Welcome to Our Home in Your Home

Tonight, we Chigi babies hosted an aperitivo in order to show our gratitude for our professors, lecturers, and the townspeople whom have all welcomed us with open arms. An aperitivo is an Italian tradition of a pre-dinner drink, typically wine or sometimes cocktails, served with finger foods. The aperitivo is meant to open one’s palate while giving time to relax and socialize. In Italy, aperitivo is typically from 6pm-9pm.

For our aperitivo we tried to stick to a southern theme in order to share a piece of our home with our Italian family. The dishes served included a cheese platter, cornbread, guacamole, spinach and artichoke dip, grilled cheese, smoked weenies, pigs in a blanket, pizza bread, egg frittata, chicken salad, arugula and watermelon salad, peach cobbler, toffee, cookies, and of course lots of wine!


The group, minus Courtney Day, with our home cooking (Photo taken by Cinzia)

Everyone we’ve met through the Joseph S. Bruno program is so compassionate and loving. All of our teachers have a fire for life within them. They are all so intriguing, and genuinely want to get to know us. It was wonderful to be able to sit down and have authentic conversations with people. I highly enjoyed the evening and getting to know everyone on a casual and deeper level. I was overfilled with joy when Mary Lou, our cooking teacher, told me that she loves our sweet group already, just after 16 days of us being here!

I finished the night with a full stomach and an even fuller heart. I am so grateful for my time in Italy, and for the relationships I’m gaining with everyone on this trip.


Leanna Conner

Above & Beyond

Francesco sharing his wisdom at the Chigi gardens

The first impression I had of the classroom lecturers was that they were the most kindhearted and personable people I had ever met. Francesco and the other lecturers were incredibly welcoming and it was easy to see that they genuinely cared about the betterment of the students. As we have begun to learn more and more from them, their passion shines through every word they say and that is what makes them such compelling lecturers.

This is evidenced by the time we ran into Francesco while doing the scavenger hunt in Rome. We were feeling a little overwhelmed by the vastness of Rome when we saw him with his grocery cart while he was on his way to the store! He was just as excited as we were and stopped what he was doing to show us around the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. He spent the next hour giving us a tour of the church, showing us the importance of the Chigi family there, and introducing us to a friend of his that is a priest! When we left the church and said goodbye to Francesco, we were rejuvenated and ready to take on the city with fresh vigor!

Francesco has such a gift for making history come alive to people who have never studied it and we were so grateful for the unexpected opportunity in Rome. On top of all of his hospitality and humility, his influence and reknown within the community and around the world is unmatched by anyone I know. It is such an honor to learn from such world-class people such as Francesco.

To all of our gracious lecturers, thank you for going above and beyond with your students!

Grazie mille,

Caroline Collier


Home Is Where Ariccia Is

Group standing in front of Coliseum

Group standing inside the Colosseum – from left to right: Courtney D., Caroline C., Ginny N., Elisabeth E., and me (Mary Maud M.)

It is week three here for us Chigi babies in the beautiful place of Ariccia, Italy. This past week we toured the Vatican, Roman Forum, and Colosseum – and what an adventure that was! We also learned from Mary Lou how to prepare a real Italian meal from and had our wine tasting class with Maurizio. Thinking back, I know that I could not navigate/survive (this week especially!) without the help of Roberta, Cinzia, and Linda!

I completed an assignment this past week that consisted of explaining the highlights of an incredibly gorgeous and old Roman arch called the Arch of Titus. I had so much fun learning about the Roman Forum and how important everything inside it is. The fact that so many parts of the Forum left there is so preserved and sturdy, gives me chills. It makes me feel so small, but very much in awe. Sometimes I get caught up in daily life, like traveling or homework, and forget to notice, and most importantly, soak up, the rich history of the world that we are living in.

After a long week of classes and touring Rome, I embarked on a journey to Munich, Germany along with ten other awesome gals. We visited the famous Catholic Church in downtown Munich, toured Dachau’s concentration camp/memorial site, and ate way too much food. As much fun as we all had, I have never missed my twin bed in Ariccia as badly as I did Sunday night,-while traveling back. As I stepped off of the jet in FCO airport, I had a calm spirit and thought to myself, it’s good to be home.


