Being halfway through this amazing experience in Italy, I have been thinking in depth about which sites and cities have moved me the most. We have been to so many places and seen so many sites, yet after returning from midterm break, I have concluded that Florence is my favorite city. This is due to the fact that I revisited Florence with my family and was still captivated by the city itself. Florence is not only the birthplace of the Renaissance, but a manageable and less intimidating city than say Rome. Some of my favorite places we visited during our trip were the leather market and the Accademia di Belle Arti Firenze. The leather market was so fun and exhilarating. I saw belts, handbags, briefcases, wallets, backpacks, jackets, and many other leather goods there. Pretty much any leather good you could imagine. The energy was high and I was in my element.  I also liked the fact that all of the prices were negotiable. I purchased this practical and durable leather purse for only thirty-three Euros! The Accademia di Arti Firenze is the building where Michelangelo’s  David is featured. This collection of sculptures was breathtaking and really brought out emotions in me. When walking down the hall to see the famous David at the end I was immediately drawn to the “prisoners” or unfinished sculptures of Michelangelo. They looked as if they were trapped in the stone and were trying to escape, hence the name prisoners. When I finally reached David, I was stunned at how lifelike he appeared. I kept on catching myself imagining that he had moved due to his realistic appearance. This statue came to life for me.


By: Olivia Bruce

David by Michelangelo

David by Michelangelo

Leather purses in Firenze

Leather purses in Firenze

Post Mid Term Break Panic- 5 Weeks Left

It’s the end of the first day back from mid term break. The last week flew by and we are now down to 4 travel weekends and 5 class weeks left. Everyone says these last few weeks left are the most fun, but they fly by before your eyes. As I look back I feel like we haven’t been here that long. I know everyone still feels like they have so much to do before they return to America.

Over mid-term break the entire group traveled to a widespread variety of places. I was fortunate to have my parents meet me and travel with me for the week. We first went to Positano and spent two nights there. I instantly fell in love with this beautiful town located on high rise mountains on the coast of Italy. We spent a day in Amalfi and made our way to Capri for a night. My heart was instantly captured by the tranquility and coolness of Capri. It’s home to some of the rich and famous. Armani has a house along the coast of the island and many other celebrities or designers. We then took our trip in a different direction and went to Prague for a few days. Prague was one of my favorite places because I had no previous knowledge about the history, art, or economy of Prague. It was all completely new and exciting to me. We visited the Charles Bridge and I learned all about their communist past. We then set off for Milan to conclude our trip by taking a day trip to St. Moritz, Switzerland (trying to cool off from the unexpected 95 degrees heat in Prague).

View from the porch of our hotel looking out onto Positano!

View from the porch of our hotel looking out onto Positano!

The beautiful church in Prague's Old Town square

The beautiful church in Prague’s Old Town square

We all returned from break and showed up to class this morning excited to hear about each others travels. This last week our agenda is filled with Vatican and Baroque art in the Vatican City. Today we had lectures and cooking class with Mary Lou. We made bacon chicken with sage and peas on the side. Tomorrow and Thursday we will travel to Rome to visit. These last few weeks will fly by before we know it, so I’m trying to take every chance I can get to slow down and take in whatever we do.


By Lauren Bills

La Dolce Vita

I think that most people here on the Joseph S. Bruno study abroad trip would agree with me when I say that living in Italy for the summer truly is the experience of a lifetime. While we are over here, we might as well embrace the term “La Dolce Vita” and experience as many places as we can. That being said, many of us travel on our three day weekends and take advantage of the cheaper plane ticket. It is really easy to just hop on a plane and travel to a different European country once you are over here. It has given me the opportunity to see some of the most famous cities in the world, such as Milan, Paris, and London so far!                                                                                                                           That being said, we literally are non-stop here as we are studying. When we are not in class, we are visiting historic sites or cities. Some weeks, we spend the night in a different town or city and see everything that it has to offer as well. Before you know it, the week has flown by and it is already time to fly off to the next destination for the weekend! So as wonderful and incredible as it is, it can get very exhausting. I feel like I have not ever fully caught up on my sleep since I got here. That is why week six has been so wonderful. We have had the whole week off of traveling and trips to simply work on our journals that document our experiences. We are all working very hard trying to complete them, but I think all of our bodies needed the rest from traveling! We have finally had time to just relax in the Chigi Palace and stay off of our feet which is a nice break. But I think we will all be ready to explore again next week!

Some of the girls working hard on their journals!

Some of the girls working hard on their journals!

By: Mary Ann Martin

Our Grand Tour (So Far)

It’s amazing how quickly the time has flown by, and here we are about to leave for our midterm break. With it being our week to catch up on school work, complete our thesis journals, and pack for our trips, I hardly have time to think about a blog; however, in all of the chaos, I find it nice to stop and reflect on what my time in Italy has meant to me.

