Tag Archives: EF Tours

Italy 2023 Day 11

Ciao ragazzi! Oggi è una giornata dolceamara (today is a bitter sweet day). The dreaded day has finally arrived, our last one in Italy. We only have mere hours left before we have to board our flight, which will take us from sun and +15 to snow and -4. Sigh. All good things must come to end though, right? It is shocking how quickly this trip flew by, as it seems just yesterday we landed in Rome and were eager to get our explorations started. It’s been a whirlwind of walking, crowds, amazing history, bus rides and changing hotels. Excited and fun, but exhausting.

Alright, we’re in the air now, 7.5 hours out of Toronto. We left Rome about 25 minutes late, so hopefully that doesn’t cause us too many issues on the other end as we have a tight turnaround in Toronto for our flight home. They just served lunch, which consisted of chick peas, chicken with tomato sauce, I think polenta and sadly no dessert, as we have a nut allergy in the vicinity. They said they’d try and find an alternative, so we’ll see what happens. It wasn’t bad overall, though the gentleman in front of me has decided to recline his seat, which made eating it these tight confines even more challenging.

As on the last flight, the entree was scorching hot (I used it to melt my frozen butter), which ironically contrasts with the temperature in the cabin, which is ridiculously frigid. I’m never usually cold, but I am absolutely freezing. I’ve busted out the blanket, so maybe I can stay warm enough to sleep at some point. It would be nice to catch up on my sleep, but I don’t want to snooze too long that I can’t get to bed tonight…ah, the first world problems of flying!

So fast forward a bit, and we’re more than halfway through the flight (according to the map we’re over Greenland). I was so cold, I went into my bag, which the other chaperones have nicknamed “Big Bertha Battistel,” and dug out my jacket. It’s at least keeping me reasonably warm though there’s still a cold draft. I’m still squished though, which does raise an interesting question, to recline or not to recline? I prefer not to recline, even though it may be slightly more comfortable. There is absolutely no room back here in steerage class and moving the seat back makes it even more claustrophobic. But that’s just me.

Back in Canada. We’re now sitting at our gate waiting for the flight to Thunder Bay. The rest of the flight was rather anticlimactic, though my entertainment screen bit the dust in the last few hours. I just filled in the voucher they gave me and I now have 15% my next flight…not too shabby! Before we landed they served our snack, which was either chicken or veggie baked pie heated to 6000 degrees Celsius. It wasn’t terrible, but I’ll be glad to have something to eat at home. Unfortunately they came around with a nut-free brownie for those of us who didn’t get one with the meal, but because I was asleep, they forgot all about me.

We’re all home now…what a long day! Our flight to Thunder Bay left and arrived on time. It was great to see all the families waiting for their kids to arrive back from Europe, tired, but happy to be home. I too am happy to be home, though it is a tad bit cooler here than it was in Italy. Anyway, I’m going to sign off for today. I’ll be back in a few days with some reflections on another student trip that is now in the books. Until then…

Team Battistel & friends, March 2023.
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Posted by on March 21, 2023 in History, Travel


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Italy 2023 Day 10

Buon Lunedì ragazzi (happy Monday kids)! I’m happy that it’s the Monday after the March break and I’m not at work, but also a little sad as it’s our last day before we head home tomorrow. We’re going to make the most of it as we continue to explore Florence and learn more about its history and culture. My fingers are crossed that the weather cooperates today and that the rain we had last night moves on. Walking around a city in the rain on tour is not fun…I know all about it.

Sitting on the bus now, with a little less than 3 hours to go until we get back to Rome. The sun is poking through the patchy clouds, almost like Italy is trying to give us some nice weather for our last bit of time in the country. Thankfully the rain held off today, which gave us a somewhat decent day in Florence. We dropped our luggage on the bus and power walked the 20 minutes into the city to meet our guide Alessandra.

