Eating Celiac when I Don’t Speak Italian

Upon flying to Italy, I had no knowledge as to manage my dietary restriction, and that scared me. My dietary restriction is celiac disease. Now, celiac is a genetic autoimmune disease which causes my body to attack itself, making me violently ill, whenever the gluten protein is present. Effectively, this is a gluten allergy sans anaphylaxis.

At bare minimum, everyone at least KNOWS what celiac disease is. The issue is whether or not the restaurant can safely prepare gluten free food. I am lucky enough to not be so sensitive that a shared kitchen affects me, so I can eat at more places than others with celiac. That being said, since the waitstaff and cooks know what celiac is, they assume that I cannot eat at their restaurant. I think that a few of my restaurant choices which have turned me away on account of “non celiaco” (roughly translating to: no celiac friendly options) still had gluten free options, but the language barrier makes it a full ordeal to clarify.

Now, this sounds terrible and bleak, yet it is quite important to note that I have eaten, and I have eaten well many times on this program. When the restaurants can accommodate, the food is miraculous. In the Castelli Romani alone, I have found a celiac friendly pizza restaurant, multiple gluten free bakeries, and a bar (café) which offers gluten free pastries!

I am for sure a foodie, in fact, the first thing I asked the tour guide, Ettore, and the JSB program staff was “Are there any gluten free options nearby?” To my extreme luck, I have an ally in this search: Lydia, the program’s executive director this semester. She is gluten-free as well, and has taught me the best phrases to illustrate my concerns; “Abbiete cibo senza glutine?” (Do you all have gluten free food?), “Hai un menu senza glutine?” (Do you have a gluten free menu?), and “Sono celiaco.” (I have celiac disease.). Between these phrases and the food culture being hyper-cognizant about dietary restrictions, I have been able to dine extravagantly – sometimes it just takes a little searching first.

A delicious gluten free donut from Mama Eat Roma

Ciao, salve, and grazie mille.

-Tavin Schroff

Italian cuisine gone wrong…

Anyone can agree that the study abroad experience is one of the most exciting things that a young adult can participate in. The week before we departed for Italy, I remember conversing with my mom about the schedule for the first week. She asked me “So what is your first field trip and how soon is it?” I responded quickly and enthusiastically with “We get to go to Rome the first week!” I talked her ear off about all of the shopping and monuments we were going to see, building my anticipation for the next twelve weeks. Days pass and we get introduced to the first field trip taking place on Friday of week one, and we are going to Rome! Everyone sets their alarms for daybreak, plans their outfits, and heads to sleep. Now, at this point in the story I ideally would have made it to Rome, accomplished some sightseeing, and shopped a little, but my weekend took a turn. Food poisoning, on the first weekend. Now initially, I had a negative outlook on all of this. Almost in tears, naturally, because everyone is going to go enjoy themselves while the three of us are stuck inside the Chigi Palace feeling extremely sick. It was at this pit moment in my week that the most beautiful snowfall began, and from my bed upstairs looking out on the grounds of the Chigi Palace I realized what that day may have taught me. 

I am still bummed that I did not get to participate in the trip but there was something to take from that situation. I was so anxious, overwhelmed, and excited about the field trip that I never stopped to consider what realities could occur so quickly. When embarking on a study abroad for this long, everyone tends to forget the things that impact you. I was planning trips left and right, ready to see as much of the world as I could, setting these massive expectations for what I was going to do. The point of my story is not to make people scared of eating, or planning trips but to put this experience from my perspective. The reality is that we only have twelve weeks, and it is important to relax and allow yourself to take in every meal, conversation, or sunset you see no matter where you are because you may just be stuck in bed the next day. 

Elena (left) and I (right) were giddy our first time out of the palace after food poisoning!

War Eagle!

Gabriella Pescitelli

Where are the Roman Guards?

You know how “The Declaration of Independence” is protected behind bullet-proof glass, surrounded by armed guards, monitored by one of the top camera systems in the world, and lowered into a vault overnight? Well, today in Ariccia I picked up a 17th century painting laying on a paper towel. Big foot in the mouth moment for me.

In Italy, art and history intertwine everywhere the eye can see! Ranging from the city of Rome to the quaint village of Ariccia, I can’t help but feel like I am constantly walking around in a beautiful museum. As I conclude my first week living abroad, I reflect on how my definition of “old” is so vastly skewed to the place where I live. In America, when I go to a museum and describe something as old, it is most likely from the 20th century (young nation = young artifacts). Meanwhile, our tour guide in Rome pointed to a statue from before the birth of Jesus and declared it was “relatively new.” The Pantheon, Bernini’s Obelisk, and countless other priceless works of art are—by American standards—older than the existence of our country. This week, I found myself in awe of the tremendous number of ancient artifacts Italy preserves and possesses. I must confess that this cultural phenomenon burst my sheltered, American point-of-view bubble. Italy is truly spectacular; it begs no question as to why numerous artists and writers have depicted this area of the world in their works.

