Pizza, Pasta & Pane

The experience of cooking authentic Italian food in an Italian home is something most people do not get to do. While abroad here in Ariccia, we have been able to be a part of our own Italian family. For me, this has been one of my favorite aspects of the trip. Being exposed to a true Italian home has been a huge part of trying to immerse myself in the culture of food and family that is all around us.

The Italian home is something that is held in such high regard not only in Italy but the world. They are known for their emphasis on family life, and we have gotten to experience this first hand with the help of the JSB program. Some of the dishes I have made with my family have been, taglitelle with ragu sauce, prosciutto on beef, spaghetti with fish, and many other small dishes. My personal favorite was the prosciutto on beef.

Not only has this been an incredible way to truly learn about Italian family life, but it has helped me with my Italian. Applying the language in the home has helped with basic words, though it is only a small help, it has made a difference. My family has made a lasting impact on me and my time here in Italy. I truly hope that I will keep in touch with them once I leave Ariccia.

The collection of experiences I have gained while abroad in Ariccia will be the ones that I will always remember and cherish. The professors and staff here guiding us have put together the most unbelievable semester. It is amazing we have this opportunity to be a part of the small community of Ariccia.

Leah Cook

Grandma in the kitchen

The Hills Are Alive

Over the course of our amazing semester in the Joseph S. Bruno program, we have been able to travel to some pretty incredible destinations during our personal travel weekends. Though it’s hard to choose, one of my favorites was traveling to the Austrian countryside and participating in The Sound of Music tour!
If you’re reading this and you’re not up on your Sound of Music history, don’t fret! After a weekend in Austria and watching the movie many times, I would consider myself an expert. The movie, starring Julie Andrews, was shot in Salzburg, Austria (and the beautiful surrounding countryside) in 1964. It instantly became an international hit, and is the third most successful movie of all time. The film was shot in many well-known Austrian sites and really made the city of Salzburg an important ‘character’.
The best part of going on the Panorama tour is, not only the sing along, but that it’s an all-encompassing tour of Salzburg and the lake and mountain region, so even if someone is not particularly interested in The Sound of Music, it is still such an enjoyable experience and a great way to hit all the highlights of the area.
Fellow JSB student, Spencer Smyly, and I had such a great time – and we even got to enjoy some “crisp apple strudel” at the end of the tour after going to visit the beautiful abbey in Mondsee, Austria where the main characters of the movie get married.
Being our last weekend of non-program travel, Spencer and I noticed how confident and comfortable we were as we navigated through a new city. The beautiful and serene mountaintops and hills of Austria gave us some much-needed time to reflect on the past few months here. We realized how much we have learned and grown while in Ariccia and what an incredible laboratory for personal empowerment the Joseph S. Bruno Program is.

Mondsee, Austria

Maddie Coats

The Moher, the Merrier

Over spring break, Spencer and I planned our trip to three different cities in Europe in three different countries: Amsterdam, London, and Dublin. Little did I know how eye-opening this experience would affect my life. It made me become independent, see famous landmarks, gain a new perspective, and immerse myself in varying cultures.

Spencer and I traveled with other girls from Joseph S. Bruno to Amsterdam. We went on a river boat tour, walked through Anne Frank’s house, and spent time in the Van Gogh Museum. Amsterdam’s transportation system was a little difficult for us to understand as we clearly could not speak Dutch, but it was a learning experience, where we really had to pay attention to our surroundings and try to read a map we could not interpret. I really loved the urban design of the city, with the copious number of canals and bike lanes. Everyone rides bikes there. It was unlike any other city I have visited.

Next on the list was London, where we would meet up with other friends from Auburn. For some of them it was their first time out of the country, which really threw Spencer and me off. The way they travel and wanted to see the city was very different than our expectations. By this time, both of us had traveled to many other countries, playing it step-by-step. This presented a few challenges to Spencer and me, which frustrated us, but it also made us realize how independent we had become. We knew how to figure things out, how to ask for directions and most importantly, how to have patience. Some highlights from the trip were seeing the landmarks like Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, going on the London Eye, seeing Princess Diana’s dresses, and, of course, seeing the Queen of England leaving Buckingham Palace. We had the perfect weather and it was truly an amazing three days spent in London, but the week was not over!

Finally, we flew to Ireland, a country I have had on my bucket list for quite some time. On Thursday, the group from London plus a few from JSB traveled across Ireland by a guided bus tour from Dublin to the Moher Cliffs. We stopped along the way in Galway, a cute little town that truly exhibited the Irish spirit. Once we reached the Moher Cliffs, we had the most beautiful weather, which is very rare for Ireland. The Cliffs of Moher was one of the prettiest landscapes I had ever seen. The ocean, sky, and grass were so vibrant. The next day was St. Patrick’s Day. What better way to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day than in Dublin? It was so great to celebrate with friends, old and new. Even though it was raining, the city was still in full force with the parade and costumes. It has become one of my favorite holidays. I’d say the Irish are my favorite people to hang out with and get to know. They’re always so nice and fun to be around.

