Tomorrow we say Ciao to lovely Italy and HELLLLOOO America! As amazing as our adventure has been, I think we are all ready to go back to the place that knows us best! The past 3 days in Rome have been beyond amazing and I've done so many things I never thought I would get the opportunity to do in my lifetime!
We began our Roman holiday on Tuesday with a rather long (but amazing!) tour of the majority of Rome. We toured famous monuments such as the Colosseum and Pantheon. I was amazed at how big the Colosseum was up close. I could picture gladiators and ancient events occurring as I stood on the second level looking out into the middle of the large stone building.One of the highlights of that day was as we were walking back to our hotel we were able to see an Italian street band playing some classic Italian music. They were so good, I ended up buying their CD for 10 euros!
Yesterday was probably my favorite day out of our whole two week trip, and that was because it was finally the day for us to attend an audience with the Pope! We began the day much earlier than the others, waking up around 6 and leaving our hotel at 7. We all got to experience the Italian metro ( which I have to say is a little bit nicer than the DC metro and New York subway!) When we arrived at the Vatican we had to go through security before we could enter. We then entered a large room with over 1,000 seats. Our class was lucky enough to get seats within the first 50 rows- which was rather close to the stage! Our professors mentioned to us before the audience that often groups will sing a song or wave something around to get the Popes attention when they get announced. Due to this Dean Hull ( one of our chaperones) gave us all yellow and black Randolph- Macon pom poms to wave around when our group was announced. Being a Catholic myself, I knew the Catholic religion has much respect for the Pope because he is the leader of the church. However, I did not know how much people idolized him and viewed him as some sort of famous celebrity. When the Pope walked out on stage, people stood on their chairs and started screaming and cheering. I have to admit, it was a very magical moment- and I had tears in my eyes. Never in a million years did I imagine I would be able to attend a Papal audience. The ceremony began with readings of the same scripture, but in various different languages ( English, French,Spanish, German, Polish, Latin-just to name a few). After the readings, groups from various different countries were announced to the Pope. I will never forget the moment the English speaker said " From Ashland Virginia in the United States, Professors and Students from Randolph-Macon College". Our class stood up and screamed and waved our pom poms around- I think we definitely got the Popes attention! After groups were announced, The Pope did a special blessing for the audience and their families, as well as any objects they wanted blessed ( I had 3 necklaces and 6 rosaries!) I will never forget the Papal audience- it was truly a highlight of my life.
Today was a bit shorter than the other days we had. We toured the Vatican museum- or as much as we possibly could have. The Vatican museum is the largest in all of Italy, and it contains so much artwork! One of my favorites was the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo. I have seen pictures of this masterpiece ever since I was little- but seeing it up close was unbelievable. The artwork looked like it was real, and possessed the most beautiful coloring I have ever seen in my life. If you ever go to Italy, I highly recommend this museum as a sight you should see!
Although I am sad to leave Italy, I am ready to return home with my memories. I can't believe everything we have done in the past two weeks. Saying it has been an amazing adventure is an understatement. I embarked on this journey to learn about the Heritage of Christianity, but I ended up learning so much more. I made great relationships with my classmates, learned how to interact with a different culture, and learned a few things about myself. I know this trip will help me in the future because I now know how to form bonds with cultures different than my own. I don't know how I got so lucky to be able to go on this trip, but I do know I am blessed to attend such an amazing school which provides opportunities like this.
Yesterday our group took a break from the normal Italian scenery and experienced a bit of paradise- meaning the town of Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast. I had only seen pictures of the Amalfi Coast in books and on the internet, but the pictures that I've seen don't do it justice at all. I can honestly say it was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen in my life.
When we arrived in the town of Sorrento on Saturday, it was much different than the other towns we have visited in Italy. There were palm trees, bright buildings, and a feel that felt like the city of Los Angeles- not to mention there were large cliffs and water surrounding us everywhere. We spent the night Saturday bonding as a class in the hotel and getting prepared for our journey the next day ( It has been moments like this that have become some of my favorite memories of this trip).
