02 – Castiglion Fiorentino

Castiglion Fiorentino, Italia

Week 11 – “Sono finalmente fintio con questa progetto; adesso posso rilassarmi; se solo ho avuto non lavoro di scuola”

In English — “I am finally finished with this project; now I can relax; if only I didn’t have homework”

Castiglion F. Entrata

Castiglion F. Entrata

Wine/Olive Tour

Wine/Olive Tour

Grapes Dry'n for Dessert Vino

Grapes Dry'n for Dessert Vino

Vino Fermenting

Vino Fermenting

Week 10 – “Last Surge before the Storm”

This is my last full week here before the storm hits again. I’m quite excited. I’ve had a good couple days after a bit of breakdown Friday – staying at the center I didn’t get much of a chance to speak Italian and after giving up for the time being on finding a job in Europe was wondering what my purpose in coming on this trip was agagin; plus found out a past-close friend of mine got engaged – woa – was feeling lost and old!So…..I decided to say screw school on Saturday and watched movies almost all day with a bunch of students from Texas and Texas A&M that I think were feeling the same way. However, we did watch this movie, the MIST, in light of the mist that had rolled in and consumed Castilgion. The movie is a taken off a Stephen King book where after a violent thunderstorm, a small town community comes under vicious attack from creatures prowling in a thick and unnatural mist. Local rumors point to an experiment called “The Arrowhead Project” conducted at a nearby military base, but questions as to the origins of the deadly vapor are secondary to the group’s overall chances for survival. Retreating to a local supermarket the survivors face off against each other while attempting to take a united stand against an enemy they cannot even see. PS – I copied that off the interet. It was really creepy though and the ending was wild – typical of Stephen King – leaving me in my seat for almost 15 minutes jaw dropped. What further amplifies the creepiness is that the mist here has stayed for five days now! Lol! Then Sunday I ran 22-Km. My first extremely long run in almost a month – I really needed it. It has spurred my confidence again and I’m getting pretty pumped for the Firezne Marathon November 30th. This run was about 7 km of flats through the valley then up 4 km into the mountains – the view from up there was breathtaking looking back onto the hilltop castle town I live in. I had a huge epiphany that sometimes I over complicate life and need to just ride. And also realized just how amazing, beautiful the world is and that I am so incredibly lucky to be here in Italy. Sometimes I forget this! My run backhowever was a bit dangerous because I underestimated the speed of the falling sun and had to run about 7 km through the dark with Italians who could care less to take out this orange-clad white boy, lol! WAR EAGLE! Then Saturday night I also decided to stop being a bumb and go out to the local pub with everyone. I had a great time – danced to to some 80’s classics (the rest of the world is 20 years behind the US in music and movies – I’m not kidding – they think this stuff is new – it’s not new but I agree its fun, haha) and finally got some great interaction again with a group of locals. We had great conversation and talked about everything you could immagine, and continued to about 4 AM in the morning, speaking Italian only for about 3 hours! Woops. It was really invorgorating nonetheless and I forgot how far and how cool is that I CAN SPEAK ITALIAN! Its by no means perfect but I’m definately far beyond common conversational Italian. Monday again was a work day and so far today has been too. Tomorrow we go to Orvieto and then Thrusday I leave to visit Doug VanWie from my Auburn swim team and his GF/friend of mine in Barcelona. I also settle my plans for post-Castiglion Fiorentino and my trip to London. I’m going to return to Firenze for the marathon then head up to Stockholm and serach out my roots in Sweden! Skip over to Denmark; Copenhagen. Jump to Budapest for a few, then back to Italy and Torino to see the light festival and then on to Roma to take my plane back to Atlanta! I also joined this website called CouchSurfing of a suggestion from a really friendly Wisconian I met on the trains in Paris; who was contract cheffing – cool job and great advice. This website hooks you up with social individuals around the world who are heavy into travelling, big on cultural interaction, and have a zest for what’s unique in the world. Clearly, this is up my alley! Then you search profiles of cities you plan to visit finding locals who will open up their homes and offer their couch free off-board! In exchange for the chance to network internationally. So after setting up an seriously extensive profile (makes senese; I would want to know allot about someone if I was inviting them into my home) I plan to couch surf Europe on my 10 days after the marathon. It should be unique – check out the website – www.couchsurfing.com.

