Italia: Endeavour Language Teacher Fellowship


Thursday, January 26, 2006

Afternoon tea at the Australian Embassy and finally "Farewell!"

Please note to view all of the entries from January, go to archives and click on January.
Still January 23rd: We didn't have time to go back to Torra Rossa Park Hotel to get changed for the embassy so we tidied ourselves on the bus. Rosemary was very composed after fighting off a young thief who had unzipped her bag and sneaked his hand in like a spider. The afternoon tea they had laid out for us at the embassy was fabulous, savouries, pasteries, and a selection of champagnes and wines. We all took lots of group photos in front of the Australian Coat-of-arms.
We finished off the day at the restaurant with a five course farewell tea. Francesca and Paula ran a quiz which was closely contested by Belinda, Goretti and Cecilia(who was most impressed by her spoon). This was followed by some witty awards presented by Cecilia and Belinda. Everyone said a little something about what they learned or enjoyed during the trip. Back at the hotel a few of us had some dancing lessons with Domenica in the foyer whilst enjoying a drink...probably the liveliest that foyer has ever been!

January 24th: The following day it was a nine o'clock start. Goretti gathered up left over presents and gave them to Flavio (the bus driver) for his two children. He had been most helpfuland and excellent company over the last few days. Then we headed for the airport in Rome. After long queues to get our tickets and check in luggage we managed to get through security with only a little time to spend before boarding the flight to Singapore. The luggage which had been an ongoing topic of conversation for the whole group weighed in at between 21 and 33 kilos. Well done Liz... prize for the lightest luggage. Well done Adriana, yours actually wasn't the heaviest! Twelve hours and many plastic cups of water and "on demand" movies later we all arrived in Singapore and said our last farewells and took our respective flights home to some of the hottest weather Australia has experienced for a while. Thank you to all members of the group, I really had a fantastic time full of many memorable moments and lots of laughter. I will always be able to relive this fantastic time as I leaf through my many photos and look at my fellowship friends. I hope we can stay in touch. Thank you also to Sophie and Kate and the Endeavour Language Fellowship Foundation for giving me the chance to have this amazing adventure in Italy. Here endeth the blog.

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The Vatican and all those stairs

January 23rd:Today was the big tour of the Vatican which has been a sovereign state since 1929. It is obviously ruled by the pope who is Europe's only absolute monach. The city even has its own radio station, daily newspaper and post office. We couldn't believe our eyes as the line for entry went on and on for blocks an blocks. Stafano said it wasn't really that big a queue at all. I also learnt that one visit is not nearly enough to appreciate the full value of all the collection. Stefano armed us all with earphones and a transmitting device which we eventually sorted out. The Galleria degli Arazzi (Tapestry Gallery) was probably one of my favourites and was also heated to keep the tapestries in good nick I imagine. It also served to thaw out my frozen toes. I also enjoyed the Map Gallery. Photos could be taken in these areas without a flash. The Sistine Chapel was awe inspiring and the guards were kept very busy saying repeatedly, "No photo!", "Shhhhhhh" as some people even tried to use their mobile phones to snap the famous frescoes. Stefano had explained in detail a lot about the works of Michaelangelo before we entered the chapel. Replicas of the main frescoes were available for perusual in the main courtyard area on large steel posters and we braved the freezing temperatures as we listened to the explanations. I must say that for a man who never considered himself a painter he certainly excelled himself! The chapel is used by cardinals when electing a new pope.

After the guided tour finished quite a few of us decided to climb the cupola without using the lift(ascensore) which goes a certain way up. It was freezing at the top but there were a few good views and photos to be had. It was a much more demanding climb than the Leaning Tower of Pisa by far. Coming down was much more fun. I had lunch with Deb, Carmelina, Rosanna, Rosemary and Liz at a lovely little eatery where Liz and her husband had been a year before. The food was extremely well-priced and we could sit down and enjoy our coffee and sandwiches(which were huge).