Storage room and workspace inside Palazzo Chigi (scene of crime where paper towel/priceless art resides)

Even though I have spent a limited amount of time here thus far, I can already sense a growing appreciation for the natural beauty this nation exudes, just as The Grand Tourists once proclaimed. It is a humbling experience to realize my ancestors may have seen the same sights and wonders that I am now studying. I am so excited for the weeks ahead and all the irreplaceable, expensive, old art I will accidentally leave my mark on.

In His love,

Abby Ivester

Arrivederci Roma!!! 

As of yesterday, I have officially spent a week in Italy on the JSB study abroad program through Auburn University. What a time it has been so far! Even though it has only been a week here we have crammed so many activities into the last couple days, and yet there is still so much more to see. The town we are staying in, Ariccia, is a small town 20 miles south of Rome. Ariccia is filled with colorful buildings that house local residents and it is known for its delicious food. In particular, Ariccia is famous for a savory pork roast called Porchetta. In fact, people all over Italy will travel to Ariccia on the weekends just to get a taste of the mouth watering Porchetta. I can now confidently attest that it lives up to the praise that it receives. As much as I have enjoyed staying in this scenic town surrounded by rolling hills and fertile farms, my favorite experience so far has been visiting Rome. 

To me, Rome has the same lively energy as New York, but instead of being full of skyscrapers, it is decorated with vibrant, glamorous buildings and has a culture rich with art, passion, and love. The moment I stepped onto the cobblestone streets, I stepped into another lifetime. It is almost as if I could see history happening right in front of me and I had to look at everything all at once to keep up with it. Each alleyway has history. Each restaurant has a story. Each monument praises the past. Each person symbolizes where the future is headed. I hope that everyone is able to experience this city at one point in their life because it is a memory that I know will last a lifetime.

My favorite spot in Rome so far has been the Trevi Fountain. The Trevi Fountain is one of the architectural masterpieces of Rome, and was built in 1730 under the reign of Pope Clemens the XII. The fountain is 85 feet tall and 65 feet wide. It pours 2,824,800 cubic feet of clear, blue water a day. The fountain is decorated by a statue of the god Oceanus and he is riding a chariot being pulled by two seahorses. It is a magnificent site to visit and I am so excited to see more of what the city has to offer. 

Here is a photo of me sitting at the Trevi Fountain!!

Arrivederci (goodbye until we meet again) Rome, I don’t think even a thousand tours will uncover the depth of you, but still I will try to peel back the layers one day at a time. 

Ciao,

Emma Rose

Citations

Krause, R. (2022, April 8). Trevi fountain- getting to know Italy’s most famous fountain. Travel? Yes Please! Retrieved January 24, 2023, from https://www.travelyesplease.com/travel-blog-trevi-fountain/#:~:text=Iconography%2D%20The%20Statues%20of%20Trevi%20Fountain&text=In%20the%20centre%20of%20the,opposing%20moods%20of%20the%20sea. 

Mussio, G. (2021, September 30). 9 surprising Trevi Fountain facts: Rome blog. Walks of Italy. Retrieved January 24, 2023, from https://www.walksofitaly.com/blog/art-culture/9-surprising-facts-trevi-fountain-rome 

For One Night and One Night Only…..

To set the scene, the students have made it to the infamous end-of-the-semester farewell dinner. A day and a half before showtime, the students were hurrying around to prepare a beloved meal (Taco Tuesday) for all of those who have worked hard for the past 12 weeks to make this program a reality for the 9 girls. Beans were being slow-cooked to perfection, many onions were sliced and many tears were shed, and 3 flans were produced for this evening. I observed the organized chaos and couldn’t be more proud of my students.

            Tension was high. Stress was starting to escalate. The anxiety that is naturally produced when it comes to hosting a crowd set in. “Do we have enough wine? The Italians know how to drink wine.” “Whhhhhy did we get so many flour tortillas?!” “Are we going to have enough food for 35 people?” “WHERE’S THE CUMIN?” Every obstacle that presented itself, the girls jumped over it. Did we buy enough wine? No, but we pulled our personal stash to be served. Did we buy too many tortillas? Yes, but the next semester should be set for as many quesadillas as they want. We did in fact have enough food for everyone. And in the end, with only whole cumin seeds as an option, we had to roast the seeds and grind them by hand. The girls got that food out on that buffet table. They made sure that there was a drink in everyone’s hands. Everyone was satisfied. The guests were happy, the students were beaming. We could have ended the night there, but we didn’t.