Our tour started at the Piazza del Duomo and the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore and the Battistero di San Giovanni. I really enjoyed the explanations of the design and architecture of both structures. I do have an interest in Renaissance architecture, but not quite as much as my older brother who is an architect. From there we moved on to other places, such as the Piazza della Repubblica and the Piazza della Signoria. Our final destination was one the leather factories that Florence is famous for, where the kids had a quick demonstration and then were able to explore the shop.

We had another good chunk of free time again to explore the city and do some shopping. Since it was around lunch time, one of my first stops was at Antica Porchetteria Granieri 1916, where I had a nice porchetta sandwich. It was very tasty, but a bit dry as it could have used a little sauce, like an aioli. Afterwards, I picked up a few more gifts for my family and then I headed over to the cathedral where Mr. Marcon and myself waited for a short time in the queue to gain entry. These Italian churches never fail to impress, and it was quite the view in the inside as well.

Unfortunately 2:45 came rather quickly and we had to bid farewell to Florence and make our way back to the bus for the ride to Rome. It took us about 4 hours to finally arrive back at the same hotel we’d been at for the first few days, so it was like we had come full circle. Supper was here at the hotel, which consisted of salad, pasta and chicken. It wasn’t bad, and was certainly plentiful.

It will be an early morning tomorrow, as our bus will pick us up at 7:00 to transit to the airport. Sadly tonight we had to say goodbye to our driver, Salvatore, who needed to head back to his hometown of Naples in preparation for his next tour. He was a real trooper, and always calm, cool and collected. The kids absolutely loved him and I’m sure he, as we were, sorry that we had to part ways.

Anyway, I better get rolling. I have tidying to do in my suitcase, and it do need to rise early to ensure the group is ready to go tomorrow. Until then…

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Posted by on March 20, 2023 in History, Travel


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Italy 2023 Day 9

Buona domenica ragazzi (happy Sunday kids)! It’s another beautiful day in the neighbourhood…for now. There’s a potential for some showers later this afternoon when we get to Florence, or as the Italians say, Firenze. Presently, we’re on our way to Bologna, which is 1.5-1.75 hours away to the northwest on the “Autostrada.” The plan is stop for a couple of hours there, which will give us a chance to look around a bit. Then it is another similar drive from Bologna to Florence. Hopefully the weather cooperates and we can have an enjoyable day.

It’s been a long and busy day, so I’m just getting around to finishing this as I settle into my room before bed. Although our visit to Bologna was very brief, it was a very pretty and impressive city. We walked from the bus station to the Piazza Maggiore through what are known as the Arcades, which are covered walkways beside the streets. From there we had time to explore parts of the city centre. Our chaperone group first paid a visit to the Basilica di San Petronio, a large and beautiful gothic church.

I wish we had more time in Bologna, but we had to hit the road to get to Florence, which many were excited to visit. We did pause for a short break at a roadside travel plaza, where we were able to grab some food and snacks for the rest of the drive. From my experience on past trips, and also this one, I must say that these establishments in Europe are quite impressive and actually nice to visit. This one was pretty good, and it was really the least nice one we’ve stopped at.

The drive from Bologna to Florence was quite fascinating I must say. Our route took us over the Apennine Mountains again, or I should say correctly, through them in many places. The highway was full of tunnels that were bored through the hills and mountains, some stretching on for kilometres. It is rather impressive to see what they did, as the roads are rather flat in this area, compared to all the hills that can be found back home.

When we arrived in Firenze, we proceeded from our drop off point to the Piazza della Signoria, with Kent providing some interesting info along the way. He did not want to say too much as we will have a guided tour tomorrow morning. Anyway, once we arrived at the Piazza, we then had a few hours to again explore the city centre. Our group proceeded past the Basilica di San Lorenzo to the Mercato Centrale (Central Market) where we hoped to find some good buys for ourselves and our families. 

