Ciao! Today is the second day we have been in the Eternal City, and so far it has been absolutely incredible! We got in town yesterday and were exhausted from the jet lag. If not for my iPod, the young Italian children would have kept us awake. We had some lost luggage and were slightly disappointed with the exchange rate, but that was such a small sacrifice for an unexpected earlier flight to our highly anticipated destination.
I have never enjoyed plane rides until the flight to London. The food on the plane was surprisingly delicious. We had the option of chicken or beef with a salad and chocolate cheesecake dessert...it was pretty amazing.
If you know me well enough, you know that I absolutely love to shop. The London airport was more like a mall than an airport. Tempting enough as it was, we had a quick bite to eat (ham and cheese croissant that was to die for) and headed back to the terminal. The next two hours flew by like nothing because I passed out as soon as I was seated, and yes, with my mouth wide open.
Finally! Roma, Roma, Roma! We grabbed our luggage and headed for the bus, which come to find out had not been serviced in a while. It was actually pretty funny because we were all too tired to care. The weather was perfect and I think Sadie even took a nap on the ground.
When we got to our hotel, our room was so tiny! We did not waste any time before getting on a bus to see the Spanish Steps and do some quick shopping, grab some gelato, and of course eat pizza at an Italian restaurant. The Roman streets were so ideal - exactly how you'd imagined them. I just cannot believe we are actually here. After we mingled around for a few hours we headed back to our hotel to get a good night's rest before sightseeing tomorrow.
Today as we headed downtown, everyone was so excited to see what the city had in store for us. The moment we stepped off the bus, I headed for the gelato. Chocolate comes in at least three versions. Who knew? I think I have visited the gelato ten times in the past two days.
We got the opportunity to really check out Rome today. We saw the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, Piazza Novona, and Piazza di Fiori. The architecture here is like nothing you have ever seen before. It is crazy how long these buildings have been around and are still standing.
Throughout all of the sightseeing we got to experience bargaining with local street vendors. I have never seen so many tourist shops, fake Prada purses, watches, sunglasses and scarves. I love shopping here! You can talk down the price no matter what you are buying, and the vendors will sometimes chase you until you make a purchase. I think some of the girls practically bought stuff for free today!
After all of the sightseeing, shopping, and picture taking, it came down to the adventure of heading back to our hotel for dinner. The buses here have different numbers or letters, and things can be really confusing when you do not speak Italian. We missed our bus and got to wander around a few blocks in attempt to find a route back. Some of us took a taxi, which took all of ten minutes to get back, and others decided to take a more exciting trip - involving at least seven different buses, one of which caught on fire. In the end, we all managed to show up at the same place and enjoyed a team dinner before turning it in for the night. We get to see the Vatican tomorrow, so we have to get a good night's rest for the early morning tour. Prego!
-- Katie Laing
Ciao from Italia! We arrived today in Florence and had an amazing tour of the city. We viewed churches, palaces and art from some of the greatest artists in history. The most amazing experience I have had thus far on our trip was a 463-step climb to the top of the basilica Santa Maria Infiori. We had a panoramic view of the entire city while watching the sunset. It was amazing! We enjoyed lasagna, veal, and gelato for dinner with the team and that brings you up to current status. I am about to get ready to roam the streets of Florence with my teammates so ciao from all of your softball girls. We miss the clean bathrooms and normal daily hours of the United States but we love every moment of this amazing experience. Can't wait to come home and share more about our Italian adventure with everyone.
-- Stephanie Mola
We woke up early in the morning in Florence to board our bus to Venice. The bus ride was pretty long and took about four hours. Most of us slept the majority of the way until we arrived at Hotel Venezia. After checking into our rooms, we quickly changed and headed back down to the lobby to head into Venice.
After being directed to the bus stop, most of the girls decided to head straight into the city. The group split into two for lunch and decided to meet up later. My group ate at this great ristorante on the water where they served great pizza and pasta. After lunch we met with the other group and stop at a little gelato stand. It was the best gelato place I have been to in Italy. The prices were amazing, the flavors were good, and the Italian guy working there had the prettiest blue eyes that we could not help but notice.
After gelato we decided to start walking around the city. We were very surprised to see how deserted Venice appeared to be compared to the other two cities we had previously visited. The streets were pretty much empty aside from the team and the few art and architecture students who went to the nearby university. After wandering the city, we started to head towards San Marco Square in hopes of seeing the beautiful church and the pigeons.
Along the way, we were sidetracked by many of Venice's beautiful attractions. There was such pretty scenery and many shops that we stopped at along the way. Some of the group went on a gondola ride through the canals Venice. All of us met up in San Marcos Square and saw the breathtaking details of the church. The most fun, however, came from playing with the pigeons in the square. There were so many pigeons - it was insane! We took pictures with them flying around us and climbing our arms, although some of the girls were pretty afraid of the gigantic pigeons...(including me!)