Fog Roll In

Fog Roll In

The Mist is coming!

The Mist is coming!

MIST Consumes Castiglion

MIST Consumes Castiglion

My Italian Friends!

My Italian Friends!

Week 9 – “The Final Countdown”

I returned Friday night; October 31st – Halloween late back to Santa Chiara from Venezia. I stayed back from the group to get a chance to see the Biennale! It was worth it for sure. I was planning to travel this weekend but decided I had allot of work to do and it would be worth going home. Also could be beneficial to try and save a bit by not hitting the road. I totally forgot it was Halloween. As I arrived back to Castiglion; walkingup the hill I noticed all the kids in the center dressed up! Oh yah. Arriving back to a building full of 100 Americans in constume I had a sinking feeling. I had no costume – all well it wouldn’t be the first time…but wait. I had just bought a gondoliers shirt; so I donned some black slack and had an outfit. The night was fun; a tattoo artist there was handing out theatre make-up and put a bullet wound on my head! Much fun. Even funnier, my sister Sara, after seeing my wound on the internet (thanks Facebook) messages me to be more careful; then follows another apologizing for the note – she didn’t click to the next photo!

Well we are very close to being finished. Our first complete draft is due this Saturday. Then after that we are finished with the compilation efforts and just editing. Its a great feeling. This project has turned into a real struggle. I’m glad its coming to closure. I took my mid-term exam on Monday for my Leadership/ Management class that I am watching online. I have only one more exam here in my Finance class and another paper due for my International Management class and then I’m finished with work due here and will only have two exams to take when I arrive back in the states Decmember 10th. This week has been a bit of a struggle. I’m tired of running – I really wish I didn’t miss that marathon and have to wait another month to stop for a bit. But by the end of the week I was getting back my zest to be an athlete again. I started reading a book that my friend Tara gave me (finally finished my previous reading endeavors; The Arrogance of the French, The Transformation of European Socail Democracy some how I’ve turned into a huge nerd). The book is called Dual in the Sun; about the most amazing finish to the Boston Marathon ever, 1982! It’s really fueling me back up! I also am beginning to look forward to leaving here. It has been nice this past week to not constatly be on the road and have some what a normal schedule. I’ve been extremely productive as far as my schoolwork. Unfortunatley I think I’m going to stop looking for anymore jobs here in Europe. The economy is disastrous and no one is hiring. I think it is best for me to just return to Auburn and finish my degree out there and hope the economy picks up. I’m going to move my efforts to finding something for the summer in the ATL or DC/NYC area. Really frustrating as I had such high hopes coming into this trip but who could have guessed the world financial systems would all but explode while I was in this quant small unassuming town in central Itlay. Obama won the election and I’m not sure if its going to get any better. I also made my plans for Christmas finalized. I’m leaving for Rochester around on the 22nd of December and returning on the 6th of January to Auburn. I’m still not sure where I’ll live but anyone with a place in town you are interested in renting for $300 or less holler at me! Otherwise, my weak was pretty quiet – same as normal for when I’m at Santa Chiara Study Center; study/work/study…run. It just happens that this week I was just here more. I’m not heading out of town this weekend so I can save some cash, catch up on my online classes, and finish up the project. I did have one exciting event! Tuesday night I went to a A.S. Roma vs. Chelsea FC of London soccer game at Stadio Olimpico in Rome. It was wild! But click that tab to find out more details and pics!

Bullet Hole Steve

Steve Shot!

Getting Shot!

Getting Shot!

