IT(ILY)

Last May, I wrote about my pilgrimage to Italy for Holy Week. A month later, I found myself back in Rome, able to check yet another item off of my bucket list by singing at the Vatican with my school’s chorus!
 
My high school chorus usually does a “big trip” every two years – this is the first time it has gone international! Needless to say, after more than 24 hours of traveling (thanks to the relentless thunderstorms and three-hour wait at baggage claim), we arrived at our hotel late in the evening, exhausted from the stress of traveling and hungry from the jetlag.
 
The very next morning, we were off to our first stop in Italy, Sacro Cuore di Gesù a Villa Lante. Something you should probably know about my school: we are a part of a worldwide network of schools founded by St. Madeleine Sophie Barat and St. Philippine Duchesne. If we ever have the opportunity to visit a Sacred Heart facility while out-of-town, we make a giant effort to do so. After touring the site and archives, we were set to go to lunch and then make it to one of our many three-hour rehearsals. After all, we went to Italy to sing. Keep in mind that we were all soaked by the end of the day, mainly due to lack of preparation of the bipolar weather beforehand. Our trip was just getting started, but yet we were already begging to go home.
 
What more to cheer us up than to sing a couple movements of Vivaldi’s Gloria along with other Mass songs at the Vatican the very next day? It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to sing at St. Peter’s Basilica, the very home of the Pope, St. Peter’s tomb, and thousands of years of historical artifacts. Sadly, I overestimated this experience. Instead of performing in front of the crowd during the Mass, we ended up standing up in our pews because the groups of choirs were so big. This resulted in poor acoustics, yes, even in the Vatican! However, it’s the thought that counts, right! Singing in that holy space still gave me a thrill.
 
On to another three-hour rehearsal. We had to practice for another performance the next day, which was a gala event where the group of choruses would perform the entire Gloria piece. The weather was still unstable, and our patience was wearing thin. However, most of us knew that it could only get better from here, so we just decided to grin-and-bear-it.
 
The next day consisted of the usual: singing, rain, good food, stops for sightseeing here and there, and more singing. Finally, when the gala concert ended, we found our schedules liberated of the intensive rehearsals and constant worry of how prepared we are for the rest of the trip. There was still one more private concert towards the end of the week at a small villa in Tuscany, but that was to be a breeze. Tourism shall get the best of us!
 
Finally, with time to relax, our wake-up call left us room for 2 more hours of sleep! Rejuvenated and eager to explore, our group was set for the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, and a visit to the original Mater painting. (Like I mentioned, our school is obsessed with all-things Sacred Heart, and the Mater painting is one of the unifying factors a Sacred Heart school has.) It was a fun-filled day, and the weather even cooperated! Walking around Rome with some of my best friends truly felt like I was in a movie, more specifically, the Lizzie McGuire Movie (minus the cheesy romance and the pop-star misunderstanding)!
 
We then packed our bags and headed to Florence, where we had more touring to do. The next morning, we did a quick pitstop to see THE David statue by Michelangelo, and went straight to Lucca, a quaint villa that was home to opera-legend Puccini’s birthplace! This fact had me singing Nessun Dorma all the way through! Spending time in Lucca was hands-down the highlight of my trip. One would think I would get the most out of the big, bustling city of Rome, but enjoying the softer and more relaxing atmosphere of Lucca had me thinking of my retirement plan already!
 
Before I could soak up the silence, we found ourselves back on the bus headed to the other bustling city of Italy: Florence. There, we saw the Duomo and did a ton of shopping. Ladies, anyone looking to buy discounted quality leather bags should go to Florence! That is, if you are willing to pay the flight/hotel rates! I bought this adorable blue and brown purse and the rest of the crew blew out the rest of their Euros since this was our last day. We then went back to the more provincial side of Florence, Ceretto Guidi. This was where our final performance would be, and it was pure awesome. Everyone brought their “A-game”, and despite the language barrier between us and the audience, we all managed to reach a deeper level of understanding through the music.
 
If there’s one thing I discovered throughout this trip, it’s that the most rewarding experiences can be found when you least expect it! Caesar’s famous phrase, Veni, Vidi, Vici, (I came, I saw, I conquered) definitely applies to my school’s trip to Rome. Ciao for now, Italia!
 
Where have you adventured to this summer?
 
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TEEN REPORTER | Veronica Louise Mendoza is based in the Silicon Valley in California. A Telly award winner, her accomplishments include more than three years of reporting experience. She has served as a kid reporter for national publications such as TIME Magazine for Kids, Scholastic News for Kids, and Sports Illustrated Kids. She is very comfortable on camera and conducting interviews with public personalities. She has her own television segment for Adobo Nation, a weekly magazine talk program that blends elements of news features and lifestyle topics relevant to Filipino-Americans living in the US, shown on ABS-CBN Global The Filipino Channel (TFC) cable and at the local Bay Area channel KTSF. In addition to her reporting skills, she was an intern for three months at the Daily Post in Palo Alto, a local newspaper that strives to provide the latest and most compelling news in the Palo Alto community. She wrote articles twice a week, wrote obituaries, took pictures for the picture of the day, and received a good foundational experience in journalism. In high school, she lived and breathed media. She was a radio host for her school’s radio station, KSHS Radio, and wrote for the school newspaper, The Heartbeat. Her other hobbies include acting, singing, working with animals, volunteering at Catholic ministries, blogging and serving the community.