We boarded the bus on Sunday not knowing what was quite in store, just that we would soon be down by the Mediterranean Sea! The bus ride was not what I expected at all. I'm not one to get car sick very easily, but this bus ride definitely had me very close. Our tour guide told us that driving down the cliffs of the Amalfi coast consisted of 1,600 curbs and turns.Although I may have felt a tad sick, the information we learned on this drive was amazing. We learned about how the Amalfi cliffs contained images carved into them that was believed to be historical characters to the Italians. The town of Amalfi was much smaller than the other towns we went to in Italy. There were only a few streets with a couple of restaurants, one main church, and local shops. We then got some free time to go down to the beach and look in the sand for sea glass. Some of my classmates even put their bathing suits on and went for a quick swim!
Today we explored the village of Pompei- a truly incredible experience. We have finally (and sadly) reached our last destination of ROME! Tomorrow we are going to explore the Colosseum and Trevi Fountain- I can hardly wait!
Yesterday, our group ran out of a little luck and experienced our first cloudy day. We were hoping to go a full two weeks with no rain or clouds, and had gone strong for a week, but we were not as lucky. However, the drizzle and clouds didnít affect the amazing experiences we had.
I had never really heard of St. Francis, much less known anything about him until yesterday. We began our day traveling from Siena to the small town of Assisi. I knew very little about this town, except it was the home to the famous St. Francis at one time. When we arrived in Asissi, I was amazed at the town I was in. It was a small town, possibly even smaller than the town of Ashland with stone buildings everywhere. I felt like I was on the set of a movie or in a very medieval town. It was probably the coldest town of the ones we went to, due to the fact we were more up in the mountains.
After some down time, we began our tour of Assisi. The tour began with an introduction of the town, and then a tour of what looked like a very old church to me. What I found out about this church was that it was the very church St. Francis was praying in when he heard the voice of God. The story behind St. Francis is that Francis was born in Assisi to a middle class family. One day when St. Francis was praying, he heard the voice of God, and then decided to give up his life of wealth to serve God. Our class was fortunate enough to be able to sit and pray in the very same room that St. Francis once prayed in when he heard God call to him. This experience was truly amazing. We continued our tour and learned about St. Clare, a nun who gave up her life of wealth to serve God as well. We learned about her life accomplishments, her death, and legacy as well.
Before going to Assisi, I had little interested in the town- as well as itís history. However, after yesterdays experience, Assisi has become one of my favorite towns in Italy. Yesterday was a day for me to sit and truly reflect on the wonderful experiences I have had in Italy thus far. Not only was I able to sit and reflect on the trip, I was also able to pray in the same rooms famous Saints prayed in- which I will remember for the rest of my life.
Today we made our way to Sorrento- a town much different from the others we have been to. Itís on the coast, has palm trees, and reminds me a little of Aruba. Tomorrow we will take a bus tour down the Amalfi coast- a bus tour with many turns and frightening heights (something I am both nervous and excited about).
If someone were to ask me a list of my favorite things in this world, artwork would probably not be on it and heights would DEFINITELY not be on it. However, after my experiences in Italy today, that may have changed.
We began the day with a trip to the famous Academia museum. This museum is home to various amounts of famous artwork, perhaps the most famous being Michelangelo's "David" statue. It was one of those moments that didn't seem real at all, like I was in a dream and would wake up any second. I had only read about and seen this famous statue in my textbooks in history class, and never would have imagined I would one day be seeing it up close. I will never know how Michelangelo put such detail and emotion into "David". It is amazing how you can see the veins on the statues arm and how you can see every emotion in his face. By being able to see this piece of work up close, I can say I have a new appreciation for art.
