Day 10: Saturday July 31st, 2004 Read Short Version View Photos

Short Version Instructions: Only read every other paragraph.

We woke up to our last day of the family reunion, ate and boarded the bus for a 4 minute drive to a park which we walked through to a castle. Early as always, we had to wait around for 10 or 15 minutes until it was opened, and another 10 minutes in the inside courtyard. We proceeded to tour through the house, which had been gutted of all its grand furniture. In some rooms there were photos of the fully furnished versions, and they did look great, although now they were run down, even though the furniture had all been sold only 10 or 15 years prior.

We continued through the house which inexplicably also contained a bunch of modern art sculptures. Everyone poured out into the park and we met our bus which took us to, you guessed it, another castle. Well, it was more of a palace actually, but whatever. We waited around while our tour guide arranged our exclusive tour, as it wasn't open to the public for another hour.

We were let in and some other random people tried to sneak in with us and subsequently got the boot. Tyler, already bored, immediately went into the next room and was shooed back into the lobby with the rest of us by stern and humorless employee who then kept at least one eye on Tyler for the rest of the tour. We proceeded slowly through the palace, looking at the copious amount of art, sculpture and furnishings, which wasn't very interesting this late in the trip.

Thumbs Up: Tyler's antics We hurried through the last few rooms and back into the lobby where we didn't have to listen to any guides. Tyler picked up a metal umbrella holder next to the door and somehow caused the bottom to fall out and make a huge noise which echoed from the 30 or 40 foot ceiling. Incredibly, nobody came to kick us out or yell at us or anything, so he put it back together and we stood around looking innocent until the rest of the group caught up with us.

We then had a little bit of free time to explore the small town, and when I say small I mean one main street and maybe one parallel side street. Alan saw a sign for a bakery that looked good, so we aimed ourselves the only way we could and started walking. We immediately noticed that only one shop out of 20 or so was open, which was a bit disheartening, but we continued anyway. After what seemed like far too long, we got to the alleged bakery, only to find it closed as well. We then turned around and headed back, determined to at least find cold drinks.

We stopped into the first shop that was open (one of only 3 or 4 in the whole town) which was a tiny grocery store, and got drinks and snacks. We continued back towards the bus, stopping in a bakery that was open for more snacks. We got back to the bus one or two minutes before we were scheduled to, although everyone else had already boarded and were looking anxious to leave.

Thumbs Up: Lunch at Marco's We left the palace and drove to Marco's villa, which was beautiful. We sat down (our usual five at a picnic table to ourselves) and had a great lunch, including excellent cheese and fruit. At one point Tyler tried to splash some water on Jessie, who deftly blocked it, causing Tyler to wet himself. This in and of itself was funny, but the subsequent three tries to splash Jessie with the same outcome was hilarious. He finally succeeded, although we could have watched that all day.

We wandered around the property a little bit, spending most of our time in the shade on a small bridge spanning a creek. Everyone trickled into the house for a quick and informal tour. We lagged behind as everyone crowded around the television to watch a short documentary about one of the archaeological sites he restored. Tyler wanted to take advantage of the vast lawn and fields, and went on a frisbee hunt, although he would have settled for a soccer ball. Alas, his search was in vain, as not even Jeremy could help him locate such an item. I, on the other hand, found a picnic table in a breezy spot on the balcony to relax at. Between the tasty lunch we just had and the beautiful surroundings, I suddenly got very sleepy. I stole Tori's sweatshirt to use as a pillow and rested while everyone else watched Jeremy and Daniella's wedding video.

For some reason, we thought we were headed back to the hotel after this, however we were quickly informed we were going to a church for a mass. At this point the majority of us had been in enough churches for a few years, so many of us vowed to skip the mass. We drove through some small towns and then up a hill, which turned out to be a mountain, to the scenic town of Belmonte. I don't know if it was actually a town, but they had a church, a restaurant and an amazing view of the valley, which was good enough for me.

Thumbs Up: Panoramic views Despite everyone's talk on the bus, everyone went to mass except for Jessie, Tori and I. We pulled a couple benches into the shade and played our game boys and read until we got up the nerve to go into the restaurant where it seemed a mafia wedding reception was taking place. We went to the gelato counter where the young waitress was extremely excited to practice her English on us, which was cute. We also got some water then headed back up to our benches, which had to be moved into the shade once again.

Not long after, everyone trickled out of the church and we made our way back to the bus and down the mountain. We went back to the hotel to rest and get ready for the final banquet of the family reunion. We once again unsuccessfully argued for a later meeting time so we weren't early. Everyone met at the bus in their best clothes and we were off. The bus pulled over at a seemingly random place, as there was no restaurant nearby. There were, however, four cars which all the older people and women were put into and driven away. We began to walk towards the restaurant, "Ristorante La Rocca," which was just over a bridge, about 150 yards away.

Except the cars didn't stop at the restaurant, and continued up the small road and around a corner. Odd. We all continued up this road, including Jessie who was wearing very uncomfortable-looking high heels, which turned to the right and became a dirt road. That went up a hill. A very high hill.

Thumbs Down: Surprise hikes Tyler and I, being the two in-shape studs that we are, powered up the hill, slightly irked at the whole situation. Eventually the cars went back down the hill to pick up everyone else, which apparently didn't include us. By the end of the 15 minute hill climb, everyone had gotten at least a partial ride except for Tyler, Zack and I. I wasn't particularly unhappy about hiking up the hill (I had decent shoes on at least), but springing even a tiny hike on us without letting anyone know beforehand was pretty weak, and most people at the top were in a bad mood due to it.

Thumbs Up: Cool scenery At the top of this hill was, you guessed it, a church which Marco is involved in restoring. There was also a mystery catapult, which wasn't very old (maybe 10 years), which nobody could explain. He proceeded to tell the long version of the history of the hill and church (this was the site of the one and only Italian victory over the Germans, in 1042 or something). I was distracted by the cool scenery and wandered around snapping pictures. We then went inside the church where Marco told us about the paintings behind the altar among other things. I was distracted by the cool scenery and wandered around snapping pictures. We then went back outside to stand around for another half hour. I was distracted by the cool scenery and wandered around snapping pictures.

It seemed like people were finally getting to leave, but Tyler and I were impatient so we started walking down the hill, figuring we'd have to walk it all anyway. We beat all but one or two carloads down to the restaurant, where we waited for everyone else to arrive. Our entire group clogged up the stairway to the restaurant until they let us in. We then clogged the entryway until we decided that it was pointless to clog the entryway and sat down at a table, not at the end for a change.

10 minutes later, everyone had found a seat and they began serving us food. Two of the first three courses were fish, so I got alternate dishes of cantaloupe and prosciutto then an excellent pork medallion dish. The food was good overall, especially the sampler dessert which included ice cream, berry pie and tiramisu.

As the meal was winding down, the Canadian family who had at this point been unofficially named as the planners for the 2006 family reunion stood up and presented their tentative plans, which was a churchless reunion in Canada. This seemed like fun to me and everyone else, and included some cool-sounding day trips to glaciers and national forests. Bekki still liked her idea of a France to New York cruise, perhaps 2008 for that one.

A general consensus finalized Canada as the next site, and everyone slowly said their goodbyes to those who weren't staying at our hotel and went back to Efram's bus for the ride to the hotel one last time. Once back at the hotel, everyone hurried to their room to pack, as the bus to the airport was leaving at 6AM the next morning. We, on the other hand, had a less stressful night and saved our packing for the morning, opting instead for the instant gratification of sleep.