Sunday, March 16, 2008

Last night in Italy

Today we slept in and did last minute gift shopping before lunch at 12:30. We had an official tour of Norcia and learned about its history. Norcia is famous for its pork and people specialize in the curing of it. Our tour guide, Margherita, told us of the medieval history including the 7 gates of the city. In addition to the 7 gates there are 7 fountains representing the 7 subparts of the city. Saint Benedict is the patron saint of Italy and Norcia is his birthplace. We visited where he lived and learned that the main center of Norcia has 3 main buildings (church, town hall and fortress) representing religion, politics and military. Later in the evening we all went horseback riding in the countryside of Norcia. It was beautiful! At dinner the Bianconi family presented us with gifts for our departure and told us, “we were not clients, rather family now and that we are all welcome to visit anytime and they will take care of us.” They had a cake with American flags on it and two people dressed in medieval attire played the drums to signify our departure and wish us well. We will have to leave our hotel at 4:30am to drive to Rome for our flight. We are all packing and getting to bed early tonight. We will see you in the USA!



On Saturday we left Hotel Salicone bright and early for a day trip to Rome. We got dropped off at Vatican City and the sight was amazing. The center was filled with people from all over the world. We waited in line to enter St. Peter’s Basilica. It was massive and the architecture and paintings were breathtaking. Some of the group made there way into the Sistine Chapel to view Michelangelo’s magnificent artwork. Some of the historic sights we visited include: Piazza Venezia, Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, the Constantinian Arch and the Pantheon. Of course a little shopping in the local stores along the way was on our agenda. After 5 hours of walking around we boarded the bus back to Norcia and had dinner at our hotel. We enjoyed music and a glass of Italian wine across the street from our hotel. It was a long day!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Assisi, Church of San Francesco and a little competition

Today we got to sleep in. We got to relax and do some shopping before heading to the city of Assisi. This city is very small and set high in the mountains. It is where the tomb of St. Francis is located. We walked through the church, but unfortunately we were not able to take photos of the amazing artwork and stained glass windows. We then had a little bit of time to explore and do some more shopping before heading to the game. Our game started at 8:30 p.m. and it was exciting to play under the lights. There were fans cheering “Go USA” and “We love America.” The club we played against was founded in 1968 and is a division three professional women’s team from Spello. It was a tight game but the Italians beat us 2-1. After the game we boarded the bus for an hour long drive back to Hotel Salicone. We will be leaving for Rome at 7:30am for a full day of sightseeing including; Vatican City, the Coliseum, Trevi Fountain and much more.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Exploring Perugia

We changed things up a bit and had a pool workout in the indoor facility at Hotel Salicone. We did some fitness work and played our own version of water polo. As always things got competitive.

After lunch, we headed to Perugia, about an hour and half away. We met our tourguide, Maurizio, in the piazza and he led us to the top of the city. He spoke of the architectural design and its history. Parts of the buildings we were in dated all the way back to 30 B.C. He pointed out the difference between the gothic and romanesque designs. Perugia is home to two universities and one of the is specifically for "foreigners" who wish to study Italian language and history. The city was much more crowded than Norcia and Gubbio and we got time to walk around in groups and get gelato and do some shopping.

We ate dinner at the Bianconi family restaurant and we had all been craving soda and were so excited when a few bottle of Coca Cola were passed around the table. After dinner we returned to the hotel and have plans for another competitive game of Catch Phrase. We will try to get some rest before we head off to Assisi for our second match of the week.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

We had breakfast and training this morning in the Hotel Salicone facility. The team took a nap and relaxed after our lunch at Il Granaro del Monte. We headed to the game field around 3:45pm and began our warm up. The team we played against was an Italian women's professional team from Serie B. They had players ranging from 18-39 years old and were very skillful. Before the game we took pictures with them and our captain exchanged a Simmons Soccer hat for the other team's banner as typical Italian soccer tradition. The match was a tough one. Simmons lost but never gave up. The Italian team had fast strikers who were relentless and they scored some amazing goals. After the match both teams cleaned up very quickly and headed to the Mayor of Norica's office. He greeted us and presented each coach with a banner from Norcia. He gave our coach a book about 80,000 people from Norcia who migrated to New Jersey and how they are living successfully in America. He was proud of his city and thanked us for visiting. He said he was honored to have a women's team from such a prestigious college playing in his city. He invited us to come back and visit anytime. It was such an honor to meet someone of his importance and feel appreciated by him.

