by Lara Aqel (American University)
IT'S INCREDIBLE how time can pass so quickly in a place that takes things so slow. After four weeks in Cagli, I am going home in four days.

I can’t reconcile how simultaneously I can feel like I JUST GOT HERE! and I KNOW THIS PLACE.

Maybe Cagli is just one of those places that is really easy to know…

Watching the men embrace each other in the piazza, watching how they interacted with the native females, not comprehending the inside jokes being exchanged in Italian between them, I came to realize last night that growing up in Cagli is like growing up in a thousand-member household. The walls that line the cobblestone streets don’t separate buildings and lives, but rather divide the rooms in one huge house, rooms whose doors are kept wide open.

While I can’t help but feel like an outsider wistfully looking in, I know that I am welcome here. I know it because I feel it in my bones whenever a familiar Italian face flashes me a genuine smile. I know it because I can flash a genuine one back.

Today I think about how different Cagli is from Washington, DC, and Wayne, NJ, the two places on Earth where I am most likely to be. Good food is valued in all three places, but here in Cagli, the idea behind the meal matters more than what you end up ingesting. Good food is important because it brings all the people you care about around the same table, which is ultimately what is most important. Italians, like all pack animals, bond over food. I may have a sit-down dinner with my family once a week during the three months in the summer I’m home. Here in Cagli, that would be sacrilege.

When I first came here, I wondered who would stay in a town like this. Visit, sure, Cagli’s not without its charm. But stay? After being born and raised here? I thought that people my age must book it the first chance they got. In the interest of sanity.

But now, after four weeks as a foreigner, albeit a welcome one, I understand that a sense of belonging just can’t be beat sometimes. I think I’m ready to go home.


by Tamra Portalla (University of Rhode Island)
YESTERDAY I HAD THE AMAZING OPPORTUNITY to bear witness to a community gathering together for nothing but a mutual love of art. When comparing a small town in New Hampshire to a small town in Italy you may find some of the same things: for example, both are surrounded by miles of forest and little streets that lead to a main street or main piazza. However, what is not the same is the culture of this small town in central Italy. The people of Cagli act collectively and seek art and culture within the walls of their own community. In Pembroke, New Hampshire, which is a small town in New Hampshire, the residents leave the town and travel to the bigger surrounding cities to gain exposure to the arts. In Cagli, the town celebrates the arts together by sponsoring programs and initiatives that bring the residents out of their homes and into the streets.

The collective nature of this community is what binds them together. Whether it is through morning espresso in the piazza or evening vino rosso, residents have a central place to socialize and experience all that is Cagli. There is a sense of loyalty and devotion to community and a sense of responsibility to make sure all are educated in the arts and life. The notion that it takes a village to raise a child is very much expressed as a mother walks by with a small child and everyone that passes stops to say hello to the child and mother. Its takes a village to raise a child and community to educate. Its takes a collective society to make it through the tough times. I can only hope that one day the individualistic nature of Americans can be changed and people will start thinking beyond their own selfish needs and ideals. It is in times of crisis that people band together, but I challenge people to band together in times of peace.


by Lena Marchese (Loyola College)
LAST NIGHT IN THE PIAZZA I witnessed a graduation party for a "dottore." Whether or not he is really a doctor I'm still not sure, because apparently anyone who graduates is called "dottore." Anyway, there was a big party at Mimi's for him-- I believe his name was Alessandro-- with food and drink and just lots and lots of people. As the night progressed, the "dottore" was thrown into the fountain and water guns filled with beer and water were thrown into the mix. I thought it was just another group of young people looking for an excuse to get drunk and party.

I later on in the night talked to Giovanni and Dave and they told me they had recently been to Urbino and witnessed the same thing. Even later on in the night, when talking to Dr. Caputo, he explained to me that at graduating ceremonies everyone wears wreaths of flowers around their head instead of a graduation cap and all get “razzed” when they have to run through a line of their friends after they graduate. On the outside, it all seems very similar to an American graduation, but I thought I saw more.

All of these kids were out in the piazza. The bar opened up and made a party for them. A bar that has been in business since 1875. Everyone was there. Even people who didn’t stay for the whole night were stopping by to say hi. Even when I went over with a couple of the American girls and Fabrizzio, the “dottore” came over and thanked each and every single one of us for coming. But for such a more formal society, no one seemed to bat an eyelash at this big party in the piazza with people being drunk and rowdy. People just accepted, even encouraged, this kind of behavior
in the piazza.

To me, this seemed like a huge display of the kind of close knit community that is here in Cagli. I came from a small town as well, where you see the same faces everyday and everyone knows everyone else and knows your business. But I am absolutely positive that if I was out in the street having a rowdy party, people would call the cops on me. People from my culture would not understand that for a younger person, graduating is a huge step for us. It is years and years of work that is finally being recognized and is finally completed and you feel proud. The Cagliese recognize that.

To me that shows even more the sense of family that the whole town has. It seems to me that the pride of being Italian unites all of the community.


by Andrew Nute (University of Colorado)
DURING MY TIME IN ITALY I have noticed that certain stereotypes about Italian people are not as accurate as maybe they once were. However, some definitely are very accurate as the case usually is with less negative stereotypes. When I came to Italy I noticed that a lot of the guys were really aggressive with the American girls. I thought that was a stereotype that I had heard prior to coming here and believed to be true. But after being here for a while I started to pick up on how Italian guys treat American and Italian girls that I believe they respect and like. Certain Italian guys with a romantic type of relationship treated at least that girl nicely and so did their friends. However guys that did not care for a multiple-day relationship were always the ones acting like jerks. Now I have come to realize that this is the way it is everywhere. Some guys a jerks and some guys are nice to new people just like some girls can be. This stereotype that Americans have of Italians is just as wrong as the stereotypes that Italians have of Americans.

