Adventures in Umbria

This past Tuesday, we embarked on our first overnight field trip of the semester. We managed to cover some serious ground in our two-day adventure. Our journey started bright and early Tuesday morning when we journeyed by bus to Assisi. We went on a guided tour of the Basilica of St. Francis. I had never heard of St. Francis prior to this trip but as we learned about him on Tuesday, I was quite amazed. He was born into a wealthy family and lived a privileged life.  However, later in life he discovered faith and became a beggar in the streets, an image of the humility of Christ. The basilica’s walls ornately told the story of his incredible life, stunning all who see it.

The Basillica of St. Francis

The Basilica of St. Francis

After our time in Assisi, we left for Perguia, home of the Perugina Chocolate factory. For all of the chocolate lovers of the world like myself, this is the place to go. We learned about the complete process of how chocolate is made and we were even able to take a tour of the factory to watch the employees at work. And of course, then there was the free sample part, in which no one in our group took for granted.

Our final stop of our overnight excursion was Orvieto, a beautiful little town that sits atop of massive hilltops. We had to take an elevator up from the road to reach the town and the view from the top was incredible. The town was so quaint and quiet and it proposed such a soothing atmosphere. We had such an amazing time walking around exploring and taking in the small town feel. The trip concluded with a stop to a lovely little vineyard run by a family. Our guide walked us through the wine making process and even allowed us to have a little sample. Italy continues to amaze me every single day. I love that this program allows us to travel and explore different towns that always seem to prove themselves to be hidden gems.  We had such an amazing time on our overnight trip through the region of Umbria that I most certainly will never forget.

The view from Orvieto

The view from Orvieto

Alex Vallett

Afternoon in the Vineyard

My how the time flies! It is incredibly hard to believe that we have called Ariccia, Italy our home for almost one whole month now. I know that my fellow students would agree when I say that we have loved every second and feel more comfortable everyday.

This week has definitely been a fun adventure for us, and one of my favorite weeks of all. What really sticks out to me the most this week is the vineyard that we were able to visit on Wednesday.

Trebotti, meaning three brothers in Italian, is a quaint vineyard tucked in the hills of Teverina. The views were unbelievable and the vineyards themselves were just like I had always imagined; perfectly straight rows of grape vines grew on wire racks, while deep colored grapes hung in bunches off of the vines. We were given a little bit of information about the particular vineyard we were looking at, such as the type of grape and the harvest time, and then we got to sample the grapes. And let me tell you, they were some of the best grapes I have ever had!

One of the beautiful vineyards at Trebotti.

One of the beautiful vineyards at Trebotti.

After touring the vineyards and sampling the grapes, we headed inside to see the equipment used in the process of wine making and got to sample some wine that was fermenting. Of course, the best part of all was the actual wine tasting. We were able to try multiple wines, both white and red, and learned a little bit about the flavor and type of grapes used to make certain wines.  We also had a lovely aperitivo to go along with our wine tasting. At the conclusion of the tasting and tour, we were able to purchase our favorite types of wines as well as special jellies that are also made at the vineyard.

Overall, Wednesday was such a fun day and an experience that I’m sure none of us will ever forget. I mean, how many times do you get the opportunity to tour a prestigious vineyard and try their expensive wines? We learned so much and had fun in the process. I would say that Wednesday was a success!

Until next time,

Meagan Vordenbaum


The Group Climbs a Volcano

Since the last post to the blog was on Wednesday, I guess it is up to me to cover our field trip to Pompeii at the end of last week.

Our journey on Thursday began at 6:30 am at the bus stop down the street from the Palace. With everyone feeling their absolute best, we ventured down to Mt. Vesuvius for a morning hike to the crater. It’s not the easiest of tasks when everyone is sleep deprived, but we all made it and can now say we have hiked to the top of an active volcano!

It was then on to Pompeii to tour the ruins of the city buried by the volcano we had just stood atop. The entire trip was very eerie. The most harrowing thing about our time there were the casts of the bodies that were preserved in the volcanic rock. Being able to see the bodies frozen in time in the same places where we were standing made the impact of the experience that much more touching. Seeing Vesuvius lurking over the Forum only added to that.

Changing gears from the melancholy parts of the visit, I think my favorite facts that our guide shared with the group were the two concerts that have taken place in Pompeii, Pink Floyd and Frank Sinatra.

