DAY 3: Men's Basketball in Italy

FIRENZE – Ciao from Florence!

We awoke Saturday morning in Venice, once again to a cloudless sky. However, instead of doing another day in Venice it was on to the bus and Florence.

The drive of about three hours was beautiful. The first half of the drive was basically through flat farmland, with dozens of small towns. (It reminded this guy a little bit of the American Midwest, with architecture resembling what you might see in Southern California.) What was most interesting was the towns, which were all basically buildings of one or two stories with a large church (and accompanying spire towering over everything) in the center.

About midway through the drive, the landscape changed dramatically. Suddenly, we were driving through mountains, up mountains, and around mountains. (My ears popped several times, so I’m guessing that happened to a lot of people.) There were towns in the valleys, on the hillsides, and atop the mountains. Several times the view was simply breathtaking.

(Of note, before we hit the mountains we stopped for a brief lunch at one of the AutoGrills along the highway. Not sure it meets up to the lofty standards of the rest areas we always hit near New Haven on our way North during the Ivy season, but…)

At about 1:45 p.m. we landed in Florence. Our hotel is outside of town, just off the Autostrade (highway), so we stopped there briefly to unload our gear and get into our rooms. Then our bus driver took us into the city, dropping us off just a block away from the Academy of Fine Arts.

We had a tour guide waiting for us there, and she took us through the museum. The highlight, of course, was the statue of David. Simply put, incredible. Really, all the statues throughout the city were amazing; to think that they all started as blocks of marble! From there, it was off to the Piazza Del Duomo, with its amazing Catholic church and the Battistero -- the door of which is one of the Seven Wonders of the World -- and onward to the Piazza Della Signoria. In all, our tour took a little more than two hours.

The guys got about a half-hour to walk around after the tour ended, then we met up and caught our bus back to the hotel. There, we enjoyed a stellar four-course dinner that included an appetizer of meats, cheese and bruschetta; pasta Florentine; steak with potatoes and green beans; and dessert.

By the time we finished dinner, it was almost nine o’clock and most everyone headed to their rooms. Our first game is Sunday afternoon, and the guys are anxious to get on the court and start getting down to business!