Rome is a beautiful place. The first time I arrived to this part of the world in the summer of 2011, I was completely and utterly awestruck by the beauty and antiquity of everything around me. I love America but coming to this part of the world is a truly special and unforgettable opportunity for which I am so thankful. It is not every day that I am able to step back 2500 years and imagine what life must have been like while standing next to the ancient ruins of that time.
Coming to Rome for the second time, I knew more of what to expect. I remember feeling like an ant while standing inside the Pantheon the first time I saw it. However, seeing it again was like greeting an old friend, not quite as novel and jaw-dropping but still amazing. I now realize that living here for 3 months is a completely different story. I’ve begun to feel myself becoming desensitized to the history and beauty around me. More like it has simply become a part of every day life. It’s no longer a novelty to walk down a cobblestone street into a piazza with a beautiful Bernini fountain. It’s simply my walk to the restaurant with the good paninis.
I am constantly reminding myself to step back and take it all in while I can. The atmosphere is electric and magical. I know in 4 short weeks I will be back in the United States and missing this place more than I can imagine. I love that I now know beautiful Rome so well and can maybe even say that I feel more like a local than a tourist.
(From left to right) Ashley Lorenz, Courtney Fletcher, Ginny Nicholson, Courtney Day, and Sarah Crouch – exploring Rome at the beginning of our stay.
I will forever be inspired by the passion of this culture. Upon arriving in Italy, I eagerly anticipated traveling every weekend to a new and exotic place— traveling as much as I could. But, I quickly realized that I did not need to travel far to have the experiences that I wanted. In fact, the days I stayed in Ariccia or took the train into Rome were my most memorable.
The simple and slow evenings in Italy taught me to leave my phone at home. Italians do not live through screens, they live out every simple moment. They focus not on a screen, but on the eyes of the people around them. They enjoy the pure and savory tastes of their food and thrive on building lasting relationships.
As much as I constantly wanted to capture every moment through pictures, I realized I was missing out on appreciating the moment. One of our lecturers told us in class that Italians don’t eat alone, and I found this very true. They constantly choose to surround themselves with people they love by enjoying a meal together. When one is surrounded by good company there is no need to document every detail.
After learning to embrace the uncertainty of communicating, getting around, and honoring the culture, I realize that being in a foreign country is difficult. As I create my own path towards contentment, I will begin to challenge myself to exercise my heart by understanding and experiencing how Italians really live out their happiness. I have learned to enjoy the present as it comes and put my agenda behind me.
Life around Chiesa Sofia
Coming into this program, I could not have been more excited. I had traveled a good bit growing up; although, never for more than several days. But, I knew I loved traveling. I love exploring new cultures, tasting new foods, and seeing the beautiful sights of the world. However, there is a huge difference in a week vacation and actually living in another country for three months. I always thought it was fun to pick up foreign words here and there while traveling. I thought I was doing well to know how to say “Hello” or “Thank you;” yet, that can only get me so far.
This program has been such a growing experience for me. I have learned that in order to truly immerse myself in a foreign culture, I have to go, as we Auburn people like to say, “all in.” The more I try to learn the language, to meet local people, and explore beyond the tourist attractions, the more I begin to see the beauty of a new culture.
Even though it is sometimes hard to communicate because of the language barrier, I have met some of the nicest people here in Italy. As much as I like to think I blend in sometimes, I seem to always have people approach me, both young and old, wanting to know how I am liking Italy, how my studies and traveling are going, and wanting to give me suggestions on places to go. It is so comforting to meet people with such great hospitality.
I especially appreciated the great hospitality when we had our dinner with our “Italian Family.” I had so much fun getting to have dinner at their home and really getting to know the family, even with a slight language barrier. Although we have grown up across the world, it is neat to realize how alike we are. The children of the family I visited with had studied abroad just like me, and had lots of tips for travel. The matchup with an Italian family has been one of my favorite experiences so far. I am excited to see what else is to come!
Eating at one of our favorite local restaurants in Ariccia, known to Auburn students as the “Sunflower Restaurant”
This past weekend, I took a trip to Barcelona, Spain with nine of the other Chigi Babies during our personal travel time. The interior design girls were very excited to get there because they had studied a lot of the city’s architecture. I couldn’t wait to get there because I had always heard so many wonderful things about the city, and had also learned a lot about the city’s art in an art history class. All of us on the trip continuously joked that we would be moving there one day.
Aside from the paella, tapas, sangria, and soccer, the main thing everybody knows about Barcelona is Gaudi. He was the most important artist of his time. His most famous works are Sagrada Familia and Park Güell. Sagrada Familia is a ginormous church that still hasn’t been completed! Park Güell is a large park, that was originally intended to be a housing development, covered in beautiful mosaics. Even though these two sites are the most popular, one can simply be walking down any street and stumble upon a work of Gaudi.
While in Barelona, our hostel provided a free walking tour. Going on this tour was one of my best decisions. I learned so much history about the city. Barcelona is different from the rest of Spain. It is mostly made up of people called Catalans. The Catalans are very proud people and still want to be their own independent country. They have their own language, architecture, art, and traditional foods. The girls and I loved learning about their history and culture.
Visiting Gaudi’s Park Güell
At the end of the weekend, we were excited to get back to our palace in Ariccia, but Barcelona was definitely a nice change of scenery. The people, city, and food were all beautiful. The city has something for everybody. We all found a different piece of the city to call our favorite. If I could suggest one place to travel to during the free time within this program, it would definitely be to my future home, Barcelona.
