When I graduated high school, I was excited to follow the path of many family members to attend John Carroll. As soon I moved into Pacelli Hall in the Fall of 2012, I had planned my schedule to make a semester abroad in Italy happen. Unfortunately, it never did. As I graduated in 2016 never having visited Italy, not studying abroad was my biggest regret of college life. As I was beginning my second year of gradua te school at JCU, I received an email about an alumni trip to Sorrento, Italy. Immediately, I knew I had to be on this trip. To me, it was the best part of studying abroad; all travel and no study! With the support of my family, the trip was booked the day after I received the email.
I was extremely nervous because I had never traveled alone, and I had never even left the country before. The alumni office at JCU partners with a travel company called Alumni Holiday International (AHI) and I felt like I called my travel representative at least once a week before the trip to ask questions about my luggage, how I would be getting to the hotel, how many people are going, are there other young alums, and many others that I’m sure my representative, Ursula remembers. They were incredibly helpful, as was the staff at John Carroll.
Traveling with AHI and JCU was a breeze. Everything was booked for me and made easy, even for someone who had never traveled out of the country before. When I arrived in Naples, I met with the other JCU alumni and our AHI director for the week, Emanuele. We all got on a bus and drove about 45 minutes to our hotel, with Mount Vesuvius always in view. The views just driving to Sorrento were spectacular. Mountains in front of us, sea beside us, and an active volcano being the North Star for me for the next seven days. After arriving at a gorgeous hotel, everyone got a short tour of the city and we returned to the hotel bar for drinks and dinner. These trips purposefully start off slow allowing travelers to overcome the time change and adjust to their new surroundings. It may have been from just having eaten airplane food for the past 24 hours, but the salad I had the first night in Sorrento was the most delicious salad I have ever had. I would slowly realize that anything I ate in Italy would be “the best I’ve ever had”.
To try to fit a completely accurate description of each day in Italy into a short reflection would be impossible. Some of the places we visited are indescribable even with pictures. I found myself almost disappointed with each picture I took as it never really captured the beauty of the scene in front of me. No filter on my new iPhone could compare to what I was staring at, especially in the towns of Positano and Amalfi which we visited on the third day of thetrip.Over the span of eight days, we drove the hairpin turns of the Amalfi Coast dodging speedy Vespas manned by local residents (and lived to tell about it). Despite the elevated heart rate, it provided the quintessential view of Italy I had always imagined. It was also the path to all of our group excursions.
Day 4: A day trip to Paestum was unique in that we visited a farm, not a city, where we saw how they make mozzarella cheese from buffalo milk. Despite my lactose intolerance, I tasted the freshest mozzarella possible, made the morning we arrived. We also visited an ancient Greek temple which provided a nice backdrop for a group photo.
Day 5: On this day, we took a trip into the city of Naples to see their International Archeological Museum and eat pizza in the town that invented pizza. Wood-fired with a unique mix of ingredients found in this region made a difference as the pizza lived up to the hype! Sadly, nothing else from that day forward will compare. We then walked to the top of a fortress and got to see the view of the city, the Bay of Naples, and Mount Vesuvius.
Day 6: I decided to take the optional day trip to Capri with the rest of the JCU group, and it was well worth the seasickness. We took a rocky boat ride around the island and saw cliffs, rock formations in the sea, and caverns. On the island, I ventured with some of the ladies of the group to shop and find a place to have lunch. We ended up finding, hidden on the other side of the island, a hotel with an amazing rooftop café, where we were looking down at the rock formations through which we had just taken a boat ride.
Day 7: On this day, Halloween, we ironically went to the ghost towns of Herculaneum and Pompeii. It was haunting walking into a glimpse into the past lives of the villagers; seeing their homes, seeing their roads, and even some skeletons along the way. Pompeii was overwhelming and I had to remind myself that this was an entire city destroyed by the Mount Vesuvius eruption. This was the day I was really amazed with our educational guide for the week, Vincenzo. Each day he would give us facts, statistics, and cultural information about wherever we were for the day, but the knowledge he had about Herculanuem and Pompeii really made me feel like I was living a day in the life of a Pompeian.
Day 8: On our last day, we had a free day to ourselves and some of us were open to suggestions. Our tour director, Emanuele, suggested we go to a town called Ravello for the day. He arranged for a group of us to have a driver for the day to take us to and from Ravello and suggested things to see and places to eat. So, up the coast we went, through the hairpin turns to a hilltop town that cannot be described in words, at least not my words. It was the most beautiful place I have ever been, and probably will ever go. The church, the cultural garden, the ocean view, the locally handmade ceramic shops were all so breathtaking, I found myself spending half of my time just finding places to sit and take it all in. On a sun-drenched, 70-degree afternoon, it really was the perfect last day in Italy and one I will always remember.
The people I met on this trip were amazing. Some of them said they were my surrogate parents for the week as I am sure I appeared nervous traveling alone for the first time. It was incredible to make connections and bond with other JCU alums and affiliated families, especially for me to learn from some older alums. Taking this trip was a huge eye-opener for me that I can travel alone and navigate internationally, and even inspired me to study abroad as a JCU graduate student. I would encourage any student to study abroad, but I think I would encourage even more any JCU alum to take these trips for the experiences, the food, and the friendships. In true John Carroll fashion, our group arrived in Italy as strangers, and departed as famiglia!
Thank you to the John Carroll Office of Alumni Relations for making these trips possible for your graduates!
Jackie Nash ’16
To view the JCU Alumni Travel Program Sorrento photo gallery,