I am so aware of what a special place this is—just sitting on a bus or a train I get chills looking out the window at the beauty that surrounds me. The journey is as magnificent as the destination. What a blessing it is to live, even if only for a short time, in a place where beauty surrounds you, architecture astounds you, and even the smallest things have the ability to inspire you in ways that nothing has before. I know that my life will be forever changed by this place and this experience.

Since we landed in Rome, we have gone nonstop. We toured the Castelli Romani, did a scavenger hunt all over Rome, hiked Mt. Vesuvius, ventured to Pompeii, saw the magnificent Villa Adriana and Villa d’Este in Tivoli—and that was just the first three weeks. Since then we have traveled to Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, and had the opportunity to visit the Uffizi and Accademia museums, where we saw some of the most prominent works of art in the world. We have been to Siena and rode horses across the Tuscan countryside. In Umbria we explored Assisi and Orvieto, and made the trek to the crumbling city of Civita di Bagnoregio.

As I was writing my essay on the Grand Tour, I could not help but relate our adventures to those who embarked on the educational rite of passage to gain a greater understanding of art and architecture formed by exposure to great masterpieces. Isn’t that exactly what we are doing? We have seen the most influential art, the most powerful architecture, and the most beautiful landscapes. Each day, we expand our knowledge and our understanding as we experience the history and the culture of Italy. We are Grand Tourists.

Of everything that we have seen, the first sight of the Colosseum is still the most memorable for me.

Of everything we have seen, the first sight of the Colosseum is still the most memorable for me.


By: Lilly Woodruff

Much needed R & R

So week 6 of our amazing journey has come around, and we are getting a much-deserved break from classes and travel. This week is dedicated to work on our journals, and go on practicum’s related to our major.  I don’t think this could come at a better time. After 5 weeks of nonstop adventures, travel and lectures I think we are ready for a little rest and relaxation. Girls have been everywhere from Spain, to London to Amsterdam and come back more excited after each trip. I traveled to Paris last weekend and fell in love with another city. We would need years to see all the places Europe has to offer, but I think we are all off to a good start.

If you were to look around the palace now, you would see girls everywhere with paper, notebooks, pens, glue and computers. We are all diligently working on our thesis journal that is due this week. It is a compilation of pictures and blurbs about all the things we have seen and learned, so that one-day we can look back and remember our adventures. I think it will be wonderful to look back at this journal in a year or ten years from now, and see pictures and responses to everything we got to do and see this summer.  If I can keep up with my book, hopefully I can show my own children and grandchildren the amazing summer I got to experience.

With the busy weeks we have had it has been difficult to keep up with the work, so this week we have all hit the books, literally. Also not having a time schedule for this week has been amazing. Girls can get up when they please and get to work as needed. Many of us have slept until almost lunch time, something we have rarely done thus far.  Every trip has been totally worth it, but I am so thankful for week 5 and the rest and relaxation we are enjoying, as we get to work on our journals.

Laying our materials for work on our Journal

Laying our materials for work on our Journal 


Mary Ann Martin hard at work By: Ally Warnock

Civita di Bagnoregio

When you look at Pinterest or Stumble Upon and see all these cool places to travel to that look unreal you repin them…right? I know I do. But now it is so unreal to me that we are going to all of these places that seriously just seem like they could only be found in pictures on Pinterest or in a fairytale!

Civita di Bagnoregio is a quaint city that truly caught me so off guard and really struck me! This is the city where I did my “expert and reminder” which is basically being the expert and sharing a bunch of information for the specific places we visit. The city was founded by Etruscans around 2,500 years ago. The city is located in central Italy in the Province of Viterbo. Civita di Bagnoregio is located on a plateau of volcanic tuff over looking some of the most beautiful scenery in all of Italy! It seriously seems like it could just be a figment of our imagination! To get into the city, you must walk a narrow walkway that leads up to the entrance of the city which is a Romanesque arch from the 12th century. No cars are allowed in this town, which really keeps the innocence and peacefulness of the town.

Would you believe me when I say that only 12 people live here in the winter and then a maximum of 100 people live here during the winter? It’s true. The city is so petite that there is only one phone in the entire city and it is located in the little city square. The isolation and geographical configuration are what have kept this “crumbling city” safe during so many war periods. Below the city are honeycombed caves. These caves have served as a stable for horses, for a wine cellar to keep wines warm year around, and a chapel for worship.

Today Civita di Bagnoregio seems to be an enchanted place that has the simplest way of living. I myself would love to retreat to this small city on a vacation to get away and to really just take in all of the breathtaking scenery that Civita di Barnoregio overlooks.


