A much needed “late” breakfast at 8:30 this morning kickstarted the group for a full and energetic day in Venice. We took a walk from our religious house to st. Marks square and basilica and listened to the soothing sounds of our very last Rick Steves audio tours. After a visit to the top of the square’s bell tower for a view of the entire island, we split into groups to explore the city and get lost in the narrow, winding streets of Venice. Our group viewed Venice by gondola and wandered in and out of the shops on the Rialto bridge. We finished the day off with a family dinner at a restaurant close to our religious house before coming back for an early night of packing and wishing for a snow day on Tuesday.
– Katy Aspinwall
Cobblestone streets quickly transformed into beautiful waterways filled with gondolas and ferry boats as we made our way to Venice from Florence. We started off the day with a relaxing two hour train ride from Florence followed by a very satisfying lunch in small outdoor cafe in Venice. We then proceeded to a glassblowing demonstration where we all created our own glass mosaics using a variety of shattered glass pieces. Afterwards, we watched the real glassblowing masters at work as they sculpted intricate horses and vases from scalding hot slabs of glass. It was amazing to see how they were able to work with the glass and to truly understand the glassblowing process. After demonstrating, the glassblowing masters allowed each one of us to blow the scalding hot glass slab into a thin glass bubble using a long pipe. Christopher and Luke even got to hold the heavy pipes to get a real sense of the sheer strength that the job required. After about four hours in the glassblowing studio, everyone was about ready to finally drop off our luggage and head out for dinner. We eventually decided on a restaurant fairly close to the convent where we stuffed our faces with pasta and tiramisu, a perfect ending to a somewhat hectic travel day.
Lucky for us we began the morning at a reasonable hour, then made our way towards the Academia. Led by Allison and Chris we successfully arrived without getting too lost for once. After making our way through security we entered the nave of the Academia, a former convent, and looked to our right to see the towering David statue done by Michelangelo. After wandering around further, still waking up, we left the Academia and headed toward El Scuolo di Cocina.
The cooking school was located in Siena, a small town in Tuscany and therefore required an hour and a half trip by train. Finally after a small snack we arrived at our cooking lesson at 2:00. We began the process by starting a meat sauce of pork sausage, tomato, garlic and other spices. The smell quickly became overwhelming especially when a tomato bread soup was being cooked only feet away. Then the real fun began when we created the dough for the pasta. After mixing two different types of flour we placed it on the cutting board, created a slight crater, added a pinch of salt and slowly mixed water into the dough. Then we kneaded the dough into neat balls and set them under bowls to prevent a crust from forming. Cutting away small slices we rolled the dough into interestingly shaped spaghetti varying in widths and lengths. After finishing up the rolls of pasta the chefs in charge cooked the pasta for us and we got to enjoy a very good homemade Italian meal finished with Panna Cotta, a creamy sweet dessert. Finally we made our way to the train station, caught an early train back to Florence and packed up our things so we could leave for Venice in the morning.
– Emmaline Herring
Today was was an amazing last full day in Florence. We started the day with an early breakfast at the convent before walking to Laboratori di Restauro Di Firenze. It was really cool – we saw the adoration of the magi (Leonardo da Vinci) being restored. It was fascinating to see really impressive art in the process of being restored. We had a quick lunch and then headed to the Duomo. We climbed endless staircases but when we finally reached the top the view was more than worth it. We took so many photos! After the Duomo, we were able to see the baptistery of the Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo). It was beautiful – the ceiling was gorgeous. After that we had several hours of free time to roam Florence. We were able to shop and sample some of the great cafés in Florence. To end the night, we gathered altogether and ate at Il David, which was great! All in all, it was a very satisfying day!
– Kendall and Claire
Our first day in Florence was a success! We started off at the Palazzo Vecchio, where we had a fresco painting lesson. After creating our own masterpieces, we split up into groups for lunch. Our group found a shop that served, “the best sandwiches ever.” After a delicioius stop for gelato, we walked to the Basilica di Santa Croce and were able to see the tombs of Michaelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli. By that time, our frescoes were dry enough to take back to the convent. We then Crossed the Arno river on the famous Ponte Vecchio to the Pitti Palace, where we had free time to explore the Boboli Gardens. The gardens were beautiful and fun to explore in smaller groups. The groups meandered through the gardens for about forty minutes before we had to say goodbye to the gorgeous scenery. We headed up a hill to San Miniato, a monastery with a breathtaking view of the city, to see the sun set over our favorite new city. We ended our day with a classic Italian dinner -pizza!
Luke Morina and Peyton Weber
Goodbye Rome, Hello Florencre!
This morning we left our convent in Rome and started to make our way to the metro station. Today was our easiest journey through the metro and we all made it off at the right stop, and we were all on the same train. Once we got off the metro at the train station we tried to find our way to the platforms. The train ride was nice and smooth and we played some word games.
The convent we are staying at is nice and some rooms have a view of the Duomo. But we couldn’t stay long because we had to find the Museo Galileo. The Museum was interesting and had gizmos and gadgets of Galileos time. We saw maps, sun dials, and models of what they thought the heavens looked like.
