Ciao Tutti Voi!
We travelers have returned from our educational tour. A highlight for me was going to the Island of Elba for the first time. Elba, Latin Ilva, island off the west coast of Italy, in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Elba has an area of 86 square miles (223 square km) and is the largest island of the Tuscan Archipelago. It is famous as Napoleon’s place of exile in 1814–15. The Etruscans mined iron ore at Elba at the end of the Iron Age (about the 8th century BC which was then called Aethalia (“Smoky Place”) by the Greeks, probably because of the smelting furnaces. The Romans, who called it Ilva, also mined iron ore and established a naval base on the island. The Etruscans used all of the trees on this Island for their iron fusing. Indeed, Elba made the fortune of the Etruscans, the most sophisticated among the Italic civilizations. Since ancient times the island has looked so rich in minerals that it has always been known as the legendary island of endless mineral resources. Geologists scratch their heads at the amount of layers of diverse rock and mineral formations.
The history is layered as you can imagine. The breathtaking island is dense with trees now and the rich layers of history were peeled back for us as our guides, Riccardo and Lucca, explained everything as we toured the whole island. It was compelling and truly at every angle there was a stunning ocean view. We went for inspirational evening hike, mined our own iron and fool’s gold- with hammers, climbed on rocks and combed a few beaches, and we observed the very kind local folks living their daily lives. There are 30,000 people and eight different dialects…This is a place that needs further exploration!
Perhaps the best part of the tour was sharing it with some great travelers and our wonderful bus driver, Maurizio. Maurizio helps me to make a lot of things happen. I was excited to share all of the wonders of Urbino, Assisi, Elba, Popolonia, and Florence with my students. I loved the pleasure of their company, their sense of wonder and curiousity, their sense of humor and infectious laughter, and their effervescent personalities. We had a lot of fun while learning within the “Global Classroom” and we learned a lot about each other. I couldn’t have asked for more.
We are now finishing the Art and Architecture class and making our preparations for our departure on Saturday. The days are full, emotions are rising, and we all are in disbelief this journey together is about to close its chapter…
Thank you for reading,
Lots of love from the sunny lagoon where Spring has fully arrived!
FVCC Semester in Venice, Director
Words cannot even begin to describe the last 10 days. Pomposa, Ravenna, Urbino, Elba, Populonia, Florence, Oh my goodness! So many churches and palaces and just plain beautiful roads. Around every bend you could see spring sprouting out and lighting the land with colors of pink and white floral and bright orange and yellow fruits on the trees, just wow. It was quite the breath of fresh air.
My favorite place we went was in Assisi, The Basilica Di San Francesco. It was so neat learning about San Francesco before going there, and then to see his life painted on the walls parallel to Christs and to see the things he gave up, the things he did, it was so surreal and stimulating. The whole place was completely silent (except for our “oohs” and “awes” that got shut down every time by the security guard enforcing the silence, haha). We got to go down underneath the Church itself and see where San Francesco was buried and even write a little note or prayer on a piece of paper if we chose to send to him in Heaven (as it is said anyway). I could have sat down there for hours probably. The room was lit up by candles and there were rows of pews facing the center where his burial stones were. There were red flowers that lit up the room brighter than even the candles. The silence and holiness of the place washed over you in an incredible way, religious or not, it sends a wave of emotion through you to be down there.
In Populonia we got some free time to play on the beach and we even did some night swimming. The sand felt absolutely amazing under our bare feet and the water was perfectly clear and not even that cold (compared to Glacier anyway haha). We spent some time exploring some Etruscan ruins and just walking around and taking everything in. There is something so special and striking about walking around a place that was built before Christ was even born! Thousands of years ago these buildings and tombs where built in the same places we stood, by hands so similar to our own, it’s extraordinary to think about really.
Today, we finished our tour and entered our last week in the Venice program. The 10-day tour was intense and we got to see so many incredible places.
Our first day, Saturday, we drove through Ravena and we slept in Urbino. Our hotel was right on the side of the Palazzo Ducale which we visited on Monday. It isn’t as splendorous as the Doge’s Palace in Venice, but it is also impressive. It is enormous and we didn’t visit it all, but we visited many rooms with paintings and saw many doors with beautifully crafted wood work called intarsia.
