ETS Italy trip 2010
March 19 Friday - Rome – Erica Chen
Arrive Rome and go to
hotel, Hotel Madison- Via Marsala #60
Early arrivals may want to see Nero’s Golden House
Make reservation at http://www.pierreci.it/
* 1:30 - 6:00 Colosseum/Roman Forum
6:00 – 7:00 Dinner
7:00 – Freetime
Italy Chronicle: Day 1
Getting off the plane, we were almost instantly bombarded by a huge swarm of people made up of either tourists or locals. The crowded room (which we inevitably had to pass in order to get our luggage) felt a little like a melting pot of cultures. I could hear the chatters of the Italians, British, and Americans as well as some accents (European, no doubt) I had never heard before. It was at that moment when I thought, “Okay. We’re not in America anymore.”
I call Rome the “Italian New York City” for a reason. Vespas zip around the BMWs, Smart cars, and jaywalkers. Hordes of tourists (including us) as well as beggars are a common sight. Add in the loud chattering of the locals, lots of roads, and the Colosseum off in the distance and you’ve pretty much got Rome.
Anyways, the first day in Rome was pretty much mind-blowing. Modern and historic culture coexisted side-by-side. The first sight that we saw was Nero’s Golden House. Unfortunately, it was under construction. Since Nero’s palace was buried under the Colosseum, we looked through the “peep-holes” popping out of the ground (which looked like chimneys) instead. Even though we couldn’t see anything, we could tell that the hole went very deep into the ground. We walked around the Trajan markets after that. A few vendors had opened their stores and were selling things like fruit. Because we had walked for a couple of hours and were extremely tired, we decided to go get some coffee and rest our feet. Thankfully, the little restaurant next to our hotel sold both coffee and gelato, so I got two scoops of nice, refreshing (but rip-off) gelato instead.
We waited a while for our rooms to be ready and the others in the group to get to the hotel before really starting our tour around Rome. When everyone was assembled, we went straight to the metro station and took the subway directly to the Colosseum. The Colosseum was absolutely amazing. Even though it was March, it was bustling with a lot of tourists. We climbed the steep stairs up to the second level, where the view was even more stunning. I couldn’t imagine how the people who had to sit at the highest seats climbed up there. One of the most interesting facts that Mr. Hinrichs told us about was the ancient graffiti. People would scratch the name of their favorite gladiator or team into the marble. Also, they would poke holes into the Colosseum in order to steal the metal inside, which was used to prop the amphitheater up. Outside of the Colosseum was the Arch of Constantine. Apparently, it was a cheap, potpourri arch of sorts since it was compiled of things taken from other architecture.
The last place we went to was the Roman Forum, which was located almost right next to the Colosseum. It was even bigger, which unfortunately meant more walking. However, it was worth it. We saw many temples (one of which had the original, 2000 year old bronze doors still attached—I think it was called Templo di Rondo), several Triumphal Arches, and a couple of frescoes. Even though the paint from the frescoes was faded and peeling off a little, I still think that it’s pretty amazing that it lasted that long. Of course, that goes for almost everything in Rome.
