May 30, 2012
On the way to Italy, we had a few delays at the airport. A bit stressful but as time passed we made our way to our intended desitination. Having been used to certain customs my whole life, the breakfast variety was a surprise. It was not what I was used to , but the flavor of the food was great. We started our first day with a bus ride into Rome to see some historic structures. Most of the things I had only seen in pictures in books. We had an amazing guided-radio tour of Rome.
Day 2 started with trip to the Vatican City which included visits to St. Peter’s Cathedral, Sistine Chapel and the art gallery. It was all of the utmost beauty. It was breath taking to see some of the paintings and designs. We finished our time in Rome with lunch at a local pizzeria. Off to Montecatini!
Day 3 was off to Florence for shopping and free time. Our guide Giancarlo gave us a quick history lesson about Florence. The AIST family believes Florence has been the best city we have visited so far. Everyone loved that they could barter for their goods. Something we are not used to back home.
Day 4 We left Montecatini for San Marino. After a long bus ride, we arrived at our hotel to find a beautiful view of the country side. Team Stars has a game tonight in Ancona.
May 30, 2012
AIST Italy Volleyball Tour – 2012
Hello from Italy! Me (Katie), Lauren, and Coach Dragan from Franklin Pierce College are here with a program called AIST and touring all around the country while also having an opportunity to play volleyball internationally. In the fall of 2011, me and Lauren got an email inviting us to play on a team with other college athletes from all over the country. Coach Dragan told us it was an opportunity of a lifetime, one we couldn’t pass up. So here we are, in Rome, Italy and San Marino, Italy the first two days of the tour.
Me, Lauren, and her friend Tayler, who also got on the team, decided to come out to Europe early and spend 7 days on the Greek islands and 3 days in rome before meeting up with the team. I can tell you already this is a trip of a lifetime and I am so blessed to have this opportunity.
Because we came out early, we had to meet up with the team at the airport Saturday morning. So we got on a shuttle taking us to the airport at 10:30 AM only to find out that the group got stuck in Lisbon, Portugal, and wouldn’t be arriving at the hotel until about 12am that night. So we decided to go to our hotel and figure out a plan for the day. We were supposed to spend the day at the Vatican museum with the group, but they wouldn’t get here in time to see it. Luckily, our Italian tour guides and one of the AIST managers, Gary, had flown in early and met us at our hotel at around 12:00. They told us we could go see the Vatican since we were here. So we quickly got ready and took the shuttle into town. Our tour guide, Matea, helped us get into the museum. But before that, he took us around to see St. Peter’s Basilica, only the most famous church in the world where the Pope lives and preaches from. It was breathtakingly beautiful. Mateo also pointed out the window in which the Pope preaches from, which is also his bedroom.
After stopping at the Basilica, Mateo finally led us into the Vatican museum. Once we got in, Mateo left us to wander on our own. Everything about it was amazing. There were so many sculptures and paintings. All the paintings were so intricate and elegant. We didn’t know a lot of what we were seeing since we weren’t with our local tour guide, but we did try to eavesdrop on some of the other English speaking tour guides. We were in there for about 2.5 hours just looking at all the paintings and sculptures. The pictures do not do it justice after seeing it in real life. The Sistine Chapel was the last part of the museum, and the most amazing. The whole thing was painted by Michelangelo. We werent allowed to talk or even take pictures of it once we got in. The security officers were really strict about that. There was so much going on in the painting, and all of it had a different story behind it (something we learned from our “tour guide”). Once we were done with the museum, we got a gelato, walked around, and caught the bus back to our hotel.
Before meeting up with the team at 12 am that night, we went back into town to have dinner in Campo de Fiori. We had a nice traditional Italian meal, then went to a little local bakery to have dessert. We caught the bus back to the hotel and just hung around Untill the team got there. They finally arrived at about 12:15 am. We met the rest of the girls on volleyball team, had a quick midnight dinner, and then went to bed to rest up for the long day ahead of us.
Today, we woke up early and had to be at breakfast at 8, leaving for our tour at 8:30. We took the bus into town, and there we met up with our local tour guide. We got headsets so we could hear what she was saying without having to be close. We walked round the town, first seeing the hotel Eden, where all the big movie stars like Tom cruise stay when they come. Our next stop was the spanish steps. The top of the steps overlooked Rome where you could see multiple basilicas, including St. Peters basilica. After that, we made our way about five minutes down the road to the Trevi Fountain. Me, Lauren and Tayler had seen this at night a couple days earlier but it still looked so different and just as beautiful. All the sculptures in it were so complex. It’s amazing to think that something that big and elegant was sculpted by hand, from marble, in the first couple centuries. We had some free time around the fountain, so we did some shopping and got a gelato. After meeting back up with the group, we made our way to the Pantheon. Before we reached it, we walked through some political buildings, and even passed by the building where the Prime Minister of Italy lived. Our tour guide explained it as “the white house of Italy”. There were a bunch of police man outside of it so some of the girls stopped and took a couple pictures with them. We then stopped at the pantheon right around the corner. It was this big building that was erected in 80 AD.