Other stereotypes that aren’t so negative are definitely true such as the constant gesturing even while talking. If an Italian is talking to you he or she will be using his or her hands to express emotion on top of using exaggerated tones. Even when they aren’t waving their hands like they are controlling aircraft through a minefield, they will be touching to express how personal something they have to say is. Here there is a lot of understood communication that they don’t need to express. One example of this is that nobody will be around from 1 pm to 4 pm and because of this there is absolutely no mistaking between what hours are the morning and what are the evening. When an Italian talks with you for longer than 30 seconds, they intend to add a substantial amount of information to the extended conversation that is the way of speaking here. There is no literal translation for the word bye. Some would say “ciao” but as I learned here that is really a derivative from a word in Latin or Italian that means or meant “I am your slave.” Ciao is used as a greeting and final word after a conversation much like aloha in Hawaii.

Stereotypes like that Italian guys use a lot of gel in their hair is not true either. They all care about looking good but none of them have a gross amount of goo hanging from their hair. Some don’t even use gel and have long hair. And no, not all of those with long hair have a black pony tail. These are just a few examples of how stereotypes can be true and how they can be false or based on misconceptions. The one thing that I have learned about stereotypes is that they can’t be trusted. They may not be wrong but you should never follow them before experiencing a people first with an open mind.

Men and Boys

by Natalie Cammarata
IF THERE'S ONE THING I LEARNED from the bar scene in Italy, it's the difference between Italian men and Italian boys.

Back home, teenage boys are shy to approach girls who are older than them. In Italy? Not so much. Right here in Cagli I've witnessed the attack of the Italian 16-year-old. They come out at night, like animals on the hunt, and they prey on the older American girl.

Some people might find this flattering or cute, but for the average American 21-year-old it's not only annoying but can actually be frightening. I've seen friends surrounded by two, three, four young boys at a time, asking things like "Which one of us is your favorite?" in broken, spotty English.

And, after you've turned a corner, thinking you've lost the young animals, five minutes later they're back on your case. Like leeches or parasites or some sort of blood-sucking creature.

And while the young Italians with their baby faces are on your case, the Italian men are pulling you aside and asking slyly, "What-a are you studying?" These men range in age from 18 to 80 and sometimes it's hard to tell.

Although both young and old Italian men have a tendency to take interest in American girls, at least the men can carry a conversation about something more interesting than the latest Jovanotti song.

Beach Bodies

by Brittany Casey (Gonzaga University)
A NOTE about beach bodies:

Yesterday when we went to Fano, I noticed that it was fairly acceptable to where a bikini while pregnant. There were several Italian women--in perfect shape --who sported skimpy swimsuits and not so skimpy bellies.

At first I was a little surprised, but then I asked myself, "why?". One of the most beautiful, shameless things about life is our ability to create it. Pregnant women shouldn't have to be any more covered up than those that aren't.

I also noticed that while most men and women in Italy are perfectly slim and youthful, naturally, there are some who aren't. While they are not as hefty as the average American, some of the elderly carry extra weight. But I observed entirely different nonverbal responses here than I would at the beach in the United States.

There was no snickering or staring at the older men and women. Instead, there was a certain environment of respect--that being, that no one seemed to think a thing about the imperfect bodies. I would see people in there 60's and 70's, beach combing, wave wading, sun bathing, walking arm in arm with a friend and playing with their grandchildren with no qualms.

Wrinkles and a belly (again, not as big as you would see in the US) doesn't stop families from doing things together here. They also don't stop the elderly from enjoying life.


by Diana Blass (American University)
FOOD IS THE ULTIMATE COMMUNICATOR. No matter who the person, or what the circumstance, it is always one thing that everyone can bond on. This past week I was able to experience this first hand when eating with a Moroccan, Italian, and an American all at the same table. My friend Lara, who speaks Arabic fluently with the Moroccan woman, invited me along to this three course meal, consisting of a traditional Italian pasta dish followed by a traditional Moroccan meat and salad course. It was interesting to see how the Italian and Moroccan meal was combined. I never before met this Moroccan woman, as well as her Italian friend, but I immediately felt welcomed as she shared her delicacy with me, a total stranger. The real struggle came though when I wanted to express to her how much I was enjoying the meal. But as I ate, I saw her smiling, and I knew that enjoying in her meal was simply enough. Conversationally the meal was awkward at times and there were definitely a lot of silences, but it was nice to know that people from all different parts of the world can share and speak with one another through the power of food.

From my stay here in Cagli, I've come to realize how food can be so universal. Speaking different languages and having different customs poses great problems when
meeting new people. Yet, just through sharing a meal, as silent as it may be, is enough to tell a whole life story.


by Kellie Bramlet (Marquette University)
I FEEL THE MOST AT HOME in big cities. I love the busy streets and the crowds of people. There is always something to do, so many things going on.

Cagli couldn't be more different from Milwaukee, where I go to school. The narrow cobblestone streets are so quiet, nothing like the freeways I know, full of honking SUVs. Here, each day I throw open the shutters to my window to see the sunlight cast its rays onto the well-dressed residents running to the Wednesday market or to Caffe d'Italia for a small cup of espresso. It's different from my view of Milwaukee— a vista of a busy street skewed by bars that cover the windows. I know I could never live in Cagli for a long period of time. The peaceful lull would leave me feeling restless after a while. But in the past month I have come to love the quirks of this quiet community.

My favorite time of day is breakfast. Each morning I stroll to Caffe d'Italia, where Jake, the owner, greets me with a smile and motions for me to go sit down. He has my order memorized, a cappuccino and an apricot croissant. I love just sitting back and sipping my coffee the whole town shuffle through the piazza. It's so quiet and relaxing. I know that as soon as I leave that is what I'll miss the most — the friendliness of small town Italy. I love the Italian lesson I get from the lady at the pizza shop at lunch or the cheerful "Ciao," from the man who works in the wine shop as I pass him on the streets.

Just days away from a plane ride back to the States, I can't be more happy with my decision to come here. I know I learned so much more than had I come to some big city like Florence or Rome. I've been able to try out my Italian on many occasion. I've endured the insulted stars when guilty of "brutta forma," and I've formed many connections with many of the people that live here. And it's those people who have taught me more than I could have learned in any classroom. Those are the memories I'll take back with me. And while the pace of my life in the United States will speed up as soon as I step off the plane, I will try to find peace and quiet each morning as I make time to slowly sip my coffee each morning and appreciate everything that surrounds me. Even if it means I have to wake up a little bit earlier to enjoy it.

