Off the Beaten Path

Ciao from Ariccia!

It is so hard to believe that we are now beginning Week 5 of studying abroad. Each new week seems to go by faster than the one before it and I am continually finding new aspects of life in Italy that I love. Last week was full of exploring the smaller towns in Umbria: Assisi, Perugia, and Orvieto. There is something to be said about the beauty of the well-known fountains, churches, and monuments of Rome, but I personally love seeing the parts of Italy that are slightly off the beaten path. It is in these places that I feel the most at home. Some of my favorite parts of this week included learning to make homemade pasta in Assisi, visiting a weaving studio in Perugia, and exploring woodworking and pottery studios in Orvieto.

Continuing with the theme of small towns, I spent the past weekend in Matera: an old town in southern Italy in the Basilicata region. It was a little difficult to get to, but so worth the time and effort. The area is full of little restaurants and shops that all have so much personality. (Also, the Passion of the Christ was filmed here!) Many of the homes, churches, etc. are built into the caves, including our hotel! I just love the understated, simple beauty of this area and hated to leave, but it is good to be back in Ariccia for a few days before we are off to the next place.


Emily Forrester

Matera, Italy

Behind the Lens

Coming to a foreign place (literally!) with lots of new girls can be scary. Especially when I prefer to be ‘behind the lens’ of almost every situation. I have always preferred finding solitude to capture an untouched moment in nature, or how the sun can make a blue building look pink or how golden hour seems to be the light sent straight from heaven. But, branching out and turning my lens around is the new challenge here. To do that, finding friends is essential, even if it is just a tiny group that I can be myself around. That’s the other thing. It can be hard to truly be myself, but it is so so important. All of the girls here are so different and interesting and that’s what makes them unique and special. I have found some close friends that I already love, but every human has something to offer and more often than not that person will be absolutely amazing! So in these next weeks, I will challenge myself to turn the camera around and maybe take a few more group pics, but I also won’t forget that being alone is OK and if I want to lose myself in taking pictures of how green the grass is or how yellow the flowers are, that’s OK too.

OK! So, now that I have decided I will branch out and not be so nervous to make new friends, I’m going to share why this trip has been so beneficial to me in doing this. Each weekend I get to travel to new places with these girls that will likely become my life-long friends! I did not know most of them before deciding to study abroad. In fact, I don’t think I met my closest friends until the second day here and we have only been here about 4 weeks. There is something about traveling and having to navigate together which train is the correct one or finding out that the ferry on Sundays does not run the same time as we all thought we had previously figured out that it did. These moments bond people together. Coming and sharing these life-changing experiences with new friends sort of molds our lives together and has made me a stronger person altogether. Considering all of this, I have found the most uncomfortable or foreign situations lead to the most amazing, challenging, and life-changing experiences.

Me, hiding behind the lens to get the perfect shot, to making friends on a great adventure


Katie McLeod

“Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”


My title comes from my favorite Dr. Seuss book. It is the best read when you begin a new chapter of life. I cannot believe all the places I am getting to go in this exciting chapter of my life.

I am about to begin my fourth week in Italy, and I am remembering all over again why I am such a firm believer that experience is the best teacher. I feel like my mind is overflowing with the history and beauty of all of the amazing places I am experiencing and seeing.

I spent time in Rome the first week I arrived in Italy, and I was blown away by the history I was walking in and how that made me feel. There is just no way to understand the gravity and wonder of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome from a postcard or photo. It’s impossible to truly appreciate the detail and intricacy of Michelangelo’s statues before looking at them in person. I felt the emotion of the scenes and the picture the artist was creating with his work.

Seeing the Colosseum and the Roman Forum were also highlights of my time in Rome. The gardens, exotic bird cages, and terraces must have been a hit for the parties the emperors used to throw. It’s amazing to travel back in time and know that I am walking on the same roads and ground that people walked on in the time of Christ. It is hard to describe how that feels, but it is something special.

For my most recent weekend travel, I visited Malta. It was an unbelievable place. The people were kind, the history was astounding, and the view of the boats and the water from our terrace was idyllic and picturesque. The Blue Grotto Caves were full of crystal clear blue water and unlike anything I have ever seen.

Blue Grotto Cave in Malta

My friends and I also happened to stumble upon the oldest temples in the world on the coast of Malta. They were from 3500 B.C.!!!!! We could not believe it. There is so much to learn and see in the world, and I feel like I am only scratching the surface.

I think that travel is a little bit like my grandmother’s caramel cake. It always leave me hungry for more!

‘Saluti’ to the adventures to come!

