Spring Break is Time for Global Italian Study!

Student explore gelato and art

Francesca Drejaj, Contributing Writer

If you’ve taken a simple glance at Instagram within the last month, or any social media platform for that matter, you’ll know that 50 of our very own BHS students and staff recently took a trip overseas to Italy. As a participant on the trip, I can most certainly say that it was as wonderful as the pictures – we all had a great time, and I would love to relive every part of it. So, in order to fulfill that to the best of my ability, allow me to take you through the steps of the Bell’Italia tour.

Our journey started at the J.F.K. International Airport. We met Mr. Franzè by our terminal and waited for about an hour for those who got caught in New York City traffic. Holding our suitcases close, we all buzzed with excitement as the realization sunk in: we were going to Italy!

Enduring bag check was no easy feat, but our group moved effortlessly through security checks, finishing the ordeal with about an hour to spare before takeoff. Most of the students sprinted to the nearest Starbucks, saying goodbye to the establishment and American food overall by purchasing drinks and bacon, egg, and cheeses. The hour expired quickly, though, and soon enough, we boarded the plane. Many of us were too excited to sleep through the plane ride, and eight hours later, we landed in Milan, Italy.

We took no second to rest. After entering the airport and retrieving our bags, we met with our tour guide, Rachel, who easily became a fan favorite among the group with her interesting call to catch our attention and fun facts she shared along the way. Soon after, we were ushered onto a bus, where we met our bus driver for the week, Nikola. He, too, became a fan favorite for his shockingly cool demeanor while driving and happy smile whenever you boarded the bus.

Milan was the first city we toured. As we walked through the cobbled streets, seeing stores you’d see in Manhattan was a nice way of easing into Italian culture without being overwhelmed. Our time in Milan was short, though, because soon enough, we were back on the bus and driving to Venice.

The next morning, after settling in and eating both dinner and breakfast at the hotel, Rachel whisked us away to a boat, where we sailed the Italian canals to two little islands, Murano and Burano. We saw a demonstration of glassblowing and toured a little island full of brightly colored buildings, delicious gelato, and random cats running around as if they had nothing better to do. Students were enriched by the history of the bridges we walked over and wowed by the pastel colors of every passing building.

After our visit to Venice, we once more rode our bus to Florence. There, students marveled at the large cathedrals built over several years, watched a demonstration on homemade leather, and ate some of the best pizza I’ve ever tried (don’t worry, I still prefer New York style pizza!). A viciously competitive scavenger hunt commenced, as shopping for only the highest quality gold jewelry became a popular pastime. Making friends with every pigeon also became a staple of the trip.

Wishing our farewells to Florence, BHS said hello to Assisi, a quaint little town known for its olive wood and gorgeous Church of St. Francis. Most souvenir shopping was done here, considering Assisi’s products were mostly made by the shop owners. Students bought an array of goodies, ranging from crossbows to keychains. Assisi, unlike the other cities we toured, was much less congested and gave the students some room to breathe and regroup before being thrust into the grips of the Vatican and Rome.

Our two most trying days were spent in another country and in the capital of Italy. Vatican City, an independent nation from Italy, was jam-packed with tourists and believers wanting to see the gorgeous architecture and enchanting statues. Crowds of people were enamored by the craftsmanship of the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. Souvenirs were also bought here, since they could be blessed by Papa Francesco, or Pope Francis, himself! Following the tour of the Vatican was a visit to the Colosseum, one of the Wonders of the World. The day of walking exhausted everyone, but the next day saw no breaks, either.

Rome, being a historic city, was full of sights to see and food to taste. Our last full day in Italy, we had nearly the entire day to ourselves. With nearly six hours of free time throughout the day, we felt as though we owned Rome. We walked through those piazzas (some of us rode scooters through them) like we were natives, speaking Italian as if we were doing so our entire lives. After being in Italy for days, our confidence flourished.

All good things must come to an end, unfortunately. The next day, we were bussed to the Roman airport and took a plane ride to London. After spotting Mr. Paul Rudd (yes, the Paul Rudd), we boarded the airplane and took a rather bumpy ride home to America, where we were greeted with open arms by all of our families. Alas, our journey had come to a close.

When telling people about the trip before actually going, the most common response I received was, “That is a once in a lifetime opportunity.” Now, after being back in America, I finally understand what everyone was trying to tell me. Being able to witness culture in such an immersive way was incredible, and experiencing life in another country was absolutely bizarre and definitely educational. I am forever grateful to have been given the opportunity to see Italy with my own two eyes, and I hope that upcoming juniors and seniors get to experience the marvelous adventure that is the Italian peninsula.

I would like to thank Mr. Franzè, our industrious leader, who fearlessly led us through Italy and coordinated the entire trip. Mr. Franzè, thank you for everything you did for us. I appreciate it, and on behalf of all of my fellow world travelers, we all appreciate it, too.

Also, click here to watch Marko Tyhansky’s Vlogs of the entire trip!