Day 6: Belluno, Italy
March 21, 2008
BELLUNO, ITALY - Thursday morning we had our final breakfast at the Slovenian training facility before heading back to Italy. We said goodbye to the beautiful Slovenian scenery and made it to Belluno, Italy in about three hours. We arrived hungrily and about half of us went to a sit-down restaurant together. After the meal we went to the register to pay for our pizza and pasta. I gave our waiter twenty euros and he gave me change as if I had given him a ten. I noticed this a few seconds later and went back for my proper change. Sid paid next and he did the same thing to her. Amy, Sid and I argued with the Italian-speaking waiter as best we could and got her ten euros back. We felt quite proud for being savvy tourists and avoiding a rip-off!
We then met our tour guide in the central square and walked around town for two hours. The architecture was beautiful and we climbed a tower to a sweeping view of the surrounding mountains. I added many more mountain and church pictures to my collection.
After our tour we went to the municipal city hall for a press conference with the Belluno team. We were met there by journalists and photographers at the door who joined us in the main executive room of the building. There we sat at a curved table across from the Belluno team, and the Sports Mayor gave a speech thanking us for coming and welcoming us to the town through a translator. We got a plaque and books about tourism in Belluno and then Jo gave a speech thanking them for their hospitality and for playing us. Maggie spoke as well about how much we love Italy and are enjoying our trip to finish off the conference. Afterwards Butz, Hannah, Leah and I went with some of the Belluno players to grab a bite before getting back to the hotel to change for the match.
The match was more formal than our others have been and our names were announced before we played. A really cool aspect of the match was that it truly felt like we were representing the United States. On our locker room was a sign that said "reserved for USA" and before the match started they played both the Italian and U.S. national anthems. That was the first time I had ever heard the U.S. anthem in another country and it was great.
We played five games and won two of them. They were all close and we saw definite improvement from all our other Italian matches. The Belluno newspaper ran an advertisement for the match earlier in the week so there was a big crowd at the game. The match was a lot of fun to play and we learned that we need to start off each game of each match strongly.
After the match we went to dinner with the Belluno team. It was awesome to talk to them and hear more about their day to day lives. Abby practiced her Spanish with some of the players who had left Argentina to play volleyball in Italy when they were young. The rest of the table spoke mostly in English, thank goodness, and we had a lot of fun. We ate pizza and gelato, exchanged emails and took pictures after the meal. We then went to bed and this morning we are off to Milan for the final leg of our journey.
We are having so much fun and I don't want to think about coming home! Mom and Dad, don't worry about us; we are being taken care of very well!