NMU Alumni - Italy Blog

NMU Assistant Director of Alumni Operations Brad Hamel '99 (far right) and a group of alumni from across the country are traveling in the Tuscan region of Italy, May 7-15. Brad and the group will be sending us photos and notes from Italy. Check back often for updates.

NMU Alumni in Tuscany Blog

DAY 7  
More Cortona exploration and last-minute gift buying took up a few afternoon hours. After that, we had the most exquisite dinner of the entire trip. The setting was a spectacular rose garden nestled in the hillside.
After a wonderful dinner, we got back to the hotel and there were many handshakes and hugs. We have met so many great people on this trip. This was the final day of what will become many great memories of our time under the Tuscan sun.
After an evening of heated games of Heart, we had the pleasure of sleeping in this morning. Our day started a bit later than usual. The task today, observe the head chef as he prepared our lunch for the day. We were provided with his recipe and the instructions on how to prepare the hotel's famous gnocchi. This way, when we get home, we can all have an evening in Tuscany any time we want.
DAY 6  
This morning we had a chance to rest our legs on our bus trip. We took an all-day adventure to Florence. We took a dramatic ride around this historic city and learned much about its history. We were then able to set off on our own to explore. The crowds were easily navigated by venturing off onto the smaller cobblestone roads to find many quaint shops and eateries. Just about everybody returned to the bus with their arms full of Italian goods.
That was some awesome pizza. We were all able to watch the outstanding Italian chefs cook. Our individual pizzas were cooked in the fire hearth over.
DAY 5  
First thing this morning we welcomed a wonderful lecturer who shared with us the history of the important and impressive art works that have come out of Italy. There have been so many pieces of work in cathedrals and museums. To have a better understanding and appreciation of these pieces has helped immensely. Italy has indeed offered the world much over time.
Each bus ride to every destination has been stunning and this afternoon was like all others. We ended up in Siena. Again, we were free to explore the city on our own for a time. The highlight of the trip was our guided walking tour of Siena and another beautiful cathedral. We saw the Gaia Fountain with its stunning bas-reliefs, Magnia Tower, Palazzo Pubblico and the black and gold striped Gothic Duomo.

Now, off to dinner for what I know will be some great pizza.
DAY 4  
This day was a bit more relaxed. In the morning, most of the group ventured off to Montepulciano. Some stayed back to spend a little more time in Cortona. Regardless of where you were, the morning was filled with more food and more shops. Following lunch, we all took a guided tour through Cortona's local Etruscan and Medieval Museum. This museum is home to some of the most important artifacts of ancient Rome and Egyptian civilizations.
In the evening we were on our own to find dinner in one of the many little restaurants in Cortona. This gave everyone a chance to sit down, relax and reflect on the past few days. I am sure there were some deep and inspiring conversations; I know I had some.
DAY 3  
Third day's excursion was off to Perugia and Assisi for more stunning architecture. We have been seeing some great cathedrals. The first sight of the day in Perugia was in the center of town, Piazza IV Novembre, where the Prior Palace, Great Fountain and Cathedral took our breath away.
In the afternoon, it was a short bus ride to Assisi where the breathtaking sight of Basilica St. Francis welcomed us. This cathedral is one of the most important in all of Italy. After our guided tour, the group was able to take in some of the great flare of the area and do some shopping.
We were fortunate enough to be in Assisi when the locals were putting on a medieval renaissance fair.

The second day in Cortona was filled with great sightseeing. Bright and early the group gathered for a quick orientation of the week's events and had a little breakfast. Following was a walking tour of Cortona to get the lay of the land in the town we are staying in. We visited the main street with all kinds of shops and food along the way.
One stop was at the town hall filled with historic and visual character. We also visited a local museum filled with great art from some of the historic chapels in the region.

After our walk, we had a great lunch on the terrace overlooking the valley of Cortona. Each meal is filled with the great flavors of the region and meant to be enjoyed over the views.

In the afternoon we ventured off to a little winery nestled in the hillside of Tucany. The great staff had many variations of the spectacular wine they produced ready for us to sample. Several of our tour companions were going to have bottles shipped back to the states for many memories to come.

Saturday is sure to be filled more great tours and stunning views of the region. More to come.


So, after 31 hours of being awake, the group was able to rest and get some great Italian wine and pasta. We arrived in Crotona at 1 p.m. local time after an uneventful flight and a scenic two hour coach ride across the Tuscan landscape. We arrived to breath- taking views from our rooms to freshen up and get ready for the night's social gathering. We are all looking forward to tomorrow's tours and more great Italian culture, we will keep you posted.

Here's our NMU group at dinner the first night: left to right starting with the red sweatshirt:  Lynn Anderson '73, '74, Gary and Carmen Fields, Leanna Ketola '06, Rachel Geib '06, Heather Henderickson '06, Amy Mercure '06, Sandra & John '70 Leanes, and Judi & Sandy '56 MacLean.