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.”