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Shaking Things Up In Italy
Jonathan Easterbrook, director of marketing services for the university and the voice of Hartford women’s basketball, is traveling with the Hawks and keeping a journal of the team’s experiences and impressions.
Read the first installment of Easterbrook’s journal.
Easterbrook’s latest journal entries pick up on the afternoon of Monday, Aug. 22, as things are starting to shake up in Rome.
Monday, August 22 - Part 2
About 2 p.m., I experience a first. Sitting in the hotel typing this very journal, the desk rattles and floor shakes as I feel myself swaying in my chair. My first thought is earthquake but then I think of other possibilities. The fact that Assistant Coach Brian Mik, trying to catch up on sleep, suddenly awakens at the exact moment of the shaking makes me think it is more likely that it was an earthquake. Later in the afternoon, we find out from the front desk that indeed an earthquake had taken place. Later that evening, we see a scroll on CNN that a magnitude 4.5 earthquake had affected Rome. Brian and I appear to be the only ones in the entire group who felt it.
Tuesday, August 23
We check out of our first hotel, and in a change of plans from the original itinerary, head three hours north of Rome to Siena, a tradition-rich and scenic area composed of 17 districts. Its narrow cobblestone roadways are filled with pedestrians, but every so often, a vehicle comes right down the center of the roadway making its way through the maze. We learn about the "Palio," which to the Sienese, is life itself. Year-long ceremonies and planning culminate each August 16 with the running of a horse race far from what Americans imagine. The Sienese fill a center courtyard area with dirt and then in a wild free-for-all have horses and jockeys representing the different districts map three circular laps of the curvy course with jockeys allowed to use whips on other horses and opposing riders. The winning horse can cross the line with or without jockey.The fanatical love for their city is part of the life of the Sienese.
After a 90-minute guided tour around different districts in Siena, we break up for another 90 minutes of free time to eat and explore. We then have another hour of travel before arriving at the Hotel Minerva in Arezzo. With barely enough time to get our keys and drop our luggage off in our rooms, we get right back on the bus for a 50-minute ride to a local sports facility in San Giovanni Valdarno to play Alberto Galli, the first of four games the Hawks will play during the tour.
Hartford dominates the contest, racing to a 21-9 halftime lead en route to a 101-53 win over its Italian hosts. Ikea Witt paces five Hawk double-digit scorers with 18 points. Each of the 11 players scores and has at least two rebounds. Not bad for a team confined to a bus for five hours that day. After the game, the group visits a pizzeria and leaves to the chant of "USA, USA, USA" coming from a large World Youth Movement gathering just back from Germany. The bus pulls back into the hotel after midnight, capping over another full and interesting day.
Wednesday, August 24
We check out of the hotel at 8:30 a.m. and, with one stop for lunch, arrive at the Novotel Hotel in Mestre at 1:30 p.m., having just enough time to check in. It's back on the bus and then a boat to arrive in Venice at 2:30 p.m. Words are not able to adequately do justice to Venice, so I will not try. Let photos speak for themselves. I'll just say that taking a gondola ride through this water-filled dream world with 80-degree sunshine splashing in your face and peaceful music playing around you is something that can't be replicated, even if Las Vegas tries. Some team members comment that the trip would be worth it just for the gondola ride, but as we know, there have been many other great memories--with more travel experiences in the Italian countryside to come. The group has time to shop and explore Venice for two hours before the trip back to the hotel for an 8 p.m. dinner. The chance has come for many to get a full night's sleep, and with games at 8:30 and 9 p.m. the next two evenings, that will not be the case in the days to follow.