Let’s Cross Over… New Places and Faces

It’s the first day of week five and while today may be slow, the time here has flown by and it seems like there’s no stopping it. It’s crazy that spring break is so close to us and yet I feel like I haven’t been here for that long. Before I came to Italy, I decided to read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and if I got anything from reading it before my big adventure, it was the word attraversiamo. Although I have realized that it hasn’t been a typical word here in Italy, in the book it is explained to mean “let’s cross over”. It has been one that I feel can embody my time here, not just in Italy, but in all the places and cultures I’ve gotten to experience so far and still have yet to experience.

While we do get to travel so much, my wanderlust has not stopped. So far I have traveled outside of Ariccia every weekend to new cities and new countries, to see new places and faces, yet I still want to see more. I have gotten to experience Vienna, Munich and Milan with Barcelona coming up this weekend. Just the idea of having a new experience in a new place has been something I look forward to each week. I didn’t expect our weeks and weekends to vary as much as they have on a day to day basis. In our weeks there has always been something new, whether it’s been who we’ve met, like our Italian families, or where we’ve gone, inside or outside of the country, there’s just so much to take in. I hope I don’t forget to take a second to stop and truly take it all in.Before we know it our time here will be over and we will all be on to the next thing. Unlike most of the other girls here, I don’t know what my next step will be, and I’m slowly becoming more okay with it. This journey hasn’t gone as expected and it has taught me that not many things in our life do, no matter what we may think. This has been a constant reminder for me to change my mindset. To cross over from one way of thinking to another, one that’s okay when things don’t go as planned. And I hope that no matter what, amidst all of our travels throughout our remaining time here, I stop to smell the roses and recognize that there’s a reason and a season for everything.


Kelsey Stratford

This is a photo from flying over the alps on our way to and from Munich, Germany. It was unreal to look out of our windows and see this.

Making wishes.. and Splashes

Today marks the first day of week five. It seems like yesterday when I was on a plane ride, surrounded by girls I did not know, and heading to a place I had never been. This morning I can look around at all these girls, and it does not make sense to think that a few weeks ago we had never known one another. It is bittersweet to see the time fly by, as the more it goes the more memories we have made, but the closer our departure comes.

I had so many dreams and expectation when embarking on this semester. I think that we all imagine things as we prepare for traveling and sightseeing. A lot of girls have had the ideas of memories and pictures floating around in their heads since they signed up for the Joseph S. Bruno Auburn Abroad in Italy program.. This goes for me when thinking of our fieldtrip to Rome for our “Grand Tour.”

I for one love the Lizzie McGuire Movie. It is the ideal picture of what every girl’s study abroad experience could only hope to live up to. Particularly in this movie, Lizzie, the main star, makes her debut wish at the beloved Trevi Fountain, she falls head over heels for a celebrity Italian, and in the end becomes a pop sensation. As you can imagine my hopes were set extremely high for my wish at the Trevi Fountain.

My day had finally come, with a coin in hand, I arrived at the Trevi Fountain with my sweet friend Gabrielle arrived at the Trevi Fountain with the group ready for our picture. It was crowded but we waltzed our way up to the front and were ready to throw our coins in to cast our wishes. As I went to throw my coin in, little to my surprise, did I know I mistakenly had allowed my phone to be tossed into the fountain instead! Well, as my phone is my lifeline I did what any one would have done, and I proceeded to also throw one more thing into the fountain- my entire body.

As I was diving into the fountain it occured to me that what I was doing was an absolute mistake, especially after I could not even manage to find my phone, I knew I had really messed up. My friends helped me out of the fountain, and I had to endure the pain of watching my phone lie in the middle of the fountain while I stood soaking wet in the cold.

On the bright side I had to go buy a new outfit, and I got my new favorite pair of sweatpants, which keep me warm in the palace.

Trevi Fountain, I will soon be back to reclaim my wish, and I will have my Lizzie McGuire movie moment once and for all.

Me after my dive into the Trevi Fountain

Michelangelo’s Masterpiece

This week we had the opportunity to visit the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museum with our amazing tour guide Giulia.  Before we entered the inside of the museum, we learned all about the frescos painted on the ceiling.  

Michelangelo, commissioned by Pope Julius II, was the artist held responsible for the entire project, which display the Old and New Testaments on the ceiling of the chapel. Originally, Pope Julius II gave Michelangelo four months to finish the entire ceiling.  Michelangelo ended up taking four years to finish the project.  During this time, Michelangelo was given free rein to do as he wished, however this project came at a cost to his personal life.  Through these four years, Michelangelo spent every moment painting while hunched over on scaffolding and painted through the night only with the light of one candle.  

Each painting has such intricate design and detail.  Each scene is blocked out by squares that depict stories from the Bible. The figures in the paintings proportions are much bigger than you would think.  In one of the squares, a man’s finger alone is the length of two forearms. Once we entered the chapel, I was fully able to appreciate all of the time and effort Michelangelo put into his art. When I bent my head back, the figures felt like they were jumping out at me.  The detail and use of color throughout all of the scenes is remarkable. It was the most amazing sight, something we will never forget!

