A Presto! Translation: See You Soon!

One of my favorite photos-Chigi babies on the Grand Canal in Venice

How do I begin to sum up the last three months? How can simple words on a page capture the marvelously challenging adventure that is Joseph S. Bruno Auburn Abroad in Italy? It is a tall order, but I will certainly do my best.

As I reflect on this semester, a word comes to mind: unfolding. Just as the spring flowers slowly but surely unfold their tightly wound blossoms after the harsh months of winter, so too have these girls blossomed amidst the challenges that come from adapting to a new experience.

Tormane enjoying beautiful blossoms at Ninfa Garden

In the beginning, there was the expected clinging to the familiar and safe: small groups formed based on previous acquaintances from majors, girls pined for all things American such as Starbucks coffee and Chipotle. The program facilitators helped navigate every aspect of this new Italian lifestyle for the 22 “Chigi Babies.”

Slowly but surely, something wonderful happened.  A beautiful unfolding occurred as each student stepped up and continuously embraced the unfamiliar. New friendships formed through room pride (the girls live in one of four rooms in the Chigi Palace named after cities in Italy) that blossomed through competing for the coveted Chigi Award. Cultural awareness increased through learning to appreciate Italian habits such as leisurely dinners filled with wine, laughter, and pasta carbonara. Confidence grew through planning and executing weekend trips to various European countries while balancing a full semester of school, new friendships, relationships from back home, and much needed downtime.

Savoring “La Dolce Vita” as well as some Perugina chocolate

It has been a joy to see each girl shine in complex and challenging situations. From witnessing a Chigi baby navigate the city of Rome using only a map, a Rick Steves Italian phrase book and a cheery smile to woo any local for directions– to marveling at a group of students from various majors come together to create and pitch a concept for a hostel to an accomplished interior designer from a Rome firm in under 15 minutes.

As my time in Ariccia, Italy comes to a close, I am certain of this: this unfolding is just the beginning. There will be many more unknown experiences that will allow for tightly budded hearts to grow, expand, and unfold into the mystery that is life. You, my Chigi babies, have so beautifully illustrated this concept to me through courageously embracing your time here, and riding the wave of the adventure that is life. I thank you for allowing me to witness and be a part of your own, unique unfolding process.

I am not one for goodbyes so, to my Chigi Family: A presto: see you soon.

My little Chigi family

With love and gratitude,

Em Henry

Three Countries in One Day

Yesterday we had our penultimate field trip day before we head home. During the course of the day we visited three different countries and saw a multitude of amazing sights.

We started the day by taking the train into Rome and heading to the Vatican City to attend the Wednesday papal audience. It was a really amazing experience and an estimated 70, 000 people showed up in St. Peter’s Square to hear the Pope speak about child protection and welfare. I really enjoyed the service and even got to see the Pope up close as he drove by in his “popemobile”.


Pope Francis at the Wednesday Papal Audience

After we left the Vatican, we headed to Anzio where we stopped and ate lunch before heading to the American World War II Memorial Cemetery. The cemetery is an American territory in Italy that was gifted to the United States after the war. Inside the cemetery, there over 7,000 American soldiers buried there who lost their lives during the Sicily to Rome portion of the Italian campaign of World War II. More soldiers had been buried there originally, however, many of their families decided to have them returned home and buried near family after the war.


World War II Memorial Cemetery

During our tour of the cemetery, our tour guide, Veronica, brought us to a gravestone of an American who has close ties to the state of Alabama. It was the gravesite of Alwayne Dunlap of the 99th Fighter Squadron, better known as the Tuskegee Airmen. It is an incredible connection and he had such a great story.


Headstone of Alwayne Dunlap of the Tuskegee Airmen

Overall, it was an incredible day and fortunately, we had nice weather for once. I think we all enjoyed the visit to both the Vatican and Anzio yesterday, but we’re also dreading the fact that it’s almost time for us to go home.

-Victoria Campbell

If It Ain’t Baroque, Don’t Fix It!

