Ramón Saldívar, director of the Bing Overseas Studies Program, was making his morning coffee in the faculty apartment atop the Palazzo Capponi—home to Stanford in Florence—when the sound of rushing water alerted him to an astonishing sight below: a gaping sinkhole filled with dozens of freshly flooded cars. The accident, the result of a broken water main, forced a daylong evacuation of the Stanford premises, but life soon returned to normal. From war to river floods, the palace has withstood far worse in its 560 years, says Ermelinda Campani, who leads the Florence program.