HHS Students Tour Italy


HHS students posing near a canal in Venice

Natalie Tousignant, Staff Writer

Fifteen Hawthorne High School students are on their way to becoming globetrotters. From April 3-12, 2014, students in Marisa Margarucci’s Italian IV Honors and AP Italian classes, along with John DiLonardo’s Media Arts classes, spent 10 days touring Italy with stops in Venice, Verona, Florence, Siena, and Rome.

Along with Margarucci, Di Lonardo, and chaperonage Cecelia Pecoraro, the group of students embarked on the 8-hour flight into Venice, Italy. For their first day in the new country, students ignored their jet lag and took in the city. Staying on the island of Lido, the group took a private boat to the center of Venice. In the city, the students received a tour of San Marco Square, the Ducal Palace, the Bridge of Sighs, and the Rialto Bridge. Many students of the group also took this opportunity to taste their first gelato. Media Arts student and senior Chase Knepper raved, “Gelato changed my life.”

The following day, everyone had the opportunity to glide through the Venetian canals on a gondola before traveling to the island of Murano where they viewed and interacted in a professional glass-making workshop. They then traveled to the tiny island of Burano, famous for its intricate lace-making and brightly colored houses.

On their third and final day in Venice, the group took a day trip to the city of Verona on a private tour bus. This city, with its centrally located Arena, pleasant cobblestone squares, and authentic Italian charm, is the setting in which Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet takes place. Senior AP Italian student Christina Pecoraro called Verona, “The most amazing place on Earth.”

After leaving Venice, the group made a couple brief pit stops before arriving at their next destination–Florence. The first stop was at a cheese factory where students were able to get an insider’s view of the production of authentic Italian cheese and then sample the product. The bus then continued to Bologna, where it stopped shortly for lunch, shopping, and sightseeing before hitting the road again.

The arrival at a beautiful hotel that night in Florence was welcomed by the group, who made the most of their two days in the scenic city. Once there, the students of HHS had the unique opportunity to take a tour of a high school just blocks from the Ponte Vecchio. There, students met with Italian high school students, converse in both English and Italian, and genuinely connect with their Italian peers.

Florence, which was one of the highlights of the trip according to the group, also included tours of the Piazza del Duomo, Basilica of Santa Maria del Fiore, Giotto’s Bell Tower, Piazza della Signoria, Ponte Vecchio, and Galleria dell’ Accademia, where Michelangelo’s David is kept.

The group’s hotel in Florence was located in the heart of the city, which enabled the students, teachers, and chaperone to easily walk to all the most important sights. This included the Mercato, where vendors line the streets with carts stacked with leather goods. Students even  got  a sense of Italian nightlife with a trip to a discoteca, or night club.

Though reluctant to leave Florence, the group departed the next day to take a private bus to a tour of a wine cellar and oil mill in Chianti. Here, students and chaperones bought olive oil and were able to sample cured meats and cheeses.

The bus then continued on to Siena, a small, friendly city with old, red brickwork and a huge central square. Siena’s hilly streets were lined with shops, restaurants, and cafes. After only a few hours of strolling through Siena, however, it was time to get back on the bus and head to Rome, the group’s last stop.

After arriving in Rome, the group had dinner and took the subway for a late-night visit to the Coliseum. The next action-packed days included tours of Vatican City, Saint Peter’s Square, Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, Rinascimento Museum, Roman Forum, the Coliseum, and the Tito Arch. The group also had plenty of leisure time to enjoy shopping along Rome’s Via del Corso, a main street for Italy’s big-name fashion designers like Valentino and Prada.

In Rome, which is bigger than all the cities the group had previously seen, getting around was a little more complicated. As a result, students quickly learned how to navigate the Roman bus and subway systems. Luckily, Italian classes at HHS prepared students for such a feat with projects that included mapping out major tourist points in Rome and its subway path.

On their tenth and final day in Italy, the group flew out of Rome after a remarkable trip. Margarucci was sure to comfort the students who were sad to leave by telling them they can always return, and there was not a single traveler who doubted they would.

Margarucci, who has family in Italy and has traveled there many times in the past, had a great experience with the group, saying, “This trip was truly a dream come true for me. For my students, this was like a living classroom. As a teacher, I try to give as broad a view as possible of the language and culture, but while in Italy, everything just came to life. It was unforgettable.”

DiLonardo also had a great time with his students and commented on how the Media Arts students benefited from the trip. “The HHS students were outstanding travelers and learners at every moment of our trip. They absorbed the culture and history and developed outstanding photos of memories that will last a lifetime.”

Overall, the group had an amazing time in Italy. Each student was able to experience the Italian culture, history, food, and lifestyle. The freedom students were granted by Margarucci and DiLonardo enabled their travel to be authentic, and everyone on the trip had individual experiences which will never be forgotten. The perspective gained by this international travel is invaluable. Looking back on the trip, Knepper said, “This was my first time traveling overseas, and it was the most memorable experience of my life.”

Everyone had an incredible trip, thanks to the care and planning by Margarucci and DiLonardo, the cooperation and good behavior of the students, and the overall love of travel of the group as a whole.