March 20 Saturday – Rome – Ashley Carr
7:30-8:30 Breakfast at
*9:00-10:30 Walking tour
10:30 Vatican Museum
12:00 – 1:00 Lunch
1:00 St. Peter’s
4:45 – 7:00 Dinner
Italy Trip 2010
The first, official day dawned on our exciting tour of Italy! We started the day with a typical Italian breakfast—lunch meat, cream or chocolate filled croissants, scrambled eggs, bread, cereal, canned peaches or dates, more bread, juice, and tea with hot milk. After an active walking tour all over the Roman ruins the day before, a good night’s sleep (despite the sounds of numerous Italian high schoolers invading the night with their noisy hollering and running down the halls…) , and a hearty breakfast under our belts, we were ready to begin our day exploring the wonders of Vatican City. We set off, along with the Saturday crowds (with Mr. Wesolek offering to be our “caboose,” being the tallest dad in the group), to see the Vatican. Upon arriving we were very thankful to have a reservation, for the people without reservations formed a line down an entire block! After wading through the (still long) reservation line, and getting our tickets and passing security, we arrived in the first gallery. Mr. Hinrichs lead us through the halls, where we admired the different Roman sculptures. Some of them, Mr. Hinrichs pointed out, were Roman copies of Greek originals. Others were more mysterious, like, for instance, the Belvedere Torso. This fantastic work was supposedly Michelangelo’s inspiration for the depiction of Jesus in the Sistine Chapel. After a while Mr. Hinrichs was forced to begin waving his hand in the air to tell us where he was, and the action was dubbed “ETS Longhorns.” We meandered through dozens of halls with more paintings and murals and frescoes, most notable of which was the School of Athens. We shuffled under beautiful, ornate ceilings and at last ended up in the hushed (or attempted hush, as the guards would sometimes boom out “Silencio por favore!” whenever the crowds became too loud…) Sistine Chapel. We stood in sober awe of the magnificently painted ceiling and walls. With the memory of the brilliant Chapel still imprinted within our minds, we took a lunch break and rested our “barking” feet. After lunch, we passed briskly through the modern art galleries, and set off along the large wall skirting the Vatican to see St. Peter’s. Soon we were in the Square (ironically oval), with the Egyptian monolith featured in the center. Here Mr. Hinrichs talked to us of how St. Peter’s and other cathedrals were too often built for the glory of man, instead of the glory of God. We came to the “doorstep” where we viewed on the floor the two keys Catholics claim were given to Peter. According to Dante, the gold key represents grace from Christ through salvation, and the silver key represents our works. Then we passed into the splendor of St. Peter’s Basilica; words cannot express the absolute hugeness of the place! The delicately carved gold alter looming above everything else at the center of the building, the enormous ceilings, and the luminous explosion of gold behind the pope’s larger-than-life throne. After gaping for a few moments, a portion of our group rushed off to get in line for the hike to the Copula of the Dome. What a hike! With everything from circling staircases to slanted walls, we eventually made it to the top. The fresh, cool breeze and the splendid view were definitely worth it. The descent down the many, varying steps was much more pleasant than the way up, and we spent the rest of our half hour wandering around the Basilica, until the guards shooed us out. Dinner was on all of our minds when we left St. Peter’s, and John Michael Lasalle proposed a walking route that would take us by a castle. Several people went there own ways, while the majority of the group decided to take the metro to the Spanish Steps for dinner, and Mr. Kuznitz, Katherine Kuznitz, John Michael, Alyssa Carr (my sisiter), and myself decided to meet them and take John Michael’s walking route (as if we hadn’t already enough of that walking stuff to do anyway!). We met the group almost at the Spanish Steps, where there were ever present “rose thrusters” trying to give you flowers (as if for free), and then make you pay for them, and then we ate a much needed dinner.
And so our first day of sightseeing Rome ended. As I look back and reminisce on the events and amazing sights of the day, I remember especially St. Peter’s. I find that even the breathtaking architecture and splendor of the Basilica and the sensation of being inside the largest, most ornate church in the world, still cannot compare with the quiet feeling of sitting inside my room looking out my open window, hearing the birds trill—singing and chirping—the lush oak trees blowing in the breeze, and marveling at the splendor and magnificence of my Creator.
