That's hello (and goodbye) in Italian, one of many things three members of The Bee's Teens in the Newsroom program learned when they visited Italy last month with the Modesto High School Orchestra.
Sophomores Peter Hodson, Victoria Pardini and Tyler Robertson wrote about their experiences — everything from how to avoid pickpockets to witnessing quite a scene on Juliet's balcony. Here and on Page E-6, you can read excerpts from journals they kept while in Italy.
The three also blogged about their experiences at thehive.modbee.com/travellingteens.
Check it out!
So, Italy. The boot-shaped country in the middle of Europe. And I'm right in the middle of it. Some may be wondering how I traveled to this marvelous country, and I believe I can give an adequate description. It goes something like this:
4:05 a.m. — Get up!
4:10 a.m. — Actually get up.
4:20 a.m. — Leave for Modesto High
4:30 a.m. — Arrive at Modesto High
5 a.m. — Leave for San Francisco International Airport
7 a.m. — Arrive at SFO.
7-9 a.m. — Take forever to check in for our flight because of the brilliant handling by airport personnel.
9:30 a.m. — Leave for Chicago O'Hare Airport
3:30 p.m. (Chicago time) — Arrive at O'Hare
4:15 p.m. — Leave for Rome
7 a.m. (Italian time) — Arrive in Italy. We made it!
Rome was fairly different from what I thought it would be, much more Americanized than I ever thought. Whenever you would walk into a store, there would be old American music playing. Yes, old as in somewhere from five to 10 years ago, but still old by our standards. The clothing advertised California cities (Santa Monica, San Diego) though I highly doubt that most of them have ever been to California. And this was not just in Rome, but throughout the country. I enjoyed Rome because it challenged my original thoughts about it, and offered a new image to a city I thought I already understood.
Today, we went to Siena, a small town in Tuscany known for an annual horse race. Siena was so amazingly beautiful. All of the houses supposedly have retained the same structure (façade-wise) that they have in the Middle Ages, and it's so beautiful and so classic Italian and picturesque and … just perfect.
It was cold, though, but it was still the most amazing town, and not annoyingly crowded with tourists and vendors. We climbed all of the hills — Siena was built on hills — saw a cathedral, original monk-written sheets of Gregorian chants and an undamaged fresco within the cathedral. There was also a mosaic on the floor of the cathedral, which was special because it included all of the towns around Siena, and a symbol representing the mythological story to go along with it. My Grandpa Vic is from Lucca, and there was a representation of it, a nice connection to my heritage. After finishing the tour and eating one of the most memorable lasagnas ever, we did some shopping. I stumbled upon what could best be described as a "writers store." Everything in there looked so beautiful and perfect — it had a ton of journals and photo albums, but also ink and pens, and everything looked handmade. I found a beautiful burgundy, flowered, bound journal.
Top 10 List
10 things to remember when going on a trip to Italy with the Modesto High School Orchestra
1. Never, under any circumstances, make the orchestra director, Mr. Paderes, angry.
2. Protect your passport with your life.
3. Check in with your chaperones.
4. Don't buy "shakka lakka boom" or "bling bling" from the street vendors, even if the stuff they're selling is "very nice."
5. The genuine Rolex watches aren't genuine if you can haggle and get one for 5 euros.
6. Don't plug in incompatible power strips, thereby tripping out the power of your hotel room and the one of your neighbor.
7. Don't forget dress socks.
8. Don't trust the Transport Security Agency to handle your instrument with care.
9. Remember extra batteries or charge existing ones.
10. Don't listen to prank callers who say the bus to Venice leaves at 6:30 a.m.
Dress Up David
We were in Florence today primarily to see the statue of David. It was so beautiful, and so perfect, and it was amazing to see such a well-known masterpiece in person. It was almost as amazing as seeing the Sistine Chapel in person. We went into the gift shop and saw a bunch of novelties, including my favorite, "Dress Me Up, David," a magnet set that includes clothes for David's naked body.
The one thing about Florence was how many gypsies it had. That's the term for people who roam touristy areas, begging for money and trying to distract you so one of their group can pickpocket you.
After stopping in the Piazza della Signoria, we went out on our own and I saw the Arno River. It was so littered with trash, and it made me angry that something from nature could be so damaged by man that it would become mucky and brown and opaque. So that wasn't exactly a beautiful sight to behold.
After that, I went shopping for the rest of the afternoon, and later we stopped in Pisa. When we got back, we had to go straight to a concert. This one went 10 times better than the first we played, and we even did encores. We took pictures at the end and went to dinner, then headed back to our hotel, the Hotel Raffaello.
Too Many Tourists
Pisa in itself is not bad. What has become of Pisa is truly disgusting.
Pisa thrives on two things: the Leaning Tower and tourists. There are so many tourists that you can't even get through the gate. You have to watch your back at all times because of the ever-active pickpockets roaming the area.
Seeing the Leaning Tower makes things a little better, until you see the hundred or so people lined up on the lawn, posing, pretending to hold the tower up. As a photographer, this place is a nightmare. It reeks of touristy photos and everything a photographer despises, like people getting in your picture and bumping you, as well as the possibility that someone can get their hands into your camera bag while you aren't looking.
