"Penn in Rome..." Women's Basketball's Travel Log

PHILADELPHIA -For the duration of the team's Italy Tour, the coaches and players will document the trip in this travel log. You can also follow the Quakers ontwitterandinstagram.

August 10 - Philadelphia
by The Penn Women’s Basketball Coaching Staff

Dear Penn Fans,

Its finally here! Tomorrow we leave for an amazing 10-day journey through Italy. Our team is feeling pretty anxious -- as you can imagine -- and probably a little nervous, but the consensus among all of us is how excited and lucky we are to have this opportunity.

Thank you to all of you for making this trip possible. There has always been such overwhelming support for us and our program throughout our time here at Penn. We have been blessed with an inspiring fan base, strong alumni base and unwavering administration, and this trip is another indication of that.

All of us are aware of what an incredible opportunity this is, and grateful for the chance to experience it. We have three games to play and can’t wait to represent the Red and Blue overseas. But this trip is so much more than just basketball. This is a cultural experience that will have a lasting impact.

Long after we leave Italy, all of us will remember the sights of Lake Como, navigating Venice in the gondolas, walking up to the Colosseum, throwing coins in the Trevi Fountain and touring the Vatican. The games will help us become a better team, but the experiences will help us become a closer family. And we have all of you to thank for this. None of it would be possible without our fans, alumni and the entire Quaker family.

You have all meant so much to this program. We hope you’ll share in this experience with us and follow the travel log throughout the trip. Thanks again for all of your continued support. Andiamo Quakers!

August 11 - Philadelphia/New York City/Milan
by rising sophomore Jackie Falconer (with contributions from Melanie Lockett and Kathleen Roche)

Packing was the hardest part
We didn’t know where to start
I tend to pack too much gear
You’d think I was leaving for a year

We’re taking pictures every second
To show in Italy we’ll be reppin
The first flight was easy
Just 30 minutes to New York City
Of course we embarrassed ourselves
Playing 'Heads Up'
Pretty sure people around us
Were getting fed up

Then the eight-hour trip to Milan
It’s nothing we can’t take on
We didn’t know what we would do on the plane
Luckily they had movies to keep us from going insane

The hour difference was six
When we got there
We were some very tired chicks

To Katy the blogging is going to be passed on
She’ll tell you all about our first day in Milan!

August 12 – Milan/Lake Como
by rising senior Katy Allen

10 Things We Learned From Our First Day in Italy

1. “Bars” are for coffee.

2. It’s a good idea to sleep on the plane even if there are really good movies.

3. Saldi = sale.

4. Always make sure to cover your shoulders and legs before going into a church.

5. Don’t let guys start tying bracelets around your wrist...they are not free.

6. There is a gelato shop on every corner.

7. Water fountains with signs next to them mean you can’t drink the water.

8. Even the worst restaurant tastes better than what we could get in the U.S.

9. Everyone is really helpful even though we only know a few words of Italian.

10. Pigeons here are the equivalent to squirrels at Penn.

August 13 – Lake Como
by rising sophomore Sade Gibbons

Today has been great. The view of Como is absolutely breathtaking from all angles., and we first experienced that on our morning run around Lake Como as a team. Breakfast got us geared up for our boat ride around the lake. Our tour guide, Elena, had so many great things to share with us about the lake and Como from its rich history, to the famous inhabitants of the water side properties.

Fun Facts We Learned...

- Lake Como is the third largest lake in Italy and goes to a depth of 1,200.
- George Clooney owns property on the lake front, and bought additional property around his home to have privacy from other residents. There’s also a law that if you get too close to his home you could be fined 1,200 Euros!
- Many movies have been filmed in villas on Lake Como, including Casino Royale, Ocean’s 12 and Star Wars.
- Houses along the lake are typically bright orange, yellow or pink because the fishermen who used to occupy the area needed to be able to spot their homes in the event of inclement weather.
- The island of Como was once owned by Milanese people. They conquered it because they considered it a good crossing point between Austria, Germany, and many other places. Eventually the people of Como took control from the Milanese and burned the area to get rid of all signs of the Milanese people – an event they reenact today with fireworks

After the boat ride we decided to venture further into Como (or up rather) by the Funicolare Comobrunate, a tram that brings you up to the residences and shops that exist in the mountains. Initially, I was hesitant because I’m so afraid of heights! But it was fun and I’m glad I faced my fears.