Aside from the modern events that have happened at the site, the most amazing thing to me were the roads. The stepping stones to cross the streets during rains, and the small white stones dispersed throughout the large black ones on the roads for reflectors were astounding. The Romans really were way ahead of their time and it is mind blowing to see in person on all of these trips.

Our day on Vesuvius and in Pompeii was just the latest field trip that I consider our best trip yet. But, as mentioned in previous blog posts, that title is never held for long.

Eric Callaghan

Mount Vesuvius looking ominous over the ruins of the Pompeii forum.

Mount Vesuvius looking ominous over the ruins of the Pompeii forum.

Gettin’ Chigi With It All Over Europe

To say that these past three weeks have flown by would be an understatement. With packed schedules, field trips and school work, we have never stopped moving the entire trip, and I honestly don’t remember the last time I had a full night’s sleep, but I wouldn’t change a thing about it. This trip has already exceeded my expectations in every way possible, and I can’t imagine how it could get any better — but I know it will. We’ve traveled to the towns around Ariccia in the Castelli Romani and learned about the rich history in each one. We’ve traveled to see the sights and splendors of Rome including the Coliseum, the Roman Forum, the Spanish Steps and of course the Vatican. Some of us have already had the chance and were able to travel to Greece this past weekend. Needless to say, we are taking every opportunity to make the most of the twelve short weeks we get to spend here in the Chigi Palace.

Today, we had the chance to visit the Villa D’Este, which is a Renaissance villa and garden built in the mid 1500s by Cardinal D’Este. This garden features soaring fountains, breathtaking views of the cities below, and architecture only seen in movies. We had the chance to explore the gardens on our own and stood in awe as we learned that none of the fountains use electricity, they are all powered by hydraulics and pressure. I think it’s safe to say that today was one of the greatest days we’ve had so far; but then again, we say that every day.

-Christopher Vought

The group in front of a fountain in Villa D'Este

The group in front of a fountain in Villa D’Este

Cin Cin to Aperitivo

Today is a pretty big day for all of us here at the Palace. We are all buzzing around; cleaning, preparing, organizing, giving and taking orders. While everyone is in the early stages of excitement and nervousness, I have slipped away to fill you in on the night which will most likely be one we never forget. As of yesterday afternoon, we have been in preparation for this evening’s big event. We have been dividing up food and drinks and who gets what, etc. People have been running to the grocery store, the bakery, the butcher and the fruit stand (P.S. we are putting all of our Italian lessons to good use!) all in hopes of putting on the best aperitivo this program has ever seen. In American terms means appetizers or simple little snacks to eat before the main course. Now, we aren’t talking chips and salsa with some rolls and butter. No way. The Italians take a lot of things seriously, and food is most definitely one of those. Italians make American appetizers look awful to be quite honest. Now don’t get me wrong. I love Olive Garden breadsticks and a blooming onion from Outback as much as the next girl, but Italians seem to put something special into everything they cook, even if it just a small portion of the meal. So far, being here for a little over three weeks I have experienced an aperitivo twice and both times it was amazing. Now that I think about it, I do not think I have had a bad meal since I have here in Italy. Well, except maybe the ones I cook myself… But; that is a different story altogether. Hopefully this night will be filled with good people, good memories, and really good food. I hope we dig into our inner Italian and present our Italian guests with not only some finger foods but the genuine gratitude that we have for their culture and lifestyle. But sadly, this blog post must end because I cannot be slacking on my end of the cleaning! Ciao and chi chi!

-Ellis Baxter

Getting the wine and fruit ready for Aperitivo!

Getting the wine and fruit ready for aperitivo!

A Marble Mortar Into the Heart of JSB Italy Students

Grandeur can often be unsettling when one does not take a moment to experience it from without. For the better part of the day, we entered and exited buildings whose majesty and age were unparalleled in my eyes. Our guide and instructor did a wonderful job encapsulating the essence of the architects’ thought processes and the job they fulfilled for generations of posterity. There was, for most sights, a blueprint for the scale, ornate nature, and composition. These attributes bombarded me and cast all my precepts awry when the Victor Emanuel Monument came into focus.

