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Junior Jaiden Frantz looks up in the St. Peter’s Basilica.
Courtesy | Jaiden Frantz

What do sketchy taxi rides to a sus­pi­cious pharmacy, brawls in the street, and shaking the hand of the Hun­garian Ambas­sador have in common? All were expe­ri­enced in a long-antic­i­pated spring break Italy trip. 

Two sep­arate groups left Hillsdale and flew to Rome for Spring Break. Senior Andrew Szewc said tickets to Rome were cheap over the summer of 2021, so he bought them and planned a guys trip for Spring Break with his friends, seniors Andrew Nell, Michael Fleischer, and Zack Niebolt. Unaware that their class­mates had planned a trip, three women, juniors Jaiden Frantz, Kalli Dal­rymple, and Eleanor Hansen also jumped at the idea of vis­iting Italy while tickets were cheap.

When the day finally came, the women had dif­fi­culty leaving the country, Dal­rymple said. They had pre­pared every­thing in advance and had all the right paperwork, but Dal­rymple explained that they were for­bidden entrance to the plane leaving Chicago.

“So our neg­ative tests and paperwork were hand signed by physi­cians, but she said that they were not ver­i­fiable,” Dal­rymple said. “We were told that we weren’t allowed on the flight, but that we could be if we called this really sketchy taxi service. We had to go back outside of the airport, get into this taxi, and drive to a pharmacy that was a little sus­pi­cious, probably 10 minutes outside the airport. We spent $500 to get a COVID rapid test, got back to the airport, and she allowed us in.”

The women then boarded and easily passed through their layover in Por­tugal, even­tually making it to their final des­ti­nation: Rome.

“As soon as we got to Por­tugal, we showed them our paperwork, card, and neg­ative tests and got in without a problem,” Dal­rymple said.

While in Rome, the women wit­nessed a near street brawl, Frantz said. They were eating at a restaurant on the outside patio when they sud­denly heard raised voices nearby. 

“We heard a lot of loud noises and looked over and there were like 40 guys just careening down the street,” Frantz said. “Our waiter took us inside just to be safe. He made us pizzas and was just really sweet.”

The boys had the pleasure of meeting the Ambas­sador of Hungary after Mass at San­tissima Trinità dei Pel­le­grini, Szewc said. 

“So Michael and Ellie Hanson approached him because he was at church with his family, and they were like, ‘We follow you on Twitter.’ And he was like, ‘That’s cool,’” Szewc said. 

Both groups visited Rome’s his­toric sites. Dal­rymple said they went to the Trevi Fountain, many churches, the Colosseum, the Pan­theon, the Roman Forum, and St. Peter’s Basilica. Szewc said the high­lights of the trip were Mass in the Vatican, climbing the Holy Steps on his knees, and seeing St. Peter’s bones at the Roman Acropolis. Frantz said her favorite place was the Trevi Fountain.

“There are all these smaller alleyways, and then you just hit it,” Frantz said. “It’s massive and so beau­tiful.” 

Szewc said that the men often returned to the Pan­theon at the end of the day. 

“We would end most nights at the Pan­theon with a couple bottles of red wine,” Szewcz said. The men also went to Flo­rence for a day but did not like it nearly as much as Rome, Szewc said.

“Flo­rence wasn’t homey — it was just so touristy” Szewc said. “Rome had mom and pop shops and restau­rants, and Flo­rence was just very com­mer­cialized. It was beau­tiful, but we only spent like four or five hours there total.” 

Both groups enjoyed the authentic Italian food. Both Frantz and Dal­rymple said the girls’ favorite restaurant was a hole-in-the-wall, small restaurant a few minutes from the Colosseum. Dal­rymple also reflected on the deli­cious use of pis­tachio in Italian cuisine. 

“Pis­tachio. I was absolutely shocked by how good that can be,” Dal­rymple said. “We had pis­tachio crois­sants, can­nolis, and gelato.” 

“We also ate in some­times, making meals in the kitchen of our AirBnB,” Frantz said. “We were a block away from the super­market. It was great. You can just tell there’s a much higher standard for them. They take more pride in their food, so every place had local, homemade sec­tions.”  

The women also went to the Amalfi Coast for a day to get some Christmas shopping done, Dal­rymple said. 

“Our favorite shop was on the Amalfi Coast,” Dal­rymple said. “This little village is famous for their handmade ceramics. We got little ceramic bowls. I got a ceramic hand painted vase for my mom.”

Dal­rymple also said she and her friends learned the art of tourist shopping and nego­ti­ating prices while in Rome. 

“So what we found out works really well was just hes­i­tating,” Dal­rymple said. “You look at some­thing, go “I like that,” and then either put it back or just stand there like, ‘I don’t know if I like it enough to buy it,’ and they lower the price.”

Overall, both groups had a won­derful trip and made many mem­ories. Dal­rymple explained that the trip per­fectly moti­vated her for the remainder of the semester.

 “I expected it to be a very fast paced break and to not feel super rested when I came back,” Dal­rymple said. “ But it was the perfect structure of touring and fun, relaxing nights.”

Frantz agreed that the trip was a won­derful break before the end of the semester.

“I felt men­tally rested. School was just really piling up towards the end, and spring break came at a really good time,” Frantz said. “So I think while phys­i­cally it was probably a little bit exhausting, I was very men­tally reset to get back into the semester.”