Following a long day exploring the streets and historical sites of Rome, the team checked into the hotel for a well-earned rest before a classic Italian feast at a Roman family-owned restaurant. In traditional Italian fashion, the meal consisted of four courses: antipasti (appetizers and charcuterie), il primo (three varieties of pasta dishes), il secondo (a variety of meat offerings) and dessert (tiramisu, ricotta cheesecake and more) with coffee.
After the pizza, the Irish took on the pasta, with the help of some professionals.
With an early-morning wakeup call, ND Softball headed to the Vatican before the sun rose, arriving in St. Peter's Square as the light peeked over the famous colonnades. Waiting for the team was a familiar face: Congregation of Holy Cross priest and team chaplain Fr. Brian Ching C.S.C., who happened to be in Rome. With a priest from the Pontifical North American College, the American seminary in Rome, Fr. Brian led the Irish into St. Peter's Basilica, and underground into the crypt beneath the famous church.
Waiting for the team was a familiar face: Congregation of Holy Cross priest and team chaplain Fr. Brian Ching C.S.C., who happened to be in Rome. With a priest from the Pontifical North American College, the American seminary in Rome, Fr. Brian led the Irish into St. Peter's Basilica, and underground into the crypt beneath the famous church, for a rare opportunity: the chance to celebrate Mass beneath St. Peter's Basilica.
Following the rare opportunity for Mass in the crypt of St. Peter's, the Irish had another memorable experience waiting just a block away from the Basilica: a tour of the Swiss Guard barracks. The Swiss Guard is a military group tasked with protecting the Pope and all entrances to Vatican City. Comprised of men entering the service after age 19, their history is rich, and the selection process is rigorous. The Irish were guided by Nicolas, a 20-year-old Swiss Guard in his second year of service, through the courtyard, weapon room, chapel and other areas of the barracks.
While the entire city was covered in a thick layer of volcanic ash, it was excavated in recent history and was thought to have been a popular destination for the ancient Romans. The city's population at its height was around 20,000 people, and featured a large forum, many shops and villas, a public bath, a stadium, a theater and a marketplace.
Meanwhile, the coaches and support staff traveled around the Amalfi Coast to the towns of Amalfi and Positano, touring each town and enjoying some of the lemon-inspired specialties of the region, like lemon cake and lemon gelato. The group also took time for swimming in the Mediterranean.
Notre Dame Softball woke up before the sun on Thursday morning for an early drive to the Naples airport. From there, the Irish took off for the last leg of their foreign tour: Barcelona. After the short two-hour flight, they were welcomed to Spain with sunny skies and the full day ahead.
The first stop for the Irish was Las Arenas, a former bullfighting arena that has since been transformed into a shopping mall. From there, the group embarked on a bus trip around the city, and first went to a spot up on the hill to get a beautiful panoramic view of Barcelona. Along the way, the team encountered two Notre Dame graduates themselves on a visit to see the view.
After leaving the park in the late afternoon, the group traveled to Las Ramblas, one of the most famous streets in Barcelona. The street itself is pedestrian-only, and is filled with shops, restaurants, performers and Spanish architecture. The Irish stopped for dinner before heading to their final activity of the jam-packed day: a flamenco show.
The first stop on Day 7 for the Irish was the famous Sagrada Familia church, one of the most famous landmarks in Spain. Construction on the storied structure began in the 1920s, and has still not been completed. Designed by Antoni Gaudi, the same man who designed Parque Guell, the inside of La Sagrada Familia is filled with colored stained glass, abstract angles and columns, styles and pieces that seem unexpected in European religious art and architecture.
After the morning at the famous church, pregame preparations began. After a pregame team meal, the Irish boarded a bus for the drive up Montjuic, the site of the Olympic Stadium from 1992m, along with other Olympic training facilities. Notre Dame Softball put on a clinic for local youth softball players at the 1992 Olympic baseball training field.
After the clinic, the team gifted each participant with a Notre Dame Softball T-Shirt.
The Irish started out strong, with pitcher Payton Tidd striking out the first three batters in the first inning. Notre Dame kept the hold on the game, with pitchers Tidd, Morgan Ryan and Alexis Holloway leading the way to a win in the exhibition game. The Irish defense held Selecció Catalana without a run.
After the game, Notre Dame and Selecció Catalana exchanged shirts and spent time together enjoying Spanish food and music.
After the long day at Montserrat, the Irish returned to Barcelona, then headed out to Sitges, a small coastal town, for their farewell dinner. The menu included octopus, mussels, seafood paella, calamari and other seafood traditional to Sitges cuisine.