Italy Interim Trip 2008
Tuesday, January 22nd
up this morning was extremely hard. It was our last full day, so we
were ready to get going. Our first stop was the dock. There, we loaded
onto a water taxi to get to the nearby island of Murano. The boat ride
gave us an opportunity to take pictures of Venice and its manmade
shorelines of buildings as we sailed by. We then unloaded and walked
into the glass blowing factory. The 2500-degree ovens for melting the
sand heated the demonstration room, though we didn’t mind, it was
freezing outside. There we watched one of the glass blowing ‘masters’
make a Venetian glass vase in about a minute. We were all impressed
then, but the most impressive was yet to come. The master then got
another piece of the gooey-liquid glass and seemed to literally pull
the figure of a horse right out! Complete with a full mane, ears, nose,
tail and hooves. Then, we walked around the island for a bit and had
lunch at a nearby restaurant. It was the biggest meal we’ve had so far.
It had 4 courses. Some one didn’t like the first course and was worried
she would be hungry… little did she know. Afterwards, we returned to
Venice and had to hop foot it back to the hotel to leave our glass
purchases. Next we wound through the cobbled ally ways and over
multiple bridges to a mask-making workshop. We all sat around a long
‘U’ shaped table with endless supplies of paint, gems, feathers and
glue. We had a lecture on the origin of Venetian mask making, then were
set free with our own blank masks to decorate. It was so much fun and
definitely one of the most creative activities! As the hours went by
everyone became more and more intricate, leaving everyone laughing at
one another. By the time we were finished, it had grown dark. Following
Gabriella, we were taken closer to the hotel, and given free time to
eat dinner and do some last minute shopping. Most of us grabbed a last
slice of margarita pizza and a Gelato ice cream. Later, after returning
to the hotel, everyone was packing because our bags had to be packed
and outside our rooms by 9 PM ready for our wake up at 4 in the
morning. It was a great last day!
AC and KB
Monday, January 21st
took a two-hour train ride from Florence to Venice. The train ride was
a breeze – talking to my friends and sleeping made the ride short.
When we arrived in Venice, we took a boat taxi to the plaza. The boat
taxi was an interesting experience and lots of fun. The plaza was
covered with hundreds of pigeons, which flew up on our arms and
shoulders. Bird seed was available for purchase and many of us found
it amusing to throw the seeds onto other students. After our time with
the birds, our fun was called off by the teachers for sanitation
reasons. Following that, we walked through the bitter cold to St.
Mark’s Cathedral. The size of the chapel was enormous and completely
covered with glass/gold foil mosaics. On the roof of the church there
were six domes. These domes formed a Greek cross. We really enjoyed
this church because of all the mosaics. Also I enjoyed the geometrical
shapes and colors that made up the mosaic floors. Each new view of the
church made me think “wow” in my head. We really enjoyed the tour
through this chapel. Venice is a unique place.
M.H. and C.N.
Sunday, January 20th
woke up to a pleasant Florence morning. We were to continue our tour
of the Uffizi gallery with our charming British guide. We saw the
colors of Michelangelo and the life-like perfection of DaVinci. After
we said farewell to our guide we were allowed some free time for
shopping and lunch. Some of us went down one of the long row of stands
selling scarves, ties, shirts, and leather jackets. After a lunch of
pasta we returned to the hotel to change into more presentable attire
in order to visit the SACI School of art here in Florence. The Dean
David Davidson showed us around the different areas of discipline and
explained how the school worked with credits and lodging and such. It
was cozy little school of true artists.
A.G. & W.M.
Saturday, January 19th
was the day that we saw the most art. We went to the Uffizi gallery,
which holds an incredible collection of paintings, frescoes, and
statues that date all the way from the Roman period to the 1800’s. We
woke up early in the morning and after breakfast we went down to the
lobby where we met our tour guide who had an English accent. She then
took us on a walk to the Uffizi gallery through the streets of
Florence. When we got there we went through security and then we took
about a two and a half hour tour of the gallery during which the guide
was talking the entire time. She had a very good knowledge of every
aspect of the gallery. After finishing with the gallery the tour guide
took us to a restaurant on the street where Dante Alighieri used to
live. We ate salad and pasta. After we finished eating we headed on
to the papermaking store where they taught us how to decorate colored
paper and I even got to make one! After finishing at the store we had
some free time. The first thing we did with our free time was walk to
the Duomo which is a dome built by Brunelleschi during the
Renaissance. We climbed up the staircase to the top and took some
pictures of Florence and then headed back down. After the Duomo we
decided to just walk around for a while and in this time we got gelato,
did some shopping, and went to the waterfront. We then met to go to
dinner at a restaurant call Mamma Mia where I had penne pasta and some
cappuccino. The last part of our day was getting a gelato, arriving at
the hotel, and going to sleep with anticipation for the next day.
