As spring break is wrapping up, I am currently sitting on my parent’s Airbnb terrace, munching on some fresh bruschetta, taking in the magnificent view of Ariccia below, and writing this reflection on my past 7 weeks here. I feel so wonderfully content in this moment. I’m thinking about how I want to remember this moment, and the endless amount of moments I’ve had so far that make me stop and think, I want to wrap this up, put it in my pocket, and keep it forever. That first day, when we walked on the bridge to Albano, and saw the view and the Ariccia sunset for the first time. When I enjoyed a cone of Giolitti Gelato (the best gelatto in the entire universe) with my best friend from home who studies in Rome. A week ago, on the first day my parents arrived in Ariccia for spring break, walking to the Chigi palace museum for class, and spotting my dad outside of a Cafe that I frequent across the street, then watching him run across said street like a maniac to hug me. Standing in front of every famous monument we’ve visited for class and thinking, “I am actually here! Doing this! right now!”. This country is so rich with beauty, culture, and passion, that the moments here just hit different than back at home. This study abroad program is unique because we’re not just taking random classes in Italy, our classes are about Italy; the history, the language, the cuisine, and that helps us immerse ourselves in, and appreciate the culture so much more. I love it here. So much. Bring on the moments to come!
Everyone has always told me how amazing the food is in Italy. I have been big fan of Italian food for as long as I can remember so I was eager to try it out for myself. I have always considered myself a foodie, I am not a picky eater and I will try anything. In fact, I love trying new things and new dishes. I also really enjoy cooking and so I was very excited when I found out about the cooking classes we would get to participate in. We had a cooking class yesterday where we cooked the most incredible meal. It was a typical Italian dish but was one that I was not familiar with before this experience. It was called Saltimbocca, which translates to “jump in the mouth”. It is not pasta dish which is one of the reasons I loved it so much ( I have become a little tired of pasta). You take a piece of chicken or veal and wrap it in prosciutto. Then with a toothpick you place a sage leaf on top. Following that, you toss it in flour and fry it with some butter in a hot pan. Those are the only ingredients, so simple but so much flavor. There is no need for seasoning because the sage adds the perfect amount of flavor and the prosciutto adds the saltiness. The dish was so easy to make and I know it will be one that I can recreate back home. It is the perfect meal to make if you want to impress your friends!
I am half way through my twelve-week adventure and I never knew a place once so foreign to me only six weeks ago could start to feel like home. The other girls were only just strangers, but our now some of my closest friends. We began our very first week planning the many adventures that lie ahead of us. I knew once I unpacked my bags from my long 8-hour flight from Tampa they would not be unpacked for long. As soon as I landed, I knew I wanted to go everywhere and anywhere. The north, east, south, and west of every country of Europe. I planned weekend adventures to Munich, Paris, Barcelona, Prague, Warsaw, Dublin, and Florence.
It is crazy to look back these past 8 weeks and really see how each place is special in their own little way. Being able to spend the weeks in Ariccia and then ending them in a different country has allowed me to pick out the differences between each place. My favorite place I have traveled so far is Prague. The history and growth that lies within the city is astounding. A country that was once so secluded and polarized from my culture shows that you can come out of anything and become one of the most traveled cities in the world. Each place has been so special and so diverse. My travel bug is in full swing and would love go back to these countries and explore even more beyond the big cities.
I am ready to take on these next five weeks and see what they have to offer.
This week is Week 7, already past the halfway mark and nearing the end of this amazing journey. I cannot believe how quickly these weeks have gone by. It seems like just yesterday I was so nervous, not knowing what I was getting into, leaving my family and hopping on an eight-hour flight to a country I have never been to before. Seems really crazy when I think about it like that. I had so many feelings coming onto this trip: excitement, anxiousness, fear of being in a foreign country. But, as I started getting into the swing of things, I could not believe how the palace started to become my home away from home. After unforgettable trips to Vienna, Milan, Munich, Barcelona, Paris, Amsterdam, Dublin, and different cities in Italy, I noticed on my way back how I would get excited to come back to my little bed in my nest. This was especially a comfort to me as I was nervous about being away from home for so long.
As I continue my journey here in Italy, I hope to fully take advantage of the rest of my time here and not take anything for granted. I had one of my best friends come to visit me over the break and we got to travel to 3 different countries. When she first arrived in Italy, the first thing she told me was how excited she was to try the food in Italy. I remember thinking to myself, “I cannot wait to have a break from all of this pizza and pasta.” I think about a few weeks away when I am back at home or in Auburn. I am going to be dying to have the meals I have had here! These are moments when I truly realize how grateful I am to be in a place where I am able to experience (and eat) so much. The best part about it is, I have the best group to share these moments with! I cannot wait to look back and remember these months as the most memorable and one of the best growing experiences I have ever had in my life!
