Hello from Italy!
For those of you that don’t know me, my name is Eyal and I’m the community manager from Aardvark Tel Aviv. I’m leading the Italy trip along with Dorin, an amazing Madricha from Jerusalem.
We’ve just finished our first day in Italy. We arrived in Venice at around 9:00 after a busy night at the airport and we began the day with an amazing experience. We took a speedboat from the airport to the center of Venice. Riding the boat from the open sea into the beautiful narrow canals of Venice was an absolutely breathtaking experience.
After a quick check-in at the hotel, we went for a short stroll in the surrounding area. The students found Venice to be one of the most charming places that they have ever visited, and I have to say, I totally agree.
Later today, after a tasty lunch in a boutique Italian restaurant, we met our tour guide for the day and went on a three hour walking tour in order to see what this city has to offer.
We began the tour walking through the narrow alleys of Venice, learning about the challenges of living in a city on the water. The guide told us some historical facts about the way Venice has evolved over the years and we learned some interesting facts about the reality of Venice today. We continued our tour to the Grand Canal where the view was astonishing! We then continued to the Saint Marc Basilica, an amazing cathedral from the ninth century, which is located right next to the Piazza San Marco, Venice’s old trade and government center. Our last stop was in the Jewish Ghetto, and even though it was the first ghetto (and was created for protection purposes), it is still called the New Ghetto. It wasn’t until later in the 19th century that Jews were locked inside. We saw the Holocaust memorial in the ghetto’s main square and heard about the history of the Jews of Venice. We ended the night with a delicious combination of pasta, pizza, hummus, and latke at the best kosher restaurant in the Jewish ghetto.
Now we are back at the hotel, a bit exhausted after the day we’ve had, but we are getting ready for an early morning train ride to Florence and a day trip to Tuscany, which we are all super excited about.
I can’t wait to tell you all about it!
We have just finished our second day in Italy and it was amazing!
We woke up extremely early to catch the train to Florence. Outside the train station, we met with Natalie, our tour guide for this day. We boarded two carriages and began our journey to the beautiful region of Tuscany.
We made our way to San Gimignano and along the way passed through vineyards growing Vernaccia, the region’s most famous white wine grape. The Tuscan wine Vernaccia di San Gimignano is one of the oldest documented quality wines. It dates back to the Middle Ages and it was the first Italian wine to be awarded DOC status (Denominazione di Origine Controllata). We then had lunch at a family run winery, where we met the wine producers and enjoyed local food paired with their wines.
Alex Krasnow said, “It’s hard to be tired in such a lively place, even when we have to wake up at 6am. The wine tasting was relaxing and lunch with a view is always nice. We are loving Italy and are excited about Rome in the next two days!”
After the winery, we left for Siena where we strolled through the old city center and saw all the key sights. We visited a local bakery and tasted some local sweets, the famous ricciarelli, panforte, and more. We ended our day by enjoying the sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo.
After the beautiful sunset, we walked into an amazing lively district in Florence full of restaurants and local young people playing music and relaxing together. The students were then given the choice of where to eat dinner before we made our way back to the hotel.
Tomorrow we are going to tour the key sights in Florence and visit the Academia de Gallery to see the famous statue of David with our own eyes.
The third day of our Italy trip is coming to an end and I’m pleased to be able to tell you all about it.
We began the day bright and early with a visit to the Duomo Church, the biggest cathedral in Florence. We learned a lot about the church’s architecture and got an authentic feel for the era in which the cathedral was built. We then made our way over to the Great Synagogue. It was amazing to see the extravagant detail in the building, a combination of beautiful mosaic art and Sephardic style architecture.
While there Maya Fox said, “Where do I sign up to join this congregation?”
After the Great Synagogue, we went on a visit to the San Lorenzo market. There we had a good opportunity to put our bargaining skills to use. Since Florence is famous for its beautifully crafted leather, most of us ended up purchasing a wallet or two.
After a delicious lunch full of organic pizza, pasta and famous gelato, we went over to the Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze to see Michelangelo’s great sculpture of David. We had time to walk around the museum and learn more about Michelangelo and art in the Renaissance era.
Alex Krasnow commented, “I had no idea the David sculpture was so big.”
After all the walking we had done throughout the day, we had built up an enthusiastic appetite for dinner. We made our way to a famous panini shop, where we enjoyed a variety of delicious sandwiches.
At the moment we are on our way to Rome, we will arrive late tonight, catch some sleep, and prepare for another productive and awesome day tomorrow.
All the best,
It has been a busy day in Rome; here are some of the highlights.
We woke up in the morning for a great breakfast and then headed straight to the Colosseum. We met our guide Marco Misano, next to the arch of Constantine, which was erected to commemorate victory in the battle of Milvian Bridge.
After a short explanation, we entered the mighty Colosseum. There our tour guide took us to a vantage point on the upper floor and explained the way Ancient Roman gladiator fights worked. It was fascinating to hear about how Ancient Romans lived and to get a better understanding of this amazing building. Then we went to the arch of Titus which commemorates Titus’ victories, including the siege of Jerusalem (AD70). On the arch we saw the panel reliefs which describe the Romans taking the menorah from the Jewish temple. We felt proud to be strong Jews standing there today while the ancient mighty Roman Empire is no more.
After the tour we went for a nice lunch in the Jewish ghetto, where some of the Jews of Rome still live. There we met another tour guide for a Jewish tour in the former ghetto area. It used to be an open prison where the pope forced Jewish people to live from 1555 until 1870.
We saw the Jewish museum where ancient Torah covers and Parochets are displayed and two different synagogues: the Great one and the Sephardi one.
We also walked around the Jewish neighborhood and saw where the first Nazi roundup took place in 1943. We now know that what used to be the open prison for the Jews, which was designed to push them to convert, has now become the center of a vibrant Jewish community.
After the tour we went to see some of the key sites of Rome on our own. We started with the pantheon, a former Roman temple which was transformed into a church. Then we went to the famous Trvi fountain and threw some coins into it to help make our wishes come true.
Tomorrow it’s our last day in Italy and we will go to see the Vatican.
Have a good night and please take a look at some of the pictures attached from our last 2 days. I promise to send some more when I’m back in Israel next to a computer.
For the final time from this trip, let me tell you about some of the highlights from the past day.
To start our last day in Rome we made our way over to the Israeli embassy to meet Ralphy Elderi, the head of Foreign Affairs. We had a lovely meeting complete with delicious cookies and coffee, during which we talked about Italian Jewry, antisemitism in Europe, and foreign policy.
The discussion encompassed the current diplomatic climate in European and various countries’ attitude towards Israel. We also talked about Hezbollah and the threat they pose to Israel. It was extremely interesting to discuss all of these political matters. We also learned what it is like to move a family to a foreign country and just how hard people work in order to serve their country.
Afterwards, we travelled to the Vatican and the Vatican museum where we were able to see a compound that is extremely mysterious, holy, and important to the Christian people. We went through many rooms with a multitude of significant pieces relating to the crucifixion, resurrection, and the history of Christ. At the end of the museum tour we went to see the Sistine Chapel a breath taking and marvellous creation.
Following that we had a delicious lunch and we even managed to find some free time for shopping and souvenirs.
We have just boarded the plane to return to Israel, tired but very satisfied from this amazing trip.
Good night and Shabbat Shalom