Jane the Donkey

Beautiful view from Civita di Bagnoregio! (the crumbling city)

Beautiful view from Civita di Bagnoregio! (the crumbling city)

This week we went on an overnight field trip to Umbria.  Our first stop was the cute little town of Assisi where we visited the Basilica of St. Francis.  We then took a hike to Civita di Bagnoregio which is also known as the crumbling city because it is in constant danger of breaking off due to erosion.  It has the most beautiful views and is highly recommended by Rick Steves!

Off to Orvieto we go!! This was probably my favorite town we have been to so far.  It has wonderful food and service from my experience.  The hotel’s shower was amazing, complete with a shower curtain (which is not always the case in Italy).  We finally got to visit a vineyard and it lived up to all my expectations.  I felt like I was in a scene out of a movie surrounded by mountains and olive trees and of course grapes! (well what used to be grapes because it is winter) The vineyard is called Trebotti because it is run by the 3 Botti brothers.  It is an organic vineyard that uses no tractors or harmful pesticides.  They have a organic lawn mower (a.k.a. a donkey named Jane).  We found out the hard way that the donkey likes to bite! The vineyard is also focused on sustainability which I found very interesting because that is a huge part of my schooling as an interior designer.  I have loved learning about all the different businesses in Italy and how so many of them are all family owned.  The Italians really have figured out the way to live; long dinners, naps in the afternoon, 5 course meals, fresh food year round, and the list goes on.  I am hoping to bring at least some of these customs back to the U.S.

-Carly Hamlett

Patience and Expectations

If there was a word I heard a lot coming into this trip (other than “jealous, ” of course), “expectations” would be number one. I was told not to have any expectations, low or high, about my trip or for anywhere I was going. If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that the invention of Pinterest made that goal almost impossible.

To be honest, it’s been so refreshing being out of the world of clicks and filters and into the real world. Not every day here is blue skies and pretty faces like what you see online, but that’s part of the joy of being here. We aren’t removed from reality; we’re living and breathing in Italian culture and life. Things here are slow paced… not shifting with every click of a button.  Everything I gathered from pictures before I came is nothing compared to what I’ve seen and experienced here.

Every Monday we have cooking class, where sweet Mrs. Mary Lou gives us little “nuggets” of cooking knowledge and we have to wait two hours to eat lunch every time. Sure, I’m starving at the end of preparing everything, but it helps me to enjoy it that much more.

There is a huge difference in the concept of food and eating between American and Italian culture. At home, since I can’t cook, I’m removed from my food. When I go out, I don’t see it prepared; it’s brought to me without effort on my part. When I eat in, it is sliced and packaged and ready to go, and I’m set for two weeks after a trip to Walmart.

Our failed attempt at making Nutella cake on our first Monday of cooking class!

Our failed attempt at making Nutella cake on our first Monday of cooking class!

Here in Italy, everything is fresh and takes time to prepare. We have to go see the mustache man, the precious grocery store owner, several times a week for supplies. I learn patience every time we have cooking class because I see step-by-step the time and care that goes into a meal. I learn to appreciate the company of friends as I sit down to enjoy what we’ve created. It’s these parts of the experience that I had no expectations of and yet have been my most valuable lessons.


Hope all is well in the States,

Katie Tynes

Cin Cin!

Upon our arrival to Ariccia, we were greeted warmly with food and wine. A lot of food and wine. We have learned about the Italian culture and how dining is more of an event than we consider it to be in the United States. Italians take the time to sit and truly enjoy their meals. We’ve also learned that many restaurants offer what is called aperitivo where you order a glass of wine and you also get a plate of various meats and cheeses. Our first wine tasting class was a sort of aperitivo because we were offered wine with the accompaniment of the meat and cheese plates. However, then we were to plan the aperitivo for not only our professors, but also the people of Ariccia whom we have grown closest with over the past month.

We were excited to put our own American spin on the traditional Italian aperitivo and when explaining the concept of this experience to others back home I would simply say, “It’s an Italian happy hour.” We provided red and white wines, sparkling water, various meats and chesses, bruschetta of all types, and more! We patiently awaited the arrival of our guests so they could indulge in our spread and mingled and got to know more about our professors and other visitors. Although we have already learned so much about our professors’ lives inside the classroom, it was interesting to talk with them about differences between the United States and Italy on various subjects. One thing in particular that really stuck out to me was when one of our professors said that Americans don’t make as much of an effort to learn other languages like they do in Europe, for example. We agreed but also related it to the fact that when we travel or go on vacation, we usually stay within the United States, traveling to other states, whereas in Europe, you can easily travel to different countries and learn about their languages and cultures. Our professor agreed, but also continued to say something that really surprised me. He told us that his opinion was that we, being the United States and specifically our generation, is the world. He said that it is his hope that we are accepting and open minded to other countries and cultures.