Dinner was of course delicious. We ordered and shared an assortment of pasta and pizzas. Elena warned us to be cautious of what we ask for when we order because our interpretation of certain words are totally different in Italy. She let us know that pepperoni pizza is actually referred to as salami pizza because pepperoni pizza is a pizza of peppers!

All in all, the day was great and Italy has been great thus far. I am excited to see what else is to come on the trip! More from Kara tomorrow!

August 14 – Lake Como/Costa Masnaga
by rising senior Kara Bonenberger

Game Recap vs. Italy All-Stars: W, 69-39

Hello everyone! This is Kara reporting to you about our day in Switzerland and our first international game. We started the day off bright and early and headed to Switzerland around 10. After a gloomy day before the weather was amazing. We weren’t blessed with the amazing “Anonymous Tour (Alyssa Baron)” but we had the second-best. We learned a lot of interesting facts, but I don’t want to bore you with all of them. One fun fact is that the city of Lugano is composed of over 63 banks with a population of 60,000 people so that is about one bank for every 1,000 people. After our morning in Switzerland we headed to the hotel and waited for pregame meal.

Per usual, our meal was amaing. Im used to one course where you stuff your face with as much food as possible, but here in Italy they take their time with their food. Our first entrée was pasta and our second was chicken and vegetables. Finally, we ended with some cake and ice cream. It was a great start before our game.

After having a day of sight-seeing and eating it was time for our first international game. I must say it was an experience I will never forget. I felt like I was back at an AAU tournament. The gym was small and hot, yet this was the experience we came to Italy for. Our first half was a bit rough since the rules were completely different. But once we got the hang of it we were able to pull out a win. Overall, our first international game was a success and we all can’t wait to get back on the court to get another win.

Hope everyone who is reading this is well and thank you for all the support for our program. We truly appreciate it.

Te amo,


August 15 – Venice
by rising juniorRayne Connell

I have dreamed of being in Venice as a little girl. Riding on the Gondolas and experiencing the breathtaking visuals of the city has now officially been reality.

I am so honored to speak about Venice and the wonderful experience the Penn Women's Basketball family and myself had today.

To start the day we had a long bus ride to Venice from Lake Como. Although no one was up for the long travel, we all knew it would be more than worth it. As the sleeping bus finally arrived at the port, our day had officially started. After stepping off the bus the only word I can express is WATER. Yes, water. Beautiful blue water surrounded us everywhere and no cars, only boats. Little did I know there were no cars in sight. We hopped on the water taxi and headed straight on the Grand Canal en route to the city. The ride was an awesome 40 minutes, where we got to get a taste and sightsee beautiful Venice. As we finally got off the boat I could not believe we were here in Venice. We started off by touring St. Marc's Basilica. I could not believe how beautiful the art and architecture was. It was breathtaking -- almost impossible for a human to create. I personally enjoyed seeing this the most. We then made our way to Murano, where we saw how glass was made and it was absolutely amazing. After, we continued the tour by seeing St Marc's square, Procuraite Cecchie, Museo Correr, Doges Palace, Bridge of Sighs and lastly, Riva Degli Schiavoni.

As soon as the the tour was over we had the opportunity to explore the rest of Venice on our own. Just walking up and down the little narrow roads and taking in how beautiful and surreal Venice is couldn't have been better. Venice is everything I pictured and dreamed about. I continued to admire the beauty while spending all of my euros on souvenirs. There were masks everywhere! So of course it was only right I bought one in memory of Venice. Not only can you connect Venice to gondolas but now all I think about when I hear Venice is MASKS! To finish off our day we took a boat back to our bus while kissing Venice goodbye.

I wouldn't trade this trip for anything in the world. Sydney will update you from Florence tomorrow!

August 16 - Florence
byrising sophomore Sydney Stipanovich

Today we took on the beautiful city of Florence following our amazing trip to Venice yesterday. We started the morning once again with a delicious breakfast and of course a cappuccino. We then packed up the bus and cruised for about five hours to Florence where we stepped off the bus and saw the breathtaking view of the city.

