A Presto! Translation: See You Soon!

One of my favorite photos-Chigi babies on the Grand Canal in Venice

How do I begin to sum up the last three months? How can simple words on a page capture the marvelously challenging adventure that is Joseph S. Bruno Auburn Abroad in Italy? It is a tall order, but I will certainly do my best.

As I reflect on this semester, a word comes to mind: unfolding. Just as the spring flowers slowly but surely unfold their tightly wound blossoms after the harsh months of winter, so too have these girls blossomed amidst the challenges that come from adapting to a new experience.

Tormane enjoying beautiful blossoms at Ninfa Garden

In the beginning, there was the expected clinging to the familiar and safe: small groups formed based on previous acquaintances from majors, girls pined for all things American such as Starbucks coffee and Chipotle. The program facilitators helped navigate every aspect of this new Italian lifestyle for the 22 “Chigi Babies.”

Slowly but surely, something wonderful happened.  A beautiful unfolding occurred as each student stepped up and continuously embraced the unfamiliar. New friendships formed through room pride (the girls live in one of four rooms in the Chigi Palace named after cities in Italy) that blossomed through competing for the coveted Chigi Award. Cultural awareness increased through learning to appreciate Italian habits such as leisurely dinners filled with wine, laughter, and pasta carbonara. Confidence grew through planning and executing weekend trips to various European countries while balancing a full semester of school, new friendships, relationships from back home, and much needed downtime.

Savoring “La Dolce Vita” as well as some Perugina chocolate

It has been a joy to see each girl shine in complex and challenging situations. From witnessing a Chigi baby navigate the city of Rome using only a map, a Rick Steves Italian phrase book and a cheery smile to woo any local for directions– to marveling at a group of students from various majors come together to create and pitch a concept for a hostel to an accomplished interior designer from a Rome firm in under 15 minutes.

As my time in Ariccia, Italy comes to a close, I am certain of this: this unfolding is just the beginning. There will be many more unknown experiences that will allow for tightly budded hearts to grow, expand, and unfold into the mystery that is life. You, my Chigi babies, have so beautifully illustrated this concept to me through courageously embracing your time here, and riding the wave of the adventure that is life. I thank you for allowing me to witness and be a part of your own, unique unfolding process.

I am not one for goodbyes so, to my Chigi Family: A presto: see you soon.

My little Chigi family

With love and gratitude,

Em Henry

Three Countries in One Day

Yesterday we had our penultimate field trip day before we head home. During the course of the day we visited three different countries and saw a multitude of amazing sights.

We started the day by taking the train into Rome and heading to the Vatican City to attend the Wednesday papal audience. It was a really amazing experience and an estimated 70, 000 people showed up in St. Peter’s Square to hear the Pope speak about child protection and welfare. I really enjoyed the service and even got to see the Pope up close as he drove by in his “popemobile”.


Pope Francis at the Wednesday Papal Audience

After we left the Vatican, we headed to Anzio where we stopped and ate lunch before heading to the American World War II Memorial Cemetery. The cemetery is an American territory in Italy that was gifted to the United States after the war. Inside the cemetery, there over 7,000 American soldiers buried there who lost their lives during the Sicily to Rome portion of the Italian campaign of World War II. More soldiers had been buried there originally, however, many of their families decided to have them returned home and buried near family after the war.


World War II Memorial Cemetery

During our tour of the cemetery, our tour guide, Veronica, brought us to a gravestone of an American who has close ties to the state of Alabama. It was the gravesite of Alwayne Dunlap of the 99th Fighter Squadron, better known as the Tuskegee Airmen. It is an incredible connection and he had such a great story.


Headstone of Alwayne Dunlap of the Tuskegee Airmen

Overall, it was an incredible day and fortunately, we had nice weather for once. I think we all enjoyed the visit to both the Vatican and Anzio yesterday, but we’re also dreading the fact that it’s almost time for us to go home.

-Victoria Campbell

If It Ain’t Baroque, Don’t Fix It!

Last Monday, the Chigi Palace hosted an event that was the first of its kind: an Honors College Baroque Banquet! Abbie Slade, Allison Miller, Christy Rolf, and I each researched a sensory experience of the banquets during the baroque period and then replicated those experiences in the palace.

