We arrived in Italy on day 1 full of excitement and ready for the unique history, food and culture. After getting off a plane at Leonardo Davinci Airport and onto a bus, we drove to very old Catholic Catacombs, dating back to 500 AD. These tombs were both brilliantly interesting and a bit creepy! We had a great first dinner together, and afterwards, we explored and enjoyed the lively Italian nightlife. After a great start to the trip, we thought it couldn’t possibly get better but we were pleasantly mistaken.
The next two days in Rome were amazing - fantastic weather, not too cold or hot without a cloud in the sky. On day 2, a small group of students (myself included) joined Mr. Keleher for one of the most incredible experiences a Catholic could have. We went to St. Peter's Square on Easter Monday and enjoyed Easter Mass performed publicly by the Pope - truly awe-inspiring! While we were enjoying the Pope’s Mass, the other students went on a walking tour of Rome, seeing the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps.
The next day, yet again, provided amazing weather and we went on a walking tour of the Roman Forum and the legendary Colosseum. It was truly incredible to walk through and witness something so large and incredibly old! That night, the male students of NJC went out for a boys' dinner and had a great time, eating traditional steak and tasting traditional red wine from the region. The next day, we were going to go and see St. Peters Basilica, but unfortunately, in traditional Italian fashion, the line was so long and unorganized that we decided we would not get anything else done that day if we waited hours to get in. So after executing an audible on the plan, we explored for a while and returned for a tour of the Vatican Museum. The Vatican Museum was breathtaking, with so many different incredible artifacts from throughout human history. On top of that, there were plenty of amazing works of art, including the awesome Sistine Chapel, which was an awe-inspiring end to the tour.
The next day, we got up (way too) early, and got on a bus en route to Sorrento. On the way, we stopped at the Ancient City of Pompeii. Pompeii is unique because of how well-preserved it is; you can walk through a massive 2,000-year-old city as though you were there during its heyday. We had wonderful tour guides, who explained to us everything from bakeries to the bathhouse. We then made our way to Sorrento and stayed at a lovely hotel overlooking the water. Over the next few days, we explored the Amalfi Coast, taking a boat to Capri, driving to the town of Amalfi, and exploring both of the amazing towns. Unfortunately, the weather was not so kind to us on the coast, leading to some cloudy and rainy days, killing any chance we had of a beach afternoon. Thankfully, we still had a great time, and again better weather was waiting in Greece! So after three nights on the Amalfi coast, we packed up, went to the Napoli airport and flew to Athens!
The day we arrived in Athens was Greek Orthodox Easter so, after a delicious gyros dinner, Mr. Keleher and Mr. Reynolds took willing students to a small church near our hotel for midnight mass. As a Greek Orthodox myself, it was so incredibly special to be able to experience this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Between the candles, the bells, the little church we found and the chanting, it was such an enchanting night. The next morning, we all hopped on a cruise ship and set out to explore the beautiful islands of Hydra, Poros and Aegina. My personal favourite was Hydra, there were donkeys and cats everywhere. NJC students took advantage of the nice weather and went swimming and cliff jumping in the clear blue sea. In Aegina, we had the opportunity to try different pastries and desserts with pistachios. It was so fun to explore the crooks and crannies of these Greek islands. On top of that, we got to enjoy the amazing view from the ship along with food, refreshments and a Greek dancing show.
Day 3 started bright and early with a trip to the Acropolis. The light rain didn’t stop us from climbing the hill whilst listening to the music played by local street performers. Our guides, Evan and Mariana took us through this extraordinary historical monument and made the experience that much more enriching. Everyone has seen photos of the Acropolis, but being there in person among the olive trees and the beautiful architecture of the Parthenon was just a bewitching sight to behold. It was also super exciting to go to the Acropolis Museum and see the different art and works created during the different periods in Greece, especially since a lot of these statues were shown to us previously in our Classical Civilizations class with Ms. Kleeb. The rest of the day we were given free time to roam around the streets of Athens. I had amazing food, saw the tomb of the unknown soldier at the parliament and even found a street market with local artisans.
Day 4 was an Odyssey in its own right. After we left Athens we visited the Theatre of Epidaurus. “PEOPLE OF ATHENS” we chanted, utilizing the perfect acoustics the theatre is known for. The tour guides as always did a great job explaining the history of the theatre and how Greek tragedies were performed there. Mr Reynolds also dropped a coin in the very centre of the stage which could be heard from every seat demonstrating how well-designed the theatre was. We continued our Odyssey on our bus where we stopped to see the famous Corinth Canal. We finally arrived at our destination Nafplio where we were greeted with a delicious Greek dinner. We were allowed to journey outside of the hotel later in the evening where me and a couple of friends decided to walk along the water enjoying the beautiful sky and castle lit up in the distance.
The next day in Nafplio we were able to take in the stunning sights the town had to offer. We visited the famous ruins of the Mycenaean Empire where in Homer’s epics, King Agamemnon would have resided. We saw the tomb of Atreus and went to the castle that towered over the city of Nafplio, we released early to explore this unique town. We walked along the sapphire blue sea surrounded by cats and cactuses. With a couple of friends, I found a wonderful little tavern where we ordered feta cheese which was delicious. We then joined a larger group where we tackled the beach.
On our final day in Athens, we were given the choice to either go see the Temple of Poseidon or explore the city one last time. I opted to go see the temple and was not disappointed by the breathtaking view. Being able to experience all the wonders that Greece has to offer while in high school was such an amazing opportunity.