Monday, August 7, 2017

The Rome Finale

I don't think our last day on tour could have ended any better than it did. Our last day in Rome was big in every way and I can honestly say we saved the best for last. From start to finish, the group have a once in a lifetime experience that I think really ended this tour right.

We started the day off by traveling to the Coliseum where we met our local tour guide Paulo. We got the chance to tour the ancient stadium and the feeling of being inside such a magnificent place was chilling at times. The amount of history that was shared with us was unreal and the students soaked it up. 

After the Coliseum, our tour guide took us out to the Roman Forum. Here we were able to see the ancient ruins of the central part of ancient Rome. It was surreal as we actually visited the very place Julius Ceasar was cremated after his assassination. All throughout the morning I would hear the students saying things that confirmed they were enjoying every minute of the experience.

After a morning of ancient Romans, we ate lunch and then headed to the Vatican. This was another experience that really cannot even be described. At the Vatican, the group met up with an exceptional local guide and toured through the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica. This part of the day in itself was an experience that some people wait their whole life to have. Standing in the Sistine Chapel looking up a Michelangelo's master piece on the ceiling was almost an out of body experience. Once you have seen this in person you realize why pictures can never do it justice.

From the Sistine Chapel, we toured through St. Peter's Basilica. There is no possible way I can explain that feeling of walking into that place. It is almost impossible to comprehend the shear size of that place and the students were quite awe stuck by the experience.

After all this, we ended up back in the city center to have our last meal together. Early on in the trip I worked with Tiziano (our tour director) to do something special on our last night on tour. We were able to schedule our transfer to the hotel to the latest pickup time and this allowed us to stay in the city center of Rome until a little after 10pm. With 3 extra hours in the city, the students were able to take in Rome at night which was the perfect way to end the trip. Street performers, musicians, lights and people moving around and enjoying the evening seemed to give the perfect setting for the students to end the trip.

As I finish this blog, I want to say thank you to everyone who helped support these students on their journey to making this trip happen. 2 years is a long time to commit and wait and I have no doubt that this was well worth every part of the process. There are 26 RHS students that are coming back from Rome today that have been able to experience a once in a lifetime opportunity. I couldn't be more proud of these students and I think you will see a difference in them as they come back and share their experiences.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Day 1 in Rome

Day 1 in Rome was an absolute success for our group. The way that our tour has played out has really been great in allowing the students to get out and explore these cities. Today ended up unfolding into a chance to really explore Rome at the pace the kids wanted to take.

We started our morning busing into the the city center of Rome and stopping to take in our scheduled activity for the day. We tour the catacombs of Rome which were amazing to see. Our local guide was great with explaining the site and the students got the chance to walk around and into some of the ancient tombs that have been excavated now. The experience was great and it started the day in Rome off on a great note.

After our catacombs tour, we made our way down into the city to eat lunch and explore for the rest of the day. Our big scheduled tours take place tomorrow so we basically got the chance to walk the ancient part of the city and pick and choose what we wanted to see. Some students and chaperones were able to take in mass as well. Overall, each group of students have a different story for whole the day unfolded and at supper it was quite amazing to hear how many different places they were able to visit. The Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, Medici Villa, the Holy Stair and a bunch of others are just some of the things I heard tonight as we talked about the impact the day had. I strongly encourage you to ask about how Rome and Florence went because each student will have so much to say!

It is hard to believe but tomorrow will be the last day we are here on tour. The way the tour has unfolded, I have no doubt that we have saved the best for last. We will head out tomorrow morning to meet up with our local guide to see to major sites. We start at the Coliseum and end our day at the Vatican. With a local guide, these two places are sure to leave the kids in awe. 

Overall the groups is doing well. Hopefully I didn't jinx myself but I have to compliment them tonight because every traveler has been on time for every single thing we have done so far on the trip! They have been an amazing group and I know tomorrow they will take in everything they can to end the tour on top of this whole experience.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Transfer to Rome

Today we loaded up and headed out for our last leg of the tour in Rome. On our way we got the chance to take in what might be one of the neatest towns so far on this trip. After 3 hours on the bus, we made our stop in Assisi and it was like stepping back in time.

Assisi is most famous for the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi. The town was originally a Roman out post and the ruins of the Roman castle are still intact. The castle was situated at the very top of the hill and the views of the valley below were breath taking. The streets and buildings are made of old stone and mortar and there is very little traffic both with vehicles and people. It really gave us a chance to feel a little slower pace of life walking the streets. 

