See the complete photo album by visiting www.knightsinitaly.shutterfly.com. Participants have uploaded nearly 1000 photos from their perspective of the trip.
Our final day in this beautiful country is upon us. Today was Day-o-Roman Churches. But first it was to the Coliseum. Bridgett had brought with her a Traveling Curious George doll so he became really good buddies with our Traveling Knight, WT. There was a courageous battle between the two at the Coliseum and in the end our valiant Knight was victorious. It was fascinating to learn the Coliseum is nearly 2000 years old and on Good Friday the Pope will perform the Procession at the cross at the base of the Coliseum.
From the Coliseum we strolled the same paths of Caesar and visited the forum ruins which served as the social and political center of Rome. Caesar was cremated there as well.
We were then bussed to San Clemente church which has the same history as Spirito DiVino. It is a church built on top of another church. The original church is 3 floors below where the present church stands. It remains at the foundation of Rome’s original ground level and every step felt like going back in history.
We had our final lunch together near San Clemente which included Bucatini Amatriciana, Straccetti beef, fried pan cicory and tiramisu. For some of us it was our final coffees.
After lunch we visited 3 more Roman churches; The church where the Pope functions as the Bishop of Rome, a church which holds a piece of the cross Jesus was crucified on, and a round church with frescos portraying the different ways the Christian Martyrs were tortured or killed. This church was unique not only because it was round but because the modern renovations of it revealed bits and pieces of the original building.
By this time we were churched out and had made our way back to the hotel to pack, prepare for our dinner gala and to get our last gelatos.
Dinner started with an antipasti platter, pesto fettuccini, chicken and peppers, and ending with a fruit and ice cream dessert. We also had a sampling of prosecco, and red and white wines.
We did a toast to our wonderful guide, Tiziana, for putting up with all our shenanigans, requests, tardiness, and questions.
The next day we had an opportunity to sleep a little bit longer before our ride to the airport. Which allowed a few of us, Heather, Bridgett and I to get breakfast gelatos. This place did have a cereal gelato and an egg gelato but they weren’t the items chosen for our final stop. Getting through the Rome airport and JFK was a bit frustrating but the flight was actually quite pleasant. Dr. DeSanctis and I were greeted by Gannon alum and newly appointed Board of Trustee member, Richard Orlando. Him and his wife were flying back after taking cooking classes along the Amalfi coast. What an unexpected surprise.
Final thoughts: The Year of Faith started the day we arrived in Rome. We narrowly missed an audience with the Pope as he addressed a crowd at Saint Peter’s Square to proclaim the beginning of this year of faith which is an opportunity for Catholics to experience a conversation and deeper relationship with Jesus. What an amazing experience it would have been to have witnessed this moment in history.
I found it interesting every day at every hotel the continental breakfast was exactly the same; scrambled eggs, fried ham, cereal choices, fruit choices, the same 3 types of the same brand of yogurts, rolls and deli meats and cheeses, and croissants with various jams and Nutella.
Bathrooms were hard to adjust to as the logistics of them were different than the American style.
The inaugural Gannon alumni group travel trip to Italy was an experience to remember; a whirlwind of action and adventure. From the sights, sounds, educational history, and food we were transformed through learning the culture and sampling the gifts Italy loved to show off. We all came back 10 pounds heavier than we had arrived and not just in luggage full of souvenirs.
Final trip quotes that didn’t make the posts brought to you by Chris Sekerak and Becky Sheehan.
“I thought about buying olives but then I’d just eat them and they’d be gone.” Chris Sekerak
“This umbrella makes me feel smarter.” Chris Sekerak
“Life is too short to not own a scarf.” Becky Sheehan
Ciao! Venice is gorgeous. The weather is perfect with clear skies and low 70’s temps. Prime for ultimate tourism. We arrived in Venice at 11:00 a.m. after an overnight flight from JFK. Unfortunately for Elizabeth her luggage decided to tour New York City a little bit before coming to Venice and didn’t arrive with her. Luckily she was promised it would arrive the next day, no harm done.
