"YOU ARE NOW A RESIDENT OF CORTONA"
During the many years since the UGA Studies Abroad Program’s inception in 1970, the relationship between the Cortonese and their American guests has been one of warm friendship. The University of Georgia Studies Abroad Program was the first foreign group to take extended residence in the ancient hill town for educational purposes. In the beginning, both students and faculty caused some Cortonese eyebrows to raise in wonder and disapproval, due to differences in lifestyles. But throughout the years, the Cortonese have learned to accept us with open hearts and open minds. When the group arrives, they make us feel as "fellow citizens" of this special place. When we leave, a general sense of sadness settles in the town and the expectation begins for the following term. Such positive, cordial and friendly feelings have been made possible through the continuous show of respect by the Cortonese on one side and the members of our group on the other.
This respect and friendship of the Cortonese for UGA students and faculty is evident as soon as one arrives. We would like to impress upon anybody who is getting ready for a term abroad in Cortona the seriousness with which we take our good relationship with the Cortonese people. This strong and lasting relationship is a reflection of the 40+ years of understanding, tolerance and considerate behavior on the part of our program participants.
Respect (Rispetto) is the key word to your behavior in Cortona. Respect your hosts first of all. Think of them as people who have made room in their home to welcome you, and who do their best to make your study time productive and your recreation time pleasurable. The Cortonese do generally receive some tangible advantages from the Program’s presence in their home. The group and its members spend money in their town, and many Cortonese benefit from this. But for most of them, economics is not the main reason for their love of the UGA Program. They look instead to the human values of warmth, friendship and understanding they so freely exchange with us. Long-lasting relationships have developed throughout the years between individual Americans and citizens of Cortona. Cortonese have visited or come to live for a time in the US. Some Cortonese have attended UGA in Athens. Some marriages between Americans and Cortonese have been celebrated, and children have been born into these marriages. The reciprocal affection between Cortonese and Americans shows that one can always overcome cultural barriers and differences. All it takes is understanding, an open mind, human curiosity and a lot of RESPECT!
As you walk in the streets of Cortona to go to class or a restaurant, smile to the local people you meet, say a bright "Buon giorno" or "Buona sera"; (only use 'Ciao' with close friends or children, however) they'll know that you love being there. The elderly especially love talking to you. Yes, talking; language barriers are surprisingly easier to break than one might think. Try talking. They'll love you for it and will understand your feelings if not your words.
Most of all remember: you are guests in another country. Habits, customs, and formalities may differ from what you are used to; but it is YOU who should adapt to their customs, not the other way around. You are in THEIR home!
Again, RESPECT and consideration are the key words. Always think of others when you are doing anything that might affect the people around you. Many of the things you do affect others in several ways. If you are rude and unfriendly as an individual, you are automatically considered a rude and unfriendly American. By the same token, if you are nice, considerate and friendly, they'll tend to see you as a representative of good American behavior. How you behave with your Italian hosts reflects not only on you personally, but on the UGA group as a whole and ultimately may condition the Cortonese perception of Americans as a people. Be an exceptional ambassador of good will!
Remember to keep quiet in the streets late at night as you are walking past people's homes!
The City of Florence, where seven million tourists visit each year, has published a Galateo del Turista (The Tourist Guide to Good Manners) in exasperation over the poor behavior of many tourists. Here are some of their rules:
- do not bathe or refresh your feet in public fountains
- do not picnic in front of monuments
- never throw chewing gum on the ground
- be decently dressed in churches and museums (shoes and covered legs and shoulders are required)
- do not feed pigeons
- do not throw trash on the ground
- do not wear bathing suits in historical centres - men should wear shirts at all times
- do not urinate outside: toilets - public or private - are always available
- do not sleep in sleeping bags in public squares
To these rules we wish to add one of our own: never walk around drinking out of open wine or beer bottles. You do not do this at home and in Italy it marks you immediately as the "ugly American."