June 21, 2013
EUROPEAN TOUR CENTRAL
ROME -- Northwestern began the final leg of its journey Friday by spending time in three marvelous Italian cities. The Wildcats woke up in Lucca, ate lunch in Florence and spent the evening in Rome.
Junior setter Hannah Crippen wrote about the entire day in today's blog entry:
In our cute little inn in Lucca, we enjoyed a lovely breakfast nice and early before heading out to explore the walled city on bikes. We rented bikes from a small shop across from a beautiful flower store and headed into the city, starting off single file. We rang our bells and followed the leader through tight streets and alleys on the bumpy brick roads. When we ventured toward the outer wall, we found that there were hills that we could follow up to a bike path surrounding the city. On the inside of the path, we could see the buildings and houses from up high, all covered with beautiful flowers. And on the other side, looking away from the city was another wonderfully green hilly scene. The morning was clear and sunny but still cool enough for us to enjoy our two hours on the bikes without being terribly hot and sweaty in the end. After exploring the ring around the city, some of us found a little park and played on the swings and monkey bars (like children again), and some returned to the city and shopped around a little more. When our time was up and we returned our bikes, we collected our bags from storage near the inn and walked a short way to the train station.
From Lucca, we rode the train for a little over an hour to Florence. We found ourselves in a busy station with an hour layover before we took our next train to Rome. To pass the time and make the most of our very short trip to Florence, we walked from the train station to the most amazing cathedral. It was a massive white building accented by green tile with rectangular towers reaching up high, decorated with ornate religious statues, arches, and domes. If we had more time in Florence, we all would have loved to pay the 2.50 euros to go inside to see more of the incredible cathedral; but Rome was waiting and we were hungry so we grabbed what I would argue is the best pizza we've had in Italy and headed back to the train station. Our train was delayed, but we waited it out patiently and were rewarded with a refreshingly air-conditioned, roomy train ride to Rome.
Another walk from the train station led us to our next temporary home. When we got to our small hotel we met some fellow American volley-moms who were here with their high-school daughters' club team. Then we lugged our bags up to our rooms which each had three of the skinny little beds we have come to love so much. A quick dumping of luggage had us headed back out to tour some more. The train we took from near our hotel to Spagna was like an Italian version of the `L' we ride back in Evanston. The only difference was that we took it during rush hour, and were instructed by our tour guide to "get on the train, no matter what it takes, get on." An anxiety filled thirty seconds of shoving and bumping and exchanging sweat with strangers finally ended and the whole team successfully entered the train. Thankfully the crowded ride was short, and we made it to our first site quickly. The first stop we made was at the Spanish Stairs. They were built to connect a large cathedral with the inner city, so the stairs beautifully ascended to a classic church with towers reaching even further up toward the sky.
After the stairs, we walked to the Fontana di Trevi. Along the way, many horses pulling buggies distracted me. I even snuck over to pet one but he tried to bite me and I was heartbroken. I forgot about my heartbreak when we got to the fountain. Its sheer size was overwhelming enough, and on top of that it was covered with lavish sculptures of men or maybe gods, angels, and horses in a powerful scene on top of huge rocks above the water of the fountain. Upon the instruction of our wise tour guide (who actually lives in Rome), we each threw a coin into the fountain so we could come back to Italy some day. A lot of us used pennies instead of euros so we could leave a little something from home in the great Italian fountain-- okay, we used pennies because we were saving our euros for gelato. Of course, we stopped at the nearest gelato shop before leaving the fountain and getting back on the train for dinner.
This time, there was no pushing necessary to get onto the train, and we made good time getting to dinner. We ate at another small, authentic restaurant for dinner. There we were surprised to see the volley-moms we made friends with from our hotel enjoying their dinner too. We were served bread and bruschetta to start, of course, followed by spaghetti in a spicy, garlic olive oil, gnocchi, cheese pizza, and chicken with potatoes. Four courses later, our bellies were full and we came back to the hotel, ready to rest up for our biggest day yet tomorrow.
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