Italy 2018

September 29-30
As we headed into our last few days of exploring Italy, we went to explore San Gimignano. This small town has many unique features including some of the very first hotels that were known as hospitals. It began as a small colony, that later developed into a wealthy town known for their fabric and tall towers. After a two-hour curiosity expedition, we took a short break for lunch. Then, we attended an authentic gelato workshop. This was run by a world champion of gelato, Sergio Dondoli, who was an energetic and passionate gelato artist, as well as a great singer. At this workshop, we not only made gelato, but we learned about the history and the importance of using good ingredients to make real gelato.  This was a great experience for two reasons. One, we ate lots of gelato. Two, Sergio’s passion radiated throughout the workshop, and now we all understand the importance of gelato. Everyone enjoyed this workshop. Afterwards, we hopped on our bus and headed back to the hotel.
The next day started with breakfast and a quick shuffle to the train station. We took another bullet train to Venice, where we dropped our bags at our final hotel and sped out the door to meet our tour guide and get on the bus, which took us to the grand canal. Once we arrived at our destination, our tour guide led us through the narrow alleyways of Venice. We definitely would have been very lost without her. After plenty of sharp turns, bridges and brick buildings, we met our other tour guide who took us to Piazza San Marco. We entered St Mark’s Basilica, which was stunning. The walls and ceilings were entirely covered in extremely detailed golden mosaics representing scenes from the Bible. We learned how gold mosaics are made, and saw how gold leaf was placed between two small pieces of glass. After the tour of the church, we walked along the canals to get to the grand canal, where we boarded gondolas that took us through Venice. We did a big loop around some of the city, where we saw colourful houses and different statues that stood in the middle of small squares. When we arrived back at the docks, we once again walked over bridges and through narrow alleyways until we arrived at the Venetian Mask Workshop. We learned about the history of masks in Italy, and saw demonstrations of different techniques that people used to decorate the masks. We were all amazed at how the masks were created and painted. After the workshop, we returned to our hotel, where we changed into formal clothing and then went out for pizza night. Most of us had margherita pizza; it was delicious. We played card games and Would You Rather. Needless to say, we had a good time. After dinner, we went out for our last gelato. Everyone got at least two scoops of all different flavours. We were extremely hyper after that, so we went on a short walk through an outdoor gallery until everyone was too cold to continue.  We headed back to the hotel and spent our last night in Italy.
On behalf of the student travelers, we would like to thank all the teachers and parents for providing an excellent opportunity for us. This kind of adventure is only made possible by people who care and are willing to invest in our education. And as students, knowing that there are people who are willing to do so, gives us courage and hope. So, to all the teachers and parents, thank you for providing with an amazing experience. It meant a lot to all of us!
Written by Ammy D., Erica L., Alisha L. and Claudia S., grades 9-10 

September 27-28

On the 27th we woke up in Rome and left on a bus to Florence. Since it was early, everyone quickly fell asleep on the purring bus, only to wake up in the Parco dei Mostri in Bomarzo. Were we still dreaming? Our imaginations were racing as we didn’t know what to expect. We took off running as we only had forty-five minutes to take as many selfies with monsters as possible! We then jumped back on the bus and headed towards Florence.

Once arriving in Florence, we dropped our luggage at the hotel and set off to find lunch.   A local hole in the wall, La Forca, served up the best pizza and pasta to date.  And that’s saying a lot after Naples and Roma! Fully fuelled, we met our tour guide and the Florence adventure began. We loved seeing the beautiful cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, and walking through the markets and shops to the Ponte Vecchio bridge over the Arno River. On the way back to the hotel we enjoyed a treat at GROM Gelateria.

After dinner at the hotel , we ended this epic 25,000-step day by studying Michelangelo”s David at the Galleria dell’ Accademia di Firenze. We saw many other statues and incredible art pieces from the Renaissance era.

On the 28th we woke up to breakfast and a brand new day. Our little hotel was an exciting 45-minute walk to the city centre. There we discovered the golden boar fountain and tried our hand at negotiating with vendors for souvenirs. There were lots of kiosks that carried leather bags and wallets as well as scarves of silk, cashmere, and wool. For lunch, we made our way to a cute little restaurant called Mister Pizza. It was delicious and accommodated all of our group’s dietary restrictions. After lunch, we continued to explore the sites and shops.  We ended our adventure with Venchi Gelato, (the best yet). Finally back to the hotel for dinner, card games and laughter!

Written by Georgia B., Jasmine K., Tia L., and Harry B., grades 11 -12

September 25-26

Today’s blog post is by us, Robbie, Robb and Jack, with Mr de Beer serving as scribe.  Tuesday and Wednesday were our last days in the City of Rome and, in our opinion, definitely the best two.

On the first day, we visited lots of Ancient Roman ruins.  We started with the Catacombs of San Callisto.  Here we saw the graves of several popes, as well as some of the pots and lamps that had been left behind.  Many of the bones had been removed, but most of the common people’s graves were still sealed.  We were so deep underground that it was freezing (compared to the heat of Rome, anyway).  The tour guide told a story of a child that had disappeared in the Catacombs, never to be seen again … but we all stayed together and made it back into the light!

After that, we saw our first Italian wildlife: the little turtles swimming in the pools at Hadrian’s Villa outside Rome at Tivoli.  It was cool to see the ruins of the massive baths … really, more like a personal spa!  We also found it really interesting to see the slaves’ quarters (they were very cramped) and the tunnels that allowed the slaves to work without being seen.  The emperor’s palace stood on the hill overlooking the whole, huge estate.

