I acknowledge the Catawba College Honors Program for providing the course and opportunity for me to travel to Italy. Thank you, Grandma Pat for allotting money for me to be able to experience a journey of a lifetime. I am thankful for my classmates and professors for making this experience memorable. Also, this trip would not have been as special without our tour guide, Giorgio, who shared his knowledge and passion so that we could view Italy in different perspectives.
Saturday, March 1
That was the longest flight I have ever been on! As much as I tried to sleep, I only got about three hours of sleep. I was woken up to the most beautiful sight. Jamie woke me up to show me something outside our window. I could not believe what I saw. Our plane was flying over the Swiss Alps! They were covered with snow. It is nice being able to look at nature from a different perspective. Without flying, I would have never seen the tops of these mountains. I hope to one day go skiing on the Alps. Italy reminds me of North Carolina because both have beaches and mountains. I am thankful for this opportunity and I cannot wait to fall in love with Italy and eat a ton of food!
Sunday, March 2
Today was our first official day in Rome! Although I was really tired from being on a plane for what seemed like forever, I embraced this city the best of my abilities. Our group met our tour director Giorgio. With him, he took us to the train station, a basilica, many ruins, and several historical sites. It is unbelievable how much history is this city. As I am walking down the streets, I was thinking about the people who lived in Rome and walked these same streets several centuries ago. There is so much to do and see in Rome. I know I won't be able to see everything, but I want to see as much as possible. One of my favorite moments today was seeing the Trevi Fountain at night to take pictures and throw a coin in the fountain. My other favorite moment was eating my first Italian meal. After eating the appetizer, I thought I was finished. I had no idea there were three more courses, including gelato. My new goal on this trip is to eat as much as possible without getting sick!
Monday, March 3
When I think of Rome, I think of the coliseum. Visiting the coliseum was the major part of our tour today. I knew it was big, but I had no idea it was that big. I learned a lot of things about it that I did not know before. I had no clue they used an under stage compartment to house sets, equipment, and animals. As I was looking around the coliseum, I kept imagining what it would have been like to witness a play or gladiators fighting in real life. This evening was very eventful. Jeffrey, Jamie, Rachel, and I wanted to visit a cathedral; however, we took the wrong bus. What we thought was going to be a quick bus ride across town ended up being longer than an hour. Eventually, we made our way to the Trevi Fountain and decided to get a glass of wine and a dessert. We had no idea the dessert and wine was going to cost 20 Euros. I was shocked and angry, but there was nothing I could do. This was a learning experience. Although we had a busy and eventful day, I enjoyed staying up till nearly 3:00 AM with my group. We are getting along so well and that is what is making this trip so enjoyable.
Tuesday, March 4,
So far, this has been my favorite day in Italy. Our group received the best surprise by being told we were able to tour the Sistine Chapel. All my life, I have wanted to view it. I was disappointed last week when we were told that we were not going to be able to see it due to the Pope resigning and the Cardinals needing to start their conclave. Luckily, they do not meet until Tuesday. The Sistine Chapel was way better than I anticipated. Seeing Michelangelo's work in real life was surreal. The ceiling looked 3D and his famous paintings took my breath away to the point I almost cried. I officially believe that the Vatican is one of the most beautiful places in the world. I have no words to describe St. Peter's basilica other than "wow." The basilica was overflowing with faith, hope, love, art, sculptures, and music. It felt as if I were in heaven. The most amazing part about the basilica was climbing the stairs to the very top of the dome. I climbed 321 stairs to get to the top. The view was worth the aching legs. I could stay up there for days to watch people on the streets and admire the view of the city. It is bizarre to think how I traveled to the Vatican when there was no pope. This has not happened in 600 years! There were so many news representatives surrounding the Vatican. The Cardinals arrived to the Vatican this week to prepare for the conclave. I loved being in the center of historical moments. Another reason why this day was so amazing was because we visited a catacomb. Prior to last week, I had no idea they existed. Catacombs are the remains of burial sites used by Christians. While general people were buried there, several popes and martyrs were also buried there. I found it interesting that there are sound 500,000 sites in the 30 mile catacomb. I cannot wait to tell my family and friends about this awesome day!
Wednesday, March 5
Florence is different from Rome because it is smaller, more expensive, and less populated. I rarely saw a bus and fetching a taxi was a challenge. I had a nice three hour nap on the way to Florence. When we arrived in Florence, we went on a tour downtown. We visited the baptistery, the duomo, and the basilica. The Santa Maria Novella is the fourth largest basilica in the world. I can say I have seen two of the largest four basilicas in the world. Afterward, we toured the streets and learned about the history of Florence. The leather shop was my favorite part of the day, I learned how to distinguish the differences between real and fake leather. I was in purse heaven! I bought a big, brown and black purse. It was a splurge, but it was discounted and I had my initials burned on it with gold. I love my purse! That evening, we ate dinner at a really nice restaurant. The best part was the chocolate, puffy dessert. At dinner, I learned how to make Lemoncello from Dr. Sabo. He explained how it is basically a chemical reaction between lemon zest, peels, and vodka. Later that night, we played Catch Phrase as a group. I have really enjoyed being on this trip with this group. We all get along and we are making a lot of memories. The funniest part of the day was going to McDonald's at 1:00 AM with Dr. VA. The professors have made this trip awesome!