An appointment with the Pope, Pinocchio and a chance meeting with Russell Crowe

January 22nd:
Today was another big walking day jammed-packed with explanations. It was also the coldest day I spent in Italy, about zero degrees. Meanwhile it was a humid 38 degrees in my beloved Blackmans Bay back home where everyone was sweating it out. We visited many of the sites we had seen the night before. We passed a little toyshop and met Pinocchio where all the soft toys enjoying the trip had the mandatory photo. Then we checked out the Pantheon. We stopped at the Trevi Fountain once again to get a group photograph. The above group photo one is courtesy of Fiona. A few members flipped coins towards Neptune and the Tritons following the famous custom of throwing it over their shoulder while facing away to ensure a return to Rome. A second coin entitles you to a wish. I wonder what the Latin Lover wished for! A guy with some kind of magnet attatched to the end of a stick was having the time of his life collecting coins from the fountain until he vanished as quickly as he appeared when the police made their presence felt.
We also saw an interesting system of penalties imposed on those who knowingly or unwittingly park in the pedestrian zones. A apparatus is placed around on wheel of the car which is then only removed once the fines are paid. The highlight of the day was listening to the Pope in Piazza San Pietro giving a speech and welcoming the crowd in Italian, English, German, Spanish and Polish. Goretti and I stood among the crowd and whooped as loudly as anyone. The Swiss Guard added a welcome splash of colour.
Whilst we were waiting for our guide, Stafano, Goretti spotted a gladiator and said she wanted a photo with this Russell Crowe. Most of my friends reckon he looks more like Shrek! The Roman Forum was also a highlight for me with its patchwork of ruined temples arches and basilicas. We viewed it from the Capitoline hill where we could make out the Sacred Way. Some of the ruins are now under restoration. We again viewed the colosseum but unfortunately not the interior as it was closed. You could still imagine how the mammoth structure could seat 55 000 people cheering for the blood of some poor gladiator.

The guided tour finished and quite a few members of the group stayed on shopping in the city centre whilst some of us returned to the hotel. I spent a bit of time layering the luggage and had a beer with Goretti.

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Tutte le strade portano a Roma...and we went via Assisi.

January 21st:
Onward to Roma for three nights. After breakfast we departed from Florence and drove through the beautiful regions of Tuscany and Umbria. We stopped at Assisi for a guided tour with Ruggiero who gave an informative but concise summary of the main happenings of Assisi's history. It was one of the guided tours I enjoyed best. Anyway this tranquil medieval town perched halfway up Monte Subasio is heir to the legacy of St Francis(1181-1226). The bus driver drove to the top car park and then we took two escalators to reach the main starting point of the tour.
San Francesco was born here in 1182 and his spirit hovers over every aspect of the city's life. In his late teens he decided there was more to the world than material possessions and chose to pursue a life of chastity and poverty. He founded an order known as the Franciscans and this group attracted a huge following after his death. It was the usual story of one having to die before receiving the recognition they deserve, not that he really wanted any of this attention I am sure. Santa Chiara, a disciple of his, was not to be outdone and founded the Franciscans' female order. We also got to see Basilica di Santa Chiara her burial place. We looked around Piazza del Comune and later entered the Basilica di San Francesco which was very serene. This basilica dominates the city and receives huge numbers of pilgrims throughout the year. One would never know that the town had suffered serious damage when it was hit by an earthqake in September 1997. Side chapels had been created in the lower church to accommodate the growing number of pilgrims in the thirteenth century. In a small chapel we feasted our eyes on various momentos of San Francesco's life including his very modest dress and also a few presents including a horn that he received from a great Muslim king during his travels.
Whilst we were in this general vicinity some people were setting up for some kind of charity concert and there was a large film crew... from Thailand I think, not sure. I enjoyed looking at the frescoes on the Life of St Francis. We then had thirty minutes to do a quick bit of shopping and looking around by ourselves. At one-thirty we had lunch at Caratteristico Ristorante in Via E.Brizi.