After the meuseum we split up for free time and lunch. Many of us went wandering and shopping in the streets and we are excited for the rest of the week.
At the beginning of the day, about half of us decided to go to mass at Saint Peters Basilica. We had already seen the Basilica at night, but it was even prettier in the morning with the light streaming through the windows. The entire service was in Italian, but it was still an amazing experience to have. It was cool to see the universality of religion. There was a choir from a university in Italy that sang at the service and the music was very beautiful. Overall it was a wonderful start to our morning.
-Claire and Kendall
The other half of us decided to do something completely different: visit a castle, specifically the Castle of St. Angelo. Standing atop the castle’s balcony, we experienced the most amazing view of Rome any of us had ever seen. The castle was essentially a huge, multistory labyrinth to the point that, if not for the existence of several exit signs, we would have been lost, wandering through the impressive ornate rooms for hours in search of an egress. We then ventured out to the ancient port of Ostia Antica. It was a large area full of many structures to behold and explore. To help us find our way around, we used an audio tour from the wonderfully “helpful” Rick Steves. It truly was an amazing experience I will treasure for the rest of my days. To cap off our last day in the city, we dined once again at the Bonus Pastor. It was the perfect bookend for our stay, in addition to a delicious meal.
Today was our last full day exploring the beautiful city of Rome. We started the day at 8:00 with breakfast in the convent. We hopped on the bus right outside the convent and got off at the Roman Forum. Listening to our Rick Steves audio tours we wandered around the ancient ruins of the city. From there we walked up Palatine Hill and observed the breathtaking view of Rome. We also viewed the Circus Maximus where we walked through the racetrack. On our way to lunch we stumbled across an AS Roma soccer store where Luke and Chris (and Mr.Craig too) eagerly ran to buy their favorite players’ jersey. After the girls ( patienty) waited we all discovered a little place for lunch. The resturant had a nice room in the back where we all sat and enjoyed our meals of pizza and pastas.
Our next destination was the Pantheon. Outside it was full of people , but once we were inside we were amazed by the impressive architecture. Once again we listened to an audio tour and crained our necks up towords the oculus , a massive open skylight. Down the street we walked into a lesser- known Roman church that was just as incredible as the famous, more well known churches. Finally, we broke off into small groups on our own and given 4 hours to explore around until dinner. During that time we ate gelato, drank expressos , saw landmarks ( Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and San Maria Basilica ) and also we went to stores and shopped. After all our activities, we took a crowed bus over to a restaurant near our convent. Tomorrow some of us will go to mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Ciao for now,
Kate Fowler & Kayla Kirven
While trying to overcome the struggle of jet lag, we packed ourselves into a bus and headed for the coliseum. Once we stepped off the the bus we were greeted by the Roman forum. Here we were able to sample a taste of all of Romes outstanding history. Within a quick 360 degree turn we were able to observe structures from ancient, Renaissance, and modern Rome. Once we reached the coliseum, we were immediately in awe of its radiance and beauty. We were given a personal tour by Dr. Giorgio Monte, a professor at the local university. His passion and enthusiasm about his country were incredibly infectious. We then hiked through the narrow streets to a restaurant that was built underground. After stuffing our bellies with pasta, we continued our hike and made our way into one of the best gelato shops in the city. We later took a museum tour of one of the largest and most extravagant villas in ancient Rome. Unfortunately much of the villa was destroyed, but scientists were able to recreate the structure using a series of intricate laser lights. Finally, we hopped on a bus once again and had dinner with Dr. Giorgio to complete an amazing day.
From airports, to security, to airports, to more security, our first day in the Italy trip was quite the blur. After a bump in the road getting all of our passports and confirmations set straight in Norfolk, we took the short flight to Atlanta, where “deicing” is apparently quite the process-a two hours-on-the-runway kind of process. 9 hours and five episodes of “How to Get Away With Murder” later we landed in the busy airport of Rome-finally! Among the numerous surprises were: indoor pigeons (a true terror); coffee vending machines; and, later, an accordion playing gyspie woman on a metro.
Next stop: the convent! Our enthusiasm took a slight hit from the miles of uphill walking across cobblestone and stairs, but the sights were amazing! On the way, the Vatican wall casually barred us from an entire different country. Insane Italian drivers ignoring all sidewalks, pedestrians, cars, and essentially all things not asphalt were a sight to see as well. This entire confusing path to our saving grace at the convent was led by Emmaline, who handled the chaos pretty well and led all 16 of our group to the Casa D’Accoglienza Tabor.
Finally, the main event of the day: St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum. Our “friend” Rick Steves narrated detailed journeys through breathtaking sights you normally only see in the movies. The golden ceilings, Sistine Chapel, and (pretty much) everything in St. Peter’s were of a caliber we had never seen before. They definitely left a lasting impact; NA’s archway has never seemed tinier. The constant traveling to all of the sights was wrapped up with dinner at another local convent, with a four course meal of lasagna, bread, salad, fruit, etc . We eventually finished the colossal meal and struggled home to thankfully crash on our beds. The next day’s attractions: the Colosseum and the underground view of a Roman villa!