A group of eighth graders embarked on June 10 for Italy, where they will tour for 11 days.
Guided by Latin teachers Heidi Pollio and Matt Wilkens, this Odyssey program takes students all around Sicily and southern Italy. It is one of many global programs offered at Norfolk Academy.
Saturday, June 10
Odyssey '23 is on the way!
Sunday, June 11
Arriving in Palermo and Erice (a historic town in Sicily), students visited a sight of sanctuary of Phoenician Astarte/Greek Aphrodite/Roman Venus, inhabited since before the 9th century BC. They were so high the clouds were rolling through behind them.
Monday, June 12
We woke up about 7:15 a.m. and had a delicious breakfast in the clouds. We left Erice, drove down the mountain and set out on our journey to Segesta. While there, we inspected the temple for signs of incompletion, and then all of the gamma family hiked up the Bárbaro Mountain to the theatre. After conquering yet another mountain, gamma proceeded to temples E, F, and G in Selinunte. The ruins of these temples overlooked the Mediterranean Sea. We seized the opportunity to climb the ruins of temple G, and we felt like we were on top of the world. Once at the hotel, we quickly changed and swam in the Mediterranean Sea for the first time. We are having the best time here… best trip ever! - Elizabeth '27 and Catherine '27
Tuesday, June 13
Part I: After we had breakfast, we went to Agrigento. We learned about the history of various temples we were going to see. We learned about the roots of the idea of Gods and divinity, which helped us to better understand the people who walked on the same ground that we were standing on. Additionally, we learned about the unfortunate destruction of all of the temples on site. Then, we broke into our groups and walked around the ruins of a temple. We discovered that they used grooves in the stones to pick them up. Then, we looked at the remains of the altar of Zeus and saw the true strength of the stones by standing on them. We walked to the temple of Hera on top of a hill. Standing up there and being able to see from the city side to the Mediterranean Sea was something I didn’t ever think I’d be able to do. It’s crazy to think about how people thousands of years ago stood in the same place. The pictures and descriptions we read about in our textbooks at school came to life. - Mia '27
Part II: We started with a two-hour long bus ride, during which it was nice to look at the beautiful views and talk with friends. We arrived at Villa Romana del Casale at Piazza Armerina. This Roman villa in Sicily is well known for having some of the most beautiful mosaics. Before we saw the mosaics we learned the background information of the site from Dr. Pollio. While we were all excited to move and explore, it is always important to understand the history of what you are going to be looking at. During the meeting we were excited to learn that we had another challenge for this site. We were asked to take pictures of the mosaics that matched the description in the challenge. Some of these pictures included scary animals and scenes from Roman life. It was exciting to look at the intricate pictures and realize how long ago they were made. The pictures felt more real because most of them had spots where the stones of the mosaics had faded or fallen off. Next, we looked at the bath system that was on the outside of the villa. We were able to see the hypocaust, the part of the baths that heat the water. It was personally exciting for me because Roman baths are featured many times in the Latin books we read at school, and I have always wanted to see one. - Luke '27
Wednesday, June 14
Part I: At the beginning of our day, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast at Hotel Gutlowski. After, we headed to the bus to travel to the Euryalis Fortress, where we all learned about the inventions of Archimedes. After, we walked across the street to a stone quarry. We were able to go inside the ear of Dionysus. Although the quarry has a sad history, it was an incredible experience. We hopped back onto the bus and went back to our hotel. We walked to the market and everyone tried fresh fried calamari. After our snack, we went swimming in the Ionian Sea. The bottom was rocky, and there was a small pebble beach. Although everyone had cuts and bruises, we were having fun. While dressed nice for dinner, we went to a cathedral that was built over a temple to Athena. Today, the cathedral is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It was cool to see how the importance of women in that location passed down to today. - Erin '27
