Home is Where The Heart is

Nothing could prepare me for the experiences I have had while studying abroad in Italy and there is absolutely nothing in the world that could give me as many feelings in one moment as when I first stepped off that airplane and begun to get to know my new home and family for the next three months.

Ariccia becomes home almost instantly. After long days and sometimes weeks of travel we are excited to just be back home. There are hardly any other places while studying abroad that give me the true sense of home as the Chigi Palace gives me. It remains astonishing to me how fast the palace really takes on the role of being our home. Maybe this exists because of how clean it is kept, or maybe the fact that we are supplied with our own space, but I strongly believe the reason for the Palace becoming our “home” happens so quickly because of something much deeper and much more personal.

In Ariccia I have learned to live in one place with twenty unique and inspiring personalities. Through traveling together and having assignments that force us to talk in front of one another, I have begun to view my palace companions as my new family. As a family we can travel to new places and share stories from our past and present that bring each and every one of us closer together. We laugh, we cry, we bicker, and we support one another through it all.

This family does not stop at our current companions though. In fact, as we travel during our months in Italy, we meet even more inspiring people and gain a sense of family in Ariccia through these experiences. Whether it is the owners of our favorite local restaurant or the children of the local schools, we cannot help but keep them in a very special compartment of our hearts. This family even extends to those who have studied at the Chigi Palace previously and those who will study after us, as we all become one of the “Chigi Babies”.

This sense of family and home will follow us throughout our lives and provide us with opportunities we may have never had if it were not for this amazing support system. We have even started to really feel like part of the famous Chigi family, referring to Pope Alexander VII as our Pope.

Ciao Chigi Babies,

Suzanne Merlino

"Where thou art, that is home" Emily Dickinson

“Where thou art, that is home” Emily Dickinson

To Trebotti and Beyond

I cannot help but hum the lyrics “We’re halfway there” from the Bon Jovi song “Living On a Prayer” as the end of our time abroad is closing in more rapidly than I would like to believe. Our weeks have been filled with full schedules; a gift our group continues to maximize. More specifically, this week took a sharp turn from our time in the classroom with various influential lecturers to living out of our suitcases as we explored Prague, Umbria, Cinque Terre and beyond.

Time after time, these small towns invigorate our time, amidst heavy eyes and blistered feet, as we seek the side streets to find traditional restaurants, ceramics, and locals who reflect the heart of their city. Orvieto granted us an insight into Bottega Michelangeli’s woodworks seen around the town as well as the handmade ceramics of family owned businesses that accentuated homes and restaurants alike with detailed images of antiquity. These specialties proved to be the perfect gifts for the ultimate homemakers; our mothers!

Our time away from the palace began to wind down as we visited a family-operated winery, Trebotti, where we tasted some of Italy’s most organic and finest grapes from this budding wine business. There is always something about the time spent around a meal and a glass (or two) of wine that creates the most special of communities among our group. In these times, we are refueled, encouraged, and our motley crew comes together to share more of our hearts amidst this unbelievable adventure. Each member adds a unique perspective, enlightening our experience for the better.

As we approach the halfway mark and a break from our time together, I hope that we continue to challenge ourselves to never stop exploring, to fill our time with the fullness of adventure so that we may continue to unite together, enlightening one another with stories that continue to humble us in remembering that this education abroad is truly once in a lifetime.

“In wine, there's truth.” --  Pliny the Elder

“In wine, there’s truth.” — Pliny the Elder

Ciao for now,

 

Katie Knell

Did You Get Seconds?

First off, I cannot believe that we are already on our fourth week here in Ariccia and I think our whole group can agree on that! Time has flown by way too quickly and it is almost scary to think that we are close to halfway through with our trip.

With all of the traveling we’ve been doing recently, it was nice to relax and have our first aperitivo last night! We put a little twist on the typical Italian aperitivo and we all made an “American” style dish. Our dishes consisted of salsas to hummus to delicious mini hamburgers, desserts and so much more. We all had plenty of food to eat and each probably ate around two or three plates of food!

Everyone got together to get a quick picture before our guests arrived!