Saturday, January 19th
was tiring from the start. Last night I laid my head on my pillow and
woke up to complete darkness. This morning I couldn’t remember where I
was. I headed off to breakfast. The food was pretty good. The eggs
were the best by far this whole trip. Italian breakfast is different
than American breakfast. There is a lot of bread in Italy. We
finished breakfast and left for the Uffizi Art Gallery. AC and I led
the group because Gabriella (our guide) let us find the fastest way to
the Uffizi. We walked down the short walk to the Duomo then turned
right to the Uffizi. Walking has become a large part of this trip and
I have gotten used to it. Eventually we arrived in the shadow of the
two buildings of the Uffizi Gallery. We passed through security and
entered the gallery. I find that now that I am older I know more about
Italian and Florentine history. Even though I have been to the Uffizi
twice in the past, I always seem to forget what it is like. The art.
The feeling. It was one thing to see David by Michelangelo but not
only does this gallery have Michelangelo, it has DaVinci, Boticelli,
and many more. And amazingly they all lived within 200 years of each
other. It really is spectacular. However, you have to remember it is
an art museum: a lot of walking and not a lot of places to sit down.
Fortunately our guide kept our attention with the audio guide. After
45 minutes of art, we finally saw one of the Uffizi’s prizes: the
Birth of Venus. The room was larger than the rest with a rectangle of
benches in the middle. Also, if you look to the right of the Birth of
Venus on the next wall is a similar painting called “Spring”. It is
very, very similar to the Birth of Venus; both are by Boticelli.
Afterwards we viewed a couple more rooms with Leonardo DaVinci’s and
Boticelli’s and we ended there with our half tour (we are touring the
other half tomorrow morning). The afternoon was exciting. We
decorated paper, climbed 700 steps, and spent a lot of time in
Florence. KB, AG, and I climbed the Duomo while KH, DC, DH, and AC
climbed in a group in front of us. No matter where I was the view was
amazing and I had tons of fun. We took near a million pictures (ha
ha). After our experience we met up for dinner and I had a classic
Italian dinner of 3 full courses plus bread. I LOVE Italian dinners!
This experience keeps getting better and better with friends and the
food and the trip as a whole. It never stops surprising me and I am
always looking forward to the next day. AH
Saturday, January 19th
we went to the Uffizi Museum. We spent about 1.5 hours in the museum
looking at various paintings. My favorite painting was the Birth of
Venus. My favorite painter was Botticelli. After we left the museum
we went to a fabulous restaurant. I ate pasta with salad and fruit
salad. The pasta was very good and very different from American
pasta. After lunch we went to a paper decorating shop and I learned to
make awesome designs. I was also able to decorate my own paper and
this was really fun! After that we had free time. We went shopping in
the market for gifts for friends and family. SA
Friday, January 18th
started the day with a one hour and 45 minute trip to Florence on a
Eurostar bullet train. We were given the chance to explore this new
city with one major rule: to stay in groups with at least 4 people.
Our group was able to visit a gelato shop and taste new flavors of the
Italian ice cream. All of us met with our tour guide who took us on a
walking tour of the city. This helped us become acquainted with our
new surroundings. During the tour we visited the Duomo, the senate
building, and some of the Medici family tombs. Our favorite part of
the day was when we went to the Galleria Accademia; this was where we
were able to see many sculptures by Michelangelo. There was a hallway
filled with unfinished marble statues that Michelangelo had never
gotten around to completing. There was even one statue there which
people are unsure if he actually made it. The most spectacular image
was at the end of the hall. Michelangelo’s David is a statue of
precision and beauty. The muscles and veins are shown to make the
statue more lifelike. D.H. marveled at the change of expression across
the statue’s face as she walked around it. The David was like a
chameleon, always changing his eyes. Some people wanted to reach out
and touch it to make sure that it was really made of cold marble.
After this we finished our walking tour and went back to the hotel for
dinner and free time before bed. It was a wonderful day and we can’t
wait for the days that follow.
DH & KH
Thursday, January 17th
was probably the longest of the trip so far. We visited many popular
places in Rome in just one day. We started at the Vatican where we saw
the Rafael rooms with many detailed frescos and significant images. We
also saw the Sistine Chapel which was even more beautiful with its
vibrant colors and awesome biblical references than reproductions we
had previously seen. It was obvious that Michelangelo was deeply
inspired to create such a wonderful representation of God’s creation.
