The Five Lands (aka Cinque Terre)

This past weekend (Thursday – Sunday) all twenty of us decided to take part in an optional fieldtrip to Cinque Terre. Since we had already been on an overnight fieldtrip this week, some of us were dreading the six-hour bus ride there, but it was definitely worth it. We arrived in Porto Venere at dark thirty, so it was hard to see the beauty this port city had to offer until the next day. After checking into our hostel, we were treated to a delicious group dinner consisting of lots of pesto (it’s famous around the area). On Friday morning we boarded a ferry to the island of Palmaria where we would have a guided hiking tour. Although the hike was challenging at times, the views were well worth the trek.

Looking across to Porto Venere from the island of Palmaria

Looking across to Porto Venere from the island of Palmaria

Our journey to the five cities of Cinque Terre began bright and early Saturday morning as we loaded up on a public bus in La Spezia. After a short bus ride, we then took a train to our final destination of Riomaggiore where the hiking would begin. Throughout the day, we visited Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. The overcast weather made for a perfect day of hiking and exploring each of the five towns. We experienced breathtaking views that will remain in our memories for years to come. 

Enjoying the view  (Lauren McDavid, Virgina Belt, Brook Ladner, Sarah Fuller, Elyse Jokich)

Enjoying the view
(Lauren McDavid, Virgina Belt, Brook Ladner, Sarah Fuller, Elyse Jokich)


Lauren McDavid

Wine Wednesday? Wine not!

It is hard to believe that we are wrapping up our first full month in Italy. This week has been especially busy; we returned to our home in Ariccia from an optional trip to Positano on Sunday afternoon and tried to prepare for the week. After a long day of class on Monday, we packed our bags and left bright and early the next morning for an overnight field trip to Assisi and Orvieto, two towns in the region of Umbria.

Our first day in Assisi was wonderful. We toured St. Francis’s Basilica and were able to see all of the frescos and history that we have been learning about in our classes. Later that night we arrived in Orvieto and had the night to ourselves to explore. Orvieto may be one of my favorite cities we’ve been to so far! It is not a huge tourist destination so everything seemed so authentic. Some places we visit lack the charm and culture of Italy because they cater so much to tourists.

We had a fun night exploring Orvieto, but we woke up this morning with heavy hearts when we learned that a sweet girl in our group had received some hard news from home. Since we all live together, we have become a pretty tight knit group, so we started off our day praying for our friend, sharing in her pain, and wanting to do anything to comfort her. After touring Orvieto, we headed to the Trebotti Vineyards and Farm for a tour. After the rough start to the day, this fun activity is exactly what the whole group needed. One of the coolest things about Trebotti is that it is a completely organic, sustainable farm.  First, we got to meet the resident donkey, Jane, who helps cut all of the grass and fertilize the vineyard. Then we learned more about the wine making process and even got to taste some of the grapes grown there. Finally, they invited us to have aperitivo and wine tasting. We had a wonderful time trying all of the wine, snacking, and getting to relax and enjoy each other’s company. One of the things I think is special about this trip is the relationships we have all formed with each other. Everyone’s hearts are hurting for our friend. While it was difficult to see her hurt and struggle today, I feel so thankful to be surrounded by such caring people, including our teachers. I also feel reminded that life is so fragile and we should not take this time in Italy or with each other for granted.


Written by Marie Mitchell

Kendall, Marie, and Lauren P. at Trebotti Vineyards.

Kendall, Marie, and Lauren P. at Trebotti Vineyards.

Experience: The Best Way to Learn

Beautiful fountains embellishing the walkway at Villa d'Este

Beautiful fountains embellishing the walkway at Villa d’Este

“I heard and I forgot. I saw and I remembered. I did and I understood.” -Anonymous

This quotes truly embodies how this experience has transformed “school” for me.

As I write about the events from last week and the memories made, I cannot help but be stunned that I am in the midst of living such a beautiful life. Living in such a rich culture is equivalent to diving straight into the pages of textbooks. We are gaining a very cultured perspective because we are seeing with our own two eyes the very things that have made Italy the reservoir of art and history it is. During our third week as students in Italy, the group learned about Roman parks and gardens, ancient architecture typologies, wine tasting, Western thought and philosophy, Roman history, and we even traveled to Tivoli and Pompeii. Some students- myself included- journeyed to Positano for the weekend on the first optional trip of the program.