Customer Service

by Katie Brutocao (Gonzaga University)
in the United States is willing to bend over backwards to ensure that you, their customer, are 100% satisfied. As a person who has worked through college as a waitress and barista, I know how much employers emphasize customer service and I also know that good customer service equals big tips. What starving college student doesn’t want to make a little extra money even if it means plastering a huge smile on your face when you don’t feel like it? Here in Italy, however, it seems as if customer service is far less important. That isn’t to say that the people who work in restaurants, shops, and cafes are rude. In fact, in my experience they have been extremely warm and friendly. It just appears to be a natural and unspoken agreement that customers won’t expect any special treatment.

In the US, Burger King touts “hold the pickles hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us.” When I went to the Florence McDonald's and asked for no pickles or mustard on my cheeseburger, however, the woman looked at me like I had asked her to give me her first-born child. Wide-eyed and jaw dropping, she stammered that it would take a really long time to make a special order like that, so wouldn’t I just rather it the way it came. Being an American and used to my picky palate being catered to, I couldn’t imagine my first cheeseburger in 3 weeks to be tainted by the taste of mustard and pickles (ew!), and so I agreed to wait however long it took. She rolled her eyes, sighed, shouted something in Italian to the cook, and I felt like I had made a huge cultural faux pas.

This wasn’t my first, or only, run-in with hesitation or flat out refusal to confirm to customer requests. Just a couple days ago after an early morning and no breakfast, Tamra and I went to Caffé del Corso to grab a panini at 10:30. We understood it was early, but figured it wouldn’t be a problem since we get paninis there almost every day. But when we tried to order, the woman behind the counter told us no paninis because it is breakfast time. I know that if that happened in my restaurant in the US, I would have had to serve the panini no matter what time it was because it was what the customer ordered.

In trying to reflect as to why customer service is such a priority in the U.S. and less so in Italy, the only reasoning I can come to is the collective vs. independent culture issue. In the United States, individualism isn’t just the norm: it is praised and celebrated. Who cares if you hate pickles and mustard? That is your choice to make as an individual and we will do whatever we can to help you stand out from the pack! In Italy, though, collectivism appears to mean that people do not just spend a lot of time in groups and with their families and friends, but they don’t expect to be treated differently from anyone else. I also think that the “work to play” Italian culture and the “work to live” U.S. culture influence customer service. In the U.S., any café owner would be worried to lose us as customers if they didn’t give us a panini at 10:30 and so they would bend over backward to us so that they could be sure to earn as much money as possible. In Italy, however, I guess that their adherence to manners and a particular way of doing things overshadows any desire to make an extra 3 euro that day on a panini.

Although customer service can sometimes be a little over-the-top in the United States, I will be glad to go home and be able to order my cheeseburgers how I want them and my paninis at any time of the day.

Crash Course

by Marisa Martin (Loyola College)
I TRY TO AVOID brutta forma and put forth my best bella figura. Every day.

I, clearly, am far from fluent in Italian. But I try to speak as much as I can and as correctly as I can. Every day.

I have not grown up in Italian culture. I had a vague idea of what it would be like before I came here. (My grandmother, a native Italian, has shared some of the cultural aspects with me my whole life.) But, considering I’ve attempted to adopt a whole new way of life, I’d like to think I’ve meshed pretty well.

Unfortunately, not everyone agrees, namely the locals. We, the group in general, all suffer from the same strain of unaccepted-itis. We feel the stares, and hear the laughter before and after the word “americani.” … Like we can’t understand what they’re saying.

Granted, the gawk-fest doesn’t happen every time we step outside. But I do feel “shunned” on some level at least once or twice a day, even if it’s just a look up and down from a passerby. I can tell they don’t approve.

All of this sounds exactly like the section my group covered from the enculturation /acculturation packet. Kim’s model suggested that meshing of cultures is a two-way street. There are factors in ones personal history to either ease acculturation or make it more difficult, such as previous exposure to the culture and willingness to give up part of one’s previous identity. Even if all the signs are in your favor, the culture has its own set of factors to ease or hinder the culture blend. The society basically can choose whether or not it wants to accept you, regardless of how hard you try.

But I’ve done my best in our crash course on the Italian lifestyle, and there’s not much more I could ask for. Except to hope that, someday, I’ll have a chance to come back, and I can give it another try!

Old Men and Gelato

by L'Oreal Thompson (Loyola College)
SITTING ON THE WALLS in Cagli’s main piazza, I’m constantly reminded of how simple life can truly be. A group of kids devour pizza by the fountain. A young couple has a nice chat over cappuccino and croissants at Mimi’s cafe. An older couple strolls around the perimeter of the piazza, hands behind their backs. And old men discuss the latest in politics, sports and town gossip at Caffe D’Italia. But one older gentleman in particular appears to love life more than anyone else.

I’m entirely convinced 72-year-old Romano Romanini holds the secret to a long and happy life. Romano has a two-gelato-a-day rule, one that I eagerly adopted. If my 82-year-old grandfather lived in Cagli, I’m entirely convinced him and Romano would quickly become BFFs. Like Romano, my grandfather also takes pleasure in ice cream. I can already picture them sitting in the piazza for hours talking about everything under the sun. Life just doesn’t get much better than that.

But, unfortunately, my grandfather does not live in Italy, where it appears as though people have more reverence and admiration for senior citizens. Unlike the United States, where it seems as though people have a countdown until it’s time to throw Grandma into the assisted living home, the Italians take on a different approach. It is not uncommon to find grandparents living with families and it isn’t a burden to care for them either.

In most parts of the world, more years equals more wisdom. Even though my grandfather never finished high school, I truly believe he is one of the wisest people I know. He would fit in perfectly with the slow-paced and simple Italian way of life. A part of me wishes I lived here with my family and my Pop-Pop, but since he’s not a fan of flying, I’ll just adopt those Italian values to my American lifestyle. Here’s to old men and gelato around the world!

Life in the Piazza

by Michelle Tumolo (Loyola College)
of life in Cagli is the feeling of community. In the states, we hardly ever come together as a community. There is rarely ever a general location where people gather to relax in the presence of their neighbors. We tend to be standoffish and keep to ourselves and to our own cliques.

