Inspired in Umbria

It’s already week five (what?!!!) and we took our first overnight field trip as a group last week! We got to dip our toes in to the uniqueness that encompasses Umbria. Umbria is known for its medieval towns, amazing truffles, wine, and its artistic presence. It’s been called the “Green Heart of Italy” and it’s easy to see why traveling through the countryside to each city. We spent the week going back to the dark ages and experiencing the architecture, art, and history that lies within the streets of Assisi, Perugia, and Orvieto.

I would say my favorite part of the trip was getting to experience the everyday work of the artisans who live there. As a group, we got to go to a goldsmith studio, hand-weaving workshop, stained glass workshop, and then in two smaller groups, either a woodworking studio or a pottery studio. With each experience we got to see firsthand what it is like to work in these studios and talk to the people who make it happen. It was so inspiring to watch them light up as they explained to us what they do everyday and how much love and pride each of them had for the work they produce.

The most influential artisan experience for me, as an interior design student, was the Bottega Michelangeli woodworking studio in Orvieto. They have been in production since 1789 and have become a very important Italian organization. Their signature is to use pinewood and add layers to each piece in order to create a three-dimensional effect. They have a whole street in Orvieto that is dedicated to their work and shops, but you can find their pieces throughout the streets of the town. They want to stay a small artisan company instead of a big corporation. It’s comforting to know that some companies care more about the work they are producing rather than just caring about the money.

I have found a whole new inspiration for craft in Umbria and all throughout Italy that has made this study abroad journey one that can’t be matched. This experience will forever affect my career and who I am as a person.

– Maddie Perry

Lamp from the Bottega Michelangeli woodworking studio

Lago di Como – The Hidden Treasure

After Milan fashion week I needed some peace and quit and I definitely found it in Lake Como. I wasn’t sure what to expect when Anna, Anna, Rebecca, Emma, Spencer, and I walked off the train from the hustle and bustle of Milan and in to the beautiful town of Varenna, but it was absolutely a pleasant surprise. We checked in to our cute, homey little hotel, set our stuff down, and walked out to the breath taking view of Lake Como. There were snow capped mountains towering over us, and the lake water was turquoise blue. I have never seen such a gorgeous view.

The town of Varenna was very quaint with little crowds. It was the perfect choice. We met a local and she suggested and drove us to a restaurant that seemed very local to the area. We ate a pasta called pizzoccheri that was absolutely amazing. It had cheese, potatoes, cabbage, and homemade pasta. We also visited a villa that is a museum now. The garden was amazing and there were beautiful views of the lake every where we looked. We also took a ferry to a little town near Varenna and I enjoyed the ferry ride more than the town. It was such a peaceful two days that I really needed. If you are looking to have a peaceful weekend with beautiful views and really good food, I recommend booking a trip to Varenna to see Lake Como. I really wish I could stay at Lake Como forever.
Megan Blume

Villa in Lake Como with Emma Campbell

Comparison is the Thief of Joy

These first sixteen days in Italy have been about surviving, adapting and learning. I thought the transition to living in Ariccia would be very simple. I have traveled abroad before, and even been to Italy and other places in Europe. The problem with that assumption is that I have never lived in Italy; I have only traveled through as a tourist. A tourist would usually have to find a way to order at a restaurant, but that’s often the biggest struggle they will have with a language barrier. Living in a small town however, not many people speak English. In order to survive, one must learn the language! It has been vital not only to order food, but also to read labels at the grocery store, or be able to ask for directions if I get lost.

The language is only the most basic of the barriers. The real surprise is in the culture shock. I thought it would not be that different from the United States, and I’ve already visited before, so I thought I knew what it would be like. Both of those I found to be false. There are so many subtle differences that add up and make a completely different culture than the one I was used to. At first, all I could focus on was how much better Italy was than America. I was in the ‘tourist phase’, everything was new and different. The grass is always greener on the other side. It is the same reason we go out and buy new clothes because they are fresh and different, but a couple months later, we are tired of them. After about a week, I started to miss having hot water all the time, my favorite food places and began to spend quite a bit of time focusing on what I didn’t have.

Then last weekend we spent two nights in Rome exploring, shopping, eating and drinking wine. As we were walking back to our apartment on Saturday night, we walked by the Pantheon. I stopped and realized that I was staying in an apartment only a couple hundred feet from a two-thousand-year old temple. How crazy is that? I had been so consumed by the comforts I missed back home and was completely ignoring where I am and how lucky I am to be here and even have this opportunity. The truth is that neither country is better or worse; that is simply the culture shock talking. Every culture is different for many reasons and beautiful in its own way. I think the wisest people soak up what they can from every culture they experience and combine bits and pieces of them into the way they live their own lives.

I am so excited to see what the next three months have to bring and I feel confident if I take it one step at a time, I can make it through and learn so much about myself and the world around me.


The Pantheon – a two-thousand-year old temple in the heart of a modern city

Stop and Watch the Sunsets

I am only two weeks into living in Italy, yet my life has already been impacted dramatically. Not only have I gotten to see some of the most beautiful places, I also have learned valuable life lessons. The biggest life lesson I have learned so far is to slow down and appreciate your surroundings.

