Looking out at the bustling tarmac and cringing at the thought that I am about to be scrunched into a small seat in a metal tube rocketing across the globe for the next 10 hours, I wanted to end my chronicle. I can almost hear you sighs of relief that you no longer have to scroll through my voluminous tomes, and I promise this will not be one of those literary expositions. Instead, I want to shine light upon the true value of the trip. I leave you with blogs written by two of our students. The distinct journey of their lives have intersected for a moment in time, and these past 11 days have inevitably altered the path that lies ahead. Both Jen and Kaleb have trekked across the world, and, through separate eyes, they have witnessed the world beyond the borders of the HRBT. They will have a shared experience that will stay with them for the rest of their time at Norfolk Academy and beyond. Years from now, they may be scrolling through photographs of the bygone ages and stumble across a picture of this trip. It is true that a picture says a thousands words, but the memories that the photo will back are infinite. We must never allow ourselves to rely solely on the tangible evidence of our adventures, but rather take advantage of a more precious gift; the ability to engage socially with those around us and form lasting bonds of friendship that do not decay or fade. 


  • Matt Wilkens

——Jen ——

On our second to last day in Italy, we went to Pompeii. Like Herculaneum, Pompeii looked so much more different than I had imagined. When I learned about Pompeii in Latin I, I imagined the site to be completely ruined with only the bases of the buildings intact. But seeing Pompeii in person blew my mind! The town looked not as if a volcano destroyed it but as if the town just deteriorated over time. 

For the entire day at Pompeii, we were let loose to roam Pompeii by ourselves. The most exhilarating part of this entire Odyssey trip was being able to wander and get lost in Pompeii! The roads in Pompeii were so well preserved and walking on them felt weird because I had stepped where Roman citizens had walked so many centuries ago. Also, for future Odyssey travelers, I highly recommend drinking water from the public fountains in Pompeii. The water doesn’t taste bad but is actually really cold and refreshing. 

Pompeii is definitely my favorite site that we visited. (Even though Caecilius’ house wasn’t available for us to visit…)


    Throughout this adventure, we have been given the opportunity to explore some of the most historically important places in the world. We’ve studied Ancient Greek and Roman  settlements, explored a volcano, and had the opportunity to see cities after being covered for over 2,000 years. We were able to understand the difference between Greek and Roman building techniques, learn how the Gods played a role in their everyday life and how they were able to please themselves with entertainment at their theatres.  Though learning all this important information was really engaging, that wasn’t the most special part of the trip. This trip was made special by the way we were able to learn all this important information. Before we left on the trip, we had been split into three teams; Alpha, Beta and Gamma. These groups while at each of the sites, would be given a set of challenges to complete.The challenges acted as a guided learning experience, but the point of the challenges weren’t to make us only look for these things. The point was for us to explore and learn those specific things while we were exploring. The teachers would let us do this on our own. The three groups were then allowed to travel the sites on their own and forced us to  rely on each other’s strengths to complete the tasks.  This freedom given to the students allowed us to succeed, fail, learn, and have fun all in the same experience. That is why this trip was so special. Being with a group that bonded as well as we did and getting to learn from each other as our classroom from the past two years was being brought to life was a special opportunity. This sense of freedom caused all of us not only to evolve as teammates and leaders, but as people too. We were forced to associate ourselves with those we might not have before and because of this new friendships were begun. This odyssey gave us a lot of new information, but it also gave us new friendships and a sense of confidence when solving problems that couldn’t be found elsewhere. 

Understanding the journey

I have a feeling that when we return home and you ask your child, “How was your adventure?” or “What did you see?” the answer is going to be something like, “The trip was great.  We saw some really cool old stuff” and then the conversation will launch into the silly things, the funny moments connected to their friends on the trip, and the minutia that is more a side note than a main theme.

In a few days some things will start to bubble up to the surface and you will catch snippets of the experience.  “We swam in three different seas,” “We sat in the theater where Plato sat,”  “We went up 10,000 feet and hiked in and out of craters on Mt. Etna.” The pictures will help remind them where they were and what they saw.  Their journals will offer another vehicle for memory and perspective.  But, largely, it will be a jumble of places, food, monuments, ideas, facts, feelings, and people.