Moher Cliffs

This week really made me realize how grown up I’ve become and how thankful I am to be studying abroad. Traveling has taught me how to grow up and made me learn more about myself—strengths, weaknesses, and even personality. Seeing the varying cultures and landscapes has made me realize how amazing this world, with its varying countries, is and expands my horizons of perspective. I’ve loved every minute of being abroad and can’t believe I am already 2/3 of the way through. The memories I am making on this trip won’t compare to anything else and I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity to be here.

Gabrielle Picard

Home Sweet Rome

A sampling of the numerous, luxurious bolts of fabric available at Valli Textile Store

Living in Ariccia, Italy is a special experience because not only have I gotten a small Italian town experience, but I have also gotten to travel into Rome quite often! Just a train ride away sits an iconic city, filled to a blue-sky-brim with culture and excitement. In Rome, I have gotten to utilize the Italian customs and language skills that I have learned in Ariccia. After a weekend and many day and night trips into Rome with our group, the bustling city feels like home (especially after a trip like Spring Break where I traveled to 4 different countries!).
To tell somebody all of the remarkable experiences I have had in Rome would take up a paper as long as the climb up the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. One of these experiences is my Practicum Day. First of all, I had a big self-confidence boost as I successfully traveled ALONE from Palazzo Chigi to Barberini Square in Rome! This was a coup for me, as I realized that the previous trips into Rome had built up awareness of the city. Beaming with pride (and Roman style cappuccino caffeine), I met Cinzia Bracalente to walk together to Valli Textile Store. I had the opportunity to meet with the store manager one-on-one (plus Cinzia to translate!) and ask every question I could think of. As a fashion design major, this time to learn about such a well-respected and long-standing fashion industry establishment was so valuable. I was so in awe as the manager unfurled fabric bolt after fabric bolt from the well-curated, Haute Couture merchandise assortment. The store is known for its high-quality, designer fabrics that it often sells to seamstresses, designers, or fashion labels in collaboration. The Haute Couture selection is unparalleled, with beaded laces from France and silks from Spain. They carry designer prints too, like those from Dolce and Gabbana or Dries Van Noten. Some of the intricate, hand-beaded lace from France, of the label Chanel, is around 600 euros per yard. Alta moda! The Bridal selection of white laces, satins, organzas, and macramé (to name a few) takes up a whole room and would have any future bride teary-eyed. Aside from admiring the beautiful textiles and gaining the manager’s insight on visualizing garments from a bolt of fabric, I also understood a business side of the fashion industry on which I have not yet gotten such an inside view. From merchandising decisions, customer service attitude, clientele at different locations, and personal advice, the discussion I had at Valli Textile Store taught me many new fashion industry tidbits.
I am so thankful to the Joseph S. Bruno Program for providing such an intimate and specific-to-me Practicum experience. I am so grateful, and I learned so much. Practicum Day is just one example of how this study abroad trip has fueled my passions by providing me with new and bespoke experiences. I never knew that Rome, a place so globally famous, could feel so personal. This may sound cheesy, but I now know why they call it “The Eternal City.” Rome will have an eternal place in my heart!

Rebecca Schneider

Catch Us in Cascais

Going to 4 different places in 9 days over Spring Break was quite challenging, but it was totally worth it. The first three places we visited were Amsterdam, Paris, and London. The final destination of our amazing trip was Cascais, Portugal. When we decided we wanted to go somewhere warm to wrap up our trip, I began searching for places that had reasonable priced flights and would be fairly warm this time of year. I saw on TripAdvisor that Lisbon, Portugal was in the top 10 places to visit in Europe. When I was reading the overview on Lisbon, I found that Cascais was a quaint coastal town just a short train ride away. We had no expectations and that was so exciting. Luckily, Cascais did not disappoint. It is a place I never dreamed of going, but it is a place that I will never forget.

We stayed at the Hotel Villa Italia. It was a five-star resort hotel that we got the best deal on due to off-season prices. It was incredible and exactly what we needed after walking about 10 miles per day in the big cities. It is the most room I have had since I left my bedroom at home, which was incredible. There was also a bathtub and a huge shower!!! Conveniences that I never knew I could miss so much. The weather could not have been more beautiful for us during our trip, but it was especially perfect in Portugal. We enjoyed the cliffs and sea foam teal waters of Boca Do Inferno. It was only a 6 min walk from our hotel to this picturesque coastline. Cascais is a seaside fisherman’s town with lots of character. The town had lots of cute shops and restaurants. Who knew that Portugal was known for its production of cork? There were so many adorable products made from cork such as purses and shoes!

