Italy trip 2014



Thursday –Travel -  February 27t

Get up very early and make it to the airport on time, at least two hours early.


Friday -  Rome – February 28th

Arrive Rome and go to hotel, HOTEL OCEANIA -  Via Firenze #38
          (Best for the first two nights)  

 * 1:30 - 6:00 Colosseum / Roman Forum

6:00 – 7:00 Dinner

7:00 – Freetime

Italy, Day 1


After an exciting day of travel and a short night's rest, I awoke to the soft patter of rain on the windowpane.  Greeted by early morning showers, I gazed out the hotel window and watched as umbrellas marched over the slippery cobblestoned streets of Rome.  

Since Mr. Hinrichs was to arrive later that morning, my family decided to head out early and visit the Scala Sancta, also known as the "Sacred Steps," steps which Emperor Constantine's mother had moved from Jerusalem, believing them to be the very steps which Jesus descended from Pilate's house before his crucifixion.  Emerging from an underground metro station, we beheld our first glimpse of Rome's ancient wall, stalwart and stretching along the cobbled streets.  Following the map, we were directed to a large white building, and with the caretaker's earnest, "Silencio," we entered.  Dark and hushed, the room within quickly came into focus as my eyes adjusted to the dim light, and the soft "Pater Noster"s grew more clear as the heavy door muffled the morning traffic.  Before us, worshippers knelt, reciting prayers and slowly progressing on their knees up the twenty-eight steps.  Over six hundred years ago, Martin Luther traveled to these steps from Wittenburg, hoping to shorten his time in purgatory.  After kneeling upon each step and repeating an "Our Father," Luther began to reconsider the nature of salvation.  This turning point in his understanding of the Scriptures ultimately led to Luther's 95 Theses and the birth of the Protestant Reformation.

After a short stay at the Sacred Steps, my family headed off to the Colosseum to meet Mr. Hinrichs and the rest of the group.  Sight of the colossal structure with its stacked rows of arches inspired awe and wonder.  Waiting for our group near the entrance to the Colosseum, my family huddled beneath umbrellas as we watched sightseers lining up for tickets, guides offering tours, vendors marketing umbrellas, and "Roman soldiers" posing for photos with eager tourists.  The steady drizzle did not seem to dampen the spirits of the passersby.

Unable to find our group, my family decided to spend the afternoon visiting a few places nearby.  Beginning with the Church of St. Peter in Chains, we entered a quiet, dimly lit sanctuary and soon found the church's relic hanging in a glass case under the altar: the chains which shackled the apostle Peter while he was imprisoned in the Mamertine Prison only a few blocks away.  To the right of the altar sat Michelangelo's Moses, an imposing statue of the lawgiver with the Ten Commandments.  After departing the church and hiking some hills, we arrived at the Musei Capitolini which we decided to tour.  Among many Greek and Roman sculptures, we found the bronze She-wolf nursing Romulus and Remus, the Colossus of Constantine, the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, Bernini's Medusa, and a Spinaro.  After spending a few hours exploring the many rooms, we headed back to our hotel.  Along the way, we passed Rome's largest memorial, the Vittorio Emanuele, which was inaugurated in 1911 in honor of the first king of the unified Italy.  We stopped to snap pictures of the monument and to purchase a bag of roasted chestnuts which we enjoyed on our way back to the hotel.

After a refreshing rest in our room, a couple of GBT friends knocked on our door and invited us to join the group for dinner.  Downstairs we were greeted by Mr. Hinrichs who was waiting to lead us to the restaurant.  A few blocks away we caught up with the rest of our group, and we chatted beneath a canopy of umbrellas until we were ushered inside.  Arrangements were made for a family-style order, and soon course after course arrived at our table: bruschetta, prosciutto, salami, cheese, garbanzo beans, spinach, broccoli, ravioli, linguine, spaghetti . . . and to complete the feast, a tray full of biscotti -- a fine reward for the tired travelers.  The end of the fine meal concluded our first day, and so we bid one another, "Buonanotte."