The columns were 36 feet high. Also, right next to the building, she showed us where the street originally was back in 80 AD. It was about 15-20 feet below us. This is because every year, one of the rivers would flood, leaving behind a layer of sediment, water, and debri. Through all the centuries, it had kept building up, raising the street level to where it is today.
After that, we walked to Adrianos Palace, also a short walk away. There were also large columns in front of it. It is open to go inside and see it, but because it was a Sunday, there was a mass in progress so we couldn’t go in and see the church. Nonetheless, it was very beautiful from what we could see from the outside. We also stopped at the first university in Rome which was built in the 1600s. There was a little court yard area and then there was a little church behind it. We finished our tour in the Piazza (square) Navona. There were three fountains; one in the beginning of the square, the biggest on in the middle, and then one at the end. In between the big fountain and the one at the end there were a bunch of artists who were selling their paintings and drawings of all the major moments. Every artist had a different unique style and they were all so pretty in their own way. What was cool about the Piazza Navona was that it used to be a stadium during the Ancient Roman times which was turned into a restaurant, shopping, and living area.
After saying goodbye to our tour guide, we stopped really quick at the Colosseum to see and to take a couple pictures in front of it. We were already running late, but couldn’t leave Rome without seeing it!
After that quick stop we drove about 5 hours to our next destination: San Marino. We played our first opponent which was an Italian club. We got there, warmed up for about 35 minutes, and started our game. We lost all three games, but the last two were close. Considering the days of travel and touring we have had, and a brand new group of girls, we thought we did alright. We lost the last two games by two points, 25-27 and 26-24, so we are optimistic about our upcoming matches.
We made it back to our hotel, had dinner, and just relaxed in San Marino for the rest of night.
Thursday, May 31
It was hard for me to get up this morning. we have been going hard since we arrived. Today is our first day off from volleyball and there was no way I was oversleeping on this trip, so I got up, packed up, and was ready to take on a new adventure. Today we had a decent, almost American breakfast, took a group picture with the staff of the hotel (they loved our girls) and headed to Cinque Terre. I was sad leaving Monticatini. I am very comfortable there and like it a lot. Little did I know what the day would bring. Our most recent destination, Cinque Terre is officially my favorite European City. It is located on the Gulf of La Spezia and is known as the Italian Rivera. The name comes from the five hamlets that are located on the west coast of the Riviera. The cities are linked by footpaths but we didn’t get to explore that far. The gulf is a clear turquoise color and the houses are bright Terre cotta and yellows. The drive up was kind of scary. Our bus driver William, did a great job We started our visit in Portovenere. It is one of the five cities on this coast. We took a boat cruise that fortunately had a guide that spoke English and Italian so we were able to understand what he was telling us. The township goes back to Roman times and most of the area is now a National park. The view from the water was breath taking. The cruise lasted 45 minutes and then we had free time for lunch. This area is known for its pesto so that’s what I was determined to eat. I found a restaurant that did not disappoint and ate way too much. After lunch Lauren and Katie went shopping and I strolled the coast line trying to soak up as much sun and scenery that I could. Cinque Terre has won me over! We were to meet the group at our assigned point at 3:00. The three of us are always on “coach time” and are always early for everything. I was happy about this because Katie showed up eating gelato that she said was the best she has had on the trip. She was right, the combination of mint chocolate chip and pistachio was amazing. I may explode from all the food I am eating here and it is all so good! We left Cinque Terre and headed to La Spezia. This is where will will spend the night. The basketball team has a game here. This area is urban and seems very busy compared to Cinque Terre and Monticantini. Most of the trip I have been sleeping in a twin bed. It is very common in Europe, and here I have a full size bed. I was shocked. As I type, the teams are eating dinner. I am so packed with food that I decided to skip it. A lot of the volleyball girls, including Katie and Lauren, are going to support the AIST basketball team. I am not. My plan for the night is to relax, catch up on some emails, and then beat our host, Mattia, at bowling tonight. He has no idea what he’s getting himself into taking on a girl from the Midwest! We can bowl. The funny thing is if you asked me of all the things I would dream about doing in Italy, bowling would probably not make my top 100 list. That’s the great thing about this trip, anything can happen.
FINAL BLOG – By Coach Dragan:
It’s going to be a while before I eat pizza, or pasta, or bread or gelato. Spending time in another country always reminds me of the little things i take for granted on a daily basis. I am bringing back incredible memories, new friendships, and the experience of being in 4 countries in 9 days (Portugal, Italy, San Marino, and Switzerland) I’ve never been in the same city as the Pope and i fell in love with Cinque Terre. I can say that me, Katie, and Lauren had a great experience on this trip and I am glad I could share it with them. Who wants to go with me next year?
