During the 12 weeks I studied abroad in Italy, I called the small town of Ariccia home. Ariccia is located southwest of Rome in the Castelli Romani (Roman Hills), and while there I lived in the lower level of the Chigi Palace (top right picture).

Everyone in the town welcomed us with open arms and from the beginning they were incredibly kind. Many of the townsfolk did not speak English, and many of us knew the bare minimum of Italian. However, we were never met with resentment for not knowing the language, and everyone worked through the language barrier together. My favorite memory of our teamwork in overcoming the barrier was using google translate with the owner of the cafe we visited most often. Back and forth we would discuss world topics, personal stories, and how we enjoyed our cappuccino and croissant.

As you can see in the images above Ariccia is a beautiful city with an incredible history. Bernini (click this link to learn more about Bernini) was the architect behind the town church (pictured top left). The inside (pictured below) is even more breathtaking than the outside.

However, the Chigi Palace holds spectacular artwork and was the home to Pope Alexander VII (click this link to learn more about Alexander VII). Inside there is a grand entertainment room (pictured below, top right) with breathtaking paintings on ever wall, and even a hand painted fresco by Bernini himself (pictured below, bottom left)!

Ariccia is also known for their amazing food. On every street you will find an incredible restaurant with the best Italian food you could image. Every morning I would start my day off with a croissant and either a cappuccino or fresh squeezed orange juice. For lunch and dinner pasta was my go-to dish, and as you can see from the pictures below I am not a food photographer and usually the phone does not eat first in my circumstance. I wish I had more pictures of my food, but I would always be half way through my meal before remembering to take a picture.

Also, a fun-fact about me, I never skimped on eating pasta while in Italy. Pasta is my all time favorite meal, and I was not concerned about gaining a few pounds from pasta. Mainly, because I didn’t know when or if I would ever return to Italy, therefore I wasn’t going to skip out on an opportunity to dine on the best pasta in the world.

Along with the food and the beauty of Ariccia, I was able to be a part of multiple incredible experiences. First, we were able to visit an elementary school in town and help teach the children English, while also learning Italian alongside the students. From that experience my standout moment was when we were sitting in a circle and we were learning each other’s names, and we had to go around the circle and recite each name. It was difficult, but it was so much fun watching the children work through everyone and get tongue tied on names such as Lindsay! Secondly, we visited a local language immersion high school. Each student was learning up to four languages, which impressed everyone in our group and made us think back to our language classes in high school.

Lastly, everyone in my study abroad group was split into pairs, and each pair was “adopted” by local families. Our families hosted us for dinners and taught us more about Italy and recounted their lives growing up. I really enjoyed having dinner with my Italian family, because they were incredible people who were kind and welcoming. They made a delicious meal, (featuring a pizza made to represent the Italian flag pictured below) from produce, meats, and more found throughout Italy, and even made a map (pictured below) showing where everything came from and where it was included in the meal!

After arriving in Italy, Ariccia quickly became home. Everyone was welcoming and made the 12 weeks an easy transition. Throughout my time I was able to learn more about Italy in not only a historical manor, but I was able to meet and connect with the people. I still keep in touch with a few Italian friends through social media and I hope to return one day. Ariccia was a perfect base for my study abroad, because after the hustle and bustle of our weekend trips, we were able to relax and live life in the slow lane during the week, while taking in our surroundings.

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