Everyone before the apertivo

We invited some guests from Ariccia to come to our aperitivo and it was a blast. Getting to talk to the residents of Ariccia is such an enriching experience because we really get to learn more about their lives and culture. That’s one of the best parts of this program is that we are not only living in a small community in Italy and able to become a “local”, but we are encouraged to get to know the people of the town on a deeper level and really get out of our comfort zones. Not many people get this opportunity and we are so blessed that we are able to do so.

The whole night was a huge success and now we are all looking forward to our first optional weekend trip to Prague! We’ll keep y’all updated because I’m sure there will be plenty of interesting stories that are about to come our way. Wish us luck as we attempt to take on hostels and the airport without our life support that consists of Cinzia and Mrs. Linda…now that is scary!

Ciao!

Caroline K.

A Change of Pace

Today one of the girls noted that we are nearly a third of the way through our time in Italy. Though it is hard to believe that we’ve already been here for nearly four weeks, time hasn’t passed us by. No, we have savored every moment.

Amidst all of the business, I have come to truly admire and embrace the way of life in Italy.

Being a person who puts efficiency on far too high a pedestal, I was surprised by how quickly and eagerly I accepted that being efficient and “on time” doesn’t really exist in Italy. Relationships and meaningful interaction are far more important. This experience and the Italian culture are teaching me what it means to embrace each day and be present with the people I am surrounded by.

Before coming on this trip, I admittedly viewed it as an escape of sorts. A break from obligations, the pressure of deadlines and the business that weighed on me in Auburn. Though I do feel at ease and freed from some of those things, I am discovering that Italy and this program have far more to offer than a break.

This experience is enriching our knowledge of people, teaching us the value of time and providing unique opportunities to learn without the confinement of a desk. We are living surrounded by a rich history and a people who value family and great food.

The food. I could go on and on about the pizza, gelato and vegetables that taste infinitely better here, but I think these are just a small portion of a bigger idea. Three-hour long meals with delicious food encourage people to sit around enjoying what they eat and, more importantly, those they are sharing it with. Italy is showing us how to spend time together and I am thankful.

Dinner with friends in Positano.

Dinner with friends in Positano.

Though I may have come to Italy as a way to leave things behind, the real beauty of this trip will be in what I bring back.

 

-Joanna Vogt

Cheese Burglar in Paradise

As the third week comes to a close here in this new Italian fairytale that we call life, it’s so hard not to look back on everything we’ve been able to do and see so far and radiate thankfulness. This trip has already been more than I could have ever imagined that it would be, and I am so excited to think back on some of the things we have done.

In the last week alone, we have hiked one of the most historic volcanoes this side of the common era, run through gardens once graced by the set of the Lizzie McGuire Movie (at Villa d’Este), cruised the Amalfi coast by private yacht, and seen a Bastille song come to life in the ancient ruins of Pompeii. Every place that we have seen so far has been incredible, and I can’t wait to see what these next two months have in store.

All of these once in a lifetime experiences have been awesome, but honestly what has made this trip so great has been getting to do all of this with 19 of the coolest girls Auburn has to offer. To tell you that we are all the same person, and completely functional at all times would be a flat out lie, but where our differences leave holes, it is so cool to be able to see friendships fill them. As cheesy as it sounds, these people have already made this trip incredible, and they are the reason every day has been so much fun.

Speaking of cheese, you’re probably wondering where on earth this blog post title came from. No, I did not rob the supermercato, and no, in my time here I haven’t experienced someone who has. But I would, however, like to formally apologize to the town of Ariccia for single handedly consuming 1/4th of their cheese. Ricotta, Pecorino, and Parmesan, oh my. And in Italy, add pasta to that and you have the four main food groups. Food here has all been so fresh, and, just like the scenery, incredible. After three short weeks this place already feels like home, and I am so unbelievably thankful for it all.

-Andrea Rocchi

The whole crew in Pompeii

The whole crew in Pompeii

The Timeless Tale of Water

Water. The preserver of life. The blood of nature.  The liquid of life. Dripping and Puddling, Cascading and falling. Roaring and Singing.

