by Mikaela Ruef
The trip started with the longest plane ride of my life, luckily there were 3 meals, extra legroom, and an endless movie selection in the seatbacks.
Our first stop was Rome where we took group tours of the Coliseum and the Vatican. It was surreal to visit both places because I’d learned about the Coliseum in 7th grade world history class and the Vatican in religion class since I was about 8, but now we were actually there at the real place in Italy. The pictures I’d seen in books and on TV I was now seeing with my eyes and my brain had a hard time comprehending that this was real life. Of course, I made sure all of my teammates and I grossly over used the saying, “When in Rome…” because how many times do you actually get to say it when you’re literally IN ROME? The craziest thing about Rome is that it is a very large modern city with highways and cars and the whole nine yards, and among this bustling modern city are ruins from a different world. Visiting Rome is like time travelling, one minute you’re in the Ancient Roman Empire standing at the base of the original Capital Hill, and the next minute you get honked at by a speeding car for walking too slow across an intersection.
After leaving Rome, we stopped in Siena for the afternoon. Siena is this quaint, relaxing, vacation getaway, and mark my words, I will return. It was easily my favorite city because I absolutely loved the lifestyle. Everything was extremely laid back, there were no cars on any of the cobblestone roads, the weather was perfect, and the scenery was straight out of a romance novel. I was sad we had to leave so soon, but I was thankful that we stopped at all cuz now I know where I’m going to live when I grow up (just kidding, but seriously, I loved it).
Next came Florence, where I did most of my gift shopping. But you can’t visit Florence without seeing Michelangelo’s David in the Galeria dell’Academia. The statue is absolutely breathtaking, I could have easily sat and just stared at it for hours. First of all, it’s HUGE and second it’s perfect, as in you can see veins popping out of his arms. It looks like Michelangelo froze a giant and then coated it in marble glaze… that good. The team got a full day to explore Florence with no scheduled tours, and everyone took full advantage, shopping for leather gifts in the markets and eating way too much gelato, pizza and pasta (I was on a diet, so I only ate 2 gelatos a day and 9 on the last day).
The final stop before heading home was Venice, which like every other city we visited in Italy, was beautiful. There are no cars in Venice, only boats, canals, buildings, and sidewalks. The water taxi drivers are truly gifted at maneuvering their boats in the narrow canals without ramming into the buildings. Driving those things is an art. After all my contemplating, I still can’t figure out why someone would look at the lagoon Venice is built on and say, “This looks like a perfect spot to build a city”, but boy am I glad they did because it’s a unique city and a great place to experience.
Oh yeah, we played basketball while we were there, I almost forgot! We went 3 for 3 with one close game. Everyone played well, especially the freshmen, who played their first official games for Stanford! The best part about the games was watching the Italian teams during the timeouts (not that I was watching because I was so focused on what the coaches were saying). Anyway, since there are Americans on the teams that don’t speak Italian, the coaches talk to everyone on the team in Italian and then pause. Then, one of the Italian players that knows English translates for the American, then stops and looks back at the coach. Then the coach says a little more then pauses and waits for the translator. It’s entertaining to watch, but super inefficient.
That pretty much sums up the trip. It was such a great bonding experience for the team and WE GOT TO SEE ITALY! I can still barely believe that we actually went and I’m already looking forward to a return trip in the future. Before I end this, I just want to thank everyone who helped finance the trip. I’m so thankful to have gotten the opportunity to go to Italy and I know the rest of the team is too. I can’t think of a better trip, or a better group of people to go with, and I look forward to great season because of it!