            The reward for all this hard work the girls had accomplished came as an impromptu live musical performance. Francesco Petrucci dusted out the old acoustic guitar, strumming the strings to a gentle Italian lullaby. Maurizio Antonini eventually turned his humming into a full-out sing-along with his old friend. Then our favorite barista owner, Paulo Fa, jumped in to join his band of brothers. Seeing these male figureheads of this program singing to our students out of gratitude and appreciation was a joyous occasion. The girls were overwhelmed with love, love for each other, and love for this opportunity to call Ariccia home. Good People. Good Food. Good Music. What else do you need? I know this is a concert myself nor the students will ever forget. We get to say that we were there. That we were there for the one-night-only performance of the Ariccia Boyz.

The Ariccia Boyz. (LtoR: Maurizio Antonini, Paulo Fa, Francesco Petrucci)

War Eagle!

Ada Folmar (TA)

Pain Gives Birth to the Promise Ahead

As I arrived at the Joseph S Bruno program that I read about for two years, it was a dream come true. Before even coming to Auburn, I admired this program and saw my future here and wanted to participate in it. I knew being exposed to nine random girls would be hard, but I wanted to adventure the discomfort to help me grow.

I always try to push myself to do the scary things in life to experience the unknown. Being comfortable is not good enough to accomplish growth. I have created so many friendships and memories here that I never even imagined, and I will never forget. From the highs and lows, my life here has been unforgettable.

Some highlighting moments I experienced was almost missing my train to the point I had to run down the platform. I also accomplished having blisters, getting rained on, and speaking to a foreigner without knowing what they are saying and more. I have had more fun here than I have since the beginning of college. I know for one thing is that the girls and I here are strong.

I have never felt so uplifted by others and it makes me glad to be around them even though we get on each other’s nerves some of the time. We support each other either way because we know we are family, just as in Auburn. Being in a different environment is hard when I am not around the familiar, but it has helped me grow.

Me enjoying a view of the Royal palace of Caserta while sitting on the fountain.
Me enjoying a view of the Royal palace of Caserta while sitting on the fountain.

It has blossomed me into someone I never even knew I was and to me that is courage. As I soak up every second here, I have seen pain, strength, and love through all of us. These three things bring joy to my heart. I have persevered in order to see the promise ahead and go through the hard times to get to the good things in the life I want.

So sometimes the hardest moments in life teach you lessons that you could never take for granted.

With love,

Katie Gaston

On the Right Track

Sprinting down towards platform 20B of Roma Termini, held back by the contents of the weekend’s travel pack, and watching as the last train of the night departs the station is truly a humbling experience. But missing the train isn’t the end of the world and realizing this has helped me learn in ways beyond just making it home to Ariccia by curfew.

Living in Italy, surrounded by so many unfamiliar things, has been a lot of trial and error. I was only able to prepare myself so much, some things just have to be lived and learned. I couldn’t count how many times, especially at the beginning of the semester, a store clerk would tell me something at the counter and I just stared back blankly for a moment. But constantly struggling at the store prompted me to spend more time learning phrases in Italian that would help me better interact when shopping. But that’s just one of many slip-ups. There have also been times, like last weekend when I told myself that only packing my two most uncomfortable shoes for a weekend in Milan was a good idea. But, lo and behold, I was buying a new pair of sneakers Saturday afternoon. Just like missing the last train to Albano prompted me to be more aware of timing and planning during train transfers, I am learning so many other mini-lessons along the way.

I was bound to experience slip-ups traveling internationally. But a few bad experiences catching a train should never stop anyone from trying again. It’s all about learning from my mistakes. A new adventure is just a stop away, just make sure to get off at the right one.

Kaitlyn Reedy

Traveling on the Metro in Milan, Italy.

Checked Baggage vs Carry-On

As I wrap up my seventh week abroad, I have realized just how different my worries and stresses are in Italy versus in America. In America, I have to deal with the idea of starting my life when I get back as I am graduating in December. However, in Italy my stresses bounce between different things. Between measuring my carry-on suitcase (the baggage sizes are different on Ryanair than they are on Delta), and learning how to use a Moka pot instead of a coffee pot, living abroad has its own unique sets of challenges. 

Learning to pack up the worries and stresses that I cannot do anything about while abroad has been something challenging for me. As a senior graduating, the idea of going home and facing the reality of starting new again is scary. When I get back, I need to find a job, a new city to live in, and an apartment. But I always have to remind myself that those are stresses for when I get back. Those are stresses I put in my checked bag, things that I need to stow away until I get home. Being able to carefully tuck these things away in my checked bag and take a breath and a step away has allowed me to fully enjoy my time in Italy.