Afterwards, we slowly worked our way back to the Piazza della Signoria, which took us past an absolutely impressive set of structures, the well-known Piazza del Duomo and the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. The cathedral dates back to the 13th century and is easily identifiable with its red tiled dome and coloured marble facade. I must say that I was speechless; I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a magnificent and unique church. I knew that this was a focal point in Florence, but I didn’t I’d be so awestruck by it.

Supper today was at La Vecchia Firenze, where we dined on spaghetti, salad and roast pork with potatoes. Dessert was a somewhat lacklustre ice cream something or other. It had started spitting before supper, and that continued as we left the restaurant for a 20 minute walk to our bus pick up location. Tonight we staying at the Hotel Grifone, which seems nice, but does not have a particularly great layout from a chaperone perspective. Hopefully the kids are tired and go to bed. 

Tomorrow is our last day, so hopefully the weather clears up so we can make the most of it (it is raining right now). We will be leaving Florence around 3:00 for the 4 hour drive back to Rome for another night at the hotel we stayed at for the start of our tour. With that in mind, I better turn in and get some sleep so I can enjoy the final bit of Italy. Until then…

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Posted by on March 19, 2023 in History, Travel


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Italy 2023 Day 8

Ciao, sono tornato ragazzi! Oggi è un’altra mattinata soleggiata ma molto fredda (today is another sunny but very chilly morning). Even though we have a later start today, I still woke up early to run down to the beach to snap a photo of the sunrise. In the process, I locked myself out of the hotel and froze my butt off…double whammy! It was worth it though, and thank Jesus the door was open when I got back! While it was a crispy 4C at the crack of dawn, it’s supposed to be 15 by this afternoon, which hopefully will be enough to keep us sufficiently toasty for our wanderings.

We left the hotel at 9:00 today for the brief bus ride into Rimini. Once we parked, we were met by our guide, Marianna, who would take us on a short tour of the old city, which dates back to Roman times. It’s Saturday today, so it was market day, with throngs of locals and tourists (like us) plying the streets. We saw many of the interesting sites, including the Tempio Malatestiano (Malatestiano Temple), which is a 13th century church that was reconstructed in the 15th century as a mausoleum for Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta (Malatesta in Italian means bad head). 

Once we bid farewell to Marianna, we had two hours to wander around the city centre and explore the shops and markets. I know the kids really enjoyed this part, both for the food and shopping. One cafe we stopped at shockingly had Prosecco on tap, and the winery that produces it is in Conegilano, which is about 30 minutes from my parents town in the province of Treviso. One of our groups suggested a pizza shop that was so good, we even went back and had more after the first round. 

After reboarding the bus, we made our way 30 minutes to the west to San Marino, which is it’s own small country surrounded by Italy. I knew a bit about it, but I had no idea most of it was on a mountain, so we had another slightly white-knuckle trip up, with Salvatore once again expertly easing the bus along the winding roads. Kent gave us a quick history lesson and then we were turned loose for another two hours to explore this unique country.

What an amazing place! I wish we had more than that limited amount of time. The part of the country that is on the mountain is one giant castle with many smaller castles inside it as you work your way up. There are countless shops selling everything from designer purses, to clothing to air soft guns. The views though, the views are unbelievable! There are so many vantage points, and you begin to understand the strategic importance of this place. Our elevation here in Rimini is a seal level, while the top of San Marino rises to more than 720 metres or 2300 feet. I must say, as someone who is not good with heights, there were spots that gave me anxiety even approaching the edge. I took a ton of photos and video.

Dinner was back at the hotel, where we enjoyed another appetizer course, followed by pasta and roast pork with potatoes. Tomorrow we leave Rimini behind for Florence via Bologna. I have not been to either place, so I am very excited to see these beautiful cities. Hopefully the weather cooperates as we are supposed to get some rain later in the evening. We don’t have a super early morning, but we do have to pack everyone and everything on the bus, so I better get rolling. Until then…


Posted by on March 18, 2023 in History, Travel


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Italy 2023 Day 7

Ciao, ragazzi! Oggi è una mattina molto bella (today is a beautiful morning)! It doesn’t get better than this I must say. While the folks back home are dealing with snow, I am sitting in my room overlooking the Adriatic Sea while the sun shines brightly in the clear blue sky. I was even able to capture the sunrise this morning as it rays first illuminated the buildings here just south of Ortona.