Liz Cowhey

Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel Source: https://www.michelangelo.org/sistine-chapel-ceiling.jsp

Italian Adventures

We are starting our fourth week here in Ariccia. I really have no idea where the time has gone. I feel like I was just stepping off the plane in Rome with so much excitement and nervousness just yesterday. I remember feeling anxious to get a taste of the many adventures I would experience, and in the four short weeks I have been here, lots of adventures have already begun.

Our first adventure began in Rome the very first Friday we were in Italy. The morning started out with lots of excitement while we were rushing to the train. We made it, but it was questionable during our walk to Albano. I remember getting on the train wondering what in the world Rome was actually going to look like. It was everything I had imagined and more. Huge statues, monuments, and beautiful building that I had only seen in pictures were now right in front of me. From touring the Forum and Colosseum to watching one of us drop our phone in the Trevi Fountain, the whole day was filled with so much fun and amazement.

The next adventure was the Scavenger Hunt. We were all running around Rome in the pouring rain trying to find our way around and figure out what exactly we were looking at. It was something I did not appreciate while doing it, but now I am so grateful for that experience. I probably knocked so many people in the head with my umbrella so I am sure they were not too happy with me. However, it is something we already look back on and just laugh.            

One more adventure was pizza making in Frascati. I have eaten a ton of pizza and pasta during my time here. I am sure I will eat a ton more, but the pizza I was able to make with my own hands has been the best pizza so far. The whole experience was just a blast. It was such a neat way to feel a part of the Italian culture and get to interact with a few Italian people. Everyone has been so generous, understanding, and helpful toward each of us in the program. I have already experienced many adventures so far and cannot wait for the many more to come.

Pizza Making in Frascati

Ciao for now,

Emma Claire Dunnam

Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone

American author, Neale Donald Walsch is quoted as saying, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” I couldn’t agree more.

I am just beginning week four of my twelve-week Joseph S. Bruno Auburn Abroad in Italy program, and the past three weeks have been a blur (and so much fun).

What I really hoped to get out of my study abroad experience was to be pushed out of my comfort zone, learn about different cultures, and experience new adventures. I have always loved to travel and experience new places, but living abroad is different. Not only did I leave the familiar and comfortable surroundings of home to move to a new country with an entirely different language, but I moved in with 20 other girls that I had never met before. There is nothing like living and traveling with new people to go from feeling like a bit of an outsider to making new best friends.

It has truly been a “Grand Tour.” Together, we have toured the Colosseum, the Forum, the Pantheon and the Vatican, tossed a coin (and a cell phone, right Kaitlyn?) in the Trevi Fountain, walked the Spanish Steps, climbed Mt. Vesuvius, explored the Lost City of Pompeii and went to dozens of more sites on our scavenger hunt. We also took a weekend excursion to London where we rode The Tube to Buckingham Palace, flirted with the guards out front, ate yummy fish & chips, did some shopping, visited St. Paul’s Church, Big Ben, the Tower of London, and walked around Piccadilly Circus. The next weekend, we went to Milan and climbed to the rooftop of the Duomo di Milano for amazing views and checked out Italian nightlife at Alcatraz Discoteca! 

I know that only when I stop letting fear and anxiety hold me back am I open to major breakthroughs in life. I will keep pushing myself to expand my comfort zone and look forward with excitement to whatever may come next. Ciao for now!

Lauren Binnig

Katharine Pippin, Bethany Hadley, Elizabeth Bundrick, Lauren Binnig and Katherine Slyter at the Tower Bridge in London.

A Visit to the Vatican

This past Tuesday, our group had the exciting opportunity to visit St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.

We began our day by taking a very informational tour of the inside. We saw breathtaking works of art like Michelangelo’s Pietà and the Papal Alter by Bernini. Our tour guide was phenomenal and pointed out small details that without her, I surely would have missed. For example, the mosaic techniques on the walls are reproductions of frescos that originally covered the inside. I heard stories of early Christian leaders, Papal miracles, and even the location of St. Peter’s bones.

After our tour had ended, I decided to climb the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica with a few other girls. We were encouraged to do so because of the smaller crowd and great weather. I was excited to see the spectacular views of the city and massive dome up close. We first took the elevator up to the roof level, saving quite a few steps.

Honestly, the height from inside the dome terrified me, so I quickly ran to the next steps. We then shimmied our way up the tiniest sets of spiral stairs I had ever seen. At times, I had to bend my body along with the sides of the dome just to make forward progress. But, the view at the top made it all worth it. I had a great view of St. Peter’s Square, and I felt like I could see all of Rome.

This experience and our Vatican tour was such a special event, and my favorite highlight of my journey so far.

From left to right: Katie Pope, Elizabeth Clardy, and Caroline Kruza on the roof level of St. Peter’s Basilica.


Elizabeth Clardy

Rome, Sweet Rome

With two weeks in the program already done and only 10 left, this semester is already flying by! I’m past the first week, which was filled with orientation, jet lag, and adjusting to this new life in beautiful Ariccia, and now things are finally starting to feel real.

