Viva Il Viaggio Italiano di Montrose!

It’s back: In the Footsteps of Dante, the Montrose study abroad trip to Florence and Rome, returns this June after a two-year pandemic-related pause.
The school’s signature experience is a culmination of students’ years-long study within a rich liberal arts curriculum—an overseas experience designed specifically for the Montrose student. 

With Dante’s Inferno fresh in their minds, 12 juniors and seniors and their fearless faculty guides eagerly anticipate embarking on this distinctive adventure.

“It’s huge. We are really excited about it because we felt the absence of it,” said Director of Student Life, Lisa Derendorf. ”This is an opportunity to deepen students’ knowledge of the time in which Dante wrote.”

For seniors, In the Footsteps of Dante is the last step in an odyssey through the liberal arts that is integral to the overall Montrose mission: teaching students to pursue the truth in all they do. From Greek mythology and deep dives into ancient civilizations in middle school to the study of Dante’s The Divine Comedy in Grade 12, every text in the Montrose curriculum has been carefully selected and studied to provide students with a deep understanding of ancient philosophy and contemporary thought that stems from it. As a result, Montrose students are scholars well prepared to embark on this comprehensive, multi-layered and immersive journey.

Prior to departure, students who are art enthusiasts can also enroll in Studio Renaissance Art, a course taught by faculty member and chaperone Jenny Bowman, that caters to those who are passionate about art and art history. 

“The course exposes students to the development of art styles that emerged at that time, and in particular, Florence,” Mrs. Bowman said. “Through creating pieces and discussions about works of art found in Florence, students gain a sense of the process required to create these pieces. Students appreciate through creating, how much time, attention to detail and perseverance was required to create the works of art which have endured for over 500 years,” she explained.

The Montrose Italy trip has been a school tradition since 2005 and was co-founded by former Head of School Dr. Karen Bohlin, Norah Foraker, Professor John David Alvis and his wife, Megan.

What distinguishes the Montrose Italy opportunity from other school trips is that everything from the accommodations to the itinerary is uniquely designed with the Montrose student in mind. Site visits and classes are designed by college professor and scholar Prof. John David Alvis, husband of Montrose alum Megan Alvis ‘93. A professor of Government and Political Science at Wofford College in South Carolina, Dr. Alvis has published and taught on topics including the Florentine Republic, Christian Rome and Michelangelo's David. 

“Its curriculum-based travel gives a deeper learning experience, because the trip is designed with the explicit knowledge of the Montrose curriculum,” said Mrs. Foraker. “For example, Prof. Alvis knows the students have studied Dante, the Renaissance and Machiavelli. Thus he is able to tailor not only their sightseeing but lectures and lessons.” 

As Montrose students develop habits of mind, heart and character throughout their years on campus, the focused study in Italy brings even greater understanding of the Christian and classical virtues in Rome. “This is an immersive learning adventure where the travel day includes moments of repose and reflections to study Renaissance thought as expressed through philosophy, politics and arts,” Mrs. Foraker notes. “When itineraries and resources align, they create a storyline where themes build upon another to relate modern thought to historical periods.”

In addition to the custom-designed Montrose academic program, students are mentored by knowledgeable Montrose faculty during their trip. So as to ensure an atmosphere of intentional reflection on what students have seen each day, participants, both students and faculty, stay in a villa during their travel.

“Traveling with teachers is exposure to culture in the best way possible and aligns with our mission to pay attention to the formation of the girls through dialoguing and camaraderie – bonding when you spend time together,” said Mrs. Derendorf. 

In addition to Mrs. Foraker and Dr. and Mrs. Alvis, Art and Theology teacher Jenny Bowman will chaperone. This is Mrs. Bowman’s third time leading a Montrose trip to Italy, and she notes the personal growth the trip affords the girls in only 10 days is life-changing. 

“You see a different side of the students, and I love how the group comes together with cohesiveness and unity. You get to know people really well. The girls take on that role of mature young women, and, in turn, they are treated like adults,” Mrs. Bowman said.

This year the itinerary for Florence includes the Ponte Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria, Santa Croce, Santa Maria Novella, San Lorenzo, the Duomo, Orsanmichele, Galleria dell’ Accademia and the Tuscan countryside. In Rome, students will visit St. Peter’s Basilica, the Colosseum, the Pantheon and the Basilica of San Clemente. The Piazza Navona, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Santa Maria del Popolo and the catacombs, among other sites, are also on the list.