Ciao Meow! – ON TOUR Backpack Italy

Buonasera! The sun is now setting on trip 50B but we sure didn’t let that stop us from enjoying the final hours.

The last leg began with a pit-stop in Pompeii where we toured the ancient settlement in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius. Highlights included portions of rock where you can still see the ash from the eruption, a petrified dog and child, and two amphitheaters where we sat where Romans sat thousands of years ago. We learned that the first two rows were reserved for the highest ranking citizens. Amazing how some things never change, even over millennia.  

We arrived in Roma with Hillary Duff’s “What Dreams Are Made Of” as our soundtrack (The Lizzie McGuire Movie takes place in Rome). Many of our TMs fantasized about living out the film’s plot which begins at the Trevi Fountain. None of us were whisked away on a Vespa by a dreamy Italian, unfortunately, but we all threw coins into the fountain which means we’re guaranteed to return to this beautiful country. Maybe next time someone will be confused for an international pop star.


The group had a great time competing in a photo scavenger hunt at the Piazza del Popolo, frantically trying to find doppelgangers of people on our trip, posing with mannequins, and proposing to strangers. Some time for relaxation and exploration at the Villa Borghese Gardens was the perfect follow up.

The history nerds go their fix at the Colosseum and in Vatican City, especially at the Sistine Chapel. There’s no photography allowed but the movie Good Will Hunting got it right – actually being there and looking up at that beautiful ceiling is an experience no book can provide.     

Our final group dinner we dressed in togas and enjoyed a fabulous feast while being serenaded by a singer named Barbara, accompanied by her partner Marcello on accordion. We clapped along to the beat of traditional Italian songs and danced with them in between courses.


Later that night back at the hotel patio, we passed around a ball of yarn, wrapped it around our wrists, and told our favorite moments from the trip. By the end we had a web as colorful as the memories that came flooding back. While the yarn would have made nice bracelets the staff felt that the material didn’t quite reflect the quality of bonds that have formed during these past sixteen days so we stepped it up a notch. Each TM received leather bracelets engraved with our trip’s favorite phrase, “ciao meow.” We may never have the entire group together again in one location which made this final night that much more special. Hopefully these keepsakes will remind them that by no means are we saying goodbye. For now, it’s just ciao meow.

The Westcoast Blogger   

Addio Firenze – Pre-College Enrichment: Florence


Out last week touring Italy has been full of adventure, bonding, and tons of fun! After packing and leaving our residence in Florence we took a private coach bus to Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast. Sorrento was beautiful, and the island of Capri and resort of Positano were even more breathtaking. We enjoyed a boat trip around the island of Capri and swam by two different grottos. The water was so refreshing! The following day we took a ferry boat to Positano and spent the day relaxing on the beach and exploring this posh resort village. Luckily, we joined another Westcoast Connection trip in Sorrento and we were able to spend time with them at the disco and in Sorrento. Leaving Sorrento, and all of the great food it had to offer, was hard but we were all excited to go to the Italian capital city of Rome!

 On the way to Rome, we stopped to visit the historic ruins of Pompeii. Our private guides brought to life the history of Mt. Vesuvius’s catastrophic eruption.

Rome was a magnificent city and was so different from what we were used to in the small city Florence. In some areas, it looked almost like New York City and then in a few minutes you could be standing at the Colosseum! While in Rome we visited the Spanish Steps, The Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum, and Vatican City. All of the students are experts on the life of Michelangelo after living in Florence for three weeks and that knowledge came in handy when viewing the Sistine Chapel! One of the coolest things we learned about Rome was that all of the fountains have potable water! Constant access to water was great to have in Rome in July!


On our last night in Rome, we dined and had a blast at our farewell toga party! Everyone was given a toga to wear while heaving a traditional Roman dinner. There was a live opera singer and band who came to our area throughout the dinner to dance with us! At dinner, we also made program memory bracelets together and wrote each other notes to read on the plane home!

It was very sad to see our Pre-College Program come to an end.  At the airport on Friday morning, there were a lot of tears but even more plans made to meet up in the future! It’s safe to say the PCE Florence was a great success.

Vediamo la prossima estate!

The Westcoast Blogger

La Dolce Vita

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Wrappin’ It Up In Rome with Backpack Italy!

It’s been a toga-tastic trip!   When in Rome, do as the Romans do! On our first day in the capital, we got into gladiator mode and bolted straight for the Colosseum. Walking through the underground tunnels of this architectural masterpiece left us  feeling  cooler than Julius Caesar himself. Ben and Jesse channelled their inner […]