Last Monday, the Chigi Palace hosted an event that was the first of its kind: an Honors College Baroque Banquet! Abbie Slade, Allison Miller, Christy Rolf, and I each researched a sensory experience of the banquets during the baroque period and then replicated those experiences in the palace.

Our welcome table for the banquet in front of the JSB banner

Our welcome table for the banquet in front of the JSB banner

The main room of the palace was almost unrecognizable with a single long table down the middle of the room with flowers and each guest having their own place card. There was baroque music playing and a slideshow on the television of the greatest artworks and sculptures of the time.

The set table in the main room

The set table in the main room

The meal that Abbie researched and we served was marinated and grilled chicken skewers, roasted and sautéed fennel, tomatoes, and eggplant, and pasta with a red sauce using ingredients customary of the time period. Wine was served as baroque banquets were meant for drinking and discussing the art, ideas, and politics of the world. To aid our guests with the discussion, Christy printed out table topics, and it was so fun hearing who everyone’s favorite artist was or what they thought of the courts of Italy. As a dessert, we brought out (as we know them) wedding cookies. The baroque desserts were all about sugar and this was the perfect representation of a pastry that the guests would have eaten. They melted in your mouth and were super sweet!

The last and most fun part of the banquet was our photo booth. Allison researched the fashion of the time and made little crown and hat cutouts that everyone used as props. We hung up a backdrop and set up the tripod and viola! We got some great pictures. I really hope there are honors students in the future that do something along these lines because, while it was for credit, it was one of the most fun dinners I have had in the palace.

Me, Allison, Abbie, and Christy in the photo booth

From left to right: Me, Allison, Abbie, and Christy in the photo booth

AJ Dessert

A Time for Pause

Throughout these past ten weeks, many different experiences have given me and others time to pause and reflect on ourselves. Within the College of Human Sciences, we are constantly taught to push ourselves to understand other cultures and not just appreciate what they can bring to the table but what brought them to this moment in time. I constantly am seeing this aspect intertwine itself within each and every one of my experiences and travel. Through our history classes with Marco, I have learned how different prominent moments in the past have shaped Europe and thus shaped their cultures and people.

Last night, we had class and dinner at Marco Antonini and Mary Lou Gray’s home. We spent the first two hours listening to Marco recount his personal experience with World War II and how history has shaped his life. Listening to the opposite side of the story opposed to how America experienced the war was fascinating. Not only did I find his account of history great, but really understanding how it brought Italy to be where it is today was helpful.

I constantly find the technique of compare-and-contrast helpful when I am trying to comprehend how different our cultures can be, yet how well we can work together too. Throughout these past weeks, I have found myself learning more about myself and how my ancestors were shaped by the situations they found themselves in and how those helped form me into the person I am.

Katie Bobo

The living Room of Marco's home was a great place to gather and reflect after he spoke.

The living Room of Marco’s home was a great place to gather and reflect after he spoke.

It’s a Give and Take

Being a tourist in Italy for the past two and half months, I’ve realized that we are the ultimate consumers. We go to ancient ruins and come away with souvenirs and amazing photographs. But when do we give back? Today, we were lucky enough to get to serve at the local homeless community, Caritas, which translates to charity. Caritas is an international program that “promotes human development and advocates on the causes of poverty and violence.” There are over 40 Caritas in Rome alone! It provides food as well as short and long-term shelter, all for no charge. However, if they choose to stay, they must meet with a social worker in hopes of finding a job. They also are encouraged to take classes to learn a different language, whether it’s Italian or English. The majority of the women and men residing in Caritas are immigrants, so this is a huge opportunity for them. I think it is a great program that gives hope to people that would otherwise have nothing. Getting to interact and talk with some of the people attending Caritas was a very humbling experience and made us all appreciate how blessed we are. Four of us were assigned to do the laundry, and the remaining girls helped with the distribution of food. Getting to experience a different side of Rome definitely opened our eyes to the economic problems that Italy is facing today. We’ve learned in class about these issues, but to experience them was something we will take with us far past our stay in Italy. I look forward to finding a local Caritas at home and being able to help out in the future like we did today.