Such a sight was a sumptuous delight, yet I must confess a tad bit audacious at first. The gravity of what this monument signified was lost upon me at first. Mrs. Ruth told us this monument honored the man who unified Italy. My first impression was this surely was an important event, but such a marble monolith seemed overblown. I attempted to take myself out of the equation. This region enjoyed bouts of stability, but for around two millennia it was enmeshed in a cycle of factions and emperors jockeying for control. There was an increase in appreciation for the marble celebration I was looking at. I began to get the impression this structure was comparable to my study abroad experience.

Before I came to Italy, everyone I knew asked me why I felt the urge to study abroad. They postulated their own reasons. I asked myself as well. Sights like this monument exemplify the fervor and benefit of this study abroad program in Italy. These masterful monuments renew the challenge inward. I was forced to view this sight with my soul and not my eyes. Sweat and blisters happen. Getting lost happens. This magical gaze redefines human capability. One can puzzle his mind about the merit of such a structure, yet I feel a much more worthwhile endeavor would be to marvel at the sheer energy it perpetuates. I know this program is worth more than I will ever know because every day it challenges my assumptions about what I thought was possible. I know in my educational pursuits if I struggle to find contemporary motivators that I can but gaze centuries or even eras into the past to grasp for the grand resolve of the human condition. Sometimes greatness warrants no further explanation other than awe.




A Massive Marble Climax

A Massive Marble Climax

Our Colossal Days in Roma

This past week was one that I wasn’t expecting, and I doubt one that my fellow classmates were either. Day 1 and 2 of the week were booked solid with our first real class days. Then, Wednesday came around. We gathered in the common room at 7 AM sharp, with our Roma passes in hand. All of us were thrilled to be spending the day in one of the most historic cities in the world. Little did we know we would walk almost 10 miles that day!

Once we arrived in Rome, we began our day at the Coliseum. The majority of us had never been there before. Immediately, we were filled with amazement at the size and splendor of it. It is HUGE! The thought of men building this gigantic arena with the equipment of their time is surreal. It is almost as big as Jordan Hare Stadium!


The Coliseum (thankfully we could get pictures of it without the scaffolding!)

As we left the Coliseum, we moved on to see the only three triumphal arches left in Rome, Caesar’s burial site, and the Wedding Cake (obviously my favorite because it represents cake) to name a few of our stops along the way. Our day was JAM-packed with history, laughter, lots of pictures, and good food.

By the time Thursday rolled around, we were exhausted. But we knew there were more places to see and more history to be learned. We pulled through and began our 7-ish mile journey through the rest of Roma! We did a lot that day, but mainly toured through the Vatican (with what seemed like the rest of the world), and it was breathtakingly beautiful.

After our field trips to Rome ended, I realized something. Even though we were all hot, sweaty, and exhausted, we still had a great time, and there was no where else I would rather have been. Traveling through the city together brought laughter and memories that I will never forget. I can see the kind of relationships forming between all of us that will be lifelong, and because of that, I am thrilled to see what the rest of the semester brings. Ciao!

Let the Grand Tour Begin!

Ariccia, Italy is electric; everyone can feel it. As of 2 September 2014, Ariccia found herself home to 18 American students. We have spent our first week cautiously, though eagerly, exploring our new surroundings. It has been a week of firsts, laughs, questions, exploration, and thrills. More than anything, it’s been a whirlwind of a week. A breakdown is necessary:


We arrive in beautiful Ariccia. As we test the waters of our new home, so also we test the waters of learning the 17 new faces we will be studying, living, and adventuring with.

Wednesday and Thursday

We begin to grow more familiar with Ariccia, the Chigi Palace, and each other. After tours, orientations, and meetings, we begin to think maybe we can successfully navigate the culture. Of course the first time we try ordering anything on our own we realize the necessity of survival Italian.


And just like that, we discover the world outside Ariccia! Friday is spent traveling to the other towns in Castelli Romani. Adventure exists in every direction, right outside our front door. We sample local fare, bask in breathtaking sights, and walk until we’re sure we must stop for [more] gelato 🙂

The Weekend

The need for adventure is palpable. The weekend ushers in our first opportunity to explore on our own for an extended period of time. So explore we do. Most of us find ourselves in the eternal city [ciao Roma], shopping and dining as history surprises us from every corner.

What a way to end the week! Fireworks from the festival right outside our front door.

What a way to end the week! Fireworks from the festival right outside our front door.

Back home in Ariccia, the town is alive as the Porchetta Festival commences. Music, lights, and merriment abound the entire weekend. And we could not agree more! We’re in Italy. Life is beautiful. So celebrate we must!