The ITALIAN JOB: The Illinois volleyball team left Friday on a 10-day trip
to Italy. Along the way, the Illini will play five matches against various Italian teams. Freshman Kathryn Polkoff gives us the scoop:
After two nights in Venice, we are currently in Bologna. Yesterday morning, we took a train from our hotel across the water into the beautiful city of Venice. We were even able to see the Alps in the distance from the train windows! There are three main places in Venice: Ferrovia, the train station where we arrived; Rialto, a bridge; and Piazza San Marco, the main public square. We split up from the coaches and were told to meet in the middle of Piazza San Marco at noon. I think it wouldn’t have taken us very long to get there, except we stopped about every 100 feet to take more pictures. The city is absolutely beautiful and lends itself to a lot of artsy shots. After we met at noon, we spent the day getting lost in the streets and canals, picking out bracelets and purses from every little shop, admiring all the delicious food in the windows, trying every flavor of gelato, and posing for pictures before reconvening for dinner. Several of us were very surprised to see actual octopus tentacles in the windows!
Piazza San Marco was just like the movies. Basilica di San Marco was gorgeous and ornate, the columns were massive and awesome, and there was a gorgeous view by the water. We had a great time interacting with the pigeons in the square. And they sure loved Julia. She stood in the middle of the square with her arms out and up to six birds would land on her at a time. Meanwhile, Jocelynn could hardly get one near her, even with food in her hand!
After checking out all the beautiful canals, some of us decided to go on a gondola ride. After five big girls clambered into the boat and finally got it perfectly balanced, we thought our gondolier was absolutely crazy when he told us all to sit on one side. We all clung to each other as he explained that he did not, in fact, want us to get dumped into the water, but rather had to make a sharp turn and this was how it had to be. After we had resettled and straightened out, our gondolier, Paolo, began to sing some Johnny Cash and Mariah Carey. I’m pretty sure that is not traditional Italian music, but Paolo seems to be feeling it. We went through a maze of small canals before a short float down the Grand Canal.
I think it’s safe to say that we’ve had more pizza and carbs in the last three days than we have the entire semester. We have had gelato at least twice a day and love trying all the flavors, trying to sound cool (and definitely failing) when pronouncing the very Italian names. Breakfast sure has been different, with lunch meats and cheese with bread, a liquidy sort of yogurt, and tons of sweet rolls and croissants. Coach Kevin made one rule at every meal: everyone has to try at least a bite of everything on the table — he orders the food. He has yet to order anything bizarre for us, but we are all in anticipation for the coming dinners.
Kevin also want us to develop independence and to experience the country on our own, so he’s been throwing us “little wrinkles” here and there. Last night in Venice he gave us money for tickets and told us he would meet us at our hotel in Bologna today at 3 p.m. Without any issues, we passed the test, and even got a discount on our tickets for a group rate (excess money was spent on gelato, of course). Apparently that was just a warm-up for tomorrow, when our team is splitting up into three different groups and all taking different trains to different cities: Modena, Ferrara and Parma. Hopefully no one gets irretrievably lost and we all make it back for the match tomorrow night!
Ciao for now!