If there is any advice that I can give to an individual wishing to travel to Italy, it would be that a week is not enough time to see all that one would wish to see and that a school group trip, though it is cheaper than a trip made on one’s own, produces more problems than benefits.
For parents traveling with the school group, the biggest problem is that a parent is expected to ensure that the children on the group do not get into trouble. A parent is supposed to know where the students that they are watching are at all times and the parent is responsible if the child gets into any trouble. In other words, the parent is supposed to be a chaperone.
Another problem produced by being associated with a school group is that inevitably, someone in the group will have been appointed the group leader, the head chaperone, the group coordinator, or as I like to call them, that idiot that just messed up everything but is trying to cover it up by shouting at everyone else. These people usually have had limited, if any, travel experience and tend to put the trip in jeopardy because of it.
I had the pleasure of participating in one such trip last February. My school choir had decided to travel up and down Italy; performing concerts as we went (as if the natives would enjoy hearing teenagers from Baton Rouge, LA sing songs in badly pronounced Italian). We planned a year in advance to travel during the week given to us for Mardi Gras vacation.
When the day came for us to leave, we met at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, only to find that our flights had ban cancelled. By some miracle of god, we made it into Milan. When we were able to spend a few days traveling the Italian countryside, we came to the realization that we were spending more time on the bus, traveling from city to city, than we were exploring the cities. We were always rushed to be on time for this tour or that meal that we were never able to slow down and absorb what we were seeing.
One of the best moments that I experienced in Italy was when we were visiting Lucca. We arrived in the town just as it was slowing down for the afternoon siesta. The only thing that we could do was sit and eat a sandwich at a small cafÃ© that was still open. I was finally able to appreciate the extraordinary trip that I was on.
By far, the greatest moment that I spent in Italy was on a Saturday evening at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City. My choir group was allowed to sing for a Latin mass on February 20th in the basilica. The choir was also allowed to receive communion during the mass.
That was truly a life changing moment for me. After I went back home to Baton Rouge, I began going to mass again. I would tell anyone planning to travel to another country that one week is not a long enough time to spend there. I wish I could have had more time to see moments like that.
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