There was no rest for the weary as our adventure started immediately after our water taxi, vaporetto, delivered us to our hotel along the Grand Canal. Some of us had less than restful slumbers and were walking zombies but we powered through like champions because we’re Gannon Knights! We were escorted by our faithful guide, Tiziana, to Saint Mark’s Square for a walking tour where we experienced our first gelato’s, cafe’s and historic views. We were taken on a guided tour through Saint Mark’s Basilica and the Murano Glass shop. We witnessed the art of glass making and saw some beautiful glass art. We walked past the Bridges of Sighs and the Doges Palace. We were relieved to arrive back to our hotel for a little refresh before dinner.
The group loves the lobby and feels right at home being able to connect to the free wifi while listening to the musical enjoyment of elevator/Glee like versions of our favorite pop songs. And did I just hear, “Call me maybe” on our vaporetto on the way back to our hotel. Yes, I believe I did.
Some of us enjoyed Bellini’s on the rooftop of our hotel for a pre-dinner cocktail complimented with a fabulous sunset view of the city. A couple of guys shouted “Go Sabres” as they noticed Becky’s Sabres shirt. It turns out they were from the Buffalo area. It is a small world!
Our dinner was a 4 course meal starting with bread, moving on to a creamy pasta, followed by a glazed pork with roasted potatoes, and balsamic arugula. It was finished off with the most amazing chocolate tort of our lives. We’re still waiting for something to top it.
Our next day was a day-o-leisure. Dr. DeSanctis took us to a local parish for a true Venetian mass at Saint Lucia’s. Tiziana walked us through the winding streets and across bridges back to Saint Mark’s Square. She lead us to the oldest church in Venice, San Giacometto di Rialto and across the oldest bridge, Rialto, which is the tallest point in Venice. We also passed the Casino where Tiziana said, “You pay a cover charge and then they give you the fish.” I said, the fish? She said, you know the the the things you gamble with, to which we all laughed and said, “oh chips!” Later this came in handy, as Kelly attempted to snap a picture with the Police but was denied. Chris said, “Don’t worry. There are more chips in the sea.”
Once we arrived back at Saint Mark’s square the group split. Half went to tour the Doges Palace while the other half decided to take a leisurely stroll back through the winding streets to shop. I chose the shopping route. Kelly, Becky, Chris and I took the leisure part a little too seriously as we stopped at a wine bar for a little vino della casa and took a gondola ride. Chris started her iTunes so we were serenaded by Michael Buble through the watery canals. Perfecto!
And success! We’re back at our hotel and Elizabeth’s luggage arrives minutes before we depart for dinner at great little place with some mighty fine gnocchi and tiramisu across the canal from our hotel.
So far Italy is living up to its reputation. We’re onward to Ravenna next!
By the way, my name is Erin Sekerak, Assistant Director of Alumni Services, Gannon University and I’m typing this on an iPad, so forgive the autocorrections. I’m hoping to connect to a computer in a future hotel to upload pics. Arrivederci!
We’ve recognized how worldly our alumni are, so to feed their traveling spirits, the Gannon University Alumni Association has developed Alumni Travel Opportunities as one of the Alumni Benefit Programs.
This first trip takes alumni to Italy’s fabled sites, as led by Gannon’s own Dr. Michael DeSanctis, professor of fine arts and director of Gannon University’s Honors Program.
Gannon alumni will begin their journey in Venice where we will visit St. Mark’s Square. From there, we will view the Byzantine mosaics in Ravenna. The next day takes us to Florence for a walking tour along the River Arno to Ponte Vecchio, and tours of art legends such as “David” and II Duoma, “The Gates of Paradise” and “The Last Supper.” From Florence, we will tour Assisi, the Church of St. Claire and the Basilica of St. Frances. Travelers will enjoy wine tasting throughout the Tuscan countryside and an elegant dinner overlooking the Etruscan land. Next, alumni will visit St. Brizio in Orvieto and sample wine. The final leg of our journey takes us to Rome to see the Vatican, St. Peter’s Square, the Sistine Chapel, a walking tour of the Piazza Navona and the Pantheon, the Coliseum, Basilica di San Clemente and Stefano Rotondo.
We invite you to follow our journey and comment along the way if you have shared similar experiences or have advice for the world travelers. Ciao!