In the piazza, life is communal. Life is friendly and verbose. Neighbors interact with each other and get together for lunch and conversation. The other night, we attempted to assimilate into this tradition. After dinner, we gathered at the local café with a glass of wine and a gaggle of conversation. I thought it would be a good idea to engage in a friendly game of charades. After a few stimulating rounds, some of the Cagliese, also enjoying the night air in the piazza, began to guess at our attempts to convey our favorite movies and books. Comparatively, their guesses were more on target than some of our own.

It was nice to feel included in the customs of the town and to integrate some Italian into our lives outside of school. It was also nice to be able to bring some of our American culture to the already existing traditions of Cagli. I can only hope that the next time I’m out on the piazza there are Italians playing a game of charades that I can join in on.


by Jamie Connors (Loyola College)
spent in Cagli, I started coming to the realization that I am going to miss this place so much. Not because of Caffe del Corso, or the amazing paninis-- it's the atmosphere and the community this culture has that I am so jealous of. I am going to miss walking in the piazza and seeing the same 15 old men I have seen, or the five ladies who sit at Caffe d'Italia to gossip and sip on their espressos. I have never really been able to grasp the extreme closeness of Italians until thinking about going home and not being able to eat my food, sit down for thirty minutes and then go pay whenever I feel like it. The trust these people have in one another is unbelievable.

Another thing I have noticed about this culture is their morals they have. I have seen two specific men in this town that clearly have some mental disability, but because these individuals are a part of Cagli, they are a part of everyone’s life. You can see people helping them, comforting them, and giving them company. It is really uplifting to see people come together as a whole and create such a comforting community for all.


by Bryan Doscher (Loyola College)
OUT OF TWENTY-FOUR STUDENTS on this trip there are only three guys. We get treated very well because we go everywhere with a ton of American girls. Three people that I seem to spend the most time with outside of the American group are Seven, Alesandro, and Michele (Michele is a boy's name here). A few nights ago we were at the bar talking about what exactly I was doing here in Cagli, and after a few drinks we had become a little less concerned with language barriers and a little more concerned with universal antics.

At the end of the night, I bought a round to thank them: Alessandro for helping me with my story, and Michele and Seven for playing basketball with me earlier the day before. We clinked glasses, said 'cheers' and 'salute', but before I could put the drink up to my lips, Michele grabbed it and shook his finger at me.

In Italy, he said, it is impolite to drink after a toast if you are not looking at the person directly in the eyes. Seven and Alessandro agreed with him and had told me that they let it go because of their experience with Americans in the past. I was shocked. Not only did I feel horrible that I had insulted him, I was worried that every time someone had been gracious enough to raise their glass and drink with me I had been considerably rude in return.


by Kathleen Boehl (Loyola College)
EVER SINCE MIDDLE SCHOOL I have struggled to find the motivation to study a foreign language. I just thought it wasn’t for me and that there was no real reason why I would need to know any language other than English unless I was going into a profession that demanded me to be bilingual. I have studied Spanish for several years but the motivation to really learn and get engaged just wasn’t there. Not until I traveled abroad. When I got to Europe my outlook on learning another language drastically changed. Not only do a lot of Europeans speak English but many are fluent in more than two languages. I was shocked to come to know so many Europeans that knew my language. I felt less educated and almost dumb when I heard Italians my age speaking fluent English when I could barely form sentences in another language. Since being in Italy I truly have found my motivation to learn another language.

There really is so much opportunity for people that can communicate in other languages. If it weren’t for the English speaking Italians I would not have gotten to know the locals here as well as I have or engaged in the great conversations about our different cultures. What I have experienced here in Italy is almost like a reality check. I have been shown how lazy Americans like myself have been when it comes to expanding our language abilities. I see how much potential there is for me to learn a new language and be able to communicate with others the next time I go abroad.

Are You Ready For Some…Calcio?

by L'Oreal Thompson (Loyola College)
CALCIO. FUTBOL. Soccer. It doesn’t matter how you say it. In Italy, it translates to one thing: religion. Italians may not be known for their patriotism, often pledging allegiance to their region or city rather than the country. But if there is one thing strong enough to unite these hearty people, it’s soccer.

The 2006 World Cup Champions aimed to defend their title in a match against Holland last Monday night. Caffe del Corsso, Cagli’s infamous wine bar, was packed from lime green wall to lime green wall with local soccer enthusiasts young and old devouring every second of the evening’s game. In a word: intense.

Every time Holland scored a goal or there was a bad call against our beloved Italia, mayhem ensued. The petite 20-something year old woman in front of me with the nose ring jumped up and slammed her chair after one of Italy’s players missed a goal. Moments later, the man next to her stood up and loudly cursed the referee in Italian, gesturing wildly. Meanwhile, the little girl in the pink started screaming, too.

Despite its best efforts, Italy lost 3-0.

Un disastro,” muttered an elderly man to his beer.

What a disaster, indeed. The next day you would’ve thought a national tragedy had occurred and, in a way, it had. All of the townspeople seemed to be a little more somber, mourning the loss of an important game.

Watching soccer in Europe always makes me a little envious. I want that, why not me? If I were back in the States right now, I would be enjoying an O’s game with my sister, eating hot dogs and peanuts—America’s favorite pastime. Sure, baseball has the ability to unite a city or two. But what about an entire country?

That’s something I’ve only seen on this side of the pond.

Bread and Wine

by Audrey Sherman (University of San Francisco)
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE FOOD. Not the tipping. I am still not used to the fact that you are not supposed to tip here in Italia. I must admit that it is nice not having to shell out an extra five bucks, but I still find myself almost adding that extra 15-20 percent onto the check. Living in the States it is almost as if the service experience is as important as the food that is being consumed.

Here, however, the restaurants acknowledge the fact that the customer is there for the food and the food alone. It goes with the relaxed cultural feel and the fact that people go to cafes and restaurants not just for a quick bite but a few hours of extended conversation and visiting. Instead of catering to the diner for the whole three hours the waiter just leaves them be, and in return expects no tip. Instead they include a service charge. To me, an American, this was something new.

