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Thursday, September 6

Our tour guides, Sergio, Giosi and Lollo, kept saying to us during the first week in Italy that ‘Rome is magical.’

You take them at their word and move on. But were they ever right.

From the time the team got up on the morning of their first full day in the city and headed out of the hotel, there was seemingly something different than past days. Like an elementary school field trip, we followed Giosi down the street in a disorganized line of players, staff and parents on the way to our first stop of the day.

Coming around the corner and off in the distance loomed the Colosseum, perhaps the most anticipated part of our entire 10 days in this beautiful country. We had reserved a private tour of the ancient arena and some of the surrounding buildings with a new guide, Ricardo.

We made our way in and up to the third floor. Ricardo didn’t immediately bring the group out onto the arena floor or even to one of the doorways that would allow us to look out, rather heightening the anticipation by making us climb the stairs to give one of the many historical lessons about the building.

After a short tour of the outer ring of the third level, we walked out onto one of the exposed concourses. It was clear that the players were excited to be here, sharing this experience with one another. Several groups formed, wanting to take class pictures between the sophomores, juniors and seniors with this amazing arena as the backdrop.

Head coach Bob Gaudet, who had let the players experience the entire trip with little interference when at such venues, seemed to have the same excitement level as his players, collecting the group for a team photo on the top level and holding up other tourists in the process.

We continued our tour, making our way around the upper ring before eventually heading downstairs on the opposite side where we could then be able to go out onto the area floor. More pictures were taken as expected before we moved on to another platform and eventually the exit.

Once out of the Colosseum, Gaudet had the team pose for another group photo with the famous exterior as the backdrop.

The tour continued with the ruins around the arena which, although impressive in their own right, seemed to be overshadowed (both literally and figuratively) by the world-famous building just off to the right.

As we moved on, we found ourselves in the ancient capitol building where the famous statue of Romulus and Remus with the mother wolf stands. Our time with Ricardo ended in front of the overwhelming building Sergio referred to as ‘the wedding cake.’

A white marble mammoth building that was built between the last part of the 19th and the early years of the 20th centuries, it stands as a monument to honor the Italian soldiers who died in military conflict fighting for their country. It has the feel of the Lincoln Memorial but on a much grander and larger scale.

From there, Giosi took charge, leading the group to the Trevi Fountain. Beautiful craftsmanship and impressive engineering come together to make this famous landmark another one of the city’s must-see landmarks.

The group began to splinter and make their way around on their own. A collection of staff, parents and players walked the short distance to see the Pantheon, one of the most well maintained ancient buildings in the city.

Everything from the intricate ceiling to the artistic murals on the walls to the marble floors was immensely impressive. The sheer size of the Pantheon is deceiving, as the inside feels much bigger than it looks from walking around the exterior.

After seeing the major buildings, the tour ended and everyone splintered into their own groups. Friday will be the final full day of the trip and an early-morning guided tour of the Vatican is planned. Given the option to join or go out once more on their own, all 21 players opted to take part in the tour, demonstrating their understanding of the historical importance of the city where we will conclude our European tour.

The newest team photo from the top level of the Colosseum.
The lower level of the ancient arena. The top photo was taken in the area shown in the top left portion of this one.
The Pantheon is one of the most impressive buildings from the inside of any we've seen in Rome.
The Colosseum lit up at night.
A play takes placed in the middle of the city with some ancient Roman ruins as its stage and backdrop.
Sophomores Nick Bligh and Brett Patterson at the Trevi Fountain.