The Lady Bulldogs check in one final time on their tour of Italy, saying Arrivederci from Lake Como!
Day 1 Video | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8
The Georgia Lady Bulldogs embarked on their first-ever overseas exhibition tour on Sunday, August 3. The team will play games in Florence, Trieste and Vicenza during a 10-day trek through Italy that also includes stops in Rome, Pisa, Venice and Lake Como.
Prior to leaving, Coach Andy Landers had each Lady Bulldog players research a site they will visit during the trip and present that information to the team. Throughout the tour, different players will do intros and exits with some of those facts from their research mixed in to give the Bulldog Nation a taste of what the team is experiencing in Italy.
*** Day 9 ***Our morning began with overcast skies for the first time during our travels throughout Italy. We boarded a boat across the street from our hotel around 10 a.m. and set off on the 40-minute ride from the city of Como to the village of Bellagio.
We were quite surprised that Lake Como, the third-largest lake in Italy, is relatively consistently lined with small village after village on both sides. Our guide pointed out our two chances to see George Clooney - the villa where several scenes from the movie "Ocean's 12" were filmed and the villa he owns and resides in for much of the year. We struck out both places.
The highlight of the journey was a stop about halfway in a village which features an ancient Roman bridge with a 200-foot waterfall as a backdrop. The mist from the waterfall was very refreshing.
We landed at Bellagio and spent a good bit of time grabbing an early lunch and doing some shopping.
On the return to Como, we stopped in the lake and filmed our final video exit. The backdrop for the video was a villa where scenes from Star Wars II and the James Bond movie "Casino Royale" were filmed.
With that, we proceeded back to Como for free time in the afternoon.
There were plenty of options - paddle boats, a furnicular trolly to the top of a mountain overlooking Como or of course, numerous options for gelato, Italian ice cream. Or perhaps one last item of shopping - for silk. Our guide to Bellagio told us that Como is one of the world's leading producers of the fabric. All told, 90 percent of the silk used in Italy and 30 percent of the world's silk is produced in the area.
It's hard to imagine our journey comes to an end tomorrow, but it seems like our time in Rome was months ago!
*** Day 8 ***We started off Monday with breakfast at the wonderfully peaceful Villa de Michaelangelo where we stayed atop Monte Berico near Vicenza on Sunday night. Before departing, we gathered to take a memorable group photo of everyone who has traveled with us this week. In addition to our team and staff, we included the Basketball Travelers staff members - Dave, who lives and Seattle, and Lexi, who lives near Lake Como - who have guided us through Italy with amazing precision - as well as Massimo, our fantastic bus driver who makes three-point turns appear easier than shooting a three-point basket.
The ride to Verona took about an hour. When we arrived, we picked up our tour guide, Marta. She gave us about a 20-minute overview of Verona's history while we drove throughout the city. Verona was once similar to Venice, with canals crowded with gondolas. However, a flood forced the decision to build walls protecting the city from future disaster. The city features more than 10 bridges, with the oldest dating to the B.C. era and the newest completed in the 1980s.
Verona also is a college town. The University of Verona, which is best known for the studies of Economics and Medicine, has approximately 27,000 students, about 10 percent of the city's population.
Our walking tour began with a trip to Verona's Coliseum. The Coliseum in Verona is older and smaller than the more famous structure in Rome; however, it's much better preserved. It still serves as a venue for concerts and operas, with a capacity of approximately 10,000. Ironically, that's similar to the capacity of Stegeman Coliseum!
We made our way through crowded streets to the main attraction in Verona - Juliet's balcony. Tucked in a courtyard is a crowded, yet unassuming area where perhaps the most famous words in the most famous love story in history were uttered. We got a special treat when a bride and groom emerged from the home to wave to the crowd below.
We had about 90 minutes on our own for lunch and/or shopping. Most of the players opted for the ladder.
After a short walk back to our bus, we were off to Lake Como. We checked into the final hotel of our trip around 5:00 and then were off for some more free time and shopping before a team dinner wrapped up day eight of our travels.