Week 8 – Not in town; Venezia

Week 7 – Fall Break; on the road – Milano, Paris, Amsterdam, Prague & Ljubljana Disaster

Week 6 – “Jobs!!!!!!! Ahhh the Economy is Tanking”

What is going on! I’ve really kicked up the job search. Getting very serious now. Finally have gotten the bulk of our project out of the way. Getting towards the simpler stuff like stucture & financials. Working on the market stuffs, competition, and data collection was the worst because there isn’t a great wealth of information out there. Also took my Leadership & OB test; went well. So now I only have one more exam here in Finance; they just my final for both Leadership & OB and Finance when I get back to the states. Great relief; cause with our project wrapping up Nov 20ish I can easily catch up on the rest. So I’ve been applying everywhere. Frustrating because I’m used to instant gratification; but have to wait. Just trying to get out as many resumes and cover lettes as possible. They internet here is god awful slow which annoys the hell out of me. I’m used to searching twenty things at a time; it doesn’t like that here. Found some interesting jobs here in Italy at Hugo Boss & Ralph Lauren in business, production, and corporate strategy. Also found out to work for the Dept. of State as a Foreign Economic Officer I need to take an exam; free though! So I scheduled one for when I return to the U.S. Got some frustrating news; that awsome Steel company in London, Stemcor, doesn’t look so hot anymore. I talked to my friend who works there online and she said yesterday they just said they were probably going to freeze all recruitment because of the economy and may not take in 9 employees into their trainee program like they always do twice a year. Major bummer. Hopefully that is not true; and just office talk. E-mailing construction contacts from my fellowship that fell through; hoping for their help – realizing a bunch of their e-mails don’t work anymore is annoying…maybe they changed companies. Also someone please tell me what up with the world. I heard today, on my Wall Street Journal Ticker, that the U.S. Government is going to buy preferred stock in some of the U.S.’s largest companies (aka the banks). This is really odd; don’t like this much government dabbling in the economy. Very questionable.

Took a great jog Monday. Ran to Arezzo (about 20 Km from Castiglion F.). Was planning on going there and then taking the train back – but my 2 Euro fell out of my pocket on the way. So I ended up taking the train, not learning my lesson from France, but this time hid in the bathroom to avoid being caught. It was only one stop and 20 minutes. I made it! Phewww! Cause this time I had no money to give even if I was caught. I don’t think I’ll do that again. Getting lots of work done this week. Still wish I could do more. Preparing for our travels. Today (Wednesday) we go to Firenze again to go to the Academia Bell’Arte which contains the “David” and then to the top of the Duomo di Firenze! Will be fun. Leave Thursday night for Milano to catch our 6:00 AM Friday plane to Paris. Spending the night in the Train station since I’m trying to recoup some of my lost monies from France train “toolbags.” We’ll do Paris for 3 days, then Amsterdam 3 days, then train to Prague for 3 days to meet with Megan and her parents free hotels!!!! Then the 26 Ottobre will run with Jessi (another Auburn MBA) in the Maraton di Venezia. I’m really pumped. What a great finish to a race – Venice! Then off to some other TBD destination for 2 days; then meet up with the program for our excursion to Venezia (like our Roma trip). Then another weekend to some TBD destination; then back home to wrap up our project. This trip is going so fast!

Last night, I met with the Castiglion locals again. Its supposed to be an invite between the whole center and the locals; but no one ever goes but me. Their loss. I’ve gotten a group that always comes now; they are fantastic. Really great for my Italian and their English. They also helped me find tickets to go to a soccer game (Calcio in Italian). I really wanted to go to Roma vs. Chelsea November 4th but could not find affordable tickets. They were minimum $550. Crazy – like “Iron Bowl” tickets (Bama vs. Auburn in FB for you non-Tigers out there). I could not afford that; but luckily one of the locals is like a booster to Roma and got me the insiders deal at 110 Euro. This I’ll pay for a once in a lifetime game. He said the tickets are so much because “everyone in Italy is waiting for Chelsea.” (Chelsea was the UEFA cup Runners-Up last season, UEFA is like the NFL of soccer in Europe). This is really great news; so me and 3 of the guys here are going to come with me!

Week 5 – “Need more hours, especially if you want to work out!”

