I got up at 5:50am, and got dressed and ready to go. We went down to the lobby ten minutes early to grab something to go for breakfast. The bus was supposed to pick us up at 6:30am, but it ran a little late. Once it came we got on the bus that was provided by the hotel to take us to the airport. That saved us each of about 25 euros because we didn’t have to pay for a taxi. Once we got to the airport, we got out bags checked and went through security. It’s not as strict as the US, so it didn’t take very long at all. We had about an hour to wait until we could board the plane. We just sat around and all talked. We all split a chocolate bar that Jared bought in Italy. There are seven of us that have the same flight home, Steve, Steve, Jared, Patrick, Alaina, Carrie, and I. The long plane ride to New Wark was extremely long! I think the ride home was worse than the ride to Italy. I had a window seat, so I always felt bad if I wanted to stand up and walk around. Once we got to New Wark we had 3 hour layover. It took a while to get through all the lines and to transfer terminals and all that. Once we got into our gate we had about an hour and a half wait until we were supposed to board. Then they announced we had an hour delay due to weather. Once we finally got going, the flight from New Wark to Chicago was a short 2 hours compared to the long one from Rome. I slept most of it because I’m used to the different time zone and it’s 2:00 am back in Rome. In Chicago we had less that an hour wait. We boarded and had a short flight back to Omaha. It was nice to travel in a a big group on the way home.
We got up at 7:45am to get dressed, ready, and packed everything We went and had breakfast at 8:15am at the farm house. It was our last group breakfast in Italy. After breakfast we went and got our baggage, and then got on the bus to head back to Rome. I kept thinking about home and what to expect. On the bus we played a little game and voted for the best travel companion. The winner got a hat. Amanda was the winner. We turned in our sketches to Dr. Erdogmus and our journals if they were a hard copy. The drive was over 5 hours back to Rome. It was a long drive. Once we got to Rome we checked into our hotel. We are staying in a different hotel this time because the one we stayed in the first week had a water main break. The new hotel is on the other side of Rome, closer to the Piazza Novana. It was a four star hotel. It was a really nice one. Once we got all settled in we walked towards Piazza Novana to head towards a souvenir shop we knew of. We stopped got piazza for lunch/supper since it was kind of late afternoon. Then we went to the t-shirt place because some people needed to get some last minute gifts. I got a t-shirt because the deal was four shirts for 10 euro, and they had three shirts picked out already. It was a good deal. After that shop we started heading back to the hotel. We stopped at small shop next to the road and then we walked through the markets. The markets were pretty busy tonight. There was a homeless man whose pants were down to his knees. He was wearing no shirt either, it was pretty gross. The skies were getting dark, so we started walking back to the hotel again. We saw Dr. Erdogmus and Jeff walking around with gelato. We talked to them for a bit and then decided to get gelato as well. It was out last time getting gelato in Italy. We walked back to the hotel and blogged and made sure everything was ready to fly out tomorrow. The only problem with this hotel is that there is no free internet. It cost a lot to use, so we don’t have internet. We sat around and played games in the room for a while. Carrie, Katherine, Alaina, Sara, and I went out for supper around 8pm. We found restaurant that was pretty close by to the hotel. I had a pasta dish for my last supper in Italy. It was penne with tomato, chile, and garlic. It was very good. After that we walked back to the hotel. We saw the rest of the group on our way back. They told us we should go out with them. We went up to the room to just think about it. Dr. Erdogmus stopped by and gave us our prize for winning the scavenger hunt. We got an Italy calendar, a Rome pencil, and a postcard. It was cool. We went to bed to get ready for a long flight tomorrow.