I was surprised to hear that he held the United States to such high standards, especially knowing stereotypical views Europeans have of Americans, but I was also honored. I reassured him as best that I could because as a whole I think the United States and especially our younger generation, is very open to changing laws and society. It is this open-mindedness that will allow us to branch out from what we know and enhances our desire to learn about other countries and cultures. It made me feel good to know that someone not only agreed with the choices I was making to study abroad but also encouraged further knowledge and discovery to really change the world.


Our spread of wine and wine cookies in preparation for the aperitivo!

Shaye Sullivan

Smell the Flowers

“Don’t hurry. Don’t worry. You’re only here for a short visit so be sure to smell the flowers along the way.”

I opened my journal to find this quote by Walter Hagen written finely at the bottom of today’s page. It is no coincidence how a cheesy quote like this completely changed my attitude on life right now. It’s not that I am not enjoying myself (because I am more than enjoying myself!), it’s that I am eager to travel anywhere and everywhere, and have little time to do so…It’s that my focus often drifts to my tomorrows and I forget about the joys of today. I am in one of the most beautiful and quaint little towns in the world, but wanderlust continues to captivate me as I daydream about my weekend trips to Barcelona, London, and Prague. This quote was a wakeup call, and I am ever so thankful for reminders like it to be present and be content with where I am.

Don’t let my words confuse you about how WONDERFUL Ariccia, Italy is. It is truly all that I imagined: the friendliest of people, incredible Italian food, beautiful orange and pink sunsets, the wisest of teachers, and lots of wonderful people to share all of these things. How could I even think about tomorrow when there is so much to enjoy today?

I am truly blown away by all that Ariccia has to offer, but most of all I am thankful for the instructors, their knowledge, and the example they are setting for us as we experience so much newness. Mrs. Mary Lou, our Italian cooking teacher, is a prime example of someone who has experienced life to the fullest and who has used her experiences to grow and enjoy life fully. Just listening to her talk as she delicately cuts, pours, stirs, and creates, is proof of how living in the moment and learning from the past brings her contentment! You can literally tell through her sweet spirit how much joy the Italian culture and way of life has brought her. One thing I am learning through Italian culture and my teachers is this idea of simple living. Italians seem to be gripped by the enjoyment they find in their daily routines. They wake up for work and school at reasonable hours, grab an espresso and a yummy pastry, visit the local market very often for fresh, all natural foods, close their stores at random times just because, enjoy aperitivo after work, and focus on enjoying each bite of dinner in the company of friends and family. It’s these small things in life that we can so easily miss when our goal is not to simply enjoy, but to get to the next destination. As an American who goes through each day fast-paced, with a mindset of efficiency, I struggle with simply living in the moment. I don’t want to pack my bags and head back to the states in 9 weeks wondering if I truly lived every moment to the fullest. I want to know that I got all that I could out of my interesting classes, field trips, leisure time, and incredible teachers. For now, I want to live as the Italians do – enjoying the simplicity of my daily life here in beautiful Ariccia – So, I will focus on the present, enjoy today, and not forget to smell the flowers along the way.

This is a view of the bridge from an upstairs window in the Chigi Palace. It's not a bad view! In fact, this bridge is one of my favorite parts about Ariccia. I'm so thankful for my time here in such a beautiful place!

This is a view of the bridge from an upstairs window in the Chigi Palace. It’s not a bad view! In fact, this bridge is one of my favorite parts about Ariccia. I’m so thankful for my time here in such a beautiful place!

Fino alla prossima volta,

Ruthie Tarwater


Volcanoes and Ruins

As we are now wrapping up the third week of our semester long adventure, we are finally starting to get into a routine. Weeks are divided by class days and field trip days, and the highlight of this week was the field trip on Tuesday to Pompeii.

Unfortunately, due to weather concerns, we were not able to hike Mount Vesuvius as was originally planned, but we did get the chance to see it from a distance on our tour of the ancient ruins of Pompeii. It shocked many of us to find out that Mount Vesuvius last erupted in 1944 and still has the possibility to go off today. In fact, many of us jumped at the sound of thunder, thinking that is actually came from the volcano itself. Luckily, we all survived and learned that if the volcano were about to erupt, there would be notice and time to evacuate, so our minds were eased. In fact, long ago when it erupted and destroyed the town of Pompeii, only 2,000 out of the population of 20,000 did not evacuate and perished. The lava of the volcano never actually reached Pompeii, but the ash covered up the entire town and was the demise to the remaining citizens. While the city was abandoned, archaeologists have done a great job of preserving the original structures and buildings and although there have been some renovations made to reconstruct, the majority of the original town and structures still stand today!

