June 25 (cont. 2)
We went through the Doge's palace, which was a very interesting museum, with the rooms as they were when Venice was a Democratic Republic in its glory days. We learned about the influential "council of ten" which held much power in the past. We toured the prisons and walked across the famous Bridge of Sighs. The museum held a vast collection of Venetian and Turkish weapons in its armory which was interesting to look at. After the museum, we tried to go to Saint Mark's Basilica, but unfortunately it closed at 5pm. We met with the group for the very last dinner, which we had at a decent restaurant in the middle of Venice. After dinner we boated and bused back to the hotel where we packed and then went to sleep. What a fantastic city to end the trip on!
June 25 (cont 1)
I and 12 other kids ate lunch at a fantastic spot before walking around the city, which is gorgeous. After a few hours of walking, we met back with the larger group where we got onto Gondola's for a half hour ride around the city. The Gondola was fantastic and it was interesting to see how many buildings rely on the canals for their only mode of transport. After the Gondola's, myself and a group of 8 others separated from the rest of the group.
Today, we bused and boated to Venice, where we started the day with a glass blowing demonstration. This demonstration was fantastic, the master created a perfect glass horse right before our eyes. After the demonstration, and spending some time in the store, we took a boat into the center of Venice, where we had a walking tour. All of the canals were magnificent, and the city was extremely beautiful. We finished the tour in Saint Marks Square, and then went off on free time.
24 June 2015
Today, we woke up and left our hotel outside of Florence. We drove four hours to our hotel in Padua (Padova), which is an hour outside of Venice, at 12:30. We could not check in until 2pm, so we had lunch as a whole group down the road. After checking in and situating ourselves with our hotel, we spent a few hours walking around the town. The town has the second oldest University in Italy, which was established in 1222, and is often cited by historians as the oldest site of civilization in Northern Italy. The city hosts the Papal Basilica of Saint Anthony, and it is here where his body rests. In the basilica, myself and many others were blessed by a local priest. This Franciscan basilica was extremely beautiful, but unfortunately photos were not allowed inside. After touring the basilica, we walked through a beautiful park that was surrounded by a moat. After the park, we walked through the town for 2 hours. Padua has 200,000 citizens, and not many tourists, which was nice.
23 June 2015
June 23 (cont.)
After Pisa, we had a full afternoon of free time in Florence, where I and a group of six others ate lunch at a Restaurant on the Piazza Della Signoria. After lunch, myself, two others, and Father Jengdahl toured the Basilica of Santa Croce, where many important historical figures are buried. This list of influential characters includes Michelangelo, Nicholas Machiavelli, Marconi, and others (including a memorial to Dante, who never returned to Florence after his banishment). We spent an hour and a half touring the magnificent Basilica, which Father offered a plethora of knowledge on. After touring the church, we went to get Gelato before meeting the rest of the group for dinner. After dinner we took the bus back to the hotel, stopping at an overlook to take photos with the city in the background. Once we got to the hotel, myself and twenty others went to a carnival that was down the street where people raced go carts and jumped on a Sky-Zone style trampoline.
Today we woke up and took the bus to Pisa. In Pisa we took photos of the bell tower (leaning tower of Pisa), which was reopened to the public about 10 years ago after they were able to straighten the tower by 2° (from 6° to 4°), but we did not get to climb it, as the tickets are expensive and you must have them 6 months in advance to get them. We toured the Baptistry of the Duomo, which was built during the Middle Ages. The Baptistry originally had no roof, so the rain would fill the Baptistry, but they put a roof on the building later on. We toured the duomo, which was built with the help of the Medici family, who ruled Pisa. After Pisa, we took a bus back to Florence for another day in Florence.
