View From the Top

The top half of the photograph is a view of the Ariccia bridge on the first day I was here,   September 2nd 2013. The bottom half of the photograph is the same view, but I took it this past week (end of October)!

The top half of the photograph is a view of the Ariccia bridge on the first day I was here, September 2nd 2013. The bottom half of the photograph is the same view, but I took it this past week (end of October)!

As I sit here in my little nook I created in our upstairs loft, I look out the window and see the very thing that caught my eye when I first arrived. But now, the breeze I feel is much cooler and the trees more sparse. Somehow though I am still struck with great amazement at the view of the Ariccia bridge and its beautiful skyline. Almost two months ago, I sat in this very spot for the first time and saw this humbling sight. This view from my room has brought so much perspective and peace during my journey here in Italy. I am constantly reminded of how truly incredible this experience is and the wonderful things I get to see.

One of my favorite things to do is sit outside in the piazza in the morning, have a cappuccino, and watch the people around me. This time is so unique and special to me, because it is so peaceful and still. It gives me the opportunity to watch people interact without any distractions. Unlike in America, I am not on my phone or reading a book or conversing, I am still and my world is silent. I get to observe real life, relationships, mannerisms, love, friendships, and people of all ages play out in front of me like I am in a quiet theater, watching a movie. It is so neat to be able to observe people from a different culture in such a beautiful setting. Sometimes you learn more about a person or group of people by what they do, not say. We are too focused on the words and the perceptions given and received. We do not always take the time to listen and observe all means of communication and interaction around us. This realization not only feeds my personal growth, but it is extremely beneficial for strengthening my skills in order to fulfill my professional goals of becoming a counselor. This was just one of the many realizations that has made this experience so incredible and so beneficial.

As we drove through Rome on our way to the opera last night, I felt a surprise sense of pride and confidence, as I experienced another realization. I knew exactly where we were and I was able to identify famous landmarks and where they were in proximity to our location. I can spend days or even years in a city and not feel as confident about getting around as I do when I am in Rome. I think one of the best learning experiences, not only about Italy and traveling, but about myself, was one of the first things we did: the Rome Scavenger Hunt. We were about a week and a half into this experience, knowing absolutely no Italian, and really not knowing each other, yet somehow we managed to navigate Rome in its entirety and find famous historical landmarks all in about four and a half hours. Every frustration, disagreement, confusion, failed attempt in reading a map, lack of GPS, and wrong direction lead to such a sense of satisfaction, accomplishment, and confidence. This activity not only provided us with the tools to navigate Rome, it gave us the ability to adapt to situations, try new things, trust in others, build bonds, take charge, take risks, and navigate this whole journey. It was a humbling experience to say the least, but one of the best things we could have done.

As our time begins to wind down, I find myself reflecting on my experience here and how it has shaped me as a person. There are so many things that have contributed and will continue to contribute to my success in finding myself and fulfilling my dreams and aspirations. Almost every aspect of this journey has molded me in some fashion. I learn about others and myself every day in my interactions with my peers, teachers, and those I come in contact with here in Italy. From scavenger hunts to practicums and high school visits to living and traveling with nineteen other girls, this whirlwind has taught me more about myself and opened my eyes to a culture I could never have imagined. I still have so many amazing sights to see and people to meet. However, it’s nice to slow down, look out my window, and reflect on everything I’ve encountered since that first day, because it is truly an experience of a lifetime.

-Callen Crutchfield

How Johnny Depp and Meal Tickets Can Rejuvenate the Heart

Yesterday, our program visited the local high school, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and Rome’s homeless shelter, Caritas. In the morning, we visited multiple classrooms in the high school, Liceo James Joyce, where we interacted with small groups of students. During my time at the school, I visited the first year and the third year students. The first year students were in the process of developing their English, but they possessed a thirst and eagerness to learn more of the language. The first year students even revealed that English was their favorite class, and that thought was echoed by the third year students as well. Although an age gap existed between the two classes, the first and third year students hold many similarities such as their enthusiasm in learning English, their open and welcoming nature, their disdain towards History class, and their love for their favorite actor, Johnny Depp. My time with the third year students showed similarities between growing up in Italy and the United States. The Italian students struggle with pressure to drink, social media, and feeling shy – all which span across our two cultures. The teenagers not only gave us a glimpse into their culture, but they also treated us to an enjoyable morning.