They have been swimming in a sea of history, art, architecture, philosophy, mythology, literature, science, and Sicilian/Italian culture.  They have had full days of activities and arrived tired at the hotel only to shower and rest for a few moments, then dress for dinner at 8pm.  I wish you could have seen them at dinner!  Not only were they trying new things, finding new tastes, discovering new flavors, but they sat and talked and enjoyed life and conversation and each other for two or three hours, which is  the Italian/Sicilian way.  Despite the fact that sometimes their volume reached middle school refectory levels, we received compliments on their behavior from people of all different nationalities. Time after time, someone would approach our table, ask what we were doing in Sicily, pepper us with questions about our school, our program, our students and walk away impressed with and envious of them.

In fact, I am envious of them.  They have made an Odyssey, an epic journey that will color all their experiences in the years to come.  And, like Homer’s epic, it will take a lifetime to understand it and appreciate not only what it was, but also how it has changed them.

So be patient with them and their cursory retorts.  Just ask them about the small things and you might start to see some of the big things.

Sing us a song, you’re the piano man…

I knew from several of his masterful performances at Norfolk Academy that one of our students, Alex Barton, is an extremely talented pianist, and, throughout the course of our journey, I have learned more about his dedication to his passion. Day after day Alex has logged innumerable hours in order to hone his craft and develop the dexterity and mental acumen needed to honor the great composers. One day, Alex asked me what were the chances that we would find a piano somewhere on our trip for him to play, for we had seen a couple in the airports in Charlotte and Rome that were already in use by other enthusiasts. Recalling my past experiences in Italy, I responded unhesitatingly that I highly doubt we would encounter the instrument along the journey. I could not be more happy that this statement would turn out to be false. 

After our 8 hour marathon from Messina to Paestum, we arrived at our hotel drained of all mental and physical ability. Lo and behold, tucked away in the far corner of the reception hall, Alex spots his quarry. Immediately his face lights up with true joy, and he rushes to take his place on the bench. When he reveals the keys, I could have sworn I saw a feint bloom of dust rise into the air. The piano, a purely aesthetic piece, must not have been touched since it was put into place. Nevertheless, with a quick crack of the knuckles and a minor warm up, Alex was taking us through a tune. The ivory clanged and clunked, and the peddles would not sustain the notes. I was reminded of an old western film, where the maestro would play some catchy jingle to a raucous room full of ruffians holding cards and trying to cheat their opponents with a furtive ace up their sleeve. Despite being in desperate need of a tuning, Alex continued to wail on the piano without a care in the world. Nothing could disappoint this moment. 

What a remarkable group of students! How fortunate we are to have so many wonderful young men and women on this trip. Each night, as the Pollio’s and I recount the day’s events under the blistering Italian sun, we have been consistently blown away by our unique bunch of students. No one is the same, and we would not want it any other way. Each one chose to embark on this journey, and each has received double, if not triple, returns on their personal investment into the experience. Every night we retell innumerable stories of the student’s triumphs. No matter how large or small, each has proven to be monumental in their development. From Jenny mastering the rolled “r” of quattordici, to Mackenzie facing her fear of heights upon the precipices of Etna, to Kaleb and Bennett leading their respective groups, unsupervised, through the sprawling city of Pompeii, or Anne Burns teaching Natalie how to dive into the pool, we have witness personal growth on an unprecedented scale. It would take 1,000 blogs to chronicle all of these moments, and I am sure by now you are tired of reading these long winded expositions. I must leave something for the student’s to share at the dinner table!

99 bottles of fanta on the wall…

Today is the day we leave Sicily and travel to Paestum in southern Italy. Our route takes us across the Straits of Messina. Below you will find Rebecca’s account of our harrowing struggle to navigate between the voracious whirlpool, Charybdis and the rabid, six-headed beast Scylla. Which way will we go? Do we attempt to sail pass Charybdis and risk the loss of the entire expedition, or do we turn our prow towards Scylla and condemn only six of our companions to ensure the survival of the rest of our fellowship? Only the Fates know our destiny!


