Timelessly Connected, Worldwide

It may be ironic that I got the acceptance email to be Auburn’s next graduate assistant for this program while at a food festival in my home city. Flash forward to today, I am nearly done with my time here in Italy and I can’t believe the amount of amazing food I’ve consumed in the past three months. Three months! Time flies but if there is something that I’ve really allowed to settle into my thoughts during my time here, it is to breathe in moments as if they are all you have. I have found the ability to focus less on the linear agenda of the experiences and more on the thoughts or emotions that certain places conjure up inside of me. Then of course, I snap back to reality and take notes on presentations, count students, or answer assignment questions.

I could bore readers with the logistics of being a GTA but there are hand-books for that. Instead, I want my words to reflect the growth and broadened perspective of a young adult who took a little break from the science world to learn about other things. Fashion (?!), architecture, Roman history, contemporary history, current world events, Greek mythology, philosophy- these are just a few of the class topics. I loved every minute of learning from the lecturers who are so passionate about their subjects and about us wanting to learn them as well.

Every place or thing is preluded with learning about it. We were never unaware of the richness of a structure or the vast history of a location. I could practically see the cities and people as they once were in some places just by the facts learned and the atmosphere of human connectedness. Our days were spent being gently nudged out of comfort zones and into places where we could expand our understanding and alter preconceived notions. We’re encouraged and shown how to humanize our knowledge of history.

Writing teachers do always say, “Tell them what you will tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them.” We learn what we’ll see, we see it, and then we reflect on what we saw. Veni, Vidi, Vici.

I could summarize this experience in so many ways but I will do so on this note. I will return to my life in America as still one in 7.4 billion living persons but I bring with me a larger identity with fewer boundaries of self. We’re not so different across times and borders, really.


By: Kathryn Heidt

Conversation With Nature

Conversation with a swan at Lake Garda, Torbole, Italy

La Dolce Vita


I am still in shock that we have just started the third week of my time here in Ariccia. The days here seem like they are never ending (in a good way), but the weeks come to an end in lightening speed. La Dolce Vita means The Sweet Life, and Italy is nothing short of sweet. All the way from different sights we have visited, to the people, and to the gelato, Italy does not disappoint in any department.

Since I am fashion major, it has been so fun for me to really get to see the way people dress in Europe. I have travelled to Amsterdam and Rome and the people in both places seem to have the same wardrobe: sneakers, jeans, and parkas! We seriously walk everywhere (thank goodness), so a cute pair of sneakers is a must. I have already invested in two pairs of Adidas, but I still have a long way to go before I achieve that cool European “street style”.

After long weeks and even longer weekends, I am so ready and so happy to be back home in Ariccia. Yes, the places we travel are so amazing, but nothing can beat the comfort of our home at the palace. We get to see the real side of Italy by living in Ariccia just because we are seriously immersed in this town and the culture.

Tonight we were ‘adopted’ by our Italian family, and I am so excited to truly see the way they live their lives, and to benefit from the food and the comfort of a family at the same time! I am looking forward to the rest of my time here, but I am making sure to not take any second for granted.

Patricia Flach

A Cut Above the Rest

My Mom and I outside of Ariccia,   where I am wearing my new leather jacket from Gabi.

My Mom and me outside of Ariccia, where I am wearing my new leather jacket from Gabi


From the moment I stepped out into the picturesque city of Florence, I fell in love. The beautiful Arno River, combined with the iconic duomo and big-city feel, made me realize this was my favorite place in Italy. Walking from street to street, I could smell the smooth aroma of leather. I immediately drifted off into fashion heaven. The first time I visited Florence, I was on spring break with my mom and dad. We had just finished our tour of the Accademia. After a quick treat, we passed by leather store after leather store until we found one that caught our eye: Gabi. I could not quite pinpoint why this store was so special; maybe it was the exquisite window displays, or the immense amount of merchandise that came in every color imaginable. We walked in and were instantly greeted by friendly Florentines. Their English was impeccable which made conversing with them that much easier. We asked them about their leather practice, and it did not take long to learn that they sourced everything locally. After looking around the beautiful store and feeling the handbags and coats, it was easy to see and smell that this leather was a cut above the rest. Needless to say, we were not in the leather market anymore. They were the perfect amount of helpful but not pushy, friendly rather than sleazy salesmen. After undressing numerous mannequins and looking through different mirrors, my mom, dad, and I each picked out a jacket that we loved. What makes this store even more special was my return to it two more times. When we went to Florence as a class, I was lucky enough to show my sister the ropes of Gabi. This time, there was a different woman working with her dog, George. George was an English bulldog that held an oddly close resemblance to Uga, the mascot of my sister’s alma mater. My sister travelled to Italy with her boyfriend, who tried on a few jackets. Though he was unable to make the final purchase, I went back later to buy his favorite jacket. (It’s going to be a birthday present, he just doesn’t know it yet.) I also picked out a genuine snakeskin purse for my sister. If I had any doubt about whether or not the purse was real, it quickly vanished the moment I felt the groves of the snakeskin. Though Gabi was a beautiful store with tons of products, the people that worked there made the store stand out. Unlike in the leather market, where one is constantly being pressured to buy products, this shopping experience was completely relaxed. Obviously, they wanted us to buy some of their merchandise, but they were also interested in hearing our backstory. They created locally sourced, well made products for reasonable prices. All in all, the experience at Gabi was lovely. My only regret is that we did not stay longer.