In the afternoon, the group stopped by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, or F.A.O., which leads international efforts to defeat hunger. Touring the organization and learning about world hunger while at F.A.O. was thought provoking leading into our visit to Rome’s homeless shelter, Caritas. At Caritas, our program helped with their dinner service. Initially, I was interested in participating with Caritas because the nature of the program is different from subjects in our previous trips and lectures. We have learned about the extravagance and wealth of the Romans in settings such as Villa d’Este and the Roman Forum, so Caritas refreshed us with views of reality. While at Caritas, I worked at the front desk and handed out meal tickets. As I witnessed every person walking through the shelter’s doors, I realized that there is no formula or mold for a person in need. The shelter held a variety of ages, genders, races, and nationalities; some of the recipients wore suits or uniforms from work earlier in the day. Despite not having a consistent place to call home, recipients have a community within Caritas among the staff and each other. The people were so willing to share their story and motivations with us, and the language barrier was not much of an obstacle as one man sang to a number of students in the program. The experiences at F.A.O. and Caritas made me take a different perspective on my circumstances and renewed by thankfulness in my blessings. Overall, this day was a lesson in international communication filled with skills that are transferable to life in the United States. Most importantly, our group had the wonderful opportunity to give back to a city who has given us so many lessons, memories, and good times.



Member of our program serving at Caritas's dinner service

Members of our program serving at Caritas’s dinner service

What Country Are We In Right Now?

This blog has been quiet for a few days as we have all dispersed across Europe – and one of us even to Africa! – on our mid-term adventures. Some of us met our parents, and some of us journeyed with fellow students. I personally traveled with six friends on a nine-day tour of Paris, Ireland, and London. For the first time other than one short weekend, the unit of twenty separated and left entirely the safety of the Palace to venture forth, unanchored, into the world for the first time.

Our view from our picnic one fine Paris evening!

Our view from our picnic one fine Paris evening!


There was a bit of a wind atop the Cliffs of Moer, but we didn't really mind. The view was worth it.

There was a bit of a wind atop the Cliffs of Moher, but we didn’t really mind. The view was worth it.

Living cloistered with 19 other young women has given us all – I know it has been especially true for me – a unique opportunity to observe the beauties and the heartbreaks of human interaction and to take part in them ourselves. Living in such close quarters with very little private space has given us the choice to grow…or not. Our break was our first opportunity to test our new growth – in the unknown, for those of us traveling independently, and in the familiar, for those of us traveling with family.

Making a very important conference call.

Making a very important conference call.

My own 9-day adventure was a whirlwind of three delightful cultures.  Paris gave us a picnic beneath the Eiffel Tower, delicious crêpes and macaroons, and a walk in the bird and flower market beneath the song of the bells of Notre Dame. Ireland, with its rolling, verdant hills and beautiful, jagged cliffs – both bathed in the capricious Irish sunshine – is a place that lends itself to song: one could gaze upon that land and be inspired from the depths of despair or the heights of hope. Music and laughter pour from open doorways, and smiles wreath the faces of strangers, though Irish strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet. The teeming city of London was another experience, with its chic markets and adorable teashops providing an interesting contrast with its somber, stately architecture. (Clearly, I fell especially in love with Ireland.)

Our trip also had its fair share of anxiety and frustration, as can be expected from our first time exploring Europe unaided. However, we learned much about ourselves and about what it means to support each other in an anxious, overwhelming world. And we had fun…lots of it. Did we pass our “test?” I think so.