After sitting down to dinner, one unfriendly server set down a few baskets of bread and packets of breadsticks. Just as my fingers swiped up a slice of the bread, one of the other girls shouted to not touch the bread. The reasoning was that in many Italian restaurants they charge you for the bread.

What? How could this be, I thought to myself. Italy makes some of the best bread. My Italian grandfather’s last name was Pagnotta, meaning bread, and here they are about to charge us for a measly basket of bread? However, after a much misunderstood conversation in “Italian” we were reassured that the bread was not an additional cost but included in the service charge. To say the least, we were not the waiter's favorite table of the night.

* * *

Spending the weekend traveling, I expected to spend a few euro, which I successfully did. The one cost that did come as a surprise, but perhaps shouldn’t of if I had thought about it more, was the fact that a cup of coke cost more than a glass of wine.

After getting off of the train and arriving in Florence we were all a bit exhausted and ready to walk around and get a drink. Luckily we ducked into a café with an outdoor canopy since a few minutes later the clouds opened up and a huge down pour of rain began to soak the cobble-stoned streets. As a group of about six of us sat down we all ordered different drinks.

There was, of course, an espresso in the group, along with a grande beer, glass of red wine, and a coca-cola. After gulping down our drinks of choice in order to make the Bruno walking tour, we went inside to pay.

After the espresso, I was surprised to find out that my glass of wine was over a Euro cheaper than the soda and at least four Euro less than the grande beer.

It didn’t take long to realize the reasoning that the latter two were exports and therefore more expensive, but coming from the U.S. where wine is always more it was a new reality.

I guess it just goes to show, when in Italy stick to wine!


by Lena Marchese (Loyola College)
THERE IS A PART OF THE CULTURE that I did not really see here in Italy until last night and that is how Italian men view American women. I went to Seven’s with a couple of people earlier in the night and we just sat at a small table with a few beers watching the soccer game and I was going over my interview and trying to piece it together. As I was reading it over I felt someone tap my shoulder. I turned around to find a man who looked older than me with a big grin on his face asking if I was American. I said yes and his smile got even bigger. He told me I spoke very good Italian, which I thought was strange as I had only spoken a couple of sentences in Italian in the last hour.

He asked my name and age and I politely told him and then told him I needed to get back to my work, but it was nice to meet him. Not even a minute later, I feel another tap on my shoulder and it is my “friend” yet again. He asked what I was looking at and I explained to him it was an interview with an engineer here in Cagli. His eyes immediately lit up and he said, “I study engineering!” and grabbed my papers and began reading them. Everything he read he said, “yes, yes yes, that is true.” Well, duh. I could have said that too seeing as I interviewed him myself.

I took the papers back and politely said thank you but I really needed to get back to my work. Again, within a minute, I feel another tap on my shoulder and he had questions on where I lived in Cagli and if I went to school. He then offered to walk me to school in the morning and “hang out.” At this point I was feeling uncomfortable and annoyed that I could not get any work done since he sat down. I got up and went outside for a cigarette making sure to ask my Italian friends Michel and Bryan to come with me as a buffer. Less than a minute later my new “friend” stands next to us and doesn’t say a word, but just stands there smiling at me.

I scowled back and walked into the bar across the street where I was finally able to relax with a beer in peace and review my interview. Fifteen minutes later Bryan came into the bar and sat down next to me with a very serious look on his face. “I don’t want you to talk to him again,” he said to me. I had no intentions of doing so and asked Bryan what had happened. Apparently, this new “friend” began asking Bryan where all of the American girls were and to wake them up to come hang out with him. Bryan repeatedly told him no, he would not wake up his friends who were sleeping, but the man kept persisting. Finally Bryan had enough and told him, “None of those girls would ever have sex with you,” after which he went home.

Everyone has always said that Italian men are aggressive, but I never really understood how little some of them think of American women. I realize now that when I do not want to talk to someone, I can no longer be polite and try not to hurt someone’s feelings. I have to say “No, I do not want to talk to you,” and understand that they probably hear it all the time from Italian girls.

Is my American culture not as truthful as an Italian one? Are Italians just more open in general with putting it on the table and making themselves heard? If I was so uncomfortable, why did I still feel the need to be polite and respectful? Maybe I should be more Italian and make myself be heard.

Interactive Shopping

by Diana Blass (American University)
SHOPPING IN CAGLI is in a league all of its own. Different from America and even other sections within Italy itself, shopping here is catered towards specific stores for people with specific needs. No large go-to stores here, but rather there are only small, quaint boutiques that are particular to only certain items. But these small shops and boutiques also require a significant amount of interaction with the salesman or woman, which becomes even more difficult when one doesn't speak Italian.

My first memorable experience came when I went to the pharmacy to buy moisturizer. When I first walked in I saw the majority of all products to be behind the counter. That was when I realized that I should have brought my Italian-English dictionary. Slowly and cautiously I walked up to the counter. Pointing to my face and making a weird gesture as if I was trying to put on moisturizer, I tried to convey what I came to buy. First she handed me over bug spray and then anti-aging products. Repeatedly I tried and tried to signal what I needed. Eventually a small tube of moisturizer was handed over. Although I got what I came for, I did discover one thing. Customers must interact with the people who work at the stores, and the people who work in the stores must be skilled with what they are handing over.

I felt like I was in a doctor's office rather than just a regular pharmacy. Perhaps this is because the creams and other substances they hand over are more potent than those in America, or maybe it just relates back to the idea of true customer satisfaction. There is one thing that I will most definitely need in the future though: I will have to remember my dictionary.

Family Traditions

by Kellie Bramlet (Marquette University)
I EAT GNOCCHI every Thanksgiving. Not turkey. Not stuffing. Those dishes are always there, but I typically bypass them. My great-grandmother was from Italy and so in true Italian style, my mother's side of the family celebrates all occasions with pasta, and typically artichokes too.

My great-grandmother passed away years ago, but her Italian heritage continues in the dishes my family makes each holiday. And now that I'm in Italy and learning about the culture first hand, I'm discovering that her background survives in many of our other family traditions and cultures as well.