Once we arrived we were able to find a place to eat and take in the town before heading to the Cathedral for a personal tour. Our tour guide was great and between the lower church and upper church the students were able to get a history lesson in art and the artists that were commissioned for the painting of the church. We were also able to go downstairs and physically see the tomb where St. Francis is buried which was quite amazing as well. 

After taking all this in, the group loaded back up and headed for Rome. Every student I have talked with today can't believe that we are only 3 days away from being done. The excitement and anticipation for two days in Rome are very easy to see and I have no doubt tomorrow will be a big day. Looking at how the next two days will go, I don't think I could ask for a better way to end the trip. Tomorrow we will tour the catacombs and walk the city center of Rome. On Monday, we will be heading to the Colosseum and the Vatican to finish off the trip. The group is rested up and ready to take these next two days for everything they can give. I can't wait to see what tomorrow will bring and the experiences the students will get to have.

Friday, August 4, 2017

A day in Florence

Well, I think this should be a pretty easy blog post to write tonight. There really isn't must I can say or show to do any kind of justice to the experience the group had today. Overall, this group is firing on all cylinders and our day in Florence was more than I could have hoped for.

We started off by taking a walking tour through the city with our local guide. Her expertise set the stage to allow the students to understand the history of the city and prepare to take in as much as they could in one day. After our tour was finished, the day was set up to allow the small groups to break out and explore the city on their own terms for 6 hours. As they came back to gather before we headed to supper, each group would share their experiences for the day and what they were able to take in. The reason I say this blog entry is so easy to write is because each one of these students have a different story to tell about how their day went in the city. From the food to seeing the statue of David to walking through the Duomo, their excitement and engagement from today was infectious and that's not even close to all the combined things I was able to hear about.

To top off our day in Florence, we ate supper together at a great little Italian place right off one of the main squares in the city. The food was excellent and it seemed to put a great stamp on the end of our day in such a beautiful city. As I sit here and write, I myself have a hard time of really comprehending just how big of an experience we just had. I'm sure that these kids learned more about culture, renaissance history, art and architecture today then I could have ever hoped to get through to them while in class. There is just something about being here, experiencing it in real life and having the assistance of a local historian that brings it all together in a big way.

I'm sure they will have lots more to share about today so make sure you ask lots of questions when they come home! As for tomorrow, we transfer to Rome for our final leg of the tour. We will actually get a chance to stop and visit the town of Assisi and tour their Cathedral. The day will be at a slower pace which will be great in allowing the kids to rest and be ready to go once we get to Rome. So with that being said, it is hard to believe that we are only 3 tour days from flying home. I've heard it from multiple students how fast the trip is going and I just keeping reminding them to take in as much as they can and enjoy the moments the experience together.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Bologna with a side of Florence

I feel like I'm starting to sound like a broken record writing this blog when I say that we once again experienced an amazing day on another part of our tour through Italy. Today was a transfer day making our way to Florence by way of Bologna. 

The group has been doing great and once again the students collectively took another step forward in appreciating the experience in front of them and being more adventurous to take in the new things they are tasting, seeing and overall experiencing.

I wasn't quite sure how the group would react to the city of Bologna. Although it is not as popular as some cities in Italy, it has a lot of history and culture to offer. The best thing that I am hearing from a lot in the group is how each city has its own unique history, architecture and feel that allows each one of these stops to be different and exciting. Honestly, I was a little worried that after a day in Venice the students might lose some interest until Florence but they seemed to really enjoy walking the streets of Bologna, eating great food and more gelato.

After we left Bologna, we hit the road to make our way to Florence. The country side of Italy is beautiful and we had the chance to see the changes in agriculture production and landscape as we made our way through the hills and valleys. Coming around the bend into the city of Florence gave the group our first glimpse of the Duomo. It is easy to see that this city is going to a special experience and the students got their first steps into the city this afternoon. 

The pace of today worked out very well as we were dealing with a pretty warm day again. Once in Florence, we got the chance to explore for the first time and students were entertained by street musicians and the bustle of the city. We also got the chance to take in a demonstration on Italian leather and the history behind the leather industry. Our presentation was great and V had quite the personality that kept the students laughing and enjoying the experience. After a little time in the shops we headed back to the bus to move to our hotel for the evening and eat supper. It was a great way to get the students into the city for a short amount of time and build up their excitement for tomorrow when we spend the whole day touring, exploring and making memories in Florence. 

As for the group, I can't say enough of how proud I am of them so far on this trip. Today was a big step in the right direction in terms of having the students open up and really start to ask questions, appreciate the experience and just take in what is happening. I anticipate tomorrow to be an intense day with so much to see and I have no doubt the students are ready to make the most of another new experience.