The Green Heart of Italy
Nicole, Rome, Fall 2016
October 27, 2016

I can’t believe it’s already October. When I first got to Rome it was 95 degrees and I was sweating constantly. Now I am able to wear a sweater and jeans comfortably. I love fall!

Since my last blog post, I have gone to 12 more cities in Italy, 8 of which were visited this past weekend with SAI. Our all inclusive trip to Umbria, the region bordering Tuscany, Lazio, and Le Marche, was one of the most spectacular weekends I’ve had so far. We left Friday morning in the pouring rain where we went to Deruta for an authentic 5-course meal. My favorites from this lunch were the zucchini soufflé, strangozzi alla norcina (pasta with sausage and cream), and gnocci with cream of porcini mushrooms. When we got back on the bus I was stuffed to say the least, but so content.

We then drove to Perugia to tour a local chocolate factory that specialized in making Baci and learned the history and making of the famous Bacio. During the tour we were able to try about 10 different kinds of chocolates, and after the tour we were able to make our own Bacio chocolate! I learned that I am a terrible chef, but making chocolates to take home with us was so much fun and delicious. I’m eating one (okay maybe two or three) as I write this right now.

Nicole P - Fall 16 - Rome

Making chocolate with friends!

After we finished our chocolate making lessons, we drove to Villa della Cupa to the farmhouse we were going to be eating dinner at and sleeping in. The farmhouse has been there for nearly 700 years and was surrounded by 45 acres of farmland. After we checked into our rooms, we ate yet another 5-course meal that included a wide spread of legumes. After dinner I went outside to see if I could see any stars, and the sky was incredibly clear. It was the first time that I’ve been able to see the Milky Way and it was an experience I will never forget.

Nicole P - Fall 16 - Rome

The beautiful town of Assisi

The next day we went to Frasassi to see the Frasassi Caves, underground karst caves that were discovered in 1971. Unfortunately, we were unable to take pictures, but the caves were stunning. We then went to Fabriano where, you guessed it, we had another 5-course meal. My favorite from this meal was definitely the dessert where we had tiramisu and panna cotta. Our next stop was Assisi, a medieval town known for being the birthplace of Saint Francis, the patron Saint of Italy. We visited the basilica made in honor of him and also explored other churches and landmarks in the town. After Assisi we went back to the farmhouse and enjoyed yet another 5-course meal which included sausage and minestrone soup.

Nicole P - Fall 16 - Rome

Group picture by the Ponte della Torri

Nicole P - Fall 16 - Rome

Marmore Falls

Our last day we went to Spoleto where we saw the Ponte delle Torri and the Duomo. It was really foggy when we were there, but it was still amazing. We had another 5-course meal and then went to the Marmore Falls, the tallest man-made waterfalls in all of Europe! A few of us hiked up to the falls, put on some ponchos, and stood under the waterfall. It was definitely worth sitting on the bus soaking wet to see the falls from right underneath!

By the time we got back to Rome, we were all exhausted and had eaten enough for the entire semester, but had the best time exploring more parts of Italy. If you ever visit Italy, which you should, Umbria is definitely a must!


Nicole is a current student at Gustavus Adolphus College studying at John Cabot University, Italy during the Fall 2016 term.

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About SAI

SAI is dedicated to providing academic and cultural learning experiences abroad that enhance global awareness, professional development and social responsibility. We concentrate our programs in Europe, with a focus on in-depth learning of individual European countries and their unique global role in the geopolitical economy, humanities, and in the arts.