Monday, Sept. 18
After another early morning rise, we found San Marino decided to bid us farewell the same as it had said hello—more rain, more cold, and even more fog, so unfortunately, no last minute photo ops were possible. Spending the last two days trudging through the hills of San Marino in pouring rain, it was a wonderful delight that we were graced with sunny skies and beautiful weather to finish off our Tour of Italy in one of the most unique and beautiful cities in the world: Venice.
Personally, I was most excited to visit Venice out of all the cities from our trip, after all, who isn't intrigued by the romantic water canals and gondolas seen in the movies and the amazing art that the city possesses? Around noon, we boarded a ferry that took us across the Adriatic Sea into the magical lagoon of Venice. Shortly after landing, walking towards San Marco's Square, a new excitement not anticipated entered the scene, that would prove to be the highlight of the men's team afternoon entertainment: pigeons—massive amounts of pigeons.
In the square, there were literally hundreds upon hundreds of pigeons, flying everywhere regardless of if you were standing there or not, as Caroline found out the hard way, but don't worry, she definitely got revenge. So naturally, geared by the maturity of the fellow male Maroons and the combination of massive amounts of birds, all afternoon, Nate and Tom, err...I mean those who will remain anonymous, played the game 'bird call' in which they would catch their victim off guard, through pigeon food at their feet, and reap delight in the pure horror of that person being attacked by the birds. Reaaal cute guys.
Anyways, back to the real highlights of the afternoon. Naturally, as we've been doing all trip, we spent most of the afternoon walking around and shopping the street markets for beautiful Venetian glass, original paintings of the local artists, and if you're Coach Rous, more ties.
Taking a break from round one of shopping, we met up for our last tour. The first stop of the tour was Saint Marcos' Basilica, which is the cathedral that was built for his grave. After walking through it and observing the ornate design and detailing of its interior, it is no surprise that it took over 300 years to decorate. The gorgeous gold mosaics that lined the walls were unbelievable. To think this sort of architectural design and execution was possible hundreds of years ago is mind boggling.
Shortly after leaving the basilica, our guide led us through the narrow alleyways to see several famous campos, or tiny squares, that make-up Venice. One of the most striking squares we witnessed was the Miracle Row, which was a beautiful church decorated with an ornate marble design. As our guide explained, due to the marshy land Venice is built upon, the buildings had to be built out of light brick and then decorated on the outside with marble to prevent the buildings from sinking.
Our tour was concluded at one of the most famous bridges in the world: the Rialto. The Rialto is one of 400 bridges in Venice that connect its 108 islands. Some of the most beautiful views of the city were found on this bridge.
After a second round of shopping and one final call of Italian gelato, it was time for us to board the ferry back. But before we did, Caroline seized her revenge on the pigeons pegging one with her shoe. However Tom, the pigeon man, strongly disapproved, for he is the grand protector of the pigeons, and still will not speak to her.
The ride back proved to be the perfect conclusion to a wonderful trip. With the relaxation of the pink sunset against the stunning city scene, everyone had a moment to enjoy our last taste of Italy and to reflect upon the amazing experience we had just shared together the past 10 days.
I think I speak for everyone when I say this was one of the best and most inspiring experiences of my life, and has made memories I will hold with me for the rest of my life. I am so thankful to have spent such a wonderful experience with some of the best girls (and coaches) I know.
- Emily Rybak
Sunday, Sept. 17
Everybody woke up to a cold, rainy morning. We had breakfast and met our tour guide for the tour of the Republic of San Marino. The tour guide, in my opinion, was the best by far. The view from the top of the mountain of San Marino looks like something from a fairy tale. In fact, I would compare the quaint little town of San Marino to the little village in "Beauty and the Beast".
Our tour guide talked about a lot of the history of the town. San Marino is its own country with a population of 29,000 people. We stayed in the capital, which is also called San Marino. Our tour guide took us to see their parliament building, which is made up of two presidents, who are re-elected every six months, and a legislative body of 60 members.
The architecture of the buildings is in a medieval style. The best part of San Marino is the castle at the very top of the mountain. It was definitely a hike to get to because the walkways are very steep, but it was definitely worth it even if it was rainy, windy and cold. From the top of the tower of the castle was a very picturesque view of the mountains and the coast of the Adriatic Sea. It was beautiful!
By the afternoon, the weather cleared up, and the sun came out. The view was even better. It was a gorgeous afternoon. We finished up the rest of the afternoon with some shopping in the many stores that lined the paved streets of the charming little town of San Marino.
