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Travel with Ninos: A Week in Italy

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Travel with Ninos: A Week in Italy

Angela Torricella, Editor-in-Chief

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As you’ve probably seen on numerous Instagram pages, the students of OHS went to Italy over spring break, hosted by the incredible Mr. Ninos. I was one of the lucky students who went abroad with the current and retired teachers of Ossining High School, and I had one of the most fun experiences of my entire life. Mr. Ninos and his fellow teachers hosted a trip that no student could have anticipated—a trip that all attendees will remember for the rest of their lives.

There were quite a number of students on this particular trip. As opposed to the usual two buses, there were four buses packed with students and teachers. Nonetheless, the chaperones handled the large number of kids with a grace that blew me away. We didn’t lose anyone throughout the whole trip. We had three main destinations: Rome, Florence, and Venice, with stops at Pompeii, Assisi, and Padua in between. It was quite the itinerary—a nonstop agenda that left us exhausted but satisfied.

Day 1: Exploring Rome

Our first destination was Rome; we arrived Sunday morning, stopped at our hotel, and went right into exploring the city. We stopped at the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and Altare della Patria–a huge structure built in honor of the first king of unified Italy, Victor Emmanuel II. It was on Sunday that we got a taste of just how much walking we were going to be doing, and just how much gelato we would be eating.

The first of many.

Every group got acquainted with their tour guides; my group undoubtedly had the best guide, Mateo. The legendary Mateo grew up in Rome, so he was an expert on the area. The night, I consumed the best red sauce I’ve ever had (besides from my mother’s of course), and afterward we headed back to the hotel, and I fell asleep within minutes. We had been on the go for over 24 hours, so everyone had a wonderful night’s sleep.

Day 2: Iconic Landmarks in Rome

Our first full day in Rome was daunting. We were scheduled to see the Colosseum, The Vatican, The Spanish Steps, and a ton in between. We left the hotel at 7:30 in the morning, something we were not very pleased with, but it was worth it. We got to the Colosseum first thing in the morning, and were the first group inside. The structure itself was incredible! Look at this beauty:

Next was the Vatican. Fun fact, The Vatican is an individual country within Rome. Why? Before Italy became one united country, the pope was the king of all the provinces in what we now call Italy. When the provinces united, the pope wished to remain king of Italy, yet the provinces refused to give him the throne. So, the pope locked himself inside his palace, causing a large problem, considering Catholicism plays a huge role in Italian culture. This prompted the provinces to give the pope his very own country of which he could be king–and so Vatican City became its very own country, of which the pope is king. The Vatican contains the Sistine Chapel, on the ceiling of which Michelangelo painted the Creation of Adam. Unfortunately, there were no pictures allowed within the chapel, so you’ll have to Google that if you want to see it.

Day 3: Bus Troubles and Volcanos

On Tuesday, we visited Mt. Vesuvius, the volcano that wiped out Pompeii. We drove halfway up the volcano and hiked the rest of the way. The ride up the volcano was terrifying–driving up a volcano, on a winding road, on a bus, was horrifying. Getting up the volcano was not the most difficult part of the day, though. Our bus broke down three times that day (Not the same bus, of course. Three separate buses all broke down), but miraculously we still made it to the top of the volcano. Look at that view:

As a result of our bus problems, we had to rush through Pompeii, but we saw it nonetheless!

Day 4: Assisi

On Wednesday, we left Rome, and started our journey to Florence. On the way, we visited Assisi, a gorgeous town in the hills of Umbria. Assisi is the birthplace of St. Francis, one of Italy’s patron saints. The winding streets, beautiful basilica and breathtaking views of the countryside make Assisi, in my humble opinion, one of the most beautiful towns in Italy.

Representing The Current in Assisi! Editors Angela and Nick sit atop a ledge by the basilica.

Day 5: Lean with It

On Thursday, some of the students went to an optional excursion to Pisa to take some iconic touristy pictures. We climbed the tower, which was, in fact, built to lean. The tower did not become increasingly skewed over time, rather, the builders noticed that the soil on which the foundation of the tower was built upon was not solid enough, and the unfinished tower started to tilt. To compensate for the leaning, the builders constructed the tower in such a way that it counteracted the leaning caused by the soil. Walking up the tower is quite the experience, and the view from the top is incredible. Every fifteen minutes or so, the bells ring at the top of the tower, and of course I was standing right next to them when they went off. I couldn’t hear for a few minutes, but it was cool nonetheless.

Poking in Pisa!

Day 6: St. Anthony’s Tongue

The next day consisted of traveling from Florence to Venice, with a stop at Padua in between. We visited The Basilica of Saint Anthony, which contained a ton of relics of St. Anthony. This church was especially cool for me, because my family just loves St. Anthony. The basilica had his actual robe on display, as well as his tongue, jawbone, and vocal chords. Pretty cool if you ask me.

The Basilica of Saint Anthony

We reached our hotel in Lido, an island across from Venice, that night. The area was adorable, and had beautiful lighting at golden hour!

Golden hour makes everybody’s skin glow! Contact Nick to ask him what he’s doing in this picture, because I still don’t know why he looks like that.

Day 7: Glass Blowing and Gondolas

Our last full day in Italy was spent in gorgeous Venice. The city has no roads, as you probably know, and is famous for their gondolas and their glass. We watched a beautiful Venetian glass demonstration, and touched some very expensive glass objects on our way out. We spent the majority of the day exploring the city ourselves, trying not to get lost in the maze of alleyways and bridges that make up the city. After lunch, we went on a wonderful gondola ride, and did some last minute souvenir shopping. Dinner was bittersweet to say the least. Everyone on the trip gathered to hear Mr. Ninos give a heartfelt speech about the trip, and there were tears. We headed back to the hotel and hit the sack, not at all prepared to wake up at 3 AM the next morning.

Day 8: Bye Italy 🙁

Sunday was a travel day–we took a flight to Rome and then headed home from there. As we boarded the Ossining-bound bus at JFK, there were moans and groans, from me especially. The past week had been surreal. It felt like a simulation. But here we were, back in New York. As the bus drove through Ossining, we screamed for the bus driver to turn around, but alas he did not. We were back home, and back to reality, however unfortunate that was.

I, like every student who attended, am eternally grateful for Mr. Ninos and his colleagues, who did a phenomenal job orchestrating an amazing trip. We are beyond lucky to have a staff like them here at OHS. Truthfully, my week in Italy was the best week of my life, and I owe it to them.

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Travel with Ninos: A Week in Italy