It was then back on the bus travelling for Rome. We arrived in Rome at hotel Torra Rossa and then had dinner at Al Moro. After this met up with Stefano, our new guide for the next few days, to do a night tour of the great city from the comfort of the coach and a little on foot. After a number of red wines and an oversight to using certain facilities in the restaurant Cecilia found herself in a predicament all of her own. However, due to lucky circumstances and a very resourceful bus driver she was able to park her seat on the white enamel of the very posh Baglioni Hotel. The majestic buildings of Rome at night are certainly worth the look. We gazed upon many beautiful sights in the ancient centre including: the Colosseum, the Fountain of Trevi, Santa Maria Maggiore, the Victor Emmanuel Monument(more commonly known as the birthday cake), and the Vatican walls, looking at sites which ranged from the renaissance to the baroque. In the third photo you can see Goretti strutting her stuff in front of Rome's largest fountain, the Trevi. Goretti kept me in high spirits the whole trip. I never ceased to be amazed by her humour or by the driving skills of the bus drivers. They can expertly manoeuver their large tour buses through the narrowest of streets. We were all back at the hotel by midnight.

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Friday, January 20, 2006

Onward to Pisa and Lucca

January 20th
A nine o'clock start which was difficult for those idiots writing blogs at one in the morning and for those fellowship members who hit the town.
The bus was a little late and Gianluca was our bus driver once again. He is most accommodating and extremely affable and completely unflappable even when he is given the direction "sempre dritto!" when searching for our ristorante in Lucca.
First stop was the church in Pisa which had a whopping 68 columns. The original frescos were destroyed by fires. Galileo's lamp which is infact not a lamp but a chandelier is quite an impressive piece of decoration. There was also a mummified body of a patron saint of which I am sure my class will be very interested in when I show them the photos.
We then moved onto the baptistry which has wonderful acoustics and is often used by singers. The cemetery with its 600 tombs was also fascinating and dates back to the middle ages. There is a lot more to Pisa than the Leaning Tower or Torre Pendente. There are quite a substantial amount of other buildings in the area of the tower, most of which I was unaware existed. Everyone took the mandatory photo of themselves holding up the tower, a bit kitch but a must do when in Pisa. Whilst in yet anbother baptistry Domenica ran into friends and I captured the magic moment on camera. The world is surely but a handkerchief!
A little before twelve-thirty we had to deposit all our bags in the visitor's centre including camera cases before we climbed the tower , over two hundred and something steps. I have added a photo showing the steps so you can get the general idea. There were a few puffs and pants. Once at the top we were all rewarded with spectacular views as you can imagine and luckily enough, today we were blessed with the clearest blue skies of the whole trip. Check out your photos, the contrasts will be excellent. Liz got dizzy coming down as Goretti was singing some song about being dizzy on the way down. I didn't really spend too much time looking over the edge at the top as don't particularly like heights. I took a few shots of Gummy taking a look to use in the guide book I plan to make when I return to Australia as part of my project. We then did a quick shop in the adjacent markets which Paula had checked out during the climb. This little shopping spree took a little longer than anticipated. Finally, all accounted for we headed back to the tour bus via local bus in the general direction of Lucca for lunch.

Lucca is a town completely surrounded by a large wall, too large again to do justice to with a single photgraph unless you get yourself an aerial view. Great, solid ramparts which were built in the 16th and 17th century help to shut out traffic and make the city a pleasant place to explore on foot. There were many spaces set aside for the parking a bicycles and most of these were filled to capacity. After a few different directions given to Gianlucca and a few laps of the town we finally found our eatery where we were to enjoy a meal before the tour began. We were taken through narrow lanes to look at the many mini piazzas and churches. Many of the churches in Lucca are sadly in need of rennovations but don't seem to attract the same funding as those in Florence and Rome. Medieval buildings mark the outline of Lucca's old Roman amphitheatre. There were a couple of locals doing some concreting, winching materials up the facades of the buildings and then in through the windows. The builders welcomed the attention of photographers in our group, most notably Jack.