On our long travel day, we got up bright and early from our hotel and ate before sitting on the bus for five hours. When we first started driving towards Messina, many tired people had fallen asleep after the previous day of hiking on Mount Aetna. As I (and many others) were awoken by our peers, we came to find a body of water next to us, called the Straits of Messina. This was the most exciting part of our travel day, as we drove the bus onto a ferry and were carried across from Sicily to southern Italy. We drove for around four hours through southern Italy, until we finally arrived at the Poseidiania Mare Hotel. A few minutes after we exited the bus, everybody was refreshed as we splashed into the warm waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea, my favorite of all three seas. After dinner Mrs. Pollio taught us a really fun Italian card game called Scopa, which uses a completely different deck of cards than traditional games. After a mini tournament, teams Alpha and Gamma were tied with three wins, with a final game left to come.

“Every day is a leg day in italy!”

As I woke up on the morning of the sixth day of our excursion and stepped out upon the terrace, I stood in awe of the towering Mt. Edna. The smoking volcanic giant, speckled with tawny terra-cotta roofs glowing in the sun like wild fires, dominates the horizon. Are we really about to climb this mountain?! I think I need another espresso! 

 We slowly but surely cut back and forth across the facade of the mountain along hairpin, switchback roads, while our guide for the day Salvo, a world renowned volcanologist and Mt. Etna specialist, described in detail every square inch of the volcano that he has climbed since he was a young boy. All along the way up, Etna celebrates our arrival with multiple eruptions that  spew ash and volcanic material high into the air from the active crater at summit of the mountain. For many of our intrepid travelers, their only mountain experience has been contending with the steep precipices and rugged terrain of the daunting Mt. Trashmore in Virginia Beach. Fearless, they stepped off the bus at nearly 10,000 ft and gazed out above the cloud line to the peaks of the Apennine Mountains over 150 miles away in the mainland of southern Italy. The cool, thin air is a welcome change from the dense heat of the valleys below. Nevertheless, the warning goes out to apply sunscreen and to remember that the very same brutal Sicilian sun now resides 10,000 feet closer to their heads. Alas, these wise words of wisdom would inevitably fall upon several deaf ears. 

For the remainder of the day, we hiked all around the mountain listening to Salvo pointout every detail. He knew exactly when each lava flow occurred and how much material was deposited. We saw rivers of razor-sharp black stone that coiled around the contours of the landscape and the remnants of an ill-fated hotel, mangled into a pile of twisted metal and charred rubble. We traversed the steep crest of two cones from previous eruptions, and gazed down into the inactive lava shaft. We even tried our hands at spelunking as we traveled underground I nto a lava tube! All the while, Etna continues to grumble high above, sending billowing clouds subterranean gas and ash into the air like a noxious Ol’Faithful. Have no fear! Salvo promised us that he was not worried, but also slipped in a minor disclaimer; “If I start to run, you should too!!”

What an incredible moment in our lives. How many can say that they braved a climb upon an active volcano at 10,000 ft? How many can say the have witnessed a volcano eruption from less than a half-mile away? We can certainly check all of these and more from our bucket lists! 


Our first day in Syracuse was met with initial disappointment. The Euryalus Fortress was closed! Fortunately, there are no shortage of sights to see on our trip, and with a quick pivot we were off to the magnificent theater of Syracuse. As we entered the park and wound our way down several flights of stairs and ramps, some of our students noticed that we were going the wrong direction! “Wait, aren’t temples and theaters at the top of a hill?” After all the temples and theaters that we have seen, they are beginning to see the similarities. It is great to have some concrete evidence that the student are getting more out of our trip than gelato, pasta, and a cardio workout! While the student was correct and the temple we have come to see is located at the top of the hill, there is another sight to see first. We arrived at the bottom, turned the corner and saw a massive towering structure of natural stone stretching nearly 100ft into the air. This colossus marks the depth of an ancient quarry. It is difficult to describe the sheer extent of the excavated space. As we gazed toward the sky with bent necks, I was in awe not only of the massive volume of material removed from the earth, but also of the impressive feat of engineering. In the Ear or Dionysus, a vast cave mined by enslaved local population that bends and curves along the contours of a stream above the surface, we enjoyed the cool temperatures and a break from the sun. I could not help but notice that the shape of the entrance resembled the ear of another figure of myth. As I watched our students take advantage of the umbrageous cavern, I echoed his sage catch-phrase, “Live long, and prosper.”

