Students visit to historic sites in Venice, Florence, and Rome, Italy. The course will focus on the cultural and artistic highlights of these three cities and will stress the importance of Italian architecture and art in the development of Western Europe. Students will visit the Basilica of St. Mark’s in Venice, the Duomo in Florence, and the Sistine Chapel in Rome. There will also be opportunities to visit art museums and attend a live concert.
Well, sadly, Wednesday was the day to say Arrividerci to Italy. We flew from Rome to Washington Dulles, where we had the miraculous experience of getting through customs, rechecking our bags, and security in 30 minutes in order to make our Chicago flight.
We're glad to be home but have so many wonderful memories of our trip! I'd like to give special recognition to our students, who were stellar in their attitudes, "can-do" spirit, curiosity and appreciation of the significance of the trip, and general kindness and generosity. I feel so blessed to have gotten to travel with these students! Praise God for safe travels and unforgettable experiences.
Best travel group ever, l. to r., back row: Sarah Jongetjes, Allison Karlock, Marv Van Wyck, Victoria Van Hofwegen, Helen Van Wyck, Jeanie & Carl Kammeraad, Catherine White, Brian Deckinga, Kyle Harms, Hannah Snow, Lindsay Slager; front row: Molly Johnson, Lauren Jackson, Vicki Drenth, Kaitlyn Manning
On Tuesday, the most packed day of the trip, we did Rome. You might think it's not possible to "do" Rome in a day, but we saw an astonishing array of sights on our last day in Italy. We started the day with a tour of the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel with our city guide, Antonio. He took us through some of the dazzling riches of these museums.
Our next stop was St. Peter's Basilica, overwhelming in its size and grandeur. It's the largest church in the world, and the paintings, artwork, chapels, and sheer scope of this space are not things we'll forget. We were also grateful to have sunshine for part of our last day.
After St. Peter's and a short lunch break, it was on to perhaps the most famous Roman icon of them all, the Colosseum. It's hard to imagine that this monumental stadium was completed in 80 A.D. It's a fascinating place to explore.
From there we walked (and walked) to St. Peter in Chains, the 5th-century church that houses Michelangelo's Moses. The church is named for the chains displayed near the altar, said to have been the actual chains in which St. Peter was bound in Jerusalem.
Most of our party then walked through the Roman Forum to the Trevi Fountain. Marv and I met the group at the fountain in order to have a brief break from walking (that cab ride was well worth the 6 Euros!) At the Trevi, we tossed coins into the fountain in order to ensure our return to Rome someday.
We walked some more after that, to St. Ignatius Loyola, a 16th-century church filled with rich frescoes and a beautiful dome. Then we went on to the Pantheon. It's an astonishingly well-preserved structure built by Hadrian in the 2nd century A.D. Originally dedicated as a commemoration of all religions, it has been a Christian church since the 7th century. Its immense dome has an open "skylight," meaning that when it's raining outside, it rains a bit inside, too.
By the time we walked from the Pantheon to the Piazza Navona, it was raining pretty hard and was dark and getting colder. Despite the valiant efforts of Colin, our tour manager, to show us a few more sights, we all expressed a desire to get back to the bus and head for dinner.
Our last dinner was in a delightful Roman cafe with live entertainment from two singers who performed opera highlights and a few other tunes ("That's Amore," "Moon River," and more). The food was delicious, and the strains of "Arrividerci Roma" serenaded us on our way back out into the Roman night.
Our Italy group is having a grand time. We had two days in Venice, one of which was sunny; two days in Florence, one of which featured torrential rain; and today we arrived in Rome, though it was several hours behind schedule. Our bus broke down twice on the way from Florence to Assisi, and we spent a fair amount of time waiting around, although in beautiful places. First stop was in Passignano on Lake Trasimeno for a late lunch, and then after quite a long delay, we were picked up by a new bus and dropped off in Assisi. What a gorgeous medieval town. Because of the delay we only had time to see the Basilica of St. Francis, but it finally stopped raining and there was a gorgeous sky and view of the valley below. We have not had very easy access to wifi while here, so not many updates yet, sorry. Tomorrow, as hard as it is to believe, is our last day.
We've been enjoying wonderful food, great fellowship, and incredibly rich experiences in this beautiful country. We're so grateful for safety and great times.
Early Monday morning, we started out for Rome. This turned out to be our most unexpectedly eventful day, but a great one nevertheless. Our bus slowed to a crawl enroute to Assisi, and we had to make an unscheduled stop in the lovely Umbrian town of Passignano, a resort town on the shores of Lake Trasimeno. It turned into an extended lunch stop, but the sun came out, and we decided it wasn't too shabby a place to be "stuck" for a couple of hours.
Once the rescue bus arrived, we were on to Asissi. This small town in the hills looks like a postcard -- quaint medieval streets and the incredible Basilica of St. Francis. From the hills outside the Basilica there were breathtaking views of the valley below -- and in a special grace-filled display, the rain stopped briefly and the town was bathed in sunlight just before the sun went down.
Then another surprise -- our "repaired" bus gave out a second time, and we had to wait for the same bus to rescue us again. This time we had to transfer all of our suitcases and belongings in a hard rain (not the happiest moment of the trip), but eventually we went on to Rome, about 3 hours behind schedule. A late-evening pizza meal together in Rome made everyone feel better after a long day.
We left Venice by bus on Saturday morning and made a stop in Bologna, home of oldest university in Europe.
After that it was on to Florence. What a magical city! Our first stop was at a leather factory/shop, where we learned about the fine Italian leather tradition.
It was raining for most of our time in Florence, but we were undaunted and walked around to see a few sights as it got dark. We had a great meal together on Saturday evening close to our hotel.
On Sunday morning, we had a worship service on the top floor of our Florence hotel with the group we traveled with from Milwaukee Lutheran College. It was meaningful to sing and pray together at the beginning of this day so far from home in such a beautiful place so filled with history, beauty, and cultural importance. Later we had a walking tour with a local guide, who introduced us to the main sights we wanted to see. We saw the amazing Duomo and Baptistry, Michelangelo's David, the Ponte Vecchio, and lots more. Some of us visited the amazing Uffizi Gallery, and some climbed the Bell Tower.
On Sunday evening, we took a bus about an hour out into the Tuscan countryside for an authentic farmhouse dinner. It was amazing -- they showed us where they press their own olive oil and make their own wine. We had a delicious dinner in a fantastic rustic setting, which we all enjoyed very much.
On the way back to Florence, we stopped to see the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. Despite the rain, we enjoyed our brief visit.
We landed on Thursday and went right into old Venice, seeing the beautiful St. Marco and lots of other quaint canals and sights. Friday night we all had a nice dinner together and headed back to the hotel for some much-needed rest.
On Friday, a few of the students went for a gondola ride. Some of us saw the Doge's Palace, the Accademia, or the Jewish Ghetto.
We have safely arrived in Venice after long but smooth flights. We had a great first day in Venice, riding on the Grand Canal, seeing the beautiful buildings, and visiting St. Mark's Basilica. We're off to explore more today and then on to Florence tomorrow. Pictures coming soon.