This past week was spring break, which also means I am now halfway through the semester! It has been an incredible experience in every way, and I am sad to see the time passing by so fast as I cannot believe six weeks have already gone by. I have learned to soak up every moment because in the blink of an eye I know I will be heading home and soon reminiscing about the best three months of my life. I have taken nothing granted as we travel throughout Italy on fieldtrips seeing sights I never imaged I would ever see in person growing up like the Colosseum, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, Trevi Fountain, and more. On my own I have also traveled every weekend to new places including London, Milan, Sicily, Malta, and Paris so far, and cannot wait to continue seeing the world in the upcoming weeks as well. Better yet, I am able to take on these new experiences and places with new friends that I feel like I have known for years. I have learned so much about many new cultures through my travels here, and I feel this is a great takeaway and something I will always be conscious of in the future.
So far, some of my favorite places in Italy are the small towns I most likely never would have visited or known about without the Joseph S. Bruno Program. I have fallen in love with the town we live in called Ariccia, as well as the surrounding towns Albano and Nemi. These towns meet every expectation of the ‘Italian lifestyle’ I have envisioned before I came. Everything is so authentic here from the lifestyle to the food, and that is what makes me love it here so much. Albano has the train station, a lot of shopping, and many restaurants we visit for aperitivo (an early appetizer style meal before dinner). My favorite place of all though is the surrounding town, Nemi. Though it is very small and quaint, it is known for its tiny strawberries and a view of Lake Nemi that is breathtaking. I love overlooking the lake while enjoying a delicious strawberry pastry and cappuccino. It is in the small moments sometimes that I feel like I am living a dream.
It’s the first day of week five and while today may be slow, the time here has flown by and it seems like there’s no stopping it. It’s crazy that spring break is so close to us and yet I feel like I haven’t been here for that long. Before I came to Italy, I decided to read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and if I got anything from reading it before my big adventure, it was the word attraversiamo. Although I have realized that it hasn’t been a typical word here in Italy, in the book it is explained to mean “let’s cross over”. It has been one that I feel can embody my time here, not just in Italy, but in all the places and cultures I’ve gotten to experience so far and still have yet to experience.
While we do get to travel so much, my wanderlust has not stopped. So far I have traveled outside of Ariccia every weekend to new cities and new countries, to see new places and faces, yet I still want to see more. I have gotten to experience Vienna, Munich and Milan with Barcelona coming up this weekend. Just the idea of having a new experience in a new place has been something I look forward to each week. I didn’t expect our weeks and weekends to vary as much as they have on a day to day basis. In our weeks there has always been something new, whether it’s been who we’ve met, like our Italian families, or where we’ve gone, inside or outside of the country, there’s just so much to take in. I hope I don’t forget to take a second to stop and truly take it all in.Before we know it our time here will be over and we will all be on to the next thing. Unlike most of the other girls here, I don’t know what my next step will be, and I’m slowly becoming more okay with it. This journey hasn’t gone as expected and it has taught me that not many things in our life do, no matter what we may think. This has been a constant reminder for me to change my mindset. To cross over from one way of thinking to another, one that’s okay when things don’t go as planned. And I hope that no matter what, amidst all of our travels throughout our remaining time here, I stop to smell the roses and recognize that there’s a reason and a season for everything.
Today marks the first day of week five. It seems like yesterday when I was on a plane ride, surrounded by girls I did not know, and heading to a place I had never been. This morning I can look around at all these girls, and it does not make sense to think that a few weeks ago we had never known one another. It is bittersweet to see the time fly by, as the more it goes the more memories we have made, but the closer our departure comes.
I had so many dreams and expectation when embarking on this semester. I think that we all imagine things as we prepare for traveling and sightseeing. A lot of girls have had the ideas of memories and pictures floating around in their heads since they signed up for the trip. This goes for me when thinking of our trip to Rome for our “Grand Tour.” I for one love the Lizzie McGuire movie. It is the ideal picture of what every girl’s study abroad experience could only hope to leave up to. Particularly in this movie, Lizzie, the main star, makes her debut wish at the beloved Trevi Fountain, she falls head over heels for a celebrity Italian, and in the end becomes a pop sensation. As you can imagine my hopes were set extremely high for my wish at the Trevi Fountain.
My day had finally come, with a coin in hand, me and my sweet friend Gabrielle arrived at the Trevi Fountain with the group ready for our picture. It was crowded but we waltzed our way up to the front and were ready to throw our coins in to cast our wishes. As I went to throw my coin in little to my surprise did I know I mistakenly had allowed my phone to be tossed into the fountain instead! Well, as my phone is my lifeline I did what any one would have done, and I proceeded to also throw one more thing into the fountain. Sadly enough that thing would be my entire body. As I was diving into the fountain it did occur to me that what I was doing was an absolute mistake, especially when after I could not even manage to find my phone I knew I had really messed up. My friends helped me out of the fountain, and I had endure the pain of watching my phone lie in the middle of the fountain while I stood soaking wet in the cold. On the bright side I had to go buy a new outfit, and I got my new favorite pair of sweatpants, which keep me warm in the palace.