We got up at 7:45am and got dressed and ready. We had breakfast at the farm house at 8:15am. It was a good breakfast. They had all sorts of homemade breads and fresh apples and kiwi. After breakfast we got on the bus and drove to Pompeii. It was about an hour and a half drive. I read a little because I didn’t have my bag to do anything else. While I was sitting in the bus seat, Catherine sketched a picture of me. It turned out cool. Once we got to Pompeii we had a short break to buy something for lunch and pack for a picnic later. After we met up we walked towards the entrance to the city walls. Pompeii was really cool to see. I can’t believe how well preserved and how big the city really was. We walked around the city for a long time, probably around four and a half hours. We saw lots of homes, temples, a basilica, a forum, amphitheaters, a brothel, and more. I liked seeing it all. We saw some bodies that had been covered with lava, and I saw pictures of a family that had been uncovered in their home. They were very sad to see. The story behind all of Pompeii was interesting. After we left the city walls, we had short break to use the restroom and look in souvenir shops. Once we all met up again, we got on the bus and drove back to Paestum. In Paestum, we looked at three old Greek temples. They were in such good shape for being so old. We a group picture by the first one. There were tons of old town ruins all around the temples too. It was cool. After we looked at all three, Dr. Erdogmus announced that we are officially done with class time. It was sad that it came so fast. We walked back to the bus and drove to the farm house. I did some blogging before our last group supper. We also walked around the acreage and found fruit trees. We all picked a lemon and came back and ate them, it was funny. Then the four of us roommates took a picture off the wall and signed our names to leave our mark. We left a cheesy little message too. Then we met for our last group supper at 8pm in the farm house. We started with wine and water. The first dish was a tomato and bread salad with water buffalo mozzarella. It was very very good. Then we had bread and had a fried mashed potato thing. After that we had a pasta dish with zucchini. Then a chicken and potatoes dish. And for desert was a fruity breaded cake thing. Everything was amazing. I was extremely full, but it was so so so good! After supper we got on the computer and I updated my frequent flyer miles and my blog. Then I saw messages from back home that said we are going to have bad flooding in our area. I had no idea that it was that bad, and didn’t know what to think. I don’t want to go home to that. After blogging and stuff up by the farm house we went back to the cabin and showered. Catherine came over to our room and slept because her room had lots of baby spiders on the ceiling. Once we were all settled we went to bed.
We woke up at 9am and got dressed and ready pretty quick. We went up to tenth floor and had breakfast. Then we met down in the lobby at 9:45am. Since the Theater Massimo closed on us yesterday, we went this morning before we left. We had to wait around for a while because we had to wait for an English tour guide. They were taking such a long time and we were running out of time, so we just went with the next Italian group. It kind of sucked not knowing anything she was saying, but it was still cool to see the theater. The stage that we saw was the biggest in Europe. I think the ones in the U.S. are a lot bigger than that still. There was an echo room that was fun to talk in. there was one spot in the center of the room where it echoed right back to you. After the theater we walked back to the hotel and grabbed our bags. We got on the bus and drove to the airport. We had to wait about an hour and a half before we left. I blogged during the wait. The flight back to Rome was as planned, we left on time this time. Once we all got out of the airport, we found our bus and headed towards Paestum. About half way we stopped for a break at a rest stop area. I went to restroom and when I tried exiting I accidentally started going out an emergency exit door and the alarms went off until I closed the door. It was embarrassing until I saw someone else do it two minutes later. The total drive took over 5 hours. When we got close to Palermo the traffic was terrible. It took forever just to exit the highway, so that added a lot of time. It seemed extremely long today, but I read a little and the scenery beautiful. The mountains are awesome. Dr. Erdogmus told us a story about a farm house that is well known for its water buffalo mozzarella cheese. That is where we are staying for the next two nights, so I am excited to try the cheese. Once we finally got to the farm house it was 9pm. I thought it was funny when the group got out of the bus and realized we really were out in the middle of nowhere. The farm house was really cute. The girls were split into three groups of four, and the guys into one group of three and one group of four. They have girls staying in one cabin and guys in another. We put everything into our little cabin rooms and then met for supper in the main house. The food was very good. We started with wine/water and a pasta dish. The next dish was a sausage and artichoke dish with bread. The sausage was twirled into a swirl and tasted really good. For dessert we had the whipped cream/ice-cream stuff like last night. This one had hazelnut with it, it was really good. After supper we went back to the cabin and unpacked, got stuff ready for tomorrow, and showered. There was a fortieth birthday party over by where we ate supper. Before we went to bed, they did a short firework show, so we went out to watch it. Catherine came over to put these mosquito repellant things in our room and then we went to bed.