Part II: Today we spent the day in Syracuse. First, we went to the market down the road. We then met up at the Temple of Apollo in the center of the city and admired its size and beauty. Next, we went to the Euryalus Fortress. The fortress, created by Dionysius I, was full of traps and tunnels invented by Archimedes. It has also been closed for years and is only open for certain times. Our challenge was to try to get to the main gate without being stopped by any traps along the way. In the end no one made it, illustrating the strength of the fortress and its defenses. We then went to a quarry where stone had been gathered for the fortress we had just been at and the theater we were going to next. In this quarry we saw the Ear of Dionysius, which was called this both because it looked like an ear, and to symbolize Dionysius listening to the slaves' conversations. We then went to the theater, though we were not able to go in as it seemed they were preparing for an upcoming show. Next we went back to the hotel and changed to go swimming. Many people spent the time looking for sea glass, though some of us were more interested in swimming. We convinced our teachers to take us to a deeper area, where we could try to dive down and pick up rocks from the ground, or swim without worrying about hitting rocks. We then decided to take the longer way around a large rock, which was fun, though it caused scratches. Then we went back to the hotel, got cleaned up, and went to the Temple of Athena, which has been converted into a Catholic cathedral. Our challenge there was to find the parts of the original temple that had remained intact and been reused in the church. Next, we were given almost an hour to explore and shop throughout the town. Finally, we went to dinner and had bruschetta, pasta, salad, calamari, and granita. My favorite activity was the Euryalus Fortress. I thought it was interesting to envision these traps in action and ponder the thought process behind the ruins. It was also cool to see the teachers as excited about a spot as the students. - Carter '27
Thursday, June 15
We started the day by driving to Taormina. We saw an incredible theater there that had elements of Roman and Greek architecture. It was interesting to see them together. Then, we walked around the modern city of Taormina to shop and find lunch. Neither the rain nor anything else could stop us from having gelato and brioche (an incredible combo). Afterwards, we headed to our hotel and swam for about three hours. Various games of volleyball, 500, and chariot races filled the time easily. We cleaned up and then had an incredible dinner. We began with tomato pasta, had chicken and potatoes, and finished with milk caramel cake. The remainder of our evening was spent playing rounds of cards. It’s incredible to see all the things we’ve been learning about start to come together. I’m so excited for everything else to come. - Jane '27
This morning we ate at our hotel in Syracuse for the last time before continuing our journey. We weathered a two-hour bus ride to Taormina, which is on top of a mountain. Once we got to the city, Mrs. Pollio led us to the theater. Dr. Pollio then gave us an informative lecture about the history of the theater and Taormina. After shopping and lunch, we made a trek back to our bus and a two-hour bus ride to our next hotel. We changed into our bathing suits as fast as we could to get in the pool. After a little back and forth of what game we were going to play we settled on volleyball. We continued playing for at least two hours. Eventually we had to get out and get ready for dinner. The two hours was the most fun I had on the trip and the fact that everyone was playing, including Mr. Wilkens and Mrs. Pollio, was crazy. We are not even halfway through the trip yet everyone is acting like they have been besties for months. - Vaughan '27
Friday, June 16
After breakfast we departed for the long, winding drive up Mount Etna, a volcano. Our first stop was thousands of feet above sea level. When we got there we started hiking with our volcanologist, who has been featured on National Geographic. He guided us along the 2002 lava flow and knew it like the back of his hand. If we were passing one of the 300 craters or an old lava flow, he knew the exact date and what happened at the time. After the hike along the 2002 lava flow we hopped on the bus again and drove to our second stop, a hike up to one of the flank craters. The ground was covered in pumice and was so slippery that it was almost like the cartoons. We went up a steep incline and carefully walked around the crater to the opening in the middle. The opening was 10 meters deep and you couldn’t see the bottom. The wind was whipping and it was hard to walk in a straight line. Keep in mind we were high up on the tallest part of the crater. We got off the crater and went to a nearby large bolder launched from a volcano. We talked about the chemistry of lava and the lava rocks. We then started talking about Mount Vesuvius and other volcanoes compared to Etna. After that we headed for our third and final stop on Etna, the lava tube. We stepped down into a pitch black tube that lava once flowed through. It was kind of ironic that it was soaked in there and water was dripping from the ceiling. We explored the tube and talked about the history of Etna. We climbed up a steep, muddy staircase to get out. Then we headed back to the bus and started driving down the twists and turns. After a quick stop for gelato, we reached the hotel. For the rest of the day we were at the pool and then dinner. We had our first awards ceremony since we were halfway through the trip. It was a great day and a lot of fun. Personally this adventure was amazing and it couldn’t have been better. This was the first time I’ve been to a volcano and it was a special experience. The history was interesting and the views were spectacular. - Jonah '27
