After a long 12-hour sleep, we woke up early to eat a breakfast of antipasti, cheeses, and fruit.
We started the day with a light training. Already it was hot and humid. In training we worked on our defensive shape and defensive pressure on the ball. We did not train too hard because later in the day we had a match.
Around 13:00 o'clock in the afternoon we left to play AC Mangione at their home field, about 2 hours from our hotel in Norcia. AC Mangione is a Serie C professional team in the Italian league. We played well and won the match 1-0 with a great shot from sophomore Stan Coville from about 20 yards out.
After showering in the locker room that AC Mangione had provided for us, we departed for Siena to see a live professional match - AC Milan vs. AC Siena. The winding cobblestone streets and electric air made Siena a very attractive and lively city.
The soccer stadium was nothing too fancy, but a simple football pitch surrounded by an old, worn-out track. The stands were high and the fans were many; the fans were seperated into AC Milan fans on one side of the stadium and AC Siena fans on the other side. We sat with the AC Siena fans. This seperation of fans was to prevent violent breakouts.
The fans of AC Milan and AC Siena were all types of people - old ladies with their grand-daughters, young boys dreaming to be great soccer stars, husbands with their wives, etc. In Italy, it seems that all types of people feel the passion that soccer brings. Enjoying every moment of the game, we blended right into the crowd. AC Milan ended up winning the game 2-1 after the 19 year old Brazilian Pato tucked two goals away.
After the game, we walked around the center of the city for a couple of hours, ate some pizza and took in the scene, then we headed home. The ride was long from Siena to Norcia. When we made it back we went straight to sleep.
Today we got up early in the morning for an early practice. After practice, we spent the day wondering around on our own and exploring the small town of Norcia. We looked into shop windows and bought small souvenirs to bring home with us.
Later in the evening we trained again. After the evening training, we went out to dinner at a nearby restaurant. We returned to the hotel late in the evening and fell asleep soon afterward. We will train early tomorrow before departing to Rome.
Today we woke up early for practice. We practiced until about 9 a.m., then we headed to Rome. We spend the day sightseeing in Rome.
First, we walked alongside a professional tour guide inside the Vatican. We saw jaw-dropping artwork from artists such as Botticelli and Michelangelo. The highlight of touring the Vatican was the Sistine Chapel. Each picture upon the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel tells a specific story. In the center of the ceiling there are 9 frames. The first three frames depict "the separation of Earth from Sky", "the separation of Earth and Water" and "the Creation of Sun and Moon". The next three depict the story of Adam and Eve, from there birth to banishment from the Garden of Eden. Lastly, the final three frames on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel depict the story of Noah and the Great Flood.
After spending about 20 minutes in the Sistine Chapel, we got back on the bus and headed toward the Colosseum. We passed St. Peters square and many ruins of ancient Rome on the way to the Colosseum.
We did not go inside the Colosseum, but admired its structure from the street. We spent our final hours wandering around Rome in small groups, venturing into small boutiques and coffee shops, and sightseeing the Pantheon amongst other landmarks. We returned late at night to Norcia, around 9 o'clock. We went out for a late dinner, then returned to the hotel. It was a fun and eventful day! We will have practice and 9 o'clock tomorrow morning.
Today we trained twice and had a nice break in between practices to recover from a couple of hard work days.
We woke up early and practiced right next to the hotel. For the evening practice we drove to another field just beyond the mountain upon which our hotel is located in Norcia.
The evening practice continued for about two hours and then we returned to the hotel. Exhausted, we wrote emails home and fell asleep quickly after. We have practice again early tomorrow morning.
Today we got up early for a morning practice. The practice focused on set plays, corner kicks and free kicks around the 18-yard box.
After practice we had a couple hours to ourselves. Many players went into town and got hair cuts and ice cream in their spare time.
Later in the afternoon we played our second match against AC Norcia. Our team fought hard, but we lost the match 2-1. We were not too happy with our performance, but we are sure that we can do much better. Part of the problem with our performance in our match today was that we are still becoming comfortable with each other; it will take a couple more days for everyone to understand each other as soccer players.
We returned from the game around 7 p.m. After we had showered and freshened up, we headed out to a late dinner. After dinner we returned to the hotel, did our laundry, and then went to sleep. We will practice at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow morning.
Today was a long day. We woke up early for breakfast and our morning training, then headed to the tour bus.
We visited some nearby cities around Norcia. The largest city we visited was Perugia. Perugia was beautiful, with cobblestone streets and beautiful architecture. We had a professional tour guide lead us around the city for about an hour. Then, we went around by ourselves and explored the scene. Perugia is in the mountains, and so the view of the valley below is breath-taking. The beauty of Perugia was unlike anything we have seen before in the U.S.
Many of us enjoyed pizza and gilato (which have become the two most popular snacks on the trip) in our free time. We returned to the hotel from Perugia around 9 p.m., then headed out for a nice dinner.
At dinner, we are always given the option to drink "frizzante" water or "naturale" water (aka. bubbly or plain water). Frizzante water has become very popular on the trip. It is delicious and adds great enthusiasm to each meal.
Anyway, we returned to the hotel from dinner and went straight to sleep. We have a long day of soccer tomorrow, starting early in the morning.
We woke up early, as usual, ate breakfast and went to our 9 o'clock practice. The morning session was sharp and definitely one of our better practice sessions. At this training, I think, we realized how dangerous of a team we can be this season, if we continue to play in the right state of mind.
After lunch, the whole team took a couple hours to relax in their rooms and take an afternoon nap. After a couple hours off, we had another training session. This second training session was not as sharp as the morning training session, but a good one nevertheless. Players continue to become more and more comfortable playing with each other.
After the second training session, we went to dinner. At dinner, we had pasta with a meat sauce on it that was very particular to the Norcia province. The meat sauce, which we thought was a beef-based sauce, turned out to be wild boar!
After a fulfilling dinner, we returned to the hotel and went to sleep. We have a match at 10 o'clock tomorrow morning against a very good team. We will be ready!
Today we had a game in the morning against a very good Serie C team. We played well and won 5-1! Morale was high after the victory.
After the match we went to the beach. The Adriatic sea was beautiful. The beach was not too crowded, the sand was fine, and the water was warm. We swam and hung out at the beach for about 3 hours before heading back to Norcia for the night.
Once back at Norcia we went out to dinner. At dinner, the waiters and owners of the restaurant delivered to us a very nice farewell speech and presented us with a beautiful cake. The farewell ceremony was very kindhearted and provided great closure to out experience in Italy.
After saying our final goodbyes to the town of Norcia, we returned to the hotel and slept for four hours before waking up at 4 a.m. to return to Chicago.