Recounting a Masterful Team Building Weekend
Our team-building weekend in Umbria started Thursday afternoon right after our capstone class, we all walked downstairs with our luggage in hand, saying goodbye to our fellow AUR wolves as we headed to the bus driven by a calm patient man named Luigi. Once all our things were packed into the back of the bus and a headcount was completed, we were off to the beautiful city of Spoleto. For 2 hours we sat silently, each entertained in our ways after a long week of courses. When we arrived we checked into the hotel, dropped off our belongings, and took a short walk to a sweet little restaurant called La Baraccia as a capstone cohort, just the twelve of us. We talked, we ate, we drank, we laughed and then we headed back to the hotel to get a good night's sleep, or at least most of us did. Two of our resident Italian men decided this was the time to take on the city of Spoleto and find out what its nightlife had to offer but that is not my story to tell.
Day 1- A Mechanical Rhythm
Friday morning we each woke up, put on our best “business casual” outfits, ate a lovely breakfast at the hotel, and prepared for the day of operational insights and taste testing. We began by visiting Froneri, Italy's largest ice cream producer, in Fiorentino. After a quick but necessary safety seminar, we suited up in white coats, shoe coverings, hair (and beard!) nets and hardhats. The group was led through the factory, introduced to the functions of varying machines, and served fresh samples plucked directly from the production lines. As we ate the our delicious ice creams we listened to the beat of the machines and danced to the rhythm with childlike joy. Next, we had a meeting where the CEO and frequent lecturer at AUR, Luca Regano, enthusiastically ran us through their operational weekly check-ins using Froneri-specific KPI scorecards.
Then we said goodbye to our gracious hosts and headed for our next destination, Cantina Le Cimate, run by Paolo Bartoloni and his family. The cantina was a welcoming environment with flowing wine, homemade pasta, and cured meats. We toured the property and were given an inside look at the technology and care that goes into turning 11 different kinds of grapes into artisanal wines. After the cantina, we hopped back on the bus and arrived at our last destination for the day, Azienda Agricola Ronci, a small olive-producing farm and “frantoio” (olive press). Simona and Roberta are two sisters who have taken over management of the 15,000-tree family-operated grove. They gave us a brief history of the grove’s development, showed us the behind-the-scenes of creating olive oil, and demonstrated the ways in which they recycle the water and seeds from their farm. To end the visit the group was led to a room with a gorgeous view where we were guided through an olive oil tasting. Each of our hosts did their best to inform the Capstone students about the complexities of running a business and the care it takes to operate a successful, sustainable business but that was just the beginning….
Day 2- The Only Way Through is Forward
This day was the main event of the trip. The day where our 12 seniors faced their fears, their anxieties, and their fellow capstoners as we all climbed into two inflatable rafts and propelled ourselves down the Nera river at the bottom of the Marmore Falls. A generous former Capstoner, now a member of the Board of Trustees of AUR, Matthew Ripsom (BUS’15) funded our experience through the Rafting Marmore company (owned by the family of 2016 Capstoner Camillo Dall’Oglio). We started the morning like any other with a good breakfast and ride in Luigi’s bus but as we pulled up to the rafting center my stomach twisted and turned, the clouds crept in covering the sky and I knew I wouldn’t be walking away from this situation the same young women who walked into it. Once we met the instructors, Fop and Ciccio, they livened the group as a whole. They gave us an interactive safety demonstration, taught us all the commands and maneuvers we would have to apply on the river, and piled us into vans to head to the falls. As we approached the falls it began to hail (did I mention the high temperature for the day was 4°C?!) but we soldiered on. The rafting was truly the experience of a lifetime, even though my hands were frozen onto the paddle and I couldn’t feel my toes, I could not have asked for a better way to bond with the incredible group that is my Capstone class. We each cheered one other on as we pushed through the river, working together in unison. Having survived the rapids, and despite the fact that it was snowing on us, and we were all freezing, we made the decision as a group to take on the challenge of leaping into the river and swimming down a portion of the smaller rapids, one by one. We later discovered that we were the first group in 15 years to have made that decision together. After surviving the rafting experience without a single man or woman overboard we were treated to a delicious lunch followed by a group tour of the Cascate delle Marmore and went home to rest before dinner.
This dinner, at the renowned restaurant Il Via del Mezzo in Montefalco, was a seemingly endless array of one incredible dish after another, designed and cooked by Gambero Rosso Channel’s best known TV Chef, Giorgione, who came over to our table to chat and take pictures with the group. Dinner consisted of an antipasto course with 10 appetizers and three soups, followed by two primi piatti, two secondi piatti, an array of desserts, and infinite house wine. Each plate was a mix of classical Umbrian dishes with Giorgione’s unique innovative touch. At one point I was so full and exhausted from the day that I couldn’t even look at another plate of food but when another plate was placed in front of me…could you guess what I did? I leaned forward and grabbed a serving, just a little one but I obviously couldn’t help but try it. Even though we were all exhausted from the day’s adrenaline-producing events, we sang the entire way home. We sang Disney songs, the Italian national anthem, show tunes, rap songs, and just about anything we could think of at the top of our lungs as we drove back to the hotel that night.
That was where Luigi’s patience was really put to the test.
Day 3- On the Set Of…
We spent our last day in Umbria touring Spoleto. We packed our things into the bus and began our exploration through the streets lined with characteristic medieval homes and family-owned shops. Spoleto is a city that is historically known for its medieval architecture, artistic impact, and ties to Papal power. Yet, one of our cohort members recognized it as the set of “Don Matteo”, a much-loved Italian detective show that has aired for the past 22 years. With that knowledge in mind, we toured the main square, Spoleto Cathedral, the Rocca Albornoziana fortress, and explored the rest of the town on foot. This was a great chance for us to really have a sense of the city and a calm moment before returning to Rome and the bleak reality of our impending thesis deadlines.
By the end of the weekend, the cohort of 12, who’d been working together all semester, was closer than we've ever been before. We were now truly a team, masterfully built in the span of 72 hours. All thanks to our trip coordinator, Business Department head and thesis advisor Professor Kathleen Fitzsimmons and our wonderful guides along the way.
Article by student Natalie Salati, (Business Administration, 2022, and Co-President of the AUR Business Club).