South Orangetown Central School District

Forty Tappan Zee High School students immersed themselves in Italian culture for nine days over the April recess, experiencing the art, history, music, literature and science highlights of some of Italy’s most beautiful cities. Led by teacher chaperones Tricia Castelli, Patti Kilkelly, Diane McLoughlin and Steve Purkis, the group traveled to Venice, Verona, Florence, Siena, Assisi and Rome.

The excursion began in Verona, the city of Romeo and Juliet, where the group visited the Arena, Roman Amphiteater, Juliet’s balcony and Piazza Bra. The next day, students attended a glass-blowing demonstration at a world-famous glass factory in Murano before heading to Venice to tour St. Mark’s Square, the Doge’s Palace, the Rialto Bridge and enjoy a gondola ride.

Two days were spent in the Renaissance city of Florence, where the group visited the Duomo, Santa Croce, Palazzo Vecchio in Piazza della Signoria, Ponte Vecchio, Santa Maria Novella, and the Accademia to see Michelangelo’s masterpiece, “David.”

A guided tour of Siena included the Duomo di Siena, the Piazza del Campo (home to the famed Palio horse race), and travel through the Tuscan countryside. That evening, the students had a true cultural experience in an Italian discoteca, dancing alongside their teachers and students from other schools around the world.

The group left Tuscany for Umbria and the city of Assisi. First stop was at the Porziuncola, the tiny church where St. Francis began his order, which is located within the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli today. “The students loved the Umbrian hill town, taking time to stroll through the small streets and have lunch, before a visit to the Upper Basilica of St. Francis, with its amazing Giotto frescoes, and the Lower Basilica with the tomb of St. Francis,” reports Ms. Castelli.

The final three days of the trip were devoted to the Eternal City, where the group relived history as local guides led them through the Coliseum, the Roman Forum, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. Time was also spent in each of Rome’s famous piazzas–Piazza Navona, Piazza del Pantheon, Campo di Fiori, Piazza del Popolo, Piazza di Spagna and the famous Spanish Steps–taking in the beautiful art and architecture, while ordering a cappuccino or scrumptious gelato in Italian. A special visit was made to Castel Sant’Angelo, originally built as a mausoleum for the emperor Hadrian and his family. but later converted into a fortress where several popes took refuge when Rome was under siege. All students tossed a coin into the Trevi Fountain in hopes of returning to the ancient city! More photos on Facebook.

Group of students posed in St. Marks Square, Venice with basilica in background