May 29, 2012
AIST teams are all safe from the earthquakes that have been taking place. Although some have felt the tremors nearly 3 hours away, the earthquakes have not had an impact on the Italy tour groups.
May 27, 2012
First Stop: Munich… Gütenmorgen!
It was a series of falls – falling in love with Munich… It started when our plane fell off schedule in London – a quick 6 hour nap had us back on our paws and on a plane to Munich. Arriving at our hotel Achat in a quaint residential area outside the city, we then fell into a deep slumber of kitty cat dreams – of victory, beer, and bratwurst.
An early wake-up call had the sleepy ‘Cats falling out of bed. A somber trip to Dachau gave us an enormous perspective on a time period generally only read about in textbooks. It was a quick visit that left a lasting impression on us all. Ready to lax, a divine German breakfast sent us out onto the turf ready to claim two victories against the Czech and German National team.
The afternoon is where the falling really took off. We had Jess Melby, star athlete, taking a dive off of one of Mike’s Bikes in the City Center. Erin Keitel met her match on a rather daunting turn, falling into a bush. And lastly, a sacrilegious fall into a Confession Booth inside the beautiful Theatinerkirche cathedral by Liz Edwards had everyone staring.
A couple skin burns and with no regrets, the ‘Cats spotted a man made slide in the English Park and obviously had to give a whirl. YOMO (You Only Munich Once). At the end of the tour, the sound of rushing water and breaking waves had our California girls intrigued- a surf mecca for landlocked Germans had the ‘Cats roaring.
After a long but incredible day, the ‘Cats dined, falling into conversation with Czechs and Germans alike, exchanging stories of lax and International Love (I see you Pitbull).
Concluding our Munich tour, the ‘Cats finished with two more victories, being crowned Champions of the World (or at least the Munich tournament). Speaking of Champions, Kim Wayne, head coach, then fell from the sky when attempting to zipline through the Olympic Stadium. Jokes – she soared. Sarah Duncan and Erin Doherty fumbled around in inflatable bubbles on the lake in the park while others took the high road, ascending up in the tower at Olympic Park which oversees all of Munich.
After two days of hard work and a busy but exciting schedule, the ‘Cats were ready for some napskis before they ventured into City Center for some brewskis. Hoping not to fall into the typical American tourist persona, it was time to bid Munich aufwiedersehen.
Day 3-4 – Blog by: Erin McGuire, Alanna Parker, Emily Rademacher
After laxing, biking, and touring, we departed from Munich, making our way to the Neuschwannstein Castle and Zurich. Bratwursts, gelato, and window shopping had us ready to take on the castle by storm. We had a 30 minute uphill walk to the castle, dodging horse carriages and wishing we could teleport. The view was worth the walk. Once we got up we enjoyed looking like classic tourists and taking a million pictures. Afterwards we explored the castle with our guide, seeing the few rooms of the castle that had actually been finished before the king’s untimely death. Apparently he was drowned in shallow water with his psychiatrist, but nobody knows by whom…DRAMA! After visiting the castle, we were ready to head on to Zurich.
After a day and a half in Zurich, we can vouch for its reputation as one of the most expensive cities in the world. In the train station you had to pay 2 francs to go to the bathroom! But still, we wish we had more time. Zurich is beautiful. We started our time in Zurich with dinner at our hotel and a short evening exploration of the city center. In the morning, we had a guided walking tour to unlock the secrets of the city we had seen the night before. Barbara, our tour guide, was pretty much the coolest. We were showed the largest clock face in Europe along with beautiful gardens and lake views. After the tour we had a couple hours to take charge and explore the city on our own. We were sad to leave Barbara but managed to get a couple of pictures to capture the memory of our time with her.
A quick look at some of the price tags as we window shopped on Bahnhof Strausse left our mouths gaping and feet moving as we traveled toward the less expensive part of the city. Even the least expensive candy bar broke the bank….looks like we’ll be sticking with Hersheys. We picnicked by the lake and then made a trip to Spriingli, a famous chocolate shop. After this we headed back to the bus, leaving Zurich behind us. On to Italy!
May 24, 2012
by: Adam Fazzini
Day 1 – Galway, Ireland
My name is Adam Fazzini. I am a rising senior graduating with the class of 2013 next year. Our highly anticipated trip to Ireland has had our team very excited for some time. This is a great opportunity for our team to build chemistry and enjoy each other’s company while exploring the beautiful country sides and cities that Ireland has to offer. We are also fortunate enough to have the opportunity to play against some of Irelands basketball clubs while we are here. This is a good experience for our team to get a feel for what we are going to have next year and what we need to improve on. There are big shoes to fill with losing our great senior class to graduation this spring and our players are eager to step up and prove themselves. Read more