Day 3 & 4 Rome to Verona: Monday & Tuesday, Aug. 18-19
On Monday morning after another great breakfast overlooking Rome, we loaded the bus with all our big bags and hopped on another towards the city. Our regular bus with luggage was heading to Verona with our driver Salvatori and the new bus was taking us to the Vatican for a tour with Mia. Once we were sure everyone had long enough shorts to pass the Vatican's dress code (no shorts above the knee) we were off.
When we arrived the line waiting for entry to the Vatican was wrapped all the way around two sides of its outer walls and was close to four people wide. This was in stark contrast to the emptiness we had experienced the morning prior and luckily we had a reservation so the line was not a problem. As we walked to the front of the line there were shouts of "Go Blue!" from the people waiting as well as many asking each other if that was the basketball team. One thing is for sure, the block M has international recognition.
After making it through security we went on a tour of the Vatican museum including the halls dedicated to the tapestries, statues and finally the Sistine Chapel. Mia explained to us that Michelangelo never wanted to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and actually left Rome to ignore Pope Julius II's demand that he paint the ceiling. However, we learned that the Pope then sent his staff to forcefully bring Michelangelo back to Rome to start his task. Michelangelo was a sculptor and had no desire to paint. As a result he painted like a sculptor and his figures turned out very muscular and defined which was uncommon during this time. The intricate detail on such a large scale was unbelievable and this single room was the only thing anyone wanted to talk about for the rest of the day. Shortly after we left the Sistine Chapel we quickly toured St. Peter's Basilica before heading to the train station.
Our high-speed train took us from Rome to Verona in just under three hours, the same trip took Salvatori almost seven hours with our luggage. On the train most of our guys slept but Max, Andrew, Caris and Zak decided to play black jack for the majority of the trip. Max played the role of the house in the game, and had they been playing for real, the other three would have needed to take out some major loans. However, Zak and Caris would like everyone to know that they did not lose nearly as much as Andrew. So there ya go, fellas.
It was late when we arrived in Verona so after a quick bite to eat everyone headed to bed. We would have plenty of time to explore our new home tomorrow.
The next day in Verona was a rainy one. After breakfast and individual film sessions with their position coaches, there was a team film session. Then a couple hours of free time followed as the walking tour of the city was pushed back until the afternoon in hopes of the rain letting up. Unfortunately, it didn't.
Verona, known as the "City of Lovers," is very intriguing mixture of Roman history on one end and medieval history on the other. The medieval side features an ancient colosseum even older than the one in Rome that hosts many performances on the weekend. While the specialty of the colosseum is opera because of the acoustics, Whitney Houston, Bob Dylan and many other famous artists have played here. The medieval side features the courtyard of Juliet from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. The two families about which the stories were written, are actually from Verona.
We went to the courtyard of Juliet which was extremely crowd because of its popularity the abundance of umbrellas do to the rain. After seeing the statue of Juliet and the balcony where the famous scene from the play was inspired, we toured the scenic medieval portion before heading to dinner.
After eating dinner and more tiramisu than I'm proud of, the team left Verona for the 8:30 p.m. game in Vicenza. We played in front of a packed house as everyone was interested to see Michigan in action and the boys did not disappoint. Zak led the way with 18 points, including 4-5 from three. But what didn't show up on the boxscore was that he actually hit two more corner threes but stepped on the sideline on the catch due to the extended three-point line in Europe. That would have been a 6-6 start and a total of 24 points. This prompted the Italian radio announcers behind me to yell, "Woah! Zak Irvin!" every time he touched the ball. Freshman Ricky Doyle also had a great performance with 15 points and 14 rebounds. After that performance I think we'll be feeding him a little pregame tiramisu and cheesecake more often.
After shirt exchanges and pictures with our opponents it was time to head back to Verona for the night. We arrived late and had a full day ahead of us so it was time to get some much needed rest.