By Hangyu Shi (Arthur)
We got up very early in the morning in Venice, having to say goodbye to our dear Todd and his cute son. We’ll miss them. To get to our next destination, Riva San Vitale, we had to spend the whole morning catching several boats and trains in a hurry on our way to Milano to change trains for Riva. The train passed by Vicenza and many lovely villages. Finally, we arrive in Riva San Vitale shortly after noon. As soon as we entered Switzerland, the geographical landscape changed. Continuous high mountains appeared in the background, which was incredibly sublime. Riva San Vitale is a small municipality built at the foot of mountains with only several thousand residents. It has a fantastic natural landscape with the combination of mountains, lake, and vegetation. The small lake is a glacial lake generated after the last Ice Age, which doesn’t freeze in winter. It’s also a good place for swimming and jogging.
Our dorm was in the Villa Maderni, which is owned by Virginia Tech as its Steger Center for International Scholarship. Actually, the villa is about 250 years old. It is an interesting historical house built in the 18th century with additions in the 20th century. The modern portion of the house was added by VT in 2014, which adopted glass as the main building material; the stages of the Villa stood together peacefully, reflecting the change of time.
After checking in, we had a walking tour in the village of Riva San Vitale. We were shown the typical house here with Italian style loggia and façade facing south in order to regulate the temperature and save energy. There was also a famous Baptistery near the villa, which is not only the oldest church here but also the most ancient stonework Christian monument in Switzerland. It was also said to be the coolest place in Riva San Vitale. Another story shared was that a mummy who used to be a local hermit and died in 1217 is displayed in the local parish church. This year is the 800 anniversary of his death and townspeople will hold a big celebration to commemorate him.
After dinner, it was time for academic discussion. We each talked about water problems in our home communities. It was a really good chance to learn from each other. On one hand, the water problems in our home communities are incredibly diverse, covering water scarcity, water infrastructure, climate change, point runoff, water quality, built environment and so on. On the other hand, we could always find communities similar to ours. This was a good start, as next we would visit Laghetto di Muzzano as well as Lugano and begin to work on the group assignment.
Last but not least, during the day, I also found that many of us are talented in playing musical instruments such as guitar and piano after we noticed that instruments were available in the Villa. What’s more, I found the music score for Debussy’s Clair De Lune, which was one of my favorite piano compositions. Before going to bed, I played its first two pages, for the next pages were too hard for me. But anyway, it was a good way to end this fantastic day.