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School Tour of Italy
Newsletter 31st October 2010
On Friday the 22nd, at the unearthly hour of 4.00 am, 49 students and their six teachers set out from the Ard Scoil on their school tour to Italy. Some dozed on he coach to Dublin, while others excitedly chatted. Thanks to the wonderful new road we arrived at the airport a mere two and a half hours later and checked ourselves in. Inside the terminal the first of many bouts of shopping began!
We landed in Bologna where we met our coach driver Ugo, who took us into this beautiful, historical city, the seat to Europe’s oldest University. We enjoyed a couple of hours strolling about the gorgeous streets and squares and, of course, visits to the shops produced even more bags of purchases!
We went on to our hotel in Bussolengo, above Lake Garda, where we settled into our rooms and had dinner. We met up with our friends from the C.B.S., who arrived just after us and it was a tired group who headed to bed.
Morning call was at 7.00 am, plenty of time for showers and complex make up routines before breakfast! We drove along the banks of the lovely Lake Garda to Malcesine, a wonderful medieval town. Here we had time for a quick walk about before we took the cable car up to Monte Blanco. Unfortunately mist obscured the views at times, but the second revolving cable car was exhilarating none the less. At the summit we met with a wonderful, if bitterly cold, snowscape. Afterwards hot chocolate and cappuccinos revived frozen bodies!
Back in Malcesine there was time to have lunch, visit the market, wander through the streets and… shop, before we boarded the coach and continued to stunning town of Sirmione. We walked across the moat bridge and continued through the town until we reached the ruins of the enormous roman villa. Here we were lucky to meet an archaeologist and fan of Ireland Leonardo, who graciously offered to guide us around the ruins, a treat we were delighted to accept.
As we walked back to our coach there was time to sample delicious Italian ice creams. After dinner the group headed to Benacus and near by leisure centre, to enjoy quasar, bowling and other games.
Sunday morning everyone was eager for the visit to Gardaland, a magnificent theme park. The day was dampened, but the spirits were not, by the torrential downfall, as the girls enjoyed the spectacular rides and terrific Halloween shows. We moved on to our next hotel in Lido de Jesolo (Venice’s beach), where everyone rushed for hot showers and dry clothes.
Monday morning we took the vaperetto (waterbus) into Venice, enjoying the lagoon scenery as we did so. Students had been advised not to wear light canvas shoes and those who did so rued it greatly as we arrived into Venice at high tide. This combined with the heavy rainfall and full moon tides meant that St mark’s square and many streets were flooded. The wily Venetians were wearing wellies, while we had to take to raised walk ways around the square for a time. However our two superb guides led us through the streets towards the Rialto, regaling us not only with interesting facts but also with amusing anecdotes. On discovering that girls had been studying The Merchant of Venice, they connected the play to the relevant period of Venetian history. The girls then had time free to explore the glories of Venice, and, of course, its many many shops… As the tide receded they were able to cross St Mark’s Square and visit the Basilica, truly a Byzantine feast of art and architecture.
Back to the Lido for dinner before going off for an evening of bowling. Fun was had on all five lanes, some students displaying great prowess. Two teachers, who remain anonymous, thought they were having a quiet shoot out on one of the arcade games. However, engrossed as they were, they were not aware of their growing audience…
Tuesday! We took a private Vaperetto directly to the island of Murano, famous over the centuries for its wonderful glass works. Here the girls watched a demonstration of glass blowing and were amazed to see a delicate glass horse emerge from the process. As we wandered along the canals and streets of this mini Venice, the girls were able to indulge in some culturally uplifting… shopping.
In the afternoon we visited the nearby city of Treviso, again with time for street ambles and lunch.
Back in the Lido after dinner it was time for hairdos and make up sessions, as the girls prepared for Disco Night!! We were the first group to arrive at Disco Splash and the girls enthusiastically took to the floor, god bless their energy!
We were joined for a while by a school group from Montenegro, before returning to the hotel at 11.15 to pack and prepare for an early morning start.
Wednesday. We set off on a bright, blue day, with the snow covered Dolomites in the distance, to go to Verona, the setting of another Shakespearian play, Romeo and Juliet. Of course there is much more to this glorious city than “Juliet’s House”, and we began our visit with a bus tour around the city, where Ugo pointed out various sites of historical and cultural interest. We walked first to the roman arena; dating 30 AD it is the third largest coliseum in Italy, still in use today as a venue for Opera performances.
Of course pilgrimage to Juliet’s House was undertaken, before students were given free time for a final taste of Italian cuisine and, what’s that?, more shopping.
At Bergamo airport we bade farewell to our excellent driver Ugo, thanking him for our safe journeys and his knowledge and helpfulness on our visits to all these places. Following check in we had time for a cup of tea, or, unbelievably, more shopping, before boarding our flight back to Dublin.
It was a quiet coach trip home to Dungarvan as tired heads drooped. We arrived home at 2.30 am, tired but happy! I believe one student was up at 7 am the next morning, telling astonished parents “sure I was up at that time every morning”.
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