Saturday – Rome – March 1st

7:30-8:30 Breakfast at Hotel

*9:00 Depart for Vatican
10:00  St. Peter’s
Vatican Museum (Busy on Saturday) Audio guides better than guide

12:00 Lunch
1:00 Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s Dome
7:00 Dinner and Freetime

ETS Italy Trip: Saturday, March 1st, 2014

Today is my day to write about what we did on our amazing trip to Italy with the GBT group!!! We got up and had a yummy breakfast at the hotel and then hit the ground running! We went straight to the Vatican. It was fascinating to see the way the (small, one square mile) City was structured. The “square” (which was really oval in shape) is an ellipse which, as Mr. Hinrichs told us, is a circle with two centers. When we stood on a certain point the rows of three pillars which surrounded the “square” looked like each row was one pillar. When we got into the Vatican we spent a few hours looking around St. Peters, admiring the beautifully built church, the amazing art, and interesting underground graveyards. When we were done with St. Peters (and done having lunch) we went over to the Vatican Museum. A tour guide took us through the museums. In the two hours that we had with her she took us to see many beautiful pieces of art in the museum; but before that, she sat us down and walked us through what we were going to see in the Sistine Chapel. She told us the details to look for in, as well as the story behind, the paintings in the Chapel. We then walked through the Museum. We saw many detailed and stunning statues. One, of a man and his two sons being attacked by snakes, was so incredibly beautiful in the way that his muscles are shown in such detail, his pain became real. 
The floors of the museum were the original mosaics found in original roman houses. The detailing is so impressive. Mr. Hinrichs explained to us that in order to get the sharp lines in the mosaics that they put a line of white tiles next to the line that needed to be sharp in order to accentuate it. The time that the ancient Romans must have put into this art really comes through in these beautiful mosaics. 
The next thing we saw was large beautiful tapestries that covered huge sections of the walls with beautiful scenes, the details of which were stunning. 
We then moved on to a LONG hall filled with paintings of detailed maps of Italy. But, what really stood out to me in this room was not the maps on the walls, but rather the long golden ceiling that did not have a signal inch undecorated. there were paintings, carvings, frames, angels, scrolls and so much more. I felt like I could not tear my eye off of the ceiling for one minute.
We walked from the hall of maps into the apartment that Rafael painted for one of the popes. This three room apartment’s walls are covered in some of the most famous paintings Rafael has ever painted. The beauty and the detail in these paintings were stunning. But the one that I was most looking forward too and was most impressed with, was the “School of Athens” painting. It was a lot bigger than I imagined! The tour guide pointed out many things in that painting that I never noticed before. 
After spending a long time admiring that painting we made our way through some modern contemporary art, (which was really weird in comparison to the beautiful classic art we had just seen) to the BEAUTIFUL Sistine Chapel. We spent 30 minutes admiring the huge paintings that span the lives of Jesus on one side and Moses on the other (and in the end the comparison of Moses is dead but Jesus is alive). 
When we were done admiring the wonderful art that was at the Vatican we stopped at the little cafeteria in the museum to have a small snack (even though we were getting dinner soon… when in Rome: eat a TON of food!) 
We walked to the Hotel and relaxed by played card games. (Or rather got stressed by playing card games. Depends if you were winning or not). 
We then walked to the same restaurant and had a lovely dinner with some amazing conversations about each of our families. 
After dinner we got gelato and headed back to the hotel after this very long and fun day. As Liam said “Today was a 'baller' day”


Sunday – Rome/Florence –  March 2nd

7:30-8:30 Breakfast at Hotel

*9:30-12:00 Pantheon, S. Maria Sopra Minerva and other churches

12:00 – Lunch
3:00 Church with Koreans in Rome?