Mount Etna is an active volcano in Sicily. The highest point of the volcano reaches 11,000 feet with about 100 other cinder cones. Our group had the honor of meeting with an expert volcanologist. He shared information about volcanoes and the area around the volcano with us. One of our stops was a hike up to the summit of a steep hill thousands of feet in altitude. The ground consisted of pumice pebbles and sharp rocks. I’m not the bravest around heights, so it was a little frightening to be so high up on a steep surface. The winds were so strong that I felt as if I were being pushed by them. I had to walk slowly and cautiously, while looking at the ground. Occasionally, I would stop and look up at the beautiful scenery overlooking countless trees on top of volcanic ash. It was scary to hike up that high, but when you can’t go backwards, forward is the only direction you can go. Overcoming my fear of heights for a brief period is a feeling I will never forget, and I’m grateful to be a part of this journey. - Ivan '27
Saturday, June 17
We started our morning with a delicious breakfast at our hotel. I had the best croissant and drank blood red orange juice, one of the things I discovered here. We left for our six-hour bus ride at 8 a.m. so that we could get there in time to swim in the Tyrrhenian Sea. We drove for about 45 minutes and then went on a ferry to reach the mainland. The ferry crossed the Strait of Messina. I was sitting with Vaughan, so we talked for a bit and then I started to read my book until we reached our first pit stop. We ate lunch and talked for about 30 minutes and then got back on the bus for the rest of our ride. I read a little more, listened to music, and talked to people. Once we reached our final destination, Poseidonia Mare Hotel, we got our rooms and headed to the beach. My roommates were Mia, Catherine, and Elizabeth. The beach was fun for a little bit, but everyone got itchy, so we left and had a little under two hours to get ready. We met downstairs at 7:15 to walk around the little town and we found an arcade and an American dinner place. Their ideas of American dining are pretty different from they actually are. We went back to the hotel for dinner at 8. Then we went to get gelato and then started our Scopa tournament. My team was Grady and Ivan and we made it to the championship, which is tomorrow night because it got too late. My favorite part of the day was our Scopa tournament because I got to create a bond with people who I hadn’t had one with before. - Holland '27
After having breakfast, we headed to The Strait of Messina in our bus to catch a ferry that would take us to mainland Italy. Once we drove onto the ferry, everyone headed to the deck, where we sat and ate snacks. It was a short ride, but when we drove off the ferry it was a five-hour drive to Paestum. On the bus ride we sang songs, looked at the terrain around us, and had about a hour of nap time. Immediately after arriving at the hotel and claiming our rooms, we briskly walked to the beach. Although the Tyrrhenian Sea was choppy, we had fun. Later, after we had showered and got ready for dinner, we explored the seaside shops that were next to our hotel. There we all bonded over the arcade games and the times when we beat Mr. Wilkens in air hockey. At last, we sat down at dinner in the hotel. Even though everyone was full, it was a necessity to get gelato. To end the day, we had the Odyssey Annual Scopa tournament. Scopa is an infamous card game in which the objective is to capture the most cards by the end of the game. I believe this was the most important event in our day for many reasons. One reason is that we got to bond with our bus driver, who we are fortunate to have accompany us on our journey and join in on our Scopa tournament. Another reason is that it shows that one of the Odyssey’s main goals is help the students make connections with each other that may not have been as strong as before, and I can prove that this tournament did that. After a loud and exciting tournament, we all headed to bed. With all the time we spend together, I think that it brings us closer and creates a bond that I will certainly not forget. - Aubrey '27
Sunday, June 18
