|Video: Harding's Italian villa is a Renaissance home away from home|
|Written by Grant C Sloan|
|Wednesday, 31 March 2010 20:57|
As director of the Harding University in Florence program, Robbie Shackelford has become a beloved faculty member at the Harding villa in Florence.
Since Harding purchased the villa in 1983, Shackleford and his wife, Mona, have welcomed nearly 3,000 students into the confines of their Renaissance home.
“While Mona and I treat the students with the same respect we expect to be given, we do feel in some way like their parents,” Shackleford said. “The family setting and our bond as Christians is what helps to make this experience special.”
Built in 1492, the Harding villa has been a chapel, palace and now home to the students who participate in the HUF program.
“Robbie’s dynamic character brings so much to the villa experience because he manages to make every person feel like a family every semester, every year,” 2008 HUF member Abby Kellett said.
Shackelford took time to give a brief history of the villa, and elaborated on the “genius” of those who help set up the HUF program. See the video above. The HUF director said he believed the three-month time frame is perfect for the students to embrace the Italian culture.
A unique aspect of the villa is its location, according to Shackelford. Located roughly 10 miles outside the city limits of Florence, Shackelford said students need to look no further than outside the villa windows to capture the “typical Tuscan scene."
“The villa is one of the most unique living arrangements. You are in the Tuscan hills of Italy living with 20 of your friends,” John Gemma, a 2008 HUF member, said. “Robbie is like a fatherly figure to everyone and helped us feel apart of the Italian culture.”