That evening, our team journeyed to the "Rose n' Bowl" for a little bit of competitive bowling. Funny story- we pulled up to this place in an enormous coach bus. As we pulled up there were about a hundred people outside the entrance of the building hanging out. As we pulled up in this giant vehicle, everyone started to turn around and look, and these people actually lined up waiting to see who would come out of the bus. They thought we were some kind of celebrities. Unfortunately when we actually started coming out, the crowd started laughing at us. We could tell this situation made Coach Rous very uncomfortable and he became really embarrassed. Anyway, in the end, bowling went really well for most of us and we all had a really great time!!!
- Alex Leach
Saturday, Sept. 16
Ciao from Italia! Today began quite early for the Maroons as we boarded our tour bus to head to San Marino at 8 am. Many of us used the four-hour trip as a way to catch up on some sleep...some even went as far as laying on the floor of the bus, hoping it would resemble some sort of bed (cough cough Caya and Zach). It's okay, we understand – it's tough getting comfy in those seats!
For those who couldn't manage to fall asleep, the ride throughout Italy was actually very beautiful. We passed through the Apennine Mountains – and for all of you who might have missed these sights, there's nothing to worry about since Coach P whipped out her camera quite frequently throughout the ride, and was able to capture it all on video (yep, I caught you Coach P...you thought everyone was sleeping, didn't you!?)
Our destination, San Marino, is actually not even a part of Italy, but instead it is its own country (an independent state, similar to Vatican City). Unfortunately when we arrived to the area, the weather was not too great, so our beach day along the shores of the Mediterranean/Adriatic Sea sort of got cancelled. Instead, we did what all Americans do on rainy days – we went to the mall!! This was located in the nearby town of Rimini. There, we were able to eat lunch and do some shopping, while Megan and her fellow Midwesterners sat down and tried to spread the card game of euchre throughout Europe (sorry Meg, it hasn't really caught on...yet).
The mall actually taught me a lot, which sounds weird to say, but it really immersed us into real Italian culture. There was a definite language barrier and this was something we hadn't experienced in the touristy places that we had been visiting. The language thing kind of made ordering lunch a challenge, but we survived.
After the mall, we headed toward our hotel in San Marino and on the way we were able to pass one of the most popular beach resorts in Europe (it was still raining, so beaching it wasn't really an option). There were a bunch of private areas all along the shore, offering all sorts of activities, such as volleyball, canoeing, paddleball, and even basketball! (The coaches loved this one!!). It actually looked like one big carnival along the beach – there was so much to do. Along the bus ride we also witnessed a little fender bender. Jenn immediately pulled out her camera and captured the moment (what a tourist!).
So, after a fun bus ride, we finally made it to San Marino, which is located on Mount Titano, about 2,500 feet above sea level. The view was amazing. After we got there, a lot of us went shopping – there were tons of small shops long the hills. We then returned to the hotel for another great Italian meal and to finish off the night many people played cards in the hotel lobby and went to bed fairly early after a long, but enjoyable day! That's all for now, next up is Alex with round two from San Marino!
- Caroline Curley
Friday, Sept. 15
Greetings from Florence! Day six of our glorious journey through Italia started bright and early (as Naomi mentioned) with not one, but TWO beautiful museums.
After witnessing the movie selections for our UAA bus rides, the coaching staff probably figured our team needed to be a little more cultured. Or it could just be that these two museums were mentioned in Coach Rous's "Top 10 Things to do While in Italy" book. Either way, we got after it and saw them both, while also squeezing in a little last minute shopping in Florence.
The first museum we saw was called Accademia. It had probably about a billion (slight exaggeration, but there were a lot) of paintings and famous sculptures from the 14th and 15th century. The most renown sculpture here, or the "main event," was Michelangelo's David. Many of you have probably seen pictures or replicas of this sculpture, but nothing compares to seeing it in person. You don't realize how huge the structure really is. If you're ever in the area I suggest you drop in.
Our next museum was Uffizi. I'm not going to lie, the six flights of stairs to get up to the gallery left me a little winded. I blame it on the gelato; that stuff is addicting. But after the cardio workout, it was pretty much smooth sailing, going from room to room, enjoying all the magnificent artwork. What made this museum so nice was that it overlooks the Arno river, as well as a view of the courtyard. I guess this is part of the reason why Florence is known as the capital of art.
After the museums we had our pregame meal at a local restaurant. Our three-course meal included a pasta dish, followed by fresh mozzarella and prosciutto, and topped off with a piece of tiramisu. Very Italian and very delicious!
Then we departed for our last game overseas. As our bus pulled up, we were immediately attracted to the carnival type scene going on outside of the gym. Needless to say, eight of us had to take a ride on the slide. Nobody has more fun!
As for the game, it wasn't our best, but Coach Rous will fill you in with the details. The day ended as we got on the bus and journeyed back to our hotel listening to Megan making up the plots of movies that she's never seen. My personal favorite was the movie Holes, which, according to Megan, was a horror film about a haunted house where ghosts pop out of holes in the walls and scare you.