My great-grandmother was a true believer in the bella figura. She was always well-dressed and the white Keds she wore around the house each day were always spotless. She always focused on the positive. Even in her later years, while suffering from dementia, she made sure to complement my sister and I. I've learned now that this is a part of Italian way of life. She never liked to dwell on the negative or the ugly sides of life - the brutta forma.

We have a rule in my family: no one eats alone. If someone decides to eat lunch later, then my mom will stop what she's doing and sit down and talk with them while they eat. This too stems from Italian culture. Italians don't like to be alone. Whenever I run into Cafe d'Italia and grab a panini, Jake the owner, will gesture across the piazza and point out my other classmates that may be sitting nearby. That way I know they're there and I can join them. I won't have to sit alone. Each morning when Jake shoos us away from the counter, signaling that he'll bring our breakfast to our table, I'm again reminded of my great-grandmother and how she would never let us pour our own coffee.

I never realized how many of my own traits and traditions stem from Italian culture. While my great-grandmother passed away years ago, I'm discovering that so much of her isn't lost. For me, learning about life in Italy isn't just learning about another culture. It's learning about my family and myself.

The Night Before I Came to Italy

by Katie Brutocao (Gonzaga University)
THE NIGHT BEFORE I CAME TO ITALY, my parents, brother and I went to an Italian restaurant as a sort of bon voyage dinner (now that I have eaten two weeks worth of pasta, bread, and pizza I realize that the better choice may have been a greasy cheeseburger joint – but I digress). Hanging on the wall right behind me was Ruth Orkin's famous photograph American Girl in Italy. As my dad looked up from his veal parmesan, he pointed to the picture and said, “That is what you need to avoid when you are in Italy.” I laughed, thinking that scenes like that would never happen in the 21st century, and told my dad not to worry.

Upon arriving in Italy, I realized that Italian men are far more aggressive than I ever would have imagined, and that Orkin’s photograph could very well have been taken of me trying to navigate my way through the busy Florence streets last weekend. Part of me thinks it’s funny to hear people shout “Ciao Bella!” and to see Italian men fighting one another off at the bars to get close to the American girls. But another part of me wonders why such outright displays of affection toward perfect strangers are okay.

The communications student in me suspects that it has something to do with proxemics. Proxemics is extremely powerful because it refers to the way that people structure their personal space. How we interpret the meaning of messages conveyed by the other person is directly related to the distance someone is from us. In Italy, it’s just accepted that people will be closer to one another than in the United States. It’s also assumed that touching will be more frequent and will be less emotionally-charged than touching in America. So it becomes a difficult tightrope to walk when you are in a foreign country trying to blend in and embrace the culture, but the American in you cries foul.

The point where I started feeling uncomfortable with the Italian “closeness” (for lack of a better word) was last weekend when Tamra and I were in a jacket store and the salesman grabbed her, held her in an uncomfortably long hug, and then planted sloppy kisses on each of her cheeks. I rolled my eyes and stifled a giggle, until he turned to me and I realized that I was next! I got the same hug and cheek kisses, and as I walked out of the store it dawned on me that something like that never would happen in America. If we took that scene and transported it to any American shopping mall, the man would have been slapped with a hand at best, a lawsuit at worst. But here in Italy, it is okay, acceptable. I learned today that in 2001, the Italian Supreme Court ruled that a man grabbing a woman’s backside was not sexual harassment as long as the act was not premeditated. (What the heck?!)

I understand that what happened with the jacket man was nowhere near as bad as being “legally” groped. I am also neither harsh enough to immediately assume that what he did was an act of harm nor naïve enough to assume it was an act of love (that part was easy to figure out since I got Tamra’s sloppy seconds!) But what should we American girls do when the Italian men get too close for comfort? Should we laugh and let them give us sloppy cheek kisses in the interest of international diplomacy? Or should we stand firm to the proxemics that we have gotten used to in the United States. And if we stand firm, how firm should we be? After all, the same Italian Supreme Court ruled that women could retaliate to a backside grab with an open fist. All I know is, if all American girls retaliated in such a way whenever the line was crossed, there would be a lot of Italian guys with black eyes.

The Most Important Part of the Day

by Tamra Portalla (University of Rhode Island)
OH HOW I MISS THEE: breakfast. Blueberry Pancakes with maple syrup, waffles, omelets or bacon and eggs. They all sound so sweet to me! One of the hardest things to get used to since coming to Cagli is the lack of a traditional American breakfast. For myself, breakfast is a social time to catch up, bond or even relax together. My roommate and I always go to this amazing breakfast place every Sunday and wait in a 20-minute line to sit. There we can chat about the week ahead and tease each other about the ridiculous mistakes we have made during the previous week. Breakfast for me is the time of day where I can just take my time and prepare for the day or week ahead.

Here in Cagli, breakfast does not exist; lunch is the biggest meal of the day. What happened to morning preparation and downtime? The town seems to come alive so early in the morning. Woman are opening up the shutters and putting plants out to catch the day’s sunlight, children are going to school, but no one is eating breakfast. Instead they sit down and have a morning cup of espresso or cappuccino and perhaps eat a couple of crackers or a small pastry.

There is something that is amazing though: the people come out together and sit and socialize. Instead of eating they are busy chatting, gossiping, or simply people watching. They might not be eating, but they are laughing and engaging in their community. In America I often hear that breakfast is the most important part of the day. In some ways I would argue that breakfast is equally important here. Its important not for the food, but for the time taken to start your day and socialize with others. Here in Cagli, the town is so close and social. No one sits alone or appears to need “me” time. The time is spent together laughing, venting or simply drinking espresso together.

Although I miss a great omelet and a cup of orange juice, I can equally appreciate the value of a small panini and a cup of café.

Pepperoni Pizza, Please!

by L'Oreal Thompson (Loyola College)
PIZZA. PASTA. GELATO. These are the three reasons I decided to study abroad in Italy of all places. Oh yeah, and to learn a little bit of Italian, too. From the very first day we arrived in Cagli, I found everything I wanted—and more! All of the pizza, pasta and gelato one girl can eat…and let’s just say I can eat a lot!