The most amazing thing about the Joseph S. Bruno Study Abroad Program, in my opinion, is how experiential all of our learning is. For instance, in class we had a lecture about Roman parks and gardens. We heard all about Hadrian’s Villa and Villa d’Este, the founders, the history, the layouts. I found it especially interesting that the cardinal who owned Villa d’Este wanted to be the pope, but, when he did not become the pope, the man who did get the position required him to be banished from Rome because of the threat he posed. Consequently, the villa was built outside of Rome in Tivoli. It is ironic though because he is much more well-known for his gardens than he would have been if he had become the pope. When we walked through the massive gardens, I was awestruck. It seemed to me that with every step you took, there was more ground to cover. The fountains were so beautiful and peaceful. Being there, seeing the expanse and glory of the gardens, the history of Villa d’Este became real to me and the knowledge will stick with me forever simply from being there and seeing it for myself.

We also had a lecture about wine tasting. Maurizio took us on wine’s voyage through history and myth. We learned about Greek and Roman gods of wine, that a good wine is a good wine because of the climate and soil its grapes were grown in, and heard about Italy’s competition to have the world’s best wine. Shortly after the lecture, we had a wine tasting. Yes, one of our classes was a wine tasting. It was so much fun, and I also emerged from the evening with a larger understanding of different flavors in each wine.

Later that week, we put to good use our knowledge of vino at the aperitivo we hosted in the palace. The girls all came together and each room brought dishes such as cheese, meat, stuffed mushrooms, sausage balls, and fruit. Friends of the program and our instructors joined us for a night full of sharing stories, laughter, and full bellies.

Thursday was action packed. We climbed a mountain- a mountain that erupts every 2,000 years and has once buried cities in its ash, that is. We hiked up Mount Vesuvius. Then later that day, we explored the ruins of Pompeii, the city most well-known for perishing at the hand of Mount Vesuvius. It felt surreal to walk around its streets and imagine people going about their lives on the day of the eruption, unaware of their eventual demise.

This trip has been incredible. History used to live on the pages of the textbooks I read in class. Now, history has come to life before my very eyes. In the short three weeks we have been living in Italy, I have truly learned more than I could have ever imagined and seen more than most people will see in a lifetime. Knowledge truly comes from experience.

Hannah Pate

Give Me Vision

Outside of the resort by the patio enjoying our last few minutes at Antonello Colonna.

Outside of the resort by the patio enjoying our last few minutes at Antonello Colonna’s resort.

Yesterday for me was about watching a vision of someone come true. We started the day in Tivoli, Italy and took the bus to Villa Adriana. Although the villa is currently left as ruins, some of the original tiles and walls still stand. After Villa Adriana we went to Villa d’Este. This villa shocked me. The beautiful marble on the outside and the many rooms inside allowed me to capture the feel of the ancient villa. As soon as I walked outside on the back patios of the villa, the view took my breath away. The gardens are covered in greenery, fountains, sculptures and trees. I was automatically overcome with peace standing in the gardens. Standing in the gardens I also found myself with a vision of an event that could be hosted at this villa. The creativity and excitement of planning an event made me consider my career options and dreams. Finally, we took the bus to a resort called Antonello Colonna Resort and Spa. Antonello is a famous chef in Italy and began his dream of starting a resort, not just a restaurant, many years ago. We pulled up to a modern, industrial looking building and sat down for a great appetizer meal and then began the tour of the resort. We met the lady that does the marketing for this resort. She owns her own Marketing Consulting firm in Hong Kong and hosts wine dinners for fundraising. Meeting her and talking more in depth about her career and touring the villa made me even more excited about my career. Being in Italy has revealed to me that if you have a dream or goal for your life, go after it.

-Lauren Peeples

Church Bells Ring in Ariccia, and I Sip My Espresso.

The bar (cafe) in the square across from the palace, with the church directly to the right.

