This semester, I am enrolled in four classes here on the ship, and for each class, there is one required field trip that takes place on one day in one of the countries we are visiting. All of the field trips I have been very interesting; I went to a University in St. Petersburg, Russia, visited the equivalent of the Supreme Court in Ireland, and I just had two field trips in Italy that revolved around agriculture and renewable energy. So my blog post today is dedicated to my educational experiences in Italy.
We docked in the port of Civitavecchia, which is the port of Rome. Since Rome is inland, Civitavecchia is about an hour train ride to Rome, but while we were docked in Civitavecchia, I had two field labs for my International Business class and my Social Entrepreneurship class.
For my international business class, we visited a solar energy power plant, a local vineyard, and then returned to the port and met with Port Authority and learned about the operations behind running a large port.
The solar energy company we visited was in the middle of nowhere. It was about an hour and a half drive from the port and our bus driver had to stop multiple times and ask for directions. It was pretty funny because we were driving up and down these dirt roads with empty fields all around, and I’m pretty sure that a coach bus had never been driven through there before. But when we arrived at the solar power plant, we met with the three business owners who taught us a lot about solar energy.
The plant they operate produces enough electricity for 20,000 homes in Italy and the business owner described how important government subsidies are to their business’s success. When the company started, it cost 3.3 million to open the facility, however, after advances in technology, it would now cost 1.1 million to open the same facility. However, the Italian government did not renew the subsidies, so they are gone. Now, it will be much more difficult for companies to start solar businesses in Italy. Fortunately for the company we visited, the contract with the Italian government is for twenty years, so the plant has over ten years left before their contract is up for renewal.
While visiting the solar power plant, I noticed how efficient and resourceful the physical facility is; plant operators can get data on all of the solar panels on their iPhones, which will immediately notify them if there is a problem. Also, there is no air conditioning in the office space. Instead, the meeting room has large windows with shades that move up or down depending on the temperature. This struck me because the company’s mission is to produce green energy and they are devoted to conserve energy in their office as well- I really had no ever seen an office like that before.
This semester, we have been docking in many different ports all around the globe, and so our visit to the operations office of the port of Civitavecchia was very eye opening. The port where the M.V. Explorer was docked completed renovations in 2012 and the port can now hold up to 1,000 ships per year or up to 36,000 passengers at one time, that’s a lot of people.
On our field trip, they took us up to the control room and we learned that the Port Authority has information on all the passengers aboard every vessel in the harbor and because there are so many passengers from abroad, different countries send people to check on the operations of the port. For example, officials from the United States were due to visit the port of Civitavecchia weeks after we departed.
The people from the Port Authority were very reluctant to give us numbers, but we learned that at minimum, it costs 4.5 Euros per person per day to dock in the harbor. That means that if there are 750 people on the M.V. Explorer, at minimum, it costs 3,375 Euros per day to sit in the port of Civitavecchia. That’s a lot of Euros!
For my next field lab, we visited a local olive oil facility in the countryside of Italy. The geography of the land was breathtaking- rolling green fields, with vineyards and orchards all around, truly a beautiful location. It was fascinating to see how the olives are harvested, cleaned, squeezed, and turned into tasty olive oil. I learned that green olives are the best ones to create oil, not the bigger, darker ones that most people eat. We also learned that due to the harvest season of olive, olive oil is only made in the months of October, November, and early December. In fact, the location we visited, had just started making oil the week before we arrived, so they hadn’t even began bottling the product, but they did also us to sample the product. Not only was it a gorgeous setting, but the oil was incredibly fresh and tasty.