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    VolleyBlog: Irish In Italy

    FIGHTING IRISH The Irish are back in the United States after their two-week tour across Italy.
    FIGHTING IRISH
    The Irish are back in the United States after their two-week tour across Italy.
    FIGHTING IRISH

    June 1, 2009

    Photo Gallery - Parte Uno
    Photo Gallery - Parte Due

    The Notre Dame volleyball team is back in the United States after two weeks in Italy. The team went 6-1 against the competition while splitting a pair of matches against the Italian Junior National Team. Additional photo galleries, blog entries, Italian press releases and more will be added to the site soon. Be sure to check back for the latest updates.

    Ciao!


    --

    Press Releases
    Volleyball.it | Sport Ibleo | Il Gornale Di Ragusa - 1 | Il Gornale Di Ragusa - 2 | Volleyball Mania | Associazione Sportiva Dilettantistica Forzaragazze - 1 | Associazione Sportiva Dilettantistica Forzaragazze - 2 | Sportin Sicilia - 1 | Sportin Sicilia - 2 |Sportin Sicilia - 3 | Volleyball Planet - 1 | Volleyball Planet - 2 | La Sicilia - 1 | La Sicilia - 2 | Corriere Di Ragusa - 1 | Corriere Di Ragusa - 2 | PVT Modica - 1 | PVT Modica - 2

     

     

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    Tuesday, May 19 - Modica, Sicily
    Justine Stremick - Graduated Senior - Langdon, N.D.

    It's been a busy few days. I thought that I would have a lot of free time during senior week and graduation weekend to pack for Europe and move out of my house. Unfortunately I was wrong and I spent my last few days in South Bend running around trying to get everything done. My family was in town so my time was split between them and saying goodbye to the friends I had made during my time at Notre Dame.

    Graduation itself was bittersweet. The commencement mass and graduation ceremony were both exciting and eventful. We heard from Bishop Darcy, Fr. Jenkins, our valedictorian Brennan Bolman and of course, President Obama.

    After the ceremony my friends and I headed over to the main building for one last picture shoot. I did not get a chance to say goodbye to everyone I would have wanted to but it was almost easier that way. It's hard to believe we won't all be together again and that although we will most likely all return to Notre Dame at some point, it will be for short visits and as alumni.

    I spent Sunday night packing up the rest of my room and going over and over my packing list for the next month I would spend in Europe. The first two weeks in Italy with my teammates and the next two weeks with my twin sister, Briana, seeing Austria, Germany, France and Ireland. I managed to squeeze in a few hours of sleep before heading to campus to board the bus.

    The one rule about traveling abroad is that nothing will go as planned. The best way to deal with this is to be flexible and just go with it. Our first flight was delayed by an hour and a half but most of us were able to get some sleep on the nine and a half hour flight. After a short layover in Rome we flew to Palermo to meet with our translators. Unfortunately, they were at another airport (the one we were supposed to fly into). After a two hour bus ride where we were not allowed to sleep - because we were just notified that we'd be playing a match later in the evening - and after a short stop for lunch at a gas station (best gas station sandwiches I've ever had!) we finally met up with our translators and guides, Tim and Jo.

    After one more hour on the bus we arrived in Modica. They had scheduled a practice to get us moving after the long hours of travel and to help us adjust to the time change, but instead of practice they decided to have us play a match. After 24 hours of travel. Needless to say were a little tired but we played well and won our first match, 3-0. As a celebration we stopped for gelato before heading back to the hotel for a well deserved shower and night of sleep.

    We will be staying in Modica for four nights, which should give us plenty of time to explore the area. Tomorrow we head to the beach before playing our second match. Well my converter just exploded and it's time for me to get some sleep.

    --

    Wednesday, May 20 - Modica, Sicily
    Christina Kaelin - Rising Senior - Louisville, Ky.

    Today was our first full day in Italy! After a great night of sleeping it finally feels like we are on Italian time. The team enjoyed a low-key day of fun in the sun followed by a competitive match against Modica's top club team. It was a great way to start off our Italian tour.

    The day began on a high note for both myself and my roommate, Kim Kristoff. We enjoyed a European style continental breakfast of meats, cheeses, croissants, lattes, and (drumroll please...) Nutella! We have both enjoyed Nutella in the States on anything from crepes to strawberries, but there's something about Nutella at breakfast in individually wrapped packages that filled us with excitement. It's the little things in life that Kim and I really enjoy!

    After the perfect first breakfast we headed off to the beach to spend our morning recuperating from our long day of travel. The beach was gorgeous and the weather was ideal! Our coaches were probably annoyed by the amount of pictures that the team asked them to take, but no one wanted to waste a photo opportunity! While some chose to just relax in the sun, most of our team joined in on a pick-up soccer game with some local men. It was a blast and we ended up winning, even though Kristen Dealy scored a goal for the other team! I decided to take a walk down the beach to explore a small rocky plateau that protruded out into the Mediteranean Sea. The eroded rocks were filled with small tidal pools occupied by hermit and larger crabs, snails, and oceanic plants. Again, we took a LOT of pictures!

