I chose to go to Cortona, Italy, for a Viticulture and Enology Maymester for so many reasons, any one of them would be enough justification alone. 1) it’s Italy! 2) Plant Pathology is interesting, and applicable to many science majors. 3) vino vino vino! 4) travel always broadens the horizons. I try to travel once every year, and my deadline was approaching.

As with all travel, however, some things don’t go according to plan. We arrived in Rome to find that our terminal was on fire. On. Fire. So all flights were stopped, and we were ushered to another terminal, with no place to exchange money and no set meeting point for the group. I recommend you exchange money before you hit your destination country! All was well, we found each other, but some other rowdy (and possibly drunk) travelers found us as well, and we learned the finer points of smiling, nodding, and walking quickly away. The key to stress free traveling is not to avoid complications, but just to go with the flow of the complications that are bound to happen.

On the bus ride from Rome to Cortona, we stopped for some traditional Italian sandwiches and coffee, and once in Cortona, we were advised not to sleep yet. It was good advice – sleeping on the first day does not help with jet lag. Push through!

We are staying in an old convent at the tippy tippy top of Cortona. The hill is fun to hike up once, maybe twice, but after that, it’s mostly just testing your calves. Bring walking shoes! The view from the top is beyond gorgeous – attached is a photo from the fort above our dorm/convent, with the highest vantage point possible. You’ll be rooming with 3-4 people and sharing a bathroom, so it’s wise to set clear boundaries and make friends early. The four weeks are over in a flash, and I found that I didn’t find the group I loved best until half of the course was over. Go mingle!

Wine tasting started on day two – this is a serious course, but it’s not without its perks. I don’t know what I’ll do when I return and I don’t get to try 4-5 different wines every day around 3pm, followed by a nice reflective nap. Everything must be carefully recorded in our wine journals, which is a large portion of our grade, but also helps us to keep all of the wines and experiences straight. By the end of the course, we will have tried nearly 100 wines and visited a half dozen wineries and vineyards. Producer, Name, Vintage, Alcohol Content, Production and Wine Notes, Soil types, Color, Clarity, Aroma, Taste, and Pairings are some of the standard content for each wine.

More to Come!