DAY ONE: Welcome to Italy!
By Audrey Sanderson
Though today is Sunday the 4th it still feels like Saturday the 3rd. The day started with excitement when we got on the bus to leave for Washington D.C for our first flight to London. There was some nervousness about making our flight but those nerves quickly settled once we realized that we were finally, after a year of waiting, going to Italy. The checking in and travel was hectic and tiring. The flight to London was over 7 hours and through the night. Though it was dark and quiet I don’t think many of us got sleep. After running to our connecting flight to finally head to Milan, the long day began to hit us. Our eyes grew heavy and our bodies were stiff. On the short one hour and 40-minute flight to Milan most of us got in a short nap, but when we woke the scenery hit us. There was nothing but snowcapped mountains below us, only to be broken up by villages between them and clouds pouring over them like a giant white sea. From then on no one got any sleep until we hit the bus to head to the hotel.
Once at the hotel we were given some free time until dinner. We all decided to walk around the small city of Como which happens to be next to Lake Como. Walking through the tight alley ways and trying to navigate around a different country helped us really take a look around. We were surrounded by small shops and countless cafes. People walking their dogs everywhere and each furry friend had his or her own winter coat. Once were weaved our way through the packed streets and warmed ourselves with coffee and pastries we found ourselves at Lake Como. The water is surrounded by mountains which are scattered with houses that look down on the water. After a couple of hours, we ended up back at the hotel for dinner everyone growing more and more tired with each bite, but somehow, we all found enough energy for some late-night gelato down by the lake. After a long day, or two days, two long flights, lost luggage and rescheduled plans and flights we all ended up in our beds with a long night’s sleep ahead of us.
DAY TWO: Como, Italy
By Susanna Friedrichs
This morning we woke up in the beautiful city of Como. We were able to sleep in and catch up on some sleep since we had a long travel day before. We ate a nice buffet style breakfast in the hotel filled with croissants, yogurt, fresh fruit, and so much more. After, we all headed out to the city of Como with our tour guides Elana and Elana! This city is filled with so many beautiful buildings, mountains, shops, water, and much more. We went into two different Cathedrals, these have a lot of importance and significance in this city. One of these Cathedrals was built over 400 years ago. The architecture had different mix styles and each having a noticeable impact on the church. We then had some free time to walk around and view Lake Como, which is the main attraction of Como. My family and a few other families went to a Pizzeria Restaurant. It was definitely the best pizza I have ever had in my entire life and it was huge!
We soon after got ready for our game and headed to a turf field not far from the city. We ended up playing a boys team and a girls team for a few hours. Both games gave us good experiences, especially against the Italian boys team who played a very different style from what we are used to. This will teach us many things on the field for when head back to Richmond and continue to play high level teams. It was great to get the chance to play against local Italian teams and the whole team is so grateful for this opportunity!
We then headed back to the hotel and got ready for a nice dinner out as a team. We had a three course meal that included delicious pasta, chicken and french fries, and of course, dessert. It was Tori Browne's birthday today so it was awesome we could celebrate it all together. The restaurant even made a special cake for her, but she unfortunately choked under the pressure when asked to give her birthday speech! How disappointing! We walked back through Como back to our hotel and headed up for some good night sleep before we adventure to Milan tomorrow. All in all, today was a fabulous day and we are thankful for every moment spent as a team in Italy. Enjoy some pictures that describe this day!
DAY THREE: MILAN!
By Kelly Graves
It’s 8:00 in the morning in Como! It’s time to rise and shine because today we are off to MILAN!!
We all roll out of bed for breakfast, hop on the bus, and go on our way. We start off the one hour bus ride with a little “Italian class” learning a few words before exploring the fashion capital of the world. Then, we finally arrive and the first stop is the Official AC Milan Museum. We were in a room full of Champion’s League trophies, Ball d’Ors, FIFA Club World Cup Trophies and more; hardware that many people only get to see on TV. Of course the AC Milan Official Store is last and everyone spends a few euros.
Up next is the Castello Sforzesco di Milano (GIANT castle: draw bridges, moats and all), and the guided tour of Milano begins. We leave the castle and make our way down the street to the mother of all cathedrals… Duomo!
After gazing at its beauty for quite some time we make our way to one of the oldest shopping malls in the world. Home of the first ever Prada store, this shopping mall is one of the most amazing structures we see that day (behind the Duomo of course). We are told of an old tradition for good luck (you can ask the team about that…) and we are free to explore!
Food is the main priority, food is our favorite part, so food comes first.
The team splits off and we all find some amazing lunch.
Now it’s time to shop! We find gifts and souvenirs for ourselves, family and friends, and before you know it it’s time to go back to the lovely Como.
When we arrive it is about 6pm and have a little down time before 7:00 dinner at the hotel. We get three courses AGAIN and we are all about to explode. Everyone seems to say “I am so full it hurts”, as they continue to finish their plates. We are in Italy, this food doesn’t go to waste!!
Somehow after dinner, we seem to always find room for gelato.
What a day in the beautiful Italy!
DAY FOUR: BRESCIA, ITALY!
By Rea Sanger
DAY FIVE: San Marino!
By Megan Enos
Buongiorno Ram Fans! Hope everyone is enjoying their spring break! We are on day six of our Italian adventures and it’s been so fun! Today we were in the independent state of San Marino! One little known fact about San Marino is that it’s one of two independent states that are surrounded by Italy. San Marino is a beautiful city with a large array of snow covered mountains on one side and green mountains on the other side. We lucked out on weather as well because the ground was covered in tons of snow, but the sun was so warm that we were able to get away with sweatshirts today!