22 June 2015
Staying at the Hotel Royal Palace
June 22 (continued)
Following touring the church, we walked around with our guide who brought us through the the Ruling palace used by the Medici, and around the Piazza Della Signorina. We walked onto the Ponte Vecchio or the "Golden Bridge" which was used by the Medici family (rulers of Florence) when they would come into town, so they wouldn't have to walk on the same bridge as common folk. After wandering around the city some more, we boarded the bus to our hotel, which is about 90 mins away in a town called "Montecatini Terme", where we ate dinner. After dinner I attended mass before going up to my room where I played cards on the balcony until I went to sleep
Today, we left Assisi after one night and traveled to Florence. We started touring by walking around and in the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower and its baptistery. It is here where the layers of hell are painted on the ceiling, taking from Dante's Divine Comedy. The clock pictured is quite interesting, as it measures 24 hours, and the start of each cycle is at sunset, meaning the times are different every day when compared to their GMT counterparts.
21 June 2015
June 20 (continued)
After a quick lunch break, we walked through the upper basilica of St. Francis, built where Francis was buried. Francis chose to be buried on the "hill of hell" when he died, which was outside of town walls and was where the criminals were buried. He wanted to be buried here because he acknowledged that he was also a sinner. Unfortunately we were unable to go to the lower Basilica, where Francis tomb is, because the Franciscans were holding evening prayer at the time. Following the basilica, we walked up to the Castle of Assisi, which was controlled by the Emperor and not the Pope. The castle offered fantastic views. After, we went back to our hotel, which had a great view of Assisi, ate dinner, and than walked to Gelato before going to bed
Today, we started the day leaving Sorrento. We stopped along the way for food, before arriving in Assisi. Father says that Assisi is one of the few places on earth where the barrier between God and man is thin, and it is the location where he had his best prayer experience ever, while he was a seminarian 10 years ago. We toured the Basilica of Saint Claire, where she is buried. We walked near the temple of Minerva which was a Greek temple before being converted to a Catholic Church.
20 June 2015
In Sorrento, we walked around town and grabbed some Crêpes for dessert before heading back to the Hotel for dinner, as we were all exhausted from our day in Capri. After dinner, mass was held (as it is everyday) outside of the Hotel by our Father Jengdahl. After mass group of about 15 other people and I went to get Gelato and watch the sunset before calling it a night.
Today we started the day at 8pm, leaving for Capri. After the 20 min ferry ride from Sorrento to Capri, we took a half hour long boat tour of the island, in which our guide showed us many caverns and rock formations, after the cruise we took the Funicular to the upper part of Capri, and walked to a Terrace to take photos. The guide showed us the famous nightclub, and the cheapest hotel in Capri town where rooms 'only' go for €1,000 a night during the summer. We ate lunch, and then headed to the beach where we spent two hours swimming and cliff diving. After Capri, we took a ferry back to Sorrento
19 June 2015
Today was mostly a travel day, we traveled from our hotel near Tamorina to our hotel near Sorrento, Hotel Central Park. We took a half hour ferry ride from Sciliy to Italy Proper and than had an 11 hour drive to Sorrento. We stopped three times along the way for food, and we ate at an 'Autogrille'. Our hotel is nice, and tomorrow we tour Capri and Sorrento
18 June 2015
Today, we started the day by traveling to Taoromina, an ancient Sicilian town that has been colonized by both Greece and Rome. We toured the Ancient Greek theater, which was converted into a Roman amphitheater. The views of the water from this hilltop town were unbeatable. After spending a few hours wandering around, we drove to Mt. Etna. Mount Etna is the largest active volcano in Europe. The top was extremely windy and was about 30 degrees Fahrenheit. After Etna, we came back to our hotel, ate dinner, went swimming, and finished the night with some Gelato.
Staying at The Hotel Solemar
17 June 2015
Today, my room did not wake up to the boats horn at 5:30 like we were supposed to, so we missed breakfast. We were woken up at 7 just as the boat was getting to port in Sciliy and had to rush to get dressed and ready. From the boat we drove through Palermo to Monreale, where we toured the Cathedral. The cathedral of Monreale was originally an abbey, and it is extremely beautiful, with the interior decorated completely by gold mosaics. The mosaics depict Genesis and the life of Christ. The church was built to be used both the the Roman Church and the Eastern church with text in both Latin and Greek. From Monreale we came back to Palermo where we toured the catacombs underneath the Capuchin Monastery, which has the corpses hanging on the wall, dating from 1599- 1911. After the catacombs (which had no photos allowed) we ate lunch at a pizzeria in Palermo and then took a bus to our hotel near Taormina, in the small town of Saint 'Alessio Siculo, which is right on the water.