It’s now 4:30 and we’ve just left a roadside stop on our way to the next hotel in Rimini. Our day began with an early morning visit to the Moro River Canadian War Cemetery. This site contains the graves of over 1500 Canadian and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the battles to approach or take the city of Ortona. This cemetery had a different feel that yesterday, maybe because the majority of the burials are Canadians. I also think the stillness and the crisp morning air added to somber tone. After a brief prayer service, the students had a short time to wander amongst the whitewashed headstones adorned with maple leafs.

We could not linger as we had to meet our guide in Ortona at 9:30. Angela was extremely knowledgeable about the battle and the Canadian involvement in it. She first took us through the museum before we proceeded to walk part of the city to see where significant events had taken place. Personally, I found it neat to be able to match photos that I had seen of the battle to what they look like today. It is such a beautiful town and it’s a shame that much of it was destroyed trying to wrestle it from the Germans. 

The fight for Ortona was some of the most difficult urban combat of the entire war, and people took to calling it “Little Stalingrad,” after the famous urban battle on the Eastern Front. Although I was a soldier myself for a short period of time, and I did FIBUA (Fighting In Built-up Areas) training, it is something to see the actual terrain that the Canadian soldiers to had fight through. I will definitely be using some of the information and photos in my lessons.

After some time for lunch, we were back on the bus for the three hour ride north to Rimini. Everyone was in great spirits, and we also had some fun during the drive. Our Tour Director or TD, Kent, had everyone on the bus, chaperones included, put the title of their favourite song on a sheet of paper. He then would play the songs randomly and the person who picked it had to come to the front of the bus and give their name, what school they were at and why they picked it. They then had to answer some questions from the rest of the bus. It was a great way to bring the group together through music. The kids area really starting to gel, and you do see a number of new friendships being formed which is fantastic.

Before arriving in Rimini, we did a slight detour to the Tavullia Monument, which honours the Canadian Army breakthrough of the Gothic Line in the spring of 1944. It was rather interesting to hear the story of what occurred there, as I personally was not familiar with it, and the entire Italian Campaign is often overshadowed by the fighting in Northern Europe.

Our hotel in Rimini is known as the Hotel Venere, and is one of many hotels near the beach in this area. It is much smaller than the other hotels we have been at and the students unfortunately have to share much “cosier” accommodations. Fortunately supper, which was at the hotel, was very good. We had three courses, the first being vegetables, small pizzas and bread served buffet style. They later brought pasta for the second course and finally veal with mushrooms for the third. Dessert was another helping of Tiramisu…I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much tiramisu in my life.

Anyway, I better wrap up. We do have a later start tomorrow morning, but it is already after midnight. Our travels on Saturday will take us into Rimini and Sean Marino. Until then…


Posted by on March 17, 2023 in History, Travel


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Italy 2023 Day 6

Buongiorno ragazzi, oggi è una bella mattinata! In case you didn’t get that, it is a good morning. I’m slowly catching up, though I was so deep in sleep when the alarm went off, it scared the you know what out of me (we have to keep things PG here)! Anywho, it is another beautiful sunny morning as prepare to leave Rome behind for the east coast of Italy. It’s supposed to be 17C here, but only 12C when we arrive in Ortona, so hopefully we don’t freeze our derrières off when we get there. I know, I shouldn’t be complaining as it’s snowy and cold back home, but we were sort of getting used to the high teen temperatures!