Trevi Fountain, I will soon be back to reclaim my wish, and I will have my Lizzie McGuire movie moment once and for all.
This week, we had the opportunity to visit the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museum with our amazing tour guide Julia. Before we entered the inside of the museum, we learned all about the frescos painted on the ceiling. Michelangelo, commissioned by Pope Julius II, was the artist held responsible for the entire project, which display the Old and New Testaments on the ceiling of the chapel. Originally, Pope Julius II gave Michelangelo four months to finish the entire ceiling. Michelangelo ended up taking four years to finish the project. During this time, Michelangelo was given free rein to do as he wished, however this project came at a cost to his personal life. Through these four years, Michelangelo spent every moment painting while hunched over on scaffolding and painted through the night only with the light of one candle. Each painting has such intricate design and detail. Each scene is blocked out by squares that depict stories from the Bible. The figures in the paintings proportions are much bigger than you would think. In one of the squares, a man’s finger alone is the length of two forearms. Once we entered the chapel, I was fully able to appreciate all of the time and effort Michelangelo put into his art. When I bent my head back, the figures felt like they were jumping out at you. The detail and use of color throughout all of the scenes is remarkable. It was the most amazing sight, something we will never forget!
We are starting
our fourth week here in Ariccia. I really have no idea where the time has gone.
I feel like I was just stepping off the plane in Rome with so much excitement
and nervousness just yesterday. I remember feeling anxious to get a taste of
the many adventures I would experience, and in the four short weeks I have been
here, lots of adventures have already begun.
Our first adventure began in Rome the very first Friday we were in Italy. The morning started out with lots of excitement while we were rushing to the train. We made it, but it was questionable during our walk to Albano. I remember getting on the train wondering what in the world Rome was actually going to look like. It was everything I had imagined and more. Huge statues, monuments, and beautiful building that I had only seen in pictures were now right in front of me. From touring the Forum and Colosseum to watching one of us drop our phone in the Trevi Fountain, the whole day was filled with so much fun and amazement.
The next adventure was the Scavenger Hunt. We were all running around Rome in the pouring rain trying to find our way around and figure out what exactly we were looking at. I can definitely say it was something I did not appreciate while I was actually having to do it, but now, I am so grateful for that experience. I probably knocked so many people in the head with my umbrella so I am sure they were not too happy with me. However, it is something we already look back on and just laugh.
One more adventure was pizza making in Frascati. I have eaten a ton of pizza and pasta so far during my time here. I am sure I will eat a ton more, but the pizza I was able to make with my own hands has been the best pizza so far. The whole experience was just a blast. It was such a neat way to feel apart of the Italian culture and get to interact with a few Italian people. Everyone has been so generous, understanding, and helpful toward each of us in the program. I have already experienced many adventures so far and cannot wait for the many more to come.
American author, Neale Donald Walsch is quoted as saying, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” I couldn’t agree more. I am just beginning Week Four of my twelve-week Joseph S. Bruno Study Abroad in Italy program and the past three weeks have been a blur (and so much fun). What I really hoped to get out of my study abroad experience was to be pushed out of my comfort zone, learn about different cultures, and experience new adventures. I have always loved to travel and experience new places, but living abroad is different. Not only did I leave the familiar and comfortable surroundings of home to move to a new country, where I am just learning some of the language, but I moved in with 20 other girls that I had never met before. But, there’s nothing like living and traveling with new friends to go from feeling like a bit of an outsider to making new best friends.
It has truly been a “Grand Tour.” Together we have toured the Colosseum, the Forum, the Pantheon and the Vatican, tossed a coin (and a cell phone, right Kaitlyn) in Trevi Fountain, walked the Spanish Steps, climbed Mt. Vesuvius, explored the Lost City of Pompei and went to dozens of more sites on our scavenger hunt. We also took a weekend excursion to London where we rode The Tube to Buckingham Palace, flirted with the guards out front, ate yummy fish & chips, did some shopping, visited St. Paul’s Church, Big Ben and the Tower of London, and walked around Piccadilly Circus. The next weekend, we went to Milan and climbed to the rooftop of the Duomo di Milano for amazing views and checked out Italian nightlife at Alcatraz Discoteca!
I know that only when I stop letting fear and anxiety hold me back am I open to major breakthroughs in life. I will keep pushing myself to expand my comfort zone and look forward with excitement to whatever may come next. Ciao for now!