Did I mention that theaters and temples are typically at the top of large hills, and we are currently at the bottom of a 100 foot gorge? “Wait, why did we go down to the bottom just to have to walk back up to the top?!” The answer is simple, and the students have become familiar with my reply…. “Everyday is a leg day in Italy!” Up, up, and up we climb to the remarkable theater. Many of the theaters we have seen are still in use today, and this one was being staged for some performance of a Greek tragedy. It is amazing to think that 2000 years ago, the very same seats were filled to the brim with spectators sharing in the same cathartic experience of the stage performance that is about to be on display later that day. Clearly, the show must always go on! 

With time on our hands, we head back to Syracuse to enjoy a break from our regular schedule of events. The students were given free time to explore the world famous market in Ortygia followed by a dip in the Mediterranean Sea.  I have had the pleasure of enjoying breakfast with our next young scholar almost every day. She consistently is up early and eager for the next adventure.  Antonia, a delightful conversationalist and exceptional traveling companion, has been kind enough to share her experience in the market and the swim….

After breakfast we hopped on the bus to go to the Euryalus Fortress but sadly it was closed. So instead we went to a theater. In our teams; Alpha, Beta, and Gamma we had to take pictures of the theatron, the orchestra, and the paradox. Lastly, we had to find Greek inscriptions on the theaters walls. After exploring the theater we left to go walk around the market and buy stuff. The market was beautiful and full of many things from pretty beaded necklaces to yummy and delicious peaches. Once everyone had finished looking around the market it was lunchtime, followed by some swimming. 

Walking up to the beach I was intimidated. Looking down from the street the first thing I saw was pretty light blue water, but then something else caught my eye. Gray and very sharp looking, I saw rocks all around the water, in the water, and blocking the way to get into the water. Wading into the water, it was ice cold and everyone fell at least twice on the slippery rocks. However, once we had been in the water a bit and got used to the temperature, we realized how beautiful the view was, and even though it was tricky to get there, it was worth the journey. 


Tune in tomorrow on Odyssey 2019 for an exciting tale of volcanic eruptions, perilous heights, and the never ending showdown between the sun and bare shoulders! 

budding Scholars!

Anna Russell’s meteoric rise to literary stardom has inspired her fellow traveling companions to take up the digital quill, and ink their place upon the scrolls of time.

Today we feature Madison Galler, an adventurist and adrenaline junkie who is always searching for the next way to crank the dials up to 11, and Riley McElligott, a shrewd business woman who has fully embraced the art of the business transaction and refuses to back down from any stalemate in negotiations. Each has chosen to chronicle an experience that fits their passions. Do we have the next journalist for National Geographic, spanning the seven continents and traveling to the farthest corners of the globe for the most mysterious and rare stories, or a future CEO of a Fortune 500 company, grappling with the titans of industry and leaving behind a trail of doubters in her triumphant wake? Only time will tell? 

The Mediterranean Sea

We went to our rooms to get our swim suits towels and sunscreen. We all met in the courtyard of the hotel to walk to the beach. Once we got to the beach, we all took off our shoes and headed to the ocean. At first touch, the water was refreshingly cold, but as you waded deeper into the clear blue water, the water could not make up its mind and was warm in some areas and cold in others. After a bit of gender separated swimming, boys and girls joined together in a game of football. Sadly, that was a short lived game because of continuous running into rocks. The group decided to play SPUD, a safer, less chaotic game. Time flys when you’re having fun, so in what felt like just a few minutes, we had to leave. 