Thursday, March 6
This was the best food day of the entire trip! We visited a house in Tuscany that had a tower that was built in the 1100’s. The house was beautiful and surrounded by olive trees and fields. The family hosting us taught us how to make homemade pasta. Each person was given an egg, a cup of pasta flour, and a dash of salt. After mixing, we put it in plastic to make the dough rise. While waiting for the dough, we made the filling for our raviolis with ricotta cheese, Parmigiano cheese, and spinach. We made enough raviolis for each person to have four. The sauce on the raviolis was made of butter and sage. While we were making homemade fettuccine, ravioli, and angel hair pasta, the husband made the sauces and appetizers. The cooking class was a learning experience. Not only did I learn how to make an amazing meal, but I learned the history behind cooking and cooking tips. One tip I learned from this class was to use organic eggs and cheese to make better meals. I also learned how Tuscan food originated and how it is different from other regions in Italy. After we ate our delicious meal, we toured the Accademia to see Michelangelo's David. Although I do not have much knowledge about art, I enjoyed the museum because it was informational and beautiful. Later, we ate at a family-style restaurant. I have never eaten so much food in my life! The waiter kept bringing food to our table! Our appetizer was a meat plate, three different soups, and a salad. The first course was ravioli with tomato sauce and pasta with meat sauce. For the second course, the waiter brought a huge plate of meats that included chicken, rabbit, beef, lamb, pork, and veal. My favorite was the veal, but I enjoyed trying new types of meats. For dessert we had biscotti and holy wine. I was surprised that our meal with 400 Euros; however, drinks were included and I ate so much food to the point I was almost sick! I am trying not to think about all the food I have eaten. It might be a lot, but it is worth it! The amazing food has made this trip so awesome! I cannot wait to use the recipes from the cooking class to share with my family and friends.
Friday, March 7
On our way back to Rome, we made two surprise visits. First, we stopped at a vineyard for a wine tasting. I was really excited about this because I have wanted to partake in a wine tasting since I turned 21. I think it is pretty cool that my first wine tasting was in Italy. When we arrived at our tables, we had an appetizer and four glasses of wine. Our leader taught us the proper way to drink wine and how to use all our senses while pairing foods with wine. We each had to determine which foods went with each wine. After our appetizer, we tried four more wines with amazing lasagna and soup made by our leader’s grandma. Along with learning how to pair wines with food, we also learned which grapes and ingredients make wines different. One thing I enjoyed about the wine tasting was being able to try the wines that were for sale. I ordered Chianti, which will be shipped to America in a few weeks. The second visit was at a medieval village. One of my favorite things about this trip is thinking about the historical significance of the places we visited. While walking through the village, I thought about the people who used to live here. Some of the shops in the village were similar to what I would imagine they were during medieval times. There were bakeries, sewing shops, and food shops. After spending an hour at the medieval village, we completed our journey back to Rome. On the way, we played the most awesome game of Catch Phrase! I cannot imagine what this trip would have been like with other students. The seven people in our group acted like a group during this trip. We all had fun, got along, and made many memories. For dinner, we ate a nice restaurant near the square. I cherished this meal because it was our last dinner in Italy. I did not care that the meal was a little pricey because I wanted to enjoy my caprese salad and spaghetti!
Saturday, March 8, I woke up this morning with many emotions. I was tired due to traveling, eating, not sleeping, and being busy the whole week. I was also excited about going home and telling my friends and family about the trip. However, I was dreading the flight and saying goodbye to our tour guide, Giorgio. Without Giorgio, I would not have learned as much nor had such a great time. Being a local, he was able to provide factual and interesting information. We had a total of nine and a half hours on a plane, plus time for customs and security. It was such a long day! I tried my best to not sleep on the flight home, so I could sleep well that night. I was impressed with the plane because I had a personal television, which allowed me to watch Argo, Lincoln, and Life of Pi. During our flight, I reflected on my journey in Italy. I was amazed at how much I saw and everything I ate! My stomach was so bloated due to the large amounts of food. Travel calories don’t count, right? I have already planned meals that I am going to cook for my family and friends. I want to share my new knowledge of Italian cooking and prove to others that I can cook! This experience was definitely worth the money! I was blessed to be able to take part of this opportunity to take an interesting and challenging class that traveled to Italy for spring break! Out of my four years in college, this was by far the best spring break! I hope putting a coin in the Trevi Fountain will allow me to return to Italy in a few years! Chao Italy! I cannot wait to return!