I was careful to make my camera and camera bag extensions of my arm, so that they wouldn't be snagged. Getting out of there was one of the best feelings I have ever had. Pisa is on my list of cities to avoid if I ever go back.
Look, Don't Listen
We visited Cremona and stopped at the Stradivarius Museum. Upon arriving, I could tell something was wrong. There was no one there. Now, it was Easter, so many people were probably sleeping or getting ready for Mass. Nevertheless, an empty museum is always a little suspicious.
Anyway, it started off OK, but progressively got worse. After being led through a series of not-so-popular Italian art, we arrived at a collection of tools and instruments made by Stradivarius. It looked cool, but immediately became a huge disappointment for people like me who thought we were going to be able to hear the instruments played live.
Well, at least Cremona had some amazing gelato to cheer me up.
The Last Day
So, today was our last day in Italy, and we stopped in both Verona and Milan. We had a tour in Verona, best known as the setting for "Romeo and Juliet."
We went to the Juliet house, said to be the home of the mythical heroine of Shakespeare's play. In front, there is an archway where lovers' graffiti is allowed. You know, things like "Jean loves Jimmy," spray-painted in a lot of different languages.
They said they clean it every few months, and the last time they cleaned was Valentine's Day, but by that point, it was already ridiculously full of graffiti. It was strange, but really awesome that it seems to be such a strong tradition in the city (or such a big tourist attraction). We saw Juliet's balcony, the very one under which Romeo spent so much time flirting with her, or so the legend goes. It was very cute. One fanny-pack-clad tourist decided to act out the part of Juliet on the balcony ("Romeo, oh Romeo, wherefore 'are' thou?") Really ruined the moment for me.
After that, we went to the Coliseum of Verona. Concerts are still held there, including an annual competition, and also it was the venue for The Three Tenors. However, it was really big and steep, and my fear of heights made it kind of scary and intimidating for me. Soon, we got back on the bus for Milan. We parked right outside of the famed Opera House, La Scala. My mom — she was one of several parents who traveled with us — and I wanted to go in primarily because my brother is very interested in opera. It was so beautiful, though a few areas were blocked off. It had a grand room with pillars and busts of three composers, and grandiose chandeliers. Then we got to go inside the theater, and it was even more amazing! It had a red, gold and white color scheme and maybe 70 box seats, if not more, with six chairs in each box seat and a grand one directly across from the stage. It was an incredible sight to see. We toured a little more inside and saw a display on soprano Maria Callas.
Next we headed to the shopping area. There were a lot of expensive, upscale stores, but I was able to find some affordable last-minute things that I wanted, including a scarf (a popular staple of Italian fashion). We went to dinner, then to the hotel, and wound down after an amazing eight days in Italy.
Nice Boat Ride
Today we were in Venice, which we got to by private boat. I liked it immediately due to the Byzantine art and architecture. We looked around a bit before catching up with our local tour guide, who warned us that Venice, too, was swarming with pickpockets.
We looked at the Palace of the Doges, which was massive and very … golden. We went into a glass-blowing place and saw a demonstration, which was pretty interesting. The glass that was sold at the shop attached to the factory was ridiculously expensive, though, especially considering it was the end of the trip and everyone was running low on funds.
Eventually, I left the main shop with one of my friends to check out the other, cheaper shops in Venice. All of the merchandise in Venice was so beautiful — many of the pendants and watches had a certain mosaic look to them, and even though each store had the same products, there was nothing identical between two shops. You could probably spend five days in Venice just shopping and still not discover everything.
Next, my friend and I headed to the gondola area, where most of our group had made plans to take rides. Traveling down all the narrow Venetian waterways was very picturesque. Our gondolier told us that he had been working at the job since he was a child, and that it was a family tradition. That bit of information was so cool to me and really added to the notions I had that Italy was a very traditional and family-based country.
Sadly, the vision of a singing gondolier is a myth nowadays, as they will not sing unless you pay them — and the cost for the ride alone is roughly $225 for 30 minutes. An extra fee for a song or two is a bit excessive, I'd say.
After more shopping, we had dinner and headed to our final concert, which went well but was probably the least attended of the three. Only parents and maybe 10 Italians and tourists showed up. However, it has been nice to perform in another country, and these concerts add to the significance of the trip.
4:30 a.m. — Wake-up call
4:45 a.m. — Get out of bed
5:15 a.m. — Load the bus
5:30 a.m. — Leave the hotel
5:45-7 a.m. — Check in, then run to the plane
9:10 a.m. (England time) — Arrive in London
11:40 a.m. — After going through a process of security searches and flight connections, go back for a 12-hour flight to L.A.
4 p.m. (California time) — Arrive in LA.
4:10-8:30 p.m. — A fun combination of customs, two hours in line at check-in, rescheduling and overly "profiled" security checks, followed by an old-fashioned American dinner — McDonald's.
10:15 p.m. — Arrive in San Francisco.
11 p.m. — Drive to Modesto High School with damaged instruments, courtesy of airline, in tow.
1 a.m. — Arrive at Modesto High School, after the longest day of our lives