From the Mayor's office we went to Il Granaro del Monte and shared a meal with our opposition. Both teams had an obvious language barrier, however, we were able to communicate and talked about music and college in America. We are going Salsa dancing tonight and the locals call it "cha cha." We will be up early for training and then off to Perugia for a tour.

Tuesday morning we had an early breakfast and bid farewell to Gubbio and our hosts at the Relais Ducale. We boarded the bus and settled in for about a two and a half hour trip to Norcia. We brought out another competitive side to our team in an intense game of Catch Phrase. We arrived at Hotel Salicone and checked into our rooms. The hotel has a training facility on the premises including: two soccer pitches, an indoor pool, two weight rooms and an indoor gymnasium. Many professional and national teams have held training camps here. We had lunch at the Il Granero del Montte, and met the mother and two sons of the Biaconi family. They own both the restaurant and the hotel and training facility. Again, we received first class treatment and were warmly welcomed.

After lunch we headed out to the pitch for our first training session in Norcia. The field is surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Despite the rain, we had a quality training session before heading back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. We ate at the same restaurant and the eldest son, Vincenzo, welcomed us with a champagne toast. A professional men’s rugby team from Italy greeted us and their captains and coaches presented us with a t-shirt as a friendly exchange of best wishes. After dinner we headed straight to the gelataria. (of course the men’s rubgy team followed)

Another competitive game of Catch Phrase lasted late into the night in the lobby of the hotel. Finally about 1:15am we headed off to bed. Much rest is needed as we will play our first match tomorrow.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Tara Moore Blogs About Gubbio!

Hi everyone,

I am writing from the Relais Ducale in beautiful Gubbio, Italy. We had a very eventful first day here. We woke up at 8:30am and had a lovely breakfast in the four star hotel. Right after, we drove down the mountain for our first training session. Everyone was so excited to be playing outdoors for the first time in months. The field was wicked nice. Though it was a little cold, no one cared, as the scenery was so spectacular. We met the owner of the club (whose field we trained at) and exchanged gifts; we gave him a Simmons Soccer hat that he proudly wore and he returned the favor with a Gubbio team flag. Following practice, we had a great lunch at the hotel that was followed by a tour of historic Gubbio. We learned about the architectural design of the city, including when the buildings were constructed and their significance to its history. My favorite part was the 'Teatro' (theatre) of Gubbio. It is the 3rd oldest self-standing theatre in Europe. Gubbio is also the home to the largest Christmas tree decoration in the world; it is even in the Guiness Book of World Records! Paulo, our tour guide told us that the fountain in the center of town was "the love fountain" and if we ran around it 3 times we would have luck in love... after we did it he told us he was joking and it was really "the mad" fountain and we are now officially "mad people of Gubbio."
After our tour, we had a great dinner and did some shopping. We visited a local pub and mingled with the locals. We are off to bed to rest up for a trip to Norcia in the morning.

Ciao, Tara

Sunday, March 9, 2008

We Finally Made It...

After 18 hours of travel Simmons Soccer has finally arrived in Italy. We left on Saturday afternoon around 4:00pm and checked in at Logan Airport in Boston. Our flight was set to take off at 7:05pm so we had plenty of time to grab a bite to eat and make it through security. We waited patiently for the announcement for our flight to board. Some of us played Uno, while others text messaged family and friends. The staff made our last minute checks and finally we boarded the plane. Dressed in our Simmons Sharks sweatsuits we had quite a few people stop and ask us where we were traveling to and for what reason. After 6 hours we landed in Amsterdam (8:15am local time, but it felt like 1:15am to us). Exhausted and running on adrenaline we boarded our next flight to Rome. Once in Rome we still had a 3 hour drive before we reached our hotel in Gubbio. Luciano, our native bus driver, greeted us at the airport with a coach bus, fresh bananas and bottled water. We were able to catch a nap on the bus drive. Still groggy, we pulled up to Relais Ducale, the former castle of the Duke of Montefeltro. We walked up steep cobblestone streets and what felt like an endless line of stairs before we reached our new home for the next couple of nights. We had just enough time for a quick shower before we headed off to the oldest restaurant in Gubbio. We enjoyed pasta, veal, potatoes and a sweet apple marmalade and sweet cream dessert. The team walked around the streets of Gubbio briefly before heading back to the Relais Ducale for bed. We will have our first training session in the morning.