A group of us girls in front of Mount Vesuvius.

A group of us in front of Mount Vesuvius

It was so cool and intriguing to see and learn about another culture and imagine what life was like hundreds of years ago. Each and every week of lectures and field trips brings new opportunities and a plethora of knowledge and new experiences. I find that I have to pinch myself every day to stop and take a moment to soak in all of the information and realize that I am actually not dreaming, but seeing and experiencing with my own eyes all of these things that I have only before read about in history books.

Overall it was a great week, and this weekend, almost everyone in the group is making the first weekend trip of travel outside of Italy. I am going with a group of girls to Barcelona, Spain, while another group is heading to Paris. Can’t wait!


Ashley Weaver

The Grand Tour of Rome


This past week in Italy has been full of wonder, laughter, and sunshine. Where to begin. Rome is everything I could have hoped for and so much more. Rich in history and full of splendor, I could not imagine studying abroad near anywhere else. Among the historic sights I visited this past week are the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, the Non-Catholic Cemetery, the Spanish Steps, the Vatican, and St. Peter’s Basilica. One thousand miles later, each and every moment was simply amazing.

IMG_6928View from the top of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City

I could try to describe each sight, but my words could never do them justice. One could hardly describe walking on the same roads as Caesar, standing where Peter was crucified, or climbing to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica to watch the sun set over Rome. It is equally difficult to describe the joy found in laughing while running through the streets of Rome, umbrella-less in the pouring down rain, to make the last train home — all the while making wonderful memories with new friends.

IMG_6938After climbing to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City

Needless to say, this past week has been a whirlwind of a “grand tour” of Rome, and I’ve loved every second of it. Am I exhausted? Yes. Am I dreaming? Maybe. But mostly I am just thankful. I am thankful to be living in this beautiful country, and I am thankful for my parents’ generosity in giving me this adventure. Rome is magical, its sights magnificent and thought provoking. It is most certainly a city that everyone should have a chance to experience firsthand.

Warmest Regards,

Kristin Parsons

Aperitivo on Monday…Wine not!


This past Monday we had our first Aperitivo and wine tasting! Earlier that day, we had a wine history class, which helped us understand a huge part of Italian culture.  The vino was excellent and we all had our different opinions about each bottle that we tried. It offered a great opportunity to spend time with the leaders on the program in a casual environment.

During the wine tasting, we were provided with an assortment of snacks including different meats, cheeses, olives, and breads from the program! It was so hard to wait for the aperitivo to start since we were all so hungry but we fought through our class and everyone had an absolute blast at the aperitivo! In this program, we are required in a few weeks to host an aperitivo for our professors and members of the community that we choose to invite! I know this has been all the girls’ favorite night so far on this trip! It was such a fun experience with our teachers.

This week we had classes three days, which is unusual but is fine because all the classes were spaced out to give us enough time in each one without being stressful and an opportunity to spend time with the professors in the classroom and ask questions. Survival Italian is a lifesaver!! It has helped us communicate properly with the shop owners and build a working relationship for when we go across the street each morning for our 1 euro cappuccinos! Arrivederci Auburn!


-Madison Bailey

Apertivo in Palazzo Chigi!

Aperitivo in Palazzo Chigi!


Auburn Invasion

Dragging two giant pieces of luggage across cobblestone roads with 19 other girls was a scene many citizens of Ariccia see each semester.  It was a humorous sight to behold. After trekking the short distance (although it seemed like miles), we arrived at the doorstep of our new home.

By “new home, ” I actually mean palace. We are the lucky few that call the historical Chigi Palace our home. For 12 weeks we will take classes here, eat here and get to know one another. By the end of the semester, this will be our home.

This week is entitled “orientation week” on our schedule. I feel like we have been constantly trying to orient ourselves. We are in a new city, new country, new continent and a new culture. Therefore, becoming familiar with this place is vital.

The first full day was long due to jet leg. We were taken on a walking tour of our new hometown in order to become better acquainted with Ariccia. Through our sleepy eyes, we experienced the charm it has to offer.

As the week progressed, we went on a group tour of Castelli Romani. Our little town is a part of this area. The surrounding towns we visited were Castel Gandalfo, Grottoferrata, Frescati, Nemi, Genzano, and Albano. Each possessed its own character. For example, Castel Gandalfo houses the pope’s summer villa and Nemi is known for growing small strawberries from volcanic soil. The towns’ personalities show through these unique contributions.

Although this place is still unfamiliar to most of us, it offers excitement. We have much to learn and explore as the weeks progress.


Catherine Godwin

Group of girls in Nemi on the tour of Castelli Romani

Group of girls in Nemi on the tour of Castelli Romani