It’s not goodbye, it’s see you later

It is currently Wednesday, the twenty third of July, and I have approximately a little over 48 hours left in what has been my second home for the past three months, Ariccia, Italy. Even though I was awarded the responsibility of completing the final installment of our summer blog, I had already found myself reflecting over this time for several days now. In my greatest efforts to avoid clichés, I want to provide a brief illustration of how this time has impacted myself and the nineteen other girls from which I’ve established life long friendships with.

Four suites, six bathrooms, one kitchen, one living room and twenty girls claiming their own little territory, this is the setup of the Chigi Palace. In an environment that mimics the summer camps we attended in our youth, this group embarked on a similar yet life changing summer adventure. Met with trepidation and excitement, our group embraced the culture of this historically rich town. We gained confidence through numerous failed attempts of ordering coffee, buying groceries and asking for directions. The constant interactions of our daily schedules taught us to be supportive peers and to not shy away from intimidating situations.

The individual growth that develops over the course of the semester is one of the most rewarding things I’ve acquired while being here, but nothing surpasses the bonds I’ve created with my peers. There is no escaping the forced intimacy that is required while living with others.  The only solution to this, is embracing the situation at hand and accepting everyone, for who they are.  This all being said, forcing everyone to love Harry Potter, One Direction, SOMO, dance parties, Parent Trap quoting, Segus Mundo Chigi and songs about cheese was a requirement.

It’s a funny how the time seems to slip away from us, and how it’s so easy to get caught up in the moment. Conversations around the table at night more frequently begin with “I can’t believe it’s been four weeks,” and then that four turns to five, six, seven and now here we are concluding the final week. I’m truly grateful for my time here in Italy. This is my second time doing this same trip; I didn’t mention this earlier because I truly feel every experience in life is unique. I think this will be my last big trip for several years and I’m forever indebted to this country, program and the people I met over the past few months.

XOXO,

Sammy

IMG_0722The front of the palace!

Our Italian Family

This summer has been an experience of a lifetime and I am sad that it is quickly coming to an end. It is not everyday that one is given the chance to go live in a foreign country for three months or to have the opportunity to travel all over Europe on the weekends. For me, summer has been full of art history, Italian culture, and finding inspiration in everything around me. Living in Italy is one of the best things that has ever happened, but having the chance to spend it with this group of girls is the icing on the cake.

From the minute we boarded the plane to this very second I continue to have the honor of learning something new and unique about each and every one of the girls on this trip. It is crazy to think that we can go from being complete strangers living in a palace together to becoming best friends in just a short three months. Not only do I have the honor of getting to know these girls, but I have the best professors and director possible. Cinzia, whom we consider our Italian sister, has truly been a blessing to us and has helped us more then survive our summer here in Italy. Another very important figure this summer is Ms. Linda, who happens to be the foundation of this program and without her and all of her hard work we would not be here experiencing the amazing things that we are experiencing.

With just eight days left I am going to spend it cherishing every second with these beautiful people. When the time comes to say good-bye, memories will be shared, hugs will be given, and tears will be shed. I will never forget this amazing opportunity of a summer abroad with my Italian family.

A Day Spend Enjoying Sandwiches in Rome

A day spent enjoying sandwiches in Rome

Alexandra Wood

Cinzia’s Questions

Last night we were given the amazing opportunity to attend the Roma Opera at the Baths of Caracalla. After spending the afternoon shuffling around borrowing this and that from each other, we were all dolled up and ready for the night. Upon our arrival at the beautiful ancient ruins, where the Opera was being held, we went through the familiar task of getting our tickets from Cinzia and making our way to our seats.

We quickly learned that the orchestra had gone on strike and the performers would sing with just a piano. Looking around, we saw quite a few people in the audience begin to leave. I sat there wondering if we too would be leaving, heading back to the palace, having given tonight a good effort at the least, when Cinzia walks over to us to report that we are officially staying, followed by something so painfully true as our time here comes to an end, “When will you ever be back here? When will you do this again?”

As I let her question sink in, I look around drinking in the scene. The rain clouds are long gone, leaving a strikingly beautiful sunset behind, Italians dressed for the evening, many deciding to stay regardless of the strike, and the best part of it all- the girls surrounding me. I realize I don’t have an answer to Cinzia’s question. The painful realization that our time here is quickly fleeting, the best summer of our lives drawing to a close had finally hit me. It became so clear to me last night at the opera that this summer hasn’t just been about going on field trips, stuffing my face with italian food (and I mean STUFFING) or exploring Europe. It has also been a summer of making some amazing friendships that will not be lost upon our return home. Without them, I would have had a completely different experience, I am sure one not nearly as full of life, gut wrenching laughter, and utter ridiculousness. The opera may not have been what we had expected, but that didn’t matter because we got to experience the simple beauty of it all together. And when will I ever be back here, with people so amazing as the girls around me?