Immersed in a culture where the people take their time doing everything has made it hard not to learn that particular life lesson. From walking on the sidewalk, to eating a meal, or even having a brief encounter with a stranger, the Italians do it slowly. Living in Italy has made me realize how fast-paced my life normally is. Before this experience, I constantly thought about checking off the next item on my list from when I got up to when I went to bed. Thinking back on those days makes me wonder how many beautiful moments I missed. They may have been something small like a picturesque sunset or something bigger like the chance to get to know a stranger. No matter what the experiences might have been, I have now realized that living a fast-paced lifestyle has made me miss out.

Comparing my life in America to that of the Italians shows a drastic difference. Upon my arrival in Italy, the first thing I noticed was the slow-pace style the Italians had. Following that, I enjoyed a lovely, authentic Italian meal that lasted about two hours. I was confused as to why everything seemed so much slower. It only took me a few days to understand though: small moments in life should be enjoyed. For example, the Italians are very passionate about food. They believe it is an art and it should be appreciated and enjoyed. After living here for two weeks, I could not agree more. The food here is incredible, so of course I want to enjoy it to its fullest extent! I have adapted to the Italian pace and in doing so, have seen some incredible sights that I may have missed otherwise. I have seen a stunning hotel covered in ivy on a side street, an Eiffel Tower made out of colorful macaroons, and awe-inspiring fountains made by famous sculptors. I have seen all of these sights just because I took the time to notice them.

In a country like Italy, it is impossible not to appreciate every moment you have. The food is incredible and the sights are breathtaking. I am so thankful Italy has taught me life lessons and shown me true beauty. I could not imagine a better way to spend the next ten weeks.

-Melissa Orr

Sunset in Ariccia on the first day

Italiano per Sopravvivere

Everyone eating aperitivo with their Italian family-

Ciao! What a whirlwind of two weeks! I have learned a lot, but one very important lesson that I have learned is that knowing some Italian in necessary. The language barrier can make it very hard to communicate with others. Our Italian teacher, Sandra, comes twice-a-week and teaches us ‘Survival Italian’ (Italiano per Sopravvivere). We’ve learned everyday vocabulary, articles, and directions.
The Joseph S. Bruno program does an excellent job immersing us in the Italian culture. On two Mondays, we had students from local middle schools come in and help teach us one-on-one. The first week, we were learning directions and how to navigate through cities, such as Rome. The kids would pick different places on a map and have us tell them how to get there with the words Sandra taught us. This week, we are learning phrases to use in a household. The kids help us learn the phrase and how to say the words correctly. Note: saying Italian words with a southern accent is much different than with an Italian accent!
Another way we are immersed into the Italian culture is through our ‘adopted’ families. We are paired off and set up with a family. They came over last night for aperitivo at the Palace. We will go to their house for a real Italian meal sometime later in the semester. My family is a young couple with a seven-year-old boy. He is fluent in English just from watching English cartoons. I was very impressed! I will go to their house with my partner, Natalie, in a few weeks and get to eat a homemade Italian meal. Yum!

Emma Campbell

Small Town or Big City

I am so excited to experience this semester abroad in Italy along with everything the Joseph S. Bruno Study Abroad Program has to offer! Living in Ariccia has been such an enlightening opportunity so far. Just being able to exist in such a small and quaint community makes me feel comfortable and we are able to experience what life is like for these locals. Whether it’s getting a daily ‘caffé’ from the Coffee Bar down the street or going into a shop to get a Porchetta sandwich, I have really learned to embrace what the people here do.
This week we were able to go into Rome for two days on a field trip. We saw most of the major sights that there are to see in Rome! This was a great way to prepare us for our own trip that we just took over the weekend. Let me tell you, trying to find my (or one’s) way around a major city without using a cell phone is a lot harder than it sounds. But, we did it! One of our assignments for the weekend was to find places from a scavenger hunt list of different sights and things to do in Rome. It really helped us navigate our way through the city and not just see the touristy spots that most people see. We stumbled our way through cute little streets and neighborhoods scattered throughout Rome, and it really made me realize that within a big city there is more character than I thought.
My Joseph S. Bruno study abroad experience has already enhanced my life in so many ways, and it has only been two weeks. I have learned so much about Italian culture, history, and people. But, most importantly it has made me learn so much about myself. I cannot wait to see how much it changes me by the end of the semester.
-Natalie Reifler