16 June 2015
Ferry from Naples to Palermo, Sciliy
June 17, continued.
From Montecassino we traveled another 3 hours to Pompeii. Pompeii was fantastic, and I learned much about it that I had previously not known, such as that it was one of the most important towns to the Roman Empire for many years because of it's port. The ruins are not completely intact due not only to time, but the use of dynamite in the original Bourbon led excavation in the eighteenth century. The city was very large, and is still being excavated today, as the EU recently put money towards excavating parts previously untouched. The expressions on the few people and animals that we saw was a look of petrification, and many where holding their throats, demonstrating that they most likely suffocated to death. After Pompeii, we drove to the Port of Naples, which is an extremely dirty town, to board the night ferry. The ferry is bringing us to Palermo, Scilily, and we will arrive around 7:30 tomorrow morning.
Today, we woke up early, had a bagged breakfast and left our hotel in Rome at 7. The day was filled with travel, as we slowly made our way to Naples where we would catch the ferry to Palermo, Scilily. The first stop we made was at Montecassino. Montecassino is the Abbey which was founded by Saint Benedict in the sixth century, where he wrote the Benedictine Rule, which will become the model for Western monasticism. It is here where Saint Benedict and his sister, Saint Scholastica, amongst other Saints are buried. The abbey was nearly totaled by Allied bombings in 1944, leaving only the tomb of Benedict and Scholastica completely untouched. The Italian government rebuilt the Abbey using the same methods used when it was rebuilt in the 14th century and it was reconsecrated in 1964 by Pope Paul VI.
15 June 2015
June 15, continued
From lunch we went to the Basilica of Saint Paul, where Paul himself is buried. It is a very beautiful church, with portraits of all 266 popes in the history of the church. Following, we toured the Catacombs, which recently had all of the bodies put into tombs where the public are not allowed, as people were defacing and removing them. After the catacombs, we went to dinner as a group nearby and headed back to the hotel, where we played cards until curfew.
Today, we had a later start, with breakfast at 6:45. After breakfast we went to The Vatican, where we toured the second largest art museum in the world, behind the louvre. The museum was converted from the popes summer home in the 16th century. After viewing the art, we went to the Sistine Chapel, one of the most beautiful churches I have seen, with the artwork by Michelangelo (unfortunately no photos allowed). After the Vatican I went out to lunch with 7 of my friends, as we had an hour of free time. (Continued on next post)
14 June 2015
Today, the 14th of June, we woke up at 5:30. We went down to the Vatican, where Fr. Gjengdal (a teacher at Saint Thomas) held mass in St. Peter's Basilica. From mass, we went to the Flavian Amphitheater (Colosseum), and we were given a tour. From the Colosseum, we walked through the Roman Forum and saw where Julius Caesar was cremated by the people of
Rome. From the Forum we got on the bus and tried to make it to the Holy See to witness the Pope's Angelus. Unfortunately, we did not make it in time and were unable to see the Holy Father. From the Vatican, a smaller group of us broke off, as we had 5 hours of free time. We ate lunch on the Spanish steps before heading to a nearby park, where we rented segways. After an hour in the park we ventured down to the Pantheon and took in its immense beauty. We toured many old Church's on our way to meet the group, which we met at 5:45 near the Monument to Victor Emmanuel III. After dinner, we walked around before returning to the hotel at 11.
12 June 2015
As I write this we are just about to board our flight to New York JFK. Our flight from JFK to Rome was delayed, so we will have an eight hour layover. We will arrive in Rome Friday afternoon around 2:30.