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Summer 2023 Europe Trip

This amazing experience occurs at the end of June, leaving students with something extremely exciting to anticipate during the long weeks before and during finals. The locations change annually, and this year, the trip was to Athens, Greece and Rome, Italy. Each day was packed with exciting activities and extraordinary sights that immersed us right into the Greek and Roman cultures and provided an opportunity to see some of the oldest creations in history—all in the span of just nine days.

The action started immediately on the first day we touched down in Athens. The day began with a walk around the city and a tour of the Plaka, the oldest part of Athens known for its quaint shops and markets. We also got a preview of what was to come the following day as the marvelous Parthenon could be seen from the plaza below. The city of Athens was incredible with its white buildings, fun music, and delicious local cuisine. On our second day, we toured one of the greatest ruins left behind by the Greeks and the one we had only seen from afar–the Parthenon. The former temple of Athena also provided magnificent views of the rest of the city. The day’s activities were only beginning as we all took part in traditional Greek dance lessons and tasted authentic Greek olive oil. More than a few plates were smashed! During our last full day in Athens, we boarded a boat and cruised around the beautiful Greek islands of Aegina, Hydra, and Poros. Each island had its own individual character and offered plenty of places to swim in the inviting Mediterranean Sea. Soon it was time to say goodbye to the city of Athens, and we drove toward the town of Delphi where the Temple of Apollo and the Oracle used to reside. We took in the views once again as we hiked up to the ruins nestled in a mountain range and relived the story of the temple. We said our farewells to Greece on day five as we boarded a ferry for the night and sailed directly to Italy.

The ferry ride to Italy served as a bonding experience for us all as we shared close quarters; we finally arrived in Bari, Italy early in the morning. After we left the port, we traveled by bus to the Amalfi Coast to see the wondrous lost city of Pompeii. It was incredible to see the once heavily populated and innovative city completely frozen in time, perfectly preserved as the ash from the volcano Vesuvius covered it with its inhabitants trapped inside. Once we finished walking around the large city marveling at what ancient Roman life looked like in 79 A.D., we made our way to the town of Sorrento to visit a local farm. Here, we were given a live mozzarella-making demonstration and got to sample the delicious fresh cheeses and farm products. We then toured other areas of Sorrento and even got to try some of the famed lemons before departing the next day for Rome. 

In Rome, the IHA group visited the center of Catholicism, the Vatican. We explored the Sistine Chapel and gazed up at the walls and ceiling to admire the masterpieces of Michelangelo and Raphael. We also received a sneak peek of what was to come as we saw workers setting up for the papal audience the next day in St. Peter’s Square. Being in the presence of the Pope himself was an experience like no other, truly a once-in-a-lifetime event. It was amazing to see him so close to where we were standing and to be a part of the thousands of other people present. We were truly blessed—both literally and figuratively—by His Holiness. The English translator announced that Immaculate Heart Academy was present that day, capping off a very special moment. We also got to see the inside of one of the largest churches in the world, St. Peter’s Basilica.

Later that same day, we toured one of the most recognizable structures, the Colosseum. The history behind the structure is awesome as well as saddening; I feel lucky that I was able to see an ancient stadium still standing in the present day. On the last day, we were able to see one last magnificent structure left behind by the Romans, the Trevi Fountain. According to tradition, if you throw a coin into the fountain, you’re destined to return to Rome. I guess that means we all will be going back there someday! We finished off the final day with a tour of the Borghese Gallery to admire more sculptures and paintings created by incredibly talented Italian artists. Before we knew it, nine days had come and gone, and the trip came to a close.

This amazing trip provided us with opportunities to see so many fascinating sites and experience unique adventures out of the realm of our normal everyday lives. It also gave us the chance to become closer to our classmates and forge new friendships as we experienced the wonders of Greece and Italy together.

Written by Kiera Stevenson