This week we had the wonderful opportunity to go to the Villa d’Este to see the water gardens that are there. The villa is located in the town of Tivoli near Rome. It is a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) world heritage site because of the well-preserved Renaissance architecture and the garden.  While the villa contains numerous Renaissance murals, it is famous for the water gardens which were imitated by dozens of others from Poland to Portugal.  Pirro Ligorio was commissioned to lay out the gardens of the villa.  An Italian garden is characterized by a constrained geometric layout.

The garden was completed in the 17th century and looks not a single year older.  The preservation of the gardens is astounding.  It consists of over five hundred! jets and fountains all still based on and using the Renaissance time hydro-engineering knowledge.  One of the more popular fountains is the Hundred Fountains which is a three tier wall covered in vines of multiple animal heads spouting water from their mouths.  This wall creates a musical walk down into the rest of the gardens. The most picturesque and grand of the fountains is the Fontana di Nettuno (featured picture).

The gardens created absolutely beautiful backdrops to the many, many pictures we took as a group as we marveled at the beauty and tranquility of Villa d’Este.  Perhaps this same water will still be flowing through these fountains decades into the future. Only time will be able to tell.

Bethany King

Standing in front of the Fontana di Nettuno

Standing in front of the Fontana di Nettuno

Do as the Romans Do!

Our adventure in Italy is well under way! We spent half of this past week in Rome. We started our trip in the beautiful Coliseum. The Coliseum was almost overwhelming. It’s something that I have always learned about but we just stared in awe and amazement. We then spent the day seeing the Roman Forum, the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, and more.

The Trevi Fountain was my personal favorite in Rome. It is undeniably, absolutely beautiful. The fountain was more grand than I imagined and there were people everywhere with excitement pasted on their faces. The city of Rome comes with a long history; it’s amazing to be standing in the same place or on the same road as some of Rome’s greatest emperors.

Our next day, we got to see St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City. St. Peter’s Basilica was the most beautiful church any of us have ever seen. One of our professors, Emilio del Gesso led us around both St. Peter’s Basilica and the Non-Catholic cemetery. The Non-Catholic, or Protestant, cemetery is where both the poets John Keats and Percy Shelley are buried.

We had a scavenger hunt project so we all stayed in Rome overnight to complete this project. We visited fifteen fountains, monuments, buildings, and other important objects that we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to see with the program. This scavenger hunt gave us the opportunity to work together in our “teams” and learn how to successfully navigate in Rome.

Overall, the second week in Italy was wonderful and a great week to learn about everything that the wonderful city of Rome has to offer! I can’t believe that we are already this far along in our journey in Italia and I’m beyond words excited to see what else this summer brings us all.

Ciao from Italia,

Mary Elizabeth Woodward

Some students throwing coins into the Trevi Fountain!

Some students throwing coins into the Trevi Fountain!

When in Rome…

A few of our girls on our visit to one of the coolest places in Roman history,   the Coliseum.

A few of our girls on our visit to one of the coolest places in Roman history, the Coliseum.

Our second week in Italy has been an incredibly busy, yet incredibly rewarding week.  We started out the week with our first Italian cooking lesson with Mary Lou (who we all adore).  We made cachio e pepe, a type of pasta with cheese and pepper, and it was DIVINE!  Then, for dessert she had us make a delicious English strawberry cake – safe to say this was the highlight of my week.

Wednesday started our 4-day adventure to Rome… and that is exactly what it was – an adventure.  On our first day we got the incredible privilege of seeing The Coliseum, Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, the Roman Forum, Capitoline Hill, Capitoline Museum, and Via Condotti.  It was a packed day, but I have learned to love that about this program because in just two weeks I have seen so much of Castelli Romani and Rome, an opportunity so many don’t have the chance to do.

On Thursday, our second long day started with another trip to Rome to see the non-Catholic cemetery where poets such as Keats and Shelley were buried, as well as Santa Maria del Popolo (a beautiful church), and to conclude the day, a visit to the Vatican to see St. Peter’s square and Basillica.  There is so much history and so much to see in one day in Rome, so we even went back on Friday to defeat our infamous scavenger hunt all around the city.  Such beautiful sights to see! We loved it so much that we all decided to spend the first part of our weekend there as a group as well.

