Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Day Late- Wednesday in Padua!

After breakfast, we said a sad goodbye to our new home in Ravenna and left for our new home in Padua.

The rain that had been in the forecast all week finally came to fruition today, but luckily, the majority of the downpour happened during the bus ride to Padua.

Once we arrived, we are lunch and immediately set off for a walking tour of this bustling city. Padua is home to the second oldest university (next to Bologna) which is spread out across the city, classrooms and offices residing in old city buildings. You'll see no new university construction, and with over 70,000 students, classrooms are often packed and lectures broadcast in many other classrooms.

After our tour (and a quick stop for gelato) we headed to a musical presentation by several students of the Pollini Conservatory of Music. It was a true treat to listen to such talented musicians sharing the beauty of Italian music. The setting in the Santa Catarina Church didn't hurt either.

There really is no shame in a good selfie :)
Dinner with our new friends from the Conservatory followed. They're coming to our concert in Padua on Friday-we're excited to share our music with them as well!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Kimonos and Pizza

Today we ventured to the bustling city of Bologna, or "the Fat city." Know for it's excellent food, it's a good thing we showed up hungry.

We began our day by singing in the Basilica di San Petronio- the 15th largest church in the world. It still being an active church, they were very strict about the dress code. All of the girls brought sweaters or shawls to cover their shoulders, but some shorts were deemed "too short" (to their defense, it was quite warm) and we were made to purchase 1 Euro kimonos to use as cover-ups. Unfortunately, due to their doctor's office quality, they didn't seem to make much difference in bettering their appearance. Some girls smartly converted them into skirts. One girl in particular strapped her "skirt" on and said with determination, "okay, let's do this!"

Pictures were not allowed in the church so I obviously took one anyway. The girls mounted a narrow winding staircase and squeezed through the 15th century choir loft to sing to the visitors who seemed a mile away from their stance. The reverberation in the Basilica is almost magical. Mr. Metallo took plenty of time after cutoffs to let the echo resound enough before cueing the girls to come back in- quite the dramatic and stunning effect.

After our short set, we set off into a 90 minute walking tour through the city. We strolled through the Piazza Maggiore and the University of Bologna- the oldest university in the world (founded in 1088!).

Remember how we came to the city hungry? We still hadn't had lunch and our tour guides took us right through the central restaurant district- talk about torture! Once there, our tour guide carefully explained that spaghetti al bolognese does not exist in Bologna. You would need the rougher pasta, tagliatelle, for the sauce to stick.

When our tour ended, the girls quickly parted into smaller groups to get some lunch. Reports show that pizza and gelato were choice favorites.

After lunch, we boarded the bus back to Ravenna for some time to explore the town in small groups, although about 1/3 of the girls actually ended up napping- pizza + bus ride + jet lag is a dangerous formula for a nap.

In the evening we enjoyed dinner at a new restaurant. The girls were relieved that this dinner was only three courses instead of the usual four. It's been a rough few days :)

Tomorrow we leave Ravenna for Padua. Buono notte!

Monday, June 23, 2014

First Performance- First Encore!

We began our day with a walking tour of the incredible city of Ravenna. Our first stop: Basilica di Sant' Apollinaire Nuovo (coincidentally our concert venue later that evening). Constructed in the 6th (!) century, I think it's safe to say it's one of the older venues we've had the chance to perform in. Its stunning mosaics could have captivated the group for hours.

We moved next to the Church of St. Francis, poet Dante's final resting place (he's had several, poor guy). This church, built in the 10th century, has sunk over three and a half meters and has been reconstructed several times to compensate. You can see that the water still rises into the church by the marked stones.

Finally, we reached the Basilica di San Vitale, an unusual octagonal structure, where we sang "How Can I Keep from Singing" much to the surprise of the present tourists. The liveliness of the space prompted chaperone Georgette to dub it "How Can I Keep from Ringing."

It's always particularly impressive when a jean short clad, ponytailed group of rowdy teenagers can suddenly convene into a choir. Tour guide Claudia said it best, "where did that sound come from?!"

I must add that this was not staged, the ceiling mosaics are that entrancing!
We parted ways with our wonderfully informative tour guides for lunch then were able to secure some free time for the girls to explore or nap (the jet lag is quickly catching up to us).

Our concert began at 9:00 pm- definitely later than any of us are used to, but it gave us ample time to eat a light dinner, change for our concert, and rehearse in the venue. With the promise of tiramisu to follow our performance, the girls were especially focused and determined to do well.

This concert was a part of the Ravenna Festival, a special honor. We were told after viewing the video from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Festival organizers were so impressed it garnered an immediate invitation to join. 

The Basilica di Sant' Apollinaire Nuovo set an extraordinary setting in which to sing. The Festival organizers quickly filled the space with chairs, lighting and a piano which were nowhere to be seen when we passed through earlier in the day.

As the girls recessed out of the church following the concert, the unceasing applause from the audience prompted Mr. Metallo to exclaim "turn around!" for an encore.

And yes, the tiramisu was worth it.

Everyone is looking forward to a good night's sleep (hopefully one that does not involve waking up and playing cards from 2:00-5:00 am). We are headed to Bologna tomorrow!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

We've Arrived!

Buonasera from Ravenna!

It was smooth sailing from Newark to Venice. In fact, Mr. Metallo said we might be the easiest group he's ever toured with in his x-years of teaching. We'll take it!

Most girls slept through the flight to rest up for our arrival to Italy. We ate a lot of plane and airport food, so we were thrilled when Kathie, our tour guide, had our bus driver stop at a road stop where the girls enjoyed espresso, chocolate wafers and "the best nectarines I've ever had"-every girl who ate a nectarine.

We arrived in Ravenna with enough time to check into our hostel and freshen up for dinner. We walked all of two blocks to our dining destination, but it's a beautiful 2 blocks! We enjoyed a 4 course meal which I think set us up for a good night's sleep.

We're looking forward to our performance in the Ravenna Festival tomorrow- our first concert in Italy!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

PG Tour to Italy Blog

Welcome to our blog! We will be posting about our adventures (with photos) throughout tour. Be sure to check back daily as we will be posting as often as we're able.