The Ionian Sea

After a great lunch it was time for a refreshing swim in the second of three seas. Once we all arrived at the rock beach, we went onto an elevated rock island for a better view of the water below. From the top, a water hole was found in one of the surrounding cliffs. The safest way to enter was by swimming under a section of the cliff to get inside. Once inside, you can scale the walls, and climb to the top of the cliff. All participants made it out safely, and some even came away from the experience with pretty cool go-pro videos. 

                         —— Madison Galler——

The Market at Syracuse

Right before lunch, we visited the market at Syracuse. While Mrs. Pollio was purchasing sandwiches at a famous deli, we had the opportunity to visit. While there were some cheap items for sale that were aimed towards tourists, there were many opportunities to purchase local food. Using our Italian and bargaining skills, we successfully bought fresh fruit, including peaches and bananas, as well as different types of cookies like lemon and Nutella flavors. There were also spices and fish for sale. Mr. Wilkens bought freshly fried calamari, which we tried, and (mostly) enjoyed. 

                    —— Riley McElligott ——

The wheels on the bus go round and round…


If you can believe it, we have not once heard the cringe-worthy inquisition, “Are we there yet?” Now whether that is due to their love of the Italian countryside, a panorama of beautiful vistas filled with timeless architecture, or just sheer exhaustion from countless steps up and down ancient temple complexes in 90 degree heat, full sun, and quasi-Virginia Beach humidity is best left for another time!

You have seen pictures of our adventures of Day 2. Our visits to the temples of Segesta, the quarry at Cave di Cusa, and the temples of Selinunte were simply indescribable. Afterwards, we headed to the beach to cool off, and our competitive NA Football spirit came out in full force. After a lively set of 1v1s, featuring Bennett Yue and Kaleb Doyle, not to mention the pin- point accuracy from the all-time QB(yours truly), teams were set for an epic showdown. In the crystal-clear, knee-deep water of the Mediterranean Sea, an incredible lack of knowledge of basic football rules was on full display to the Italian spectators. Despite some glaring offsides violations that resulted in wide open cherry-picking receivers in the end zone, true laughter and joy was the real spectacle of the day. I guess I can holster the yellow flag just this one time…

Once the game was over and the sun began to set, we returned to our hotel for another bout of gluttony; this time for an aptly named “Tour of Pizza.” Plate after plate of authentic pizza, baked in traditional wood-fired ovens, were placed in front of the students. Like a plague of locusts, they devoured each pie nearly as soon as the waiter placed down the plate. Fear not, he made it out with all of his appendages! At one point, in order to capture the moment, I  asked them all to stop the feast for just a brief second so I could take a picture. I posted the photo on the previous post, and if you look closely, you can see them jockeying for the best position to strike immediately after the flash, but at least I got a picture of the pizza! For dessert we finished our “Tour” with Nutella pizza. As you can probably imagine, the students particularly enjoyed the thick layer of creamy hazelnut chocolate spread atop a sweet pizza dough.

When we woke up from or food comas the next morning, it was back on the bus for the next site. We stopped first at a scenic overlook of the “Turkish Steps,” a geological wonder of gleaming-white stone jutting out into the glistening Mediterranean Sea. Next on the itinerary was the Valley of the Temples at Agrigento. Oddly enough, as we approached the site you could see magnificent sacred spaces, dappled across the crest of a steep ridge, which we were inevitably about to climb! Passing through the ancient gate, we caught site of a new feature of the archeological site. Our wondering eyes gazed upon a massive scaled model of a polyspaston, or ancient crane! As hard as it may be for you, try to contain your excitement, for we were barely able to keep it in check. Along our grueling hike up the hill, we witnessed the incomprehensibly large Temple of Zeus and the altar upon which thousands of sacrificial bulls must have met their fate.  The students took their places upon the remaining pylons that would have supported the base of the altar for a mock sacrifice. It was all fun and games at this altar, but then again…. it is still early in the trip! The ascension continued up and up and up along the cobbled stone path until we reached the end of our climb at our final temple. Of course we were able to persevere due to the lasting glorious memory of that polyspaston—That awe-inspiring recreation of ancient building technology, bustling with ropes, pulleys, levers, and gears really “lifted” the student’s spirits and propelled them to keep pushing up the steep inclines in intense heat. At the exit of the park, a small cart possessed an elixir of rejuvenation,  a beverage so glorious that some have even said that even the gods themselves would spit out their nectar for a mere drop of Blood Orange Powerade! …. Hydrate or DIEdrate!