by Sarah Fuller

Antonello Colonna

A few if us had our practicum this Tuesday with world-renowned chef, Antonello Colonna. We visited his resort, Antonella Colonna Resort and Spa, earlier in the semester with the whole group and toured the facility. However, this time, we were in a group of nine students and we got to speak with him about his business and passion of food. The group was made up of students in many different majors. A few of us were Hotel and Restaurant Management, Marketing, and Psychology majors. I loved how diverse our questions were for Mr. Colonna. He was very open about his career path and different restaurants. We really enjoyed all that he had to say about his business concepts and love of fresh, Italian cuisine. When we visited the resort the first time, our favorite part was Argo, Colonna’s sweet pup. Colonna informed us that Argo was missing this morning and they were trying to find him. We were sad that we didn’t get to play with him and concerned that he was lost. Finally, Argo returned and we played with him for the rest of our afternoon there. Perhaps the best part of our morning and afternoon came around lunchtime. Colonna treated us to an incredible meal that is worth explaining in detail. We started with a pork salad with fig and a berry jam for the appetizer. It was so incredible and reminded me of the porchetta for which Ariccia is known. Then, we ate homemade pasta with a light and savory mushroom sauce that was out of this world delicious. As if it couldn’t get any better, we then had dessert. I could’ve easily written this whole blog post about the flourless chocolate almond cake with raspberry sauce. It was absolutely decadent and the best part of my week! We were so honored to learn from such an incredible culinary genius and businessman.  The rest of our week consisted of creating our journals for class and spending time in Ariccia. We are all headed out for our mid-semester break tomorrow, but I am sure you will hear more about those in the coming weeks!

Until then, arrivederci!

Maggie Hannum

Marie, Chef Antonello Colonna, and Argo

Marie, Chef Antonello Colonna, and Argo

Buon appetito with Mary Lou

We are halfway through our Italian adventure – I cannot believe it! Things are slowing down this week as we work on our journals and have the opportunity to shadow professionals in our career of choice. Most everyone is splitting up to visit schools, hospitals, or other business settings, and I am looking forward to visiting Antonello Colonna’s Resort and Spa to learn more about the hospitality industry in Italy. However, here at the Palace we all have had the opportunity to learn one of life’s most necessary skill sets: cooking. Our cooking class teacher, Mary Lou, might as well be considered our “Chigi Grandmother.” She is a beautiful woman from South Africa revealing more to us about the art of cooking.


Over the past few weeks, she has shared the secrets behind some of Italy’s classic dishes: Amatriciana, Mushroom Risotto, Saltimbocca (“Jump in the mouth”), and Eggplant Parmesan. As if a delicious entree isn’t enough, Mary Lou follows each meal with a dessert recipe such as chocolate lava cake and the favorite, tiramisu.


Being a Hotel and Restaurant Management major, I eat up every second of the few hours we spend in the kitchen with Mary Lou. But, what I really love about our time with her is that she makes these fancy dishes so simple to make. I used to be intimidated to be a “risk-taker” in the kitchen; I never thought I could create a risotto dish and actually enjoy eating it! Yet Mary Lou’s patience and detail in explaining has made these seemingly unapproachable dishes very simple (and delicious)! We have all mentioned how excited we are to go home and make these dishes for our families, and we are learning these great recipes right before Thanksgiving.


I think it’s only appropriate to leave you with Mary Lou’s “Golden Rules of Pasta” as I close out the post of the day.

1. Boil a lot of water with a handful of salt.

2. You can add a drop of oil to stop the water boiling over.

3. Put the pasta in the water only when it is boiling and start counting the cooking time when it starts boiling again.

4. Stir from time to time to know if it is tasty enough – it mustn’t be “scialbo” (bland) and it must be served when “al dente” (to the tooth… biteable). If it’s overcooked it’s not easy to digest.

5. Have the table prepared, the guests on hand, and the sauce ready before you boil the pasta; it must be served immediately and hot!


If I’ve learned one thing through these precious moments with Mary Lou, it is this: take a risk. Don’t be intimidated to try something new. Every time you cook, you learn something – good or bad. Here’s to many more delicious meals to come!


Anne Carlton

Amatriciana and Chocolate Cake

Amatriciana and Chocolate Cake

Mary Lou teaching us how to create the delicious tomato and pancetta sauce

Mary Lou teaching us how to create the delicious tomato and pancetta sauce

Relaxing Weekend at Ranch Ricavo

Ranch Ricavo

The adorable ranch house!

The breathtaking view!

The gorgeous Tuscan Countryside

The group and staff at Ranch Ricavo

The girls and the wonderful staff at Ranch Ricavo.

This past weekend was the first weekend we have had the opportunity to travel on our own and we definitely took advantage of that! Some girls went to London, a few to Sicily and 10 of us traveled to Tuscany to relax on a ranch for the weekend. We actually found out about Ranch Ricavo through word of mouth from some past students who absolutely loved it! (They went back multiple times!) After hearing about how much they loved it, we had to check out why they fell in love with it.  Little did we know, the ranch ended up being a little piece of heaven. 

