June 4 – Long day of traveling back home. I have mixed emotions about going back. I think 3 weeks was the perfect length of trip, though. I’m happy to be back in America, but I’ll miss seeing certain people everyday and the various adventures we shared together. There are certain people I really hope to stay in touch with throughout the summer, or atleast when school starts up again. Overall, the trip was well worth it and I had a lot of fun. I had many experiences that I won’t ever forget. My top three favorite things I saw were the Coliseum, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the ruins of Pompeii. If I have the time and money I hope to do more traveling abroad in the future. Until then, arrivederci.
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June 3 – Took the bus back to Rome. I was voted one of the three best travel mates. Did some last minute souvenir shopping and packing. We leave tomorrow at 6:30 AM.
June 2 – We drove to Pompeii in the morning. Here we saw the historical ruins that were destroyed by Mount Vesuvius. It was amazing to see the number of structures that were still intact. We stopped on our way back to the hotel and saw three Greek temples. Our last group dinner consisted of a tomato and buffalo mozzarella dish, fried potatoes, pasta with white sauce, chicken, and desert. Possibly the best meal of the whole trip. We all went around and said our favorite memory from the three weeks. Somewhat bittersweet.
June 1 – We started out with a guided tour of the Massimo Theatre. The theatre contains the largest stage in Italy. We also got to sit in the Royal Suite where parts of the Godfather movies were filmed. In the afternoon we took a plane back to the mainland. After a long bus ride we arrived at the farmhouse hotel in Paestum. The group dinner consisted of pasta with red sauce, sausage and fried artichokes, and ice cream.
May 31 – Walked through the open-air markets of Palermo in the morning. It was cool to see all of the fresh produce and seafood. We then went to the Palazzo dei Normanni which contained a museum and a Palatine Chapel. Then we toured Palermo’s duomo. In the late afternoon we walked around and attempted to find a beach to no avail. For dinner we ate at Jeff’s friends Italian seafood restaurant. The four course meal included octopus, shrimp risotto, swordfish and an ice cream desert. I didn’t really care for the octopus, but everything else was very good.
May 30 – Three churches in Assisi: the Basilica de St. Francis and monastery, Santa Marie Sopra Minerva, and San Rufino. We then took the bus to the airport and flew to the island of Sicily. I had the most unusual pizza so far for dinner: baked potato and bacon.
May 29 – Started off the day with the Civici Museum and tower. Then we went through the torture museum which was quite grotesque and eye-opening. I had Italy’s best gelato from 2006-2009, but wasn’t impressed. Left San Gimignano in the afternoon. San Gimignano is tied with Florence for my favorite city we’ve visited so far. We stopped in Sienna for about five hours. Here we toured the Duomo and climbed the associated façade. We also climbed to the top of the tallest secular tower in Italy. I had some really good, cheap pizza for lunch. We then drove to Assisi. For dinner I had lasagna.
May 28 – Left Milan in the morning and boarded the bus that we’ll predominately use for the remaining week of the trip. Our first stop was Pisa, home of the infamous leaning tower. Seeing the tower and climbing to the top was one of the highlights of the trip so far for me. It’s unreal to think that the top of the tower hangs out 15 feet farther than the bottom, totally defying physics. The tower is merely a campanile or bell tower for the nearby cathedral. The only reason it’s famous is because of its lean. Another interesting thing to me is that the people of Pisa obviously don’t want the tower to fall over, but they also don’t want to make the tower straight. If the tower were straightened it would lose all of its appeal. We also toured the cathedral and domed baptistery. We then made our way to the small hilltop town of San Gimignano. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous here. Much different from any other city we’d been, the backdrop was the green, rolling hills of farmland. We had a group dinner overlooking these hills while watching the sunset. The four course dinner included asparagus risotto, ravioli, veal and spinach, and cheesecake for desert. After dinner, we walked around the town for a bit, both as one large group and then split off into smaller groups.
May 27 – The second of our two free days. Slept in, sketched, and made another group pasta dinner.
May 26 – Today was the first of two days where we were on our own. Most of us took the train to Venice for a short day trip. Venice was a nice change of scenery with most of the small town built around and in water. It was much quieter with no cars or scooters in sight. There were still a lot of people, though. Jared, Big Steve and I got separated from the main group early on, so we spent the day wandering around the town. We used most of our time shopping and visiting cathedrals. Venice is known for their glassware. The five cathedrals we visited were San Giovanni Crisostomo, S. Giovanni Battista, Ss. Giovanni e Paola, Chiesa dei Ss. Apostoli, and S. Maria di Nazareth. I was a little bummed I didn’t get to go to the beach with the rest of the group, but all in all still a pretty fun day.