Homeward Bound

Today we set our sights homeward.  Mr Audia had masterfully prepared an itinerary for us that allowed our group to check out at a leisurely 10am…  A storm which had started last night, the first of our trip continued into the morning.  As we boarded the bus outside our hotel the rain turned to mist.  Guiseppe told us it was Rome crying because we were leaving.  At the airport, before going through security, we all said a big “Arrivederci” to Giuseppe, giving him some parting gifts of a Vancouver photo-book and Purdy’s chocolates.  We made him promise to come visit us so that we could reciprocate a tour of Vancouver for him.  Once we were through security into the departures area, our group had one last chance for gelato and, of course, made the most of it.  Some last minute duty-free shopping and we finally lifted off on our British Airways flight just after 1pm… homeward bound.

A few bonus items to share with everyone.  Below you’ll find a link to a library of photos housed on Dropbox.  You can download photos you want individually, or you can download entire folders of photos as zip files.

Link to all photos: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/4s4eck5jku9lbm2/AS_dQGwZeV

And lastly, here’s a link to a quick Animoto montage video I pieced together for everyone.  Enjoy!  http://animoto.com/play/hhsIhvA4ErYBLfBnEFkCIA

Roman Holiday

Our final day in Rome was a particularly early one for a few keen students. Justin, Emma, and Kirsten were up at 4am with Mr Barrett to head over to the Coliseum for some amazing sunrise photos. By 7 am the early risers had joined another traveling group of students from Canada in Rome for some yoga and frisbee. At 10am the rest of the group joined up just outside the Vatican to begin the days group activities. First on the docket was a walk along Via Cola di Rienzo where the locals shop, to Piazza del Popolo. At the Piazza students broke off in to a couple of groups for different activities and lunch. The largest group followed Mr Audia up to Pincio park where they rented segways to zoom around the park on. After lunch it was on to the remarkable preserved and enormous Pantheon. It’s domed roof was, and continues to be, an architectural marvel. Evening was spent around the Piazza Navona area where students enjoyed a pasta dinner and some final souvenir shopping and gelato. Thankfully, we lucked out again and the rain held off for us. We return now exhausted to the the hotel but confident that we made the most of our Roman Holiday. Tomorrow we leave the hotel at 10am for an early afternoon flight home.

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“When In Rome…”

“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

Although we woke up in Rome, it only took us 90 minutes to end up in a different country! The Vatican, an independent nation, was our first stop of the day. It even has its own stamps and postal system. Our guide for the day, Carla, was very thorough in her descriptions throughout the tour, but particularly so when we arrived at the Sistine Chapel. Her discussion of the frescos, including The Creation of Adam and The Final Judgement, revealed much about the character of Michelangelo and of the historical and political climate of the time in which he worked. From the Sistine Chapel we worked our way towards the enormous and opulent St Peters Cathedral where we saw the Pieta and paused for a group photo outside before breaking for lunch.

We jumped chronologically back in time in the afternoon with an awe inspiring visit to crown jewel of Rome’s historical sites: the Coliseum. Carla explained both the history of the building itself, and of its uses in Classical Roman times. We learned that the white marble which would have served as seats in Coliseum, had been repurposed in the Renaissance and now adorned the floor of St Peters – the very same floor we had just walked on this morning. The molten metal which had been poured between holes in the stone foundations of the Coliseum had long since been carved out by Romans in the Middle Ages who recycled the materials into metal implements. Arian managed to impress Carla with his knowledge of the gladiatorial slave revolts, and of a couple of the Latin inscriptions! From the shade of the Coliseum we moved out into the hot sunshine over the Roman Forum, which was the final stop on our tour. At that point the students had some much anticipated time to see other sites in small groups, or to go do some shopping. Most did the latter. But a few decided to go for some gelato… a lot of gelato. Suffice it to say, David has secured his title now as the gelato champion. Our only hope now is that he isn’t sick to his stomach later! Dinner tonight was penne pasta with bruschetta, salad and fruit for desert. Another great, full day of exploration comes to a close. We managed to walk in the footsteps of Popes, Gladiators and Emperors, and truly “do as Romans do”. Tomorrow is our final full day in Rome, and in Italy. We are looking forward to making the most of it!

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All Roads Lead to Rome

“All Roads Lead to Rome.”

While the expression may not hold the truth it once did, our road from Florence today through Tuscany did, indeed, lead to Rome. But before we reached the “Eternal City”, we first stopped along the way at the home of the famous Franciscan brotherhood in Assisi. Francis, the saint for whom the newest Pope is named, established his order in the rolling foothills between Florence and Rome. Our bus pulled into the classical medieval city just after 10am where Brother Joseph from Zambia showed our group around the different chapels of the church. We admired frescos and learned about the life of St. Francis and how his connection with nature, austere lifestyle and most importantly his work benefitting the poor were qualities which Pope Francesco hopes to champion during his papacy. In Assisi, Arian H continued his search for medieval paraphilia, but came up empty handed once more. Mr. Audia took time in Assisi to highlight the fact that our trip, historically speaking, has taken a journey back in time… starting with Venice during the height of its trading power in the 1700’s, to the Florence’s renaissance of the 16th and 17th century, to the medieval architecture and frescos of Assisi and finally to the Roman empire and the time of Christ.