From the minute we walked off the train we knew it was going to be an amazing weekend. We were greeted with open arms by the owners Silvia and Marco who made us feel at home right away. Pulling up to the ranch was breathtaking; it is located in the Tuscan countryside and surrounded by gorgeous rolling hills. After we all got situated we had our first wine tasting followed by a horseback ride through the countryside. During our ride I thought about how what we were doing was literally a once in a lifetime opportunity; I mean who gets to ride a horse through the Tuscan countryside? At that moment I felt at peace and the most relaxed I have been in a long time. After returning from our ride we had our first dinner (or should I say feast!). We had homemade carbonara followed by chicken and roasted potatoes and then to top it off we had homemade chocolate cheesecake! It was all so amazing and you could tell it was made with love!

The next day we woke up and went for another ride then had a cooking class with Chef Ivan! We made homemade ravioli from scratch then a molten lava cake, which we were able to have for our dinner. Needless to say, it was heavenly.

This weekend was one filled with laughter, great friends and unforgettable memories. I am so thankful we had the chance to get to know the staff from Ranch Ricavo. They truly want each person to get the most out of their vacation and they do that by putting their heart and soul into everything they do. We even vowed to return in 10 years for a reunion!


Ciao Ciao

Emily Horne

Wine and Fairytales

When I was younger, the only stories I wanted to hear about were fairytales. The stories of princesses being swept off their feet by their prince charming or stories of wild adventures through beautiful places. Today, instead of watching or hearing of these stories, we were able to live out our own kind of a fairytale. A fairytale filled with lots of wine, food, and a beautiful garden.

The Marco Carpineti winery is an organic winery located in Cori, Italy. It is family owned and stretches over 50 acres of land. Thanks to our wonderful program, we were able to help the Carpineti family with their grape harvest this year! After we picked some grapes, we made our way to the cantina to learn how the process of winemaking truly works. Because we’re in Italy, it is obvious we go through our fair share of wine, and so I’m grateful we were able to see the process of how these winemakers make what we drink. Being in Hotel and Restaurant Management, this is a useful process to know. Picking the grapes and seeing the process was fun, but the best part of all was saved for last- food and wine tasting. We were taken to a beautiful room overlooking the land and were served incredible wine and food.


Some of the grapes we harvested!

Following the winery, we all made our way to the Ninfa Gardens. The second we stepped into the garden, I knew this would be one of my favorite places in all of Italy. I found myself surrounded by flowers, streams, and hundreds of trees and plants. These gardens made me stop and realize that the simplest of things bring the most happiness. I know I am not alone when I say that I could have sat in the Ninfa Gardens the whole day. Needless to say, this day proved to be a fairytale we will never forget.


The Ninfa Gardens



Our One-Month Anniversary!

It is hard to believe that exactly one month ago, I was saying goodbye to my parents at the airport and boarding the plane for Italy. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, and I was scared to death. As soon as I boarded that plane, my life was changed forever.

I can’t help but smile when I think back to that day. One month doesn’t seem like a long time, but I have grown more in the past month than I have in the past few years! This trip has provided such a hands-on learning experience that just can’t be achieved through textbooks. History has come alive for me as I stood in the Colosseum, walked through Pompeii, marveled at the works of Michelangelo and Raphael, and even toured the amazing Chigi Palace in which we are honored to live.

This trip is most certainly the adventure of a lifetime, and fortunately I am sharing this experience with 19 other amazing girls. It seems impossible that just a month ago we were basically strangers to each other, and now we are one big family. Together we are becoming stronger, more independent, and certainly more cultured. To sum it up, we are growing in so many different ways.

I am not the same girl that I was a month ago. I am learning to appreciate different cultures and lifestyles. I am developing a love for the arts and architecture that I used to take for granted. I am starting to stop and smell the roses, rather than constantly being in a hurry and not even noticing my own surroundings. I can’t wait to see what the next two months has in store for me!

We have gone from being strangers to best friends as we explore Italy!

We have gone from being strangers to best friends as we explore Italy!

War Eagle from Italy!

Brook Ladner