I remember sitting in my freshman geography class enthralled by the pictures of Italian Renaissance art and ornate architecture in Venice and Rome. I fell in love, and I vowed that one day I would see these things for myself. I had no idea that my trip would come so soon after my first introduction to the beauty of Italy.
I cannot imagine what was going through my choir director’s head when he decided to take seventy-five high schoolers to a foreign country, but I am grateful. We spent an afternoon learning several religious choral pieces to sing in the gorgeous cathedrals of Italy. After a couple parent meetings, we were fully informed and ready to go. We packed our bags and were off with the group from American Classic Tours.
We met at the airport late Wednesday afternoon for hours of travel ahead. We flew a ten hour Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt where we spent seven hours sleeping on airport benches and playing games. From Germany we took a short flight to Venice, boarded our buses and arrived at the Restaurant Al Scalzi for dinner. We had our first taste of true Italian carbs (many more would follow) then returned to our hotel, the Titan Inn Treviso.
The following morning we took a water taxi to the Basilica San Marco. After an hour of rehearsal in the depths of the old Church we sang after Mass. It was an incredible experience, which would only be topped in Rome. We explored Doge’s Palace and blown glass at Murano Island before returning to our hotel.
On Saturday morning we loaded our luggage and took the four hour bus ride to Pisa. We explored the leaning tower, the baptistery, and the cathedral. We ate at a small restaurant with a view of the leaning tower out the window- definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
From Pisa we drove another five hours to ancient Rome. I had quickly fallen in love with Venice, but I could tell upon arrival that Rome would be just as spectacular. We arrived at the Pinewood Hotel, unloaded, and headed back out to the city for a late dinner of still more carbohydrates.
On Tuesday we toured the Coliseum by foot and took a bus tour of the rest of the Victorio Emanuelle Roman Forum. The most powerful part of the trip for me came on this tour when I realized that the same streets that I was walking on had been explored by the Apostle Paul thousands of years ago. In the same city he had witnessed and risked his life for the name of the Savior. After the tour we ventured to Vatican City to walk through the Vatican museum. The highlight of this was, obviously, the Sistine Chapel. This was the reason that I had wanted to come to Rome, and it was everything that I had expected. There is no way to describe the awe that one feels upon entering the chapel. I am amazed simply remembering the beautiful ceiling and the frescos along the walls. Upon exiting the Vatican Museum, we walked to St. Peter’s Square where we were privileged enough to see and hear the Pope himself speaking to priests from various countries. It was fascinating. He responded to each priest in the foreigner’s own language.
The highlight of our tour was Wednesday, when we sang in St. Peter’s Basilica. How can you top that? We didn’t try. We left the next morning for our long journey home. Italy was everything I had expected and more. It truly is beautiful- Bella Italia.
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