Saturday, January 22, 2011

Back in the States!

Home- Jan. 22, 2011

We are back in North Carolina after a great trip to Italy. The only real snag we hit was our five hour plane delay on the way out of the country at JFK. We got to play in two exciting soccer matches against Italian club teams. We also got to take in the history and brilliance of Tuscany and Rome. The team bonded in a way that most teams are not able to bond due to this trip, and it will be something we remember for our lifetimes.
Ciao Italia!

Last day in Rome

Rome- Jan. 19, 2011
Courtney Hedgecock (first-year), Michelle Lawler (first-year), and Katelyn Todd (first-year)
Today our wakeup call was at 8. We headed out to the Vatican today. We were supposed to go yesterday but most everyone wanted to see the Pope. We left the hotel at 9:15 and quickly passed through Vatican security. We made our way the building where we would see the Pope. There were many different groups from all around the world. Many who were on pilgrimages.
The service started around 10:30 and lasted until around 11:15. During the service we discovered that the Pope speaks many different languages. At the end he blessed us, our families, and our future children. Afterwards we had free time. Most chose to see the Vatican museum and the Sistine chapel. After the museum some chose to go shopping. While others went to see Saint Peters Basilica. Then we all regrouped at 8pm for dinner. As tonight is our last night in Rome we spent the night packing our luggage trying to figure out a way to fit all our souvenirs into our suitcases. Some of us also went to a local restaurant to watch "The Rome Derby," a soccer match between the two large Roman club teams, Roma and Lazio. Roma won the game 2-1. Our departure tomorrow will be at 4am.

Off to go roam around Rome!

Rome-Day 1 (Jan. 18, 2011)
Samantha Hubbard (sophomore), Paige Hamilton (first-year), and Alexi Saganich (first-year)

As we arrived in Rome we took a wonderful panoramic bus tour of the city. Who would ever think that one city could contain so much history?
We were able to see the ancient sites of the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the balcony from which Mussolini gave many historical speeches, the REAL Caesar’s Palace, as well as St. Peter’s Basilica and Bernini’s St. Peter’s square located in the smallest country in the world, Vatican City.
The Colosseum, wow. The age of the gladiators was sitting right there in front of us all to see. Gnashing lion’s teeth, Caesar, gladiators fighting for freedom they would probably never see. It is hard to take it all in that that was a way of life.
Also, the Colosseum is massive. Seeing it in person gives you a completely different perspective. Granted parts of it have been taken apart to use the material for churches in the city, it is a part of an architectural time period that has shaped our buildings today. They didn’t have cranes or computer programs to make all of the measurements of the building perfect, but somehow it was.
Most of the coliseums that we watch football and basketball games in use relatively the same interior structure as the ancient Roman Colosseum. The Roman Forum was originally used as a town square. It was a place of legislative offices as well as markets for the town.
It is a shame to see that it is in ruins today, however it was still a wonderful site to see. Our hotel was only a couple of blocks away from the Vatican and from our balcony we could see Michelangelo’s dome on the top of the Basilica.
At night we went on a walking tour of Rome to see the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps. The Pantheon was once used as a temple and is today used as a church. The Trevi Fountain was many of our favorite sites. And we all threw coins into it. We all made it to the top of the Spanish Steps and got to experience a beautiful view of the city lights, including the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Rome is full of history and today was so much to take in!

Friday, January 21, 2011


Rivalries in Siena
MacKenzie Schmidt (first-year), Stephanie Hubbard (first-year), and Bethany Kent (first-year)

Italians seem to love rivalries, and the town of Sienna is no exception.  Our guide Niccola began the tour by explaining the concept of "contradas," or districts, each with their own symbol, color, and flag (not to mention museum).  A person remains a part of the contrada they are born into for life no matter who they marry or where they live later in life.  Buildings are all marked with their contrada's symbol, with only a few neutral areas in the city. 
Churches are considered neutral, and we had the chance to visit both the Duomo, a large cathederal, and St. Catherines, which displays the mummified head and thumb of their patron.  Another neutral area is the Palazzo Publico, which is the town hall along the town square in which the twice yearly Palio is ran. The Palio is the city's most prized tradition, a horse race between the different contradas. 
After visiting the major sites of the town with Niccola we had free time to explore the town before the long ride (read: long nap time) back to Montecatini. The hotel served yet another delicious dinner before we had free time prior to curfew.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Florence and Il Poggio Winery