In just two short but long weeks, it has been great to see how well all of the girls on this trip have gotten to know each other and watch friendships form that will surely have a long history to follow.  This week was much easier in terms of acclimating, and we are all looking forward to sharing the opportunity of a lifetime together over the next 10 weeks!

Sin’s Benedizione Italiano

Jamaica. The only place outside of America I have traveled to. Italy. The place I will now call my home for the next three months. After a long nine hour plane ride and a crazy seven hour time difference from my home in Auburn, I arrived in the Rome airport awaiting Cinzia, our beautiful dark-haired, tall, lean, Italian beauty. We then hopped on a bus and were on our way to our new home for the summer – Palazzo Chigi Ariccia, the former home of the Chigi family in 1664. I have waited for this moment since I was a freshman in college, being in Spidle and seeing all of the pictures from the Joseph S. Bruno study abroad program, seeing all of the happy smiling faces of girls on their trips, putting my name on a list to hopefully be chosen out of many, many students dying to go on this trip and then – waiting; waiting and waiting for years, then months, for my chance, my opportunity to be one of those smiling faces.

 

On my journey are 19 other girls, only two have I known before the trip, but all of us with smiling faces waiting to begin our summer of a lifetime, waiting to see Italy, once again – waiting! When I look around me, I see history everywhere I turn. I see beautiful buildings with beautiful architecture. I see beautiful people with all sorts of different accents. The first week was a struggle being in a jet-lagged haze for days, but feeling so nervous and excited as if I were a 6-year old going to my first day of first grade away from my Mom! Having 19 new sisters living with me in a palace can make anything feel more “homey”.  These girls that I’m getting to share my life and my summer with will end up becoming some of my best friends. Waking up and hearing Carley and Caroline and Mary Elizabeth blow dry their hair while they get ready and sweet, quiet Joanna and Suzanne putting up with living next to my loud self at night, Linda could not have picked a better “Siena” room.

 

This opportunity would not be mine without my parents who I miss terribly but I hope I can bring them little joy by sending them pictures of our travels in Castelli Romani. In one day, we traveled to Albano, Castelgondolfo, Nemi, Frascati, and Genzano. Of the five towns we visited, my love was Frascati – world renowned for its white wine (my favorite). Sitting at my very first Italian restaurant with a chalkboard out front (a chalkboard means the food will be amazing and fresh according to Cinzia and Linda) and drinking my first glass of white wine while eating our waiter’s favorite item on the menu – lasagna, I could not be more excited to begin the discovery of the rest of my Italy. Yes, I get to say my Italy!  I cannot wait to continue my journey in discovering myself while also discovering my Italy.

 

I have been truly blessed in being able to make this wonderful trip. It is my (“Sin’s”) Italian blessing – “benedizione Italiano”.

 

Sinclair R. Monk

 

Enjoying white wine and lasagna in Frascati with three of my best friends!

Enjoying white wine and lasagna in Frascati with three of my best friends!

In the beginning…

From the moment the whole group waited anxiously to board the plane, I knew it was going to be a trip none of us could forget. Arriving at our new home for the next twelve weeks was a breath of fresh air even though we could barely keep our eyes peeled and our stomachs were growling like crazy. Throughout this week, the everyday people in the town of Ariccia embraced each of us even though we were suffering from jetlag and culture shock all at once. As we started class and the orientation process, we began to see what our summer would consist of. Even though a portion of it would consist of sitting in a classroom, it’s not like an Auburn classroom that’s for sure.

Our first big adventure was to the many towns within Castelli Romani. Most of them surrounding the beautiful Lake Albano and Lake Nemi. The little towns had such characters and personalities. My personal favorite was Nemi because of the mini strawberries that are formed out of the volcanic soil. Our first weekend has consisted of many hours of much needed sleep, a few long walks around town, the beginning of our journals, and a day trip to the black sanded Lake Albano to catch some rays.

As the first week comes to an end, our excitement for what is to come definitely is not. While we are still not completely over jetlag and fully acclimated, we await this next week with big expectations as we plan to visit Rome.

Ciao,

Caroline Brennan

On the tour of Ariccia near the square!

On the tour of Ariccia near the square!