Tartans Travel the World

The Academy of the Holy Cross gives students the opportunity for new experiences first-hand whenever possible. Having a global perspective of the needs in other countries, and providing service to meet these needs, enables our students to become women “who responsibly meet the social, spiritual and intellectual challenges of the world."


Italy 2017

June 27, 2017 

It was our last day in Italy so we made the most of it! We hopped on our bus for our first stop, Verona. This is the town that features Juliet's balcony from Romeo and Juliet. Our local tour guide walked us through the town showing us many great highlights including Castelvecchio-a castle and a fortress built by the Scaligeri family in the 14th century, the Piazza Bra' the Roman arena, the Piazza Erbe, the Church of St. Anastasia, and of course Juliet's house and balcony. Shakespeare's story is based on the real family feud of the Montecchi and Cappello families of Verona and the balcony and house is that of the Cappello family. Was there really a Juliet? That seems to be debatable but it was fun to see the balcony and statue of Juliet and imagine their love story. We had free time for shopping and lunch before we were back on the bus for our next stop, Vicenza. Here we were able to see the work of Andrea Palladio, an influential architect who based his designs off of Roman architecture including the Justice Center and the Teatro Olimpico, an incredible indoor theatre still used today. 

We left Vicenza and headed back to Padua. We were dropped off in town for some last minute shopping before we went to our farewell dinner. Arrividerci Italy! Until next time...

June 26, 2017 

An exciting, long day awaited us as we hopped on the train for Venice this morning.  Once in Venice, a boat ride brought us to Piazza San Marco where we met our guide, Marco, who began our tour at the beautiful Doge's Palace, that included the grand meeting rooms, judicial hearing rooms and the prison. We learned about the Bridge of Sighs ( so named by Lord Byron) and the dreary life of those sentenced to death. 

On that cheery note, we left the Palace and entered St. Mark's Church - home of more gold leaf mosaics than we could imagine!

Our guide dropped us off at a glass factory where we were entertained by a master glass blower before heading into the shop of multicolored delights. Traveling the intricate mesh of sidewalks and bridges beyond the square let us see just how the Venitians get around in their water-filled life. We had opportunities to eat at little cafes and shop at stalls and stores all along the way. No trip to Venice would be complete without a gondola ride through the canals, and we enjoyed the trip under the able guidance of our gondoliers. 

After a day of taking in all of Venice's history, art and atmosphere, we caught our return train and called it a day.

 

June 25, 2017 

Today we reached Padua, known as Padova, in time to tour the Scrovegni Chapel built in the 14th century which house the floor-to-ceiling frescoes by Giotto. These well-preserved frescoes tell the story of Anna and Joachim, Mary and Joseph, and Jesus.

We then experienced a walking tour of the center of town where we saw the market squares, city hall and the University of Padua's first building called the Bo. The first documentation of a woman graduating from university with a degree in Philosophy was from the University  of Padua.

Just as it started to rain, we arrived at the Basilica of St. Anthony. Our visit there included the Chapel of Relics (which hold St Anthony's tongue, jaw and vocal cords - it was said he was a powerful preacher who could be heard by 30,000 people at one time), the sarcophagus in another part of the church which was surrounded by notes, prayers and photos of those seekers no his intervention, and attended Mass with locals and visitors from all over the world- a great reminder of our universal Church

A quick bus ride led us to our hotel to drop off our bags, then return to the town square known as the Fruit Market for dinner.

As the sun was setting, we walked back to the hotel in the cool night air.

 

June 24, 2017 

We were out the door early today for our trip to Siena and San Gimignano. We drove through the beautiful rolling hills of Tuscany or Toscana as they say. The scenery was exactly what you might see in the movies--picturesque landscape with abundant olive trees and vineyards. When we arrived in Siena we first went to the church of St. Dominic where the head of St Catherine is on display as well as her finger. And yes, it is her real head and finger. Relics were VERY important at the time. We then walked the town with our tour guide. The town was right out of the Middle Ages. Our tour guide told us about an upcoming horse race that takes place in the middle of town twice a year where the neighborhoods compete against each other. We had time for lunch and a little shopping before we were back on the bus and heading to San Gimignano. San Gimignano is another Medieval town that actually has 17 Medieval towers nicknamed the “Medieval Manhattan.” We had some good shopping time there and then headed back to Florence. Today is the Feast of St. John the Baptist who is the patron Saint of Florence so it is big holiday here. After a brief rest at the hotel we headed out to dinner and then came back because right outside our hotel room is where they were setting off fireworks for the holiday. And what a spectacular display they were!! One of the best displays any of us have ever seen! What a way to end our last night in Firenze!

June 23, 2017

Today's excursion was all about Firenze - Florence. After breakfast at the hotel, we began a three-hour walking tour of the old, historic city with our guide, Roberto. We started at the Medici palace which is now a government center.  We meandered through the streets and alleys, stopping at historic homes, the Duomo, and several galleries before entering the Academy to see Michelangelo's David, along with several of his other large scale sculptures. 

We then returned to the business center and visited a leather tanning shop. A lovely British lady gave us a lesson in the historical and modern processes of creating leather clothing, shoes and accessories. As a bonus for taking the tour, the tannery offered us a discount on all leather goods and free gold leaf engraving. It was a successful sales tactic!  The morning was a wonderful journey through the streets as we learned about government, history, art, religion and leather!

Following lunch, we had three hours to visit the gold and silver shops on the Pont de Veccio, as well as two other open air markets. Some students even purchased items from such well-known Italian stores as H&M and Zara. 

We returned to the hotel for an hour's rest, then heard out again for a leisurely dinner and a gelato stop on the way back.

Tomorrow is a big holiday here in Florence - the feast of St. John the Baptist, the patron saint of the city. Banks, offices and many stores will be closed and there will parades and celebrations throughout the city! We will be on a day trip to Sienna and San Gemiano but will be back in time for the evening festival and the fireworks, which will be shot off from the river bank across from our hotel. It's a great time to be in Firenze!



June 22, 2017

Arrividerci Roma, Bon Giorno Firenze!  Today we had to say goodbye to the beautiful city of Rome to head to our next destination, Florence. On the way, we were lucky to be able to spend our afternoon in the town of Assisi built on a hill in the beautiful countryside. The town was incredibly picturesque and pristine. We started at the Basilica of Saint Clare where we saw Saint Clare's body, an incorruptible, encased. Then we headed to Saint Francis Basilica, which was an incredible structure on a hill with beautiful artwork depicting the life of Saint Francis and saw the tomb where he was buried. 

After lunch, it was onto Florence. We checked into our hotel on the Arno River and headed out to dinner to a quaint local spot. On the way to dinner we passed by the Basilica of Santa Croce (Holy Cross). That made us feel right at home. After dinner, we took a walk around the city to get a feel for the layout. We saw the magnificent Duomo where Michelangelo and Galileo are buried. We walked across the Ponte Vecchio bridge where we heard street musicians and where all the gold and silver shops are. The shops were closed, but don't worry we will be back tomorrow!!

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