March 21 Sunday – Rome/Florence – Lyssa Carr
7:30-8:30 Breakfast at
12:00 – 2:00 DEPART FOR FLORENCE
2:00-3:30 Walk to Hotel Casci – Via Cavour #13
3:30-5:30 Walking tour of Florence
5:30 – 7:00 Dinner
Sunday, March 21st we woke (some of us a little stiff from our climb up the dome of St. Peter’s…) to a new day waiting to be filled with more of the sights and adventures of Italy. After breakfast, our group met in the lobby of the Hotel Madison and set out at a brisk walk through the noisy streets of Rome towards the Pantheon. Since it was Sunday, the craziness of Rome had surprisingly lessened, and I enjoyed hearing church bells toll clamorously through the cool morning air. We stopped for a few minutes in front of the Italian “White House,” and from the piazza we had an amazing view of Rome; church spires and domes rose high above the other buildings and towering above them all was, of course, the Dome of St. Peter’s. On the way to the Pantheon, we stopped at the beautiful Trevi Fountain, the largest fountain in Rome. We learned that in ancient times, it was at this sight that the aqueducts of Rome spilled clean water from outside of the city. After taking pictures and enjoying a few minutes’ rest nearby, we set off again, only to be stopped by a block in the road—actually, the track of the Rome Marathon! So we retraced our steps (something we became very good at during the trip…), found a crosswalk and shortly afterward stood gazing at the Pantheon. I will admit—the first initial sight was a little disappointing; half of the front, where the massive columns stood, was hidden with confounded scaffolding; also, most of the façade was covered with a layer of shabby bricks. However, I quickly learned not to judge a book by its cover. As soon as we stepped through the Pantheon’s massive doors, we saw a sight at which to truly marvel. The ceiling shot steeply upward and the immense cold space all around made you feel extremely small and insignificant. The walls were covered in beautiful, colorful, marble shapes dating back to Roman times. (The Pantheon itself was built in the 2nd century A.D.) The most impressive of all was the huge, soaring dome—which unlike domes constructed during the Middle Ages, is perfectly round. The dome is concrete, and in the center is a circular cutout that has a diameter of thirty-four feet! We also saw the tomb of Raphael, the great High Renaissance painter. Of course, as we learned, the only reason the Pantheon has survived, was because it was turned into a Catholic church. A mass began, and being firmly directed to leave, we started back towards our hotel. On the way, we stopped at several different cathedrals, each one similar to the others and yet unique in its own way. Back at the hotel, we gathered our bags and walked across the street to the Termini (Train Station) to wait for our train to Florence. After about an hour and a half of waiting, we were starting to leave for our terminal, when Mr. Wesolek said his camera bag was gone! Sadly, it was true, and for a moment we all stood staring gloomily at one other. We finally decided that in the confusion all around, someone must have snatched the precious camera in a quick second when our heads were turned away. Needless to say, I think we all clutched our bags a little tighter after that. With a little bit of hassle, we boarded our train and were soon on our way to Florence!
Three hours later our train pulled up to the outskirts of Florence. With more hassle—pulling and shoving and dragging—we got off the train, loaded into another bus, and another, until we finally arrived at the bustling train/bus station of Firenze. Once out of the station, we began pulling our bags, which rattled noisily over the cobblestones, and threaded our way through the narrow streets towards our hotel. On the way we met Nick Bruetsch, an online GBT student from Switzerland, and he joined in our search for the hotel. Soon after, we were climbing the last flight of stairs up to the lobby of Hotel Casci. Here we dropped off our bags, and walked down the street to a little “self –serve” restaurant for dinner. As soon as we were done eating and chatting, Mr. Hinrichs led us on a quick, sneak-peek tour of downtown Florence. We first saw the Duomo, huge and imposing even in the darkness, the Piazza Signore, the famous Ponte Vecchio, the courtyard of the Uffizi, and many other interesting sights. Finally, to add even more sweetness to the day, we all had a delicious sampling of Florentine gelato. (I love that stuff!) After this we headed back to our hotel, and were surprised to see Brighton De Los Santos waiting in the lobby. There were greetings and introductions and then everyone dragged themselves (I did at least…) to bed to get some much needed sleep…I might add, despite tired feet and all that, we were all extremely excited to see what Italy and Mr. Hinrichs had in store for us yet!
March 22 Monday – Florence – Chloe Richardson|
Museums closed! Free day
7:30-8:30 Breakfast at Hotel
Suggestions- City of Pisa or Sienna
$40 round trip train ticket- not covered by ETS
We woke to a cloudy, gentle sort of day. That day was free, and Mr. Kuznitz decided to lead a group to Sienna--a smaller town about an hour and half away. Bryce, John Michael, Brighton, Katherine, Ashley, Nickolas, Alyssa, and I all went with him into the great unscheduled, unplanned, unknown. We clambered onto a little bus and squeezed five people onto the back bench-seat. The countryside was divine—rolling hills, little villas, flowering orchards, and the occasional river snaking freshness through the fields. Sometimes we went into tunnels with sullen yellow lights, and streaked through like fire, trying to get out into the open again.
