We will compete in four games against international competition during the tour. The tour will also feature various sightseeing opportunities and city tours including landmark visits to La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, the Trevi Fountain, Pantheon and Colosseum in Rome and St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City for an in-depth learning experience of multiple European cultures.
La Sagrada Familia
We began our second day in Barcelona at La Sagrada Familia. Stunned by the sheer size and detail of the basilica, we spent the first part of the morning just taking in the beauty of the outside.
The basilica's first stone was placed on March 19, 1882 from original architect Francisco de Paula del Villar y Lozano; he failed to follow the plans for the building, and architectural duties were then assigned to Antoni Gaudi (pronounced GOD-ee), one of the most famous architects of the era.
Our guide informed us that construction is set to be completed in 2026; the year is significant because it is 100 years following Gaudi's death.
Following La Sagrada Familia, we headed to the Olympic sites, which played host to the 1992 Olympic Games. Do you recall, that was the first year that professional athletes were able to participate in the Olympics? That year was the birth of the Dream Team.
On our third and final day in Barcelona, we took some time to really enjoy the city. As a team, we competed in our very own Amazing Race. There were multiple landmarks we had to find across Barcelona such as Casa Batlló, the Teatro Coliseum and the Basilica de Santa Maria del Pi. Of course, it was a competition among the team to see who finished first! Melody Kempton, Gillian Barfield and Kaylynne Truong took first place, but Jill Townsend, Anamaria Virjoghe, Kylee Griffen and Jessie Loera played tour guides for us for the day, showing us around Barcelona. Check it out below!
We had a quick two-hour flight to Rome, Italy to continue our #ForeignTour2019. Once we landed, we met our group guide Mattia and our tour guide, Lisa (easy name to remember for our group!).
After a quick stop for lunch, we hit the town and it didn't take long for us to be in total awe. We started at the Piazza Navonna, taking selfies in front of the gorgeous fountain and learning about the early Roman history.
Then, we headed to the Pantheon where Kayleigh Troung gave us a rundown of the history. Did you know that in ancient Greek, Pantheon means 'To honor all Gods'?? Oh, and it's also the world's largest unsupported concrete dome. Pretty cool history lesson!
Next, we headed to the Trevi Fountain and tossed our coins. One for a return trip to Rome, two for love and three for wedding bells. The fountain was constructed at the end of an aqua duct at the meeting point of three roads. This is where it gets its name, Trevi Fountain or Three Street Fountain. The fountain is constructed out of the same material as the Colosseum, travertine stone, and it is so heavy that many men were injured and even killed during construction.
We ended our walking tour at the Spanish Steps. It is the longest and widest staircase in Europe with 138 steps, and it was constructed in 1723.
Check out our full day below!
The Roman Forum was located at the center of the ancient city of Rome, and it was the location of important religious, political and social activities. Julius Cesar became the first resident of Rome to be deified (following his death), and he was honored with a temple inside the forum. He was cremated inside the forum within the walls of the city, which at that time was against the law.
Historians believe people first began publicly meeting in the open-air forum around 500 B.C., when the Roman Republic was founded. The location of the forum was strategically placed between the Palatine Hill and Capitoline Hill, and it was home to many of the ancient city's most impressive temples and monuments. Plus, it was only a short walk to the massive Colosseum, the next stop on our tour!
The Colosseum was just a five minute walk east of the Roman Forum. The massive stone amphitheater was built around A.D. 72 and completed just eight years later in A.D. 80.
We had a great panoramic view of the Colosseum while on our first tour of the Roman Forum, so of course, we had to stop for some pics!
The Colosseum was used for several types of entertainment for the Roman people, including gladiatorial combats, wild animal fights and public executions. Our tour guide, Lisa, told us that following the animal battles, the people would feast on the meat of the animals. It is estimated that more than 400,000 people died inside the Colosseum and about one million animals were killed during the 390 years the amphitheater was used for entertainment.
Our final day in Rome was simply spectacular. We traveled to another country! Vatican City is it’s own separate country within the city of Rome, and it houses the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica.
We walked through the Vatican Museum and soaked up all the art history we could. Our guide, Lisa, told us of all the stories and meanings behind the major sculptures, canvasses and tapestries.
We then toured the Sistine Chapel. It took Michelangelo nearly five years to complete, and he had to create his own scaffolding to accommodate the unique location of his canvas. Given the delicate nature of the painted ceiling, photos were not permitted, but we gazed upward for nearly 15 minutes at the famous painting.
Then, we ventured into St. Peter’s Basilica. We were able to see where the Pope addresses the crowd in St. Peter’s Square as well as walk through the Basilica and admire the detail of the designs.
The day was full of history, art and religion, and we loved every second of it!
Saturday, following an incredible three days in Rome, we traveled to Florence by train. The one hour, 20 minute ride cut our commute by nearly three hours, as the bus carrying our luggage took nearly four hours to make the trip. It gave us a great opportunity to see the Italian countryside traveling at nearly 155 mph.
Once we arrived in Florence, we stopped at a local market for some lunch and shopping. Italy is known for its leather, and nearly the entire market was full of leather goods. Also, if you rub the snout of the wild boar in the photo below, you’re guaranteed to return to Florence. So of course, we all did!
Next, our guide Sylvia took us on a walking tour of the city. We walked across Ponche Vecchio (the only bridge not destroyed during WWII), continued through the Piazza della Signoria, gawked at the Piazza del Duomo and Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and walked through the Accademia Gallery, home to the famous David by Michelangelo.
Once we finished our tour of the Accademia Gallery, the team was free to shop, eat and sight see on their own. The coaching staff, meanwhile, decided to take a cooking class in the hills of Tuscany. It was quite the adventure! We learned to mix flour and egg to create the base of our pasta; then, when it was starting to get tough, we started to knead the dough. After letting it set for about an hour, we flattened it and created our masterpieces!
The tour began on top of an ancient wall that was created to create the ancient town of Lucca. We rode along the wall for about 1.5 miles, while our tour guide pointed out different landmarks and fun facts along the way.
It was definitely a leisurely ride -- no Tour de France wannabes here! But it was the perfect way to explore this little town.
A few of us headed to the Casa Famiglia San Paolino, a halfway house for families in need. We had the opportunity to play with all the kids and give them their very own basketball hoop. We also enjoyed a nice meal with the residents, complete of course with pasta!
Another group of us had the opportunity to chat with women at Suore Francescane Elisabettiane, a retirement community run by nuns. We had so much fun maneuvering language barriers and getting to know each of these awesome women.
The final group of us went to work at Mensa Caritas Baracca, the local soup kitchen. There, we were put to work chopping and washing fruits and vegetables, washing dishes and of course, serving food.
Our first top was to St. Mark's Square and St. Mark's Basilica. St. Mark's Square is the principle public square for Italy, and it is generally known as La Piazza.
Following St. Mark's Square, we made our way to St. Mark's Basilica, the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice and northern Italy. It is the most famous of Venice's churches, and it is one of the best known examples of the Italo-Byzantine architecture.
The interior is decorated almost entirely by mosaics; there are more than 85,000 square feet of mosaic in St. Mark's Basilica, and there are more than 500 columns. The majority of the mosaics include pieces of 24 carat gold, and it took more than six centuries to complete.
Venice was a dream. We've seen this city so many times portrayed in the movies, but it was quite the experience to see it in person. Check out the photos and video below to get the full experience!