    After lunch at the hotel our team was free to do what we wanted for an hour. I chose to go to the hotel pool with most of the team. I had to enjoy the picturesque day outside in Italy for as long as I could!

    We then had a casual press conference with two other teams in the tournament, Modica and Malta, as well as the tournament directors. It was interesting to say the least since "Notre Dame" was about the only word I could understand from the speaker who obviously spoke in Italian.

    It was then off to our match against Modica, a team that featured players aged from 17 to 28. I guess there is no real age limit here in Italy! We were all really psyched for our first good competition. The first game we started out really strong with our passing being near perfection! This really helped out the offense and gave our setter, Beth Wildermuth, a lot of options. We won the first game pretty handily, although the second game was a closer as our passing and defense wasn't as stellar as we started off. Game three was plagued with many lead changes, but down the final stretch Notre Dame was trailing 23-19. We sided out to put Kristen Dealy in the serving position where she fired off five great serves that caused as many as three over passes. I was very proud of our team for pulling out the nail bitter! We passed really well and hit over .400 as a team with only four hitting errors in the entire match!

    We rounded out our first day in Italy with pizza, pasta, and gelato! I chose coffee flavored gelato that I think rivaled the Starbucks carmel frapaccino. It was yummy. One thing I didn't choose to eat was the pizza topped with squid (Frenchy Silva, who is usually a picky eater, enjoyed a slice) or the hard boiled egg, eggplant and ham combination (that Jamel Nicholas and Tara Enzweiler split). It was a great first day and I cannot wait to see what adventures come our way tomorrow! Ciao from Italia!

    --

    Thursday, May 21 - Modica, Sicily
    Stephanie Slatt - Rising Junior - Burien, Wash.

    Ciao!

    Today we ventured to Agrigento. We woke up to yet another fabulous breakfast including pastries and Nutella. We loaded the bus for about a two and a half hour ride to Agrigento. First we went to the city to explore and check out the shops and of course the head coach Debbie Brown found the gelato. Kim Kristoff and Christina Kaelin did a little negotiating and managed to get two fake Louis Vuitton purses for 40 Euro from a street vendor! As we were walking down the street, it was common to hear a very loud "Hello!" from random cars full of guys. But it sounded more like "Ha-Looo!"

    After touring the city we went to explore the temples for which Agrigento is famous. These include the temples of Zeus, Hercules, and Hera. They were amazing and from their location there is a beautiful view of both the city and sea. However, after taking a million team and class pictures (and Coach Brown perfected the panoramic feature on her camera!) we were more than ready for lunch. We even took a "people who had never seen a cactus" picture with ... a cactus (Chicago kids)!

    From there we headed to the beach where we had yet another lunch of pasta. Kaelin would like to note that her pasta tasted very much like Skyline Chili. We did a little bartering with the vendors for bracelets and shades, and then did a little bronzing while taking in the scenery of the Mediterranean and men in Speedos and thongs. Kristen Dealy found the man of her dreams, yet was unsuccessful in her attempt to take a picture of him on the way out.

    Then once again back on the bus. No sleeping allowed!! This was a little tough but we all managed to keep each other awake through crazy road trip games.

    Once back to the hotel we ate a quick pregame dinner of ... take a guess ... PASTA! We came out with another win and we are playing in the finals tomorrow night. After the match we headed to Raguno for our (twice) daily gelato. Our bus driver got a gelato sandwich but it was actually on bread with two scoops of gelato. Everyone looked at us with crazy glares as we walked around the city in our spandex and game gear.

    As the night came to an end, we drove back to our hotel in Modica. Megan Dunne did a little filming on Jamel Nicholas' video camera and Dealy announced all of the new names that she had given everyone. Frenchy Silva is now Stumbling Ferret Rose, I am Swimming Panther Tail, and Megan Barnicle is Crounching Lobster Tail. Dealy is now Chief Curly Cocker Spaniel. She has quite the imagination. As of now we are trying to come up with our tribe name. I'm sure you will hear about that in a later post.

    Well, that's all for today ... can't wait to see what tomorrow will bring our way. NDVB Euro Trip 2009, over and out.

    --

    Friday, May 22 - Modica, Sicily
    Kim Kristoff - Rising Senior - Carmel, Ind.

    Day four across the big pond was our last day in Modica. We started off the day sleeping in until 3:00 a.m. ... South Bend time! So it was only 9:00 a.m. in Italy, but the wonderful complimentary Nutella breakfast made our morning. Gotta love the way the Europeans do the most important meal of the day. I mean there is Nutella everywhere. That stuff is like water here. Great success.

    We then got some time to explore the lovely town of Modica. Most of the girls walked around the shops and churches in the city, while some people walked up numerous stairs and hills to get to the top of the city and embrace the view.

    After a few hours of walking around the city, the entire team packed up for the day and headed to the beach. All of this beach time has been an awesome surprise and everyone is really enjoying working on their tan. So far, Barni (Megan Barnicle) and I are winning - great success!

