Inside Italy


Underneath the stone arcs of the Procuratie, a series of three connected buildings in St. Mark’s Square, six students took cover from the consistent downpour. With cold and shaking hands, Ruby Lowenstein removed her raincoat hood and pulled a packet of papers from her bag, scribbling down a few words before the group headed off again to find the next item for the scavenger hunt. This was how Community High School students on the Italy trip spent their second evening in Venice, finding their way through the narrow streets and stone bridges.

Following a seven hour flight from Detroit, a two hour plane ride from Amsterdam allowed travelers to arrive in the evening and experience their first boat ride to the island of Lido. They would stay here for the next two nights, a pattern that would repeat for the rest of the 10-day trip led by Latin and government teacher Jason McKnight. Liz Stern, Steve Coron and his wife Kerri, Kevin Davis and Assistant Dean Karen Siegel traveled along as chaperones.

Over the week, the group traveled from Northern Italy down the boot, starting in Venice and then moving to Florence, San Gimignano, Pompeii, Sorrento, Capri and Rome, respectively. Because there was such a large amount of traveling during the tour, students became accustomed to cat-napping on tour buses, boats and trains.

Brynn Stellrecht, sophomore, remembers Venice fondly because she had the opportunity to ride in a gondola. “It was very relaxing because we were just kind of drifting through Venice, which is something I didn’t think I’d be able to do in my life,” she said. “It was kind of an eye opening experience.”

Throughout the trip, students were given periods of free time, which could range anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours, for the chance to buy food, shop and explore the cities in their own small groups.

“I really liked Rome, seeing the Colosseum, and the people, and just walking around the cities was really cool,” said senior Paul Cook.

In Florence, the students first saw the world famous statue of David, the Uffizi Gallery and the Duomo; visited ancient ruins of Pompeii in Naples; and witnessed many of the prominent sites in Rome, including the Colosseum, Roman Forum, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain and Vatican City. To fully experience Italian culture and history, students had opportunities in which they attended a cooking school, glass blowing factory, dancing lesson and “gladiator school.” Set in the Roman countryside, the Castrum Legionis Roma taught students how to use swords, shoot arrows and mainly allowed them to live a day in the life of an ancient Roman gladiator.

While each student has different memories from the trip, Stellrecht vividly recalls the day they traveled to the island of Capri.

“I remember everything smelling like lemons,” she said. To get to higher ground on the island, all of the students and staff piled onto one of the small buses touring the island. “[The driver] was making these hairpin turns in a bus that was meant for maybe ten people but we fit 25 into it and everyone was falling into each other,” she said.

Junior Adrian Huntley, along with Cook, found Capri to be his favorite place the group visited. Both agreed the sunny weather made the day more enjoyable, as it was the first day travelers experienced without rain.

“It was warm and the water was just so blue and clear,” Huntley said. “I really liked the city because the city itself was kind of quaint and small and it looked way different than America.”

Students embraced their family members back in the Detroit Metro airport on Feb. 22, suitcases filled with scarves, leather accessories and other souvenirs they had collected over the week. To say the trip was life-changing is an understatement; thanks to the planning of dedicated teachers and tour guides, the trip offered opportunities that are simply not available in Ann Arbor.

“I highly suggest that anyone go, it’s really cool,” Stellrecht said. “Order as much coffee as possible. It was a great trip.”