Ciao, Sarah Donohoe


Helping to tag and distribute laundry

Helping to tag and distribute laundry

Cleaning up in the kitchen after dinner

Cleaning up in the kitchen after dinner

You Are What You Eataly

Week Nine brought the exciting subject of FOOD and more specifically, the Mediterranean Diet. We learned that the Mediterranean Diet is often held in high esteem due to its low saturated fat, high monounsaturated fat and dietary fiber. The Mediterranean diet affectively incorporates the basics of healthy eating with a traditional cooking style. It usually consist of fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains. We can reap amazing benefits by adopting a few of their practices into our own routines. One of the main aspects of not only the Mediterranean diet, but also the Italian diet, is OLIVE OIL!!

Olive oil is an ingredient that I myself have learned to love (and cook with) during my stay here. As it turns out, studies show that olive oil can actually reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. (Go olives!)

Fresh olives

Fresh olives


The exterior of Eataly

The exterior of Eataly

An interesting trick that our lecturer, June di Schino, shared with us is how to know which olive oil to buy in the supermarket. Olive oil is extremely heat sensitive; so it should always be in a dark green or black container, never in a clear container. This was somewhat disappointing for many of us to discover because when we returned to the kitchen after class for lunch break, we realized that many of us had, unknowingly, been using olive oil from a clear jar.

Luckily, later that same day we made a trip into Rome to visit Eataly, a high-end Italian food market chain that features multiple restaurants and retail items. This was, for many of us, a very exciting experience. The building, a converted train station, now stands as a four stories of sit-down restaurants and fresh ingredients.


The interior of Eataly

The interior of Eataly

After exploring the four stories of food, food, and more food, we all came to the checkout line with full carts- including more olive oil.

Christina Douglass

Bow Cinque Wow Wow!

Week nine abroad in Italy is over and I could not be sadder to see it come to an end. We finished out the week with a weekend trip to Cinque Terre, which, thankfully, Interlinea planned, giving us a nice break from the responsibility of planning our own travel for the weekend! Cinque Terre definitely did not disappoint.ct4View of Manarola in Cinque Terre

I mean, just look at that view! Marco, our amazing hiking guide from the Cinque Terre National Park, helped guide us through this vast and sometimes difficult terrain. Along the way, he taught us about vegetation native to the area, specific herbs used in the Mediterranean diet that are found in Cinque Terre, and historical markers along the pathways, such as abandoned churches from the 15th century! We hiked with him for two days, each view exceeding the last. 

Oh, we also found a little hole in the wall bar featuring an Auburn flag! There it was, just hanging outside the bar, proving the Auburn family is everywhere. War Eagle Cinque Terre!



Not only did we climb trails overlooking the sea and the five towns of Cinque Terre, but we even found time in the afternoon to relax on the beautiful Mediterranean beach in Monterosso and soak up some much needed Vitamin D. The weather in Italy has not been ideal tourist weather and we were all extremely thankful to be blessed with a 70 and sunny weekend! It was almost too good to be true.

Cinque Terre stole our hearts and I know many of us will be returning in the future. This weekend was one of my absolute favorites of studying abroad in Italy.


ct1A few of the students pose for a picture after climbing a huge rock on the coast of the Mediterranean in Monterosso


CIAO for now! – Anna



So many places to go and so many things to see, but there’s nothing better than taking the time to stop and have a cappuccino at some of the world’s most famous and oldest cafés. The Antico Caffe’ Greco located near Piazza di Spagna on the beautiful Via Condotti in Roma is one of the oldest cafés in Italy. It is a historic landmark café which opened in 1760. Spending a few extra euros on a cappuccino and pastry may seem silly to some, but when sitting in an ancient café in Italy, why not, right? In Venice, Caffé Florian is the place to sit outside on Piazza San Marco and overlook the scenic view of Grand Canal to the left and St. Mark’s Cathedral to the right. Caffé Florian is considered to be the oldest coffee house in continuous operation. Observing its fine décor, delectable menu, and ultimate hospitality of the servers, it seems fit for a queen. Lastly, the only thing that makes the Gucci Museum in Florence even better is the Gucci Café inside. Yes, it is way overpriced and you can get the contents of the menu at any other café, but can you get Gucci sugar cubes? You cannot. The Gucci Café is the only place you can purchase many Gucci souvenirs such as the handcrafted Gucci chocolates, Gucci sugar cubes, Gucci cookies, and other perfect little Gucci indulgences.