It’s close to 8:30 now and we’re on the road to Cassino. The drive here is beautiful, with the hills and mountains of the Apennines lining our route. I keep pulling out the GoPro to record the scenery…it is something to see! So when we arrive, we’ll proceed first to the top of Monte Cassino itself, where we will tour the abbey and the nearby Polish monument. Afterwards it will be down to the base to the Cassino War Cemetery and Memorial where we will have a prayer service and visit the graves of the soldiers buried there.

 🎶On the road again!🎶 We have now left Cassino behind and are on our way to Ortona. There was certainly a lot to see in the area. The tour of the abbey was fantastic and sad all at the same time. I knew a little of its history, including that it dated back to medieval times, but I definitely learned a great deal more. The sadness comes when you see what remains and what had to be rebuilt after the war. The reconstruction is beautiful and the original must have been more so. Before we left, we also visited the nearby Polish cemetery, which is very visible from the abbey itself. 

The only issue we had was getting up to it. The mountain is high, and the road as you can imagine twists and turns its way up the side. It was spectacular and nauseating all at the same time. There were a few instances on the way up that I had to close my eyes as I am not great with heights and it looked like we were going to drive right off the edge of the road. However, our bus driver, Salvatore, is a real pro and handled it with ease. I know I would have been pooping my pants, but then again I would have not been driving a 57-seat bus either.

Immediately after our decent, we moved on to the Cassino War Cemetery, where over 8000 Commonwealth dead are buried or commemorated, including 1045 Canadians. These visits are never easy, especially if you have never been to a war cemetery. Cemeteries are not happy places, but when they are filled with the graves of young men cut down in their prime, it is even more somber. At the Cross of Sacrifice, we held a brief prayer service before the students proceeded to visit pre-determined graves of Canadian soldiers. I was very emotional when I left, as I normally am, but there students who were very overwhelmed by the experience. I certainly felt for them, but I think that every Canadian needs to visit a war cemetery at least once in their lives to truly understand what freedom means and the price our country has paid with our youth for that freedom.

After lunch in Cassino, we left for the 2.5 hour drive to Ortona. Many slept, but I didn’t want to miss any of the scenery along the way. Working our way through the Apennine Mountains was amazing, and it was so interesting to see all the towns and villages along the way. I took a lot of photos and videos, so much so that I am running out of room on the SD card in my GoPro. I do have another one, but I think I can only get another hour of footage on it. If worse comes to worse, I’ll see if I can get another one somewhere.

It’s now 10:45 and I’m trying to get this post finished so I can get to sleep in preparation for another early day tomorrow. We arrived at our hotel, La Chiave dei Trabocchi, around 6:00 and had dinner at the ground floor restaurant. We were supposed to have salad and risotto, but ended up with some great bruschetta, gnocchi and gelato. Not complaining! Everyone, especially those of us who have been on EF tours before, have been very impressed with the food we have been served. Our next two suppers are in the hotel in Rimini, so hopefully the trend continues.

Anyway, I should head off to bed. Maybe I’ll get something close to a normal sleep tonight. Following another cemetery visit and museum tour here in Ortona, we have a long drive to Rimini. Until then…

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Posted by on March 16, 2023 in History, Travel


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Italy 2023 Day 5

Ciao, Ciao ragazzi! The battery is nowhere near fully charged, but I’m appreciative of the sleep that I did get last night. I was out like a light, and the alarm this morning hit me like a bag of hammers. I’m sure I can snatch some shut eye, maybe, on the bus ride today. We have an exciting day on tap, which will take us outside of the busy streets of Rome. It is also special for another reason, but I’ll get into that later. After yesterday’s cloudy, chillier weather, the sun is supposed to be back, though with some strong winds that might be worse near the coast. Oh well, still beats March at home!

Okay, so we’re here in Anzio after a beautiful drive south from Rome. This was the site of a major Allied landing in January 1944 during WWII. It was an attempt to outflank the German defences in the area and capture Rome. We have just visited the museum, where they have many artifacts and displays of the Anzio Landings, as well as ones from Roman antiquity. Once we are through, we will head into the town for lunch.