After this museum, we then strolled over to the Uffizi museum. Once again, I have never really had an appreciation for, or understood art, but after seeing some of these paintings and sculptures, I have most definitely developed a new interest in it. While looking at some of these paintings, half of me wondered if they were about to come to life- that's how real and vivid they looked.
Perhaps the highlight of the day was climbing up 463 stairs to the top of the Duomo. I have a passionate hate for heights- however I believe in conquering your fears, so I find myself going to the top of very high things quite often. I have been to the top of the Empire State Building, and one day hope to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. As beautiful as these sights were or may be- I don't think anything will ever compare to the beauty of the sight from the top of the Duomo. I think it has been the highlight of not only the trip but my life as well. I look forward to see what the rest of the trip brings!!
Today our group said ciao to Venice and hello to.... Ravenna? What is Ravenna? We knew we would be making our way to Florence today but we were not aware we would be stopping at the small,somewhat unknown town of Ravenna. It may be small and not as well known as some of Italy's other cities but it was definitely worth seeing.
In this town, we took a tour of many historic churches and burial places of famous Italian poets. The churches were unlike anything I have ever seen in my life before. The artwork they possessed was absolutely mind blowing. The town was very quiet and peaceful,with much more history and background than I would have imagined.
After a few hours in Ravenna we began making our way to Florence. My favorite part of the journey to Florence was falling asleep and then waking up to the most beautiful mountains and hills outside my window.
Our destination of Florence has been reached and it is the exact opposite of Venice. There is so much energy here it reminds me a lot of New York City. I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings !!
Today, January 7th, 2012, 25 wonderful yellow jackets boarded a plane in Washington DC and began our adventure to Italy. After an 8.5 hour plane ride to Paris, and then a 1.5 hour plane ride from Paris to Venice, our destination was complete! I have to say, I was honestly shocked when I first saw Venice. I have always heard it was a town built on water, but I never realized how true that statement was. There are absolutely no cars in Venice, just boats to get around. I was also surprised at how narrow these streets are, If I stretch out both my arms, that is about the length of the streets here!
After we arrived, we had some down time to go get lunch and shopping if we wanted to before we checked into our hotel. Let me tell you, you have not had pizza until you have had pizza from Italy, it tastes absolutely nothing like the pizza in America- and the same goes for pasta!
Perhaps the highlight of our day was when we took a walking tour of famous monuments in Venice. My favorite part of this tour was being able to view many different aspects of the Doge's Palace. This Palace dates back to the 1300's and was the home to the supreme authority of Venice. We got an up close look at the various forms of art and important rooms in the palace- it was truly an amazing experience!
When we walked around Venice, I could hear many of my fellow yellow jackets make statements such as " Is this real life?" or " Are we really in Italy right now?" I agreed with those statements completely because being in a beautiful place such as Venice is something you would only think about happening in a dream.
I cannot believe how quickly these past four days of class have gone by. After months of anticipation and excitement, tomorrow is the big day! Within the next 24 hours, I will be leaving the comfort of Randolph-Macon and will be in the process of embarking on a new adventure for two weeks in Italy! It is so hard to believe in just a short amount of time I will be leaving from Washington DC and will be arriving in Venice (with a layover in Paris!) Although I was somewhat dreading being in a classroom all day for four days, I can honestly say this class ( The Heritage of Christianity) has already made the list of one of my favorites here at Randolph- Macon.
In just four days , I have learned so much about the history and culture of Italy. I have gotten a deeper understanding of Italian art, the way the people live, and the countries famous cities. I am very excited to see what we have learned up close- it seems unreal I am getting this opportunity!
Many people have been asking me what I'm most excited about seeing or doing when I go to Italy. The things we are doing make it hard to be excited about just one thing. We will start out in Venice for two days,then we will make our way to Florence, Siena, Assisi, Sorrento and Rome. I guess if I had to pick just one highlight of the trip I am most excited about, it would be attending an audience with the Pope. Being Catholic, this experience is sort of a dream come true for me!