After the tour finished we had forty minutes to look around for ourselves and shop if we desired. Paola had already checked out the best stalls whilst we were wheezing our way up and down the tower. Then at six o'clock we were on the road again for our last evening at Hotel Cellai. We had tea together again at I' Tosacano which is about a five minute walk from the hotel, and then did our own thing. I tried to write some more of this blog and gave Salvatore who was on night reception a few tips on making his own blog. I eventually fell into bed around two o'clock.

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Florence, the wonder of the giraffe and bling bling land.

January 19th: It was an 9:30 start and Antonella stayed on her side of the bed all night, well the part hat she was there at any rate. She was out making friends with the local police I believe. We met up with Gastone our guide once again. Little did we know what was in store for us or that a giraffe featured quite significantly in a religious fresco. I thought for a split second it was a joke until I spotted it in a yet to be restored fresco. Amazing. No chance of a Tassie devil I suppose.

First stop after walking for twenty minutes(Adriana just said it was hours) we arrived at the Acadamia where we met Goliath's match David. We heard a great deal about Michaelangelo's sculpture of David, the perfect man. But I suppose everything is debatable. But Gastone, on the other hand, had a real rival in a young, male infant teacher who was giving his young students a lesson on the statue. He had an immediate fan club and in fact we nearly left a few fellowship members behind as they were so entranced in his theatrics. be honest the language he was using was probably more at my level. We were astounded at the number of gypsies in the historic centres looking for donations from the tourists. Goretti gave one gypsy woman a very unusual donation.

Next stop was the Basilica di Santa Maria Novela. From the photos you can see just how much Gummy Koala enjoyed the guided tours. To be honest the church tours have kind of become a blur to my poor exhausted mind but I will endeavour to write a few lines. The next church toured was Il Duomo Santa Maria del Fiore which houses the biggest fresco in the world, it was magnificent and I could not possibly do justice to it with a single photograph. The Baptistry was full of colourful mosaics illustrating the Last Judgement. The East Doors of the Baptistry were also pretty impressive and mark the city's deliverence from the plague. They were also been dubbed the Gate of Paradise by Michelangelo. The ten relief panels depict well known episodes from the bible such as Adam and Eve being expelled from Eden and Joseph being sold into slavery. We then moved on to Santa Croce which was built in 1294 I think. We were one ticket short but I managed to join the group after some discussion with the guards on the door. All entry charges were covered by the Fellowship grant. Santa Croce is the largest Franciscan church in the world and it also is the resting place of many famous Florentines such as Nicolo Macchiavelli, Galileo Galilei, Michaelangelo Buonarroti and a few other famous dudes who I can't recall at the moment. I do know for a fact though, that I have now been in more churches during this trip than I have in my whole life previous to this Endeavour opportunity.

Anyway, finally we moved on to the Ufizzi, Italy's greatest art gallery. Here we received further enlightenment about many famous pieces of artwork. We entered the top floor of the building to be greeted by stern Greek and Roman sculptures which are displayed in the broad corridors. We spent a very long period of time here as Gastone is a wealth of information and does like to give all the details. We visited many rooms all filled with paintings some done with gold features to show the prosperity of their time. I was very tired and began to doze off in front of The Duke and Duchess of Urbina. Nose jobs obviously weren't available in those days. In the second photo you can see Goretti gagging Adriana as she thought she just had one too many questions which always resulted in very verbose explanations. Do you know most students only actively listen for a whole three minutes. My limit is about ten and that is with a full eight hours of sleep! Deb managed to incur the wrath of one of the security staff in desperate but short-lived dash for the toilets.

