Cagli Adventure Part Due

Last year I had the opportunity to participate in a study abroad program through Marquette University in Cagli, Italy. The four week program is based on a digital story telling format that allowed those with an interest in journalism to experience working in an international environment. 

This year I was asked to return as a Cagli Student Instructor (CSI) which has provided me with an entirely new outlook on the learning experience as well as the town itself. I have gotten to know more of the locals on a personal level and was even invited to lunch at Mauro and Camilla's along with CSI's Arica VanBoxtel and Kyle Stanley. Mauro use to be professional soccer player in Italy's Seria A league and was a part of the Italian national team, gli azzurri, before he stopped playing and moved to Cagli where he met and married his wife Camilla. The two now own a small restaurant in town called Squaquà. If I have been getting better at Italian at all it is because of the conversations I have had with these two. We traveled to Camilla's parents house just a short ways out of the city for lunch and the view was beyond breathtaking.

Lunch with Mauro and his family at their mountain vila.

Lunch with Mauro and his family at their mountain vila.

For lunch we had pasta in a vodka sauce to start, then sides of prosciutto, sausage, pomodori (tomatoes), mozzarella, cetriolo (cucumbers) and pane (bread), and we finished with a dish of fruit with some gelato on top. This type of serving is very typical in the Italian culture. It is served one course at a time and you eat as slowly as you want. It's all about the enjoyment and not about the time. Our lunch lasted almost three hours with Mauro picking the three of us up at 12:30 p.m. and dropping us off at 3:00 p.m. 

One of my goals this year was to become more comfortable with the Italian language (I am currently fighting the urge to post this entire entry in Italian). Because I am planning on minoring in the language this experience as a CSI has been even more helpful in my practice. Socially I have been able to help students converse with the locals which in turn has helped my use of conversational speaking. I planned our lunch with Mauro and Camilla Wednesday night and was able to talk with the both of them for almost two hours. Not only has this immersion helped with my speaking, though, but also with my overall knowledge of the culture. 

Pizza dough made special by Alessandro Luzi for our own pizza making lesson. 

Pizza dough made special by Alessandro Luzi for our own pizza making lesson. 

But of course this amazing day did not end with a great lunch and beautiful view. For dinner just a short while later what else should we have but homemade pizza made by a few other local friends, Alessandro, Giacomo and Leonardo. We ended up making six different assortments of pizza and they were the best I have ever tasted. Maybe it's just the fact that everything tastes better in Italy but either way I was proud to say that I successfully tossed some pizza dough in the air without it sticking to the ceiling.

This day was not an everyday experience and the three of us agreed that we should take the popular phrase "YOLO" to heart with the time we have left. You only live once

La Cultura


Wine is worldwide. Its origins have always been rooted in Italy, though. So, as part of the intercultural experience we of course had to try the best of the best. Then again what isn't the best in the historical land of vino? These wines we tried were specific to the region named Morro d'Alba. The vineyard, Azienda Agricola Stefano Mancinelli, is known for the production of the Lacrima grape. Here we had the opportunity to sample seven of the wines as well as the option to try grappa if we wanted. These wines, as described by signor Mancinelli himself are only made from the best grapes. "The quality of the wine begins with the quality of the grapes," he said. Now, grappa is a whole different story. It's described as a grape-based brandy type of liquor that holds a high alcohol content. Small sips were given and lets just say that I'm not a huge fan. Although, after living in Italy for two summers now I can say I've become a fan of wine. It's more than just a craft in the area, though, it's a tradition that continues to be appreciated among the nation. 

Corpos Domini

This religious ceremony took place in Cagli on Sunday June 10, and is similar to America's Corpus Christi. Last year, when I was a student in the Cagli program, Corpus Domini fell on the Sunday after we had left. So, this year I was excited to get the chance to participate. We were able to help by lining the streets and piazza with flowers and herbs which the procession then walks over. Students used a mixture of green, yellow, red and white flowers and rosemary to make designs in front of one of the local barber shops and caffès. 

The men of the group even got to participate in a more formal matter, carrying the procession canopy as the priest walked below to the towns 13 different churches. The ceremony was beautiful and the townsfolk were out and around in full force to help with the mornings festivities. And of course Arica VanBoxtel and myself had our own fun with the left overs after the festivities.

42 Hours In Cinque Terre

A little late to post but as you can imagine it's hard to describe the beauty of what literally translates to "the five lands". Cinque Terre, located just south of Genoa, lies along the Ligurian Sea. A mix of sheer cliffs, fresh sea air and hiking trails made up the variety of experiences I claimed as part of a perfect ending to my month long adventure in Italy with a great traveling partner and friend Arica VanBoxtel. We spent a total of about 42 hours discovering what the small coastline villages had to offer and I wouldn't have traded a second. 

June 22, 2012

We started off the  morning in Rome with breakfast and a quick trek accross the street with all of our luggage to Stazione Termini to catch a train to La Spezia Centrale. Four short hours later through a terrain of sea and mountains we found ourselves at our next stop looking to jump on the regional train to Manarola where our hostel, Ostello Cinque Terre, was located. It was about 4:30 p.m. by the time we had checked in, changed and set out to test out our surroundings. With such limited time why wait? Because it was already late the shortest and easiest hiking trail to Riomaggiore seemed like our best bet. This route between Riomaggiore and Manarola is known as the Via Del'Amore. Once in the town we took advantage of some Italian ice a seaside breez and, of course, meeting some new friends. These two just happened to be from Michigan State University - what can I say, Michiganders are everywhere. 

Making our way back to Manarola Arica and I decided to indulge in a seat with a view and a drink along the trail at Bar & Vini "A Piè de Mà". For dinner we went to Trattoria Il Porticciolo where we took to the local seafood. We then ended our first night by taking in the nightlife with a walk down by the Ligurian Sea and the local bar La Cantina Dello Zio Barmante for a celebratory salute. 

June 23, 2012

Day two started bright and early with a simple cappuccino and pastry breakfast at the hostel before we got on an early train to Monterosso, the northern most of the five cities. This was our day of relaxation and taking in the best Cinque Terre had to offer. Here we wandered for a bit before finding a beach. Our plan was to spend a couple hours in town and hike down to the next town, Vernazza. So at about 12:30 we took to the trail – the most difficult rout between the five towns according to our personal tour guide Rick Staves. It took about two hours, and being the frugal travelers we claimed to be we brought some bread, peanut butter and honey with us for a little picnic with a view. 

That hike was one of the highlights of our trip. When we arrived in Vernazza we grabbed some gelato from Gelateria Vernazza, found a rock and jumped in to swim again. It was the most awe inspiring and relaxing day I had experienced in a very long time. We had our final dinner in Cinque Terre at Ristorante Belforte and watched the sun set before heading back to Manarola for a glass of the local wine and bed. 

June 24, 2012

Our last five hours were spent in Manarola. It's small but still one of the most beautiful towns in my opinion. We woke up at 7 a.m., ate breakfast at da Aristide and went for a morning swim before checking out. This was by far my favorite part of our time in Cinque Terre. Swimming in the small bay of Manarola and watching the sun rise above the top of town behind us was the perfect ending to a much needed Italian seaside adventure.

Cagli/Firenze/Cinque Terre