Our welcome table for the banquet in front of the JSB banner

Our welcome table for the banquet in front of the JSB banner

The main room of the palace was almost unrecognizable with a single long table down the middle of the room with flowers and each guest having their own place card. There was baroque music playing and a slideshow on the television of the greatest artworks and sculptures of the time.

The set table in the main room

The set table in the main room

The meal that Abbie researched and we served was marinated and grilled chicken skewers, roasted and sautéed fennel, tomatoes, and eggplant, and pasta with a red sauce using ingredients customary of the time period. Wine was served as baroque banquets were meant for drinking and discussing the art, ideas, and politics of the world. To aid our guests with the discussion, Christy printed out table topics, and it was so fun hearing who everyone’s favorite artist was or what they thought of the courts of Italy. As a dessert, we brought out (as we know them) wedding cookies. The baroque desserts were all about sugar and this was the perfect representation of a pastry that the guests would have eaten. They melted in your mouth and were super sweet!

The last and most fun part of the banquet was our photo booth. Allison researched the fashion of the time and made little crown and hat cutouts that everyone used as props. We hung up a backdrop and set up the tripod and viola! We got some great pictures. I really hope there are honors students in the future that do something along these lines because, while it was for credit, it was one of the most fun dinners I have had in the palace.

Me, Allison, Abbie, and Christy in the photo booth

From left to right: Me, Allison, Abbie, and Christy in the photo booth

AJ Dessert

A Time for Pause

Throughout these past ten weeks, many different experiences have given me and others time to pause and reflect on ourselves. Within the College of Human Sciences, we are constantly taught to push ourselves to understand other cultures and not just appreciate what they can bring to the table but what brought them to this moment in time. I constantly am seeing this aspect intertwine itself within each and every one of my experiences and travel. Through our history classes with Marco, I have learned how different prominent moments in the past have shaped Europe and thus shaped their cultures and people.

Last night, we had class and dinner at Marco Antonini and Mary Lou Gray’s home. We spent the first two hours listening to Marco recount his personal experience with World War II and how history has shaped his life. Listening to the opposite side of the story opposed to how America experienced the war was fascinating. Not only did I find his account of history great, but really understanding how it brought Italy to be where it is today was helpful.

I constantly find the technique of compare-and-contrast helpful when I am trying to comprehend how different our cultures can be, yet how well we can work together too. Throughout these past weeks, I have found myself learning more about myself and how my ancestors were shaped by the situations they found themselves in and how those helped form me into the person I am.

Katie Bobo

The living Room of Marco's home was a great place to gather and reflect after he spoke.

The living Room of Marco’s home was a great place to gather and reflect after he spoke.

It’s a Give and Take

Being a tourist in Italy for the past two and half months, I’ve realized that we are the ultimate consumers. We go to ancient ruins and come away with souvenirs and amazing photographs. But when do we give back? Today, we were lucky enough to get to serve at the local homeless community, Caritas, which translates to charity. Caritas is an international program that “promotes human development and advocates on the causes of poverty and violence.” There are over 40 Caritas in Rome alone! It provides food as well as short and long-term shelter, all for no charge. However, if they choose to stay, they must meet with a social worker in hopes of finding a job. They also are encouraged to take classes to learn a different language, whether it’s Italian or English. The majority of the women and men residing in Caritas are immigrants, so this is a huge opportunity for them. I think it is a great program that gives hope to people that would otherwise have nothing. Getting to interact and talk with some of the people attending Caritas was a very humbling experience and made us all appreciate how blessed we are. Four of us were assigned to do the laundry, and the remaining girls helped with the distribution of food. Getting to experience a different side of Rome definitely opened our eyes to the economic problems that Italy is facing today. We’ve learned in class about these issues, but to experience them was something we will take with us far past our stay in Italy. I look forward to finding a local Caritas at home and being able to help out in the future like we did today.

Ciao, Sarah Donohoe


Helping to tag and distribute laundry

Helping to tag and distribute laundry

Cleaning up in the kitchen after dinner

Cleaning up in the kitchen after dinner