After leaving Urbino, we went to Assisi. We got there Sunday afternoon. What a cute city! As we were driving, we had a great look at the whole cityscape. The city’s most known sightseeing attraction is the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi and we visited this monument on Monday. The church has three levels which results in three different indoor churches. The one in the “ground” is the smallest one and it is also where the Saint was buried. The middle church is the biggest, the most decorated of the three, and it has different separate rooms. The top one is big, it also has paintings and wall decorations, and it is right in front of the garden. After we were done visiting the church, we went to visit a local ceramic manufacturer, not a larger scale producer. They have five workers in total and two of them explained the process to us and we watched another one doing some paintings on the ceramic (it is all hand done paintings). We also tasted some spreads, chocolates, and biscuits which were all delicious. To finish the day, we watched a beautiful sunset from our hotel rooftop.
We left early morning on Tuesday to go to the Island of Elba. We drove to the “ship stop” and we got on a huge boat where there was a coffee shop, a little arcade, a relaxing lounge with couches and also just regular seats. The boat ride was an hour long and even though I got motion sickness, I enjoyed the experience. After we got to the Island, we met with our guides, Ricardo and Lucca, and went to the Forte Falcone, an old city forte. From there, we could better see some of the Island. To have a good look at another part of the Island, we went on a walk-hike to Enfola afterwards. We were able to see the Island from different angles and all of them just proved the beauty of the place.
On Wednesday, we went to San Vicenzo (Populonia). We spent two days there which we used to see some ancient Etruscan ruins and tombs. Our hotel was in front of the beach and some of us were able to swim in the Tyrrhenian Sea. The group also surprised me with a fun bachelorette party. They were so thoughtful with the details and we shared lots of laughs.
On Friday, we arrived at our last stop: Florence. Except for Susan, we all went there in February to watch a soccer game, so we got to know some of the city. Still, we saw many different things and Susan showed us some excellent places that she knew from when she used to live there. Among many exceptional pieces of art, we saw David from Michelangelo and The Birth of Venus from Botticelli and these were special moments for me because I have studied both artists in middle and high school and I have “known” both pieces for so long. There is something magic that happens when we stand in front of a building or a piece of art that we have only seen before in history books; and I love this magic.
As we enter our last week, I have to start to say bye to everything and everybody who made this journey unforgettable. I am grateful for all my Italian teachers whom with patience, helped me to improve in speaking this beautiful language, for my roommates and the rest of the group, who made me feel comfortable and helped me to grow, for Anna and Stefania for their knowledge, kindness and fun moments, for Mauricio who drove us safely throughout our tour, and for Susan whom has taken such good care of all of us. Besides Arts, Architecture, and History, I was also able to learn about life from her. She is always working with us all, trying to do the best for the group, and very understanding with each one of us. Thank you all, and thank you also to everyone who has been reading our blog through our journey.
This past week has been amazing! We have seen and done so much. The first two cities we visited were Urbino and Assisi. Both cities were fortress/ Castle-like cities, so it was awesome to travel back to the time of knights and castles for a little bit. The mountainous landscape view from the Castle walls of Urbino was magnificent. One of the dukes of Urbino, whose name was Federico da Monte Feltro, was a pretty awesome character. He was so loved by the people he would walk around among the people without an entourage. He was an excellent military leader, who never lost a battle. There are many paintings and portraits of him throughout Italy.
The Island of Elba was probably my favorite destination of our trip. It’s a little island off the Western coast of Italy. We had two guides, Ricardo and Luca, who showed us around the island and taught us a little bit about the history of the place. We visited a fortress, which was opened just for us. We also went for a hike and got to see some more amazing scenery. We spent a little time one of the many of the beaches on the island. Elba used to be a spot where lots of mining took place dating back to the Ancient Etruscan civilization. The iron that was extracted from the earth was the purest around.
After Elba, we spent a couple nights in a town back on the mainland called San Vicenzo. We visited some Etruscan ruins, and then stayed three days in Florence. We went to the top of the Duomo and visited some other museums of the Medici family.
Now we are home and beginning to clean and organize our apartments. It was an amazing trip throughout Italy with a bunch of great people.
The last ten days, me and my fellow travelers have been on a tour of Italy, and it has been life changing. It is impossible to sum up an entire country in a little blog, but here are a few of my most cherished experiences and moments!
