We arrived home safely Monday night at 11:00 after a complete 24 hours of travel! The trip wrapped up wonderfully, a huge success on all fronts. Our students returned home exhausted, but changed (for the better, hopefully). 

Venice was well loved by all, the wide-eyes all around upon first glance were indicative of the sheer impression the city made upon the students. We all spent the day wandering along canals and over bridges, stopping just long enough to purchase a quick gift here and there. 

Our last day in the city of Bologna was Saturday. We went to school with the Italian students in the morning for 2 hours of lessons. Our students have been extremely surprised by the teaching style of the Italian teachers - straight lecture for the most part, coupled with frantic note-taking. The unanimous reaction was that they like our school better ;). After lessons we headed to San Luca. San Luca is a church that was built up on a hill outside of Bologna city. Bologna is know for it's porticoed walk ways, and San Luca is famous as it lies at the end of the world's longest portico. With 666 arches, this portico allows the congregation to walk the Madonna from her home safe inside the church, all the way down the hillside, and into the center of town, without being exposed to the elements. Today, this has become a well frequented portico by runners and walkers alike. There's no doubt it's a solid walk! 

We all had the afternoon with our host families to rest up for the goodbye dinner at il Campus - a local restaurant that makes Bolognese specials. The going away dinner was really neat. All the American students were there with their host siblings and their host parents. This made a total of about 60 people. The food was delicious and served as our last traditional Italian meal. By 10:00 pm we sent the students home to finish their packing. We were after all leaving Sunday morning at 6:30 am!

After a tearful goodbye, we headed to Rome. Our day in Rome was complete with a blessing from the Pope, entrance into the Colosseum, lunch in Piazza Navona, and wishes cast in the Trevi Fountain. At 8:00 pm we were picked up from the train station and taken to Castle Scandeluzza. An old Castle that has been converted into a hotel of sorts, but with the very rustic feel of an old Castle. We were given 6 rooms and felt right at home. I truly felt like a Queen - my own room with a 4 post canopy bed, an attached bathroom, and fireplace. It was definitely a respite after an exhausting day in Rome. Our stay was short however, as we had a 9:50 am flight to catch on Monday morning.

And thus, our journey began. 24 hours later, the students were eating Mexican food and looking back on the trip as though it had never happened! 

We've got just 2 days left in Bologna and have prepped the kids for a full day of walking through the streets (and bridges) of Venice tomorrow. Perhaps the most awaited visit of the trip, the students have been fantasizing about seeing this unique city since Italian 1. We are set to meet at the station at our normal 8 am start time, however with a strike of buses and trains scheduled for tomorrow (beginning at 9am), we have our fingers crossed that our train will be allow to finish it's trip (we start at 8:30) before it is brought to a halt. Then, unfortunately we will not be able to return on the 5:45 train, as the strike goes from 9am to 6 pm, so we'll just have to hang out in Venice into the night. What a bummer!
Saturday holds a few hours of class in the morning, a walk to the "church on the hill" above Bologna under that longest portico in the world, an afternoon free for last minute shopping and our goodbye party at night. It's hard to believe we are so close to the end of a journey that was so much time in the planning. It's been an incredible experience for all of us, and I am so proud of the growth I've seen in the students - both in their Italian language skills, and also in their maturity levels.
A few of their highs and lows...
- Host families making us feel at home and welcomed
- the FOOD
- the COFFEE!
- picturesque cities and backdrops
- the Italian boys (and girls)
- Rich history

Not so favorite parts:
- Amount of smoke
- School: our students MUCH prefer KCHS to the style of classes they've attended in Bologna
- Graffiti: our students have been put off by the amount of graffiti on the buildings
- "dirty" old buildings: students have noticed a lot of trash on the ground and pollution caked onto the marble of the buildings, causing what once was white to be black
- Toilets... as many of you know, finding these, especially clean, can be a challenge

