Trip to Italy 2016
In December 2016, 20 Italian Language and Ancient History students from Chevalier College, along with teachers Isabella Falconi, Fiona McEvoy and Robert McKenzie, embarked on the journey of a lifetime to Italy. The trip was a fantastic educational and cultural experience which gave the students an opportunity to not only practice the language, but learn of the rich architectural history of the country and be immersed in a unique and foreign civilisation.
After 23 hours of travelling, we finally arrived in Rome at 7am on Saturday the 3rd of December, 2016. We were exhausted, but after a quick check in at the hotel we had no time to waste and were off to the incredible Vatican City! A guided tour showed us through the breathtaking halls and grounds, with some highlights including the Sistine Chapel, Raphael Rooms and St Peter’s Basilica. Afterwards, we were so exhausted that most of us literally fell asleep at dinner. Day two was our first true experience of the culture of Rome. We roamed the streets, visiting the famous Spanish Steps and making wishes at the Trevi Fountain. Our credit cards also had their first workouts as we raided the tourist and clothing stores. Our last day in Rome was spent touring the spectacular Colosseum where we learnt about the gladiators, before visiting the Roman Forum, Ancient Rome’s city centre. It was surreal to see the Colosseum in real life after seeing it numerous times on postcards and on the internet. This was a fantastic experience and was followed by a visit to the Pantheon and MORE SHOPPING!
On Tuesday morning we travelled by bus to Herculaneum, a city trapped in time from the lava of the great Mount Vesuvius. After exploring the ancient ruins we continued to Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast where our hotel gave way to spectacular sea and mountain range views. A visit to the local Christmas markets brought along a brilliant festive feel. The second day in Sorrento was spent at Pompeii, a larger scale version of Herculaneum. The remaining architecture and preserved artefacts gave us insight into the distinct culture and social atmosphere which Pompeii held hundreds of years ago. In the evening we headed into a local piazza in Sorrento where we each had the opportunity to purchase our own authentic Italian dinners.
On Thursday we said “Ciao” to Sorrento and “Buongiorno” to Assisi. It was mostly a travel day; however, we stopped at Tivoli for some lunch before continuing on to Assisi, a beautiful town with spectacular countryside views. Before dinner we had the opportunity to explore the busy streets, tasting hot chocolates as thick as pudding and shopping at the antique nativity stores. We also entered the famous Basilica of Saint Francis where we had the opportunity to experience a full Italian mass and visit the tomb of St Francis of Assisi. After dinner at the hotel, a beautiful display of fireworks provided a fantastic ending to the day.
On Friday we left Assisi early to start our travels to Poggibonsi. The first stop was Perugia, a city in the Umbria region where we were treated to some tasty Italian lunch, shopping and beautiful views. Second was Siena, where we were given the opportunity to roam its ancient streets and admire Piazza del Campo. Finally we arrived in Poggibonsi where we had the opportunity to do some laundry before heading to bed. The following day we had three guided tours, the first of which was an interesting tour of a museum and rebuild of Poggibonsi in the Middle Ages, where we were shown the city’s original structure and culture. We were then given the history of a medieval castle which holds contemporary art by a very enthusiastic guide. In the afternoon, we explored San Gimignano, a charming old city with a great historical background, beautiful winding streets, and a fantastic view of the surrounding countryside.
On Sunday we arrived in Florence in anticipation of meeting our host families. In pairs we were dropped at our apartments where we were introduced to those who were housing us for the week. After quick introductions, many of the students were left to roam the grand city, admiring the incredibly detailed duomo in the city centre and exploring the many clothing stores. From Monday through to Friday, after breakfast each pair made their way to the Leonardo Da Vinci School where, for those studying Italian, language classes were held for three hours; and for those studying Ancient History, extra tours allowed them to explore the detailed history of the city. These students went to places such as the Gardens of Boboli, the Gallery of Academia, the Uffizi Gallery and the Duomo. Once the classes and tours were finished, the students had the opportunity to go out and buy lunch before meeting the group back at the school for a tour. We went on a general tour of Florence, to the Leonardo da Vinci Museum, a trip to the beautiful city of Lucca, and a visit to the Palazzo Vecchio. Afterwards, everyone was free to bargain at the fantastic leather markets and continue shopping before they were due back at their host family’s house for an authentic Italian dinner. The week was a great opportunity for the students to have some freedom and independence and to experience the Italian lifestyle first hand.
On Friday we said goodbye to our host families, sharing gifts and thanking them for their hospitality. After our final lessons we lugged our suitcases to the bus and were on our way to Venezia Mestre. Arriving late in the evening, we went out to dinner before resting well for our big and exciting day ahead. Saturday was our greatly anticipated day out in Venice! We caught a boat over to the main island where we were greeted by the Grand Canal and Santa Maria della Salute. The day was spent exploring the beautiful streets and shopping at glass sculpture stores.
We also were given the incredible opportunity to ride on Gondolas! In groups of 5-6 we were taken through incredible hidden canals, admiring the inner beauty of the ancient city. After an extraordinary journey through the canals, the gondola ride finished with a spectacular ride into the Grand Canal. What a magical experience!
Our last stop for the trip was in Milan, one of the fashion capitals of the world. After a 2.5 hour train trip from Venezia Mestre, we arrived and caught a tram into the city centre. The cathedral was absolutely breathtaking, both inside and out, with extraordinary amounts of detail and hundreds of stained glass windows and statues. It was obvious how the city was given its name for fashion with designer stores such as Prada and Versace lining every street. While it was only a short visit, it was still incredible to witness. Our final dinner was a chance for us to reflect on the amazing experience and to thank the teachers for taking us on the trip and for their patience with us. Even though it was minus one degree, many of the girls went all out to dress up for the last night. On Monday we packed our bags for home, but some students from the group were able to stay in Italy to visit family. At the airport, we were farewelled with a shower of snow – a fantastic ending to an incredible trip where the memories made will be held with us for the rest of our lives.