We got up at 8:30am and got ready. We had breakfast on the tenth floor on the roof of the hotel. It was a big breakfast too. They were playing Italian music while we ate, it was nice. After breakfast we went to the room to grab our day bags and then met the group down in the lobby at 9:45am. The first thing we did was start heading towards the Palace of Normanni. We walked past the markets and she let us go through them. They were all selling fresh fish of all kinds. There were huge sword fish, and octopi, and lots of others. After the markets we kept walking towards the palace. We stopped at a shady spot in a park for Dr. Erdogmus to talk a little about the Palace before we went in. She said we should be able to feel and see a difference in culture here in Sicily compared to northern Italy. The northern and southern parts do not get along. The northern are known for being hot headed and the southern is known for being laid back and lazy. The park was really pretty with palm trees and little walk ways. After she was done, we walked to the palace. It was huge inside. The first place we went inside was the Chapel of Palentine. It was the church within the palace. It was very pretty and gold plated décor. After the church we went through the small museum of the palace. There wasn’t too much besides some portraits and stuff from the church. Down below it showed some of the original foundations of the palace which was cool to see. After the palace we walked over to Palermo’s cathedral. It had a different look than most churches. I don’t know why, but it was still pretty. From the cathedral we started heading towards to shore to see the Mediterranean Sea. Some people stopped and got a sandwich to eat when we got there. The sea was gorgeous, especially with the mountains along the sides. We got time to play along the rocks and take pictures. It was a lot of fun. We climbed out on the rocks and dipped our feet in the water. It was kind of cold, but fun. Once we were all done playing, we headed back towards the hotel. Near the hotel is a theater that she wanted us to see. Right when we got there, they closed the gate for the day at 3pm. Dr. Erdogmus had no idea it would closed that early because along with the whole being lazy thing, most stores open late morning and then take a really long lunch break and open back up around 3 or 4pm. The theater doesn’t do that though, so we are going to try and fit it in before we leave tomorrow morning. We walked back to the hotel and had a break until our group dinner tonight. I blogged and rested for a bit. After a while Sara and I went for a walk down the street a ways. We found the market area and walked through there. I decided to buy a pair of gladiator shoes for myself at a store called Patania. After the markets we came back to the hotel to shower before supper. We met everybody down in the lobby at 7:30pm for our group supper. We walked to a restaurant called Cin Cin. Jeff’s friend owns the sea food restaurant. We started with some water/wine and bread. The next dish was a mixture of eggplant, coco, toasted almonds, and octopus with a veggie casserole in a little side dish. The veggie casserole was really good. I tried the octopus and eggplant and it was just okay. The octopus was tough and chewy, so it was weird to eat. After that we had risotto with shrimp. That dish was amazingly good. They brought us more bread and then served us the main dish. It had spiral cooked zucchini with sword fish. The sword fish was really good as well. I was very impressed. After the main dish we had dessert. It was something that was really similar to ice-cream, but with whipped cream. It was delicious. I was very full after the risotto, but it was all so good, so I had to eat it. We sat around and talked for a while after we ate.. Then we took pictures with the cooks. Once we got back to the hotel, I crashed right away.
