It’s choir trip time again! This year, we went to Italy and stayed in a lovely hotel in Verona, near to Lake Garda.
After a 28 hour coach journey and a 90 minute ferry, during which many films were watched and numerous service stations were visited, we arrived at our hotel on Saturday 16th August, and spent the afternoon by the hotel pool before having a lovely buffet tea and a rehearsal.
Our hotel room was around the back of the hotel so the view was of other guests’ balconies, but we didn’t spend long in the room anyway, so the view was almost irrelevant. The hotel has a pool, two bars, two restaurant rooms and a disco room. There are rooms along the front of the hotel, which look out onto the car park and the animals kept on hotel grounds including horses, goats and geese.
Sunday 17th August
On Sunday, we visited the Gardaland Theme Park boasting many huge rollercoasters, which none of my group were particularly interested in, as well as some entertaining Jungle Rapids, two log flumes, a pirate boat and more. After the theme park, we performed Faure’s Requiem in the lovely San Zeno Basillica, Verona.
Monday 18th August
I think Monday was the best day of the trip, despite the 2 1/2 hour drive plus boat ride to the wonderful city of Venice. We arrived about 11 AM and had a few hours of free time before we had to leave, so we headed straight for the gondola rides and managed to fit our group of 6 in one boat! We were very scared about the gondola tipping over but were reassured by our well-spoken gondolier that they are very hard to tip. He took us to all of the landmarks in Venice, including St. Marks Cathedral, the Campanille (bell tower), the Doge’s Palace, the Bridge of Sighs, Casanova’s house and the Golden Island. The 45 minute ride was €20 each but there is a 30 minute one for €80 in total, so the more people there are, the cheaper it will be!
We found it so easy to get lost around all the alleyways and streets that looked so much alike, but we didn’t mind too much because every time we turned a corner we found another little shop to delve into and a new gelateria to discover. We stopped at a reasonably-priced restaurant overlooking the water for lunch and ordered some pizzas to share (because you can’t go to Italy and not order pizza, can you?!)
That night, we performed an outdoor concert beside Lake Garda, with a surprisingly large turnout for 9PM on a Monday night.
Tuesday 19th August
On Tuesday we took a 3 hour drive to visit Milan. Before heading to the city centre, we stopped at the Santa Maria delle Grazie church to see the Last Supper fresco by Leonardo Da Vinci in the adjoining museum. It was bigger than I thought it’d be, as it took up almost the whole wall of the museum, and was surrounded by air locks to protect the painting from damage due to changes in the atmosphere or pollution.
We arrived in the main square of Milan (Duamo Square), which houses the Duomo di Milano, or Milan Cathedral, and had four hours of free time to wander around the streets nearby. We immediately headed to the shopping centre, not only to get out of the rain, but to find somewhere for lunch that wasn’t asking for €80 for pasta in a salmon sauce. However, when we saw not one, but three huge Prada stores directly opposite each other, we knew that would be tricky. We eventually found a restaurant our wallets liked, and despite being charged €4 each just to sit down and then being told that we had to order at least 4 pizzas for the 6 of us, it only ended up costing €15-18 per person.
Of course being Milan there were many expensive boutiques to choose from, but we only had to walk a few streets away to get to more affordable shops, including a Disney store! There were at least three of every shop scattered down different streets. When we had half an hour left, we got some more ice cream (the lemon flavour is very good) and the A-Level biologists amongst us were kept entertained by observing the failed attempts at courtship behaviour between pigeons, who were nowhere near as timid around people as British pigeons.
Wednesday 20th August
On Wednesday, we had to load up the coaches with our suitcases before heading off for a morning in Verona, visiting the Casa di Giulietta to see the famous Juliet’s Balcony and statue. We also saw the Roman Verona Arena and visited the market stalls where we managed to buy pizza for lunch for just €3. This was followed by more ice cream and yet another visit to a Disney Store. They had Star Wars towels on sale reduced from €15 to €12 but I didn’t buy one as I am still holding out for a better price.
At 2.30 PM, we set off for home, saying goodbye to one of the best choir trips ever. I recommend Italy to everyone, especially Venice, because everything was lovely and wonderful and I would definitely love to revisit in the future.
Have you ever been to Italy? Which was your favourite city?
Original photographs taken on a Nokia Lumia 520