    While basking in the Italian sun, Jam (Jamel Nicholas), the mother and captain of us all, decided to check if the sea was safe when she found a jellyfish! She quickly alerted the troops and found a stick to bring it to shore to make sure no one was stung - she is so nurturing, like Mother Goose. When the shoreline passed Jam's inspection we swam a little then went to the beach hut for lunch.

    When arriving to the table, everyone started to get warm and fuzzy inside because we spotted one of America's most treasured condiments - ketchup. This meant that we would be getting more than pasta ... everyone hoped for the best and the waitress brought out two huge platters of French fries! They had the perfect balance of a mushy center while having that lightly battered crispy outer coating. We were in a glorious state and ate about 30 pounds of potatoes. After our bellies were full, we went back to the beach for the rest of the afternoon.

    En route to the match, we stopped in a little town to enjoy some gelato. I went with the dark chocolate, which was a perfect choice for the chocolate dipped cone. Assistant coach Matt Botsford got his ice cream sandwich he was hoping for, even though he could not pronounce it. Everyone was happy as clams. We then switched into volleyball mode and boarded the bus to head to the Modica gym to play in the championship match of the tournament.

    The game was a nail biter with Club Modica taking game one. We then rallied back, and took game two from them. Fighting through game three was tough and the set went the way of Modica. The crowd was enthralled. Although we were down, we kept fighting and took games four and five to clinch the tournament title - our first of this season. We went nuts. After shaking hands with the refs and the other team, we waited for the award ceremony. I clapped when I heard clapping because I didn't know anything that was being said - I am not too fluent in Italian. Thankfully, Giorgio (the only name to which sports information director Alan George will respond) was translating for me. But they handed out trophies and fanny packs. The trophy was this enormous silver cup, and Kellie Sciacca has to lug it around (a la the Stanley Cup). The entire team was stoked about the fanny packs. They have come in handy so far - we are on the bus to the airport and they are extremely convenient for putting in items that need to be easily accessed: passports, cameras, gum, phones, etc. Since head coach Debbie Brown is holding all of our passports, her fanny pack is stuffed.

    Today we are en route to Venice. We have a long day of bussing, flying, flying and more bussing. I am going to wrap this up because I am sitting sideways and am getting carsick. Signing off for now ... ciao bella! (translation - goodbye, bella!)

    --

    Saturday, May 23 - Travel Day
    Tara Enzweiler - Rising Senior - Raleigh, N.C.

    After our lovely stay in Sicily, it was time for a day of travel as we sought to explore further areas in Italy. So obviously, I was honored to be asked to recount such a thrilling and eventful day. Little did I know that the day would not go as smoothly as we expected.

    Not many people can honestly say that they have spent over five hours in the Catania airport followed by another couple hours in the Rome airport ... all in one day's time. The Notre Dame volleyball team has the uncanny ability to have travel plans plagued with delays, and this trend is apparently not isolated on the mother land of the U.S. and A.

    Upon arrival at the Catania airport for our 11:30 flight, we discovered that our flight was delayed ... and delayed and yet again delayed ... until we finally became airborne at around 3:30. Thank goodness we were all adequately prepared for this turn of events with our matching red fanny packs. While they may not have been a fashion statement in any sense of the word, no one could deny their convenience since everything we needed was right there at our waists. Megan Dunne was even prepared with band-aids if the need for one arose.

    Normally, endless hours in an airport would sound like a complete drag, but with a team such as ours, it is inevitable that this time would be eventful and entertaining. The time flew as it was filled with story time with Giorgio (a.k.a. Alan George), marathon-style reading, crossword puzzles and mingling with natives.

    The first of our new friends, Giovanni, was drawn to strike up conversation with us when he looked over as Jamel Nicholas' pictures were uploaded to her computer. He took an interest in our travels and where we came from in the United States. He wanted us to show him pictures of where we lived because he wanted to visit the United States in (his words) "the tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow" - the future? Realizing that we still very much struggled to communicate, Serinity Phillips and I dove into Megan Fesl's English-Italian dictionary to continue on our quest to master the basics of the Italian language in two short weeks.

    Fesl and Kellie Sciacca also made a new friend in Michel, an old man of about 65. He made his way to the vacant seat between the two of them and talked to them in broken English for about an hour before leaving and returning with gifts of candy for his two new American friends.

    Whatever it was that filled up our time in the airport, we eventually made it to Venice and hopped on a bus to finish out our travels with a drive to Pordenone. What a better way to cap off the day but with authentic Italian pizza or gelato upon arrival!

    While many people would possibly complain over delays and complications in travel plans, I honestly think that it is times like those that are remembered most vividly and often become some of the most humorous memories of any trip. After all, team bonding is inevitable when you are stranded in a small foreign airport terminal with little entertainment outside of each other's company.

    After such a day of travel, we are all excited as we realize that we still have over half of our Italian tour ahead of us ...

    --

    Sunday, May 24 - Venice, Italy
    Kellie Sciacca - Rising Junior - Monument, Colo.

    Today was probably my favorite day of our European tour so far. We did not have a match today, so we were fortunate enough to spend the whole day in Venice. The team woke up to eat breakfast at our hotel in Pordenone at about 8:45, and then headed to the train station to catch our hour-long ride to Venice.