My carry-on bag is the bag I take with me everywhere. It is full of thoughts of my friends and family, my cat at home, and all the little things that I miss from home but that bring me joy when I think about them. My carry-on bag is also where I am putting all the happy, beautiful memories I am making on this trip. This bag also contains my stresses of being in Italy. From making the last train of the night, to figuring out the English translations of the foods I need in the grocery store. Italy has unique challenges, ones that I hold in my carry on as I am here. 

Learning the difference between what I need to pack in my carry on and what I need to stow away in my checked back has been one of the most important things I have learned while I have been experiencing Italy. Although I will have to face reality when I get home, being able to let go and live in the moment of being in Italy is something I will treasure forever. 

With love, 

Cate Jerozal

A photo of me sitting on a brick wall in Lucca, Italy, smiling at the camera
Creating memories in Lucca to add to my carry-on bag and keep close to me forever.

Breaking in Italy

A few weeks ago, I bought a pair of Doc Marten mary janes. I had been debating the purchase for a while, but eventually my pinterest board was so abundantly covered in pictures of girls wearing them that the purchase felt inevitable. I left the store, the bag swinging from my hand, feeling giddy with the impending joy these shoes would bring. 

Everyone warned me that for the first couple of wears, my feet would be aching, uncomfortable, and possibly covered in blisters. I shrugged off all their advice to wear thick socks and blister band aids and instead marched boldly to the supermarket. My feet hurt more and more with every step I took. 

My journey with my Doc Martens is comparable to my experience in Italy. I was so excited for the joy Italy would bring into my life that I ignored any possible pain I could feel and instead marched boldly onwards. However, just like my shoes, Italy came with some pain. Learning the language has been challenging, balancing travel and school was difficult, and my friends living at home without me seemed cruel. Albeit, just like how any good pair of shoes takes a bit to break in, my life in Italy has taken some breaking in too. 

A picture of me soaking in the sun on a balcony in Florence, life is beautiful.

Eventually, just like how the heels of my shoes molded to my feet, my life here began to take shape as well. I began to form friendships with the girls here, and the pain I once felt walking to the supermarket faded until eventually I was wearing my shoes, living my life in Italy, forgetting that I ever felt pain taking those first steps. 

This experience has taught me that change of any kind may cause discomfort, but like any sturdy shoes made to last a lifetime, the pain of change is worth the possibility of experiencing joy of any kind. These past weeks have taught me that change may hurt at first, but it just takes a little breaking into; and if you ever decide to move to a new country, it might be uncomfortable, so pack some blister band aids. 

Wishing you nothing but blue skies,

Brynn Hennessey

Dragonflies Draw Flame

As I reached the halfway point of my time here in Italy, I feel like I have lived an entire life in the past six weeks. Being in this environment has thrown such a rollercoaster of emotions my way that I was forced to take a step back and evaluate my life. I feel I have learned some invaluable lessons about myself and I wish I could share this journey with everyone. Through the lowest lows and the highest highs, I have grown so much through this journey, and I am elated to carry these lessons I have learned with me moving forward. 

I have never considered myself to be a homebody, so leading up to this trip I was nothing but excited. I crave adventure and excitement and I knew living in a foreign country with nine strangers would provide the perfect outlet. For the first couple of weeks, this trip appeared to be exactly that; a big, fun adventure away from the status quo. What I wasn’t expecting was the hard times that inevitably reared their ugly head. When forced to deal with sickness, sadness, or even exhaustion, the big adventure wasn’t so fun anymore. I have since come to appreciate the difficult points in this journey because they resulted in more personal growth than I would have thought possible. I have really been given the opportunity to take a step back and evaluate the true values I hold in life. 

The amazing people I have grown to love in my time here have also been an incredibly crucial pillar to my experience. In my lowest state I found support in people who had only known me for a couple of weeks, and I could not have gotten through what I was able to without them. It’s not only okay to rely on the people around you, but I highly encourage sharing your burdens with others. You would be surprised how the most beautiful relationships blossom from the ugliest storms. 

When I have found myself looking backwards or forwards to when things were or are going to be more familiar, I remind myself that it is imperative to this experience that I live in the moment. Life is a constant series of ever-changing phases, and there is no productivity in dwelling on past or uncertain timelines. Your happiness lies in your present experiences, and even though everything has not been rainbows and butterflies, this moment in time is having an undeniably positive impact on my life. 

The biggest lesson I have taken from my time here so far is that I am proud of the person I was, I have so much love for the person I have become, and I am excited for the journey ahead of me. The growth I have personally felt throughout this journey has been so incredibly meaningful to me, and I know I have become a better person because of it. I am now able to appreciate the hardships, uncomfortability, and mistakes of life as they have all contributed to where I am today. I am loving this life, and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store.

Thanks for listening,

Olivia Lutz

This was taken on a night during midterm break in Spain, one of my favorite places I visited.