-MacKenzie Howard
blog Group shot at the Baths of Caracalla before taking our seats for La Boheme

Night at the Opera!

by Hunter Burmeister

Last night we took the private bus to the Baths of Caracalla in Rome to watch an opera called “La Boheme.” We were all dressed up and looking sophisticated for the show. We stopped to pose for pictures on the “red carpet” leading up to the venue, pretending to be celebrities. The Baths of Caracalla were ancient Roman ruins, which made for a very interesting outdoor setting. The opera was of course in Italian so we thought it would be difficult to understand what was going on throughout the performance. However, there were English translations of the performers’ lines visible on screens for the audience which made it much easier to follow along and much more enjoyable. We also had learned about the plot of “La Boheme” earlier in the day when we acted out our own hilarious version of the performance in class. Before the show started, it was announced that the orchestra was on strike so many people in the audience left in order to get reimbursed. Because of this, we were able to take their seats which were closer to the front for a better view! Music was still played throughout the show with a piano to replace the orchestra. I actually appreciated the piano playing instead of the orchestra because it allowed me to better hear the actors’ singing. The opera was much more enjoyable than I anticipated because the characters were significantly more enthusiastic and entertaining than I expected them to be. It was even quite comical with some humorous characters. The show felt more like a fun musical, rather than the stuffy, classical opera I expected. Despite the rain, the language barrier, and the orchestra strike, the opera still proved to be a success and was a very surprisingly enjoyable experience with my friends!

View of the stage during the performance of "La Boheme" located at the Baths of Caracalla

View of the stage during the performance of “La Boheme” located at the Baths of Caracalla

Rain, Rain, Don’t Go Away

After seeing the beautiful sights of Florence and eating delicious Mexican food on the Fourth of July, we made our way to Venice. Venice is one of the cities that all of us were dying to see. Throughout the previous week we learned about the history of the city and it made us even more excited about what was to come. It is safe to say that none of us were disappointed, even in the torrential downpour of rain, because Venice was nothing short of amazing.

What made Venice so great was not just the beautiful canals, the gondolas, the bridges and the sea, but it was who we were with that made all of the difference. We explored, got caught in the rain, got lost in the winding back alleys, found a to-go pasta place (that we went back to several times) and ate delicious gelato. We even walked barefoot through a completely flooded St. Mark’s square. Although it rained a lot, it almost made it better. It forced us to act like little kids again and get creative with our limited number of umbrellas and rain jackets. Exploring a place so wonderful with friends that have become family can only end in a great experience, and that is what we had.

On our train ride back from a fun-filled journey to Florence, Siena and Venice, I couldn’t help but get a bit sentimental knowing that we only have two more weeks living in Italy with our new best friends. I am so thankful for the knowledge I have gained, being able to explore such beautiful places, and most importantly, I am thankful for the friendships I have made.

Watching the gondolas dance

Watching the gondolas dance

Ciao,
Morgan Gamble

Celebrating the Fourth in Firenze

We are all used to certain traditions on the 4th of July, and most of them include family! Whether your family spends their day on the lake or on your front porch, you spend it together. Although I did not get to spend my last Fourth of July as a student with my family on the shores of Lake Michigan, I did get to spend it with a new family!

We spent the day immersed in all Florence has to offer. We saw the Birth of Venus and the Ferragamo Museum, we visited the beautiful Church of Santa Croce and learned from the leather school. As the evening came closer we got more and more excited about the dinner that was to come. Our fun little family decided that the most American way to spend the Fourth of July in Florence was to get Mexican Food. We about drowned ourselves in queso and guacamole, and maybe a few margaritas too! So even though I didn’t get to watch fireworks or eat corn on the cob, I still got to spend it with people I have also come to know as my family!

Being in Italy is a wonderful experience, theres so much to see and do, but if not for these girls I’m not sure it would have meant as much. When I sat down to write about my experiences over the last week, what stuck out to me most where the little moments, the puns, the jokes, the laughs. I know I’m getting too sentimental over here, but as much as we’re all ready to return to the land of Chick-Fil-A and Barbecue, none of us are ready to say goodbye.

Our group with full stomachs and full hearts!

Our group with full stomachs and full hearts!

World Cup 2014

We all know that feeling. Fall semester has finally arrived in the Southeast and SEC football is underway. It’s time for beautiful weather, tailgating with friends and family, and some Auburn Tiger Football. Like me, most of us were raised on it. Now, take a quick leap and a hop over the pond to Italy. Italians aren’t about football, but futbol… that’s another story. Futbol, or soccer as we Americans like to call it, is not only a sport, but almost a way of life over here in Europe. Think SEC football times five. Soccer games get so intense that they have to separate the fans completely. Fights are sure to break out between fans if they aren’t properly separated inside the stadium. If you thought nothing could get more heated than the Iron Bowl, think again.

The World Cup is being hosted in Brazil this year. Think Super Bowl plus National Championship combined, but bigger. Italy played their second game last Tuesday night. Since we had been in Rome all day, we thought we should buy a couple “Italia” t-shirts and go watch the game like a true Italian (even though we knew nothing about soccer). We bought our shirts, made our way to the Roman Forum, grabbed a Peroni, and anxiously awaited the outcome while watching on the big screen. All we knew was that a lot was on the line for Italy, one more loss and they’re out. The game was a blast, the end of the game not so much. I’m sad to say that Italy lost and is no longer playing for the World Cup. Give them another four years and they’ll be back and ready to fight. As for me, I’m gonna stick with football.