Somehow, somewhere, somebody found a map, and John Michael was appointed guide and leader because he’s good at that sort of thing. Italian maps are made with little symbols and important-looking dots to indicate to the uninitiated tourist where the important sights are, so leading an unplanned expedition isn’t too difficult. On our way to the Museo dell' Opera del’ Duomo, we all noticed the astonishing lack of cigarette butts littering the ground, and it was so all over Sienna. The place was a (European) model of cleanliness. Suddenly, we popped out from the narrow little street into a huge shell-shaped open space, with a building and clock tower rocketing up out of the slanting brick. A great many people were gathered and wandered in this Piazza and we made our way through them to the Museo. We bought our over-priced tickets like good tourists and did not attempt to run past the guards without them, although I, at least, was tempted by the prospect. There were no great paintings or statuary in this museum, but little things from churches and lots of frescos. We even saw an ancient wood monastery door, looking like it was about to collapse into sawdust from age, and adorned only with a roughly-made metal cross. There were candleholders, cups and things to hold bread in from the churches, and it was astonishing to look at them and think of all the years of bad theology and deceived people that sounded them, that partook from them. We saw swords and crowns, heraldic and ornamented into uselessness. The walls were absolutely covered in mosaics of saints and apostles and their lives; in some areas the old medieval paintings had been covered over by newer Renaissance ones, and there was a whole room of paintings dedicated to some war in the 17 or 18 hundreds. There was a statue of a little girl in that room, looking so naturally asleep you felt as if you could have picked her up in your arms. There were also some chairs covered with exquisite marquetry—the inlays were so perfect and lovely. Each chair had a person inlaid on the back, and flowers and ribbons and things on the rest of it.
When we finished the Museo, John Michael, Katherine, Ashley, Alyssa, and I braved the long, long, trek up to the top of the bell tower. The other boys went to scout out lunch. According to ordinary paradigms, all the ladies should have been finding food while all the men exerted themselves in strenuous accomplishment. But there it was—all the ladies and only one gentleman sweating and falling their way up the stairs, occasionally looking down them (only to look back up very quickly). The best and worst thing about the staircase was that you had no sense of perspective. You could not tell how far you had come, nor how far there was yet to go. Hence why, two flights from the top, I begged somebody to tell me we were halfway. While John Michael was obliging, we popped out on top! And it was raining, and the view was splendid, and the bell was within reach, and the fresh air was pouring into our faces and there were no more stairs to climb. Things in Italy are so old that even non-living things have assumed the natures of living things and begun to sprout. There was moss and little plants in the cracks and crevices of that little porch. After absorbing the invigorating view, we climbed back down and found the rest of the group (who had mysteriously disappeared) and lunched at a little pub that served the most hale and steaming sandwiches. Soon our hunger was slacked and we traveled on (on those remarkably clean streets) to the Duomo. Like all Duomo’s, it was overawing and you felt yourself wanting to huddle away from the hugeness and the cold when you entered it—but unlike the other Duomo’s, it was not gaudy. The ceiling was unpainted, unadorned except for some beautiful golden stars against a deep blue background. The pillars were colossal and made from white and black marble, striped all the way up. The arches, and pillars, and details in every direction were staggering and a little bewitching. Entering a cathedral, and being there, is like no other experience. You feel completely out of your sphere—as if you’ve been dropped into a little bubble of grandeur to high and large and detailed—at once to minute and to immense to be processed by a human. In an escape from all that over-abundant beauty, there was a smaller room off to the side which housed dozens of aged hymnals, illuminated beautifully. I don’t know how people could keep their eyes on the music with such astoundingly delightful decorations around it. There were dragons, and wind-gods, and flowers and pears and leaves and birds in the most vibrant and rich colors. The pearls looked like they were going to fall off the page and into your hands—the illusion of reality was so strong.