Alright, it’s just after 7:00 and we’re on our way back toward the hotel. What a great, somewhat relaxing day. After the museum, the gentleman who gave us the tour of the museum, Patrizio, walked us down to the beach and pointed out many points of interest. What a beautiful little town! We all grabbed some lunch and then had some time to walk on the beach, some even putting their feet in the water. One even fell in the water! Though it was a little windy (maybe a lot at times), it was sad to leave Anzio behind to pile back on the bus.

We’re all back at the hotel now, decompressing a bit and getting packed up as we leave the hotel tomorrow for Ortona. Our supper tonight was at Obica Parlamento, where we dined on salad, pesto pasta and tiramisu. We also had a little celebration, as two of our travellers had birthdays on the trip, one of which was my son, Ethan, who turns 18. We arranged to have a cake made for them and they could each get a half once we returned to the hotel. Afterwards, the bus stopped at the shopping mall across the road from the hotel so anyone who wanted to could do some power shopping for an hour before it closed.

Anyway, I better mosey on as we have an early morning tomorrow in preparation for our day that will take us first to Monte Cassino and then to a new hotel near Ortona. Fingers crossed I’ll get a good rest tonight. Until then…

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Posted by on March 15, 2023 in History, Travel


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Italy 2023 Day 4

Buongiorno bambini! I know, there’s only so many ways you can spin good morning, but hey, I’m doing my best. I didn’t get anywhere near a full 8 hours last night, so I am feeling very, very sluggish today. I have some good brain fog going on, so much so that it is a struggle to find some clever words for this post. Hopefully some divine intervention will help, since we are going to il Vaticano oggi (The Vatican today). This certainly will be one of the highlights of the trip, since even if you are not religious and especially if you are, you can appreciate the magnificent architecture and artistry that inspired and went into the structures we will visit. Fingers crossed that breakfast will give me a little boost to get through the day 🤞

Let’s fast forward to 8:45 and we’re back at the hotel for the evening. I’m showering and sitting in the lobby waiting for the usual chaperone meeting. We had an eventful day, but thankfully not as busy as yesterday. We had a bit of a drive to the Vatican, where we arrived to meet our tour guide for visit to the Holy See. Again we had to divide into two groups, with 4 guys from St. Pats having to join St. Ignatius to even out the parties. Our guide today was Frederica, who was extremely pleasant and knowledgable.

We began with a quick trip outside, where we got a look at the Sistine Chapel, which cannot be seen from St. Peters’ Square, and other structures. From there we processed through the hallways of the Vatican Museum, again with ridiculously large crowds, to view the multitude of items in the collection. This ranged from sculptures, to paintings, to tapestries and many artifacts from Etruscan and Greek antiquity. Then we made our way through the chapel, which underwent an extensive cleaning since I last saw it in 1992. There are no photos and video allowed there, so we just took in the beauty of the ceiling, the Last Judgment and the other paintings that adorn the interior.

From the Sistine Chapel, we made our way to St. Peter’s Square and into the basilica, the most famous church in the world. I had seen it before, but maybe 18 year old me didn’t appreciate the amazing structure what what it is. It is unbelievably jaw dropping with its decor and architecture. The photos I took turned out well, so I hope that the video was equally fantastic. Before we left, we had a chance to visit the gift shop and then posed for a group photo in front of the square.

Our afternoon was very mellow, but still interesting. After lunch we walked to the Pantheon, where the crowds were much smaller than Sunday, so we were able to visit the inside. It was built by the Romans as a temple to the gods, and it’s dome is still a marvel of architecture in how it was designed and built. Then there was some free time in a market area, before we hiked over to the Theatre of Pompey, where Julius Caesar was murdered. Like I have on many occasions on this trip, I learned some new things during Kent’s explanation of the event.

