Eleven MMI students, three parents and two faculty members traveled to Italy during spring break 2017 for an educational tour. Arranged by EF Education Tours, the tour took them through Milan, Venice, Florence, Cinque Terre, and many other towns. For most of the students this had been the first time they had traveled to Europe. T.R. Laputka, MMI technology director, and Michael Mele, Science Department Chair and Science instructor, led the private group.
The group departed from JFK on April 7. Arriving in Milan the next day, they were met by local tour director Roberto who would accompany them throughout the 9-day trip, sharing historical and cultural information and insights about the sites, places and people along the way. A walking tour explored the center of Milan, and then they went by bus to their beachfront hotel in Lido di Jesolo.
The next day they traveled by water taxi to Venice, which included a local guided tour of St. Mark’s Square and a gondola trip through the Grand Canal. They attended a glass blowing demonstration, as well as visiting a lace making shop. They saw the golden weathervane atop the 323-foot Campanile (Bell Tower). They stopped at the Doge’s Palace, where Venetian dukes once ruled. Having spent two days in the floating city, the group headed east to Florence, with a stop at the magical towns of Ravenna and Bologna where they visited the Museum and Basilica of San Vitale.
They arrived in Florence, which is the birthplace of the Italian language, opera and the Renaissance, and where works of art like Michelangelo’s statue of David and Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus still reside today. They took a locally guided tour of the classical statues at the Piazza della Signoria, the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, better known as the Duomo, which dominates the skyline, and the Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise at the Baptistry.
They walked across the Ponte Vecchio, a medieval bridge where many of Florence’s famed leather and gold artisans keep shop. After lunch at a local restaurant, they attended a leather making demonstration at a shop in the Piazza. That night they stayed in their hotel in Montecatini Terme, where they were able to meet and make friends with another group of high school students from Southern Italy.
After two days in the artful city of Florence, they then went on to visit the beautiful town of Lucca, and that evening checked into their hotel in La Spezia overlooking the Ligurian Sea. The next day they took a train through the picturesque five villages of Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre, which literally translates to “five earths,” is a cluster of towns perched on the dramatic cliffs of the Mediterranean cost. Each of these five Italian villages— Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore - had its own unique character and charm.
From there the trip continued to Lake Como, where they had a very informative bus tour around the lake, and then they traveled on a scenic boat ride to the village of Belaggio, where they stopped for lunch and shopped at the local stores. At the hotel that night, in Lanzo d’Intelvi, they were able to walk over to the Swiss border for a beautiful view overlooking Lake Lugano.
On April 15, the last day of the trip, a stop in Cernobbio and Como provided the opportunity to tour the villages and stores, and have genuine Italian pizza for lunch.
From the Milan airport, the students, parents, and teachers said their tearful goodbyes to Roberto, and returned to the USA.
It was an extremely inspiring experience – not only intellectually, but also personally. The connections and memories made, things learned, places seen, and food tasted, will not soon be forgotten. The next adventure will take students to the British Isles over spring break 2018.