Upper School Spanish instructor Cesar Robalino, who typically serves as the lead chaperone on the European trip during spring break, took five students abroad to Italy. Over the 10 days, the group — Maximillian Kostyashkin, Luke Markus, Gage Sears, Dominic Mazzone, and Matthew Hajek, along with Mr. Mazzone — visited Venice, Florence and Rome.
Mr. Robalino was kind enough to act both as a chaperone and historian, detailing the trip in a blog.
Before we left the States, the trip was already an adventure, but alas, we made the most of it. A quick breakdown — after different delays in Tampa and Miami on our first day, we eventually arrived in Venice — without the luggage for Mark, Luke and Mr. Mazzone.
Max was the only one very angry; the rest of us were just laughing. We spent the time talking about what we wanted to see first, what to eat, where to eat, what to buy.
To calm the waters, Matt immediately said, “Ok, no big deal. These things happen all the time. What we need to do now is make a report about our luggage and hopefully we will get it soon.” He paused. “…and let’s all buy the same shirt that says I ♥ Italy.” We all laughed.
Max, though, was still a bit upset. He said, “If I don’t get my luggage, I am going back to Miami.”
After some joking and laughing, Gage said, “Well, I guess we will all have to dress with Luke’s fashion — all in black.” Max smirked and calmed down after that comment and was relieved when the luggage finally arrived.
From here on the trip was amazing…
Days 1 -2: Tour of Venice’s Lido
We checked in at the hotel and had a tour of Venice’s Lido, a popular Adriatic beach resort. According to Europe For Visitors, Lido di Venezia–or simply the “Lido,” in local parlance–is a barrier island that separates the Venetian Lagoon from the Adriatic Sea. By vaporetto or public water bus, it’s only a few minutes from Venice’s historic center, which makes it popular as a dormitory suburb of Venice and a summer resort for tourists.
Day 3: Venice Sightseeing
We took a water bus ride to one of the most iconic town squares in the world, the Piazza San Marco. The Piazza San Marco — commonly referred to as St. Mark’s Square by Westerners — has been described by historians as “beautiful at all times of day or night and all seasons of the year, with architecture that has not been exposed or ruined by the plight of automobiles.” While there, we enjoyed a walking tour led by a local guide. During the tour, we visited the Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica, two of the city’s main landmarks and seen in countless movies.
We went to the Rialto area, the financial and commercial center of Venice. While there, we visited the nooks and crannies of Old Venice and the lively Rialto Market.
We visited the Murano Glass Factory, where we viewed a glass-blowing demonstration and learned about the art of making the world-renowned Venetian glass.
We visited the Doge’s Palace, built in the 14th century. It reflects Venice’s Golden Age as a center of trade and exploration. Its lavish decoration includes priceless paintings, in particular Tintoretto’s Il Paradiso, the world’s largest painting on canvas.
Then, we went to visit St. Mark’s Basilica, which dates back to the 11th century and houses precious treasures behind its elaborate façade.
We finished the day by taking a gondola ride along the canals, past stately palaces — a unique Venetian experience, as extravagant and as unforgettable as the city itself.
DAY 4: Train to Florence, Accademia
In the morning we took a water bus ride to the train station, where we boarded a high-speed train that took us across the rolling hills of Italy’s hinterland to splendid Firenze, the “Jewel of the Renaissance.”
In the evening, we strolled along the River Arno, went over to the shop-lined Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge in Florence.
We also visited the Galleria della Accademia to view the best known of all Florentine treasures, Michelangelo’s monumental David. The statue of David was impressive, to say the least.
DAY 5: Florence City Sightseeing
On a city tour in Florence, we got acquainted with the Medici family and the art of politics. A local guide, well-educated and specially-trained on the history and culture of Florence, accompanied the group.
We visited the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, better known as Il Duomo. We went up the 450 steps to have a marvelous view of the city.
Then, we went to Giotto’s Campanile, the free-standing bell tower that is as iconic to Firenze as Il Duomo is. We were fortunate enough to climb another 450 steps.
Next, we visited the Basilica of Santa Croce, the final resting place of luminaries such as Michelangelo, Machiavelli and Galileo. The church is filled with treasures and houses the Pazzi Chapel, a masterpiece by Brunelleschi noted for its original conception and skillful proportions.
The rest of the day was spent with free time to explore Florence.
DAY 6: Train to Rome
We enjoyed a scenic ride aboard a fast train headed to Rome, the Eternal City! We enjoyed the walk to the hotel and taking in the hectic pace of Rome.
We visited the Trevi Fountain, one of Rome’s most celebrated sights, which was the terminus of the Aqua Virgo aqueduct. The Trevi is at its best at night, when the fountain is illuminated. Throw a coin into the spray to ensure your return to this wonderful city!
We went to the Spanish Plaza to see the Spanish Steps and the Fontana della Barcaccia, or in English, the Fountain of the Ugly Boat.
DAY 7: Rome City Sightseeing
We set out on a sightseeing tour of Rome. A full-day local guide, well-educated and specially-trained on the history and culture of Rome, accompanied the group.
We visited the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill and Vatican museums.
We were able to marvel at Michelangelo’s Last Judgment and brightly-colored ceiling frescoes in the Sistine Chapel.
We went to visit St. Peter’s Basilica, which houses priceless works of art, in particular Michelangelo’s Pietà and Bernini’s Dove of the Holy Spirit.
We walked through the plaza known as Piazza Navona. Built on the site of Domitian’s Stadium and lined with grand buildings and trendy cafes, this oblong square is adorned with statues and fountains, notably Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers.
We entered the “Temple to All the Gods,” which is one of the better-preserved and most harmonious monuments of antiquity.
DAY 8: Rome, Free Time
We enjoyed free time in Rome. Some took in sights while others shopped, considering Italy is famous worldwide for its fashion designers such as Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Gianni Versace and Moschino.
DAY 9: Departure
Fortunately, the airplane trip back home went smoothly and everyone had a great time!