2:00 -3:30 Train to FLORENCE

3:30 Walk to Hotel Casci – Via Cavour #13                                    

3:30-5:30 Walking tour of Florence

5:30 – 7:00 Dinner

7:00-  Freetime

Sunday, March 2

Italy, Day 3 


Entering the breakfast room of Hotel Oceania early Sunday morning, my family and I were greeted by bright faces and "Good Morning" smiles from our GBT friends. After a satisfying buffet of chocolate crossants, fruit, and cereal, we bundled up and ventured into the brisk, drizzly day to catch the Metro.  First on the agenda was the Roman Forum, which has perched atop the Palatine Hill for over two thousand years.  At our destination, Mr. Hinrichs led us up the hill to the summit, where the ancient ruins stretched before us.  As we walked along the muddy paths, observing the stone columns and tile floors, I imagined the magnificent palaces, gardens, and temples that once stood there.  The Romans used a special double-layer technique for their walls, as Mr. Hinrichs explained, that added strength and insulation to the buildings. In many places, the bricks in the walls were uneven and protruding, which allowed the plaster to cling more easily to the walls.  Further on, we entered a long, cavernous tunnel that we soon filled with the sweet harmonies of "Amazing Grace."  Just as raindrops began to fall again, Mr. Hinrichs led us to the massive Arch of Titus, built in the first century to commemorate the triumphs of emperor Titus in Jerusalem.  The arch clearly depicts the plunder from the Holy City being paraded through Rome, including a seven-branched menorah and numerous Jewish captives.  The drizzling rain soon swelled into a heavily drumming downpour as we weaved our way through crowds of umbrellas to our final stop in the forum, the Curia.  Despite its simple and ordinary structure, the Curia was once the meeting place of the Roman senate, the center of all legislation.  Thus, our tour of the ancient Roman forum concluded, and we headed back to the hotel the pick up our luggage.  


On the way to Hotel Oceania, we made a quick stop at the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore.  I caught my breath in awe as we entered under the beautiful gold-gilded ceiling and two long colonnades leading to the altar.  Interestingly, the gold used for the ceiling, as Mr. Hinrichs explained, was brought from the Americas by the early explorers.  After a while, we continued to the hotel, grabbed our luggage and headed to the train station at Termini, some taking cabs and others walking.  We soon gathered in the busy train station at a McDonalds to purchase tickets and grab lunch, which we ate while cautiously guarding our luggage.  Finally, dodging the crowds,we boarded the train and traveled an hour and a half to Florence, a trip which I spent gazing out the window over the beautiful fields, terraces, and cottages of the Italian countryside, grateful for a little peace and quiet.  


Late afternoon, our train arrived in Florence,the city known as "the birthplace of the Renaissance."  After we dismounted the train and reconvened with all of our bags, Mr. Hinrichs led the group from the crowded train station, bumping heavy suitcases down the cobblestoned streets to Hotel Casci. Fifteen minutes later, we found the hotel, left our luggage in the rooms, and headed out again for dinner and an evening tour of Florence.  Walking down the street with my friends, ready to stave my hunger pangs, I gasped in amazement at the sight that met my eyes as we rounded the corner.  There, in the middle of a courtyard stood Il Duomo, the grand cathedral of Florence.  Faced with colorful panels of green, pink, and white marble, the massive dome loomed out of the dark night sky and dwarfed the people grouped on its steps.  After gazing in jaw-dropping awe at the church for a while, we headed to dinner.


Later, satisfied by good Italian cuisine, our group followed Mr. Hinrichs on a nighttime tour of Florence. He oriented us to the city and some of its landmarks such as Il Duomo with its bell tower and baptistery, the Palazzo Vecchio, and the Uffizi museum.  I tried to take in the sights, amazed to be walking by the very places that I had seen in pictures.  As we crossed a bridge over the Arno, which flows through the city, the river shimmered and glinted in the street lamp lights.  Street performers played guitars and sang as pedestrians passed.  Vendors approached groups, including ours, offering roses, flashlights, and toys.  Finally, we ended our promenade at a little side street gelato shop, laughing and reflecting over our adventures thus far and eagerly anticipating what Florence had in store for us.


Monday – Florence – March 3rd
Museums closed!  Free day

Orsanmichelle museum only open on Monday

7:30-8:30 Breakfast at Hotel


Suggestions- City of Pisa or Sienna – 10 E bus ticket
            Venice 70 E train ticket – very fast!

taly Jourmal Day 4: In Florence with no Baedeker
The modern world has found so very many things to do, see, and experience that they have encounter a problem: so much to see, so little time. The solution to this problem came with the invention of the itinerary. This is quite efficient in scheduling and tracking the myriad events of the day. However, in using this modern invention we fall in danger of loosing the art of serendipity. Serendipity: the beauty of setting out to pull weeds and uncovering buried treasure instead. Today was one such of those days. 