*** Day 7 ***Just when we think Italy can't get any better...
We bused from Trieste to Vicenza today. Actually, we are staying just outside of Vicenza in an amazing hotel at the top of a mountain. One side of the property features breathtaking views of a vineyard. The other side features an equally amazing pool next to an orchard of Olive trees.
Our pre-game meal was much like what we eat in the States, salad, pasta, grilled chicken, etc. But the service on the veranda made this unlike any other pre-game meal in the history of Lady Bulldog Basketball.
After a couple of hours, we set out to Montecchio, a suburb of Vicenza, for our game against a collection of local club players. We played our best game of the trip, jumping out to a 17-2 lead and never looking back en route to an 83-32 victory. Freshman Mackenzie Engram scored a game-high 16 points, while junior Shacobia Barbee and freshman Nasheema Oliver added 13 points apiece.
Following the game, seniors Erika Ford and Krista Donald were presented a championship trophy and Barbee was named the game's MVP.
We traveled back to the hotel for a post-game meal and soaked in the aura of the mountainside before getting rest.
While the games are over, our adventure continues tomorrow. We will travel to Verona, where Romeo and Juliet once lived, before going on to Lake Como for our final two days in Italy.
*** Day 6 ***Our day in Trieste was probably the most relaxing of the trip so far. After a leisurely morning we went to the "beach" for a couple of hours. There was no sand, primarily just boulders, but water is water and the Adriatic Sea was refreshing.
Trieste is much smaller than Rome, Florence and Venice. Just about 50 yards from our hotel is the Piazza dell Unita d'Italia, the largest square in the entire country. Just another 100 yards or so is a lovely grand canal. It's nothing like Venice's canals but still an enjoyable area filled with sidewalk cafes and ever-present local musicians. Traveling back to our hotel you can see the ruins of a small Roman Amphitheatre, which just next to a local grocery store. It is amazing how centuries-old history mixes with modern life throughout Italy.
After a quick pre-game meal at 4:30, we set out for our game against ASD Societa Ginnastica Trieste. Merritt Hempe and Mackenzie Engram scored on back-to-back baskets to start us on a 14-2 run to end the first quarter and we led comfortably most of the rest of the way.
A 14-0 surge to open the second half put us up 52-27.
We played better, balanced basketball tonight, and all 15 players scored.
The Trieste club is the same team that former Lady Bulldog Janet Harris played for professionally during the 1980s. Harris was recently elected into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.
In the morning, it's back on the bus to Vicenza for our third game in four days!
*** Day 5 ***After a late night in Florence with dinner at about 10 p.m. after our exhibition win over All-Star Italy, we left on a four-hour bus ride to Venice at 8 a.m. The bus took us to Mestre, where three boats shuttled the members of our team to Saint Marc's Square.
We made our way through the narrow streets off the square to a demonstration of glass blowing. The vast majority "Venetian" glass is actually produced on Murano, an Island just off Venice. The glass blowing was moved there centuries ago to prevent fires that could destroy the city. The "maestro" of glass blowing demonstrated by making two items - a small vase followed by a horse. You see horses, the trademark of Ferrari, all over the place in Italy. The entire glass blowing process took about 10 minutes. The education continued as our guide gave an informative talk about the different substances infused in the glass to create color.
We marched back to Saint Marc's Square for a look inside the basilica before departing on half-hour gondola rides in groups of six. After that, we had a little free time for lunch and to do some quick shopping before catching a ferry back to our bus and on to Trieste.
We got an additional dose of Italy on the bus rides. Going to Venice we watched "The Tourist" to help give us a scene-setter of what was ahead. Driving to Trieste, we watched "Angels and Demons", which included many of the sites we saw Monday and Tuesday in Rome. August is a huge vacation month for Europeans and the traffic from Venice to Trieste resembled rush hour in Atlanta at times.