    On the train, Megan Fesl and I met some interesting people. We sat across from an Italian family of three who were enthralled that we were from the United States. They spoke very minimal English, but nevertheless they tried to talk to us for the entire ride. We just smiled and nodded for most of the conversation.

    Once we arrived in Venice, we were set free to explore and wander around the numerous different shops and intricacies of the city. There was Venetian glass everywhere we looked, and many of the girls bought various pieces of jewelry that were very unique. I bought a few rings and crosses that I plan on giving to my friends and family as gifts.

    After shopping for about two hours, we met up as a team in San Marcos Square for a team picture. There were many, many tourists in the square, but even more pigeons. The Basilica of San Marco was absolutely beautiful from the outside, but unfortunately there was a huge line to get in, so we decided to spend our time elsewhere.

    After dispersing from San Marcos Square, a few of my teammates decided to go on a gondola ride. The group of Megan Dunne, Angela Puente, Jamel Nicolas, Christina Kaelin, Justine Stremick and Fesl were able to bargain with the gondolier to ride for quite cheap. The gondolier was quite the character, and kept the girls entertained for the 30-minute ride. Meanwhile, Tara Enzwieler, Serinity Phillips and I were still wandering the city and exploring all that it had to offer.

    Some of my favorite parts of the day happened when my teammates and I were bargaining with different vendors on the street to get the items that we wanted for the cheapest possible prices. We were very successful for the most part, and came away with a few special souvenirs that were fairly inexpensive. I would have to say that Christina Kaelin was the most skilled when it came to making bargains with the street vendors.

    After about three more hours of exploring, we headed back to the train station, and started our trip back to Pordenone. This ride was significantly less eventful, as most of the team was sleeping after the tiring day. Back in Pordenone, we had a great dinner at a local restaurant and called it a night.

    --

    Monday, May 25 - On the road to Urbino
    Megan Fesl - Rising Senior - Arlington Heights, Ill.

    Ciao!

    We are currently in the process of visiting 13 cities in 14 days. Before we left South Bend each Irish volleyball player was assigned one city to research and present to the team prior to our arrival in that city. My city was Venice and I found a guidebook before leaving the United States to accompany us on the trip. On Sunday 24. Maggio, we spent the day in Venice. It was so much fun! Fun fact: Venice is made up of 118 islands in the Venetian Lagoon along the Adriatic Sea.

    Among many other things, the guidebook shared some of Venice's history, told us where to shop, fun things to do, and, of course, directed us to the city's best gelato!

    Fun fact: Venice was at one time the wealthiest city in all of Europe because of its central location on trade routes between the East and West and the North and South. Because of its wealth, designers and high fashion found homes in Venice. Since our trip to Venice fell on a Sunday most of these stores were closed, but the window shopping was still great! The smaller Murano glass shops and vendors were very much so open and very much so willing to sell us their jewelry and other gifts.

    The team met up at San Marco Square about two hours into our excursion to make some executive decisions and to take a team picture. Besides St. Mark's Basilica and the Doge's Palace, the Square is home to more pigeons than you can count. Fun fact: Pigeons are not indigenous to Venice. They were brought in by the Hapburns. The Venetians hate the pigeons and love the seagulls that eat pigeons. My guidebook told me that pigeon food was available for a fee of one Euro, but I could not find any for purchase. I tried making pigeon friends for the purpose of a picture, but these creatures could not be fooled by my lack of food.

    Another thing that the guidebook told me to do was take a gondola ride. The book said that it is accepted and pretty much expected to barter for prices when it comes to shopping and gondola riding. We - Jamel Nicholas, Christina Kaelin, Megan Dunne, Angela Puente, Justine Stremick and myself - bartered with Johnny the gondolier for a 25-minute ride for 60 Euros. Quite the deal! Fun fact: A Venetian law mandates that every gondola be coated with six coats of black paint to prevent competition for the most elaborate gondola. When Johnny wasn't whistling as he captained our ship he was spewing history and sharing personal stories. As he was navigating through the canals, we asked Johnny - who spoke Italian, English, Spanish, French, and a little German - about the weather in Venice all year long. "It is very nice except for two weeks in January when there is frog." We assumed he meant fog. Johnny showed us the home of Marco Polo, and that of Casanova. We asked him if he was married, he said no, but if any of us wanted to marry him that would be o.k. At the end of the 25 minutes, Johnny kindly dropped us off at the same spot he found us and we continued on our adventure through Venice.

    Our path back to the team's meeting place directed us right to the greatest gelato stop I've ever experienced. Although this isn't saying much as my first taste of gelato was a mere seven days ago, this taste sensation was nothing short of divine. The little shop stood out just as much as every other trinket or souvenir shop but was full of 60 different flavors of gelato. Settling on one flavor was a difficult task, but pear was my flavor of choice. Volunteer assistant coach Emily Loomis picked up a dual-scoop peach/red grapefruit and T-Pain (Tara Enzweiler) chose blueberry as her gelato treat. Of course we shared with the team who marveled at our findings!