That ends another great day in Florence. As for tomorrow's experience, you'll just have to wait to hear from CC.
- Lori Tanaka
Thursday, Sept. 14
Here we are in Florence! It's day five and like always we start our days bright and early. There is no such thing as sleeping in! So 9:00 a.m., it was, as we headed to visit some of the most revered sites in the city.
Our first stop was a church called the Santa Maria de Nouvella. It is a Dominican church that was built in the 13th century. But due to renovations, we were unable to see the church. So, we had to use our imagination and envision the church's splendor. We then moved on to the Pointe de Vecchio bridge. This bridge is the only bridge to have survived WWII. Now, its filled with many jewelry shops amongst other types of little boutiques. We took advantage of this photo opportunity and with our cameras in hand ventured towards Duomo square.
The square was filled with many beautiful statues. Among them was the statue of David. This naked statue of a man was sometimes designated as our meeting place when we had time for leisure. We also got to see a Baptistry and another church by name of Santa Maria dei Fiori. This really was a magnificent site to see because of its massive structure and ornate facade. I was left wondering how this was built without our technology that we have today. Some would describe the church as being very plain or simple. But nonetheless, it still was quite amazing!
During our time in Duomo square, we had encounters with some gypsies. I've heard many gypsy stories but none of this comes close to the one I'm about to tell you now. People say that some gypsies throw their children at you, so that they could distract you. At this precise moment, when you are frantically trying to focus on catching the baby, the gypsy would take your things and make a run for it. But what about the baby? Not to worry, the gypsies work as a team, so another gypsy would be sent out to retrieve the baby. This is a crazy but clever trick because most people would not let the baby drop. So knowing this about the gypsies, we were anxiously awaiting when this sort of activity would happen. Unfortunately, we were out of luck. So, I decided that I needed some sort of souvenir from my close encounters with the gypsies. Using my sneaky camera maneuvers, I managed to get a picture of a gypsy. Yessss....score!!!
After visiting the church, the rest of the day was spent for leisure. Some chose to shop at one of the most well-known markets in the city, while others chose to catch up on sleep. Afterwards, we had dinner with the men's basketball team at a very nice restaurant. We were told to bring our appetites, and we were not disappointed! The room was filled with food, laughter, and 27 people that were all having a good time! Can't imagine another day in Florence. Lori will have to fill you in. Ciao for now!!
- Naomi Tesfamikael
Wednesday, Sept. 13
Ciao bella. Italia. These are the two most common phrases printed on almost every t-shirt or other tourist attraction along the streets in Italy. As we ventured further on our journey through Italy, it was now time to move on from Rome and travel to a new loaction. As you have heard, we have definitely had a blast in Rome. To top our experience in Rome, the other places would really have to bring it.
We had an early departure from Rome after breakfast to embark on our three-hour scenic route along the Tyrrhenian Riveria road to Pisa. The ride was laid back, and the scenary was nothing less of BEAUTIFUL with animals grazing the green grass and rolling mountains in the backgroud. When we arrived in in a town near Pisa, we stopped at a Snack Bar to grab a quick lunch and to stretch from the ride over. We were given a heads up on two things: (1) there would be a lot more street vendors trying to sell us their merchandise, and (2) there was a small fee, such as 0.30 - 0.50 euro cents, to use a public bathroom. WHAT? We all were completely shocked by this, but fortunately since we purchased from the store, we were able to use the bathrooms for free. It was already difficult to swallow the fact that we had to pay for water, but I never would have imagined that we had to pay to use the bathroom. Needless to say, the rumors are true: nothing in Italy is free.
After our quick lunch, we transferred to a local bus to Pisa, where we were able to do some shopping and exploration. As soon as we stepped off the bus, the street vendors were already in our faces trying to sell us sunglasses, artwork, t-shirts, architectural figurines, watches, purses, belts. You name it, they probably had it. The part that was somewhat hilarious was their approach in swooning their potential costumers. It was not odd for them to call you a beautiful woman, and say how nice this watch would look on your wrist. I remember even hearing a couple of desparate, "Lookie, Lookie" comments as a last resort to capture our intention. Some people did buy some souvenirs, but only after a well-planned pricing negotiation.
We took a tour of some of the attractions in Campo dei Miracoli in Pisa on the Piazza del Duomo, otherwise known as the "Cathedral Square". Here, we learned about the the Duomo, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Baptistery, and the Camposanto. After our guided tour, we took some pictures in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. We had a good time taking fun pictures holding up the tower and seeing how outrageous we could actually get.
After Pisa, we left to go to Florence, only about an hour and a half away. We checked into the hotel, and then it was off to explore the city. We basically took a mini tour of the city, just to familiarize ourselves with the surroundings. Then it was off to dinner, where the food just continues to get better and better. Later that night we went to the bridge, which was absolutely gorgeous, and listened to a local singer. Although, I had no idea what he was saying, his voice was still music to my ears.