We left the Duomo, and made our way along the city streets laughing and chatting and peaking in shop windows while dusk fell. One store was a carpenter’s shop, and we saw him making shutters. Sometime after that Mr. Hinrichs, Ben, and Mr. and Mrs. Carr arrived, and saw the Duomo before meeting us for dinner. The place we ate at was small and that night’s special was Boar!! Mmm, delicious. We talked and joked over dinner, and had such a good time we didn’t realize that we would probably miss the last bus. In haste, we made the waiter come and figure out our per-family bills (and got the poor man very confused) then leaped up and half ran, half walked all the way to the bus station. There was only one bus left, and it was leaving in five minutes. That’s what you call providential. We rode home on the swaying bus, the GB V students laughing and joking all the way, while I braided Ashley’s hair. Eventually I fell asleep, and, because there were no seatbelts, and because I was sitting on an outer seat, there was nothing but my unconscious balance and my friends’ arms to keep me from pitching into the aisle. But I never toppled. I have dim, half-asleep memories of swaying and lurching with the bus while laughter swirled around me. We were all grateful for bed.
23 Tuesday – Florence – Jessie Schnoebelen
7:30-8:30 Breakfast at Hotel
9:30- Duomo / Baptistry
12:00 – 2:00 Lunch
* 2:00-6:00 Walk in Boboli Garden / Fort Belvedere / San Miniato al Monte
6:00 – 7:00 Dinner
7:00- 9:00 Freetime
9:15 La Boheme Opera – Pucini –
March 23 Tuesday – Florence – Jessie Schnoebelen
The highlight of every morning is having glorious fellowship along with breakfast among our ETS friends. Today was no different. After breakfast we all trooped down to the Orsanmichele and gazed in awe at the corner niches with statues of different biblical figures… except for George… Continuing on from Orsanmichele we strolled down to the overpowering presence of The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore or the Duomo. Inside the Duomo it was very cold and the walls were very plain compared to the superfluous decorations of its exterior. The most memorable wall decorations were a painting of Dante (part of this painting is featured on our books of the Divine Comedy) and a huge 24-hour clock that runs counter-clockwise. The interior of the dome is done in an elaborate fresco of the Judgment Day. In the traditional style the basilica floor plan is in a shape of a Roman cross (as opposed to the shape of a Greek cross displayed in the floor plan of St. Marks in Venice) and in the “arms” the cross there were beautiful stain glass windows. After straining our necks to gaze at the dome we hiked up the dome. When inside the top of the dome we were not 3 feet away from the fresco and the people looked like ants on the floor, which by the way was intricate, geometric marble mosaics. As soon as we reached the top the bells in the campanile (Giotto’s bell tower) started ringing twelve-o’clock! From the top of the Duomo we had a magnificent view of the charming city of Florence. Everyone stood around taking awesome pictures for a long time. After descending the dome, the group split up and my group (Kuznitzs, John Michael, Brighton, Nick, Anne, my mom, and I) found an inexpensive pizza restaurant. Each of us got a pizza to go, took them to the steps of a church and basked in the sun while enjoying our lunch. We then met up with the group and toured the baptistery where Dante was baptized! The baptistery’s ceiling was graced with splendid, brilliant, gilded mosaics of several biblical stories: Creation, the flood, Joseph, Jesus, and John the Baptist and the Judgment day. Following the tour of the baptistery we went to the museum Museo del Opera del Duomo where on display were the choir boxes taken off the Duomo’s walls for a wedding, and one of the original bronze panels from the “Gates of Paradise” from the doors of the baptistery. As we were observing the panel, alarms started to randomly go off; needless to say we exited quickly. With that we ended the planned part of our day. For dinner we dined at an €7.50 all-you-can-eat restaurant followed by yummy gelato. Later that evening, Mrs. Carr graciously was able to get us tickets for an Italian opera “La Bohème” by Giacomo Puccini performed in the oldest English-speaking church in Florence. Everyone dressed in their finest (Nick had a new top hat just for the occasion) and promenaded down to the opera. After the opera, the never tiring guys, Mr. Kuznitz, John Michael, Nick and Brighton, went out for coffee while the rest of the exhausted group went back to the hotel and collapsed into bed. And that is our Tuesday in Florence.
