The Bishop Pilla Summer Institute was truly the chance of a lifetime. As someone who has done little travel within the US and never left the country before, I experienced more new sights, sounds, foods, and cultures than I could have ever imagined.
From what I have gathered talking to friends and family who have traveled either with a study abroad program or an academic group, our travels were second to none. Not staying in one town or city the entire time gave us the opportunity to expand our knowledge of Italy as a whole and see a completely new country, Spain, as well.
Additionally, thanks to Dr. Casciani’s knowledge as a local in the province of L’Aquila in Abruzzo, our group had the incredible opportunity to experience so much ‘off the beaten path,’ so to speak. We were not hemmed in by tourism guides, but instead were able to see and do things that as tourists we would simply never have known. These unique excursions included a hike to a Hohenstaufen dynasty castle built by Frederick II in the 12th century and perched atop a 4,000 foot plus tall mountain; a pilgrimage to a medieval hermitage, San Bartolomeo ad Legio, carved into the side of a rock face; and the chance to have mass celebrated by Monsignor Giuseppe Molinari, Archbishop Emeritus of L’Aquila.
While in Castlenuovo, Dr. Casciani’s home town, we also were treated nightly to 3 course meals prepared at a local, well-renowned restaurant called La Cabina. The food was exceptional to say the least, and with Dr. Casciani’s guidance we learned about and ate many local favorites and specialties, such as saffron and truffles. All throughout the rest of the trip, while we traveled to Rome, Florence, and Madrid, the group had the opportunity to visit so much together, as well as to do so much on our own.
When not involved in a group activity, I personally loved to set out on my own for some new landmark or food craving. Whether walking the streets of Segovia to find a delicious bar/restaurant serving unique sandwiches and fresh Sangria or plotting a course through Rome to a Jewish Quarter trattoria serving roman-style fried artichokes and ox tongue, my culinary adventures were some I’ll remember the rest of my life. And, had it not been for the helpful insight of Dr. Ferri and Dr. Casciani, I would never have known about certain restaurants and must-have dishes.
All in all, the Bishop Pilla Summer Institute was a memorable experience that gave me the opportunity to learn so much. Through a six week summer course spent studying literature, theology, and gender diversity, as well as Italian, the students got an unparalleled chance to expand our horizons on so many levels. Beyond tourism, beyond “studying abroad,” this program allowed us to truly experience another culture, from its Renaissance roots and its language, to its history, museums, landmarks, and food. I know, beyond the shadow of any doubt, that these are truly memories that will last a lifetime.