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I now understand why people cry at beauty.

Day 8: Rome via Nichole Vencl Today was our last day in this beautiful city. We awoke to a posh breakfast in our captains quarters in our marine-like hotel , Hotel Atlantico. Many of us went on to tour the Vatican museum, the Sistine chapel, and St. Peter's basilica . Yes, THAT famous basilica which is over two football fields in length . The artwork and attention to detail was beyond amazing. I now understand why people cry at beauty. The Vatican museum is literally so big that, according to our wonderful tour guide, you would have to come back 4-5 days to see the entire collection . And it'...

... through the Holy Door ... one of the four Holy Year pilgrimage churches ...

Day 7: Rome from Sr. Eileen Quinlan The hotel wake up call came at 5 a.m., and by 5:40 the bus was cutting through the rainy darkness to Palermo's airport. After checking our bags, we found a coffee bar where we got hot beverages to go with the biscotti and tangerines the hotel had provided as breakfast. We were in the air at 9 a.m. for the one-hour flight to Rome's Fiumicino airport, where we claimed our bags and boarded the coach. Traffic congestion delayed us, but when we got to the Hotel Atlantico, our rooms were ready . Some opted for a leisurely lunch, siesta or shopping, while a hardy...

Gorgeous fountains, statues and buildings ...

Italy Day 6: Palermo via Nichole Vencl Today may have not started the morning out on a high note with weather being mild rain and wind, but with a longer morning to prepare, we hit the ground determined with our umbrellas . We had a fantastic tour of our host town Palermo by a true native. He explained the Norman, Roman and Arabic influences still standing in the town, as well as the ones transformed over time as we walked the streets. Gorgeous fountains, statues and buildings , there is very little not to like about Palermo—the nearly 700,000 citizens will definitely agree with this...

Grape vines ready for spring ... glimpses of the Mediterranean

Italy Day 5: Selinunte from Sr. Eileen Quinlan On Tuesday morning we left Agrigento, driving along the southwestern coast of Sicily. It seems that Sicily's surface is like a bowl: ridges rise up from the beaches and then the land drops into deep valleys. All the way from Taormina to Agrigento to Palermo, the countryside is green with orchards: oranges and lemons, almonds, olives and the bare stumps of grape vines ready for spring . Through gaps in the ridge lines we had glimpses of the Mediterranean, fishing towns and beaches, but the surf was pounding on Tuesday, and we drove through heavy...

Back into the worlds of Ancient Greece and Rome

Italy Day 4: Agrigento via Nichole Vencl We said goodbye to our small lovely town of Taormina today and set forth to go back into the worlds of Ancient Greece and Rome. After a lengthy drive we arrived at Villa Casale—one of the world's largest collections of Roman mosaics . Coming in at just approximately 4,000 square meters, the Villa came complete with rooms for guests, apartments for children, a famous mosaic of bikini girls, multiple fountains and two bathing areas. The only thing missing was the name of the actual owner. The Villa was found in 1952, and professionals are still working...

A lush garden, warm and windy ... in an ancient stone quarry

Italy Day 3: Syracuse from Sr. Eileen Quinlan It was a gray cool morning when we set off from Taormina for Syracuse, about two hours south on the east coast of Sicily. Taormina is built above the ancient settlement of Giardini Naxos. Both Naxos and Syracuse were settled around 734 BCE by Greek emigrants in search of a better life than they had in Greece, which was overcrowded and without an adequate food supply. Syracuse soon became a powerful city-state, profiting from its superb harbor and from the fertile Sicilian soil and climate. Our local guide led us on a walking tour of the...

This isn't just a mountain but a volcano—an active one.

Italy Day 2: Toarmina and Mt Etna via Nichole Vencl After a much needed sleep from all our traveling yesterday, we were up and running (well, more or less riding in our bus again). It is extremely worthwhile to mention that our breakfast provided by the hotel had freshly picked oranges. So fresh the leaves were still on them! Have you ever opened a fresh orange before? The skin is less sticky and unlike the kind most of us purchase at the grocery store. When you open it, the aroma is not immediately sweet like candy. It's a little nicer—wholesome with a small hint of that natural sweetness,...

The hillside (hilltop?) town of Taormina

Italy Day 1: Fiumicino Airport and Taormina from Sr. Eileen Quinlan Seventeen NDC travelers landed at Rome's Fiumicino Airport, and transferred to their Alitalia flight to Catania in eastern Sicily . Our ACIS tour guide Markus met us and ushered us to the coach which took us most of the way to the hillside (hilltop?) town of Taormina, on the north side of snow covered Mt. Etna. Partway up the mountain, we transferred to a smaller coach which was able to negotiate the narrow, winding road to the town. After settling into their rooms, most of the group strolled down the stepped streets of...

A Dutch, and then some, Treat: In Photos

Sixteen Notre Dame College faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends of the College traveled eight hours across the Atlantic for eight days in Belgium, the Netherlands—where they called on an international alum—and Germany as part of the 2015 academic educational travel program. This slideshow of photos, courtesy mostly of student Courtney Chambers, truly makes for an, albeit, retrospective Dutch—and then some—treat.

Danke Schoen, Darling, Danke Schoen...

Danke schoen, ACIS, for those handy breakfast boxes. That German Capri Sun almost took the edge off of getting up so early for the long flight to Newark. Danke schoen, Marcus, for another wonderful tour. We hope to see you soon. Whenever we do, we know things will, again, be nothing short of "wunderbar!" Danke schoen to everyone that works at the Berlin airport. Who knew customs officers could be so nice?! Danke schoen, Marcus, -Part 2- for that great side trip to Canada that got added in at no cost! Oh, wait—we had to stay on the plane and it was just a quick stop for refueling. No worries...

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