In October 2008, 30 APS members and non-members toured Northern Italy as part of the International Professional Development Program.
The tour started in Rome with an introductory tour of the city by bus, followed by a visit to the Centre for Psychotherapeutic Research. This visit was hosted by Professor Sibilia and Dr Borgo who introduced us to the concept of private state-registered providers (of which there are some 400 in Italy) for post graduate training for psychologists. We had the opportunity to meet with some 20 or so students who work in a range of domains. We heard how difficult it is to obtain a fulltime tenured position but despite this, the students were all committed to their ongoing studies and desire to be a practising psychologist. Following our discussions, our hosts invited us onto the beautiful terrace to sample the Italian prosecco (sparkling wine) and various nibbles.
After two more days visiting ancient Rome, we boarded our bus to Assisi - a beautiful mountain village in Umbria famous for the Basilica of San Francisco. Following this, we stayed overnight in Perugia - the home of Baci chocolates and, it just so happened, our visit coincided with the chocolate festival. People were free to wander, wonder, and feast.
Then off to Florence - renowned for its Duomo, markets, the David, Uffizzi, Ponte Vecchio, etc. and where we visited the University to meet with Professor Meringlo and colleagues from a private clinic who told us about aspects of clinical training, and the lack of academic positions and funding for research. Some of our group had a common interest with our hosts in forensic psychology. As well as an organised tour and PD in Florence, we enjoyed a ‘free day' and a side-trip to Sienna - the home of the Palo - a famous horse race.
From Florence, we ventured to La Spezia and the Cinque Terre - where folk had the option of a walking tour or simply a day at leisure - most opted for the tour and were rewarded by the magnificent scenery and a very relaxing boat trip.
Our tour then took us to Milan, the university at suburban Monza to meet with Professor Maria Grazia Strepparrana and the Dean, Professor Fratello - both were very gracious hosts giving us a tour of the teaching hospital. Their research covers areas such as unemployment, trauma, health promotions, PTSD, communication between patients and doctors, etc. Several of our group took the local train to Lake Como for the day, some elected to go there after our PD visit, while others opted for a more leisurely day. An adventurous few managed to get tickets for the opera at La Scala and reported on the wonder of that experience. From Milan we travelled to Venice via Verona.
Verona has a lively market place, ‘Juliet's Balcony!', a mini ‘colosseum' and many interesting walks. Our arrival in Venice was breath-taking - as we made our way down the Grand Canal in our water taxis to disembark at the door of our hotel. The afternoon was free but in the evening, a few of us met with Professor Anna Laura Commune and her colleague in our hotel for drinks, and a discussion of psychology and women, while others explored the city by night.
The next day at leisure saw people busy shopping, taking boat trips to Murana (glass), some even managed to go to Burano (lace) as well ... yours truly chilled out with a book.
The next day we made our way to Bologna via Padua where we stopped to visit Professor Sanovia, who is world famous for the Inventory of OCD, at the University of Padua. He showed us the animal laboratories, the library, and had a general discussion about psychology. Following this visit, we had a rendez-vous with the non PDers and wended our way to Bologna. Those of us wishing to visit the University there, hosted by Professor Ricci-Bitti were deposited at the Uni while the others went directly to the hotel for some R&R. Professor Ricci-Bitti gave us a stimulating overview of the University's history, its current range of offerings, as well as engaging us in the similarities in research interests and the similarity and diversity of training models for psychologists. His own work focuses on emotions.
That evening - the diehards went out to dinner but many of us chose to stay in the hotel, chat and prepare for our trip to Rome the next day. On our last evening together all were invited to dinner at a nearby restaurant and most came - it was a very pleasant meal, lots of laughs, and some even stayed on to dance to the live music.
Throughout our tour we had a series of wonderful guides in each town (e.g., Francesca, Daniela) to convey local knowledge as well as a tour guide, Malin, who accompanied us on our entire journey once we left Rome - these people were all very talented and special in different ways - and we owe them much.
Many thanks also to members of the group who gave generously of their time and expertise to prepare and present PD sessions and for the ad hoc interactions and discussions.
Professional Development activities also included the following sessions:
In addition, two non-APS members volunteered to give us talks on