Slowly but surely, I’m beginning to settle into a bit of a routine during the week, from attending classes, to cooking for myself, to watching movies with my classmates in the common room after dinner.

As I become more and more at home in the palace and in our little town, I am also starting to realize that the rest of the program is going to go by in the blink of an eye. With that realization comes the pressure to check every dream travel destination off my bucket list as soon as possible.

But, despite that pressure, I am so glad that I chose to spend my first two weekends in Rome. It’s incredible to me that I’m only a train ride away from one of the most beautiful cities in the world, filled with so much life and culture, and so much to see and do. While I am so excited to travel all over the world, it is really important to me that I don’t forget about what is so close by! From the ancient architecture, to the fantastic food, to the places I wouldn’t have been able to see if I hadn’t got a little lost, I would definitely recommend spending as much time as possible in this gorgeous city.

Exploring Rome and walking the Spanish Steps


Katie Pope

Adjusting in Ariccia

Before coming to Ariccia and beginning our journey on the JSB program, I couldn’t wait to plan a dozen weekend trips to all sorts of countries that I dreamed of visiting. Countries like Germany, Spain, France, Greece, and the United Kingdom were on my must-see list. I did not realize at the time how beneficial (and just as fun) it would be to spend one of our free weekends in our new hometown: Ariccia. 

The first week here felt like a whirlwind. Our schedule was jampacked with fieldtrips and lectures, all while attempting to adjust to the culture and learn my way around. While a few other girls planned trips to other countries for the next weekend, a couple friends and I decided, why not just take a second and stay in Ariccia? 

There was a little bit of stress at the beginning of this semester abroad to take advantage of every weekend and see all of the places on my bucket list. I recommend putting Ariccia and Albano (the town right next to Ariccia) on your bucket list. After a weekend exploring my new home, I quickly realized how beautiful it was and how many fun things there are to do here. I discovered amazing shopping, a cute little bar with the best apple pie-flavored Moscow mule I have ever tasted, and some of the best “apertivos” (heavy bar snacks and light cocktails) I have had so far. 

My little weekend at home made me feel much more comfortable with the area, and I feel like I actually am at home. If I had to recommend one thing, it would be to take the time to appreciate the area you are in. There is so much to be discovered!

Gabrielle Berman

Dreams Really Do Come True!!

I signed up for the Joseph S. Bruno Auburn Abroad in Italy program when I was at Camp War Eagle before my freshman year. I studied abroad in high school for part of the summer, and since that day knew I had to study abroad for a whole semester! So, after four years of saving, two(ish) years of getting excited about studying abroad, and weeks of preparing the time has come. I said Arrivederci “goodbye” to America and Ciao “hello” to Italy.

Our first evening in the Chigi Palace we read letters from the students who attended the JSB program in the fall. The letters were filled with encouragement, advice, and fun places to visit. Seeing how much this semester has meant to those before us makes it easy to see it is true when people say this is an experience-of-a-lifetime.

On Friday, we went to Rome on our first field trip out of the Ariccia area. We visited the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, and so much more throughout Rome. It was such an experience to learn about the history of Rome. As part of a school assignment, each student was assigned something to either research and be an expert on,or to remind the class of something we have previously discussed. It was so fun to hear what my classmates found interesting at the sites we visited.

As my first week comes to end, I cannot help but feel blessed. Blessed to get to study abroad, blessed to make new friends, and blessed to get to see so much in Italy and all of Europe during my time here.

——Elizabeth Bundrick

Falling in Love with Italy

Buongiorno or Good Afternoon!

The first week of Italy has officially ended, and it was a whirlwind. The moment I stepped off the plane I was immersed in Italian culture, language, and sights. I met the staff and some other students before going on our first tour of the Chigi palace itself, which is full of art and history. The major moments of this week, however, were spent in Rome and Albano Laziale.

First off, Albano is the cutest town right across the bridge from Ariccia, full of shops and restaurants. Like I said, after the first week the exhaustion sets in a bit, so I spent my Saturday night shopping and eating in Albano, which was fun and close to home. As a student I knew little to nothing about the geography of Italy, like navigating Rome, or even where Ariccia was in relation to other cities. Luckily, in this first week we had lectures on not only the geography, but also travel basics which includes safety and buying train tickets. To make the lecture stand out even more, we toured as an entire group Ariccia, Albano, and Rome.

For a bigger city feel, obviously it’s Rome. Luckily the metro system there is easy to figure out, and a bonus is that more people in the city speak English. The best learning experience was the scavenger hunt of Rome, which includes finding famous landmarks on a map. This forced me to navigate Rome alone, and eventually I began to recognize certain areas. . Walking twelve miles was a full, tiring day, but seeing the landmark of the Trevi Fountain made it all worth it. The fountain, which has been used for countless movies and even fashions shows, is as every bit as beautiful as people have said. Taking my Euro coin, giving it a kiss, and tossing it into the fountain has already made this study abroad experience special, so I cannot wait for what else is in store. I’m easily and quickly falling in love with Italy

Kissing a coin and tossing it into the Trevi Fountain means that one day I will return to Rome.

~Katharine Pippen~