We checked into our third hotel of the trip in Trieste and then set out for a quiet night in a quiet city. After visiting major locations like Rome, Florence and Venice, Trieste should be a nice change of pace.
*** Day 4 ***
What a full day! We left Florence around 8:30 and headed about an hour west to Pisa. There we saw the "Field of Miracles" which includes Pisa's Leaning Tower, the Duomo Square and the Baptistry. The highlight was, of course, the trip to the top of the Leaning Tower. You certainly feel like you're leaning on the way the top. In fact, everything was leaning!
We bused back to Florence and took a quick team photo atop our hotel, the Grand Hotel Bagloni. The view from the rooftop is amazing. I think everyone made it back up there to take their own photos at some point.
We left for our game against All-Star Italy around 4:30. After a detour through a corn field, we found the gym about 45 minutes before tip-off. We looked like we are - a team that hadn't really touched a basketball in about five days. There were certainly positives. Everyone contributed and everyone got to play considerable minutes. More importantly, everyone played hard!
The final score was 57-30. Freshman Jasmine Carter scored a game-high 11 points, all in the first half. Fourteen different Lady Bulldogs scored!
We bused back to Florence for a late dinner. Everyone is excited about Friday's trip to Venice. We've seen some amazing sites in our first four days in Italy, but there's no place like Venice.
*** Day 3 ***After an early breakfast, we loaded up our bus and said "Ciao" to Rome. The ride up to Florence showed us the diversity of the geography in Italy. Tuscany was very rural with lots of agriculture -fields of corn, pears, olives, sun flowers and, of course, lots of grapes. As we approached Florence, the mountains became more dominant.
We stopped twice on the way to Florence as Italy has strict laws about the amount of time drivers can drive before having a break.
We rolled into Florence around 1:30, dropped our bags and immediately set out to see the sites with our tour guide, Marco. Our first stop was at the Academia Gallery, which houses Michaelangelo's David, the most famous statue in the world. The gallery included much more amazing art.
From there we walked throughout the city and saw the Duomo, Piazza del Signoria and the Ponte Vecchio, the famous bridge which spans Arno River.
We had a couple of hours to shop and did some damage there before returning to the hotel and regrouping for dinner. A long but memorable day!
*** Day 2 ***Our second day in Rome was highlighted by a fantastic trip to the Vatican. For the second straight day, Lucia was an amazing tour guide. She gave us a great overview of the Vatican City and its history. Vatican City used to occupy a large portion of Rome; however, today it spans only about 44 acres. That's a little smaller than UGA's North Campus from The Arch down to Baldwin Street. Lucia took us through the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel before allowing us to explore the Saint Peter's Basilica on our own.
We grabbed lunch near the Vatican before returning to our hotel. The afternoon we had some time on our own, so most of us explored the city. It's only about a 20-minute walk from our hotel to sites like the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. Several of us rented bikes to make it there even quicker!
This evening we will have a team dinner and spend our last night in Rome. Tomorrow morning it's on to Florence!!
*** Day 1 ***The scheduling couldn't have gone any smoother on our departure and arrival to Italy. In fact, our plane arrived an hour early in Rome, allowing for an unplanned trip to the church where Saint Paul is buried!
After that, our exceptional tour guide Lucia led us on a bus tour throughout Rome for an hour or so before taking us to the Coliseum. There she explained the different types of "competitions" that took place and how seating assignments were based on class status. She also pointed out some recent refurbishments to the top level of the structure that even she had not seen before today.
After that, Lucia led us through the Forum, the heart of religion, politics and power in ancient Rome. We saw where the body of Julius Caesar was cremated and Lucia explained that still today flowers appear on that site on March 15, the anniversary of Caesar's death that is also known as the "Ides of March."
We arrived at our hotel adjacent to the Villa Borghese in the early afternoon and set out of an afternoon and evening of site seeing on our own. Our hotel is within easy walking distance of such landmarks as the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps and the Pantheon.
What a great first day in Europe!!