Tomorrow will offer even more opportunities for exploration and shopping. I cannot wait, but Naomi will have to fill you in tomorrow.
- Nicaya Rapier
Tuesday, Sept. 12
Waking up early this morning was a little trying due to everything we have packed in to the last couple days while also not sleeping much, but I was excited to begin day three.
It began with the usual breakfast of croissants, coffee, cereal, ham, and cheese...delicious!!
We arrived at our destination at about 8:00 am and I was amazed to see the monstrous line that curled around the Vatican.
However, we didn't have a long wait, maybe 30 minutes or so. Touring the Vatican and the Basilica was amazing. I saw many different paintings and sculptures that I remember studying in art history. Some by Michelangelo and others by a multitude of different artists that can be seen in the numerous photos we all took.
Although I had studied many of these artists and paintings in school, I truly have a greater appreciation for Roman art. The tour lasted about four hours and when it was over we got a chance to explore thearea around the Vatican for about an hour.
At this point, it was about 3:00 p.m. and we were headed backto the hotel for an early dinner. We had a game scheduled at 7:00 p.m. which I was very excited for.
All I can say is that the game was a good experience, but Coach Rous can fill you in a little later on the details.
After the game, the team went to Restaurante Pizzaria and had the best Italian pizza I've ever tasted.
Soon after, we all retired to the comforts if our mini beds back in the hotel. If I've learned anything thus far in Italy, it is that ABSOLUTELY nothing is free, unless you have a waiter named Jerry!!!!
Well, that's all for me, but don't be sad, Nicaya has the 411 on the events for tomorrow. Later Bambinos!
- Nofi Mojidi
Maroons Win Opener in Rome
The University of Chicago women's basketball team tipped off its Italian basketball tour with a convincing 67-48 victory over Palestrina Basketball Club.
Palestrina hit a free throw to open the scoring and take a 1-0 lead. The lead, however, would be short-lived as sophomore Alex Leach connected on a three-pointer from the corner on the next possession to give the Maroons a 3-1 edge. It was a lead Chicago would never relinquish, as they maintained a double-digit lead for most of the game and outscored the Italians in each of the four quarters.
Junior Nofi Mojidi led all scorers with 26 points.
The Maroons will now travel to Florence and play their next game on Friday against S.G. Valdarno.
- Coach Roussell
Monday, Sept. 11
Day two in Rome was a free day for us to explore, see some sights, and of course, to shop. Our first stop was the Pantheon. We now can confirm that there is actually a hole in the top of the dome that is open at all times. It would have been cool to see what it is like inside of there when it rains but I suppose this sunny, 85 degree weather will do!
Next stop was Trevi Fountain. It is an amazing sight. As true tourists we participated in the fountain's tradition of making a wish while tossing a coin over our shoulder. What wishes were made you might be asking? A UAA championship? A George Clooney sighting? Gelato for dessert, again? World peace? While all are equally important, I cannot reveal anyone's wishes at the risk of them not coming true.
We then hit up Piazza Corso for some shopping. Think Magnificent Mile but on a more narrow street. It's not too much of a surprise to report that the team probably spent more money on gelato than clothing. A skin tight camouflage jumpsuit was tried on in one store; however, until that picture makes it to the internet, that team member shall remain nameless.
The hotels here aren't exactly like American hotels, but after the first two full days we've had here, there's nothing better than those twin size beds that await us! We head to the Vatican bright and early tomorrow and according to my grandma, prayers are heard louder in Rome. You'll have to read Nofi's entry tomorrow to see if that's true. Ciao!
- Korry Schwanz
Sunday, Sept. 10
We started off our trip in style with an eight-hour plane flight to Paris that included movies, games, and limited sleep.
Coach Roussell and I spent a significant amount of time playing what I can only imagine is the French version of Connect Four.
The computer, "Toe", started out strong because it had a better understanding of the rules than "Tik", Coach (with my help), did. "Tik", did finally figure out the rules, but not until after coach and I used the word "bomb" many times to describe one of the pieces in the game. Those of you that saw "Meet the Parents" remember that you can not use the word "bomb" on an airplane. Needless-to-say, when coach finally realized what we were doing we began using a different name to describe the piece.
After one more two-hour plane flight we arrived in Rome ready to take on the Coliseum and the Forum. We met our interpreter, Giancarlo, and he began our history lesson as we walked through the 2,000-year old ruins. We all gained a new respect for the Romans as we tried to imagine building such large, ornate, and complex structures without today's modern technology.
To get back to the bus we walked through one of the main shopping streets and began to plan out our day tomorrow. Back at the hotel, we ended our day with a great three-course meal and went to bed trying to remember all that we had learned during the day.
- Megan Prochaska