    The team met up at the train station and we took the 5:05 train back to Pordenone where we were staying. Venice was awesome, so much fun, and a repeat visit will definitely be in order.

    Ciao for now.

    --

    Monday, May 25 - On the road to San Marino
    Angela Puente - Rising Junior - Redondo Beach, Calif.

    Ciao! I hope that everyone as home is having as fabulous a time as we are here in Italy. We just loaded the bus for a five-hour drive to San Marino after an entire volleyball-free day in Venice. San Marino happens to be its own country, and I may just cough up the Euro to get a stamp seeing as my passport currently has a total of one stamp.

    Venice was definitely an experience. We started the day with an hour-long train ride from our hotel to Venice. I am pretty sure we still haven't become accustomed to the whole `all natural' European lifestyle. We really enjoy our deodorant. But once we got to Venice, we basically split off into groups for the first couple hours. Megan Fesl explained to the team that buying and selling fake merchandise was basically a felony in Venice since they pride themselves on their fashion, and as Megan Dunne and I walked across the very first bridge, we saw a policeman chasing about four vendors who were selling fake bags and almost got caught in the midst of it!

    Our team quickly obsessed over the Murano glass, which every other store in Venice sells. I think only two people did not purchase a glass ring, while the rest of us could not get enough of it. Then the team met up in front of the Church of San Marco around lunchtime. The Church was incredibly beautiful and intricate. After that, Fesl, Christina Kaelin, Dunne, Jamel Nicolas, Justine Stremick and I shared in a gondola ride! Our guide (the gondolier, if you will), Jonata, was great. He gave us a little tour of Venice while we relaxed on the beautiful water in the sunshine. Johnny, as his gondola buddies called him, told us about the old buildings and houses, including that of Casanova, "the greatest lover in all of man history."

    The rest of the day included not much more than shopping and roaming and eating gelato. We did find this amazing gelateria that had over 40 flavors, one of them being grapefruit that basically blew everyone's mind. By the end of the day, everyone was pretty exhausted and our feet were tired. On the train ride back Kaelin, Kellie Sciacca and I sat with an adorable older lady who tried to talk to us in Italian. We told her we didn't speak Italian, but it didn't seem to bother her because she kept chatting us up even though we definitely could not follow her. The day ended with what was my favorite meal of the trip so far - penne with meat sauce followed by pork tenderloin and mashed potatoes. We also somehow ended up at a rock concert that kind of resembled battle of the bands with some middle aged men rocking out in Italian on stage. It was an interesting night.

    As this blog is long enough, I'm signing off. Arrevederci!

    --

    Monday, May 25 - Urbino, Italy
    Megan Dunne - Rising Junior - Palos Heights, Ill.

    Ciao Americans!

    Today was another long travel day that ended up being very adventurous! We woke up in Pordonona, had our Nuttela breakfast and hung out with a few stray dogs before hitting the road. We had a four-hour bus ride to the Republic of San Marino. Half of us read Angels and Demons and the other half slept. We stopped about half way at a rest stop where we bought candy and used the restroom. Half of the stalls had toilettes, half had holes in the ground. Most of us were patient enough to wait for the toilettes.

    The Republic of San Marino is a small country located inside of Italy. When we got to the RSM we had a few hours to tour the town. We traveled uphill for about 20 minutes while stopping at little shops and restaurants along the way. Christina Kaelin, Stephanie Slatt, Kim Kristoff and myself all had French fries with our meals!

    When we got to the top there was a castle, which was very cool and had great views! We ran around inside learning about the history of the town and pretending to be princesses. We met some young German friends and Megan Fesl talked to them in her near-perfect German. We got some great pictures and had a lot of fun but it was time to move on.

    We got back on the bus and had another two-hour bus ride to Urbino where we are staying the night.We had about an hour to relax before dinner in the hotel. For dinner we had bread, salad, rice and veal. It was pretty good but we weren't done yet ... we needed our gelato fix! We met the city bus that runs every 20 minutes outside of our hotel and piled in. The bus sat about 10 people but we managed to uncomfortably fit about 25. Needless to say the locals were not happy. We got dropped off right in the middle of town next to a gelato place. Jamel Nicholas and I had the Nuttella, Matt Botsford ordered peach and yogurt and Alan George ordered birthday cake ... YUMM!

    After we had our daily fix we headed back to the hotel. It's been a long day of traveling and we are all pretty tired. We will get a chance to explore the town of Urbino tomorrow and hopefully we will have some more great stories for everyone!

    Ciao!

    --

    Tuesday, May 26 - Urbino, Italy
    Kristen Dealy - Rising Sophomore - Santa Barbara, Calif.

    Greetings everyone! What a day we had in the beautiful Urbino, Italy; it could have been perhaps the most thrilling experience. Ever.

    I spent the majority of my day today with the best roommates ever, Stephanie Slatt and Christina Kaelin. When we walked into our room last night, we were so excited to see only one bed for the three of us - later to find out that there was a connecting room. We entertained ourselves fabulously, spending the majority of our night flipping between True Life: I am 800 Pounds in German (Megan Fesl translated oh so beautifully), and Top 40 R&B Songs in Italian.

