Building genuine bonds between different communities.
From February 5-14, 2023, Aspen families hosted 13 students and two chaperones from Abetone, Italy, and the surrounding region. While in Aspen, the Abetone students and chaperones did a variety of activities including a snowshoe tour on the top of Ajax with ACES, a visit to the Aspen Historical Society, a tour of the Smuggler Mine, school visits, and mingling with animals and crafting activities at the Farm Collaborative. The timing was perfect for a Snowmass powder day all together with their Aspen hosts! The Italians arrived with great enthusiasm, impressive English skills, and jumped into all of the activities.
After hosting the students from Abetone, the Aspen group of 11 eighth grade students from Aspen Middle School and Aspen Country Day School plus three chaperones traveled to Italy in March. Arriving in Florence on March 21, everyone made their way to the different host families in Abetone and in surrounding towns. The trip kicked off with an impressive welcome dinner with a full Italian food buffet followed by lasagne and a dessert that spelled out “I ❤ Aspen 2023” in pastry. The daily adventures meant various activities such as going to Ferrari Museum, visiting the school and old town of Fiumalbo, doing a bike tour in the walled city of Lucca, and dipping toes and a few brave full submersions into the sea on the coast. At the Gothic Line Museum near Abetone, everyone learned of WWII history and the connection to Colorado as this region in Italy was held by the German line restricting access to the north. The Camp Hale trained American soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division fought through this region during the War to try to break through. We were also able to visit Florence to see the striking Duomo Cathedral and take a town history tour. We were fortunate to visit the U.S. Consulate there and have a conversation with the Consul General Ragini Gupta, who noted her appreciation for building connections through our Sister Cities experiences. Our visit even made it into the newspaper, La Nazione, in Italy!
Since our two cities of Aspen and Abetone are connected, of course, as ski towns, and despite having a low snow year, the Aspen students could not leave without joining the Italian students for a great spring slush day on the mountain as well. The families in Italy were gracious and generous hosts and truly created a memorable stretch of days before the April 1 return home. This was the first exchange with the two cities since 2019, before the Covid pandemic began. The hugs, tears, and plenty of fun at the farewell dinner were a great reminder of why we connect and build genuine bonds with communities different from ours but that make us feel at home. Hopefully the next exchange happens sooner than later!
Middle School Student Exchange Coordinator.