Wet, but we are in Italy -- day one

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Editor's note: Steve Reed, Cottey College's director of public information, is traveling in Italy with approximately 70 members of the Cottey sophomore class and other faculty, as part of the Cottey International Experience held over the first week of spring break. He, along with his wife, Angie Casavecchia, public administrator for Jasper County, is reporting on the trip. Steve sends his reports as letters to his mother.

Buon giorno, Mama!

After many hours of travel, we have arrived safely in Florence, Italy, or as the Italians call it, Firenza. It was, however, a very long day of travel. Cottey students and faculty/staff educators left Nevada at 5 a.m. for the airport. We flew out of Kansas City at 10:15. Our flight went to Atlanta; a second flight went to Detroit. From Atlanta, we flew overnight to Paris, and had just enough time to get through customs to catch our flight to Florence. However, due to strong winds, we couldn't land and were diverted to Bologna. (I told one of the students I had never been to Bologna, but I liked their lunch meat. She did laugh.)

Once in Bologna, we had to be bussed back to the Florence airport where our tour guides were waiting with another bus to take us to the hotel. Overall, it took three bus rides and three plane rides to get from Cottey College to Firenza. No complaints, though, we are in Italy!

The tour guides, Stefano and Andrea (both are men, Andrea is pronounced Ahn-dre-ah) led all of us on a short walking tour of historic Florence. We walked along the Arno River to the Uffizi gallery, and had a little time to explore the Ponte Vecchio (old bridge) with its historic goldsmith and jewelry shops. Angie found a ring she liked, but at 2,800 Euros (over $3,000) I said no. I thought she would be disappointed, but I promised we could have gelato. Note to self: gelato trumps jewelry.

We gathered again with the students, and our guides took us past the Palazzo Vecchio (literally the Old Palace) and down to the Duomo, the iconic dome on the church of Santa Maria Della Fiore, Saint Mary of the flowers. After a short lesson on the church, Andrea showed us where we could exchange cash or use an ATM.

Even though the students had been instructed to use an ATM (and to notify their banks), a few still brought cash to exchange. I didn't realize how expensive that option was until a student showed me her transaction receipt. With all the transaction fees, it cost almost 30 percent of her money just to make the exchange. Word to the wise, Mama, bring your debit card!

The students went to explore on their own and grab some dinner. Angie and I joined eight other leaders to find a place to eat. We ended up at a restaurant called Za-Za's. Surprisingly enough, I had eaten there before on a previous trip and remembered the food was excellent. They did not disappoint last night either.

Angie and I shared an appetizer (goat cheese and tangerine jam), and a bowl of traditional rustic Italian soup called Ribbolita. (Ree-boh-lee-tah) Angie had salmon for her entree and I had the veal with truffle sauce and rosemary. It was so good.

By the time we had finished dinner, it had started to rain harder. Some in our group asked the waiter to call a cab. He came back to tell us the cab company had none available. No worries, though, Mama. We all had our travel umbrellas and knew the way back to the hotel. A little rain would not frighten intrepid travelers like us! It was a little under two miles.

As soon as we left the hotel, a giant thunderbolt split the sky with a deafening "boom" and knocked out all the power for several blocks around us. Still not worried, we forged ahead. About halfway there we were joking about the weather when Mother Nature unleashed her full fury upon us. Our tiny umbrellas were no match for the deluge that poured down upon us.

Members of the group kept asking "How much farther, Steve?" I wanted to say, "It doesn't really matter at this point, does it?" However, I was diplomatic and kept telling them, "Just a bit further." We did arrive safely back to the hotel, but I'm pretty sure we could skip our evening baths and showers from the soaking we received.

The good news is we were all in good spirits and laughed and joked about our very wet walk home. It will make for good stories when we are with friends and family.

Interestingly enough, when Angie and I were looking at Facebook the next morning, we saw that everyone back home in Missouri had been facing violent thunderstorms as well. That must have been one heck of a storm to extend all the way from Missouri to Italy!

Today promises to be drier and warmer, and we will begin our first educational modules with our students under the Tuscan sun shortly. Many adventures await our Cottey crew this morning, and I will report them faithfully to you tomorrow.

Alla prossima (till tomorrow),

Your loving son,

Steve

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