Florence and Il Poggio Winery
Anna Trakas (First Year), Cassy Khouri (First Year), and Amanda Orsino (First Year) 01-15-11

Another early wakeup call at 7:30 AM was tough.  Breakfast had the same choices as usual, so we ate and were on the road to Florence by 9:00.  After a short nap on the bus, we walked to Piza Della Republic  where we met our tour guide Bernardo, surely one of the most enthusiastic tour guides ever.
He took us to Brunelleschi’s Duomo, Baptistery, Giotto’s Belltower, Signoria Square, the Ponte Vecchio and The Plaza Publico. All of these building are from the Renaissance era. While we were at the Ponte Vecchio, Bernardo made it clear that he and the rest of the Florentines are grateful of the American Army for not bombing Florence.
After the two hour tour we had free time, and most of everyone went to see Michelangelo’s David in the Academy for 6.50 Euros. Then we all went our own ways to eat, shop and do whatever we desired. The shops were very nice as well as the people.
The group met at 3:45 to walk back to the bus that then took us to the Il Poggio winery. First we were given three white wines, and then three red wines.  After that we tried a Vin Santo which was a dessert wine. We also tried their olive oil and balsamic vinegar with plain bread and spiced bread. Lastly, for dessert we were given cantucci. Once everyone made their purchases we rode back to the hotel for dinner.  

Lucca and 2nd Soccer Game

Lucca and 2nd Soccer Game
Tatum Justice (junior), Sabrina Thiel (sophomore), Celeste Pantuso (sophomore)  01-14-11

We woke up in the morning feeling like P. Diddy listening to Italian MTV before we hit the city. We left around 10 am to go to Lucca. When we first arrived we got to pass through one of the remaining Renaissance gates surrounding the city. Once there we took a quick tour of the city. We then rushed to make the train around 1 pm so that we could visit Pisa. While in Pisa the team had fun taking silly pictures of holding the Leaning Tower of Pisa up. We also made a friend who was a student at the University of Pisa. He told us about a fun disco in Montecatini. 
Once we were back in Lucca we had some free time to roam the city and our first stop was an old cathedral from the 12th century. The cathedral was an overwhelming and humbling experience. We saw beautiful art and lit prayer candles. After Lucca we went back to Montecatini and enjoyed a quick nap and a dinner of pasta, steak and greens, and fruit for dessert at the hotel. 
That night we prepared ourselves for our second game at 8:30. The ref was extremely friendly and the team was very competitive making it a great match overall. Although we didn’t win we all played a well-fought game on the wet field. Afterwards we went out for pizza and dessert to end the night.

Friday, January 14, 2011

First day in Montecatini

First day in Montecatini
Kellie Younger (sophomore), Logan Rost (sophomore), Alana Carroll (first-year)  01-13-11

We started our day off at 8:15 am with a lovely breakfast of pastries, fruit, juice and coffee.  We met with our tour guide, Ellen, at 10:00am to start a walking tour of Montecatini Terme.  Ellen gave us a brief history of the area and then we began exploring.  After an hour, we split into two groups, one going to the Italian Market and the other hiking to Montecatini Alto.  We were part of the group that hiked to Montecatini Alto, but we heard high reviews of the market. 
The hike to Montecatini Alto was quite difficult as we followed the winding path up a steep incline.  It had recently rained so avoiding mud puddles was a challenge.  Normally you can take the funicular (an electric railway) up the mountain but it was closed for the winter months.  Once at the top, the view was well worth the hike.  We had an aerial view of Montecatini Terme. We saw the church and fortress while we were there.  We ate lunch at a cafe called Caffe Guisti. We then hiked down a shorter route and rested at the hotel for a few hours. 
The hotel provided dinner at 5:00 pm which consisted of Crespelles Florentine style, Roast pork loin and potatoes, and apple pie for dessert.  Though the food was delicious we tried not to overeat because of our game later in the evening.  We returned to the rooms to put on our uniforms and then left for the game.  We played a Montecatini Club team and won 1-0 thanks to Tatum's goal.  We documented our victory with a picture in their goal after the game.