From the Sistine Chapel, we proceeded to St. Peter’s Basilica, the
largest in the world. The gold leaf walls and ceilings, papal
commemorations and mosaics were an awesome sight to behold. The
mosaics were so detailed that they looked like paintings. The papal
commemorations would have looked alive if not for their vast size.
Also, it was impossible to imagine the cost and effort it took to cover
so much space with gold leaf. The combination of majesty and beauty
made for an overwhelming sight, but to top it all off, we were
fortunate enough to witness a service including a cardinal and full
choir. Another highlight of the day for over half of the group was the
visit to the Galleria Borghese, a former house converted into an
incredible museum filled with amazing art. The building was a work of
art in itself, and we found it hard to believe it was once someone’s
home. The sculptures looked so real that if you touched them they
would continue their motion and act out the rest of their story like
players in the theater merely trapped in suspension in their perfect
marble bodies. We then met on the Spanish Steps and ate gelato, a
favorite activity of many local Italians. Ironically, Americans are
the only ones who call this place the Spanish Steps. The rest of the
world knows it as the Plaza di Espania even though the steps were paid
for by the French. The last stop of the day was the Trevi Fountain.
It was exciting to learn the different ways of making a wish. From the
right hand over the left shoulder, one coin means we wish to return to
Rome, two coins mean we wish to marry, and three coins mean we wish to
divorce. Although our adventure in Rome is coming to a close,
hopefully our wish will come true and one day we will return!
MT & KM
Wednesday, January 16th
Day 7: Rome
began our day in one of the most famous symbols of all Italy, the
Coliseum. It is amazing that such an enormous structure was completed
in only 9 years. Next, we walked through the Roman Forum where senate
house and rostra were located. The Rostra was a huge stage where
magistrates and politicians gave important speeches. For example,
Cicero is famous for his orations from there. It was amazing seeing
the places that actually changed and made history as we know it. Next
we saw the Pantheon. The dome here was overwhelming. To think that it
was built without metal supports! The columns were all original and
just as impressive and overshadowing as the dome. Personally, I
thought one of the most exciting parts of the day was our drive down
the Apian Way. It was amazing to see the places where Crassus
crucified the thousands of slaves from Sparticus’ army. S. B.
as the senators and lawmakers made history in the forum, we had the
chance to make our own. Later that afternoon, we were able to train in
a Roman Gladiator School. We stepped into the shoes of an enslaved
gladiator as we got to try on some authentic weapons and armor. The
skilled trainer taught us some basic offensive and defensive tactics
while some of us tried our own moves in the arena. I was amazed to see
the competitive spirit that each of us had when we fought. All in all
I think everybody had a great time in the Roman Gladiator School
Tuesday, January 15th
woke up this morning to the swaying of the sea on the ferry to Naples.
We had a typical breakfast at a quaint little café, consisting of a
pastry with espresso, tea, or hot chocolate (more like chocolate
soup!). Afterward we traveled by bus to see the great historical and
once buried city of Pompeii. On the way we saw the majestic Mt.
Vesuvius. While in Pompeii, we explored the ruins. We walked through
the city imagining what it would have looked like before the eruption
of 79 AD. We saw market places, houses, and baths. It was a great
experience walking through the streets of Pompeii as if we had been
there thousands of years ago.
S.F. & K.N.
Monday, January 14th:
up to the sound of rain, we dressed warmly in anticipation of a cold,
wet day. However the rain stopped as we made our way to the first stop
of the day, the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento. The Greeks used
these temples, including the temple of Hera/Juno, the temple of
Hercules, and the Concordia temple. Another temple was later changed
into a church by the Byzantine Empire. Our group really enjoyed
climbing on the rocks and taking impressive photos.
visiting the temples, we drove to Gibellina to meet Mr. and Mrs.
Santangelo and their son Sam. Because Mr. Santangelo is originally
from Gibellina, he recommended an excellent pizzeria. Most of us
agreed that the pizza was the best we had ever tasted. We also enjoyed
having Mr. Santangelo teach us how to count in Italian by playing a
game. With the Santangelo connections, we were able to obtain a
special visit to the Museo delle Trame Mediterranee. This museum
contained pieces from all over the world. Most of the pieces were
contemporary art. We thought the exhibitions were unique and
interesting, especially the pieces influenced by the Arabic culture.