Did I mention this was all before lunch? Anna Russell masterfully chronicled our midday repast in yesterday’s blog so I will be brief…… DELICIOUS. Do not worry. Despite Mrs. Pollio’s attempts to lure our students to the dark side, our caloric intake did not solely contain frozen sugar and cream. We each had a scrumptious sandwich of some variety of cured pork and cheese. There was fresh orange, too! See it’s not ALL carbs, salted meat, and dessert!

Next stop, Villa Romana del Casale! We temporary disturbed our historical timeline and jumped forward to the  Imperial Roman period. We wandered through the beautifully preserved remains of an extravagant Roman villa in the middle of Sicily. The floors of this sprawling private mansion were covered from wall to wall with tile mosaics displaying everything from the epic confrontation between Odysseus and the cyclops Polyphemus, to children driving chariots pulled by rabbits, ducks, or peacocks and pretending they are in the great Circus Maximus of Rome. I stopped and wondered if our students were similarly using their imagination and envisioning themselves hosting magnificent banquets in the grand vaulted halls for their elite peers and rivals, carefully executing complex political maneuvers to gain further influence and gravitas in their communities. From the advanced maturity and keen intellect I have witnessed on this trip, some of our students are not far off from realizing this dream. 

From the villa, we traveled to our own lodgings in Syracuse. The bustling city life was a dramatic change of pace, but the glamorous boutique hotel, Mrs. Pollio’s favorite of the trip, was excellent. Much to the student’s dismay, there was no time to swim this night, but they will have plenty of time in the  Ionian Sea tomorrow. Our dinner was remarkable as usual. I almost feel bad describing the succulent hand rolled meatballs placed in a purée of zucchini, or the homemade pasta pomorodo topped with fresh basil and sprinkled with pecorino cheese. I’ve said too much! I will spare you the details of the mouth watering flavors!


A picture is worth 1000 words! (Day 2)

I suppose I must start with an apology! I did not realize just how much I had written on the last post. I should say it will not happen again, but let’s face it….. I am positive that I will get carried away again!

To give you a slight break from reading, I have enlisted the help of the students. Below you will find a guest blog from Annamarie Russell, and a collection of photos from some of our students.

—— Anna Russell——

Before the trip even began, I knew gelato would be a highlight. From my brother telling me his fond Odyssey gelato memories, to my parents telling me to eat as much as I could while I’m here, I was prepared financially and mentally to sample, taste, and devour the different flavors. What I wasn’t prepared for, though, was the incredible experience of Ragno Doro. I decided, after persuasive recommendation by Mrs. Pollio, to try the region’s specialty, sette velli. It was extraordinary. All of the different chocolatey flavors and textures, mixed into a creamy, heavy chocolate gelato totally boggled my mind. My life has been changed for the better. Thank you Ragno Doro. 

Until next time!


Departure, Arrival, Day 1

I am sure you all frantically refreshed your browsers last night in hopes of a blog that would capture the smiling faces of the students off on their adventure. I can promise you that there were no shortages of smiles and wonderful stories of the triumphant journey across the pond. However, to spare you the delusional ravings of a madman, I decided to wait until I could write something a bit more eloquent….. or, to be honest, just a complete sentence! 

Our journey began with smooth flights and only minor delays on the tarmac. The excitement grew strong as we waited in Charlotte for our long flight to Rome. The students grabbed their last taste of Chic-Fil-A, Burger King, Bojangles, and California PIZZA Kitchen, because of course they would not have that for 10 days…. Some of our travelers, taking full advantage of the absence of the proverbial cat, decided that Monster Energy drinks and Redbulls were the best choice of hydration prior to 9 hours in a confined space. I am positive we could have powered the turbines with some Flintstonian rigging. 

