Deja Vu

Almost two years ago I sat at this very computer, in this very room to write a post incredibly similar to this one. I went back to read how I summed up my first experience with the JSB Program and the most prevalent line says “…it was an experience I would never trade or probably repeat.” Well, here I am, repeating the experience and I have more love for this program than I thought possible.

The crazy thing about coming back is it gives you sense of deja’ vu. While some things are alarmingly the same, others offer a stark contrast to my first experience. After three months of living in Ariccia and the Chigi Palace it starts to feel like home, but after six months of living here I can honestly say that it has become a home away from home.

The JSB Auburn Abroad in Italy Program has provided with me with life skills I didn’t know I needed and guided me through career choices I had never considered. For those things I will be forever grateful. I know that in my many years to come I will always talk about my time in Italy and how it changed me for the better.

One of things I promised myself this time around was to enjoy my little town. When you get to Europe you want to see all of Europe, but something I have to remind myself is that other students are coming to visit the country I am so quick to leave on the weekend. That is why one of my favorite memories of this semester is from the weekend I stayed in Ariccia and used my days to explore Rome.

That weekend, Maddie Coats and I stayed at the Palace and met our amazing JSB faculty in Rome to tour the Domus Aurea (Emperor Nero’s “Golden House”). The day was spent getting to know the people that work so hard to keep things running smoothly and exploring one of Rome’s hidden gems. 10/10 would recommend.

If there is anything I have taken away from combining my time with JSB, it would be learning how appreciate every experience, good or bad. That is a life skill that will change me for the better.


Roberta, Linda, Francesco, Cinzia, Me, Maddie C., Stefano and Victoria outside of Domus Aurea

Il Bel Paese

Week two is done and it feels like we’ve been here for two months, in the best way possible. The more time that I’m here, the more I can see myself living here long term. However, we have hit the point where the hype has worn off and we’re all missing home a little bit. Queen-sized beds, grilled chicken, and free water and restrooms are luxuries that I did not expect to miss this much. Although there are a few things Alabama offers that Italy does not, Italy is just fabulous all around. I might change my mind after the three months abroad, but I can say with confidence that, Europeans, as a whole, do life well.

Italy, especially its small towns, is a country with elegance and pure beauty. Everywhere you look is simply stunning. With mountains covered with colorful houses to the beyond-peaceful lakes to the golden-lit countryside, all decked out in age, ancient architecture, and history; it is like no other. It makes sense why people have nicknamed this country “il bel paese”, the beautiful country. I think God spent a little extra time when He created Italy.

Although this “bel paese” is known for its gorgeous and diverse landscapes, Italy is much more than that. It is known for its merry and bright culture. After being here for two weeks I have come to realize their way of life is very different from the rest of the world’s. One thing that I admire is that local businesses and stores take a ‘siesta’ in the middle of the day and close for three to four hours as their lunch break. It is a fabulous thing to be able to stop midday and have a little ‘siesta’ to recollect and recharge. I absolutely love the Italian culture because they simply take their time. There is something to be said about stopping to smell the roses and fully enjoying every moment. It is such a unique aspect of their culture and such a contrast to the fast-paced world.

Italy has the beauty, the culture, and it also has lots and lots of history. Italians pride themselves on their country’s age and ridiculously advanced and unique architecture. They live with pride and passion for their country and they take the time to admire the beauty around them. Italy is full of gorgeous sights and ancient history at every corner that has impacted the world greatly. Italians are very proud of it and that is another unique attribute of this country.

The grass is always greener; however, I am already a big fan of Italy and a huge fan of the people. They live life well, not to mention their cuisine is to die for. All in all, I am in love with Italy and the Italian culture and I am excited to keep experiencing more of what Italy has to offer.


-Miranda Register

More Than a Program

The Joseph S. Bruno Italy program has been a whirlwind of once-in-a-lifetime experiences. The beauty of the Italian culture, cuisine, and history seems to lurk in every corner and hug every cobblestone. As a young college student, I have spent this time exploring myself, and all the world has to offer. In the beginning of this journey, I was terrified of the thought of traveling to a foreign country with a group of girls I barely knew. However, as the time has passed I have come to realize that this program has offered me more than just the opportunity to immerse myself into a new culture. This program has opened the door to new and unexpected life-long friendships, and support that I may have otherwise never known.

During the middle of my semester abroad I received news of a family emergency that abruptly turned my world upside down. The next day I was on a plane headed back to the United States, with the unlikely thought I would be able to finish off the semester in Italy. I felt so alone in that moment, sitting next to strangers on a cramped flight, trying to pretend that my life wasn’t falling to pieces in front of me. Although, I wasn’t really alone, I had a newfound ‘family abroad’ full of friends and teachers bending over backwards to assist me in anything I needed. Sweet letters and text messages of encouragement filled my mind and heart with warmth during such a dark time. When I finally made the tough decision to return back to Italy to finish out the semester, I was greeted with a plethora of hugs and goodies covering my bed.

Many have recently told me that I have shown great strength in dealing with such life-changing and unforeseen events. However, I believe the people in my life constantly supporting and lifting me up have helped me find that strength within. The Joseph S. Bruno Italy program may have shown me the world, but it has also shown me compassion and the beauty of friendship both near and far.

-Maddy Epperly

A warm welcome back to Ariccia

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