The bar (cafe) in the square across from the palace, with the church directly to the right.

Sitting outside the bar across from the Palace yesterday I got to witness the aftermath of an Italian wedding. It was beautiful. Every detail, every passerby offered a smile and a wink. They couldn’t hold in their approval. Each person seemed to have a memory of a similar time in their own life. Whether they’d been married 50 years or not at all, there was a general consensus that this was good. To have a wedding, a marriage. Everyone was happy. People were coming in and out of the bar getting espressos to keep their spirits high (or maybe an Irish coffee?… something with a kick to it.) Every man that walked in was wearing a perfectly tailored Italian suit, many of them sporting Ray Bans, in typical Italian fashion. Some had children lagging behind them. A girl in a white dress, a flower girl, was holding a bouquet. She raised it over her head then blushed as an Italian woman stopped to admire her and say “Bella ragazza”. (Beautiful girl). Tall, dark Italian women wore their hair in tight buns atop their heads or loose to frame their face. Their dresses were simple but elegant, accenting their slender builds. The Italian language was the best part. Already beautiful, it came alive with the inflection, tone, and the general air that happiness brings. Old men with beards offered kisses and smiles in the customary way of greeting. An old romantic European car pulled up to the church, the bride and groom came out, her beaming, him laughing. Everyone was taking pictures. My heart was happy.

It’s times like these when I get to sit with my espresso or caffe’ americano in the morning outside the bar when I soak in the most. It’s hearing the Italian words, feeling the breeze from the Mediterranean, watching the old men live life slowly without care, seeing how the women walk with an effortless air of elegance. How they embody a high-end minimalist persona.  It’s watching the way they eat: slow, relishing every bite, and making an importance out of everything they put in their mouths. Why don’t we all take a lesson from the Italian way and go slow, cherish the things that matter, cut out the excess?



The Beginning of an Italian Adventure

Our first week in Italy has exceeded all expectations. From the moment we arrived in this beautiful place, we have been overwhelmed trying to take in all the incredible sights, sounds and tastes Italy has to offer. Our first two days we spent unpacking, and touring the town of Ariccia and the lovely Chigi Palace ,which we still can’t believe is our “home”. We also met our wonderful Italian professors who were so welcoming and made us even more excited to learn all they have to teach us. Our first class field trip was a tour of the Castelli Romani towns. Each town was more beautiful than the last. One of our favorite towns, Castel Grandolfo, is located on Lake Albano. It was so beautiful, we decided to go back on our first Saturday in Italy. We spent the whole day soaking up the sunshine, kayaking, and enjoying one another’s company. Saturday night, a few of us went into the town of Albano for the art festival. The town was full of local artists, food vendors and musicians. We loved exploring the streets, stopping along the way to dance, eat, and take pictures of the beautiful sights. Monday was our first Italian cooking class with Mrs. Mary Lou. She taught us the art of simple, fresh Italian cooking and we made a delicious pasta dish and Nutella and cream layered sponge cake. Even though we have only been here a week, I feel I am learning so much. I am learning how to better interact and relate to people of all backgrounds and cultures and that you can learn something from everyone you encounter if you take the time to listen. As a Child Life major, my career will require me to interact with people of all ethnicities and backgrounds and I know my experiences here in Italy will greatly contribute to this.  Overall, adjustment to life here in Italy has been an easy and exciting transition. I think I speak for everyone when I say we cannot wait to take in every minute of this modern three month “Grand Tour” of Italy.

Written by:

Bradley Singletary

The whole group on our first full day in Italy

The whole group on our first full day in Italy

Non parlo Italiano.