And so my food journey begins. Immediately I learned how to ask for margherita pizza, penne with pomodoro sauce and my favorite gelato flavor—un cono piccolo di panna cotta, grazie. It’s amazing how much you can learn when you’re hungry and the only way to get that glorious slice of pizza is to speak the language. No problema.

Allora (Italian for “Well…”—aren’t I cool?), speaking the language was one thing. Understanding it, I quickly learned, was quite another. During our first Monday night at Laterna, I confidently ordered what I thought would surely be pepperoni pizza—my favorite. And what could be better than pepperoni pizza in Italy?—the birthplace of that delectable deliciousness known as pizza.

“Vorrei una pepperone pizza, per favore, e da bere, Sprite.”

I smiled politely and smugly closed my menu. Job well done. Pepperoni pizza and a glass of Sprite, here I come! Or so I thought. When our helpful waitress later returned with a 14-inch thin crust pizza covered in actual peppers—red and yellow—I knew I’d made a mistake. Apparently “pepperoni pizza” in Italia comes with real, live peppers. Who knew?

However, it was a happy mistake. I never would have ordered pizza with peppers in the states, but I’m almost certain this may have been the best pizza I’ve had so far. The jury is still out on that one—after all, I still have three weeks left and a lot of “research” to do!


by Michelle Tumolo (Loyola College)
I BURP. A LOT. More than any girl should, according to my heightened-in-age Polish grandmother. The other half of my heritage comes from this lovely little land that I will be calling home for the next few weeks. Luckily, that eruption of gas that I frequently experience is much more accepted here, in Italy. While enjoying a few drinks at the local bar with my classmates, we try our hardest to befriend our new Cagliese neighbors. Halfway through our conversation, and my second beer, I belched abruptly. I immediately apologized to my new English-challenged amici. I was shocked and, needless to say, relieved when they responded "no problema." They were more impressed than disgusted or even appalled like my grandmother would be. I felt completely comfortable knowing that something that I consider to be completely normal, here is.

This awkward encounter that would be considered rude and inappropriate in America has made me appreciate the culture of this new, foreign place. Regardless of the seemingly disapproving looks that we see in the streets, the Cagliese culture has, in seven short days, heightened my awareness and my appreciation for multiculturalism.


by Diana Blass (American University)
ONE OF THE MOST PRIZED MEALS in American culture must be awarded to breakfast. Little did I know that I would miss such a delicacy as much as this since my arrival in Cagli. Pancakes, eggs, bacon, and bagels have all been replaced by coffee and a croissant. This was a huge cultural shock to me, especially since the American culture utilizes it as a major kick start to our day. While coffee is an absolute necessity to the majority of Americans, it is safe to say that our bodies enjoy that extra comfort of protein and carbohydrates in the morning.

I have become so accustomed to the incorporation of a daily breakfast in my diet, that it shocks me to see the denial of it in the Italian culture. It makes me wonder how the Italians manage to maintain their slim and fit figures, since skipping meals in the American culture is contributed largely to our obesity. It is strange for me to imagine my once treasured breakfast to be transferred and re-grouped into a one large lunch. I suppose it would be easier for me to grasp this idea if this lunch was similar to our brunch. But instead there is no realization of the true enjoyment found within those fluffy, golden pancakes and rich eggs benedict. Only time will tell how the absence of breakfast will truly affect me. Are those reports about weight gain true, or are the Americans simply doing it all wrong? I shall see!

A Slower Pace

by Kellie Bramlet (Marquette University)
MY LIFE IS RULED by my planner. My classes and work schedule dominate my days. Post-it notes stuck to my laptop remind of my appointments and assignments, while ink sprawled across my hands echo the same messages. Free time is a luxury that I rarely see, and sometimes I feel like I can't get a chance to catch my breath.

But here, life is slower. And of all of Italian culture's quirks and customs, I know this is one that I will struggle to adjust to. Of course, this has it's benefits. I love having two hours for lunch,
and I can't think of a better way to start each morning than sitting outside and slowly sipping espresso. But my instincts are always to rush. Walking to class, I brush past the residents of Cagli as they stroll along. In the afternoons, I want to take my lunch and walk as I eat it. And I want to pay for my food before I sit down to eat it. As of today, I have forgotten to pay at Cafe d'Italia on two occasions. Both times, I've returned hours later, needless to say embarrassed. But Jake, the owner, is always nice about it — OK, well, the first time he pretended he was going to strangle me, but he was joking... I think.

I have trouble balancing the laid-back lifestyle and meeting the program's deadlines. I crave immediacy while working on my articles. I want to set up an interview and finish it quickly. I don't want to wait to on an interpreter or have to schedule around a riposa. I want to know I will meet my deadlines.

But I'm not blind to the benefits of the Italian pace of living. There's peace in the rhythm of the slow saunter down the streets. And not suffering from a stress-induced heart attack at the age 35 is always a plus. I can learn a lot from Italian culture. But I'll have to slow down if I want to see the lessons.

Two of Me

by Lara Aqel (American Univeristy)
THERE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN TWO OF ME. My life can be summed up with East met West… and agreed to disagree.

I was born in Amman, Jordan in the summer of 1989. By the time the summer of 1994 came around, I was standing over my mom’s shoulder wondering what she was doing unpacking my stuff in a house that was not ours, in a country that was far too green.

My parents are traditional. My friends are not. In the years following 1994, I started to grasp that different things were expected of me at home and outside of it. In third grade, my teacher would tell our class to ‘worry about number one, no one else.’ I remember mentioning that to my parents soon after (they were complaining that I was not taking care of my siblings’ needs well enough when they weren’t home). They looked at me like I was crazy.

I dealt by switching hats when appropriate—at times I was Arab Lara, at others I was American. This difference was never so pronounced as when I was visiting family in Jordan. At least that’s what I thought until I stepped off a bus and onto the soil of a small town in northern Italy—Cagli.

To my surprise, as I passed the townspeople I rarely smiled widely at them or greeted them with a nod—the way American Lara would—but would usually avert my gaze so as to not make uncomfortable eye contact with them.

There were other changes too. I became conscious of being too loud, embarrassed when my clothing would draw top to bottom glances. I felt like I was living in a fishbowl. I had known that feeling before but never when surrounded by Westerners!

