On 28 October thirty four 5th and 6th Year students accompanied by Ms. White, Ms. Dublaghan, Ms. Joy and Mrs Burke embarked on the second Cluny school tour to Italy. This time the north of Italy was the venue for a week; and in particular our destinations were the two cities of Florence and Venice. It was to be a combined cultural and historical excursion to the elegant and timeless landmarks of Italy at its grandest. Armed with some basic Italian language classes in September and our maps — we sallied forth.
The group stayed outside Florence in Montecatini, a relaxing and pretty little town fill of ‘GerlateHas’, about an hour’s ride from the city. In the two days we spent here most of the important sites were visited. The most dramatic was possibly that first one we actually visited. The guide introduced us to our first taste of the gems of Italy’s culture by cleverly steering us into the Academia, which houses the original statue of ‘David’ by Michelangelo and other works by the great sculptor. The effect on us was stunning — interesting enough in books but powerful in reality, we all agreed. We queued for the Uffizi gallery [the second most popular gallery in the world after St. Petersburg’s ‘Hermitage’, it seems] and eventually got to see the best of Botticelli, Leonardo and Raphael among others.
We also took in the Ponte Vecchio, the Pitti Palace and most importantly the markets. The girls enjoyed the bargaining and did very well — leather backpacks in black being the most sought after commodity! Popular also were beautiful art books; it must be said — the artistic beauty of Florence works its own magic. The old and the new were both valued.
The next two days were spend in Venice. We were located in Lido de Jesolo, which was rather quiet at this time of the year but we livened things up at a local disco a couple of nights! We travelled across to Venice by Vaporetto both mornings in the autumn mists, until the city on the water loomed out like a Hollywood stage set. It is difficult to believe that it is quite real, but we quickly adjusted to the extraordinary and we loved it. St. Mark’s Square where Carla wanted to feed all the pigeons but no one else agreed. We took in a guided tour of the Doges’ Palace, the Rialto Bridge, Gaileria deli’ Academia — and of course the shops. The brave ones took gondolas — and the strains of Cluny voices could be heard singing about Cornettos down the backstreet canals!
Our last day took in Verona (of Romeo and Juliet fame), Sirmione, with an exhilarating boat race round this beautiful fortress town on Lake Garda (not on the itinerary!) and on to our last night in a lovely hotel beside the lakeshore — where we put on a show and displayed our singing talents — much to the amusement of some of the guests!
Without exaggerating, this was a wonderful trip, enjoyed by teachers and students alike. Abbey Travel deserve our thanks and 1995’s 5th and 6th years surpassed themselves as travellers and did credit to us all.