Due to some technical blog-related issues I was not able to post for the past few days that I was supposed to, but we have been having a great trip!
Since I last blogged, we finished our time in Florence with a trip to the Duomo (Which I climbed, all 463 steps to the top!) the Florence Baptistry and the Palazzo Vecchio, which was one of Florenceís government centers. I had gelato for lunch that day, which was a very good choice! Gelato is Italian ice cream, and in my opinion, it has American ice cream beat flavor wise!
We also went to the Uffizi art gallery and the Academia where we saw many famous artworks, including the famous statue of David, created by Michelangelo. Growing up, I was never a big fan of art but I took a great deal of time to look at the work and really appreciate all of the hard work that went into it. Many students commented that it seemed as though the statue could come to life at any moment and walk around the gallery because it looked so real!
From Florence, we went to Siena, Italy. Siena is a smaller, quieter town compared to Florence. We went to Sienaís cathedral, "Duomo di Siena." There was a great deal of beautiful artwork there, and it was a very spiritual visit, especially for the Catholic students on our trip, as the cathedral pays special attention to the Virgin Mary and her importance to the faith. After our cathedral visit we were given time to walk around and explore the city. Sienaís claim to fame is its olive oil, which many students bought to bring home to their families. I couldnít pass up another opportunity to eat gelato, so a couple of friends and I got a little afternoon snack as well.
After one night in Siena, we headed to Assisi, an even smaller and quieter town, as about 70% of its inhabitants are monks, nuns or some other type of leadership in the Catholic church. Assisiís claim to fame is being the birthplace of St. Francis, a well-known and beloved Catholic saint. Even though I am not Catholic, I can appreciate the love that St. Francis had for God and his complete devotion to doing Godís work. We went to the Cathedral of St. Francis and also the Cathedral of St. Clare, who was basically St. Francis female counterpart and lifelong friend. After our tour of St. Francis, we walked outside to see a beautiful sunset over the mountains.
We spent just one night in Assisi before going to Sorrento today.It was about a 5 hour bus ride, but we made stops to eat and stretch just like Americans do. Sorrento is the part of Italy that you see in movies. Beautiful coastline, towns set on hills; it's truly breathtaking. My eyes were glued to the windows (and the viewfinder on my camera) as we winded through the mountains. We learned that Sorrento is an Italian holiday town, and it was plain to see with palm trees everywhere and a noticeably warmer temperature, though it couldnít have been much above 50 degrees.
Tomorrow we head to the Amalfi Coast and then to Pompeii the following day. From Pompeii we board the bus to head to Rome, our last destination. I will try to post again on Monday night, as the Internet will be free again! Thanks to Dean Hull for paying for a 30 minute Internet session tonight so Julianne and I could post our blogs!
Today was our first full day in Venice! We started out with a wonderful breakfast at the hotel of pastries, meats and cheeses and various types of yogurt and cereal. Shortly after breakfast we met with our tour guide for the day, Barbara, who took us to our touring boat for the day. We learned that we would be touring three different islands directly around Venice today.
The first island that we stopped at was Murano. Murano is known around the world for its glass creations. We got to see one of the factory's glass blowers actually make two pieces which was fascinating to watch, I could have watched that for much longer than the 15 minutes or so it actually took him to make the two pieces. Following the demonstration, we spent time in their showroom, where most of us bought glass gifts to take home to our families and friends.
After this we got back onto the boat to head to Torcello. Torcello is an even smaller, less-populated island than Murano or Burano, especially in the winter when there are not as many tourists. Torcello is home to one of the oldest churches in Italy, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, which was built in 639 A.D. Unfortunately we could not take pictures inside of the cathedral but it was truly breathtaking. To think of how many people have walked that floor and worshipped there before you is unreal. The cathedral is known for its incredible architecture and also includes some beautiful mosaics.
Then it was time for lunch, so we got back on our boat and headed to Burano. We had a fantastic four-course meal, with everything but the dessert containing some type of seafood, which is very typical of Venetian food as it is surrounded by water. After lunch we had more time to shop. There were many stores on the island, as Burano is known for its scarves and lace. A group of us actually went into a shop where we got to see a woman doing a piece of lacework, which according to the shopkeeper takes about 20 days to complete, as the work is so intricate. After shopping we had a little time to walk around before heading back to the boat. One of the other interesting facts about Burano is that the buildings are very brightly-colored. Our tour guide informed us that a legend says that this was because in the early days of the island's development, many of the men were fishermen and on Fridays after they got their paychecks, they would sometimes have a little too much to drink and it was easier to find their way home if their homes were brightly colored. The brightly-colored buildings made for great pictures! (Which I plan to upload soon!)
In the late afternoon we returned to Venice and had a little free time before dinner. Myself and two friends took advantage of the "prime time" to shop in Venice, which is between 5:00-7:00 PM. That is when most people do their shopping so even in January, there is a great deal of activity. Many of the stores sold Murano glass products. It also seemed that almost every other store in Venice sold decorative masks, which struck me as strange at first, but I then heard someone describe Venice as the New Orleans of the United States, with a huge Mardi Gras celebration. After shopping we had another fantastic dinner which was several courses, but this time instead of a great deal of seafood, our main meat was veal. I had never eaten veal before so I was a little nervous but it was very good, and tasted similar to pot roast. We had mashed potatoes with that course so I felt right at home. :)
We have a very early morning tomorrow, as we leave Venice and make the bus ride to Florence! I enjoyed Venice so much and I cannot wait to see what the other cities have in store!
Greetings from Dulles International Airport! Our group is waiting to board in about a half hour to start our trip to Italy. We all ate our last American meals at the airport, with a group of us going to the Five Guys Burgers and Fries in the airport. I have a feeling it is going to be a while before I eat another burger! Our flight is almost 9 hours with two meals before we land in Paris.
Everyone in our group is beyond excited to get the trip started and see all of the sites that we have learned about in class for the past week. Every member of the class had to do a presentation on some facet of Italian culture including the various cities we're visiting, some of the most well-known cathedrals in Italy, famous popes and other Christianity and Italy related topics.
The best part about the presentations was when Professor Headrick would stop someone during their presentation and inform us that in just a few days, we would be sitting in the cathedral we were seeing in their Powerpoint presentation or standing in front of the famous artwork that we were looking at. It is starting to seem more real as we are getting ready to board in just a few short minutes.