Anna Abernethy


Eating My Way Through Europe

I have always loved and appreciated good food and upon coming abroad, I was especially excited to try the local and fresh foods of not only Italy, but every other country I would visit. For our ten-day semester break, I had the chance to visit three amazing countries, one being Paris. While in Paris, I not only wanted to see sights such as the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Museum, but also try true French cuisine. One of my travel companions, Maddie, also shares the same interest in food as I do so the two of us decided to go on a food tour while in Paris.

We chose to go on a tour with ‘Secret Food Tours’ which offers a variety of different types of food tours within a few cities such as Rome, London, and Paris. The specific tour that we chose took place in the district of Montmartre, where Moulin Rouge and the Basilica of Sacré Coeur are also located. The quaint and bustling area has such a fun atmosphere and is especially known for its art and food. Within Montmartre, there are street art stands on almost every corner and a multitude of boutiques, boulangeries (French bakeries), gourmet food shops, and small, local restaurants. There was not a tourist in sight (except Maddie and me) which was a very refreshing change from really having only been around the touristy areas.

The tour guide of the ‘Secret Food Tours’ was a wacky, older French man named PJ. He had a thick French accent, a beret, and a serious passion for food and wine. It was great because he not only taught us all about French cuisine, but also talked about the history of Montmartre and walked us around the area. The tour group was a very odd mix of people: several different couples on their honeymoons and then two twenty-year-old college girls (Maddie and me). It was pretty clear that we didn’t really fit into the group but it was also great to meet and talk to people coming from all over the world on the tour.

The tour consisted of PJ taking us into a boulangerie, a cheese shop, and a meat shop. He would show us all of the different products sold in each gourmet shop and would talk about where the items came from. He then bought freshly baked baguettes, several different and unique types of cheeses and meats, and three types of local wines and took us to a restaurant in Montmartre. In the back of the restaurant, there was a table set up for the group. We were able to sit down and try all of the items while listening to PJ tell stories and give us pointers on how to properly taste wine and what cheese and meats to pair with which wine. Between the delicious spread of fresh food and all of the interesting information and pointers given by PJ, I was loving every minute of the tour.

After finishing up at the restaurant, PJ took us to a small creperie stand on the side of the road and a French macaroon and chocolate shop. There were many different fillings for the crepes and a variety of flavors of macaroons and chocolates. The crepes and macaroons were hands-down the best desserts I have ever had in my life.

This food tour was such a unique experience and definitely a highlight of my time abroad so far. I am looking forward to the many adventures to come and to continue eating my way through Europe.  (Secret Food Tours Website)


Maddie and me with PJ during the tour.


Lauren Andronico

Feeling the Burn!!


A view at the top of our climb!

I have got to start out this post by saying I love these girls. Aside from this being an incredible study abroad experience, I never thought that I would have such great memories with so many different people. The girls I am studying with are amazing, and the experiences we are getting to share together will keep us connected for the rest of our lives.

We spent the past weekend in the beautiful Cinque Terre. Getting there was a treat in itself! Coming from Florence, we each had an additional bag of souvenirs to drag around. We hopped on three different trains to get to Cinque Terre, and on our last connection we accidentally got on the wrong train! Once we were all settled into our seats, Cinzia jumped on and yell at us to get off, “you’re on the wrong train!” It was a mad scramble to lug all of our stuff back off and then waddle our way to the correct platform. We must have been a sight to see.

The first night there, a couple of the girls and I had so much fun sitting on the beach and creating our own little dance party. We were moving and grooving in the sand, belting it out to all of our favorite 2000’s throwbacks. Then, the following morning we set out with a tour guide to hike one of the harder trails in the area. I am embarrassed to say that my legs were on fire after the first set of stairs! I didn’t think I was going to make it the rest of the way, but with a little bit of team encouragement, and my refusal to let anyone show me up, I eventually made it to the top. We paused here to enjoy our well-deserved lunch and take in the beautiful views. It really was breathtaking. Then me and my shaky legs began the descent down the mountain. Every time I stopped to take a picture of the landscape, my legs would threaten to wobble me off the side of the cliff!

I really loved this mini-vacation to this beautiful town. Although my nose is burned and my legs are sore to the touch, I would hike any mountain with these girls again.


-Kayla Blaedow