Sellers Mulvaney

Livin’ in the Swiss Alps

If you are ever looking for an amazing place to visit if you want to visit Europe, it is definitely the Swiss Alps. You heard it first from Natalie Sapienza. Everyone says to visit Italy, but Interlaken, Switzerland is a hidden gem. This past weekend I traveled to Interlaken and I have never been so in love with a country from the minute i stepped off the airplane. To start, off the Geneva airport is gorgeous and has anything I could ever imagine. No one even needs to have a mall nearby, because the airport has everything and more. I traveled with a great group of girls and was really excited that I got to go with them. We started our trip off with a two and half hour train ride to Interlaken and the hole country of Switzerland was picturesque, I was blown away by the beauty of this country. Once I arrived everyone in the group was obsessed with this small, adventurous town. Everyone spoke perfect English and then could turn around and speak French and German, not to mention, everyone was incredible nice. We had our first excursion Friday night and it was night sledding! It is probably the most surreal thing I have ever done in my life. I was flying down a mountain in the Swiss Alps in the dark while it snowing. All I have to light my way down the three-mile track was the night sky, which is perfect! The sky was so clear and I have never seen so many constellations in my life. I will never forget sledding down that mountain, leaning back and just staring up at the gorgeous sky. It was an amazing trip and I will never forget it and hope to go back to visit a beautiful country.

Train ride up to interlaken!

Ancora Imparo!


If you’re wondering what “Ancora imparo” means, it translates to “Still, I am learning” in Italian. Michelangelo is credited with saying this when he was 87 years old. I thought this phrase was the most fitting way to describe my experience of studying abroad. This is because still, I am learning so much about myself. Still, I am learning how much I love to meet new people and move out of my comfort zone. Still, I am learning another way of life, culture, and language. Still, I am learning about the things that are truly meaningful to me and still, I am learning that bread is a utensil 🙂 and recycling is important.

I could go on and on but it’s only week 3 and I can safely say I know this has been and will continue to be a life-changing experience. This program has catapulted me into a whirlwind of activities, classes, and field trips that have opened my eyes. So far Frascati and Vienna have been the ultimate experience for me. Frascati is a quaint town located not too far from our home base in Ariccia. It has a lively town square and some incredible cafes, not to mention that it also has wonderful views of the Castelli Romani area. In addition, I went to Vienna, Austria this past weekend and it was indescribable. The architecture is amazing but the one place to really check out is Naschmarkt on the weekend. It has tons of food to try as well as shopping!

Something that really opened my eyes in class today though was a leadership conference that was centered around other cultures and their mannerisms. We learned how important it is to observe other cultures and what’s important to them in an effort to connect to them. We tried exercises to see how much we would observe and it also showed us that we definitely need to try harder. So, that is my current goal for this week while we travel to Naples and Pompeii and then Sicily this weekend!

-Marissa Probst

View from the top of St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, Austria

Whirlwind Weeks


Week two In Italy has just wrapped up and there is no better way to describe the experience so far than a whirlwind. Everything moves so fast and we see and do so much, it’s hard to keep up. However, every single experience thus far has been nothing short of amazing. My favorite little town that we’ve seen was Nemi. I loved the views of the lake from all around the city and the famous strawberries were as good as everyone said they were.

Besides all the travel to and around Rome and the Castelli Romani area, we also just had our first free weekend of travel. I made the trip to Interlaken, Switzerland and I have never been anywhere like it before. One thing about only having three days to travel is you feel the need to pack in as much as you can in order to get everything out of the travel. With that being said, as soon as the plane landed we hit the ground running and really didn’t stop until we sat back down for the flight to go home. It flew by but the memories I will hold forever.

The best part about how fast everything is moving is the incredible people on this trip that we get to share all the fun with. We keep each other going. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to take every experience as it is and really take the time to appreciate what we are doing whenever I can catch my breath.

-Savannah Snelling

Interlaken, Switzerland

Ti Amo, Italia!

Ciao from Ariccia, Italy!

I am entering my third week in Italy, and it still feels like a dream. The first two weeks of this program have been filled with so many sites, so much food, and a whole lot of fun. If I named all of the things we have done so far, I would be here for hours writing this post!

I will say my absolute favorite place we visited was St. Peter’s Basilica. I was absolutely awestruck by his amazing church. My mom and my grandparents have talked about this place for years, and I never expected to feel what I felt when I walked in. It is so large, but not at all overwhelming. Our tour guide, Francesca, described the church as “welcoming” despite how massive it actually is. I never once felt incredibly small inside the church, even though the letters around the top of the dome are actually seven feet tall! We even got to go below the basilica and catch a glimpse of the disciple Peter’s bones in the midst of the ancient underground necropolis. Such an incredible experience that I will never forget.

Another incredible experience here in Italy is every single meal. Sure, there are many things about dining in Italy that I do not love (like not being able to split the checks, water is actually expensive, and a good burger is hard to find), but if those are my only complaints, then I would say I am doing just fine! Italians take their meals slow. They savor the time they have with their food and each other. I am learning a lot from the culture surrounding food here; it is meant to be shared, savored, and enjoyed. It is a refreshing change from the fast-paced life in America.

