Italy Trip Highlights May 9-26, 2010
(as reported by Mrs. Pamela Hollis)
Wednesday, May 12
Yesterday and today we spent in San Lorenzo di Arzene, the town in which SBI is located. A short stroll away from the campus is a fountain where we fill our water bottles. There's a café called Martin's that has fabulous cappuccinos, and Sam Spatola is spoiling us rotten with homemade Italian cooking. Later today after riposa–that's right, Italy has a built-in nap time everyday from 1:00 to 3:30–we're heading to the town of Pordenone to explore. Tomorrow we're heading out for a day trip to Aquilea famous for its Roman ruins and 3rd century church!
Monday, May 17
Yesterday (Sunday), we had a worship service on campus. Sam Spatola challenged us to think more boldly about our faith. Do we agonize over our choices, or do we walk in faith, talking with God and saying, "I am trying to follow you, to make a good decision with the information and reason I have. I'm going to go forward and trust you to stop me" instead of hanging back timidly, waiting for who-knows-what to just fall into our laps. Later that day, we were taken to the nearby town of Udine, where SBI and their parent organization, Saints Equipped to Evangelize (SEE) has a church plant. It's been going for a few years and has about 30-40 regular attendees. This is the only evangelical church in the city, and the size, for Italy, is apparently quite large. Sitting quietly in the Italian-language service, I think many in our group were struck by this fact—Italy is considered an unreached nation, with less than 1% of the population claiming to be Christians.
It's a sobering thought, especially as we have spent so much time marveling at so many beautiful, ancient churches. Everything that is beautiful and good is a gift from God and has the ability to draw us to him. These old cathedrals were designed to point to God, and so few pay attention.
Thursday, May 20
Once we arrived in the city, we walked to our hostel to stow our overnight bags. On the way there, we walked up an alleyway and through a piazza and I couldn't believe my eyes--we were in the place that contains a copy of Michelangelo's David and Cellini's Perseus--we were standing right there! The students were amused at my astonishment. They kept chuckling at me as I discovered that the whole city had plaques with Dante quotations on them. We ogled monuments and walked through the Duomo--and most of our group hiked up the miles of staircases to the top of the Dome to gaze on the Florence skyline. We had two full days of discovery. Our large group broke down into smaller groups and explored the city.
Friday, May 21
The third largest coliseum from Roman times is located here, and we began our day in Verona wandering around in it. The arena is used for operas and performances, and in the giant theatre, one could certainly imagine being caught up in pomp and grandeur and staging. After that, we headed off to find Juliet’s balcony. Verona seems to take great delight in its tragic love story. Local legend (perhaps created by the local tourism industry?) holds that Shakespeare’s feuding families and their star-crossed children actually lived here, and you can find maps pointing out Juliet’s house and tomb and Romeo’s family home. Juliet’s house, with her famous balcony, is a sort of shrine to romance—artistic renditions of poignant scenes cover the house and tourists leave notes in all languages, little odes to love or missives asking Juliet for help (which struck us as deeply ironic—she was not quite thirteen when she fell in love, and she met a very sad end—and people ask for her advice?) We walked miles around the city, climbing hills to see what was at the top and poking around an archaeological museum, catching glimpses of Italy’s ancient past.
Monday, May 24
Tomorrow is our last full day in Italy. We are headed to the town of Barcis in the foothills of the Dolomites. We’ve watched these mountains through our windows at SBI. They are striking, but then, most of the things we’ve seen and done here in Italy have been striking and inspiring. Again, to visit a place we’ve read about helps the stories come to life, but such a trip has helped us create our own stories, too.