We started the day with a guided tour of the city. To our surprise, the city is straight up a hill and the sidewalks were genuinely 90 degrees up. On the tour we were able to learn a lot about the history of San Marino, such as instead of having a president or queen rule the state, they have two heads of regions that are only in office for 6 months at a time and a parliament. We were able to see the city squares and the three towers that overlook the entire city. The towers had such amazing views and we took some of the best pictures of the whole trip there. A few of us went to explore the other towers and find some ledges to take some ambitious pictures. We were definitely too confident in our ability to rock climb, but we were able to make it through and it was worth it for the picture (Check our instagrams for proof). After some exploring, it was time for a meal. We were able to find an amazing restaurant with the most breathtaking views. In my opinion, this was our best meal so far and I got the most amazing pizza.
After lunch, we continued to walk around and shop and find small alleys to take pictures. There were a lot of small shops to look in with a lot of homemade trinkets. I think everyone was able to find something to take back to the U.S. today. As the afternoon began to end, it was only right to find some gelato and to be honest, this was the best gelato we’ve had as well. I sampled a lot of different types, but ended up with caramel and chocolate chip, an amazing choice. The afternoon came to a close as we chose to come back to the hotel and rest up before the pregame meal and game.
The day closed with our last game of the trip against the San Marino Academy team. We were pretty excited because we got to play in their Olympic stadium and they made it seem pretty special when we got to use the locker room. We even had some of the game filmed, so it made it seem like we were really a professional team. At the end of a 90 minute game, we came away with a 4-1 win and we played pretty well. Overall, I’d say this day was great and unfortunate that it had to come to an end. Here’s to one more great day in Venice tomorrow before the trip home! Arriverderci!
DAY SIX: Benvenuto Venezia!
By Sarah Gibson
Today was our last day to explore Italy, and the much-anticipated day in Venice! We began our day bright and early with a 7:30 breakfast followed by a four-hour bus ride to Venice. I think most of us slept for the first three hours or so until we stopped at a little grill along the highway where we stopped to use the restroom and grab something to eat. American rest stops along the highway now seem so disappointing compared to what we have experienced here in Italy the past few days.
It was still another hour until the bus dropped us off in Venice. All we had between us and the city was a windy "speed boat ride" to San Marcos square. The boat ride felt like it took forever because we were all anxious to be in the city, but at least no one got sea sick. We made the most out of the trip by singing Moana, albeit in English, loud enough for everyone else on the water. Once we pulled up next to the docks, there were no spaces for the boat to dock so we had to wait our turn. Along with our larger boat, there were four smaller boats waiting for spots. Let me just say, these boat drivers were not patient. There was some honking and a close call as some smaller boats tried to wedge their way into spaces.
We got off the boat expecting another walking tour, but since time was limited, the tour was optional. Everyone had a different plan for our few short hours in Venice, but we were all on a mission. Souvenirs for family and friends; iconic gondola rides; haggling with street vendors; food, food, and more food; you name it, and one of us probably did it.
Although my group spent most of the day shopping, we did not miss out on some of the fantastic scenery. We found fancy chocolate shops, gelaterias, clothing stores, restaurants, osterias (wine restaurants with a few food options), bakeries, and, of course, Venetian merchants. Our favorite was definitely the glass merchant shops, followed by a petite crepe shop by a smaller city square.
After exploring the city, we met back up at San Marco’s square to catch the boat back to the bus for a five-hour drive to the hotel. Tonight, we had our last three course Italian dinner, and it did not disappoint. The meal started with perfectly cooked spinach ravioli, which even the pickiest eaters ate, followed by steak and vegetables with gravy and tiramisu for dessert.
DAY SEVEN: Welcome Home!
By Sammy Jerabek
Hello Ram fans! Today was our travel back to Richmond and we were very sad to leave Italy. This was a bittersweet day for the team, as we all fell in love with the Italian culture and landscape, though at this point everyone was starting to miss their own beds and food other than the delicious pizza, gelato, and pasta we all got to experience here in Italy. Our travel began with morning breakfast and last minute packing. We loaded the bus to head to the airport. Our gift to Andrea, our bus driver, was a signed ball from the team. Andrea was the best bus driver we could have asked for, he was a HUGE soccer fan and over the week Andrea became our friend. At the airport, we checked our bags which took a few minutes with our large group. The good news is that no one’s bag was over the weight limit, though a couple bags were cutting it close. We had a smooth security and customs transition to our gate. Our first flight from Milan to London was only an hour and half flight. When we arrived in England we had to go through another security checkpoint, which went fairly smoothly with only a few girls and Scott having their bags checked. In London it was lunchtime so everyone grabbed a bite to eat at different places in the airport. At our gate, people bought last minute souvenirs a.k.a. chocolate for family and friends.
After that we boarded our flight back to the states which was seven hours. Most people binged watched TV shows and movies to make the flight go by faster. The flight was smooth with only a couple bumps of turbulence. When we finally arrived in Dulles, everyone was happy to be home and finally on solid ground. Our last time going through customs was easy and fast as we were one of the only international flights that had landed in Dulles at that time. The best part of this day was when everyone found their luggage. We can happily say no one lost their luggage this time. It was a quiet bus ride back to Richmond, as we all seemed to take a quick nap before heading to our beds that we all missed dearly.
We all would like to thank our families, friends, and fans for their help fundraising to make this trip possible. This trip was once and a lifetime trip and we got to spend it with our second family. There is no other group of people I would want to travel with and explore around the world. If you are free this Sunday come out and watch your own VCU Rams at home (Sports Bakers) take on ODU kick off at 5pm. Go Rams!