Ciao! Graduate Students Savor Italy

April 2, 2019

Professors Rick Haskell and Mike Keene led a group of 30 students, alumni and guests on an absorbing journey through Italy from October 10-21, 2018. While the itinerary was characteristically packed (12 business visits, 7 formal cultural tours and an optional day trip to Venice), there was still ample time for students to explore, meet people and have some adventures of their own.The group began in Milan, where one visit brought us within an easy walk of Italy’s very first Starbucks (a stunning facility located within the historic post office building). Highlights included an extensive discussion with the President of Mapei Adhesives, visiting the Duomo, and dinners along the river in the historic center of the city. An optional day trip to Venice took nearly the entire group on a guided tour of the Doge’s Palace and Jewish Ghetto, a gondola ride and a chance to shop the glass factories and other artisans just two weeks before storms deluged those same venues with several feet of floodwaters.

Graduate students eating together in Italy

Some of our favorite stops occurred along the way as we headed south on the way to Rome. In Casalmaggiore we enjoyed a long stop at Penneli Faro, a maker of high-end brushes for both cosmetic and artistic applications, where students got to try their hand (literally) at assembling products under the direction of master fabricators. The company CEO and senior staff treated the group to a beautiful lunch staged in the warehouse, with ample supplies of both awesome food and a lovely Ripasso wine for those so inclined.

Of course, there was even more fine wine to be sampled at Agricola Fabbriche Palma, a vineyard/winery/olive oil producer located in Lucignano at the heart of Tuscany. This was another example of a longstanding, family-owned business where we were treated like royalty and every question about their operations, challenges, management and markets was answered freely.  

The remainder of our journey included stops at Maranello to tour the Ferrari facility and an excellent meeting with the head of Boeing’s Southern European operations, but the last couple of days were devoted to absorbing the abundant history and culture of Rome. From the Coliseum and Pantheon to the majestic halls of the Vatican Museum, the Trevei Fountain and the Spanish Steps, the history and art were almost overpowering—and the walking was exhausting. Staff and students alike returned with a far richer understanding of Italy’s art, history, culture and business traditions, and it sounded likely that many will return at some point.

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