Report by Rachel C
Our adventure started in an unfamiliar, foreign land. And no, I’m not talking about Pistoia- I’m talking about the grounds of Dalziel High School. On the 4th of February S6 pupils and one S5 pupil left behind the concrete jungle of Motherwell in search for more sprawling landscapes accompanied by Mrs Fitzpatrick. The trip was part of the annual exhange student trip which has been going on for 13 years. In the September of 2014 Scottish students at Our Lady’s High School welcomed visitors from Pistoia, and finally got to meet their Italian “twins”. Now it was our turn to see how the other half live.
After a 3 hour plane journey and a 4 hour bus journey, we arrived at our destination- not that we could see anything, it was pitch black outside. However the Hotel Ville Delle Rose where we would be staying for the next 7 days made up for the lack of visible scenery.
The next day we were (kind of) recharged and ready to reunite with our Italian twins. We visited their school like they visited ours and we finally had a chance to ogle at the landscape on the way there. Our Italian twins greeted us and brought us inside. We spent the morning dancing and singing and of course, eating. Later the Italians took us to a shopping centre for a few hours and then to one of the Italian’s houses to hang out.
After having the day to mingle with our Italians and settle in, it was time to do some sightseeing. Our first stop? Pisa! When we arrived we had the obviously had the chance to go up the infamous Leaning Tower of Pisa (if you have a phobia of long, windy stairs I don’t recommend) and visit the Cathedral Piazza dei Miracoli and roam around the surrounding area and see what it had to offer. (Yes, I’m talking about food again.) That night we all went to a party hosted by one of our very hospitable Italian’s.
On the fourth day of our trip we went to the beautiful city of Florence. Florence is now easily one of my favourite cities. Fair enough most of the shops were out of my budget but the architecture was simply stunning! We visited the famous Ponte Vecchio which is built across the River Arno, and is the first bridge built in Florence. We also visited Piazza della Signoria, which contained many sculptures and statues including a copy of Michaelangelo’s “David”. But for me perhaps the most captivating sight was “Il Duomo”, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore- it was easily one of the most beautiful buildings I had ever seen in my life. At night we went to a karaoke bar called “Mago Bago” with the Italians.(You can bet that was a laugh considering half of us had sore throats and could barely talk.)
On day numero five we made a journey to Viareggio to attend the Carnavale di Viareggio. This was easily one of my favourite days, I have never witnessed anything like it. The point of the Carnavale is to poke fun at politicians and people in power, it is a satirical event. They do this by parading floats throughout the town. There are not only floats, but performers, music, food and a LOT of confetti. (I’m still finding it in my pockets) Whilst in Viareggio most of us also took up the opportunity to buy one of the famous Carnavale masks, as it is tradition. That night we ate dinner in the hotel.
We had an early rise the following morning, as that day we were heading to Venice. After the long bus journey and a short boat trip we were free to stretch our legs and roam the peculiar city. We spent the day exploring all the little nooks and crannies and browsing in the rather eccentric shops. Perhaps the highlight of my day in Venice was dinner. Not only was my first carbonara amazing, but it was accompanied by the live music of an accordion player- now that is a true Italian experience!
The end was looming near on day 7, and we used our last full day in Pescia to hang out with our Italian friends. We spent our last day like our first – in the school. In the morning we experienced what Italian drama classes are like with a drama workshop. The workshop included a lot of fun – if not rather strange activities, I definitely deserved an Oscar after that class. We spent the next few hours being serenaded by our own Konner, Callum, Jack and two other very talented Italian students. After that we visited the quaint little town of Montecatini before heading back to the hotel to get ready for the farewell disco, where we ate pizza (of course) and the Italians showed us up with their dancing skills. (turns out the macerena doesn’t count…)
Day eight marked the final leg of our journey. We all knew this day was going to come, but we were just having too much fun to think about it. We met our Italian twins in the lobby after breakfast and not soon after the tears were flowing – and I MEAN flowing (knew I should have brought my water wings). We exchanged gifts and had the chance to take a few photos before heading outside with our luggage. We said our final goodbyes to our Italian friends, but for most of us, we knew it only meant, “Goodbye, for now.” Now it was time to start on our long journey back to reality, but we left Italy on good terms, knowing that we would return.
The Italian exchange truly was a life changing experience, a once and a lifetime opportunity that I am so glad I took part in. We got to visit so many beautiful and exciting places, and we made true friends with some amazing people. It was a truly eye opening experience, and I would recommend that any upcoming fifth and six year students sign up, as it is a journey you will never forget.