Spring break in Italy: architecture, culture, art, friends

By Christopher Blake
March 13, 2008

submitted photo/Chris Blake

After placing my carry-on in the overhead compartment above my aisle seat, I sneaked a quick peek at the student sitting adjacent to the window.

I had seen the student quite frequently in the past but I had never truly been given the opportunity to meet or know him better.

As I sat down next to him I thought to myself: would we get along, what type of person was he and did we share anything in common?

We had both signed up for Cabrini College’s the art and architecture of the Italian Renaissance class and study tour taught by Dr. Paul Wright and Dr. Nick Uliano.

The class meets once a week for a semester and is split into two halves with the first teaching students proper traveling techniques with Dr. Uliano and the second in regards to the Italian Renaissance with Dr. Wright.

Unlike most classes the classroom learning and a final project are only a part of the student’s final grade. The rest is based on a week in northern Italy, where 18 students were able to not only see gorgeous Italian Renaissance art and architecture but Italian culture first-hand.

As our plane taxied the runway in preparation for takeoff I turned to the student and did my very best to start an intriguing conversation.

My efforts fell short as our initial talk lasted a combined five awkward minutes.

Outside the world of travel I believe our failed first impressions would have left a negative vibe on our entire relationship.

Perhaps our relationship would have ended right there on the spot.

Little did I know the power of travel or the beauty of coming together as a family on a trip.

During our week abroad the group was able to visit seven cities stretching from Bologna to Rome. Each of our destinations offered the group with unique learning experiences.

This was my first experience in Europe among students my age and in one week I learned more about life and the world than any classroom could ever teach me.

Dr. Uliano and Dr. Wright are experienced travelers and their combination of skills in language, planning, research and the Italian Renaissance made the trip an experience of a lifetime.

The traveling from city to city was made easy as the group chartered a bus taking them on day trips from their three home sites of Ferrara, Florence and Rome.

Traveling throughout Europe is not an easy task but having the bus made the trip relaxing and practical. Not many tourists can say they visited seven cities in eight days.

My favorite cities along the trip would have to be Florence, Venice and Sienna.

Florence is a gorgeous city so filled with history and culture that one cannot help but smile and want to spend as much time in the magnificent place as possible.

Venice is a city that must have been dreamt into life. Riding the gondolas along the Grand Canal is an activity we must all take part in during our time on earth.

Sienna is a classic Italian town featuring one of Italy’s most extravagant plazas. The group was able to climb the town’s clock tower and view not only Sienna but Italy’s countryside for miles in every direction.

Every city we visited gave the group a better understanding of life in Italy not only in today’s world but in addition to the perspective of Italian culture during the 15th and 16th centuries when the Italian Renaissance took place.

I will remember the cities we visited down the line but what will really stick with me were the relationships I was able to build.

My mind will never let me forget the people I met on the trip.

Never will I forget Shane and Tim. The hours we spent on the back of the bus reminiscing our days in Italy and our pasts at Cabrini.

Never will I forget our two hour classic Italian group dinners eating the most amazing food while participating in hilarious conversations.

Never will I forget Lorenzo our bus driver, whom had a strikingly close resemblance to Fabio, the infamous Italian male model.

As we boarded the plane in Rome ready to return to Philadelphia my mind was filled with amazing memories. I could not help but smile.

I sat down in my seat and looked over at Shane. Before he was only someone I could leave my imagination to speculate about. Now he was my friend.

I glanced in his direction and this time he looked back.

“Good trip,” I said.

“Great trip,” Shane replied.

Christopher Blake

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