Thirty-four students and adults from Fredericktown joined 14 from Oak Ridge on a trip of a life time across Italy this summer.
Former Fredericktown social studies teacher Robert Friese is currently teaching social studies at Oak Ridge High School in Cape Girardeau County. Friese and Fredericktown High School FACS teacher Cindy Mungle organized the trip through EF Tours.
The group consisted of students ranging from ninth to twelfth grade and a few that had already graduated in 2017. Students were responsible for paying their own way. The group was comprised of six chaperones, 23 students and three parents.
Mungle said once the group landed in Milan they were met by their EF tour guide Lone Kerr who would then spend the entire trip with them.
“From Milan, they went to Verona where they got to see Juilet’s tower and view the sites of town,” Mungle said. “The next day the group took a water taxi to Venice where they spent the day.”
Mungle said in Venice the group witnessed glass blowing demonstrations, took a walking tour of the city of canals, enjoyed a gondola ride and had the chance to tour the Palace and St. Marks Cathedral.
“The third day they traveled to Pisa where the group got a tour of Pisa Cathedral and Baptistery, then had time to explore Pisa,” Mungle said. “After visiting Pisa the group stayed in Florence and the following day they had a guided tour of Florence, saw a leader demonstration and then had time to explore the city.”
Mungle said this was an educational trip and the group had so much to learn and see. While this was not backpacking through Europe, Mungle said the group did move quiet often.
“From Florence, the group traveled to San Gimignano, a village in the mountains that is home to the World’s Best Ice Cream,” Mungle said. “The group enjoyed some gelato and the beautiful sites from a terrace at the top of the town where you could see the countryside for miles.”
Mungle said after their sweet treat they continued their journey arriving at Vatican City where they toured the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica.
“The following day was spent in Rome first with a walking tour of the Colosseum then the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain,” Mungle said. “Then part of the group attended Gladiator School while others stayed in Rome and took in more sights like the Spanish Steps.”
Gladiator School is an example of some of the extra learning experiences the students and adults were exposed to as they were taught the ways of a gladiator.
“The eighth day of their adventure took them to Pompeii where the group got a guided tour of the Pompeii Ruins and were then off to Sorrento where they got to take an afternoon swim in the Mediterranean Sea,” Mungle said. “The group spent the night in a hotel in the mountains by Sorrento.”
Mungle said the group then caught a ferry to the Island of Capri where they took a boat tour and walking tour of the island before enjoying a little more time on the beach. Then they took the ferry back to Naples, loading a bus to Rome and flying home the next day.
“While on the tour the students and adults got to experience authentic Italian foods, pastas breads, pizza, which is much different from what we call pizza, veal and many other foods,” Mungle said. “They got to experience and see many things that most people only get to see pictures of. It was a trip of a lifetime for most of this group.”
Lidia Myers, a Fredericktown student who attended the trip, said she decided to go on the trip because it would be the only opportunity to do something so unique at her age.
“I decided to attend this trip to get a taste of exploring the world during one of the most influential years of my life,” Myers said. “You’re only sixteen once, and getting to travel to a foreign country with some of my best friends was an experience I will forever cherish.”
Myers said she loved having so many different cultures and people around her and that the experience was amazing and different from anything she had ever experienced.
“My favorite experience was at our hotel in Florence, we all had ledges in our rooms,” FHS student Alyssa Pierson said. “People from our trip, other trips, some from Kentucky, some from Spain, and Italians were all out on the ledges talking to each other into the night.”
Pierson and Myers both said the food was amazing and unreal. Myers favorite dish was the pasta al nero di seppia in Venice which is a squid ink pasta that turned her lips and teeth black. She described it as tasting like the sea. Pierson stuck with a classic of lasagna in Venice.
“This experience taught me that the world is so much bigger than Missouri,” Pierson said. “What surprised me was how much I didn’t want to leave, I felt at home even.”
Pierson said when she first arrived in Italy she could not stop admiring the architecture saying the buildings were so refreshing and well kept.
“I learned that there is an amazing, beautiful world not only out of Missouri, but out of the United States,” Myers said. “I loved how it felt like the world around me was buzzing and so fast paced, but walking along the cobble stone, driving through the mountains, or seeing acres upon acres of sunflowers made it seem like the whole world was frozen around me taking in the moments.”
Myers said while she loved every moment of the trip she did miss her family and felt the memories would have been even more special if her siblings and parents had been with her.
Pierson said the hardest part for her was the crowds and that Italians walk the same way they drive.
“It was a blast,” Mungle said. “There were so many things to do and learn about. It was a chance of a lifetime and I look forward to the trip to Eastern Europe in 2020.”
When asked what she would say to students considering going in 2020 Pierson said she would tell them that they are not going to be at this point in their life with this opportunity again.
Myers said she would go again without a doubt adding that the people she met, the things she saw and the overall experience shaped the rest of her life.
Myers recommended that those planning on going in 2020 study a little bit of the native language and at least know how to ask if they speak English or if you have food allergies and study some of their customs.
Mungle said the next trip is already planned and all students have to do to get started is register and get a passport.