The Scholarship of a Lifetime!


Photo Credit: Don Mullan

Mr. DiCrisi and me in front of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Alex Bohn, Copy Editor

September 1, 2022

After 14 hours of plane rides, and a nine-hour layover in Montreal, Canada, we finally made it to Rome, Italy! We took a moment to unpack at our hotel and take some seriously needed showers, and then we headed out towards St. Peter’s Square. It was magnificent, I felt like it wasn’t even real. How can something so beautiful be real? We continued walking down the narrow, cobblestone streets until we eventually came upon the Pantheon, which looks so historical and awesome. We had dinner at an outdoor restaurant that was one of Mr. DiCrisi’s favorites, and we sat literally 50 yards away from the actual Pantheon. After an amazing dinner, my mom and I went to the Trevi Fountain. In my entire life, I have never seen anything so beautiful and regal as that glowing fountain. It was breathtaking. We spent less than a half day here and my mind has already been blown away!

September 2, 2022

I’ve never been so sore in my life. Today my mom and I went on a tour of the Coliseum, the Forum, AND Palatine Hill. We walked at least 5 or 6 miles on uneven brick, stone, sand, you name it. But oh my gosh, it was amazing. Just the fact that so much history is still here, and that so many parts are intact, is just incredible. We stopped for some lunch nearby and went back to St Peter’s Square to relax in the shade and people watch. The Italian language is so fascinating and just sounds gorgeous rolling off the tongue of so many people around me. We then walked to the Vatican Museum and toured the Sistine Chapel. If you’ve ever seen “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (my favorite movie of all time), you’d recognize the scene where Ferris, Cameron, and Sloane just stand in front of a painting and stare at it in pure amazement… that was me, except my mouth was hanging wide open and my neck ached from looking straight up for so long. It was absolutely beautiful, and it amazed me how much detail was in one square inch, let alone the whole room.

Observing some of the crumbled buildings at the Forum in Rome. (Photo Credit: Jenny Bohn)

September 3, 2022

It was 5:45 a.m. and I was exhausted, but the nervous, yet excited, energy for the day ahead woke me up quickly. Today we met up with a few of the leaders who run the Laudato Si Challenge (LSC) to take a day trip to Assisi (which is about 120 miles north of Rome and is absolutely stunning, by the way). These amazing people included Frank DiCrisi, LSC Executive Board member and father of Samantha ‘26 and Anna ‘22; Don Mullan, the LSC Liaison to the Holy See, an accomplished investigative journalist, and founder of the Laudato Tree Project, who has direct access to literally the highest leaders at the Vatican; Brendan Doherty, another Board member with Mr. DiCrisi, and Cofounder at KNGDM Group (runs the Beloved non-profit organization); and Brendan’s dad, David, who was there to explore Italy and meet some amazing people.

The six of us took the train up to the city to meet and chat with Stefania Proietti, the Mayor of Assisi. Because of her busy schedule, we only had a short amount of time to have a conversation with her, but our goal was to propose the idea of hosting a future LSC summit in Assisi (which is actually where ‘Laudato Si’ comes from). Mr. Mullan was kind enough to introduce me to the mayor and we had a quick discussion about the possibility of working together, with me as her intern (as she believes the future relies on the young). I KNOW RIGHT?! Next thing I know, she’s writing her personal email on a card and handing it to me across the table. I look up and see the huge smile on Mr. DiCrisi’s face and couldn’t help but smile too. But come on! How cool would it be to intern for or collaborate directly with the Mayor of Assisi!?

Meeting with the Mayor of Assisi in front of the Basilica of Saint Francis. (Photo Credit: Don Mullan)

After meeting with the Mayor, the six of us explored St. Francis’s Basilica, where the remains of St. Francis are kept. Chills tingled down my spine as we came close to him, but I was even more overcome by the intense spirituality of those around me. By the time we left the Basilica it had started raining, so we bought some umbrellas and walked up the narrow, rain-trodden streets, through the cobblestone buildings, and the joy and fresh air brought a big smile to my face. We stopped in this amazing art gallery and then had a delicious lunch (where Mr. Mullan hilariously decided to play matchmaker and tried several times to set me up with one of our servers) and took some gorgeous pictures of the vast landscape down below. We then took a taxi up to the hermitage where St. Francis lived.

After walking around on the greenery-laden trails of the hermitage, which looked like something you’d see on a meditation app, we toured San Damiano Church (which is where St. Clare died), the Sanctuary of Rivotoro, and finally the Santa Maria degli Angeli (or Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels). We then took the train back to Rome and got some amazing gelato. Funny story, the gelatoria that we went to was suggested by my Aunt Jules, who studied abroad in Rome when she was in college. If you’re ever in Rome, I 10/10 recommend you check out the Old Bridge Gelatoria.

September 4, 2022

The Pieta in St. Peter’s Basilica. (Photo Credit: Alex Bohn)

What a day! We started the morning over a couple of cappuccinos and a brief meeting with a few additions to the LSC team. Eric Harr, founder of the LSC and one of the kindest people I’ve ever met, Kyle Ballarta, CEO of Falkon Ventures, and Giuseppe Saviano, LSC Summit and Production Director. We then walked to St. Peter’s Square where we were able to see Pope Francis! He was driving through the crowd in what my mom calls “the pope-mobile” waving and smiling. I never thought that I would see him in real life so close up. After that, we walked over to the side gate of Vatican City where we met with Cardinal Peter Turkson. Cardinal Turkson is the Chancellor of the Pontifical Academies of the Sciences and the Social Sciences. Mr. DiCrisi describes him as one of the top two or three most influential leaders at the Vatican, below Pope Francis, obviously. He led us on a private tour of Vatican City, the private gardens, and Saint Peter’s Basilica. It was absolutely magical and a definite once-in-a-lifetime experience. Someone in our group asked the Cardinal how often he did this tour. His response, “Never.”