I knew that studying abroad would be exhausting, I just didn’t realize how exhausting it would be. Weekdays are packed with interesting lectures on topics ranging from any and every subject, plus field trips to sights we learn about in class. Weekends are given to the students to do as we please. Knowing that our time abroad is limited, the Chigi babies have not been spending our weekends catching up on sleep. Instead, we have been spending our personal travel time jet-setting to the cities of our dreams: Paris, Monaco, Budapest, Prague – you name it!
A few of us Chigi babies spent one of our weekends in Munich!
It is a well-known fact that I have a severe case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). I find myself worrying that if I don’t try to do every possible thing that there is to do in a city, I will have missed some life-changing moment. Should I try to see every sight in a city that is twice (if not three times) as big as my hometown all in the span of two days? Probably not. Do I continue to do so every weekend anyways? You bet I do.
I asked myself this morning if trying to experience all a city has to offer is worth missing out on a little extra sleep. I honestly changed my answer at least 7 times but I finally decided that it is, without a doubt, worth every hour lost. How many times in my life will I be able to say that I hiked Mount Vesuvius or that I swam in the Mediterranean Sea at sunset? How often will I get the chance to spend a weekend in an amazing city like Rome, Munich, London, or even Barcelona with new friends I didn’t know I would have? The answer, for me at least, is probably once, and that one time is now. So while I may keeping saying that my legs hurt from walking or that I could really use a nap, I will continue to happily give up my sleep this summer because I can sleep when I’m dead.
One thing I have really appreciated since signing up to study abroad with the Joseph S. Bruno program is how organized and thought out every detail is. Before coming to Italy, we had the opportunity to sign up for two optional field trips, which were organized and planned by the program. This weekend I had the opportunity to attend my first optional field trip to Positano. Positano, which is the pearl of the Amalfi coast, was the perfect way to spend the end of week four with all 22 girls. A relaxing beach town, with amazing seafood and spectacular views was just what we all needed after a couple of hard days in the classroom. One of the great things about the optional fieldtrip was that we did not have to do any planning! It was so nice to not have to worry about transportation or trying to book a place to stay. Another great thing about the optional field trip is that there were no planned activities during the day so we had all day to explore on our own.
View of the Positano coastline upon arrival Thursday afternoon
On Friday, many of us relaxed, shopped and slept by the beach and on Saturday many of us took to the ocean to go on excursions sailing to Capri and around the Amalfi coast. My favorite part of the weekend was getting to know the other girls in my group better by hanging out with them on the beach. I think it is great that the program organizes a couple of optional field trips for its students over the semester because it helps the group to bond as a whole. It also helps us to get to know the girls that we might not have known as well prior to the trip. Since the first optional field trip to Positano was great, I can’t even imagine how wonderful the next optional field trip to Cinque Terre will be!
Elizabeth Ann Satterfield
I believe some of the best blessings in life are the experiences you have and the people you share them with. This week, I received a truly huge blessing and it came straight from the man himself, Pope Francis. After waking up at 5 am, standing in line for an hour, sprinting to the gates, waiting inside Vatican City for two hours, and fighting for a spot near the Pope’s path with a million 2nd graders, I finally got the ultimate selfie and I am extremely proud.
My “ultimate” selfie with Pope Francis
However, this experience was not about getting the selfie of a lifetime and being able to post the picture on Instagram and Facebook. I was in the presence of the man that is known as “God on Earth” and what is more humbling than that? As a group, we were able to be a part of the Papal Audience and listen to Pope Francis speak on poverty in the world. One of the most interesting things that happened was that Pope Francis did not have bullet proof glass surrounding his Pope Mobile. Talk about a man with no fear. During the actual service, he sent his blessings to each and every person in the audience, their families, and said every country by name that was in attendance.
As of now, life in Italy could not be better. Each day is better than the day before and for that I am extremely grateful. Keep sending your prayers our way and we will keep making the absolute best of this experience.
From all of us to all of you, ciao belli!
Street graffiti in Athens describing my feelings about Greece
One thing I have greatly appreciated about this program is the opportunity it provides to see other countries and cultures. This past weekend, friends and I took advantage of this and headed over to beautiful Greece.
We spent our first two days in Aegina Island, which I had never heard of before this trip. This tiny but beautiful island was filled with hospitable locals that made our experience all the better. We stumbled upon a family birthday party and were heavily persuaded to sit and feast with them. After enjoying birthday cake, we were swept away in traditional Greek dancing which even included jingly skirts and finger tambourines. We all had a blast and were blown away with our luck of getting to have such an authentic experience.
Besides the friendly welcome, the food was beyond amazing. We tried gyros, octopus, stuffed peppers, chocolate cake, Greek salad, spinach pie, and of course buckets of Tzatziki. It was all so flavorful and fresh. As a Dietetics major, the time, energy, and joy that is spent on and taken from food hits home with me. I savor Europe’s pleasure in food, and I pleasure in savoring their food. I cannot wait to take back to the states what I have learned here about eating slowly and enjoying food with family and friends.
These few words don’t even begin to scratch the surface of a wonderful summer. I have learned that there are some moments in life that simply cannot be described or explained, but must be experienced. I am so thankful for the memories I have made so far and know the best is yet to come.