We then headed to our hotel, the Grand Hotel Bagnioli, one of the nicest and most elegant hotels I've ever seen. It was surrounded by beautiful shops, restaurants and cafés. We then began our tour of the city starting with the Accademia Gallery. Here lies the original statue of David created by the famous Michelangelo. The detail and size of this sculpture was incredible along with the many other beautiful paintings and sculptures in the museum. Next we headed to the Ponte Vecchio which is the the oldest bridge in the city, built in 1345. Once again the view was incredible as it overlooks a gorgeous lake surrounded by stunning watercolor buildings.We ended the tour at the astounding cathedral where we then had free time to shop around the city on our own.

Later that night we had a team dinner followed by a gift exchange among each other. Everyone bought a gift and wrapped it and then each person picked a number from a hat. The first person picked any gift they wanted and then the second person could either pick a new gift or "steal" from someone who already opened their gift. The hot item of the night was the painted spoon holder that eventually ended up in Renee's hands. Another hot item was the Italian pizza chef hat that was stolen by Kathleen. Overall the night ended in high spirits and lots of laughter.

Look forward to an update of this incredible journey from Kiera tomorrow!

August 17 - Florence/La Spezia
by rising junior Keiera Ray

Game Recap vs. AS Vertis La Spezia: W, 78-49

My morning started with an iced coffee that I really didn't get to enjoy. As we are walking down the street an Italian lady came barging through the crowd and nails me and my coffee goes flying. Luckily my cat-like reflexes sent the coffee on her -- accidentally of course...

After that incident, Sydney and I decided to go down "money row" as we call it. Money row has Fendi, Gucci, Louis Vuttion, Ferragamo, Prada, Tiffany and Co, Armani, Mount Blanc, Celine, etc. As you might have guessed we didn't buy anything. Wanted to buy a keychain from Louis Vuttion but it was 460€. Crazy, right?

After all the walking we were starving and decided to have pizza (of course) with Coach Day.

Then it was time to get on the bus and head to the game. To be honest, I fell asleep within two minutes so I really don't know what we drove past on the way there.

Game time!! Honestly, the team played great. Rayne and Mel were making some great assists and Bone and Syd were dominating in the paint! Those girls couldn't keep up. We won by 30...I think.

After the game we went to dinner with the team we played against. On the bus we were all afraid that dinner would be so awkward because of the language barriers. But thank god some of them knew enough English so we could have an amazing conversation. The whole dinner we were laughing so much! We talked about the differences and similarities between us. Surprisingly we listened to the same music (Beyoncé, JayZ, Trey Songz, etc). They also said they loved cheeseburgers but they were so fattening (of course Americans love that type of food). The girls were so fun and had amazing personalities.

The actual dinner on the other hand was interesting. Dinner was right along the Mediterranean Sea which is a beautiful sight. The sunset was amazing!! We had a five-course meal (yes, five courses). Oh, and don't forget the bread. It was all seafood. Most of us went out of comfort zone with eating it but we loved it. Although I couldn't tell you what anything was called.

Today was great and we didn't want to leave the girls. So to keep in contact we added them on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.

Brooklyn will have an update for you tomorrow on our trip to Pisa and our game against the Germans!

August 18 - Florence/Pisa
by rising junior Brooklyn Juday

Game Recap vs. Chemcats Chemnitz: L, 56-62

8:15 am: Kara and I went on a morning jog. We decided to take a different road back than the one we started on; needless to say, we got lost. It only took us a couple of minutes to find the right road, but we got a little extra excitement for the morning.

10:45 am: Met in the lobby to take the bus to Pisa!

12:15 pm: Arrived in Pisa! We then met our tour guide and learned a little bit about the city. FYI- the name Pisa has nothing to do with pizza. Pisa actually means mouth, and Pisa used to lie at the mouth of the Arno River, hence the name Pisa.

1:00 pm (13:00): Started walking up the leaning tower of Pisa. 300 steps later we were at the top. It was a beautiful view of the city! Some of the girls didn't like being 55 meters in the air on a crooked surface, but I personally loved it.

3:30 pm (15:30): Ate pregame meal back in Florence at Ristorante Lorenzo De'Medici. We had pasta, grilled chicken, salad, and fruit.

5:30 pm (17:30): Boarded the bus and headed to the game. We played in Ponte Buggianese, which was about an hour drive from the hotel.

