Rooms with a View: Two Italian Journeys


Joshua Boley/The Chart

William Kumbier, English and philosophy professor tells the audience that he always wanted to go to Italy and was finally able to make it happen.

Dr. Chad Stebbins, director, Institute of International Studies, opened the first official event of the Italian semester Friday, Aug. 30, in Corley Auditorium.

He introduced two Missouri Southern faculty members, Dr. Nanette Philibert, management and Dr. William Kumbier, English and philosophy. Each had spent part of this previous summer in Italy, and shared their experiences with the audience.

Still Learning

Philibert has traveled to Italy many times on archeological digs, and has accompanied students as faculty adviser with the University study abroad program to Italy as well. On this most recent trip she was the student.

Italian Lessons

She attended the Il Sasso Language School in Montepulciano in southern Tuscany for an intense two-week course in Italian.

“I decided last summer that I had relied on these guys [fellow archeologists] too long … because I would rely on these people to translate for me … so I figured maybe I could learn some Italian … and maybe while I’m over there I could learn to throw some pots … archeology led me into pottery.”

Pottery Lessons

She spent an additional two weeks at La Meridiana International School of Ceramics in Tuscany taking lessons with renowned English potter Mark Hewitt, learning to throw “large” pots.

“Missouri Southern trips are not just for students … we have often had non-students come on our trips. If you go on an international trip with Dr. Moos and I, we will teach you some skills, so that you become a better individual traveler … remember you came here because it is not the United States so don’t expect the United States because you paid for it not to be like the United States. Relish the differences in foods and customs.”

Personal Heaven

Kumbier has traveled extensively to many foreign countries for both business and pleasure. This was his first to visit to Italy. His two-week trip was motivated by purely personal reasons and took him to Venice, Bologna and Florence.  

He said these cities were on his agenda for the following reasons: Florence, because of the movie Room With a View; Venice, because he was intrigued by a city that seemed to float; and Bologna, because it was necessary to his itinerary.


“In Venice, the main thing I wanted to do was experience the city,” he said. “So the very first thing I did is buy a vaporetto pass … the vaporetto goes all over the place and it’s relatively cheap.”

The vaporetto is a water taxi and Kumbier described and showed slides of his experience of Venice.

“Every turn in the canal, every foot you travel by water, you get a new vista,” he said.

Kumbier said his greatest experience in Venice was when his persistence paid off and he was able to purchase a ticket for a box seat at La Fenice Opera House for a performance of Mozart’s “big three” The Marriage of Figaro; Don Giovonni; and Cosi fan tutte.

“I thought I had died and gone to heaven,” he said.


The city of Florence had much more than a room with a view when Kumbier found his lodging was just yards from Dante’s birthplace, one of his main motivations for choosing the city. He said Dante is part of the curriculum he teaches and he wanted to “walk where Dante walked.” This visit to Florence would allow him to “honor the most exalted poet.”  

“The best thing that happened to me in Florence … ,” said Kumbier, was his experience at “David.”  “I stood there and looked up at him and I completely lost awareness of everyone around me … you could feel the rhythm of the statue.”


His stay in Bologna was initially only a one-day filler in his schedule, but it turned out to be a very meaningful day.

“One thing I found out about Bologna that didn’t know before was they have the best museum of the history of music I have ever seen,” said Kumbier. “If I could go back to any of the three places first—I would go there.”

Both speakers encourage solo international travel and emphasized that preplanning and research is crucial to making the most of your trip.

“You don’t want to miss something that you might want to see, something that was right on the other side of the hill,” said Philibert.