    This morning, we woke up and feasted on croissants and Nutella in the courtyard of our hotel, washing it down with perhaps the most bitter grapefruit juice ever, but hey, when in Rome ...

    Kaelin, Slatt and I retreated back to our humble abode for a quick catnap, and then jumped on the town bus. We learned quickly not to stand in the way of the bus's electric door after Kaelin got squished and moved out of the way, and my reluctance to move resulted in it clamping me down next to a large Italian lady.

    As we walked into town, we met Angela Puente, Beth Wildermuth, Megan Barnicle, and Frenchy Silva (they got an earlier start and had pretty much seen the whole town) who were so excited to have found a bookstore that sold English books. This store was our first stop, where we each purchased a bargain book (so clutch).

    From there we went to the Palazzo Ducale, and roamed around a museum containing many fabulous old artifacts and paintings - SO COOL. Absorbing all of this superb culture made us pretty hungry, so we dawdled over to a small walk-in pizzeria where we made best friends with the worker (who had a perfect faux hawk and also, obviously, spoke English). We ate delicious pizza, which became 10 times more delicious when it was only one Euro a slice, so we of course decided to have seconds.

    With our appetites satisfied, we determined it was time to conquer one of Urbino's top attraction: the Botanical Garden. With help from Kaelin's shrewd directions, we found the garden and entered. We were at first a bit confused, seeing as it seemed to be a Botanical Garden for ants (if I may quote the famed Zoolander himself). I won't lie, the place was smaller than expected - but the view was pretty, the gardens quaint, and hey, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?

    We then followed the map to find Fortezza Albornoz (assumed English translation: "The Albornoz Fortress"). In order to get our destination, we had to climb a monstrous mountain-road. It was then, as old Italian women were passing us by, and we retreated to "looking around" in a home decor store to catch our breaths, that we realized how these people can eat carbs all day and still be in better shape than all of us. Hot, sweating, and heaving, we came to the clearing with a smaller version of the castle we saw in San Marino and beautiful view of the city of Urbino. When we found out we could not actually enter this fortress, we decided to catch some rays on top of one of its walls, setting up on a little landing whose edge was a straight drop a very long way down (I know, we are so daring, but the view was fantastic).

    After surviving a few awkward encounters with other tourists who came to snap some pictures directly over us, we cruised back into the city for a gelato, which is, of course, food of the goddesses. We took the little bus back to the hotel, met up with the group, snagged another slice of pizza (well come on, we need fuel!), and got ready to play. Sadly, the team we were set up to play couldn't make it, so we took vans to a gym to have practice. (Perhaps my favorite part of the day was getting into the van and hearing Bob Marley's "Don't Worry, Be Happy" playing on the radio - EPIC.) Sheila, a player from the Italian team, joined us for practice. She knew absolutely no English, and despite having no idea what was going on in the drills, she was a total baller. (Note: the gym was most definitely not air-conditioned, and after quite the competitive practice, we were sweating like there was no tomorrow.) Even better, after practice, we had a "light" work out, which sent poor Fesl into dehydration mode and whooped the rest of our butts, thanks to Mandy, who was running the show.

    Tired, red faced, and sweating profusely (again) we came back to the hotel, showered, and I was so delighted to see we were being served the Italian version of mac & cheese in the hotel restaurant. After dinner, I finally realized the brown splatters on my shirt were from slapping my chocolate flan desert with a spoon, in case anyone was wondering.

    Well, I hope you have gotten some insight into the day of the life of Notre Dame volleyball as we rampage all of Italy. Peace out!

    --

    Wednesday, May 27 / Thursday, May 28 - Rome, Italy
    Beth Wildermuth - Rising Sophomore - San Clemente, Calif.
    Frenchy Silva - Rising Sophomore - Laguna Niguel, Calif.

    Ciao from Beth Wildermuth and Frenchy Silva!

    Yesterday the team left Urbino for another lengthy bus ride to a small town - like, a really small town ... like, seriously ... only 500 people live there - called Comunanza, which ironically means "community". The bus ride was a little over three hours, and as our bodies began to ache after sitting in the bus for so long, Jo, our tour guide made a surprise announcement: we were stopping at the beach! Not just any beach - the Adriatic Sea beach.

    Everyone put on their normal swimsuits except Alan "Giorgio" George who decided to go Euro and put on his newly purchased Speedo.

    Once we got to the beach everyone staked out their spots on the sand and began reading. Serinity "Johnson" Phillips was deeply enthralled with her romantic love story Mansfield Park by critically acclaimed author Jane Austen. Me (Beth) and Frenchy are also members of the Jane Austen book club because we are reading Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility, respectively. Christina Kaelin, Tara Enzweiler, Kim Kristoff, Jamel Nicholas (also known as Mom or Mother Goose), Megan Dunne, and Stephanie Slatt all swam around in the warm and salty Adriatic. Meanwhile, Angela Puente and Kristen Dealy were furiously reading Angels and Demons (personally, a great book!) and trying to finish it before we reached Roma! Also Megan Barnicle was blasting her iPod while soaking up some solid rays and adding to her bronze glow.