Antico Caffe Greco

Antico Caffe Greco

IMG_6799 IMG_7037 So, cafés may not be your thing. They may be a waste of time and money, but it’s the little things and life that are appreciated the most sometimes. It’s important to stop and enjoy life’s precious moments at a place that makes you feel special, even if it is just a simple café. I like to indulge every once in a while and cafes are my perfect idea for a happy little get away when I want to relax and have alone time. I am making each moment count and enjoying every second in Italia!
Madeline Headrick

Tormane Forever

11053889_10204542954426471_5076518629961643851_nThe beautiful city of Interlaken, Switzerland

Well, it is just now half way through our semester abroad in Italy and we only have 3 more weeks left in the program before we return to Alabama! A couple of the girls and I decided that this past weekend we would make the trip to Interlaken, Switzerland. A one-hour plane ride and (to our surprise), a $136 train ride later, we finally made it to our cute little town, so what do we do first? Go hang-gliding of course! Most of the letters that we had gotten from the previous girls said to go hang-gliding over the Swiss Alps. Some of the girls on this trip had already been and said it was an amazing experience. Our instructors could not have been any nicer to us. They helped to make us feel the most at ease as we could. I would definitely have to agree with all the girls and say that hang-gliding over the Swiss Alps has been one of the best experiences of my life. But who can go hang gliding without getting pictures? So, as I am collecting my pictures from the ground control crew, I noticed a little mistake in the spelling of my name. According to Outdoor Interlaken, I was Tormane the T-bird who flew with Ed the Eagle for the weekend. So, naturally as we girls do, we decided that it would be a great band name. Even though we have made it back to the palace, Tormane the T-bird still lives on.

10422259_10204526744741239_5336501197139862432_nTormane the T-Bird and Ed the Eagle flying over the Swiss Alps in Interlaken, Switzerland.

Ciao, Loraine McNeece

Wine Not, Ya Know?

Everyone has heard of Rick Steves, yes? Well, we are lucky enough to travel in the same buses that this world-class traveler travels in when he comes to Italy. As a group of twenty five, we all squeeze into this little blue bus – and let me tell you – we have a ton of memories inside of this retro-chic vehicle. Two weeks ago, we pulled up to the TreBotti Farm. After a long day of walking and touring we couldn’t wait to explore the vineyards and we were all thankful that Little Miss Monti made it up to the top of the mountain. While we waited for our host to come find us, we thought it was appropriate to snap a few pictures with Monti – just so we would never forget her.


Little Miss Monti, our wonderful bus

Anyways… moving on to where Monti took us, it was TreBotti, a beautiful vineyard in the rolling hills of Orvieto, Italy. TreBotti is located in Castiglione in Teverina in Viterbo which is in Lazio. Orvieto is in Umbria.

the beautiful region of Umbria

Orvieto, Italy (home to TreBotti)

This was by far one of the group’s favorite places to visit. We had great weather, great lighting (for pictures… because when you live with 22 girls, sometimes pictures are priority) and great wine.

Three glasses from our delicious wine tasting

three glasses from our delicious wine tasting

First, we roamed the vineyards and learned the extensive process of growing grapes, pruning the vines, fermenting the grapes, barreling the wine and producing crates for shipment. I may be speaking just for myself, but I had no idea how vast and time intensive this whole wine-making process is. This made our wine tasting even more delicious. And, the dessert wine at the end was the best – ever.

For your tasting pleasure, the 3B Rose (sparkling rose wine) and Bludom (sweet, red dessert wine) are delicious. Try them and love them!

Ciao for now!!

Allison Miller