From our pigeon adventure we found an amazing restaurant at which we ate. The place was very nice and made the best calazone I have ever had. All of the girls had a great time and ordered some of the best Italian food we have had since being here. After dinner, we wandered our way back to the bus stop in order to get back to the hotel. We somehow found our way back to our bus, but got off two exits too early, so we walked a bit back to the hotel. After coming back to the hotel we played some cards, then we all went to bed so we could be ready for all of our tours tomorrow.
-- Linda Kohan
Early in the morning, we left Rome on bus to head to Florence. After arriving in Florence at 1:00 p.m., we dropped off our bags in hotel rooms, changed clothes, and then met in the lobby to head into the city. The city was a short ten-minute walk from the hotel. We walked along a pretty riverside and had a beautiful view of the hills of Tuscany. We walked into an archway that had statues made by Donatello and Michelangelo. There were vendors on the street selling different pictures, jewelry, and knick-knacks. We headed deeper into the center of the city where there was a huge church, Santa Maria del Fiore. In the square, or piazza, there were tons of tourists and vendors. A group of us went down the street to a fresh market for lunch. The pasta we had there was the best pasta I have ever had in my life. We followed up the meal with gelato for dessert, as always in Italy.
After lunch we met up in front of the church to meet our guide for a tour around the city. We started by entering the church, Santa Maria del Fiore, and looked at the gorgeous ceiling artwork. The floor was a magnificent marble and there was a huge, beautiful clock on the wall. The clock was unique because it had roman numerals for numbers and it was a twenty-four hour clock. The dome at the top of the church had artwork that was an unbelievable fresco painted by Michelangelo. The surface of the painting was over and acre, which is crazy to believe by looking up at it from so far below. After the church we walked through the city, admiring such things as the imitation of David, the outdoor museum, and beautiful architecture.
After the tour we split up into groups and went our own ways. My group went down to the market, which was a street with tons of shops and vendors. Most of the vendors sold jewelry, clothing, purses, scarves, and anything leather. One of the most famous products made in Florence is its leather. Many of the girls bought leather jackets, purses, wallets, belts, and more. Another aspect of the market are those who sale purses on the black market. I spoke with one of them and he explained to me that he and his brothers came from West Africa to stay in Italy and sell purses, watches, wallets, and belts during the day and work the door at clubs during the night.
On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a store and made friends with the owner, Marco. He let us try some chocolate that is only made in Florence, and only made twice a year at that. It was delicious...so I bought some for my parents, brother, and boyfriend.
We went back to the hotel and had a diner of three courses. The first course was pasta followed by a second course of veal and salad. The last course was a gelato dessert. After dinner we showered and got ready for a night out. Almost the whole team went walking to a disco called Twice. It was a nice place with black leather couches and a big dance floor. We had a fun time dancing together and then went back to the hotel to get a good sleep before departing for Venice in the morning.
Our last moment in Venice was spent having breakfast in our hotel before leaving around 9:00 a.m. for San Marino and our final stop in Forli. The Hotel Venezia was tucked and hidden in a narrow spot away from the main street so our Italian bus driver had to work his magic to maneuver the bus out of a squeeze...he left all of us impressed! We drove for a couple hours to San Marino and made it there in the afternoon. The city of San Marino sits at the top of a hill and it is literally a city above the clouds. We had to drive up a long and windy hill to get there and we were going so far up that we could see ourselves passing the clouds on our way up. San Marino was probably the most quiet and quaint town we visited on our trip. All of the buildings were brick and the streets were cobblestone. The team had lunch in tiny cafes and then walked around to take care of any last minute shopping. We were on a pretty tight schedule so we were only able to spend the afternoon in San Marino until we had to board the bus again for Forli. After driving another couple of hours, we headed straight to the softball field for a light practice. The field was beautiful because the leaves were changing color and it was located in a park near an Italian neighborhood. I have to admit, though, after a week of eating pizza and gelato...well, let's just say we worked out the kinks.
After practice, we checked into our hotel but wasted no time getting ready for our team dinner. It was the first time we were all able to dress up and go out to eat as a team. We ate at a restaurant that sat on a hill - a hill so big that the restaurant provided a shuttle to taxi people there. But "when in Rome" - we all walked up the hill instead. I gained so much respect for the girls who did it in heels! We were served a three-course meal with hors d'oeuvres and ravioli to die for! Everyone on the trip sat down at one long table and celebrated our final night in Italy.
The following day we prepared for our softball game against the Italian national team. But first, we had lunch catered at our hotel that consisted of pasta, grilled chicken, and salad. It's not what I would normally eat before a game, but I had no complaints because it was delicious! Before we left for the field, the hotel owner requested a picture with the team so that he could add it to his collection on the lobby wall of his hotel. We arrived at the field ready to play and compete. After exchanging gifts with the Italian national team, they played both team's national anthem. It kind of hit me at that point that I was not only playing for my school, but also playing for my country. We jumped on top of them early in the second inning and finally broke it open in the fourth, and finished the game with a 10-0 shutout. Right after the game ended, we boarded the bus and said goodbye to Forli.
We headed back to Rome to get ready to leave and, like the Italians, shouted "ciao, baby!" to Italy.