Why was I turning into Arab high context Lara here in this picaresque postcard of a town? Maybe I have a subconscious default switch. Maybe it was switched to ‘foreign’ as I stepped off that bus and this was how I knew to react. Or maybe I could sense I was in a patriarchal society. Maybe before I knew the words in Italian, I knew to be very wary of bruta forma— perceived ugliness in behavior.

The bus ride back from Venice last weekend was a cold and long one. An Italian man sat across the aisle from me and three of my friends. In little time, we would come to know that we were sitting next to the Train Nazi. The bitterly withered old Italian man walked up and down the aisle policing our unfortunate train car and berating anyone with the audacity to have their feet—bare or otherwise—on a train seat.

I fell asleep on that train. And to keep me warm, my legs folded up and onto my seat to join the rest of me. The Train Nazi was incensed. I could feel him glaring at me. When I made the mistake of opening my eyes just a slit, he motioned angrily for me to put my feet down immediately.

I know what the American Lara would have done. American Lara would have told the man what her third grade teacher told her so many years ago…

In a stony silence, Arab Lara sat idly by.


by Emily Freisher (Temple University)
on having proper manners. If I didn’t know what I was doing or had gotten in over my head, I could always apologize; say excuse me. Thank you. They were my saving graces—my back up plan when I was confused, or even better, wrong. Yet after arriving in Italy, these basics components immediately shifted to the forfront in my communications. They became my default answers to the mumbled Italian phrases I would hear upon entering a store (for all I know, they spoke directly and articulately, but this new organization of vowels and consonants was confusing for my ears.) I kept my guard up, my frustration in, and apologized profusely for the sad lack of Italian I possessed.

Grocery shopping at home is one of my favorite things to do. Don’t ask my why—I know it’s weird. I was excited to explore the town of Cagli, but also to discover the foods; everything from fresh produce to prepackaged meals with nutritional information I couldn’t interpret. But the meat counter is another story entirely. It is by far the longest stretch of interpersonal communication you’ll find in the grocery store, often times even outlasting that of the cashiers.

After three days surviving off of paninis and pizza, I was desperate for a little protein. My roommate and I approached the counter hesitantly. I watched carefully as she used her few semesters of Italian to decode the simplistic ordering process. Here is where I realized my mistake. She certainly had a better grasp on the language than I did, but there was plenty left out in the open, still raw and untranslated. What kept her in the game (and ultimately rewarded us with a slab of sliced turkey), was the perseverance to communicate across the boundaries. Pointing, motioning, and describing are still ways of communication, and I had failed to see this. By falling back on politeness, I was being more offensive than helpful. I had never considered that manners could be a fault. Yet here it was, clear as day, marking my decision to stop trying to communicate when things got difficult. It has taken a lot to back off of my incessant ‘scusis’ and ‘grazies’, but slowly but surely I’m making progress on finding different ways to converse with a different culture.


by Jamie Connors (Loyola College)
for a full month, one becomes aware of the drastically huge possibility of gaining a massive amount of weight. Me, being very conscious of my weight and how easy it is for me to pack on the pounds figured the best way to steer clear from the weight gain was to go for a daily jog, hike or long walk. Apparently, exercising, or doing anything more than walking down to street to go pick up some fresh pasta is strange, unusual and even looked down upon.

After spending about five days in Cagli, Italy and consuming an unthinkable amount of pasta and bread, I felt it very necessary to do some sort of activity that involved a rapid heart beat. Father Bruno decided to take a few of us up to the mountain for a hike, we jogged about a half of a mile to the mountain and then continued to climb it. Because I enjoyed doing this so much, I found time the following day to take a quick jog and see more of Cagli. I am not a person that likes to run or enjoys it at all, I just know what I need to do to lead a healthier life.

As I started to run, I swiftly passed the beautiful houses and small shops, while cars passed. I began to jog through the streets when I noticed an older woman staring at me, I quickly glanced behind me to see if a car was about to run me over, but noticed there was nothing. She was glaring at me as if I was running in a chicken suit. I immediately picked up the pace and tried to get in the “zone.” As I got further away from the town, I felt uncomfortable with the way people were looking at me, pointing towards me, and some even laughing. It was as if I had a sign on my forehead that said STUPID AMERICAN. Never in my life have I felt like it was wrong or strange to go for a jog or to exercise, this was the first time I felt like I stood out as a incompetent individual that was not aware of her surroundings.

Because I am quite a rambunctious individual I now plan to embrace the stares, pointing and laughter. Now on my occasional jogs I wave and smile. It seems to make them just as uncomfortable as they made me! SO THERE, CAGLI!

Bella Figura

by Megan Pizzitola (University of Portland)
AS THE LAST SNOOZE BUTTON has already failed me, I woke up at the sound of my roommate packing her bag. The clock read 10:24, which was no problem considering the bus for the beach was leaving at 11:00. At a double glance I noticed the clock actually read 10:42. Needless to say when I rushed out the door 10 minutes later I was not looking my finest. As a headed down Via Lapis toward the piazza I glanced down at my tee shirt, shorts and rubber flip-flops and remembered bella figure and brutta forma.

On our first day of Intercultural Communication the enthusiastic and witty Dr. Caputo brought to our attention two phrases important in Italian culture. Bella Figura, to the Italians means looking your best at all times. In addition they would never step outside the home looking unattractive, or doing something 'odd' such as running to catch a train, which is known as Brutta Forma.

From someone who perpetually running late; wears sweats to class, and jogging to make it to class is sometimes more than necessary. So while I found it interesting, it also seemed quite impractical. I couldn't grasp that people in this culture would actually risk missing an appointment or plane, and took it with a grain of salt, but I was wrong.

I looked down at my watch, which read 10:55, and started to jog. When I reached the piazza I looked around at the many faces staring back at me. It occurred to me that it was Sunday morning. Not only was this the largest crowd I had seen inhabit the piazza so far, but also the best dressed, (as they had all most likely came from church). I kept my head down trying to avoid the stares as the crowd parted to let me run through. For the rest of my trip I guess I will have to pay more attention to bella figure if I want to fit in here in Cagli.