I didn’t have to wake up till 8:30am, but street noises were going all night so I ended up getting up somewhere around 8am. I got dressed and ready and finished packing. We met the group down for breakfast at 9am. Breakfast was good here too. They even had chocolate cake for breakfast. After breakfast we had to bring our bags down and leave them in the lobby while we toured Assisi. The first thing we did in Assisi was walk to the Saint Francis Basilica. It was huge and very pretty on the inside. The tomb of St. Francis was inside, and very pretty architecture. They wouldn’t let us take pictures inside, but I got a few good ones of the outside. We went through the gift shop of the basilica, and I got myself a little rosary from there. It’s a handmade rosary from Italy, so I thought it was special. After going through the church we walked to the other side of town which was all up hill. We walked to the city center area to a church called the Santa Maria sopra Minerva. We went inside for just a few minutes, because we were getting low on time. The church was very small on the inside, but very elaborate for being so small. We took a few pictures and then headed up the hill some more. The next stop was a church called San Rufino Cathedral. This church seemed plane on the inside. A cool thing I noticed was on the floor. They had big sheets of glass in places that you could see through. It showed the old ruins of the original foundation below. It was neat to see throughout the church. We only got a few minutes in there and then took a short half hour lunch break. We met back in the city center after lunch. Once everyone was there, we walked down to the hotel and grabbed our bags. We walked to the bus and then had a 3 hour drive to Rome. We drove to Rome because from Rome, we fly out of that airport to Palermo. I think I am catching up on my sleep because I fell asleep on the bus again. I also blogged and read a little. Once we got to the Rome airport we had about a 2 hour wait. I blogged a little and we all just talked to waste time. Once we went through security we had to wait a little longer until we boarded. This plane didn’t assign seats so it was first come first serve. Luckily we weren’t at the very end of the line so I got seats next to Alaina and Sara. After everyone was boarded, they announced that they were having technical difficulties and that they would take off when things were fixed. An hour later, we took off. The flight was only a 45minute flight. We just talked and read a little on the flight. Once we landed and arrived in Sicily, everybody on the plane clapped and cheered. It was strange since that never happens in America. Everybody got their bags that they wouldn’t let them carry on and then we went and got on our bus that was waiting for us. The drive to the hotel was only a 30minute drive. The hotel is a fancy one, it is a 4star. The rooms and lobby are very modern compared to the others we have stayed in. They assigned Sara and I a room to ourselves, so once we got in the room we got ready for bed and crashed. Today was a long day. The days go by really fast being on the bus and seeing two new cities a day. I can’t believe it’s almost time to go home already.
Today we got up around 7:30 and went and had breakfast with the group at 8am in the hotel. Our hotel had breakfast again, it was exciting. The breakfast was really good too. They had milk out for some cereal, so I had a glass of milk. I have been craving milk since I’ve been here, so it was good. After breakfast we came back up to the room and packed our bags and took some roommate pictures from the balcony. A guy was setting up to play the harp below us, so we watched him before we had to leave. We met the group down in the lobby at 9:30am. The first thing we did was climb a tall tower in San Gimignano. San Gimignano used to be an old defense city so they used to have a lot of lookout towers. They don’t have very many left, but we climbed to the top of one of them. The view over San Gimignano was gorgeous. I took a lot of pictures from up there. After the tower we went through a torture museum. It was sickening to read about and to see pictures of some of the torture techniques that used to be and still are being used today. After the museum, we had a short break until we had to meet back up to leave San Gimignano. We just walked around San Gimignano, through the market tents and walked up to the park that Dr. Erdogmus showed us last night. I couldn’t really tell how pretty it was up there last night in the dark, but today it was awesome. We took pictures and then walked back down. We got gelato at a world famous gelato place. It was really good too. We went back up to the room to get our bags and then walked down the hill to the bus to head out. I didn’t want to leave small town San Gimignano, I like it a lot. The drive to Siena was only about an hour. I slept some and blogged a little. The first thing we did in Siena was walk to the sea shelled shaped piazza called the Piazza del Compo. It is in front on the Tower del Mangia that we were going to climb. We waited in line for a long time to climb, but it was taking forever. Jeff continued waiting in line for us while we walked to the Duomo Cathedral. We went into the cathedral and walked around. It was all green and white checkered marble on the inside. Sometimes it seemed like too much, but I think it fit the church. It was pretty. The church was actually supposed to be much bigger, but the construction was ended so you could tell how big it was really supposed to be. After we went through the church we walked back down to the Tower del Mangia. It was 384 stairs to get to the top. It was definitely worth the climb. The view over Siena was gorgeous and green. Siena had the mountains in the background as well. After all the pictures, we climbed back down and walked back to the Duomo. We went through the church’s museum that was next to it, and then went out on top of what should have been the façade of the Duomo(if they had finished the church). The view from the facade wasn’t as high as the tower, but it was still really pretty. We took some group photos up there, they turned out cute. After the walk out, we went through the Duomo’s baptistery. That was also very pretty. After the baptistery we walked back to the big piazza. We split for only 10 minutes, some people wanted pizza and some people wanted gelato before we left. I got a huge piece of pizza for only 2.5 euro. It was really good. We walked back to the bus and drove to Assisi. It was a 2 hour drive. Once we got to Assisi we checked into the hotel and the rest of the night was up to us. The hotel was a nice one. Our room had a big bathroom that the shower door even closed all the way. It was already 8:30 or 9:00pm, so we all packed our night bag for the next two nights, did homework, and got ready for bed.