So sorry I’m been somewhat MIA. It funny…I’m so spoiled becuase I travel so much; but when I’m not travelling I have to do schoolwork 24/7. So I won’t compain. Got good comments on what we sent our teacher last week! Very happy! And sent a bunch of companies my resume. I hope this week goes well? I’m going to have to cram a whole bunch of Leadership and Organizational Behavior in my brain this week on my free…?…time; if that exists?

Week 4 – “Work…Birthday…Work…Exam; At least I’m in a Beautiful Country!”

Man, what a weekend; Canyoning is insane; I don’t know how we will work this week after having such an excitement last wekeend. We ditched Well we didn’t get the best report from our Professor, but after reading her comments it wasn’t to bad. We knew we didn’t defend well, that was for this week, but we just wanted to developed the “business.” So this week is our week of reasoning. It went pretty well and we hope for good results. Again i was crammed for work; took the finance exam on friday morning; it went really well. Luckily reading some of the chaos in the current U.S. & global market has helped me solidify some of sutdies, lol. Bad examples are always great teahers; haha. Finished overhauling my resume this week; I really like it. So next Monday I hope to send out to a bunch of companies. I’m nervous but excited because the new format turned out really well.

Wednesday we took our weekly mid-week excursion to Perugia. I just posted about it so you can catch up on that tab. Pictures to ensue. It was also a guy in our group’s Birthday….some we kind off blew that day off being festive with him. Convinced almost half the student center (containing UTexas, TexasA&M, and Cal Poly) to hit the town (Castiglion Fiorentino…krazy you know, haha. All of 4,000 citizens), but it was quite fun. My runs have been awesome as usual, I keep finding these insane routes with amazing views. I can’t wait to get a new camera this weekend (mine is here and works, but I forgot the charger in the US and don’t have a common brand; so its krazy expensive to get one for the US; almost $80, so I’ll just buy a new camera and sell my old one when I come home). I’m gonna take some photos and show them to you. Castiglion is probably one of the prettiest cities I’ve ever seen; especially from a distance.

My Italian is getting really good. Tuesday nights a group of locals come and talk Italian. It’s great practice. I have days I think I will be very fluent and others I think it will be a disaster. But I still love the language so either way its still fun to work on and improve.

Week 3 – “Work…Work…Work” – How many hours are there in a day?

Week 2 of real work on a project. Wow we have allot to do, its hard to even know which is more important. This was the week of writing. We’ve done a whole lots of reserach on the externalities affecting a potential Study Abroad Industry in a small unkown town with poor infrasturcture and transporation. Now we needed to get some of this pumped out onto paper, in paragraphs containting developed thoughts. Blahhh….so the boring part. Well we did it; next week will be the week of pulling our stats together to defend these thoughts and suggestions.

I spent allot of this wekk cramming for an exam I have in finance next week. It sucked; I’ve read almost 8 chapters of finance in a week. Next week I guess I’ll go back an learn how to the the calculations behind it; but the goal this week was to get concepts. I’m a bit behind on my two on-campus courses but I’ll catch. I also began this week rehauling my resume. I went to a career coach at my University before leaving town and really liked some of her suggestions so I will try to do this. It’s been hard to focus as this weekend we head to Interlaken, Swizterland to go canyoning and then Oktoberfest in Munich. It will be a packed weekend.

The building science guys and I have decided to hit the park daily to try and find some younsters to play soccer with (calcio in Italian). We head up there around 6:30PM everyday and play for about 45 minutes before dinner. It’s been really fun, Tuesday we got a sick game going with some sizeable opponents, about 16. I’m getting some of my skills back, hitting so good corner shots. I really love soccer and wish I could have played longer. It was really fun talking Italina as I played on the team with the Italian guys. Itay (me plus locals) beat the “South,” aka. the Camo Carhart wearing Building Science guys like 9-3! I think I scared the living daylights from some of the local after one kid kicked the ball way up in a tree, that had no branches until about 12 feet, where it got stuck around 16 feet. I quickly scrambled across a tennis court (remember this is all within our castle walls) to fetch the ball in about 15 seconds. I didn’t even think of it; but cracked me up when all the locals jaws were dropped.

