “Vicino” Orsini, during the 1550’s in memory of his late wife. It became overgrown and hidden to locals whose kids had “seen monsters” in the woods, and went running. Restoration began in the 1960’s and Monster Park now takes visitors.

Field trips are fantastico!

The USAC program in Viterbo, Italy includes field trips to amazing places. You experience the history, culture and beauty of Italy in a much deeper way than you would as a tourist. My next few posts will show our field trips. The field trips make the topics studied in classes “come alive”.

Our first field trip was to Rome, on Saturday May 31st. With the USAC field trips, you may stay longer and come back on your own. I stayed two nights in Rome.

Monday, June 2, was Italy’s Festa Della Repubblica, celebrating when Italians voted to oust the monarchy and become a republic, June 2, 1946. The royal family, who supported Benito Mussolini’s rule, was exiled.

Here are a few pics from Rome, the capital of Italy, and Vatican City, a separate nation.

A bit about student life in Viterbo, Italy.

My apartment is nice, close to the school and one block from Porta Romana gate to the medieval walled part of the city. My building was built in 1300, same as the church across the street. My sidewalk is scary-narrow!

Cars and pedestrians share the narrow streets of the walled city. You get used to being a part of traffic.

USAC students socialize at the many ‘bars’ , pizzarias, and trattorias.
Gelatorias are a favorite stop. Yum! A bar in Italia is where you go for caffe and a pastry in the morning, or for a sandwich and beverage. At aperitivo time, the bars offer free appetizers with your beverage.


On May 23rd, I will travel to Viterbo, Italia to study.  Viterbo is 108 km North of Rome in the region of Lazia, just south of Tuscany. I will be taking classes at the Universita degli Studi della Tuscia. The walls of historic Viterbo were built in 11th – 12th centuries.

Sono sinceramente grato to Michigan Technological University’s Provost Office, International Programs and Services, Dr. Dan Fuhrmann and the Electrical & Computer Engineering Department, and to USAC for this fantastic opportunity to acquire this global experience and help expand global literacy at Michigan Tech. I have never been “overseas”.

Ciao ,Judy