The City

Pictures of Civita di Bagnoregio from inside and outside of the city walls.



Residential Area


Breathtaking View

by: Edyn Vincent


Amazed in Umbria

The "crumbling" city of Civita di Bagnoregio

The “crumbling” city of Civita di Bagnoregio


Trebotti Vineyard

Trebotti Vineyard


Wine tasting at Trebotti Vineyard

Wine tasting at Trebotti Vineyard


Following a fantastic week exploring the streets of Florence, we began this week with a normal day of classes.  We were introduced to some new lecturers including Michael Summers, our music teacher, and Francesca Fabi, who taught us about the life and times in history of the Roman Empire.

On Tuesday, we had an early morning three and half hour bus ride to the region of Umbria. We began with a tour of the Basilica of St. Francis with a friar as our tour guide. The Basilica of St. Francis, built upon his grave, is one of the artistic highlights of medieval Europe.  Afterwards, we were able to stroll the town of Assisi and enjoy some lunch. The second half of our day included a journey to the crumbling city of Civita di Bagnoregio.  The city is stranded on its own hill due to erosion and earthquakes. Of all the Italian hill towns, this was my favorite. This precious chip of Italy, a traffic-free community has so far escaped the ravages of modernity. It was a long and steep haul to the top of the city. It is crazy to think that only fourteen people inhabitant the city during the winter months. The city was really beautiful in its simplicity and quietness.

On Wednesday, we hiked up and down Saint Patrick’s Well with a total of 463 steps! After our good workout, we got to enjoy visiting a wood workshop of Bottega Michelangeli and a ceramics workshop. We also visited Orvieto’s Duomo, which is a 14th century masterpiece of religions construction containing golden mosaics, a large rose window, and many other articulate designs. Each person seemed so small standing beneath the large arches and high ceilings.

Before our drive back to Ariccia, we had a nice afternoon touring an organic vineyard called Azienda Agricola Trebotti. The vineyard was stunning with all the rolling hills, trees, horses, and rows of vines. We learned that the vineyard uses their donkey named Jane to cut the grass down instead of using a tractor! After frolicking through the vines, taking lots of pictures, and learning about the wine-making process, we had a wine tasting that included a white wine, a rose, a red wine, and an assortment of delicious foods.

As we end this week, we are saying goodbye to Auburn’s Communications and Marketing Team who documented our experiences with the Joseph S. Bruno Auburn Abroad in Italy Program. We are sad to see them go, but are looking forward to watching the footage they captured.  We had a lot of fun this week and can’t wait for the rest of the field trips!

By: Holly Tracy

Reminiscing on the Renaissance

JSB students climbing the steep steps to the top of Florence's Duomo.

JSB students climbing the steep steps to the top of Florence’s Duomo.

View of Florence from the top of the Duomo.

View of Florence from the top of the Duomo

We were all finally reunited in the birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence, after a weekend of personal travel.  We had groups travel across Italy and Europe to places like Barcelona, Milan, Venice, and London to name a few.  Even though we had only been gone a few days, I was so excited to see the rest of the group when we were finally back together.  We started out the week with an introductory tour around Florence where we got to see many famous sights such as the Ponte Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria, and the stunning Duomo.

467 steps later, we arrived at the top of Brunelleschi’s impressive dome. It was definitely a hike to the top that left us out of breath, but it was worth every step for the incredible view of Florence that awaited us.  You could see miles of the beautiful city of Firenze as the Italians call it.  My favorite part of the dome was learning the genius behind the design.  In our lectures previous to travelling here, we learned that Brunelleschi figured out how to build this dome without having to build it around a temporary structure first (a process called centering).  He instead built a dome within a dome which allowed for the giant structure to span such a huge distance.

Other highlights of our trip to Florence include seeing many Renaissance masterpieces in the Uffizi Gallery, viewing Bernini’s statue of David in the Academia, and having the option to visit either the Gucci or Ferragamo Museum.  We also took a day trip to Siena to see its stunning cathedral and winding cobblestone streets.  After a fun week in Florence, we were free to travel on our own.  Groups went to see the rolling hills of Tuscany, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and the beaches of Barcelona before returning to the Chigi Palace for the start of another week.

As I reflect on the previous week, a connection between the Renaissance and our own personal experience becomes apparent.  The Renaissance focused on a rebirth of the Classics and a return to antiquity, and here we are in the 21st century, spending a summer doing the exact same thing.  It amazes me that the Grand Tour we are partaking in now has remained fairly constant for so many years.  As we begin our fifth week today, we welcomed Auburn’s Communications and Marketing team to Ariccia to come document our experience with the Joseph S. Bruno Auburn Abroad in Italy Program.  We are all excited to share our memories with them in the upcoming week.

By: Caroline Stephens