Carly Chambliss

Sammy, Caroline, and I supporting Italia in the World Cup while in Roma.

Sammy, Caroline, and I supporting Italia in the World Cup while in Roma.

Beauty of Bernini

While standing in the Borghese Gallery, one cannot help but be awestruck at all the Bernini sculptures and each sculpture’s unique beauty. Even after studying Bernini for an entire semester or even living in a palace and town almost completely designed by him, one really does not really understand all the talent that Bernini had to offer. It is not until standing in front of “Ratto di Proserpina” where each detail of the marble really shows Bernini’s great skill and attention to detail that I really appreciated Bernini.

The “Ratto di Proserpina” or Rape of Proserpina was such a unique sculpture due to Bernini’s attention to detail and use of soft marble. Using soft marble, Bernini was able to capture Pluto leaving impressions upon Proserpina’s skin. Interestingly enough while the English translation of the sculpture’s name means Rape of Proserpina, it actually means kidnapping. While Proserpina did not go with Pluto willingly she did have to reside there for six months out of the year for the rest of her life and rule as Queen of the Underworld. This myth is how ancient Greeks explained the changing of the seasons because during the winter she is in the Underworld and her mother mourns her loss by creating fall and winter. She then celebrates her return in spring with blossoms and the renewal of life.

After “Ratto di Proserpina” the Borghese Gallery contains many other of Bernini’s most famous sculptures including his “David” and “Apollo e Dafne” which are equally impressive. While my personal favorite sculpture was “Ratto di Proserpina”, from the details in David’s slingshot to his armpit hair, one cannot deny the great attention to detail that Bernini put into each sculpture. While I did not get the emotion from “Apollo e Dafne” that I did from “Ratto di Proserpina”, the former is in many ways more impressive. Only made from one piece of marble, there is still much open space within the sculpture and the leaves that were once Dafne’s fingers and hands are so tiny, one can only imagine the hours Bernini spent on each piece of this masterpiece.

Bernini was an amazing artist, sculptor, and architect and studying him in detail this week gave me more of an appreciation for him than I had before.

Jennifer Jolly

A picture of one of Bernini's greatest works, "Ratto di Proserpina"

A picture of one of Bernini’s greatest works, “Ratto di Proserpina”

We Are Family!

It is surreal to think that we only have a little over four weeks left here in Ariccia. This place is home and these people are my family. When this journey began, I could have never foreseen how close all twenty of us would become and being able to consider the Chigi Palace as my home. With each passing week, the more I realize how much I cherish each of these ladies and the impact they and this place have had on my life so far.

This past week, most of us were with our biological families. This was a much needed break from classes and the nonstop fieldtrips that this program provides. However, I could not help but wonder what my “Chigi Family” was doing each and every day. It really opened my eyes to see how much I have been taking for granted being able to see and talk to the girls all day every day. We were able to keep in touch through our group text and send pictures of the activities we were doing. But, this was not the same as experiencing it together like we have every weekend travelling up to this point.

Through these last couple of weeks, I am going to soak up every second that I have left of living with all twenty of these wonderfully diverse ladies. I know that even after this journey is over, our friendships and memories will just continue to grow and create bonds that will last a lifetime.

Rachael Jones

Mary Elizabeth, Jordan, and me having a good time in Cinque Terre!

Mary Elizabeth, Jordan, and me having a good time in Cinque Terre!

A Quick Thought About A Long Journey

Entering the eighth week of this incredible journey in Italy, I am already experiencing a sense of nostalgia. The first one at the airport on that Monday afternoon in May, I had no idea who I would be surrounded by for the next twelve weeks, nor the friendships I would secure with people who would help me to grow as a person. Together, the twenty of us ladies have morphed seamlessly into a type of family able to push one another to make the most out of our time here.

With the first couple of months in Italy behind me, I reflect on the grandeur of Italian architecture, relish in the undeniable cuisine, and admire the passion of our Italian professors who so vehemently strive to educate us students on their culture and beliefs. While there is endless information to ingest and countless churches to appreciate, I feel that this program does an outstanding job of balancing the time we spend in the classroom, versus traveling on fieldtrips to experience these amazing sites firsthand. As the weeks pass, every student documents their time here in a journal containing a vast range of cooking recipes, architectural history, and many, many pictures. I value the opportunity to document this journey so thoroughly because I will cherish these memories and the knowledge I have gained forever.

Throughout the duration of this trip, I have tried to live each day following one of my favorite phrases, “When is the last time you did something for the first time?” Thank you, Drake, for the insightful thought. Because of this ideology, I have jumped off a cliff in the Mediterranean Sea, tried squid in my pasta, and even have plans to skydive over the Swiss Alps. Keeping this motto close to my heart, I believe that I was brought on this adventure to gain as many experiences as possible and savor every moment because the time passes all too quickly. In the next five weeks I hope to continue learning, laughing, and loving the place I am in with the most amazing people by my side. For this journey I am truly thankful.

Tessa Urovsky

Our lovely group in the town center of Pompeii!

Our lovely group in the town center of Pompeii!