Mary Maud Meacham

We are F-A-M-I-L-Y

  It is week two on our personal Grand Tour . When I first arrived on my Grand Tour I was excited for the places that I will would visit, but I am quickly learning that this Grand Tour is not a solo adventure. It is a journey that I will continue on with 20 students, 1 teacher’s assistant, and 14 amazing lecturers.

  On May 11th, 21 girls landed in the Rome airport anxiously anticipating the summer ahead. We pulled up to a beautiful light blue palace that will call home for the next 12 weeks. During that first week, it was whirlwind of new faces and people. Some faces, I recognized from a class or passing by in Spidle. As the week went on I found my self myself getting to know each girl in a unique way.

  Later in the week, we are introduced to our faculty. The faculty has been thrilled to share their extensive knowledge of the Italian culture. Linda, Cinzia, and Roberta are like the three guardian angels. They each have a unique strength that allows them to work as a team. Having them around, has allowed the transition into a new culture a breeze. They are always willing to help in any way they are able to, just like a mom.

  Between the 21 girls and the faculty, it seems like we created a new little Chigi family. It is a strange sensation going from strangers to best friends looking out for each other while traveling in Rome and new cities. Even from just a few short days, I can already guarantee these friends have turned into family experiencing a summer of a lifetime.

-Courtney Fletcher


Our first group picture on top of Montecavo.


Inspired; Even By Mondays

We made it to “Ah-ree-cha,” and thank goodness we are finally over the jet lag and starting to get settled into this beautiful place we get to call home. It has been one week, and yet it feels like a month and a day all at the same time because we have seen and done so much. I am so inspired by everything around me right now because there is beauty everywhere I look. It makes me want to become an artist or go write a book.

I can speak for all 22 of us when I say that this has been a much-needed change of pace. We are beginning to get used to eating for hours and sitting around drinking wine over good conversation. Aperitivo is everyone’s favorite because who doesn’t love cheese, bread, and meat? I’m a foodie, and it seems like everyone else is too, so we are all getting along just fine. Our nights are usually spent cooking dinner, drinking wine, and pretending we can speak Italian. We’re learning. Life isn’t bad at all.

Italy is the only place that makes Mondays look good because we have our cooking class with Mary Lou, and last Monday we even had a wine tasting with Maurizio. Mary Lou taught us how to make the most amazing carbonara and tiramisu, while Maurizo taught us about the history of wine. We tried several different types of wine and enjoyed a light aperitivo prepared by our lovely lecturers. Speaking of our lecturers, they are all so wonderful and selfless, and we really appreciate all they do!

Mary Lou explaining how to cook pasta properly. Isn't she beautiful?

Mary Lou explaining how to cook pasta properly. Isn’t she beautiful?

I’m sad one week has already come and gone, but I also feel so fortunate that we each get to have this experience of a lifetime!

Elisabeth Epperson

Goodbye America and Ciao Italy!

Ciao from Italy! We have been here for 6 days now and we love Italy. It is prettier than the pictures on postcards and travel books. After a long day of travel we were able to explore the beautiful streets of Ariccia. It is a small town with a lot of food, culture, sweet people, and history at every corner. The Chigi Palace is stunning and a fun fact is that Bernini renovated it from 1664 to 1672. It is surprisingly very spacious for 22 girls to live in and has an incredible park with ancient Roman ruins in our backyard.

Sarah, Ginny, me, and Caroline (left to right) at Castel Gandolfo.

Left to Right: Sarah, Ginny, me, and Caroline  at Castel Gandolfo.

We have been traveling around Castelli Romani, which means Roman Castles. We went to Castel Gandolfo, Frascati, Nemi, Genzano, and Grottoferrata. They are all small towns, but they all have different, unique attractions. Nemi has delicious, tiny strawberries that are so sweet they taste like candy. Grottoferrata has the breathtaking Abbey of Santa Maria di Grattaferrata. The chapel is stunning with so much detail, stunning marble, and beautiful paintings. Frascati is fun to explore and is the home of the lovely and palatial Villa Aldobrandini.


It has been more of a challenge with communicating than we were expecting. The first time a few of us went to buy cappuccinos was a shock because we could not tell them our order. Luckily, the townspeople are all very sweet and welcoming and they understand that we speak little Italian. Even though the language is difficult, we have still been able to translate the menus to figure out what to eat. The gelato is out of this world and the gnocchi is, so far, my favorite pasta. We are all so excited to learn more about this amazing town, Italy’s history, explore Italy, try every food possible, and get to know one another even more.



Mary Cameron Faison