It was warm enough to lay out at the pool on our last day there. I even got a little sunburned!! Sunbaked relaxation is how I would describe our two days in Portugal. It was perfect. Spring break brought so much personal growth, fantastic places, and wonderful memories. I feel so content and blessed by all the experiences I have had so far. I can’t wait for what these last 5 weeks have in store!

Anna Machen

Beautiful sunset on the rocks in Cascais.

Style with Meaning

A couple of weeks ago we traveled to the Umbria region of Italy. It was my favorite place on this trip so far and the towns of Asissi, Orvieto, and Perugia were the loveliest places I had ever seen. The thing I love about Italy most is the value and symbolism everything seems to have. Being interested in fashion, I really enjoyed visiting the weaving and jewelry making studios in Perugia. Italian culture fascinates me and I love how they do everything slower, with importance, and significance. Little did I know that they also incorporate it in their fashion too.

Anna Fornari, the jewelry designer, stated that she always makes her jewelry with a symbolic meaning. For her, it’s not so much a fashion statement, but every piece has a different and significant meaning. I learned at the weaving studio how much work is put into it. All of the patterns, textures, and colors have all kinds of different meaning. One single pattern has an economic, political, and historical meaning. That blew my mind! As much as I have loved fashion my whole life, I had never really thought about it ever having much meaning to it.

So it got me thinking about all of the pieces in my own closet that have specific meaning to me. For example, I have a pocket watch turned into a necklace given to me by my boyfriend before this trip that is probably my favorite piece of jewelry I own now and it’s because of the meaning behind it. I have shoes that I just bought in Copenhagen that were hand-made by a guy and yes they are very cute, but when I started talking to the man who made them and he explained it was a family business, I had to purchase them. I will always remember that man and the little store in Copenhagen where I bought them.

After this trip, I am going to start trying to buy things that have more of a significant meaning to me. After all, fashion is about far more than just style. It’s history, it’s emotion, it’s purpose, it’s personal, all wrapped into one.

– Sydney Butler

Hand weaving studio, Brozzetti, in Perugia, Italy.

Oh the Places We’ll Go

I cannot believe that Spring Break has already come and gone! This entire trip has flown by with a mere five weeks left, and yet there are so many places left to visit. With little time remaining, I have decided that I need to take it slow, enjoy each day, and appreciate every moment we have together as a group. I feel lucky to be a part of such a loving group of girls who are excited to form lasting friendships with one another and truly care about each other. It has made the trip that much more enjoyable.

As I left for Spring Break a week ago, I was so excited to see and travel with my family, but sad to leave my friends. Our group would be separated for nine whole days!! That’s pretty long considering we spend every moment of the weekdays together, but you know what they say: distance makes the heart grow fonder!

My parents joined me in Rome for the first few days of Spring Break. I was confident enough to lead them through the city and give a brief history lesson on each monument we stopped to see. It was somewhat satisfying to be able to give them the reasoning behind each place and answer the questions they had. I felt well prepared for my unofficial ‘tour’ I gave to my parents and they seemed impressed!

After a few days of exploring my self-proclaimed stomping grounds, we left to venture to Kitzbuhel, Austria where my brothers planned to join us. Kitzbuhel is a medieval ski village at the base of the Austrian Alps. It is a picturesque storybook town with colorful buildings and cobblestone streets. The restaurants were below street level with medieval décor inside. But, I think what made our trip so great was our lodging that was a medieval farmhouse turned into a hotel called The Tennerhof Hotel. During our stay, we met the owner of the hotel who gave us the entire history of the hotel that has been in his family since the early 1900s, and continues to be a widely recognized destination for many European tourists. While the skiing was great, my family and I would return to Kitzbuhel just to spend a week in the hotel. We made friends with people from all across Europe and ate some of the best food I have ever tasted. If you can’t tell already, I would highly suggest a visit to the Tennerhof!!


It was a quick, but relaxing week. I enjoyed every bit of it and the time I had with my family. This trip will always be one we remember, and I’m so happy my family could join me on one of the best semesters of my college experience! I was happy to return home to the palace, to my friends, and most importantly, to my bed. It was a great feeling to return to a schedule and to our little town of Ariccia. I’m excited for the next couple of weeks! Ciao!