Yesterday it rained a lot so the temperature outside was a lot cooler. I actually slept really well because it was nice and cool in our room. We got up around 7am and got dressed and ready. I went and made some toast and had an apple for breakfast down in the kitchen on our floor. I did some last minute packing and headed downstairs to the courtyard to meet the rest of the group. We got on our big coach bus. We each got a set of two seats to ourselves since we couldn’t fill the bus. That made it a lot nicer to travel in. we were told it was going to be a 5hour drive to Pisa, but the driver said it wouldn’t take as long. That was good news. I slept for awhile and read some out of the book, Da Vinci Code that Alaina gave me. After two hours went by we stopped at a rest stop and took a little break. We all got out and walked around and used the restrooms. Once we got back in it was about another two/two and a half hour drive to Pisa. The rest of the trip I just enjoyed the scenery. The mountains were lush and green, they were gorgeous. We arrived in Pisa around noonish. We got on a shuttle that took us to the Leaning Tower of Pisa area. The first thing we did was take a lunch break before we climbed the tower. We walked around and looked at all the shops over the break. At 2pm was our reservation to climb the tower. It was really weird climbing a leaning tower. You could feel the changes in slope all the way up the 292 stairs. The view over Pisa with the mountains in the background was awesome up there. Pictures will never do any of the stuff I’ve seen justice. At the bottom, we sat down and Dr. Erdogmus explained a little about the area, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the Duomo Cathedral. Once she was done we got to go inside the Duomo Cathedral. It was very pretty inside. After the cathedral we went inside the baptistery. It had two floors inside. We walked up to the second floor and looked down over the inside. Every 15minutes, a guy comes out and sings a little to demonstrate the acoustics in the building. It was really cool to hear and see. After the baptistery we took a short break to fill up water bottles and get last minute pictures before we headed back to the bus on the shuttle. The bus ride to San Gimignano was a little under two hours. I slept some more and read a little too. The bus driver played some Italian music on the ride, it was cool. Once we got to San Gimignano we gave our night bag to a van driver and he drove our luggage up the hill to San Gimignano. We walked up the hill to our hotel. Along the way, the streets have a lot of little shops. San Gimignano is a small little town, it’s cool. Our hotel is really cute. We got up to the room and it is really nice. We even had a balcony with an awesome view over San Gimignano. I could wake up to that every morning for sure. We got everything in our room and did a little blogging before supper. We had a group supper at the hotel at 8pm. It was really good. We started with wine, water, and bread. Then they brought out risotto (rice). After the rice we had a ravioli dish. I thought dessert was next, but then they brought out veal and spinach( the meat dish). After the meat then we had cherry cheesecake. I was so full after all of that, but it was so good. Supper lasted for quite a while, but after everyone was done eating, a few of us went for a walk with Dr. Erdogmus. She knew a park up higher on the hill. It was dark out, but could see for miles. There were a few lights out in the flat lands where the farm houses were. It reminded me of home too because you could see the stars too. After the walk I came back up showered and off to bed.