The Perry family, the Prior family, and Sam were abandoned by the remainder of the group for the exotic pleasures of Carnivale in Venice. In retaliation, the Perry family, the Prior family, and Sam (especially Evangeline who was charged with the weighty task of journaling the day's events) decided to make this day one for the record books. After a lovely breakfast of something deliciously Italian (which the author of this journal doesn't exactly remember), they set out in search of a laundromat, as they were running short on clean clothing. Google maps attempted to help, but two miles later, old fashioned intuition and broken Italian phrases won the day. Mrs. Prior was left as guardian of the laundry, and our intrepid explores embarked. 

Our heroes and heroines encountered a most magnificent arch. Now, these wanderers had studied many lectures and histories on similar arches, so they endeavored to glean all information from the faded Latin phrases and Roman sculptures. Christine, our resident Latin expert and sharp shooter, was distracted by the strange Roman numerals. Apparently, one can carve a D before an M and still count properly. Clearly, our well-read protagonists failed to understand the depth of the rule-breaking numbers. 

Upon return to the laundromat, Evangeline began the first melodious strains of "Dona Nobis." Christine and Emma took up her cue, and with Sam holding down the third part, the laundromat filled with the resonance of Latin prayer in three part harmony. Unfortunately, no charmed Italian cast grateful euros at the feet of the fine friends, and they returned penniless to the hotel. Christine and Emma stayed back to try their hands at BBC. 

Sam and the Prior family headed for a pizza lunch and souvenir shopping. Other highlights included the startling appearance of a human unicorn and banana (of which the author silently snapped a picture.) After that, only gelato would soothe the disturbed souls of the five wanderers. Alright, so maybe the unicorn was a mere ploy in order to treat themselves. Reuniting with the Perry family, our entire party set out in search of food. A filling pizza dinner and espresso satisfied their hunger and delighted their tastebuds.

The day concluded poetically -- with a trip to the opera. Many thoughts and emotions stirred within the breasts of our delightful Italian travelers, but to name them all merits its own exposition. Allow the author to finish with this: A well sung aria is like a cup of hot chocolate. It is warm and rich and deep, and the few notes of bitterness make the sweet notes all the sweeter. And it leaves you warm and satisfied in the bowels of your soul. And so, our heroes and heroines rose to the challenge of finding serendipity, (especially Evangeline who set out with a thirst for adventure, returned with a song on her lips, and lived to write about it all.) Viva l'Italia!


Tuesday – Florence – March 4th

7:30-8:30 Breakfast at Hotel

9:30- Duomo / Baptistry
12:00-2:00 Lunch
2:00-4:00 San Marco / Archeology

4:00- 9:00 Dinner and Freetime
            9:15 Opera ?????

Wednesday – Florence – March 5th

7:30-8:30 Breakfast at Hotel
9:00 Talk on history of Medicis on San Lorenzo steps

*9:30-12:00 San Lorenzo / Medici Chapels / Casa Davanzanti?

Buy lunch before Boboli to eat in Garden

12:00-1:00   Lunch
            Walk to Fort Belvedere and San Miniato al Monte

1:00-3:00 Palazzo pitti - Costume, Silver, Art  and Porcelain museums
3:00 meet at top of Boboli to walk to San Miniato