I COL ’em like I SEE EM

A Roman Immersion

We’re 2 weeks into our JSB experience of Spring 2017, and the palace is really starting to feel like home! The week was full of day trips to Rome and learning about all the important sights and history. It was an exciting and tiring one, but I feel like I’ve learned months’ worth of history classes in a week. My personal favorite was our trip to St. Peter’s Basilica. Who knew touring one church could take 2 hours!
The amount of detail they put into the tiniest bits and pieces of everything is insane. We complain about having 2 weeks to do a project! It really makes one think. The amount of spirituality in all the different components was enlightening because I could understand a lot of the religious Italian roots. For example, the way a statue’s hand might be placed tells a whole different story if three fingers are showing instead of two. It’s nuts. And of course, the hike to the dome was unbelievable. The 551 steps are so worth it to get even a glimpse of that view.
Everyone chose to go to Rome this weekend to finish our scavenger hunts and have a real taste of the city. The weekend was full of sightseeing, beautiful sunsets, Roman nightlife, and delicious meals. We definitely made the best of it. Although we all weren’t staying together, we somehow managed to reunite each day. Whether it was at dinner in Trestevere, shopping at Zara, or dancing at Shari Vari, the groups got to share some portion of the trip together. The weekend came at the perfect time because we were all ready to put everything we’ve learned about the history and lifestyle of Rome to a test. Eating around the city was a nice breath of fresh air because we had a lot of variety. We could just walk around to any restaurant around our AirBnb and have something new to try.
My favorite part about the trip was hiking around the city and ending at the Aventine Keyhole. We were pretty exhausted from exploring for 8 hours (and going to bed late the night before definitely didn’t help), but that didn’t take away from any of the enjoyment. We hit it at the absolute perfect time, because the sun was setting and the sky was beautiful, making it one of the coolest (unplanned) thing I’ve ever seen. We all concluded that we were in love with Rome.
The week and weekend were everything we wanted it to be; a complete success.
-Arianna Stevens

Le ragazze de Roma in front of Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi

A Girl with a View

Although I have only been living in Italy for two weeks, the JSB program has shown me more than I could have ever imagined. Upon my arrival in Italy, I was very nervous and unsure of what I was getting myself into. As soon as I boarded the plane I couldn’t help but think of all the things that could go wrong. I cannot describe the relief I felt when the plane’s wheels touched the Italian runway. As soon as we arrived at the palace, we hit the ground running. So far, in the first two weeks of my stay my brain is packed with information about history, culture, and the Italian language. My fascination with the Italian culture never ceases. Every day there is a new food to try, word to say, or a piece of history to learn.

The field trips are, by far, one of my favorite parts of this program. Traveling in a group with 21 girls is quite an experience. Most of us have never been to these places, so experiencing them together as a group is special. We are all unique and different which only adds to the experience of adjusting to a foreign culture and making new friends while learning and having fun.

Italy has already impacted me in more ways than one. It has proven to me that going out of my comfort zone is hard; but, it has also proven to me that going out of my comfort zone is good. Over these past two weeks I have faced the challenges of learning a new currency and booking flights to places I’ve never been. I am also working on overcoming obstacles such as missing my family, learning to get around without a navigation system and living somewhat without my iPhone. I am sure there will be more hurdles to jump over, whether it’s the feeling of experiencing a culture so very different from my own or climbing 500 stairs to the top of Saint Peter’s Basilica. In the end, the view is great.

-Spencer Smyly

Overlooking Rome from the top of Saint Peter’s Basilica

Running Around Rome!

Being in the Joseph S. Bruno program has already been an experience I will never forget! I already feel like these 22 girls are my family and I can’t wait to see what these next few months have in store. This week we finally got to travel to Rome to start our Grand Tour of Italy and it was the most beautiful city I think most of us have ever seen! We saw things like the Colosseum, Pantheon, and Trevi Fountain, which were definitely my favorites. After 11 miles and over 20,000 steps, our Grand Tour was done for the day and we were allowed the freedom to either stay in the city or return to Ariccia. A group of seven of us thought we weren’t too tired and decided to have an aperitivo and then catch the 6:21 train, which ended up being our biggest learning experience of the whole week! We managed to miss our first train and somehow make our next one by mere seconds! If only we had the security tapes because watching seven American girls running and screaming to the complete opposite train platform would definitely be something to see. Moments like that, when you look around at the new friends you have made and realize just how little we know and how much we have to learn, are the absolute best and brought us closer together. I know these next eleven weeks are going to be the best of my life, but hopefully they all go a little bit smoother!

Rebecca Todd

Taylor Anne and me on our first trip to Rome!

Adventures Abroad with a Southern Belle

Living in Italy for the next three months is a dream come true. We have only been here one short week, but have learned and seen more than I ever imagined. So far, I have adjusted to the atmosphere and culture better than I thought I would, thanks to the new friendships I have made. We saw several famous sights in Rome that I always see in movies or hear people telling me about, but seeing them with my own eyes changes my perspective on everything. My favorite sight we went to in Rome was the Trevi Fountain. It was such a beautiful scene. While we were there, a couple got engaged! The days are long, but the lecturers make the classes so entertaining that it seems to go by fast. We had our first field trip of the Castelli Romani (the Roman Castles). It was interesting to see the places we learned about in the prep class. The locals in Ariccia have been great. They are very helpful and try their best to make this town feel like home. It’s so incredible to see how different life is in Italy versus life in the United States. Although we have only been here a week I have already managed to miss the train from Rome back to Ariccia.

Trevi Fountain with Natalie and Miranda!

I am really looking forward to the weekend trips and traveling to places all over Europe as well as other places in Italy. I can already tell I am going to get along great with everyone on this trip and can’t wait to make so many memories. In this short amount of time it is easy to see that it will be a life changing experience.
Taylor Anne Jones