Museums, Gelato, and Cooking – Backpack France, Switzerland, & Italy

Buongiorno from Florence!

Florence was ‘wicked awesome’, says Lily. We began our adventures at the famous Duomo. Here, some of the Trip Members sported some fashionable ponchos in order to explore the inside of this beautiful church.  Jake C. was extremely intrigued by the tile work on the floors. During free time, Stella, Caitlyn, and Jess were ecstatic when they came across a Brandy Melville. Some of the girls bought matching dresses so that they could dress up for our first Florence dinner, which was the best one yet!! We ate at Trattoria Il Porcospino, which means porcupine in English. Gustaf and Matt B. devoured their aged steaks, Matt S. tried boar, and Taylor and Jane sampled prosciutto with melon.

After dinner, we visited Piazza del Republica, where we played Family Feud and enjoyed Florence’s best gelato flavours including banana split, Italian cookies, and Danny’s favourite- chocolate mousse. The following day, we met Marcello, our enthusiastic Florence-born tour guide. We began at the Accademia, where we gazed in awe at Michelangelo’s David statue. Katie said she could stare at the statue for hours. Marcello was very impressed when Lily asked about the order in which Michelangelo constructed the statue of David, which we learned was from the head down. Marcello then took us to the original houses of the Medici family, Da Vinci, and his neighbor Michelangelo. After the tour, during free time, Jolie and friends sought out an activity that they had always wanted to do- Fish pedicures! They described it as extremely weird, but they can now cross that item off of their bucket lists.

Backpack France, Switzerland, & Italy


At the Uffizi gallery in the afternoon, Gustaf educated the group about numerous paintings, such as “The Birth of Venus,” and served as our own private tour guide.  Benji tried to sell the paintings, but for a very reasonable price. Later that evening, we all engaged our inner iron-chefs at the Apicius cooking school. Jason, Grant, Mady, Lily, Danny, and Benji hollowed our zucchini cups for zucchini ripiene. Stella, Jane, Taylor, Dani, and Jess learned how to make Tagliate pasta from scratch. Katie was extremely impressive in the kitchen, and was quickly appointed as sous-chef for our instructor Vittoria, making the fresh tomato sauce, and preparing the plating. Grace and Heather finished off the meal by baking a delicious Florentine cake, resting on a plate of melted chocolate. While trying to secure the cooking school doors, TD Sam got locked out and Kat quickly came to her rescue, which resulted in a very comical adventure. Following our delicious meal, (don’t worry the recipe cards are coming home with us!), the boys carried out an extremely fun and humerous program that they had planned for the group. Grant acted as the host, where he and Matt B chose partners out of a hat, and gave them questions to answer simultaneously to see if they were compatible. In the end, Gustaf and Dani were deemed the strongest match.

On our last day in Florence, Mady and Lily indulged in their very first cappuccinos, before visiting the beautiful Florence synagogue with TD Sam, and then the Jewish History Museum. Here, they signed the guestbook, and were amazed by the beautiful architecture, and as Mady said, the extravagant decor of this historical building. After laundry, the group met up for lunch and then visited Pitti Palace, just over the Ponte De Vecchio. The group explored the enchanting gardens, which Grace said was her favourite part of the trip so far. Heather really enjoyed the costume gallery, and took photos of the fashion exhibit as they demonstrated styles through the different ages. That evening, we came across another delicious Italian restaurant, where Matt B. and Benji tried rooster pasta, which they were both very impressed with! We then visited Space Electronica Disco where we danced the night away! Jacob Kam said it reminded him of a bar mitzvah, and Jason had a really great time too! We are now en route to Sorrento on board one of our last speed trains of the trip. Speak soon!

The Westcoast Blogger

Do you want to join this amazing adventure? Get ready for our one-of-a-kind Italy, France and Switzerland tour with a small group of high school students.

Canals, Culture and Culinary Creations – Backpack Europe

Buongiorno Backpack Europe friends and family!

Venice was a truly unique city to visit. Aidan and Alex experienced this first hand as our trip’s navigators, they quickly discovered that this city is actually a series of interlocking islands all woven together by a series of bridges. Reading the map, they noted that any shortcuts would lead us straight to a canal’s edge. As we strolled throughout the streets of Venice, Emma commented that Venice “doesn’t seem like a real place,” suggesting that the presence of boats instead of cars and canals, and rivers instead of streets is something right out of a Disneyland theme park!

Visiting the Jewish Quarter in Venice was quite interesting and it was very cool when Remi shared with us her ability to speak and read Hebrew. Sunny enjoyed the markets around the Rialto Bridge, adding to her mask collection, while Alec opted for Murano Glass (after watching a very impressive glass blowing demonstration at Vecchia Murano). The highlight of Venice for Shayna was a traditional gondola ride, where she took the opportunity to relax and appreciate this city from it’s intended vantage point, the water. Jenny noted that Venice was the city she was most looking forward to visiting on this trip and that her expectations were definitely met, if not surpassed!

From Venice, we made our way down to Florence, the capital of the Tuscany region and the Italian city famous for its street markets and art-embracing culture. At the Accademia Gallery, Mara admired the famous “David” and was thoroughly impressed by Michaelangelo’s ability to carve such a detailed and expressive face out of white marble.

After some time spent exploring the Ponte Vecchio and Piazza Del Republica, we made our way over to our much anticipated cooking lesson at a local cooking school. Jeremy was probably the most excited to don his apron and learn some new skills. Our trip members displayed excellent culinary talent following the direction of Vincezo, with Zach and his crew preparing linguine from scratch, Mike, Sam and Josh’s team stretched our palates with a stuffed zucchini dish and Bennett helping to prepare an orange zest Florentine cake for dessert. The meal was excellent and we all had a chance to refine our skills in the kitchen. With our stomachs full, we set out to Space Electronica disco, where we danced the night away!

Today was our last full day in Florence and we have certainly made the most of it. We climbed up the narrow and ancient passageways of the Duomo and took in the awe-inspiring 360 degree view of Florence. As a group, we decided to take advantage of the fact that we were in a major city and we set out to the movies to see the latest Harry Potter film. Tomorrow we are off to Sorrento for a whole new set of adventures!

Ciao for now!

The Westcoast Blogger