Aug. 17, 2008
It's the middle of August, but the Loyola women's basketball team is in full practice mode. The first game of the year is almost three months away, but the Greyhounds are gearing up for another kind of roadtrip.
On Wednesday, August 20, the nine returning members of the team, three seniors who graduated last year, coaches and staff will board a British Airways Boeing 767 and cross the Atlantic Ocean.
After a brief stop in London for tea, the team will be Italy bound. After landing in Milan, the Greyhounds will spend the next nine days touring the Italian countryside, a trip that will take them to Como, Verona, Padua, Venice, San Marino, Rimini, Florence, Montecatini and finally Rome.
"This is a great opportunity for our players and staff to spend time together outside of the basketball arena," Head Coach Joe Logan said. "Not only are we going to be able to see some of the most beautiful parts of Europe, but we will have the chance to play four games that will help prepare us for the season. This is not only exciting, but it's very important for our development and growth as a team."
After landing at Milan, the group will immediately begin to see the sights. First stop: the Duomo (Cathedral). Modeled after St. Peter's in Rome and the Cathedral of Seville, it is the largest church in Europe. The Duomo was completed in 1809 by orders of Napoleon I and features 135 pointed spires and 3,000 marble statues that reach to the sky.
The stay in Milan will be brief, as the team will head to Lake Como for a `Welcome To Italy Dinner.'
Friday will feature a day on one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. A boat tour of the lake will hopefully provide a sneak peak of George Clooney or some of the other famous people who have homes on the lake with majestic vistas.
That night, the Greyhounds get down to business for the first time on the trip. They will take to the hardwood in Bellinzona, Switzerland, and face Pallacanestro Bellinzona.
A wake-up call on Saturday morning after the game will take the team to the historical city of Verona. There, the Greyhounds will see Verona's Roman ruins with inspiring art and architecture. In the city, the team will also visit the Roman Arena, second only in size to the Colosseum.
Finally, the team will channel a bit of Shakespeare when they visit Via Cappello 23, the 13th-century home of the Capulets and the balcony of Juliet.
After touring Verona, the team heads to Padua and its treasure of art and handsome medieval buildings. The team will transfer to an arena in Mestre to face the Pool Basket Venezia Team for a game.
Sunday will dawn and bring a morning of exploration in the romantic city of Venice with its canals, gondolas and singing gondoliers. A guided tour will take the team across the Piazzetta and past the Doge's Palace into St. Mark's Square, the hub of Venetian life and one of the world's finest squares.
A visit to St. Mark's Church and a walk through Venice's narrow streets will take up part of the morning before a drive through the scenic countryside will drop the team off in another country, San Marino.
Completely surrounded by Italy, San Marino is its own republic and magnificent location on Monte Titano. With three castles crowning the triple peaks of the hill, San Marino is one of the jewels of the countryside.
Monday brings a day of excursion, sun and fun in the beach city of Rimini. A fantastic spot on the Adriatic Sea, the team can hit the beach, shop for souvenirs or visit the Dolphinarium. That evening, the team will head back to San Marino for its third game of the tour against the San Marino All-Stars.
The Greyhounds depart San Marino on Tuesday morning for the "Cradle of the Renaissance," Florence. A tour awaits the team in the morning and will show them some of the greatest art in the world. The tour will also take them to the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the Piazza della Signoria - the former forum of the Republic - and a visit to the Academy of Fine Arts to see Michelangelo's famed `David.'
That night, the team heads to the Tuscan hills and a night in Montecatini.
On Wednesday, the Greyhounds head to the final destination of the trip, Rome. In the "Eternal City," the team will take a tour of ancient Rome where they'll see the Circus Maximus, the Forum, the Arch of Titus, the Colosseum, the Arch of Constantine and much more.
With free time in the afternoon, the team can take in more sights or go shopping in world-famous designer shots and charming botiques along Via del Corso.
Thursday morning brings the Greyhounds to St. Peter's Square and Vatican City. A tour of St. Peter's Basilica, the largest church in Christendom, and the Vatican Museum are just a prelude to a visit to the Sistine Chapel where Michelangelo worked for four and one-half years lying on his back on one of the world's great masterpieces, "The Story of Creation."
The afternoon is free for last-minute sightseeing, or even exploration of the Catacombs of st. Calixtus. Thursday evening brings the final game of the tour at the Flacco Gym in Palestrina where Loyola will meet the SAD Palestrina Basket Team.
It will be tough to leave, but all good things must come to an end, and the Greyhounds' Italian Countryside Tour will on Friday morning when they board their flight back to London.
After another stop in England, the Greyhounds return to Baltimore with thousands of pictures and memories for a lifetime.
Follow all of the Greyhounds' action, on the court and throughout the countryside, with daily updates on loyolagreyhounds.com.