On top of all of the amazing tours we take as a group (we have gone to Rome a few times and visited all the cities surrounding Ariccia in Castelli Romani), we also had free weekends the past two weekends! Last weekend, all 20 of us girls decided to go to Rome and familiarize ourselves with the city on our own. This weekend, we went many different places across Europe. Some girls went to Switzerland, some went to Austria, others to Belgium, and I went to Paris! We got to take the skills we have learned the past two weeks and practice them on our own in an entirely different country.

I am so looking forward to the upcoming tours, field trips, meals, free weekends, and countless memories to be made in the next ten weeks!

Lunch Break in Castel Gandolfo

With love,

Emmie Whorton



Vatican City and Saint Peter’s Basilica

Ciao from Italy!

It has been a packed past couple of days. Our group has hit the ground running ever since the moment we stepped off the plane.  We have been to Rome and back a couple of times in the past few days learning how the train, metro, and all of the streets work. We have gone on multiple tours, guided and self-guided, and it seems that every time we see a new destination I find my new “favorite place on earth.”

Most recently, we visited Vatican City to see Saint Peter’s Basilica. It is fascinating to know Vatican City is its own country inside of Rome, Italy! We entered St. Peter’s square, and I was taken aback at how grand it is. The square was designed and built by Bernini between 1656 and 1667!

We entered the Basilica and I was literally brought to tears at the grandiosity of the church. One of the facts that I found most interesting was that there is not one painting inside the entire church, but instead it is covered in mosaics full of thousands of tiles each.

After we exited the church we had the incredible opportunity to go the necropolis and see the tomb where Saint Peter is believed to be buried. This is a guided tour that people schedule months beforehand because it is so exclusive.

As we descended beneath the church it felt as though we were travelling back in time. The bricks that I ran my hand across were easily 2.000 years old. This experience completely humbled me, as I thought of all the people that had come before me, and the impact that they have had on Italy, and the world.

This has been my favorite experience so far, but I know that soon I will find another “favorite place.” I can not wait to discover what the rest of this country has for me to see!


Crystal Goldbach

Saint Peter’s Basilica

When in Rome


We have officially been in Ariccia for one week. It is slowly starting to set in that I will be living in this beautiful country for 3 months. Ariccia is a charming little town with sweet people and great views! It has cute and homey shops including coffee bars and pizza places. I can get a cappuccino for just 1 Euro. All of the shop owners are so kind and patient with us as we can speak zero Italian. This little town has so much character and it is already starting to feel like home.

We had our first free 2-day weekend and a group of us decided to go into Rome on Saturday to complete a Scavenger Hunt assignment. Since we had gone into Rome the day before all together, this helped us be able to navigate Rome on our own and to see more of the sites. We walked almost 16 miles that day. One of my favorite things was being in Rome at night. All the cafes turned on their twinkle lights and all of the monuments and buildings were lit up. As the sun went down, the street musicians and artists came out. We stayed in Rome till almost midnight trying to soak it all in. It is safe to say that my feet were hurting by the end of the night. Rome is full of history and beauty and I am so grateful that I get to experience it at a this fun stage of life. To think I have 11 weeks left in this amazing place is unreal! I cannot wait.

The Trevi Fountain at night

-Sarah Harding

My New Vita Italiana (Italian Life)


It has officially been one week since I departed the Denver airport, landed in the Atlanta airport, departed again for the Fuimicino airport, took a bus to Ariccia, Italy, and settled into my new home in the Palazzo Chigi. The past week has been a whirlwind of information, culture shock, friendly locals, tons of good food, and of course, wine, and so many beautiful things to see. Every day a new adventure begins, and I have loved every single second of it.

The first three days were spent settling into the new ‘vita Italiana’ myself and nineteen of my Auburn peers will be living for the next eleven weeks. We toured our new home of Ariccia, Italy, located in the Castelli Romani circle in the Lazio region of Italy, forty-five minutes southeast of Rome. The town is small, the people are kind, the views of the Tyrrhenian Sea are to die for, and man is the food good. On Friday, we took on Rome as a class. The day started early with a 7:00 a.m. train into Rome from the town next door, Albano Laziale. After ten site visits, approximately thirteen miles walked, and one delicious pizza margherita eaten, I returned to Ariccia with my class.

On Saturday, the entire class ignored the recommendation of not traveling this first weekend and ventured back to Rome to complete our class scavenger hunt – we didn’t want to waste a moment not being back in Rome! We visited ten more sites, walked an additional fifteen miles, and successfully navigated Rome by ourselves. This day was more casual, shopping between site visits, caffè latte’s when the exhaustion began to set in, and when the sun set over the city of Rome and night fell, that didn’t stop us from continuing to explore the city that so many love – and now I see why. I didn’t think it possible, but at night the city becomes even more alive. Artists and musicians take to the streets to share their talents and the sites we saw during the day became magical with lights. While standing in awe of the Colosseum at night and listening to street vendors playing music, I fell in love with Rome.

The Colosseum at night

If you need me… I’ll be here. Arrivederci!

-Sammy Kelley