Scholars’ Trip to Fontanellato
Last week, my friends and I travelled to Italy for a true once in a lifetime experience. We met so many kind people who truly welcomed us into their homes and hearts. We were staying in a small town named Fontanellato, with which Highfield has established strong links, around an hour and a half by road away from Milan. It was a beautiful place, filled with life and compassion, accompanied by magnificent buildings and a rich, deep history. Our residence for the week was an AirBnB, situated above a monastry.
While it may have been different, it certainly had character, and was run efficiently by the nuns. On the first two days, we met children from Fontanellato School, with which we have an exchange agreement, and travelled to a World War Two exhibition about the importance of radio communications and code-breaking and viewed cathedrals in Parma, which was engaging and enriching. I also got stuck in a loo, which was an interesting experience, especially as I had to be rescued by a nun!
On the third day, we viewed the former prison camp PG 49, which was a very emotional experience, before trekking in the Appenines.
Despite our bus breaking down and a close call with a snake, it was fascinating and enjoyable, especially the talk given about the prisoners of war who had walked the same ‘freedom trail’ that we did.
Thursday was my favourite day, as we went to Milan, walking on the roof of the Duomo Cathedral, having a delicious pizza for lunch and eating ice cream purchased from Galleria Emanuele Vittorio II, the famously gilded and extravagant shopping centre situated in the Piazza del Duomo.
Milan is also home to many ‘uomo mangia pigeons’, an incorrect translation that roughly means ‘man-eating pigeons’, which became a running joke due to my odd and annoying bird phobia. We had a delicious dinner at the home of Zaccheo, our old friend who came on an exchange to Highfield in the autumn, which rounded off a spectacular day.
Friday was also spectacular, as we visited the Ferrari factory in Modena, viewing some truly classic cars, such as the 308 GTB and the F40, my all-time favourite car.
We also saw Michael Schumacher’s 2004 Driver’s Championship winning car, and Kimi Raikkonen’s 2007 winner. It was a dream come true to visit the factory, and see so many cars in the flesh. After lunch, we toured the complex, before jumping into a high-octane racing simulator, on which I came 2nd, completing a lap of Silverstone in one minute and 54 seconds, six seconds behind the winner. In the evening, we had a last supper with the schoolchildren, before exchanging numbers and social media and saying goodbye for the last time. We left the day after, filled with delicious food and glorious memories.
As we packed our bags and said our goodbyes, I think we could all say that this was a trip to remember. I would like to thank our hosts, guides and all the people of Fontanellato for making this trip so special and fun.