    Once we arrived at Comunanza we hit up the closest gelato store. Soon after, we headed to the gym to play a match against the local club team. The gym was really small and loud. We took the team in four games despite a tremendous effort from the opposition. Kellie Sciacca's "new secret play" couldn't be stopped. The team passed and served very well as a whole, with Kristen Dealy receiving the serve on 20 more balls than anybody else on the team, all of which were perfect nails to Beth's butter. We walked back from the gym at 9:30 that night and had to be ready for dinner in the hotel at its five star restaurant. Our meal of lasagna, pork, scrumptious potatoes, parmesan (a favorite of Megan Dunne) were easily devoured by the team. The food was so good that Justine Stremick did not hesitate when seconds were offered, as did most of the team.

    We left Comunanza at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday and headed straight for Roma, only stopping along the way for a quick snack of paninis. Once we arrived in Roma we checked into our hotel and headed straight for the metro to explore the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain - where we all threw coins over our shoulders (this means that we are all going back to Roma one day) - and the Pantheon, originally built in 27 B.C.! The streets were bustling with vendors and tourists and it was a very fun and exhausting day. Added to the masses of people were the thousands of football (soccer) fans from the Champions League Final between Manchester United and Barcelona. Barcelona won and many of the team's fans were still happily celebrating in the streets. We also hit up the best gelato place in Rome, just a stone's throw from the Trevi fountain. The team has become enamored of saying the hackneyed phrase of "when in Rome..."

    The day was finished off with another Italian dinner down the street from our hotel where we were served salad, two types of pasta, and of course, pizza. The freshmen - myself (Frenchy), Beth, Dealy and Barnicle - have all received fair warning that before the trip is over we will have to stand on our chairs at dinner and carry on the freshmen tradition of singing the Notre Dame Victory March. We still need to figure out who will sing alto, tenor, soprano and bass.

    Some of our favorite Italian phrases so far are: gelato (obviously), holy cannoli, when in Rome, mama mia!, ciao, ten euro, cuanto costa? and parle inglesse? ... among others.

    Shout outs!
    Frency - Love you mom, dad and Giancarlo! Can't wait to see you guys when I get home! Ciao!

    Beth - Hey mom, pop, and the fam: I love you and will see you soon! Steve - I love you too! P.S. You would totally love the cioccolato gelato here.

    See you soon ... arriverderci

    --

    Friday, May 29 - Rome, Italy
    Serinity Phillips - Rising Senior - Valley Center, Calif.

    Good morning, Roma! Well, I guess a plain "ciao" will do.

    Lucky for you, I (Serinity "Johnson" Phillips) get to report on our second eventful day in Rome. Let's start from the beginning.

    3:30 a.m. - The hotel air conditioning shuts down.
    Result: The hottest and worst night of sleeping ever.

    7:30 a.m. - Early breakfast.
    Result: Team looks like an ancient ruin.

    8:15 a.m. - Hopped on the metro to the Coliseum.
    Result: Angela Puente falls face first on a sly attempt to make it on the metro before the doors close. I'm still laughing.

    8:45 a.m. - We arrive at the Coliseum.
    Result: A billion sweet pictures of the team in awkward, yet hysterical gladiator poses. Megan Dunne and I slipped in a few Spiderman poses. Besides Angela's fall, the Coliseum has so far been the best part of the day.

    9:30 a.m. - The team walks to the Forum.
    Result: More sweet pics.

    10:00 a.m. - The team attempts to find the Knights of Malta Keyhole.
    Result: We get lost. Having walked for over an hour around downtown Rome we decided that the keyhole didn't exist ... we were wrong.

    11:00 a.m. - Team jumps on the metro to the Spanish Steps.
    Result: Had the best gelato of the trip ... we went back for seconds.

    11:30 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. - The team splits and regroups for lunch a few blocks from the hotel.
    Result: Best. Lunch. Ever. Growing weary of pizza and pasta (never thought that was possible two weeks ago!) we were pleasantly surprised to have caprese salad, potatoes, red peppers, and best of all - chicken.

    4:00 p.m. - Team hops on the metro to play the Italian Junior National Team.
    Result: Assistant coach Matt Botsford regrets not buying designer purse for sister from street vendor.

    5:15 p.m. - We arrive at the playing facility.
    Result: Construction prevents us from taking the shortcut, forcing us to once again walk aimlessly in hopes of finding an entry.

    6:00 p.m. - The match begins.
    Result: We win in five sets. With Kim Kristoff setting a `three' to the outside after I ricocheted a ball directly into Kristen Dealy's face, the game was more than eventful.

    8:00 p.m. - Team eats dinner with the Italian players.
    Result: Awkward silence due to the language barrier. O.K., so maybe I'm exaggerating. For the most part dinner went well. After learning that one of the players was from Argentina I decided to sharpen up on my Spanish in hopes of preventing the awkward silence ... it didn't work.

    10:30 p.m. - Arrive back at the hotel.
    Result: This blog.

    Ciao!

    --

    Saturday, May 30 - Rome, Italy
    Jamel Nicholas - Rising Senior - Gibsonia, Pa.