It was very entertaining to see how enthusiastically the Santangelos
were explaining the pieces of art in the museum. They definitely
contributed to our learning experience in Gibellina.
ride back to Palermo was scenic but very bumpy and curvy. Many of us
began to get motion sickness. Once we arrived in Palermo, we met with
the Sicilian painter Alessandro Bazan. At first we were a little
skeptical about the area where he worked, but we were pleasantly
surprised when we saw his paintings and works in progress. We really
enjoyed getting the opportunity to talk to an inspiring artist. Next
we met Mr. Bazan’s art gallery director who showed us a contemporary
video in his gallery and then his art collection in his home. Leaving
Sicily, we boarded our overnight ferry to Naples.
VC, LP, SP, MO
agrigento/SIRACUSA 1/13/08 (tredici di gennaio, 2008).
This morning we took a 3.5 hour drive to Siracusa, an originally Greek town
on Sicily's easternmost tip. Fortunately for us, the magnificent sweeping landscapes
and a certain Largest Active Volcano in Europe provided us with pleasant distraction
(for all you non- Prep Bowlers, that volcano is Etna). The agricultural side of Sicily was
also revealed, in fields of delicious oranges, tangerines, olives, almonds, and other
vegetables. Once we arrived in Siracusa, we visited both a Greek theater AND an
amphitheater, the Stone Quarries, Chiesa di Santa Lucia (patron saint of Siracusa!), and
Arethusa's Well. Not only were the Stone Quarries used to supply the theater and
amphitheatre with rock, they were also home to lush gardens and orange trees,
giving them the nickname "Paradiso". In one corner was a large hand-carved cave
at least ninety feet tall bearing the name "Dionysus' Ear" for its inwardly curved,
acoustically superior shape and the rumor that the tyrant, Dionysus, eavesdropped
on his prisoners in the Quarries by listening through a hole in the top of the cave.
For lunch, we got a small "taste" of the traditional Sunday afternoon "grandmother lunch",
where the whole family goes to the matriarch's abode for traditional home style cooking
served over an often 2+ hour period. The ride home was marked by a marvelous sunset
and equally marvelous nap opportunity that allowed us to freshen up for dinner at the local
Villa Kephos near our hotel in Agrigento. Speaking of the hotel, we have a killer view: the
Temple of Concord, an amazingly preserved Ancient Greek temple that is illuminated at night
for Agrigento's pleasure.
EB, DS, & LP
We set off from Agrigento to Siracusa; it was a 3 ½ hour bus drive. The sites on the bus ride
were very pretty, consisting of green pastures and different houses, unlike anything we’ve seen
before. When we arrived in Siracusa, it was a very cute tour. The first thing we did was go on a
walking tour. We visited the Roman amphitheater, the Greek theater, and Dionysus’ Ear. It was
very cool. We learned how the amphitheater was a full circle and the theater a semicircle. Then
we went to lunch at a very quaint restaurant where we were seated and served three courses.
Normally Italians have an even longer Sunday lunch. After lunch and a tour of St. Lucia and the
shore, the group returned to the bus for the return trip to Agrigento.
On the long drive to this small town we got to see the beautiful Mt. Etna covered in snow.
It is still an active volcano and attracts many tourists and skiers. This volcano fascinated me
and I would love to live in the town just under Etna just to be able to look at it every day.
In Siracusa we walked around the whole town. The Cathedral we went to had a beautiful entrance
facing the square of the town. I was very interested to hear about the festival of Santa Lucia. The
view of the harbor was beautiful and seeing the water was my favorite part of the day.
We started touring Italy at the grandiose baroque square where we visited the Cathedral in
Monreale, made solely of mosaics. It was incredible and I couldn’t fathom the process of the
building of the entire church in such a short period of time. It is one of the last churches in the
area in good condition from the Byzantine Empire. We then toured the churches of La Martorana
and San Caterina, both built in the 11th century. These consisted of mosaics and frescos.
The churches are unbelievable! The technique of building them without machinery we have today
is difficult to imagine. Sicily has such magnificent buildings! The artwork intrigued me most
because I could relate to the artwork considering it was all themes from the Bible. I enjoyed
looking at all the pictures telling stories from both the Old and New Testaments. I look forward to
touring the other sites on the mainland.
We went to the Cathedral in Monreale, Sicily where we saw a tradition of Christmas for Italians
which is equivalent to our Christmas tree. The Christmas tree to the Italians is a new tradition;
instead they display a nativity scene. The Cathedral of Monreale, as with each church we’ve seen,
was absolutely beautiful. We learned that a Cathedral is the most important of all the churches
where the Archbishop resides. Every building we’ve seen in Italy is architecturally brilliant, every
piece of stone perfectly laid in place. The entire atmosphere of Italy makes you feel like you are
literally in another world. Everything about the scene is formal and proper and easy to fall in love