Finally the tour was over and Goretti, Cecilia, Adriana, Deb and I made our way over to Ponte Vecchio where we looked at the amazing expensive but good quality jewellery. This is apparently the oldest surviving bridge in the city and originally was the domain of blacksmiths, tanners and butchers and as you can imagine the river was the most convenient area to dispose of waste. However, some time in the late fifteenth cenury dear old Duke Ferdinand the first decided the stink was offensive to his right royal nose and converted the whole strip into one gigantic bling bling land. (Bling bling is Adriana's turn of phrase for jewellery, a catch phrase which has taken off remarkably well amongst the Endeavour Fellowship members, most of whom bought substantial amounts throughout the trip.) There is also a construction which looks a bit like an open cage where lovers hang their locks whilst professing their undying love for each other. The bridge is extremely popular with tourists and was in fact the only bridge to escape destruction during World War II.

Adriana and I then separated from the others and went in search of the markets looking for ties, t-shirts and other treasures. We eventually met up with Liz, Rosemary and Rosanna who were deciding whether to partake in the delights of a gelato. Rosemary and Liz dripped gelato merrily along the way as we headed back to the hotel. Strangely enough Adrian and I found ourselves separated from this group as well and went into a CD store Adriana had suddenly spotted and we both invested in some of Italy's popular music. We had tea at Ristorante Tosacano which was excellent and more than adequate as usual. We certainly can't complain about the quantity or quality of the food.

The tour begins!

January 18th:
Hi...I'm back! My good mate Salvatore at Hotel Cellai has just set up the computer for despite it being one in the morning. Okay, what's been happening?

Well, to begin with, it was a cold and drizzly morning when we set off from Hotel Giardino after farewelling our little "family" there with a short gift-giving session. By the way, well done Carmelina for all your efforts organising the presents, no small job. The bus was packed quicky with the bulging cases, some packed to a capacity far greater than 20 kilos, but hey let's worry about that later. We had the same driver, Gianlucca, who drove us from Rome to Prato. We had plenty of room, two seats each to ourselves. Goretti kept everyone entertained or tortured as the case may be with her renditions of songs like Cucharacha.

It wasn't long before we arrived at San Gimigniano. A once thriving town due to its location on the main pilgrim route was sadly brought to its knees after the devastating plague of 1348. We had a two hour tour with Gastone. We climbed to the highest point to enjoy the panoramic views, even though Goretti upstaged the tour guide with her dramatic trip up the steps. They were very narrow and slippery. The view from the top was spectacular; an amazing medieval town enclosed within walls. The twin towers dominate the town. Whilst there I bought a few Pinocchio figures and also a yummy gelato with Deb and Rosemary.

Then it was on to Sienna. Okay in Sienna we walked up and down steep, narrow, cobbled roads. By the way Adriana has joined me in all her splendour, the patty cake pjs dazzling and astounding clients as they enter the foyer of the hotel. So we are actually writing a joint blog today. Meanwhile Goretti and Cecilia are stocking up their bidet with beer. God knows what assumptions cleaners now have about Australians.

In Sienna I learnt about the Palio race ( a bare back horse race)which is held twice a year in the centre piazza and acts out the ancient rivalries of the city's seventeen contrade( a series of parishes). Well actully only ten of the districts get to be represented after the drawing of lots. The parishes' animal symbols repeated on flags, plaques and carvings are dotted throughout this inspiring city. A few days before the officials prepare the road with sand and water it down to compact it. The spectators stand inside the piazza oval and cheer on the race whilst the jockeys who represent the different districts do three laps, about a mile. Above in the photo you can see Gastone explaining the whole deal. (Adriana is now whinging that she wants to go to bed. So it looks like I will have to go it alone.) After the race is finished the victorious contrade launch themselves into preparations for the cena della vittoria which is the culinary victory feast. And of course the winning horses are given their own special meal after the races.

Lunch lasted for two hours and then it was another marathon listening session of data, dates and detail. As the darkness fell we meandered towards the bus drugged from information overload. I would have liked a little more time to explore this fascinating university city.