Back in the City, we also saw the emperor’s palace on the Palatine Hill, before we came to our highlight for the day: the Colosseum.  It was spectacular!  It was smaller than we expected, but still massive, being bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside.  It took only eight years to build the whole thing by hand.  Its layout looks just like a modern stadium’s, except that it was originally decorated with marble and statues.  We climbed to the upper floor to get a view of the whole amphitheatre.  It was amazing to see how close the emperor’s box was to where the gladiators fought!

The next day was a little more relaxed.  We started by going to see the Spanish Steps.  We saw an artist sitting in the street using stencils to spray-paint pictures for the tourists, which we thought was cool.  Some of the other street vendors were very pushy, though.  We did some shopping in the stores on the Via del Corso.  At the Roma football team’s official shop, we bought customised jerseys.  After lunch in the Borghese Gardens, we shopped some more near the Spanish Steps while another group went to explore the neighbourhood of Trastevere.

In the evening, decked out in our new jerseys, we took the bus to support Roma in their game against Frosinone.  This was absolutely the best part of the whole trip (tied with Colosseum, maybe). We had great seats, not very far from the front, and close to Roma’s hardcore fans who waved their massive flags and chanted the whole game long.  We had learned from a French visitor on the bus that the opposing team wasn’t the best, and it showed … Roma scored their first goal around one minute forty into the first half!  Each time we scored, the fans around us went crazy.  The announcer read out the scoring player’s first name, and the whole crowd shouted back his last name in unison.  Before long, we were chanting with them!

The football game was amazing … and the other stuff was pretty good, too.  We are now on our way to Florence.  There is no football game waiting for us there, but we’re excited nevertheless.


Written by Robb G., Robbie H., and Jack P., grade 9

September 23-24


I am writing this entry because all the children are sound asleep, tired after two very packed days. On Sunday, we travelled by the high-speed train from Naples to Rome, with speeds reaching over 220 km/hour.  We were in Rome before we knew it.  Our bus took us to our hotel, detouring around the Via Pacis half-marathon.  After a leisurely lunch, we explored the neighbourhood to continue our quest for exotic gelato flavours (fig was delicious).  That evening, we had a three-hour walking tour of Rome, led by Annamaria, our young and enthusiastic tour guide.  The architecture, statues and the fountains were amazing to behold.  Our walk took us through the Castel Sant’Angelo, the Via Veneto, the Piazza Venezia, the Piazza Navona and the Pantheon.  Whew – I am sure that I forgot to list many famous places!  I encourage you to do a Google search and explore some of these locations.  During the tour, we passed a large outdoor Mass being sung near the Piazza Navona in honour of Padre Pio.  It was beautiful.  The Ponte Sant’Angelo and Trevi Fountain were also amongst my personal favourites.

Monday was definitely a memorable day.  We explored the Vatican Museums, led by Heidi, a retired Austrian teacher.  I cannot find the words to describe this experience.  We gazed with awe at the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel, seeing Michelangelo’s depictions of the biblical stories, including Old- and New-Testament scenes like the parting of the Red Sea, and the Last Supper, with Judas sitting on the other side of the table.  Wow.  Then, we all climbed the narrow curving steps, which run between the inner and outer layers of the dome, to the top of St Peter’s Basilica, where we could look out from the Vatican City across Rome.  It was a total of 640 steps up and down and someone likened it to doing the Grouse Grind.

We ate a late lunch with some of the tastiest pasta I have ever eaten.  Afterwards, we went back to explore the Piazza Navona to take pictures around the Fountain of the Four Rivers.  We scored another win on our gelato quest; the boys particularly enjoyed the exotically-named bubblegum-flavoured gelato on our way back to the hotel in the evening.

As Mr de Beer has said, it is important to experience the Vatican City at least once in one’s life, if one is able.  I am glad that I was able to do it with this group of students.


Written by Stella Ablett

September 20-22

We have arrived in Italy!

The plane rides were successful, although they were long!

From the airport we took a three-hour, very comfortable, bus ride to the city of Naples. This was an excellent way to introduce us to the new environment. Once we arrived at our hotel we settled into our rooms and prepared for a short tour of Naples. Our tour guide, Miss Lily, first took us to get some authentic Italian food. We meandered through the crowded streets of Naples to a little shack where we enjoyed some pizza! Then we strolled down streets that were built by the Greeks before the birth of Christ and stopped at a cathedral, observing all the art and beauty. Soon after we made our way back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. That evening we had the opportunity to eat our meal with many of the Italian traditions. This includes not having everything served all at once. And considering the amount of sleep we have had over the last two days many of us ended up retiring early!

The next day started with a full buffet breakfast at the hotel. We enjoyed experiencing all the different kinds of foods. By nine o’clock, we were on our bus to Pompeii. We were very grateful that our bus had air conditioning because it was so hot! Once we arrived at Pompeii we met Miss Lily and began exploring the ruins. We came across a house once owned by a wealthy family. This was an awesome experience because some of the students remembered stories from Latin class and also building a Roman house in grade five, with cardboard and hot glue. To actually be able to walk in a Roman house, a theatre and through the village square, was a highlight of the trip so far. After seeing a few more places, such as a bathhouse and what we would call today a parliament, we got back onto our bus and started towards the cause of the ruins, Mount Vesuvius.

When we arrived we stopped for lunch before our “little” hike to the top of the volcano. The hike was not too painful and everyone managed to do it! At the top we met another tour guide who educated us on the volcano and what happened when 800 C lava moving at 80 km per hour exploded from the mountain. After exploring the crater for a bit we went back down the volcano to meet our bus. Once we arrived back at the hotel we took a short rest.

When we got back to the hotel some of us headed out to go shopping for shorts and others stayed back to play cards and rest some more. Later tonight we will have dinner together and tomorrow morning we will take the fast train to Rome. We have arrived safely and have started exploring!

Written by Alisha L, grade 9