    Preface: 75% of the team has read Angels and Demons. The remaining 25% are currently reading it. The events that we are about to blog are factual. All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents and secret rituals in this blog are accurate.

    We started the day just like any other. Early morning wake up, five-minute primping and Nutella breakfast.

    But today was anything but ordinary.

    Today, we were heading to the Vatican. We jumped on the metro, met a few interesting characters and got off at the stop named Ottaviano (this mandates a shout-out to our marketing guru back at Notre Dame, Darin Ottaviani). We got in line for the Vatican museum 20 minutes early to watch the venders set up shop. None of them looked suspicious, so they must not know about the antimatter. We entered the museum and were instantly enthralled by a few of the Ninja Turtles' best art. Despite temporary neck pain from staring at the ceiling, we were mesmerized. Our tour ended in the Sistine Chapel where many of us were chastised for taking photos, so we left in a FLASH ... we needed to REFOCUS.

    We regrouped in St. Peter's Square and found the Obelisk and the symbol for wind. We were on the right track. We ventured into a 30-minute line to tour St. Peter's Basilica, anxious to see inside. It was breathtaking. With our combined photos we can reproduce a 3-D replica of the entire Basilica (summer project?). Tara Enzweiler and I went to confession while Angela Puente, Megan Dunne, Kim Kristoff, Christina Kaelin and Megan Fesl went to see the Papal Tombs. They were intriguing, but the girls do not recommend the tour for those who are claustrophobic.

    We spent the rest of the afternoon on our own, bargaining on the streets for good prices on memorabilia and last-minute gift purchases for home. We met back at the hotel for a team lunch around 2:00 p.m. After lunch we headed to the sports complex for a rematch against the Italian Junior National Team. Although we gave a valiant effort, we ended up losing a close match in five sets. We shared another dinner with the team, and a few of us traded jerseys. Senior manager Hy Pham got a sweet shirt that he has yet to take off.

    There was no better way to end our epic two-week Italian tour than with a gelato at the Trevi Fountain. We have had a once in a lifetime experience and have enjoyed every minute of it, but we are ready to return to the United States. We hope you have enjoyed reading our blog, and look forward to seeing you all at our games in the fall.

    We came, we saw, we conquered.

    Ciao!

    --

    Monday, June 1 - Notre Dame, Ind.
    Head coach Debbie Brown

    WOW! As I think back over the last two weeks I'm amazed at all we were able to experience. In every way imaginable the trip was a huge success. We were able to stay in big cities and in small communities. We enjoyed the beach as well as the mountains and hills. We traveled by bus, train, metro and plane ... and some of us even snuck in a ride on a gondola. And, we were able to play some great volleyball. My personal favorite was our time on the island of Sicily.

    Flying into Palermo allowed us to see the beautiful coastline and beaches of that city. And on the way to the opposite side of the island we were able to see vast farmlands, beautiful mountains and hills, and even a great view of the mighty Mt. Etna. From our home base in the city of Modica (which is an architectural wonder) we were able to take day trips to the cities of Agrigento, Ragusa, as well as a couple different small beach cities. The Valley of the Temples in Agrigento was simply amazing. In America we think something is old when it's been around for more than 100 years, and we were seeing things that were two thousand years old!

    The organizers of the tournament in Modica were wonderful hosts. They were eager for us to experience all that the island had to offer in addition to enjoying some good volleyball. They even made sure we had an ample supply of chocolate before each game (they are famous for their chocolates!) We were fired up to win the tournament, as we had to work hard to beat the host club for the championship.

    Our goal going into this trip was to see all that we could; to learn firsthand about the history and culture of each of the cities we visited. We wanted to take in as much as we possibly could. In addition, we wanted to take advantage of competing again. We wanted to be competitive in every match we played. The volleyball in Italy is very good, and we didn't know how we would stack up against some of the teams. In most cases, we were forced to play at a high level. I was particularly pleased with how the team responded in our last two matches against the Italian Junior National Team. Not only was this the best team we had played throughout the tour, the matches also came at the very end, when we were most fatigued. The effort the team put forward was truly remarkable.

    I think back to our last night there. We were having our last gelato together at the Trevi fountain. We had just lost our last competition in a hard fought five-set match. The word that best describes how I felt is "saturated". I'm not sure how many miles we walked throughout the 12 days we were there ... but I know it's a significant number. We played seven matches and had one practice throughout those 12 days. The days we didn't play were usually spent traveling. We didn't cut back on our sightseeing on match days, and in fact sometimes went straight to the match from wherever we might have been visiting. We saw all that we could see, we ate as much gelato as we could, we enjoyed every facet of the Italian culture, and we were ready to go home. Yes, we were saturated, but it was a great feeling.

    We owe a huge thank you to Bring It Promotions for organizing a fantastic tour. This is the third time we've used this company to organize a tour for our program, and each time I think it can't get any better, but it does. Tim Kelly and Joanna Fielder were absolutely awesome hosts/guides for us. Thanks, Tim and Jo, for a wonderful experience.

    --ND--
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