I cannot believe that our group has been here for almost a whole week. The twenty of us have been living the dream in the Chigi Palace. I wish that I could describe the calm, crisp lighting from the sun setting at dusk. Although it was not an easy transition, I am fortunate to be living life in this city and with these people. My bags must have the travel bug more than I do because they headed to France while I headed to Rome. This means that I did not get my luggage until four days after my move to Ariccia. Initially I was frustrated, but it was a lesson on how to enjoy the simplicity of life. Italy is teaching me so much of minimalism and living. Here the locals stroll and no one is on their phone at the dinner table. Before Italy, I did not know how to sit down for more than an hour or put my phone down. I thank Italy for showing me how to take in friendships, food, talks, and espresso. It was very interesting ordering my first ‘caffe americano’ at the coffee bar. The fact that it is called a “bar” is an adjustment alone. The barista asked me for my order and all I could say was “non

Castel Gondolfo overlooking the gorgeous Lake Albano

Castel Gondolfo overlooking the gorgeous Lake Albano

parlo Italiano.” This has been my fallback when I do not know what to say to locals; however, I am determined to pick up on as much of the Italian language as I can. My favorite place that I have been to so far is Castel Gondolfo. It is a beautiful village not far from Ariccia and it lies on Lake Albano. The pope’s summer retreat is there as well as many wonderful shops and bars. I will love every city I go to though and I am excited to learn more about the history behind Rome. I am one fortunate girl.

Natalie Tabor

Bella Vita

So it’s official- we are FINALLY in Ariccia, and finishing up the first week in our beautiful new home! The first days here have been more amazing than I ever imagined but the adjustment of assimilating to a new culture also comes with some hardships.

Upon arriving here, we toured the city of Ariccia where Cinzia and Ms. Linda taught us the ins and outs of life here in Italy. We ate our first Porchetta sandwich-which I must add, was quite delicious. We learned basics such as the stores to go to for cell phone minutes and transportation tickets, and even got a tid-bit from Cinzia about which boys to stay away from. We had the opportunity to tour the Chigi palace, see our class room and get to know some of the history behind the palace and its wonderful curator, Francesco. Francesco and Maurizio showed us the different rooms of the palace where the paintings remain in the same place the Chigi family put them. Thursday we went over the syllabus and toured the main cities of the Castelli Romani. Among many other things, we saw the pope’s summer home in Castel Gandolfo, tasted the sweet wine in Frascati, and saw the precious town of Nemi which is famous for its tiny strawberries.

Friday, we had our first official “Italian Survival Class” with Laney, who was once a student on the Joseph S. Bruno Study abroad program too. Her heart was  captured by the beautiful Italian culture while she was a student and decided to move back where she met an Italian man and got married. We learned that “Buongiorno” is the formal way to greet someone where as “Ciao” is more proper to greet a friend or acquaintance, among some other short phrases to help us get around. After getting schooled in Italian phrases, we had the opportunity of meeting the mayor of Ariccia. Though I didn’t understand much of what he said, I did grasp the important fact that he is happy to have us here in Ariccia, but somewhat upset that we are staying in his town’s beloved Chigi palace. Cinzia then took us around Albano, one of our neighboring towns, to show us where to catch the train and the bus, which I must add is easier said than done.

For our first official weekend in Ariccia, we had the choice to do whatever we wanted! Because of the jet lag we were all experiencing and the big week we had just taken on, most of us stayed close to home and relaxed for our first weekend off. After seeing the beauty of Lake Albano at the Castel Gandolfo overlook on Thursday, several of us decided that Lake Albano was the place to be on Saturday. We bought our twenty kilometer train tickets and headed to Albano, where we missed our very first train. As we saw it drive down the tracks without us, Natalie, Hannah, Caroline, Mackenzie and I were all frustrated but decided that a taxi was the next best thing. It was quite a sight to watch Caroline attempt at communicating with the taxi company, but after some miscommunications and about an hour wait, the five us us crammed in and headed to Castel Gandolfo. Little did we know that the drop off for Castel Gandolfo was a far trek from the actual beach, so about another hour later we made it down to meet the rest of our friends. It was a beautiful day to be at the beach where we relaxed and unwound from the stressful  week of culture assimilation. We enjoyed some delicious gnocchi and gelato to make the perfect day even better.

Overall, life in Italia has been wonderful. I have been shocked at how much slower the pace of life is here, and their lives are drenched with more richness than I believed possible! Though I have experienced some jet lag and the set backs of the “palace cold,” life here truly has been beautiful. I cant wait for more experiences and adventures in the next couple of months! I truly am so blessed to be here!