Tuesday night I went out with some of the translation interns from the center to dinner. It was great practice and they were great fun. One of them and I really cracked each other up; and so she and I traded e-mail addresses so hopefully I have another Italian E-pal!

Wedneday we went to Assisi, you can check out that article on the bar on top! I also had to write a paper on the book we are reading, “Blue Ocean Strategy.” I’ll try and post them soon. Its about creating uncontest markets while making competition irrelevant; thriller….well actually it quite is, but that is how much of a nerd I am. The paper was on focus, divergence, and tagline for products. My focus for our study abroad format at Villa Mirabella is choice, application, and interaction with a tagline of “Senior-Projects with real-world experiecne in a stimulating environment!”

Week 2 – Not in Town; Roma

Week 1 – Travel, Arrival & Project “Norming”

I have made it to Castiglion Fiorentino. What a trip it has been. For the most part the trip went very smoothly; although I think it to be funny that Bryan and I left not even knowing the address of the place we were heading to. All we had was the town name and center title. But my travel savviness proved well and everything went perfectly until we arrived. Being exausted from our travels Bryan and I made the mistake up beggining to move towards the exit door as the train stopped. After rushing to the door knocking people and bags everywhere – we find it a bit more difficult to exit than expected. Bryan or I cannot lift the handle and swing open the door, so yelling at each other like Dumb and Dummer we rush to the next to find the same problem. Now the train proceeds to role as we watch our small down go by the wayside. After the storm I look at the door to investigate; noticing a small signed taped to each windows stating that these doors are closed for maintnence. We ride to the next town – get off and catch a train back to Castiglion Fiorentino, find a taxi who knows the address to the Santa Chiara Study Center and we made it there rather smoothly.

The town is great. It is a very medieval style town located on a hill for defense. Many old buildings and great people. Its looks very much like a very set here – almost like Aragon out of the Lord of the Rings. As you look across the horizon you can see all the old competing kingdoms at each hill (Cortona is a neigboring town if you have heard of it). We went out with the group the first night and some other at the center to an outside restaurant/pub in a plazzo under an archade over looking the hillls of Tuscany – rough life. To add comics, a few in our group (not me) forgot their keys to the facility and spent their first Italian night (very cold) outside alla Hotel Church Porch. Only to be let in by Bryan and I when we woke for our morning jog and heard our roommate shouting on the strada.

The following day was spent mostly working on our project – all day. Lame but I guess it’s what we came for, lol. We worked on our organizational structure for our program, strategized our “blue ocean” (creating uncontested market space while making the competition irrelevent – our trip goal), and crunch industry/market number for analysis, and filling in our business plan basics. It was a long day especily with jet lag and started rough; we had many internet and power outlet issues and other mishaps but finally got it all resolved.

At the end of the day we got some time to take in the town and do some house errands. Before our night out. The food at the Santa Chiara Study Center is amazing and is served in traditional Italian style in waves; antipasti, primi piatti, e secondo piatti. Our antipasti yesterday was tomatoes and cucumbers with fresh buffalo mozzerella – SOPRENDENTE! Amazing. I added some pictures below of our journey I hope you enjoy.

Bryan and I departing for Italia!

Bryan and I departing for Italia!

First Night on the Town - Castilglion Fiorentino!

First Night on the Town - Castilglion Fiorentino!

Outside our lunchtime Coffee spot!

Outside our lunchtime Coffee spot!

La Strada leading to our Villa.

My address here in Castiglion Fiorentino is here, listed below;

Santa Chiara Study Center Via San Giuliano, 6 Castiglion Fiorentino (AR) 52043 Italy Office Phone #: 0575-657470 Office E-mail: stachiara@gmail.com



  1. Sounds like things are moving along well !! I have to say that I enjoyed a laugh at your story about not being able to exit the train !! And……the night on the town looks great………enjoy a nice bottle of wine for me 😉

  2. are you still in week 1….norming?

  3. Hi Steve! Your blog’s so so nice… I like it very much! I hope we meet very soon… Come and visit my town Novara whenever you want!

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