There will of course be many more reflections to come, as the students process all the ways their previous mentalities have been challenged by these experiences
Today we saw the Last Supper, another DaVinci masterpiece (he also painted the Mona Lisa of course). Now, look at the figure on the right. It's who? Jesus of course, I mean Jesus of Nazareth. Allora - who is to his right (the left as we look at it?) Would you say that's a woman or a man? Exactly! It looks like a lady but it is supposedly the disciple John. Some say it is actually Mary Magdalene. Read Dan Brown's 'The DaVinci Code' for more on that. Controversial!
Catwalk practice even though it's a bit early for fashion week in Milan.
Angela Gotti aka 'Profe' lecturing us on how despite her being 40 years older than all the members of the collective Ragazzi, they are simply walking to slowly, there are still so many important things to see, she loves them very much and now quite simply get up and andiamo! bene bene bene ...
Moises and Amelia pose while a ghostly figure passes by in the station at Milan.
Beautiful weather! Barbara was our leader today from Liceo Copernico and it was an easier pace (she's next to Aliya).
A stroll through the Sforza's medieval residence in Milan. Nicolo proving a point on the left - strong opinions.
International BFFs!
Both Ragazzi (classes) gather round in Verona, as one of the Liceo Copernico students teaches us all about the city we're in, and the 1900 year old Arena specifically.
Strolling from the train station to the center of the city; the first walk of the day. Trust us, this is just the beginning!
Shelby, Eileen, Aliya, Blanca, Amelia and Zabrina strike a pose in front of the cathedral in Ferrara on Monday. A quiet town, less tourists, but still ancient buildings and graceful piazzas (squares) around every corner.
We all made it to the top of the tallest tower in Bologna. Traditionally, students in Bologna don't climb the tower as a superstition says that they won't graduate if they do. They didn't seem too stressed about it, luckily.
On the far left is one of the family members that runs this restaurant and pasta making school. Her grandmother was the first female pasta chef in Bologna back in the day. She is a very funny woman, and an absolutely brilliant teacher - modelling, explaining, involving students and then leaving us to make our own once we got the knack - ideal gradual release teaching!
Making tagliatelle was probably the easiest version of pasta. It's named after its resemblance to long blond wavy hair.
Antonio! The quiet pasta making genius teaches a group how to make the ricotta and herb mix to go in the tortelloni shells
Eileen and Mr Fowler started experimenting with different photography tricks in this street in Florence while waiting to see Michaelangelo's world famous statue, David. Sorry, but how cool is that sentence! Rumor has it that even though you're not supposed to take pictures of David, there is one on Fowler's camera.
Glorious afternoon in Florence, looking at the famous tower of the powerful Medici family (center) who patronized artists such as Michaelangelo and DaVinci, playing their part in catalyzing the Renaissance of the late 15th and 16th centuries which changed art, architecture, music, medicine and thinking across Europe. And the city still knows how to make a good gelato just FYI.
Melissa's reading from an Italian magazine after a long day in Florence made a few of our Italian amici laugh. Her Italian skills have grown by leaps and bounds, plus check out the stylish glasses.
A tranquil vista rewards tired legs after a week of walking.
Eileen pointing out some of the finer points of Renaissance architecture to Mrs Threatt. The white and green marble on these famous buildings, the wet flagstones and weak morning sunlight created an atmospheric moment for our arrival in the center of Florence.
Moody skies over Bologna on Tuesday. You can see why it's called the red city.
A flash mob rehearsing in Verona for an elaborate marriage proposal, as Vaqueros watch from above.
Rosa leads from the front along a narrow street in Verona. We have probably walked at least one marathon this week, under the constant urging of host teacher Angela Gotti to 'andiamo Ragazzi! Let's go! So much to see!'
Ciao tutti! We're doing great. Been extremely busy without reliable access to wifi. Visited Ferrara this morning, are heading back to school to have lunch with our host siblings and will then be hiking up to the top of the "due torri" of Bologna this afternoon. Will post pictures when internet is available. I've heard from at least 5 students that they don't want to leave and why can't we just stay in Italy. AND - I'm hearing more and more Italian out of the KCHS students. Music to my ears! Tutti a posto. Ci sentiamo dopo!


Amiamo Italia. È una bella paese con gente amichevole e cibo buono!

- Jovanna, Rosa, Melissa e Zabrina

After a 1:00 am departure from the school, a two hour bus ride to LAX, a 5 hour flight to New York, an 8 hour flight to Rome, and one lost piece of baggage... Siamo Arriavati! We've arrived. We slipped in a quick walk out of the Roma Termini station for our first Italian Pizza and to see a glimpse of the city.
Then it was back onto the train for a stunning ride north through the lush Tuscan hillsides. We arrived, exhausted and anxious, to hugs and kisses from our Italian Hosts. Everyone is safe and resting up for our first full day in Bologna tomorrow.
More to come!