Supper was at Taverna Carioli, which consisted of salad, lasagna and tiramis, which was all not bad. Our plan to end the evening was to have the bus drop us off at the shopping mall across the road from our hotel, but we have more time after supper tomorrow, so it was postponed until then.

Anywho, I better turn in since I did not sleep well last night. Tomorrow we are off to Anzio, which is about a 1.5 hour bus ride to the south. I’m sure the kids will appreciate a chance to sleep more on the bus, and I will love to see the scenery. Until then…

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Posted by on March 14, 2023 in History, Travel


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Italy 2023 Day 3

Ciao ragazzi! If you didn’t catch that, it’s hello kids, and it’s Day 3 of the trip. It’s just before 7:00 and I’m sitting in the hotel dining area waiting for breakfast. I was up at 5:45 after a rather good sleep, though I have not yet caught up (nor will I likely). The bed felt great to sleep in, though it has the same softness as the stone which makes up many of the buildings in this beautiful ancient city. 

Anyway, my small gripe aside (I don’t really want to complain about the hotel room since I am in Rome), we do have another busy day ahead of us. The bus rolls at 8:00 for the Ardeatine Cave in the morning and the Colosseum/Roman Forum in the afternoon. It’s going to be a sunny, warm 20C today, though it will start to cloud over later in the day. We’re supposed to be out until 9:30 this evening, which will make for another tired group of kids when we return to the hotel tonight. 

So breakfast was good, but interesting. They did have hot items such as eggs, potatoes and “sausage.” I use the term sausage loosely, because they more akin to hot dogs. Okay, let’s not fool ourselves, they were hot dogs. “Shrugs.” In any case, it was all good and the kids seem ready to go to our day. I’ll check in later.

It’s now 10:00 and I’m trying to stay out of the sun here at the Mausoleo delle Fosse Ardeatine. It is very warm today, not as hot temperature wise as yesterday, but I don’t think that there is as much of a breeze. I learned some new history today, as I had never heard of this site before. During WWII, the Germans massacred 325 Italians in these caves as retribution for a partisan bomb attack on occupying soldiers. Many were from prisons or were Jewish, and they were led 5 at a time into the caves and shot. Certainly not a happy piece of history, but one of sadly many that we need to learn about.

Holy moly! It is now 10:30 and we’re finally back at the hotel. What a long day! I’ve had a shower and feel a bit better, but I’m pretty pooped and my legs feel like jello. After we left the caves, we proceeded downtown and debussed near the Colosseum. We were given about 1.5 hours to get some lunch and look around before meeting at Constantine’s Arch for 1:15. Three of us chaperones (Kim, Mike and myself) stopped at little trattoria for a bite to eat. Sadly they could not honour my chicken selection so I ended up with a mozzarella and prosciutto panini, which was a decent replacement.

At 1:30 our tour guides arrived at our meeting location and the two schools split, each with their own person, ours being Igor (not a very Italian name, but he’s a local). The tour was fantastic, with a lot of great information, but I was shocked by the number of people and groups. It was insane and chaotic! I never expected that many people, especially on a Monday afternoon. This is my fifth tour and I’ve been to some popular spots in Northern Europe, but never had to deal with this type of traffic.

Anyway, the tour of the Colosseum was amazing and I don’t remember seeing it that well when I was last there in 1992. Igor took us from there into the Roman Forum, which I don’t believe we actually went into on the that trip 31 years ago. His knowledge of the history was incredible, and even though I teach ancient history, I learned some new things from his descriptions. It is certainly something else to see what the Romans were able to accomplish 2000 years ago

Leaving the Forum, we walked around a bit before we settled in for supper of bruschetta and pasta at Due Colonne restaurant. The meal was okay, though we were packed like sardines into the rather small building. Then we hit the cobblestones again, weaving through the packed streets again, past the Trevi Fountain to the Spanish Steps. Some of the places in Rome are neat to see at night, and the steps were one of them. I kind of remember the 1992 visit, but it was certainly great to refresh my memory.

