Tour of Italy recapped by junior Jamie Wheaton
This spring, the men's soccer team traveled for ten days to tour and compete throughout northern Italy. We arrived at Milan International airport, taking a quick trip to La Spezia that same day. Spirits were down after almost 20 hours of travel, but quickly rose upon seeing the beautiful sight of the Liguarian Sea at the quaint seaside town of Cinque Terra. After a day of exploration, the team retired to Montecatini, our home base for the next several days.
The next day, we departed to watch our first professional game, ACF Fiorentina vs. Benevento Calcio. The atmosphere was incredible. The stadium was flooded with fans, both local and visiting, as people came to give their condolences and celebrate the life of their captain, David Astori, who had passed away by cardiac arrest several days prior. The respect showed to the former captain by both teams was touching, and when Fiorentina won the crowd went wild. We then took the rest of the day to explore the beautiful city of Florence, where our tour guide showed us some impressive sights, like the Duomo of Florence and the replica of the statue of David, by Michelangelo.
We were later able to see one of the most impressive sights in Italy, the leaning tower of Pisa. We were all shocked at the sever angle of the building. Walking up the stairs could be disorienting, as gravity kept pulling us down at different angles. The team made sure to take many pictures to document the experience, from both the ground and the top of the tower.
At San Gimignano, a quaint medieval town on a hill, we were able to explore in the morning. The aesthetic of the town was pleasing, but the highlight was definitely the gelato, which had won several awards as one of the best in Italy.
Our next stop was Verona, the home of Romeo and Juliet. Our tour guide showed us the sights, including an impressive coliseum where gladiators used to fight, and Juliet's balcony, where her famous soliloquy (Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?) takes place. Some teammates were eager to take a photo with the statue of Juliet, a representation of one of the greatest love stories of all time.
We also were able to visit a unique city, the Island of Venice. The turquoise waters of the island were more vibrant than I had imagined, and the beautiful canals were unlike anything I'd seen. We were able to go inside Saint Mark's Basilica. The gilded church was filled with incredibly detailed mosaics and other forms of art, and filled the square with its glittering light. The Basilica was one of the most impressive sights of the whole trip.
That night, we finally got to play our first game against the Italian talent on the trip. The team was excited to play and to test their mettle against players in a country known for their soccer prowess. Adding another twist to the game was that Italy was experiencing the most rain in two decades. Our grass field quickly devolved into a 4-inch mud pit as cleats tore up the grass. Stability and passing ability were at an all-time low, and we ended up losing the game 3-0. However, the whole team found some joy in sliding and playing in the mud.
The next day, we played our second and final soccer game. The weather was significantly improved, and the game was on artificial turf which played to some of our team's advantage. We were definitely the dominant team, and won the game handily following a game winning goal by Jack Painter.
Our final stop was Lake Maggiore, a pristine lake in Arona, with a beautiful view of the Alps on the horizon. Using Arona as our home base, we visited the San Siro, home stadium of AC Milan and Inter Milan, two of the best Italian club teams. We were able to look into the locker rooms of the teams, as well as see some apparel worn by some of the best soccer players in history.
The last planned event of the trip before it was time to head back to Pittsburgh was our final professional game. We had the privilege of watching Novara Calcio FC play against U.S. Citta di Palermo FC. The final result was a 2-2 tie, with the final goal for Novara coming in the 90th minute.