We stopped by ruins in Paestum, where we saw a temple of Athena and two temples of Hera. The temple of Hera II was definitely one of my favorite temples of the trip because it was in good condition, and it was so big we could still go inside. After, we visited the ancient ruins of Herculaneum, which were semi-destroyed in the same Vesuvius eruption as Pompeii! We had a few challenges to do while we were there, and team Alpha crushed it! One of my favorite challenges was trying to find the toilet that was under the stairs. All the teams got so competitive! When we got back to the hotel, some people played scopa, and other people played cards with each other on the porch. Some of my friends and I also went out to the trampoline and the farm animals that were at our hotel, which was so fun! By then, it was time for bed. Another great day of the Odyssey! - Lily '27
After jamming on the piano, we set out for our last day of exploring Greek architecture. Our first stop was the ancient city of Paestum, where we looked at different temples and theaters. We went on a mission to find all the different parts of the city, including the amphitheater, houses, and a political center. After this marvelous excursion, we headed out to lunch, where we all had a margarita pizza. It was quite delectable and gave us energy for our next outing at Herculaneum. This was my favorite journey because we all got to split up in our groups, and complete challenges on our own. This gave us the opportunity to answer our own questions and grow a deeper connection with our group. One specific challenge that we had to complete was finding the remains of a toilet with the remains of a staircase above. Whichever group found it first would get bonus points. Finally, after departing from Herculaneum, we arrived at the next hotel, and played an intense game of soccer. Throughout this trip, I have connected what we learn in school to the real world, and it has changed my perspective on how we got to where we are today. - John '27
Monday, June 19
The day started with a trip to Pompeii. Once we were inside we went in an amphitheater. We learned about the things they watched, which included gladiator battles, hunting, and animals fighting other animals. We then split into teams and explored Pompeii to complete our challenges. My team went off to learn about the roads and their drainage system. We learned that they had blocks above the road level, which were used for walking across if the roads were flooded. The most interesting thing I learned was after the bodies disintegrated from the horrible event of 79 AD, their body shape was in the pyroclastic flow. Once people discovered the sight, they poured plaster into the body-shaped holes to see the people's last position before they died. Finally, we saw Caecilius’s house. This is so important because we learned about him in school for three years. It is unreal to think that I was standing outside of his house, the same one that was in all of the books and stories. Learning about Pompeii in school is one thing but stepping foot where a devastating eruption occurred 2,000 years ago is incredible. Once we got to our hotel, we played soccer. After a sweaty game, we cooled off in the pool. For dinner, we had chicken and pasta. We closed the night by reciting a poem or story that we wrote expressing gratitude for someone in the group. Overall, this was one of my favorite days on this trip because of everything I learned and all of the fun experiences I had. - Grady '27
Today we woke up and ate a delicious breakfast at our hotel. We then left for Pompeii, which was a 15-minute bus ride. When we got there, Dr. Pollio gave us a lesson on Pompeii in the middle of a giant arena that I will surely not forget. We then broke up into our groups and went into the massive ancient city. The streets were filled with people who were all equally as excited to learn and see so many cool things. In school, most of us have been learning about Pompeii for about three years, but your whole perspective changes when you get to experience it in person rather than through the pages of a textbook. While walking through the streets we got to see so many amazing things! In the previous years in Latin, we have been reading about families and their everyday life in Pompeii. Today we got to see where they live and what our textbooks have been talking about for many years. After about two hours of walking we sat down in the triangular forum and ate our lunch. After lunch we went back in the streets of Pompeii and saw many plaster casts of Romans in their final moments. Most of them were holding loved ones or their children or covering their faces from the hot ash and smoke entering their lungs. At the end of our adventures each team was having a race to get back to Mr. Wilkens, which was competitive and fun. After Pompeii we went home and played soccer on a field at our hotel. Everyone had so much fun playing together. Then we all jumped into the pool after being sweaty and muddy and had so much fun swimming around and playing games. Then we played cards and got ready for dinner. We had a massive Scopa tournament, which is a traditional Italian game. After the game we went to dinner and had delicious pasta with cheesy ricotta sauce and chicken. It was delicious! After dinner we packed up our things and got ready for our final adventure of the trip. Going to Pompeii was an incredible experience that I will never forget. - Hayden '27