Our final destination today was Rome. We first ventured into the fray of tourist throngs at the Spanish steps. High end shopping stores at the foot of the stairs pulled the girls in, preoccupying them to such a degree that they arrived back at our meeting place late. A lovely lasagna dinner mere bocks from the steps was our first Roman meal. We walked it off by making our way down to Trevi Fountain where each student took turns tossing a coins over their left shoulder in hopes of one day returning to Rome. Cole G’s toss was the most enthusiastic, almost clearing the fountain entirely. A short walk from the fountain was a gelato pit stop, and then our final bus ride of the day back to the hotel. With just our first taste of Rome, everyone is excited to be up early tomorrow, 6:15am, to explore the city more thoroughly.

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Florence’s Marvelous Medicis

Florence – birthplace of the Renaissance and home of the Medicis; the epicenter of a cultural rebirth of Western art in all its forms.  Today we experienced, first hand, some of the artistic, architectural and literary marvels dating as far back as the 14th century.  We began our day with a walking tour of Florence.  We first stopped to view locations where Michaelangelo and Da Vinci each lived and worked including where the famous Mona Lisa was painted.  We paused at Dante’s house and learned of his central contribution to the creation of the Italian language with his seminal work, “The Divine Comedy.”  The centre of the action, however, was the Piazza della Signoria.  Here we saw a number of examples of marble and bronze sculptures including an exact copy of Michaelangelo’s David in the location it was originally kept during the time of the Medicis.  Our last stop was the Ponte Vecchio, Florence’s most famous bridge, with its rows of jewelry shops lining the street.  After breaking for lunch our long run of great weather was abruptly broken as the rain clouds opened and poured through the afternoon.  Spirits, however, we not dampened, as the students took the chance to head indoors to shop, visit restaurants and other locations of historical and cultural significance around the city.  Ms. Terness and her crew of ladies (plus brave Justin!) shopped til they dropped.  A rendezvous before dinner gave students a chance to head up the bell tower for an amazing, albeit rainy, view of all of Florence.  The first to race up the almost 500 stairs were Matt D and Graeme G.  As the rain clouds subsided, we made our way to our evening restaurant for a delicious dinner of cannoli and pork cutlets.  Under a brilliantly pink-streaked sky we wandered home, but not, of course, before our nightly gelato ritual.  Kirsten L has caught up, now equaling David H each with 18 gelato flavours sampled.  It’s an early night in bed at 10pm with everyone tired from the long day and an early 6:30 start tomorrow.  Next up is the home of St. Francis and then to Rome!

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“In fair Verona, where we lay…”

“Two houses, both alike in dignity in fair Verona where we lay…”

Today, Handsworth followed in the steps of the Bard as we gazed longingly up at that fabled balcony made famous by a young Capulet. Lovers messages scrawled on the walls, love locks chained to fences and a lucky statue were all sights to behold close to the balcony. Emma’s lucky touch on the statue of Juliet brought her good fortune later in the day as she swore she saw her Italian Romeo. “What light through yonder window breaks” held truth as the Verona sun broke out in a blue sky for the first time that day. Our luck of bringing the sun with us everywhere we’ve stopped has continued. We broke for lunch in the shadow of Verona’s own Arena, which looks similar to the Roman Coliseum.

From Verona we took a winding road through the Tuscan hillside towards Florence. Giuseppe provided us with a Renaissance refresher discussing the different periods of history we were to encounter here and in Rome, including Classical, Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and Neo-Classical. Just before descending into the city proper, we paused at the Piazza Michelangelo, over looking the Arno river for a photo op. For dinner we got to compare Jesolo pizza with Florence pizza, and it was a consensus that tonight’s was the best. Graeme G mustered up the strength to also consume three desserts. We continued our nightly custom of walking dinner off, and, of course, passed by some gelato cafes again where some students took advantage. It’s a good thing we’ll be doing lots of exercise in the days to come! Our walk home took us past the enormous Duomo of Florence and finally back to our hotel.

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Handsworth in Italy Day 3: Glass & Gondolas

Venice: The Floating City, The City of Bridges, The Queen of the Adriatic… and our playground for the day!  A short stop in neighbouring Murano for an artisan’s glass-blowing demonstration broke up the water-taxi journey from Jesolo to Venice.  Despite a weather forecast that has called for rain our group has been fortunate to have nothing but sunny skies.  Upon our arrival in downtown Venice, we had had our first smattering of rain which lasted all of 2 minutes before the warmth returned.  Mr. Audia took time with the group to explain the historical significance of the city as a centre of trade and commerce, as well as its position as a rival city-state to the likes of Genoa and Pisa.  Our discussion was coloured with examples from Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice” which highlighted Venice as a crossroads not only of commerce but also of culture.  Our major guided tour of the day was through the Doje’s Palace where we saw frescoes, medieval armour and walked along the infamous Bridge of Sighs.  In the afternoon Venice’s narrow streets became even busier with the tourist throngs as our group took time to discover small shops and secret gelato stops through the tiny passage-ways.  Our visit was punctuated by the quintessential of Venetian experiences… a gondola ride up the Grand Canal!  Evening was spent enjoying hand tossed, brick-oven pizzas back at our hotel in Jesolo and one final stroll along the boardwalk for gelato.  David H holds claim to have already  tried nine different flavours, and we’re only on our third day!  Graham W, Graeme G and Matthew D also took some time in the evening to enjoy Italy’s national sport by kicking a soccer ball at an open pitch across from the hotel.  Tomorrow we press on, looking towards another site with connections to the Bard from Stratford… fair Verona!

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