Two hours later the bus pulled into the narrow street outside Hotel Cellai. I found that I had a matrimonial bed with Antonella. A few others found they too were to have an intimate night. Giocamo discovered a few other interesting things as well. Salvatore who takes the night shift in reception is a barrel of laughs and very friendly. I retired early after another huge meal. Jeans still fit, a miracle really. Adrianna also had an early night after mangiando troppo. She was still emotionally overwhelmed at finding a shop name after her in Sienna, even if it was only a corsetry shop.
For more on il palio you might like to visit this site...

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Carla finally gets that koala

January 17th: Okay, today the big finale at Monash. I arrived a tad early to post a blog. Today in the morning class we were each given a section of a cartoon strip which we had to describe. We then shared our descriptions and as a group sequenced the comic strip. Usinng an overhead projector, Carla then gave her own description to the class of what was happening with the main character Federico and wrote any new vocabulary up on the whiteboard. Carla also shared some schiacciata with us which was delicious and welcomed as I had skipped breakfast(yes, I was still trying to organise my luggage.)We then viewed a small part of the film Ricordati di me and listed the nouns and verbs we saw as we viewed the segment.

Then it was off to the usual place for lunch. After lunch Goretti, Deb and I went to the co-op as I was all out of batteries. We were quite a long time there and it was pouring with rain so we were a little late for afternoon class.

We viewed a part of a television show featuring Robert Benigne and Adriano Celentano in which they sang La coppia più bella del mondo. We discussed the significance of the song and the political climate at the time. It was then a quick coffee break at a bar with Adriana and Jack and back for the final session at Monash. The two classes combined and we worked in our Caccia del tesoro groups to produce a short skit or presentation for the whole group. Some groups did some fantastic interviews, others songs or short reeanactments of special moments. You can see a very dramatic Rosemary in action in the above photo. Cathy, Laura, Carla and Cecilia were all present to watch the presentations. Jack just had to get in the whole Latin Lover thing with a provactive song and it was pretty funny. I don't think Carla or Laura expected such attention from the young Australian lad. Presentations of Australian gifts were then made to the teachers at Monash to show our heart-felt gratitude for all of their hard work and kindness. I think Jack really enjoyed give Cathy her present.

At seven we all went out to a restaurant for a final dinner with the staff from Monash. We all received a scarf from the manager of the establishment as a souvenir of our time in Prato; a really nice gesture even though we are probably all still defluffing the coats. Bye Laura, bye Carla. This could be my last post as I am not sure what facilities are available at the hotels we will be staying in. If you want to read the earlier blogs go to View my complete profile and click on Archives and you will be able to read earlier entries.We'll see! Signing off for now...La Carolina xx Hi Elsie, hope Travis has shared this blog with you. Off that computer now Travis!!! Give someone else a go.

Tea with Laura and Nadino

January 16th: Slept in this morning and it was a big rush to get to university. So I decided to skip lunch so I could go back to the hotel to organise my luggage and have a shower. In class today we wrote a story which ended up being about Giacomo who now fancies himself as the Latin Lover. We then listened to a song by Lucia Dalla which told a story. Then it was onto the difference between avere and essere and their use. We also looked at the use of the subjunctive. In the afternoon we continued with the subjunctive and did a role play. We finished off with a song called Le cose che abbiamo in comune (the things we have in common.)

At 5:00 pretty much everyone went back to the hotel to prepare for the celebratory cocktail function at Monash which started at six. I walked to Monash with Adriana and had trouble keeping my shoes on, should have put in the inserts. As Domenica said though, they will fit better in Australia with the hotter weather. Adriana swapped shoes with me for a bit so we could make some progress. The room was crammed full with people and the local television station was there taking footage. Goretti and I tried to look animated and messed around a bit with greeting every time the camera swung our way. Adriana tried to get the camera man's attention but alas all in vain. The speech was delivered first in Italian and then in English. Getting to the champagne was not an easy venture even though Jack didn't seem to be having too much trouble.

