MERIDIAN — Story by Meridian High School students Matthew Fera and Caroline McGinnis
Thursday, March 7, 2013. Two days before spring break was to start, a group from Meridian High School spent their day flying over the Atlantic Ocean to the country of Italy. This would be the fifth year that our school has taken a trip to a foreign country with EF Educational Tours, and the second time our school has taken a group to Italy. The group consisted of 34 people, including students like myself, teachers and their family members.
After spending nearly a full day flying, we landed at an airport in the city of Milan. We met Elsa, our tour guide, who showed us to the tour bus. We then traveled to our first hotel, The Hotel Miami, which was on a small island near Venice, and we spent the night preparing for the day ahead of us.
The next day, we rode a water taxi to an island to the side of Venice to watch the famous Morano glass blowing, which was very impressive. Once we left there, we hopped back onto the water taxi and rode into the city of Venice. We spent our day learning the history of the city, seeing beautiful architecture such as Saint Marcs Basilica, and using our free time to take in as much of the culture as we could. (This, of course, included authentic Italian cuisine!) We even had the amazing opportunity to ride a gondola through the city's canals which led us to the Grand Canal and an amazing view of the Rialto Bridge. This was an experience nobody wanted to miss. At the end of the day, we all reluctantly went back to the hotel for dinner and another night of rest, because we were going to the city of Florence the next morning.
Once we arrived in Florence, it didn't take long for the weather to take a sour turn. It rained for the larger part of the day, and with Florence being a big city, we were doing a lot of walking. During the earlier part of the day, things were feeling pretty gloomy. Most of us were exhausted, and the rain was coming down relentlessly. However, we all agreed that there was no way we were letting anything bring our spirits down.
We continued the day with a guided tour, learning about the city's past. A great majority of the group went to the Accademia to see the beautiful artwork of Botticelli’s Madonna and Child and Michelangelo’s Statue of David. The next day, we stayed in the same region but also went to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which was in the area. Some of us also climbed the tower, which was pretty difficult but once we reached the top, the view was amazing. Besides being caught in the middle of a chaotic Italian high school party, which is the 100-day celebration for all high school seniors in Italy that will be receiving a diploma, it was a great experience.
We returned to Florence later that afternoon, and as our luck would have it – the rain returned with us. We spent this day in Florence finding things to do on our own initiative, and with most of Florence looking like a huge shopping mall, most of us shopped. We were also given the chance to climb the dome of St. Mary’s Basilica which is a massive church in the center of the city. After we had finished with our time in Florence, we went back to the hotel and got ready for the final stop: Rome.
On our way to Rome, we stopped in the small town of Assisi. This town isn't a huge tourist attraction, and therefore wasn't nearly as crowded as the other locations we visited. As a result, the town was much more quiet and peaceful than the places we'd been to, and this was a huge relief. St. Francis was from Assisi, and we saw his tomb which is in the lower part of the Papal Basilica of San Francesco of Assisi. After this stop, we made our way to the great city of Rome. We stayed in a hotel on the outskirts of the city, and woke up the next morning with a huge day ahead of us. We went to the Coliseum and walked throughout the interior, then walked all the way through the Roman Forum and viewed all of its architectural history.
After this, we went to the Vatican City. Many roamed throughout Saint Peter’s Square, and also went inside the Domus Artis, which is a roman gift shop where all of the merchandise was blessed by Pope Benedict before it was put out on the shelves. If you wanted a personal blessing, they sent it to the Vatican to be blessed again but this time by the Cardinal who was in charge during the time that Pope Benedict was no longer in office. We then toured the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's Basilica, but we didn't get to see the Sistine Chapel because the Cardinals were there voting on a new Pope. When we finished the tour, a few of us waited in front of the Vatican for the smoke to signify if a new Pope had been elected. After an hour or so, nothing had happened, and the majority of the group decided to leave. However, five members of our group, which were Brenda Griffin, Madeline Griffin, Linda Bruister, Katie Bruister, and Kelly Offenburger, who was the only Catholic to stay, skipped dinner, and got to see the white smoke and the new Pope come out and speak that night. A few members of the group such as Mr. Abdella, Hayes Abdella, and Judy Siefker whom are Catholic were pretty upset that they missed out on the actual presenting of the Pope in Saint Peter’s Square, but they were still excited to have been in Rome during this monumental time in history.
The rest of us were about two blocks away from the square eating dinner when the new Pope was elected, and the energy from the excitement of this event practically flooded the entire city. At the end of the night, some of those who left Saint Peter’s Square before the Pope was elected, went on a walk to see the Trevi Fountain, which was one of the most gorgeous structures they said they have seen. We went back to the hotel feeling like the luckiest people alive – until the next morning when we had to leave.
We all thoroughly enjoyed the trip, and regardless of everything working against us, it was still an awesome experience. No amount of rain, exhaustion, or even the high currency exchange rate could mess up this once in a lifetime experience. We would like to thank all of the people who made this trip possible. We owe our gratitude to the superintendent of Meridian Public School District Dr. Taylor for allowing us to take these huge trips, and we also owe thanks to our Principal Mr. Hubbard for giving us this amazing opportunity. Finally, we want to thank Mr. Abdella for planning and organizing this trip, along with the four past trips. Mr. Abdella is our school's Advanced Placement (A.P.) U.S. History teacher and our A.P. European History teacher. I asked him why he continued to organize these trips every year. His response – “To see the look on students' faces when they see historical monuments that they've only seen in books.” Next year, Mr. Abdella is planning a trip to Germany, and we hope it to be just as memorable as this year's trip proved to be.