7:30 pm (19:30): Although we lost, we played a hard fought game against the Chem Cats from Germany. It was a scrappy game, and I think this game will really help us in the long run. We played with a ton of heart and came back from a significant deficit, and that showed that we aren't a team to ever give up.

10:30 pm (22:30): Gelato time. As our tour guide Tom says, it isn't a day if you don't have gelato.

August 19 - Rome
by rising sophomore Melanie Lockett

Hey everyone! Today we traveled from Florence to Rome. Along the route we saw some beautiful scenery and stopped to grab a bite to eat at AutoGrill.

Here are some fun facts I learned about Rome during our tours of the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Did you know?

- Ancient Rome is underground.
- The Colosseum took its name from the latin word colossous, which means giant statue.
- The Colosseum was for Gladitorial games, but the gladiators did not always fight to the death.
- On the day the Colosseum first opened, about 5,000 animals were killed.
- Throughout time it has been estimated that over 500,000 people and over 1,000,000 animals were killed there.
- Togas were mostly worn by men in Rome. The only women who wore togas were prostitutes because they were not allowed to wear the traditional garment of Roman women.
- Rome's last emperor was Romulus Augustus, whose name recalls both the founder of Rome and Rome's first emperor.
- Elton John, Billy Joel, Paul McCartney and Ray Charles were some of the few famous singers who have performed at the Colosseum.

Kathleen will have more from Rome tomorrow! We're going to see the Vatican and explore the city.

August 20 - Rome
by rising senior Kathleen Roche

Our last day! I can't believe this whole trip has already come and gone, and we are already packing up for home. Each day has been jam packed with activities, sightseeing, eating, and shopping. Today was no different!

Our day began with a bus trip to the Vatican. We were going to see the Sistine Chapel and Saint Peter's Basilica. There was a huge line wrapped around for like two blocks, but of course our guide Elena got us a VIP entrance with no wait. We came in to a huge beautiful square where we of course took a plethora of pictures and shameless selfies.

Before walking in to the Chapel, our guide talked us through the creation and story of the art on the ceiling and the back wall ( "The Last Judgement") of the Chapel done by Michelangelo. I found this the most interesting. The artwork on the ceiling displayed bible stories we were all familiar with growing up, and tied them together to tell the greater story of the coming of Christ. So intricate it was amazing. It was also funny to hear some of the artistic license that Michelangelo was able to take on The Last Judgement due to his power as an artist during that time. The Pope's Master of Ceremonies at that time thought Michelangelo's initial nude depictions were disrespectful and unacceptable for the painting. Michelangelo responded by working Cesna's face into the face of Minos, god of the underworld, and gave him big donkey ears. When Cesna tried to have the Pope demand a change in the work the Pope joked that he has no jurisdiction in hell, so the image would have to stay! At the same time, Michaelangelo also sent a disrespectful message to the Pope. He depicted himself on the skin of Saint Bartholomew. He felt he was getting skinned alive because he was not getting paid enough. In such a sacred artwork it is interesting to hear that the story behind it is not all overly sacred! This is definitely my favorite part of the Vatican.

Saint Peter's was simply enormous. The letters that line the upper walls of the church are six-feet tall! From the ground I would've guessed around 2-3 feet. I loved being able to see this in person after seeing it in pictures and on TV all my life. On our way out we of course stopped at the gift shop. Some courageous souls walked backed to our hotel, while the rest of us took the bus.

We still had the afternoon to ourselves. Some of us bus-ers tried to rent Vespas but the advertising/pricing was, well, misrepresented. So a little out of our budget. We all said will have to do it next time we come back!

I spent the rest of my final day venturing around the city with my parents, who were able to make the trip. We went to the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, made a final gelato stop, and then made our way to dinner on a quiet street by the Trevi Fountain.

I could not have asked for a better trip. Thank you to everyone who helped make this possible! It was honestly amazing and I loved every second of it. Though, I probably won't love our 15+ hour traveling tomorrow...but for now I can say that Penn-Italy 2014 has been the best trip of my life. I couldn't have had a better start to my senior year with my team.

Keep a lookout for Renee's blog as she gives us a full recap of everything! Ciao!!