About 7:00 Nadino arrived and took Adriana, Domenica and I to his place in the country for tea. We were greeted at the door by a very excited Sam, their red setter. We gave them our gifts and Laura was delighted with Pingui and had to wrestle him off Sam at one stage who might have just been a tad jealous of the new arrival. Sara their daughter was there with her friend Sabrina. It was a very enjoyable evening. We had a tasty lasagna, spaghetti bolognaise with a spicey oil, a large serving of pork, a torte with celery(like a quiche) salads, potatoes and finished off with two desserts which were home-baked. I tried a few different sweet wines and a drink which was clear but tasted like whiskey. The converstaion was a mix of Italian, English and Spanish. Sara, who had been working in London has excellent English as does Nadino. Sara and Sabrina gave Domenica a few tips on great night clubs in Florence. We have been overwhelmed with the kindness of this family and all of the staff members at Nadino's school. Nadino drove us back to Hotel Giardino and I was in bed by midnight.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Venice: gateway to the Orient

January 15th: Gondolas, palaces and much to look at in only six hours! Another early start, a quick shower and yet another battle with the hairdryer in the room which looks a lot like a vacuum cleaner which works in reverse. Twenty minutes later, hair finally dried, it was downstairs for a very quick breakfast. We caught our bus outside the castello at 8:00. Nonna was actually there on time but Carmelina was late telling Adrian as she got on the bus that she had "decided to join her club." Then it was a three hour bus trip to Venice.

Upon arrival there were caught a water taxi across to the main city centre. Today I spent the day with Rosanna, Belinda, Maria, Fiona and Rosemary. Rosanna had a strategic plan of attack for the six hours we had there. Venice is certainly a beautiful city. I didn't know where to look first...up, down, left or right. Tall towers and duomos loomed everywhere and then there were the breath-taking watery scenes. Rosemary and I had our cameras out snapping away as soon as we put our feet on dry land. A toilet stop was our main priority however. We finally found a McDonalds(yes, they have taken over the world) and could then relax.

After a quick withdrawl at a bancomat first stop was the Doge's Palace(Palazzo Ducale) which was impressive. This was the official residence of each Venetian ruler(doge) and was founded in the 9th century. It was also the seat of the republic's government, housed bureaucrats and contained the prisons. After we put our backpacks in the bagroom we spent two and a half hours there looking at the luxury of the time and feeling the coldness, dampness and despair of the prisions which were deep beneath the palace. The torture chamber was a place where suspects were hung from their wrists from a cord in the centre of the room. The Sala del Maggior was a magnificent hall where the council members met. It wasn't hard to imagine up to 1700 of them in that area. The hall is lined with gigantic paintings depicting battle scenes of the times and Tintoretto's huge Paradise fills the end wall. I think this is one of the largest paintings in the world. We took quite a few photos on the Giant's Staircase looking out past Mars' posterior. I was also impressed by the bocca di leone(lion's mouth) which was used to post secret denunciations. This is the second photo above. Maybe we need one at Hotel Giardino!

At 1:30 we met with Antonella as arranged earlier that morning and six of us took a forty-five minute ride in a gondola; an experience not to be missed and well worth the twenty Euros. With six in the gondola the guide would ocassionally use his foot to push off a wall here and there just to keep up the momentum. Apparently the gondoa has been a part of Venice since the 11th century. With its slim hull and flat underside it is just perfect to navigate the narrow and shallow canals.

It was then time for a quick stand up snack, un panino con formaggio and a coffee. We then set off for the markets in the Rialto area. The Rialto takes its name from rio alto meaning high bank and was one of the first areas of Venivce to be inhabited. We found some exquisite little shops selling jewellery, the majority made out of glass and spent up pretty big time on small gifts for friends and relations. I also took the opportunity to photograph masks in shop windows and around the markets as I am going to have some mask-making sessions with my students this year. I bought a small one to take back with me as an example to show the students. Rosemary found an interestng leather one. Goretti and Adriana bought very lavish handmade ones. As it grew dark we all met near the water taxi were ferried across the waters and caught our bus as planned at 7:00. Three hours later we were back "home" at the hotel.