We boarded the plane and seats were exchanged to optimize the experience. I had the fortune to be seated next to a young man of NA whose love of goldfish far extends his ability to contain each piece of the delectable treat within his mouth. Nevertheless, he turned out to be great airplane companion. After a quick game of trivia between some of the students and myself (utter domination from yours truly I might add), we all went our separate ways and chose from an endless supply of movies to occupy the time….. allow me to fast forward, for the next 8 hours and 45 minutes are filled with the seemingly endless blue glow of screens or, for the lucky few, the deep darkness behind closed eyes. 

We touched down in Rome, and received our Stamps of Victory as we passed through passport control.  Now the journey truly begins. For most of our students, this is the first time they have been in a foreign country and dealt with a language barrier. We walked to our terminal and the students, starving and running on fumes, were faced with a challenge. Long gone are the typical fast food chains, and in there resides a long glass display at the Mercedes Benz Bar. With drooling mouths and dead stares, they marveled at the prosciutto and mozzarella stuffed paninis, cornetti (Italian croissants) overflowing with custard and nutella, and massive hunks of pizza topped with everything from salami, mushrooms, and…. lettuce?! But how does one obtain this forbidden fruit! One by one they would come to us and ask, “How do we order?” Each student was met with the same answer; “You must order in Italian.” As adorable as their innocent faces were when they asked their initial question, the priceless face of sheer terror and dread coupled with the desire to satiate their starving bellies takes the cake! It was amazing to watch each student muscle up the nerve to stand in line and have the confidence to speak in a foreign language to a complete stranger. I believe it is safe to say that not all 13/14 year olds possess this rare courage. I could not have been more proud of their achievement. 

With full bellies, we boarded our flight for a quick puddle jump to Palermo, Sicily. We felt a little bit like rockstars or celebrities when we turned the corner out of security and saw Lillo, our driver, standing with a sign that read NORFOLK ACADEMY. We set off to Erice and after crawling up 2500 feet of winding switch back roads, we explored the ancient walled city, discovered the ruins of the Castle of Venus, and rewarded our travelers with a well earned gelato break. 

From Erice, we drove to Casale del Gulfo, our first hotel, but none of us could have imagined what was waiting for us upon arrival. We sat at our tables, expecting a dinner of pasta or pizza served family style. Instead, the meal that followed could have rivaled the lavish and gluttonous banquets often seen in films. We were treated to a sumptuous Italian dinner consisting of four courses…

First course: Antipasti – bruschetta topped with roasted tomatoes, zucchini spread, or artichoke spread; grilled breaded zucchini; fresh mozzarella, pecorino, and ricotta cheese; stuffed mushroom; olives, artichoke hearts, and assorted mushrooms in oil, mini eggplant parmesan, Caponata….. dishes were almost endless.

Second course: Pasta – Busiata a la  trapanese : a homemade spiral-shaped fresh pasta with a light red sauce with almonds and chopped garlic. 

Third Course: Carne – a platter of chicken, beef, and pork pounded thin, breaded and fried. Oh and I almost forgot about the mountain of sausage!

Fourth course: a refreshing cup of fresh cut melons, oranges, apples, kiwis, and mangos. 

To say we ate our fill is an understatement! After dinner came the moment we had been waiting for the past 29 hours of traveling…bed time. Rooms were assigned and the students raced up the stairs for the first shower. Some were heard murmuring that they were not tired and, “Let’s pull an all nighter.” All I know is that you could have heard a pin drop from the bottom floor of the hotel after no more than 10 minutes of the doors closing behind them. 

The much needed, and much deserved, rest will serve them well when we continue our adventure and travel to see the beautiful temple and theatre in Segesta, the quarry in Cave di Cusa, and the temple complex of Selinunte! 


P.S. Be sure to follow along on Instagram and Twitter: @NAintlprograms

To embark on an interdisciplinary, capstone study-abroad program in southern Italy and Sicily for Norfolk Academy 8th grade students.