Trip Recap - 28/8/14
by rising senior Renee Busch

Initially my aim for the trip was to eat as much delicious Italian food as possible and still be able to run the mile test when we got back to Penn for pre-season, but what I got out of the trip was so much more. And the best part was that I got to enjoy it all with my teammates. My biggest takeaways from the trip are all of the memories that we made touring, traveling, playing, exploring and experiencing Italy as a group. I’m not the biggest shopper or photographer so I tried to soak up the experience and enjoy every moment.

It’s too hard to recap everything we did, but I’ve picked out some highlights to share with you all.

The White Elephant/Gift Exchange that Coach Laukaitis organized definitely gave me the most laughs out of everything that happened on the trip. The event took place at the rooftop lounge of our hotel in central Florence. The view was beautiful, with the Dome of the Cathedral towering over the rest of the city. The gift exchange itself was filled with thievery, strategy, cunning and surprise! I managed to successfully steal my own gift back from Coach Day and protect it from another pursuer. There was more controversy as Jackie swindled a lovely Italy scarf away from Coach’s daughter. In the end Kathleen’s pizza master hat (complete with photos of 7 different pizzas on it) stole the show as gift of the night. Laughing with the team, the coaches, staff, alumni and parents was a great time.

Another surprise highlight of the trip for me was our second game against the Italian Select team and our dinner with them afterwards. We had to bus almost an hour from Lake Como to the gym, which was small and a soft green floor that was actually pretty comfortable to play on. It was swelteringly hot in there, even with all of the windows were open. It was a fun game and we ended with a win.

Afterwards we headed straight back onto the bus, which took us to the coast about twenty minutes away. It was gorgeous! The sky was light blue, purple and pink as the sun was setting and there were hundreds of sail boats docked on the small harbor. We were seated outside at the restaurant and awaited the Italian players. We sat at every other seat at the table so that we could intermingle. I admit we were all skeptical that dinner might be awkward if none of us could communicate, however, Kathleen and I ended up sitting next to a girl called Katarina and she was so fun to talk to. We found out that it’s her dream to play basketball in college in the US just like we do. We laughed at their paper “identification cards” compared to our plastic IDs and we laughed even harder when she told us that some people think that Americans eat McDonalds every day. It was great to share and learn from her. Of course we are now Facebook friends.

I have so many other happy memories. Some small snippets include: Coach Day touring the historical sights with a hotel towel on his head to keep cool in the summer heat; successfully photo-bombing Coach McLaughlin’s family picture for the team scavenger hunt competition; hopping. Of course the first week we were in Italy was the week of the “Saldi” (Sales!!) (I think it’s safe to say that I will never be as stylish as the women of Milan); living life without Wifi and overcoming my dependency on my phone; and Gelato! Notably the “Cremino” flavor (Nutella swirled in vanilla gelato).

We also learned so much on the trip, like how the beautiful Murano glass in Italy is molded and dyed and that St. Peter’s Basilica is the largest church in the world. We saw the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, tried real Italian espresso, Sydney got a bracelet blessed by the pope, we rode along the canals of Venice, played against some international competition, and saw frescos in the churches in Lugano, Switzerland. It’s safe to say that a year ago we never would have expected we would be doing any of these things as a team.

I want to give a shoutout to the morning T25 Crew. (T25 is like Insanity or P90X. It’s a 25-minute workout video for anyone who didn’t know). Our trainer, Amy and the always-energetic Coach Laukaitis made sure that a workout was always available at every stop. Our staff team takes no days off! Much Respect.

We were sad to leave Italia, but after 21 hours of total travel time the sight of the Palestra through the bus window was a welcome sight! Now preseason has begun and we’re happy to be back with the newcomers to the team and getting ready for the 2014-2015 season.

On behalf of the whole team I want to thank all of the donors, alumni, and all of those who made this trip possible and have supported us. I am so proud to be a part of the Penn Women’s Basketball family. We all truly appreciate the opportunity that we were given. It was genuinely unforgettable. Molte Grazie!

This blog post may have seemed a little scattered but when I think back on the trip to “recap” the memories just start flowing. I don’t think I’ll forget the trip but even if I do there’s always the hundreds of selfies that we all took to remind us of the good times!


Download: Itinerary - Summer Tours 2014 (3).pdf