I slept pretty good last night too. I wanted to sleep in today since it’s our last free day, but I ended up waking up around 7:30am anyways because of the street noise. I got up and ate some breakfast and started to blog and catch up on homework from yesterday. After blogging I packed my suitcase and got my night and day bag ready for tomorrow. It took a long time to repack my big suit case because I took it all out and tried rolling my clothes. After I packed up I called home. It was 6:30am back home, so I figured mom and dad were getting ready for work. I forgot they took days off so I actually woke them up. It was good to talk to them though. After skyping I played card games with the group. We just played in the commons area on our floor. We decided to go to the supermarket after that. I got a loaf of bread to make lunches with, and Sara, Alaina, Carrie, and I split a tub of gelato. It was delish. We waited awhile for the gelato to settle and then made supper. We made pasta with red sauce and toasted butter bread. We graded cheese and put that over it all. It was really good. After supper I did last minute packing and got everything together. I played some more cards with Jared, Big Steve, Carrie, and Catherine and then went to bed.
Today is our first free day. I slept pretty good last night. I think I’m getting used to all the street noise. I had a dream that we missed out train and I guess I was talking in my sleep too. We got up at 6:00 am, got dressed and ready and met the others that were going to Venice at 6:30am. We walked to the metro, got our tickets and rode that to the train station. We had to wait in line for a long time, but that’s why we got there so early. We bought our round trip tickets to Venice and back for 65euro. It was expensive, but I will probably only be here once, so I figure it’s worth it. By that time it was around 7:45am. We waited for our platform number to show up and then boarded the train. The ride was a long 2.5hours. We had to Italian guys sit next to Alaina and I. They talked and giggled the whole train ride. We couldn’t understand them, but they kept looking at us and the only words I could pick out were USA or America. They were creepers. An Italian lady boarded at a different stop and sat by us. She spoke very little English, so it was kind of fun trying to talk to her. You had to chose words wisely and use real basic words. She tries to read the New York Times to practice English. Sometimes she would ask what a word meant. Looking out the train window we saw a lot of farmland. It reminded me of home. I slept for some of the ride too. Once we arrived in Venice, the first thing we did was buy a map. We saw gondola’s right at the beginning too. We (Sara, Alaina, and I) just decided to walk around and see the place first. It was really pretty. They don’t have streets and cars in Venice, it was all water canals with boats. It was really cool. When we were walking around we went into a lot of glass shops. Venice is known for its glass and lace. They make all kinds of stuff out of glass. We saw a little sidewalk that lead to a canal so I dipped my feet into the water. We walked into an area with lots of markets just like in Florence. We ran into some of the other group here. We sat down and ate lunch in the piazza. The pigeons joined us for lunch. After lunch we walked across the Rialto Bridge. That is the big bridge that Venice is known for. There were a lot of people there. We continued to walk around and visited a some churches, throughout the day, The Chiesa di S. Salvador, Chiesa Rettoriale di San Zulian, Chiesa di Maria Assunta, Church of S Nicola Da Tolentino, San Giovanni, and the big one San Marco. We stopped at a public bathroom and it cost 1.5 euro to use it. I’ve never heard of a cost for using a bathroom, but while I was waiting I went to go exchange a little money. I gave her $43 US dollars, and she was going to give me 19 euro back. I knew that was way wrong and told her I’d like my money back. She got real mad and threw my money back under the window. After that little incident, we looked all over for the Fondente Neova because we saw signs up all over for it. We followed signed and looked and looked but we never did find it. Somehow we ended up back at the train station. Overall that was okay because Sara and Alaina saw some stuff earlier at a few shops that they wanted to buy. We tried to start back over and retrace our steps, but of we got lost. We eventually found the shops and they got their stuff. I got a thing of pasta. We took a quick gelato break and then kept walking. We found a little bridge that we should sketch, so we sat down for a while and got a sketch done. By that time it was getting time to head back towards the train station. We took our time and slowly walked back. We found the rest of the group there and boarded the train, once our platform was posted. We were supposed to sit on car number 4. We walked to car 4 and it was closed for service, so we just found some empty seats in car 5. I slept most of the train ride home. When we got back to Milan we took the metro back to our nearest stop and then walked back to the hostel. I sent home a message and then off to bed.