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Sempre diritto: in Bologna

January 14th: Okay today I learnt a lot of things but mainly I learnt that "Sempre diritto" means "straight ahead"or "it's somewhere up ahead", or "I really don't have a clue but if you walk long enough I am sure you will find it."

Another early morning rise as we had to catch a train to Bologna. Kevin(Silvia's husband) was our guide for the morning and we wound our way through the streets of Prato to the Central station which is a twenty-five minute walk from the hotel. Goretti and I swore that the route we had taken on the previous Sunday would have been a short cut compared to this trek. The train pulled up some time later and we all hurried into the carriage, the wrong carriage, number 7, which was really just like a can of sardines. The coffee man couldn't move his trolley for some ten minutes. We spent fifteen minutes weaving through bodies and luggage until we got to the 3rd carriage where we had reserved seats. Kevin diplomatically regained our seats for us. The trip took about an hour.

A coffee break later we walked into the historic centre and entered Il Duomo di Bologna where were given a spiel about it. Kevin delivered his talks in both Italian and English. Normally I don't get too excited about churches but when viewing the Compianto su Cristo Marto (a section which is shown in the above photograph) I actually felt and understood some of the anguish which the people after the crucifiction of Jesus. This scene was done by A Lombardi. The one in San Petrono(the first photo) byNiccolò dell'Arca o Niccolò d'Antonio d'Apulia, o da Bariy... evoked a similar reaction from me. As you can see they have as many problems with names as I do remembering all the students in the school!

We then moved on to Plazza del Nettuno where the bronze Neptune atop of the fountain(see first photo) makes quite a bold statement. It was sculptured in 1566 by Giambologna. The four angels you can see represent the winds and the four sirens the continents known at that time.

It was then onto the tenth largest church in the world, San Petronio. The interior was most impressive with the huge, pitched arches dominating the main features, markedly Gothic. It is one of Italy's greatest brick-built medieval buildings. It was originally supposed to be larger than he first San Pietro in Rome but apparently the funds were diverted. A meridian line runs through the church.

Last stop was the University of Bologna which is the oldest in Europe. We sat in a very ornate lecture theatre with a marble slab in the middle where dissections were performed. Goretti decided to do a dissection of Aussie on the slab(see above left photo), her koala bear who goes everywhere with her in her day pack.

Kevin finished up the talk in front of the Twin Towers of Bologna (torri degli Asinelli e arisenda)where families took refuge in times of feuding or war. The taller of the towers is 97.6 metres. These towers are two of the few remaining towers begun by Bologna's important families in the 12th century. One towers had been truncated due to the fact that it was starting to resemble the Leaning Tower of Pisa and could have possibly toppled onto the other. Both certainly make a statement and make for interesting passage of traffic.

Then it was off for a quick snack with Goretti, Deb, Adriana and Cecilia. We looked at the markets and went to the tourist office to get a map. We spent a great deal of the afternoon walking sempre diritto in search of the elusive record store. After a few laps of the town centre we found a music outlet. I bought the DVDs Il Postino, Prima damme un bacchio and Io non ho paura.

Then it was back to the station where we had a few problems finding the right binario(platform) for our departure. It seemed that the train left from binario one, two and six! The express to Rome was running two hours late so we wiped that one off the list. A train official yelled at Adriana that it wasn't number one. So after some directions in German off we went in search of the elusive binario two. After a few more directions and misdirections we found it right up the end of the platforms tucked up behind number one. Anyway we took the regional and were back in Prato one and a half hours later. We dropped our gear in our rooms and then went across the way for a snack, something of a ritual lately. We ordered soup and pizzas. Then after a few beers and chamagne it was off to the land of nod after watching a movie called La finestra di fronte in Goretti's room. Now I would like to go buy this DVD as I thought it would be a good one to have in my foreign film collection. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzz Time for bed, Goretti nodded off in the last ten minutes of the film.

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