March 24 Wednesday – Florence – Katherine Kuznitz
7:30-8:30 Breakfast at
*9:30-12:00 Museo del Opera del Duomo
12:00 – 2:00 Lunch
*2:00-5:30 San Lorenzo / Medici Chapels
5:30 – 7:00 Dinner
7:00- 9:00 Freetime
I woke up on our fourth day in Florence to the delightful sound of my alarm clock, sun streaming through the windows and my fellow roomies getting ready. I prepared for my day and made my way to breakfast to receive my daily dose of croissants with nutella and english breakfast tea. Ah yes, I do believe I like Italy.
First stop, San Lorenzo. As we sat on the steps of the church observing everything from the architecture to the venders to the tiny mopeds almost mowing down every other person on the street Mr. H gave a rundown on the Medici family. Then into the church we went. The inside was defiantly more simple than the other churches we had seen but it's design possessed a grace and peacefulness that set it apart. Only a few sculptures and painting lined the walls my favorite being a beautiful painting of Joseph looking down at Jesus as he learns to use a hand plane. We wondered around for a bit pointing things out to each other and conversing about our profound revelations in very hushed tones in order to evade the ever present security guards. Continuing on we went into the incredible Cappella dei Principi, one of the most elaborately decorated chapels I have ever seen in my life. Geometric marble cutouts of every color graced the floors and walls, your brain stared going into over drive just looking at it. Once you were finally able to tear your gaze away and look up into the dome you were met with eight beautiful paintings of various biblical tales. This room had so many exquisite details it would take weeks to even see them all. Even the sarcophagi were covered in crazy realistic mosaics. Also a little connecting room contained relics of certain saints and by relic I mean piece of their skeleton. One of which belonged to St. Thomas Aquinas which I personally found quite fulfilling, after all not everyone can say they're seen the finger of a great founding father. So many thrilling things seen already and it's only lunch time.
For lunch we went to one of our favorite little takeout pizza places. We left with our pizza to go consume our delicious meal on the steps in a square I cannot remember the name of. Having been renewed we moved on with our hearts 5 times lighter and our pockets 5 euros shorter to the Giardino di Boboli. This journey took us down side streets, up main streets, over the Arno river and up many many flights of stairs. Upon arriving there, however, our treacherous march was soon forgotten. For before us were the gardens of the Medici family in the first awakenings of spring. As we walked through them I was separated from the group several times because you want to take a picture of just about everything you see. At one point we stopped and sat and dangled our feet off a ledge as we overlooked the city. Ah, so peaceful. But our day is not done yet. We climbed yet more flights of stairs to the Chiesadi di Gan Miniato al Monte where we listened to mass. Afterward Mr. H asked one of the priests if we could sing a few songs so we could hear the amazing acoustics of the building. This truly is one of my favorite memories of the trip. As we sang and the sound echoed around us bouncing off the ceiling and columns a feeling of harmony came over me. A harmony not only with God and the people I was singing with but a harmony with history itself. By the time we left it was dark and the lights of the city were shining all around. We walked back down all those stairs and paths where we found a restaurant and ate another delectable meal. What a day I think to myself. But our day has not officially come to a close until we have sufficiently silenced our gelato cravings and have sung My Favorite Things as we walk back to our hotel.
