A Look Back: Italy '61

Mary Ann Henderson '61
Venice, Rome, Capri, Florence – these names recall treasured memories of happy and exciting moments in a land which could only be dreamed about before.  Italy in the spring was more than able to meet our glowing expectations, and she gave to each of us a warm little piece of her to carry with us always in our hearts.  The attractions were innumerable and we admired everything from the sparkling black eyes of a little bambino to the shining dome of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice.

The cities of Italy were like history books suddenly become alive and meaningful. What fun to relax in a gondola watching the buildings pass by and wonder how the early Venetians managed to build so skilfully this beautiful city on hundreds of islands in a huge lagoon! How exciting to stand on the balcony of the cathedral and peer down into St. Mark’s Square at an immense throng of Venetians celebrating the one-hundredth anniversary of the unification of Italy!  But the days flew by and we soon found ourselves wandering among the historical ruins of majestic Rome.  A feeling of utmost respect seemed to creep through our minds as we made our way about the forum, stopping here and there to consult a worn and dog-eared guidebook, and wishing that Mr. West could have been with us.  The weird yellow lighting by which we viewed the Colosseum at night brought to mind all sorts of jumbled images – wild animal fights and mock sea battles.  The Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Cathedral, the Trevi Fountain, are all places that we will remember for the rest of our lives.  

The journey further south started once again.  The cliffs stretching down into the blue Mediterranean enthralled us, and by the time we arrived at Sorrento, we could hardly wait to jump into the cool salt water. The next day we lost no time getting an early start to visit the famed Isle of Capri.  That day can be described as no less than wonderful, from the merry boat ride over to the moment our pleasantly weary steps led us back to the hotel.

Tanned and healthy, we moved on for an overnight stop at the picturesque Salerno.  From there we made our way back up through Italy.  Everyone had some special place in mind to revisit during the one-day stay in Rome.  By this time the hotel personnel seemed like old friends, and I think most of us made sure that we had assured our return to Rome and the smiling inhabitants by throwing a coin in the fabled Trevi Fountain.  After a short stay at Assisi, we finally reached our last big city, Florence.  Florence – the heart of culture, with its unparalleled art galleries and stately cathedrals.  The intricacy and splendour of the bronze doors on the Baptistry of St. John, done by Ghiberti in the 15th century, amazed us.  No pictures can do them justice.  Florence also held a great attraction for many in its lovely shops and its gay straw markets.  We found the best way to approach the straw markets was to check your purse, take a deep breath, and plunge in, bargaining for all you were worth.

These are some of the main attractions which everyone enjoyed together.  But the little personal and insignificant incidents are somehow the means by which one really remembers the charm of a city or country: - the pleasant glow one feels while watching the lights of Venice dance on the rippling black water – the delicious aroma of a pizza done to perfection – a friendly chat with a few of the smiling Italians in a tiny shop, lost in the back streets of Rome – the teasing, and gales of laughter as we tried to master the art of eating spaghetti gracefully – the many birthdays that were celebrated – and the gala dance in the hotel in Stresa on our last night. 

We will also have fond memories of the bus rides – of the difficulty of turning a sharp corner – of the singsongs, and the added attraction of a yodelling exhibition by the bus drivers – of sleepy heads, and the inviting picture of a new hotel as we came to the end of a long day’s drive. 

Finally, the sight of dear old Neuchâtel came into view, our second home, ready to welcome us back from our fun-filled holidays in Italy for one last final term in Switzerland.
Neuchâtel Junior College offers the unique opportunity to study Canadian curriculum abroad. While living in Switzerland in a French community, students enjoy an international education through travel and experiential learning in Europe. Gap year and Grade 12  high school students gain international experience and develop independence and life skills that prepare them for university and the global workplace.

A Canadian high school in Switzerland | Grade 12 & Gap