MAURIZIO was our lovely bus driver. He helped set the tone right away for our tour! When I handed him my heavy bag, he said “She brings the washing machine, huh?” and we all giggled. I found it easy to talk to him about a lot of things, he was so easy going! He is such a steady person, but still knows how to have a good time! He participated in making little music videos, bantered with us back and forth, let us put temporary tattoos on him, and even wore a dandelion crown that Amber had made. He was game to participate in fun memories with us, and it really meant a lot! It was a hard goodbye to make when the time came.
My big highlight of the tour was the island of Elba. It was one of Susan’s many surprises. We drove our little bus onto a ferry, which carried us to the edge of the island. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything more majestic. From a distance, the general look of the island was pale orange and red houses, thick broccoli-looking trees, and beaches and beaches. We met our tour guides, who ended of being some of my favorite people! Riccardo and Luca! They were very genuine, humble, and happy spirited people. They greeted us where the ferry docked and then we all hiked up a small hill to the top of the city to see the view. It was breath taking!! You could see in almost every direction! They showed us every side of the island for two days, stopping to do some hiking, sigh seeing, eating, and even a bit of mining. I have a whole bag in my suite case full of rocks! It was so much fun to soak up some nature, splash in the sea, and joke around with some good-humored locals! Thank you Rikki and Luca for everything!
We also went to Florence again, and I love Florence with all of my heart. While we were there, we went to the open air market a couple time, saw gorgeous churches, and met up with Elliott again! Ate some Chinese food, and went to Karaoke! It was a blast! It was good to connect with someone there! But my most memorable activity in Florence was when me and my group climbed the Duomo. If you don’t know what that is, google it, its gorgeous. Or better yet, just come to Florence and scale it yourself:) There were 463 steps to get to the top of the dome. The stairs went in the craziest directions, due to the dome shape, but the sometimes-freaky climb was worth it. I could have stayed up there for hours and hours, soaking up miles of beauty in every direction, it was magical, and the absolute perfect way to end our tour!
I wish I could take you blog-readers moment by moment and tell you about every detail of our tour, but there is too much to tell! I could write a book! I am so grateful to Susan and Maurizio for planning the trip, and to all the other donors and parents who made that tour possible! I have a broader perspective of not only Italy, but of this beautiful world! Ahhh, Italy… how am I supposed to leave you?
Italy is like milk and cookies, a delicious treat for the heart, body and soul. All of the astounding eye candy and history behind every stone tower, every stone on the path to a church, every stone used to build a house or cobble the streets is astounding.
We have just finished our tour of Italy and it has just made me love it all the more. Susan set up an amazing tour with our fantastic and hilarious bus driver Maurizio, they took us on a merry journey to the sea, to cities, and to beautiful islands. One of my favorite stops was on the Island of Elba, it was so amazingly beautiful and tranquil, plus our guides didn’t hurt the experience at all. We had two fantastic guides by the names of Luca and Riccardo, or Ricky ticky ticky, who toured us around and gave us some new experiences. Our hike was amazing and full of interesting things, such as a wild boar that ran across the path in front of Anica, freaking her out enough to turn white, big eyed, do an abrupt turn and speed walk/ jog back up the path, causing Abby to sprint as far away as possible with Amber and find a large stone to either throw at the boar should it appear again or bludgeon it. Who knows? She wound up carrying the rock all the way back to the bus and scaring Maurizio (and Amber). There were the old tunnels and structures that used to house weapons supplies or have a turret that used to point out to the sea to defend from pirates and other invading forces. There was so much to see and too little time to experience everything.
We visited a castle, and ran around in its stables/ dungeons, whatever you want to call them, and learned about the Duke of Montefeltro, who after losing his right eye in battle, had the bridge of his nose removed to be able to see anything coming at him from the right side. He was a beloved Duke who visited his citizens without body guards yet never lost a battle in his entire career. We also visited another walled city on a hill called Assisi, where we stayed for two nights and made a few music videos. Even Maurizio participated in the tom foolery and danced down the stairs of our beautiful little hotel. There was much laughter and fun to be had as well as a couple of lovely sunsets and great food.
Florence was a blast, it was amazing to see how the hotel staff interacted with Susan and all of us and creating a great environment. We visited the David, as well as the many “Slaves” that Michelangelo had not had the time to finish. There was so much history and backstory to every piece in the museum, including the remakes of many famous statues, as the museum was previously an art school. I must say that the hike up to the Duomo is well worth the 463 stairs just for the view over the entire city. I would label the whole experience as amazing or a success and I truly enjoyed myself learning, broadening my horizon and seeing so much.
Thanks for tuning in! Adara