Our Summer Postcard Series Continues With a Letter from Julia Springer '16

August 6, 2015
Hand holds a postcard that reads "greetings from Venice"

The fifth in a summer postcard series featuring letters from students, Julia Springer ’16 writes from Venice, Italy, where she is participating in a Global Engagement Internship through Wellesley's Center for Work and Service.

Dear Wellesley,

As I write to you, I am sitting in the basement of Peggy Guggenheim’s Venetian Palazzo, facing the scintillating Grand Canal as gondoliere serenade their tourists and passersby. I can peer out the small window into the sculpture garden and glimpse the director of the museum, Dr. Philip Rylands, giving private tours of the museum, including one to Sylvester Stallone and his family. Yes, this experience is every bit as amazing as it sounds. I have to remind myself multiple times per day that I am actually in Venice, Italy, representing Wellesley College at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection as a summer intern. It’s all so surreal…

I never imagined that I would have the opportunity to live in one of the world’s most treasured cities; the art, the culture, the people, and the food are nothing short of incredible. This summer is particularly noteworthy because Venice is in the midst of the 2015 Biennale–a biennial global exhibition of contemporary visual art, dance, theatre, and music. The Biennale not only brings the most elite art and artists to the city, it also allows the public to view private pallazzi that are displayed only for the event. This is an extraordinary gift for both tourists and Venetian citizens who rarely, if ever, have the opportunity to view these antiquated, historic interiors.

I’m staying with the Pivas, a humble family of four who live in a 15th-century palace next door to that of the famous Italian playwright and poet Carlo Goldoni, and directly in front of a beautiful Venetian mask shop in the sestiere San Polo. The Pivas’ palazzo appears almost untouched since the time it was originally built. Inside, antiques and art painted by my host mother’s great-grandfather obscure the walls, and the low, wood-beam ceilings sport beautiful Murano glass chandeliers.

I climb six flights of stairs to reach the main level of the grand palazzo, where I am welcomed by my host family: father, Mario, an architect; mother, Elisa, an antique dealer; brother, Francesco, a cinema studies and art major at the Accademia di Belle Arti; and sister, Cecilia, a film student at the Université libre de Bruxelles in Belgium. My favorite moments in Venice so far have been with my host family, as they have taught me to cherish simplicity in life and to savor each joyful moment together. I will always treasure the memories of our late-night dinners of root vegetables and freshly caught fish from the famed Rialto Market. Occasionally, these meals are accompanied by a cool glass of Prosecco and a profoundly philosophical conversation about Venetian art on the family’s dimly lit porch overlooking the red rooftops of San Polo.

As an intern at the Guggenheim, I am expected to wear many hats. I guard the galleries, give talks to the public about Peggy Guggenheim's life and the temporary exhibitions of Jackson Pollock and his brother Charles, guide tours in the museum’s permanent collection and conduct research about various artists represented there. As an added bonus, I can practice my Italian speaking skills every day.

When I am not performing official duties, I take every spare moment I have to learn about the fascinating lives of my fellow interns. Though many of us are from the U.S. this month, on the whole we are a rather cosmopolitan group, with people from Belgium, France, Singapore, Spain, Italy, Canada, and Germany.

I left Wellesley at the end of the semester expecting a summer immersion experience in Peggy Guggenheim, contemporary art, art history, and Venetian culture. I did not expect to also experience profound personal growth. For the past three years, Wellesley has taught me how to cultivate confidence in my abilities and to recognize my capabilities, but until now I have not been challenged to exercise this knowledge outside of the campus environment. I thank Wellesley for granting me this unbelievable experience in Venice, from which I have grown and changed for the better.

See you soon!


Julia Springer '16 is a Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences major and Italian Studies minor. She is passionate about the performing arts. She studies opera with Marion Dry, senior music performance faculty in voice, and is a member of the Harvard Ballet Company and Wellesley on Tap. She plans to pursue a career in performing arts after graduation.