It’s been a brutally long day and a busy evening, so I’ll sign off. We’re heading to the Vatican tomorrow, so I’ll have a lot to report again. Until then…

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Posted by on March 13, 2023 in History, Travel


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Italy 2023 Day 2

“Are you ready kids? Aye, aye captain!” Our captain will definitely ask, and we will respond in the affirmative. We are ready to go! Haha, oh the irony. I’m sure there are some folks reading this that will have no idea what I’m referring to, but the kids will get it. Maybe you need to live in a pineapple under the sea 😉

Okay, we are all boarded and about to leave the gate. We managed to get the students shuffled around the cabin and sitting with their friends for the most part. We are situated mid-plane, right above the wing. Hopefully I’m able to get a good shot of the sun coming up as we zip across the ocean toward Europe, chasing the dawn. After I get some sleep that is. Right now it is stifling hot in here, but it will definitely cool down when we get to altitude. We are starting our taxi, so I’ll check in after supper…I wonder what we’re eating?

Well that was interesting. I was absolutely starving when we finally got our food, as it is now 10:10 local time and I last ate at 1:30. So we had the option of chicken or pasta, so took the chicken. Besides the entree, we were given a small container of potato salad, bread, butter, cheese and a brownie. It wasn’t terrible, but certainly not filling. The chicken was some sort of pot pie? that included potato, corn and peas; it looked awful and was heated to the same temperature as the surface of the sun. Thankfully my seat buddy, Kim, gave me her bread and butter, and scammed me another cheese. And then I ate an energy bar too! So I feel better now, and hopefully can get some shut eye. See you in the morning. 

Good Sunday morning kids, or more appropriately, Buongiorno Ragazzi! It’s now 9:00 local time and we are currently over the UK. I mostly slept after supper, which is a good thing, so I feel remotely human, though you need to be a contortionist at times. The accommodations here in steerage class leave much to be desired. So, quick update, we are now almost at the Swiss border as I had to take a break to brush my teeth and eat breakfast, which consisted over a yogurt, croissant and water. Better than nothing I guess, but I never object to a yogurt. We will be landing soon, since we’re supposed to arrive at 10:45. The flight seemed to go by very quickly, and we are eager to hit the ground in Rome, though I could really go for a shower.

It’s now 5:00 local time and I finally have some time to sit. After we landed, we had a bit of a journey to get through customs, collect our bags and meet our Tour Director Kent in the concourse. Then we boarded a bus which brought us downtown for a walking tour of Rome. We started near the Ponte Sant’Angelo to the Piazza Navonna, where we stopped for a bite to eat. From there it was to the Pantheon, which was built during the Roman period and is the longest continually used building in the world. Then it was off to the Trevi Fountain, which was an absolute zoo, since it’s Sunday and there was plenty of people out and about. Now we’re waiting for a pizza supper after quite the hike from the fountain.

At the hotel now, showered and changed. Sweet Jesus that was one of the best showers of my life…I feel like a new man! I’m sitting in the lobby right now as I wait for the first of many chaperone meetings where we’ll have a chance to discuss today’s events and plan ahead for tomorrow before we do rooms check to make sure the kids are all settled in for the evening. I’m still beat though, as that was a lot to take in for two days. My feet are still killing me, so hopefully they feel better by the morning. 

On a good note, I’m full. Supper was awesome! I’ll have to get the name of the restaurant (Trattoria Polese), but the pizzas were fantastic and they brought as many as you wanted with salad. The margarita was okay, but I particularly enjoyed the prosciutto. Fingers crossed the meals will continue to be this good the rest of the trip. Anyway, I should wrap things up for today so I can be fresh for tomorrow’s adventure, which will take us to Ardeatine Cave and the Roman Forum and Colosseum. Until then…

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Posted by on March 12, 2023 in History, Travel


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