5:30 – 6:30 Dinner below San Miniato

7:00- 8:00 Vespers and singing afterwards in San Miniato

8:00- walk back

March 5

Enthusiastically, we jumped out if bed and skipped to the lovely breakfast that the hotel in Florence provided. We enjoyed eggs, toast, juice, coffee, cereal, fruit, and delightful Nutella! After finishing our scrumptious breakfast we readied ourselves for the great adventures ahead! We assembled and started on our first expedition to the Medici chapel only several blocks away. We discussed the history of the family.  We talked of the great people in the Medici family, such as Cosimo, Lorenzo the Magnifico, and others. It was quite a dazzling chapel for just the Medici family. It was so incredible to think that the Medici family actually walked through this very same place we now stand. Awestruck we gazed upon beautiful memorials to all the magnificent Medicis. It is mind boggling to think that even to this day the construction of this ornate chapel is not yet complete. Some of the statues and even some of the memorials are still unfinished. We walked to and fro, in the side rooms of the chapel where we were so privileged to be able to gazed upon the relics of Thomas Aquinas as well as the deceased Medicis. Our next grand adventure consisted of exploring the grandiose church of the Medicis. We walked in awe of all of the beauty surrounding us on every side. As we proceeded on our gaze fell upon a particularly beautiful circular object located next to our feet. It had a familiar look to it. The object was gold like in color and round in shape with many geometrical features. My memory drew me back to the grand and beautiful hall of Mr. Hinrich's where there is a similar object located on his floor. The glorious design of the geometry is extremely beautiful. We enjoyed our time immensely in the Medici's church. We then continued to San Marco where Savonarola had lived long ago. We were given the great honor and pleasure to walk in the very halls that he walked. Thereafter, we commenced the hunt for food. Finding a small sandwich shop on the side of the road we scarfed down delectable sandwiches. After our lunch, we walked to the steps close to the colossal Duomo. Meeting up with our fellow Italy travelers, we began our momentous journey across the great city of Florence. Along the way we stopped to look upon the beauty of the shops in Florence. We gazed wide eyed into the fabric shop. Throughout our journey we also peered into the window of a particularly beautiful mosaic shop. The mosaics reminded me of the ones used in the Medici's chapel. They were so ornate that they looked as though they were indeed painted. Resuming our journey, we confidently strode following the friendly waving hand. We then came upon a grand museum, the Palazzo Pitti. We climbed up the many flights of stairs into the museum of exquisite clothing and costumes. We even gazed upon the very clothes that Cosimo De Medici wore. It was incredible. Due to lack of time, we were unable to look upon the other museums. We then continued our journey through the Medici's garden, onward and upward. On our way to the top we looked over the wondrous city of Florence. One step in front of the other we slowly made our way up. A triumphant feeling came over us, although our legs were shaking with the vigorous exercise. The view was amazing. We then attended a service at San Miniato which was located on the tippy top of the hill. Probably one of the most memorable experiences was singing after the service. We walked down countless steps to reach our destination, FOOD!!!! At last! We arrived at Anita's and we ordered delightful food, ravioli, spaghetti, bread, soup, and delightful chilled water. After a long awaited dinner, we put a pep in our step and trotted over to Grom's gelato. We picked from numerous exciting flavors. Yummy!!!!! That brings our awesome day to triumphant end.     

Katie the Gelatatarian :)


Thursday – Florence – March 6th

7:30-8:30 Breakfast at Hotel

*9:00-1:50 Academia / Bargello (Closes at 1:50!)
            Talk on history of musical instruments at Academia          

2:00 – 3:00 Lunch at Market of Ospedale degli Innocenti
            Also, talk on history of science

3:00-5:00 Museo Galileo                                                                     

5:30 – 7:00 Dinner

7:00- 9:00 Freetime


Friday – Florence – March 7th

7:00-8:00 Breakfast at Hotel

*8:15-11:00 Uffizi (Make sure to go early to avoid the crowds)

            I will be getting us an entrance reservation


            Perhaps trip to Sienna or Pisa

Liam O’Brien

Italy journal- Friday


 Having been in Italy for a whole week, I think the group was getting pretty tired, but once everyone fully woke up and had breakfast we were ready for the day. The first stop on the agenda was going to the Uffizi Museum, I was particularly excited for this because some of the best renaissance art in the country supposedly resided there. We left at 8:15 for the museum and the walk there was actually very enjoyable. I talked with Mr. H about some of my favorite parts of the trip. I said that the Galileo Museum was my favorite just because I learned so many new scientific ideas. For example, I found it amazing that until a precise portable clock was invented, mankind had no really accurate way of knowing where they were on the earth while sailing. I have always considered a clock a pretty simple tool that gave one the time of the day, however, time can in fact tell one their longitude on the globe, and if one knows the date (which actually will help them to find the latitude on a globe), they can estimate their location on a map. With a little knowledge in math and science, time and date can virtually be equivalent of the modern day GPS. Amazing!

Anyways, after talking with Mr. H, we arrived at The Uffizi Museum. We started the first few hours learning how to analyze art. Some things we all noticed right away was the difficulty in making someone look like they were standing on the ground, and not floating. This seemed like something that would be easy, but it was actually extremely difficult for artists. Another technique we noticed was the different ways artists depicted faces. Some showed the human face in a perfect form where everyone looked the same, while others gave their characters very distinct facial features. Mr. H also showed us that in art with a sky, the sky often changed color, it was usually a darker blue on top and slowly got lighter until the bottom was nearly white. This made the sky look more realistic. 

