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!