The LSC board, my mom, and myself were all extremely grateful for Cardinal Turkson’s time and overwhelmed by his kindness. Once the day was closing, my mom and I grabbed some great dinner and walked through Piazza Navona and Campo de Fiorre, which were both packed with local nightlife. We took some pictures and people-watched for a little bit before taking a taxi back to the hotel. Fun fact for you readers who might’ve never been to Italy: driving in a taxi is scary! There are no lanes, and taxi drivers will drive at 80 kph no matter where you are or how many cars are around you. My mom and I legit feared for our lives a few times, but I’m happy to say that we didn’t witness one accident while on our trip.

That’s me! In front of where the Pope lives! (Photo Credit: Jenny Bohn)

September 5, 2022

I think my fingers might’ve started to internally bleed. I was invited to be the scribe and take minutes for the LSC board meeting for a quick “one hour discussion.” Four hours, nine pages, and 3,923 words later the meeting concluded. The contents of the meeting are confidential, but the experience and discussion as a whole was incredible and enlightening to watch and listen to. After the meeting, my mom, Mr. DiCrisi, Mr. Mullan, and I took a taxi to Trastevere and had some of the best pizza I’ve ever tasted. It was a great lunch, with great company, and amazing stories. We walked for a while in search of a taxi, but with no luck, ended up walking all the way back to the hotel.

With 30 minutes to clean up and get nicely dressed, we hurried over to the Pontifical Urbaniana University where Tim Draper, a Silicon Valley Entrepreneur and generous donor to the LSC, was filming his show “Meet the Drapers.” Kindly, Cardinal Turkson agreed to be a guest judge on the show and filled the room with a gentle peacefulness. After five hours of filming, Cardinal Turkson took six of us to his favorite restaurant in Rome called the Antico Arco (Old Arch) for an amazing dinner where we stayed until almost 1 a.m. eating, swapping stories, and enjoying each other’s company. Before I forget, the two mile walk to dinner was a great way to talk with Eric Harr about the LSC (remember I said he was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met?!), and about my plans and interests in social impact. It was such an amazing experience that I will never forget, but what amazed me was how eager everyone was to work with me in the future. I’m so grateful that somehow I was chosen to experience such an incredible journey that I hope continues on for a long time.

September 6, 2022

Today we said our goodbyes to Rome and left on an early train for Florence. My mom and I were sad to leave, but excited for the next part of our journey. On our train ride, I watched the towns on hilltops pass by, and the Tuscan hills rolled onwards with brightly colored houses kindly announcing their appearance through the olive trees. We arrived at the station and walked to our hotel. We went “full tourist mode” and stayed at a hotel based on Dante’s Divine Comedy. In other words, half the hotel was “paradiso” and the other was “inferno.” It was amazing, the decorations were totally bizarre for a hotel but we loved the vibe. 

After we got settled into the hotel, we journeyed out into the city, and the first place we came to find was the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, a.k.a. il Duomo. It was enormous and had such intricately-styled carvings. It’s a great landmark for Florence, which is known to be the birthplace of the Renaissance! We kept walking to the Galleria dell’ Accademia di Firenze (or the Academic Gallery of Florence) where we saw Michelangelo’s David. I’ve never been in such a state of awe where I could just sit and stare at a statue for as long as I did. It was magnificent. The carvings were so smooth and lifelike, the stone seemed to look soft and malleable just as real flesh and skin would. The muscles in the back and shoulders and the veins in the forearms were just so on point. He looked as if he were real — a breathtaking giant. We walked to dinner at the Piazza Santa Maria Novella where we enjoyed great food and a gorgeous view. Florence truly is amazing.

September 7, 2022

The hills of Tuscany as seen from our pizza-making session. (Photo Credit: Jenny Bohn)

We slept in for the first time today, and finally I feel well-rested. One of my favorite books is called “Love and Gelato” which is set in Florence, so obviously, I was ecstatic as we walked to Ponte Vecchio and saw how beautiful and crowded this historic bridge was. My mom and I went from shop to shop pointing out gorgeous rings and jewelry. We then met up with our group for a cooking class at a farmhouse in the hills of Tuscany. We took a bus up through the hills and we finally made it to this beautiful little spot. We made our own pizza and gelato from ingredients that we picked in their garden, all whilst enjoying the gorgeous countryside. It was a great day, and I’m so glad we got to experience it.

September 8, 2022

Today is, sadly, my last entry in my travel log. My mom and I woke up early and went on a cart-driven tour of Florence where we saw several gorgeous churches (including the Basilica della Santissima Annunziata, which is the mother church of the Servite Order). We even drove up to a high point called Piazzale Michelangelo where we saw a panoramic view of the entire city of Florence. We went back to the hotel to check out, but decided we needed to get some truly amazing gelato one last time. We stopped at a place along the Arno River called La Carraia Gelateria, named after the famous bridge it neighbored, and got a couple scoops of delicious gelato. I can only describe eating this gelato as a spiritual experience and I probably passed out for 0.5 seconds with my first bite of carmelo. We went on our way to the train station where we headed towards our last hotel right next to the airport.

Leaving Italy has been difficult, and I’m already anxious for the immediate re-entry back into reality, but looking back over the memories I have and the relationships I’ve made, reminds me that the chaos of the next few weeks are worth it. It’s said that all good things must come to an end, but it leads me to think that a great thing might last forever.