7:30-8:30 Breakfast at Hotel
12:00 – 2:00 Lunch
*2:00-3:30 Science Museum
5:30 – 7:00 Dinner
7:00- 9:00 Freetime
March 26 Friday – Florence – John Michael Lasalle
7:00-8:00 Breakfast at Hotel
1:30 FREE AFTERNOON
Perhaps overnight trip to Venice (three hour train ride)
5:30 – 7:00 Dinner
7:00- 9:00 Free Time
In the morning of our last full day in Florence, we went to the Uffizi, the premier art museum in Florence. It contains such a ridiculous amount of amazing art that it was impossible to take it all in. There were many groundbreaking paintings by some of the famous artists that we had seen in other contexts earlier in trip, as well as a collection of Dutch paintings that included the iconic portrait of Martin Luther. After touring the Uffizi, we had free time for the rest of the day. The Chens and Schnoebelens left for Venice just before lunch, while the rest of the group trickled back from the museum. We ate lunch in several separate groups, with shopping liberally interspersed. A small group of us took a walk across the Arno into the suburbs in the foothills of Tuscany. We went directly from the urban streets of the tourist area to a neighborhood of single-family houses surrounded by orchards, where we were conspicuously the only tourists. These suburbs were nothing like American ones - roads winding through green hills, with the birds singing and trees blowing in the wind. The contrast between the loud, crowded tourist streets and the quiet residential areas was stunning, especially because the countryside was only an easy walk from the center of town. While we were out the rest of the group relaxed at the hotel, and upon our return everyone hung out at the hotel until leaving for dinner. We went to the inexpensive pizza restaurant that we had eaten at many times before, but sat inside for the first time. At dinner we discussed the trip and how to improve future ones, as well as what we had learned the most. After dinner, we walked over to the Piazza della Signora and danced for a while. Then we walked to get gelato. On the way we encountered a drunk or crazy guy who hugged or shoved several in the group while yelling “Ciao!” rather angrily. After singing in an alley, most of the group indulged in gelato for possibly the last time. We then returned to the hotel, where each spent the rest of the evening's free time as they wished.
March 27 Saturday – Florence/Rome – Anne Wesolek
7:30-8:30 Breakfast at Hotel
3:00 DEPART FOR ROME
Take train from Florence to Rome Termini
As we all ate our yummy pastries with Nutella at breakfast, the thought of leaving beautiful Florence was on all of our hearts. We said our goodbyes to Brighton that morning, as he headed off before the rest of us, and started packing all of our last minute nick knacks. Since we had the morning free, many of us either did some last minute shopping, packed, or tried to squeeze in one more museum. At noon, we all met in the hotel lobby and began the process of getting all of our suitcases down the slow, tiny, hotel elevator. As we made our way to the train station, the sun was shining, and we all used that time to soak up our last bits of Florence.
Upon arrival at the train station, we all dropped our bags with part of the group, and went to buy sandwiches for everyone. Then, we said goodbye to Nick, who was heading home to Switzerland that night, and made our way toward the train. We took the “fast train” which significantly cut down on our commute time, and the views were absolutely stunning; wide-open, lovely green fields, terraced orchards, stone farmhouses with red tiled rooves, sheep grazing, and mountains galore.
After making it back to busy Rome, where we would stay the night, we all walked to Santa Maria Maggiore and a church that supposedly had the Apostle Peter’s chains. Santa Maria Maggiore was by far the most hyped “Mary-worship place” we had been yet, and was one of the main “pilgrimage churches” within Roman Catholicism. It is very ancient. They say Mary’s bones are there, and we did see where someone’s bones are stored. Many people came to pray with their rosary beads and there were confessional booths all along the side of the church, each one having a priest who could speak a different language. The gold on the inside of the church’s dome came from the Americas, as a gift from King Ferdinand of Spain. Many Native Americans gave their lives as slaves mining this gold. I don’t recall the name of the church building which supposedly housed the Apostle Peter’s bones, but within it, we did see the sculpture which was meant to be Michelangelo’s tomb stone. It was a depiction of Moses. That night, we had our last group dinner at a quaint, little, Roman restaurant. It was actually the first place that we found, and we all enjoyed our meals. Of course, we all stopped for gelato on the way back to the hotel, and then said goodbye to everybody while in the hotel lobby. Little did we know that we would be seeing each other all again in the airport the next morning.
March 28 Sunday – Rome/Home – Benjamin Hinrichs
5:30 AM Walk to train station
Take train from Rome Termini to airport