– Mary Eugenia Hunt


A side street in Kitzbuhel with the Austrian Alps peaking out from behind the church

Always Sunny in Ariccia

Ciao!! What a whirlwind of an experience it has been these last four weeks in Italy! We really have been going non-stop since the day we arrived in Ariccia. Which, for me, I’m used to because I tend to have to be doing something all the time at home. While this last month has been busy, it has also been the most amazing experience. I wouldn’t change a single thing, even if that means missing a weekend of an already-paid-for trip to Germany!

Yes, you heard right. I did, in fact, pay for my flight and hostel for this past weekend, but did not get the actual opportunity to visit Germany. Just as I was beginning to adapt to the Italian culture, my health took a turn for the worst. Unexpectantly, I woke up early Thursday morning sick to my stomach. A huge thank you to our second mom, Mrs. Linda, and our wise Italian older sister, Cinzia. If if weren’t for them I wouldn’t have been able to make it safely to the doctor and tell him my symptoms in Italian. Unfortunately, I missed all of the activities that we did in Orvieto that day, including visiting Orvieto’s Duomo and the store and woodworking studio of Bottega Michelangeli. However, I finally gathered myself enough to get out of the hotel to take the bus back to Ariccia and was able to visit Civita di Bagnoregio, “the dying city”. It was a little bit of a difficult hike since I had zero energy from earlier, but it was extraordinary and worth the extra effort!

Still not feeling to-the-nines, I decided to stay in Ariccia by myself for the weekend while everyone traveled to different countries. I was stoked to go to Germany with Leah and Gabrielle, but it wouldn’t be fair for them to possibly get sick and it wouldn’t be fun for me to start to feel worse and not be able to explore Germany with them. Everyone kept telling me how nice having the Palace to myself would be and that I would get so much done. I somewhat agreed. I wasn’t as excited as everyone else said they’d be because I was still upset and negative about missing out on Germany. The weather Friday and Saturday was just as bad as my attitude and health. Feeling a little better on Saturday, I was starting to actually enjoy my alone time in the Palace. I worked on my journal, took advantage of the crazy-fast wi-fi, and continued to rest. With all of my negativity about having to stay home alone this weekend, Sunday brought something that showed me how in every situation, there is always a silver lining.

I woke up on Sunday to a sun-filled, almost sixty-degree weather day, feeling like I was never sick at all. It’s amazing to think that God truly had His way of making sure I knew when to pace myself and take time off to enjoy the world around me. He knew I needed rest from all the traveling we’ve done, that I needed time to myself, and that I needed to take a real look around at where I have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live for these three months. I woke up feeling blessed to have been able to go on such an amazing adventure and to have met and get to know each and every one of the twenty-one girls on this trip.

I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and I now have zero regrets about staying in Ariccia this weekend. I was able to see Ariccia on my own on one of the warmest, most beautiful days we’ve had since we’ve been here. I walked to Albano and Genzano while spending the majority of my day outside, just because. Not everyone can say that they have lived in the Chigi Palace in Ariccia for three months. I took every opportunity to stay outside while I had God’s beautiful creation around me and I could see it all on my own. I wouldn’t take back my sickness for the world because it’s what led me to realize how fortunate we all are for getting this opportunity. There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel, and there will always be struggles to get there, but God will make sure I reach it.

Taylor Galloway

Antique car show in the center square of Ariccia

Buon Appetito!

Just call me Chef Anna! Yesterday, we went to the Italian Chef Academy and it was one of my favorite field trips that we have taken so far. We had a 5-hour Italian cooking course, which included: fresh pappardelle with wild boar ragu, homemade ravioli, salad, and tiramisu.

All 22 of us had our own individual cooking stations so it was really hands-on and interactive. We split into 2 groups and each group had our own chef teaching us how to make the dishes. We started off with making the dough for the noodles and ravioli. I couldn’t believe that we were actually making noodles from scratch! Oddly enough, it wasn’t as complicated as one might think; however, there is a very unique and specific technique that we had to use when doing it. After that, we made the tiramisu and the salad. It was hard not to lick the spoon when making the tiramisu! At last, we ended the class with stuffing the ravioli with the homemade basil, ricotta cheese, and lemon zest filling.

It was so intriguing getting to see the chef demonstrate how to make all of the food. They truly view cooking as a form of art. Now that I have personally made ravioli, pasta, and tiramisu from scratch, I appreciate it so much more than I did before. I now know all of the hard work and time that goes into making one single pasta dish.

I am looking forward to being able to make some authentic homemade Italian pasta for my family when I get back home! Cooking is a lifelong skill and I will forever cherish learning these Italian cooking techniques that I will be able to use for the rest of my life. Buon Appetitio!

Anna Messerly

Top left: salad
Top right: tiramisu
Bottom left: pappardelle with wild boar ragu
Bottom right: ravioli