There were many pieces that I thought were amazing, but I will just talk about a couple of my favorites. The first was “The battle of San Romano,” it was beautiful to me because the artist was able to really show the chaotic and crazy aspect of war. It is painted in a way that really makes one have to look closely to see what was happening, which for some reason I really enjoyed. Another of my favorites was the “Noli Me Tangere,” mainly because I found it interesting how the artist incorporated geometry into the painting. The obvious triangle in the middle did, however, leave an empty space on the left side of the painting. The artist seamlessly added a beautiful tree into the left side of the painting to make the empty space look full. These paintings and more really stuck out to me as truly beautiful.

After the Uffizi Museum, a few of the other students and myself went to an incredible sandwich shop, and feasted on some of the best sandwiches any of us had ever eaten. After that, we toured the museum again for a couple more hours, then I went with my mom and dad to a mosaic shop. The mosaic shop was pretty interesting because they let us go to an area where we could watch them create actual mosaics. At that point we walked back to the hotel and then went with the group to dinner, which was quite nice. After diner, to finish off the day, all the students gathered together and played cards until we got tired. Friday was a lovely day, with a lovely group of people.

Saturday – Florence/Rome –  March 8th

7:30-8:30 Breakfast at Hotel Madison -


Take train from Florence to Rome Termini
2:00-6:00 Visit Ostia and Santa Maria Maggiore

Saturday the 8th of March.

Eagerly we jumped out of bed, wondering what the new day would hold for us. As soon as we got out of bed we smelt the enchanting aroma of espresso. So naturally we ran down the hall towards the dining room. There we beheld the most wonderful sight we have ever seen. Coffee, eggs, toast, fruit, pastries and Nutella! We soon planted our faces in the luxurious feast. Enjoying all that the hotel had to offer. After we were the had depleted all the food in the dining hall, we headed back to our rooms to pack up our belonging as we were departing for Rome later that morning. As soon as everyone was ready we made our way to the train station. Onboard the train we broke out the playing cards and prepared for the hour and a half trip back to Rome.

As soon as we arrived into Rome, we started towards the hotel that we would be staying in for the last day of our travels. After we had settled in we went to go buy a bus ticket for the trip to the airport the next morning. Following the purchase of our ticket we set out in search for food, for by then it was 1:30pm. After delighting ourselves in some Italian cuisine, we made our way to the metro station as we were planning on going to see the ruins in Ostia later that day. Upon our arrival in Ostia, we were greated by a former GBT V student by the name of Liz Meihaus who is currently living in Rome. After brief introductions we stepped into the ruins of Ostia.

The ruins were amazing! The ancient Roman city of Ostia was in antiquity situated at the mouth of the river Tiber (Ostia in Latin means ‘mouth’), 19 miles to the west of Rome. However over the centuries the shoreline moved seawards, due to silting, from the Middle Ages until the 19th century. Therefore Ostia is today still lying next to the Tiber, but at a distance of 1.9 miles from the beach. As we walked down the main street (or what was left of it) we marveled at what we saw. Most of the building looked like a group of mazes while other were mostly intact. We passed the remains of the city gate and wondered what it must have been like in Ostia’s glory days. Wagons passing here and there merchants buying and selling goods and common men going about their business. As we walked along Mr. H talked about the ruins and gave us the history of Ostia. After a while walking down the main street we see this building that looks like the Roman Colosseum. Upon coming closer to it we realized that it was in fact an amphitheater. However, unlike the Colosseum, this amphitheater was only a half circle while the Colosseum is a full circle. Wanting to sing on the stage of the amphitheater, we gaily made our way to the other side where we could access the stage. But alas due the recent rain the park had closed off the stage to the amphitheater. Now the hunt began for a good place to partake in the delightful harmonies of Dona Nobis Pacem. After looking around for quite some time we can across what appeared to be an ancient Roman pub, and what is there to do in a pub but to sing! So we began to sing Dona Nobis, Amazing Grace, and the Doxology. So being satisfied with the experience of singing inside a Roman pub, we headed off back to hotel, making a few stops on the way for dinner and gelato and more gelato. 

Sam Limon

Sunday – Rome/Home –  March 9th

5:30 AM Walk to train station

Take train from Rome Termini to airport