Every four years, the Capital Univerity women's basketball program gives its student-athletes an opportunity to explore the world and all that it has to offer. It is an opportunity that not every student-athlete receives, to indulge and learn another culture of the world while also getting the opportunity to play the game they love. This year, the Crusaders will take a 10-day journey around Italy and senior Addie Becker and junior Tori Grasso have taken it upon themselves to share the experience with all of us!
By: Addie Becker
Just a short 24 hours ago we were slaving over hot dog rollers, picking up trash between bleachers, and tearing "winner take all" stickers off steps as we wrapped up our weekend hosting The Basketball Tournament (TBT). A quick turnaround and a true testament to embracing the chaos, the Capital women's basketball team is currently sprawled out at gate E32 in Atlanta, patiently awaiting our 6:20 p.m. flight to begin boarding. A deck of cards, various books, and endless Netflix shows help us pass the remaining two hours we have left. Of course, what awaits us next is another nine hours of sitting and waiting, but no one is worried about passing the time or the length of the trip because at this time tomorrow we will be in Italy enjoying a once in a lifetime trip. Not every day you get to travel to a foreign country with a group of your best friends.
Many of us have never left the country before, so as we excitedly wait to receive the first stamp in our passport we began discussing what we were looking forward to most. Food finds itself on the top of most people's list. Accustomed to the dining level of a typical college student, we are more than looking forward to enjoying world-class pasta and pizza. Who wouldn't? Besides the amazing food, no one knows exactly what to expect. Vibrant cities with beautiful scenery, sure, but I don't think we can actually prepare ourselves for the breathtaking views when visiting Lake Como, the extraordinary artwork inside the Sistine Chapel, or the enormity of the Colosseum. So, until we reach those destination points we will blissfully continue our travels, enjoying each new adventure, ready to be awestruck by what awaits us every day.
While we are more than excited to explore and enjoy Italy, we are also traveling to play basketball. Reporting back to campus on July 12th, none of us exactly knew what to expect at practice, but as we shook off the rust we fell into a groove putting in a new offense, getting back into the groove of full-court play, and just working together as a team. We rounded out our practices and rolled in to set up for TBT feeling good. We were gelling on the court, getting after it at practice while still enjoying ourselves; we are all feeling good about playing in Italy. We are excited. We are excited to showcase in Italy what we have been working on all summer, and we hope to give a preview as to what this upcoming season will look like.
Last time Capital Women's Basketball took an international trip, the team consisted of an entirely different group of women, meaning none of the current players even knew each other. While only three short years ago, we truly are amazed how quickly time has flown, and moreover, how close we've all grown. As we try to sneak in a few hours of sleep between movies and Netflix on the flight to Milan, I know as soon as we land we will be non-stop, so in an attempt to savor each moment, to not take any minute of this trip for granted, here's my moment to pause, appreciate this trip, these people, and what brought us all together, basketball.
As we travel through Italy we intend to be present at every moment, but we also plan to keep our family and friends updated. While we will be blogging and videoing portions of our trip, we also plan to post on social media, so give @CapitalWBB a follow on twitter for more photos and updates. Not to mention, we also spotlighted all the returning players, those on the trip to Italy. So, here's to an amazing trip full of memories ahead of us.
-- back to top --
By: Addie Becker
"Guys, we're really in Italy right now."
I've probably heard that expression about twenty times so far on the first day. On the flight into Italy we woke up to breathtaking views of mountains, but the second we shot off in our bus, the sights outside our windows were eerily familiar.
"It looks like Ohio."
Yes, the landscape of Milan was very similar to Ohio's with lots of greenery and gently rolling hills, but we soon arrived in Como, and the city of Como and Lake Como are nothing like anything in Ohio.
As far as our travel accommodations, several travelers have requested that I document our flight to Milan. After an hour delay, we successfully boarded our flight, and we anxiously awaited our dinner. We had a small selection of three meals, and to quote junior Caroline Taphorn, "dinner slapped." However, her review of breakfast was not as positive, claiming "breakfast can kick rocks."
Aside from the food, several inconveniences such as broken USB ports, restarting passenger TVs, and the delayed flight caused some animosity during the end of the flight; however, I strongly believe the lack of sleep and the lengthy travel day heightened some of those emotions. Senior Elli Wachtman gave "two thumbs up for being here, but two thumbs down for getting here." While travel may have appeared cumbersome, our first day in Italy more than made up for the poor yogurt selection at breakfast.
Upon arriving in Como, we embarked on a walking tour where we walked from our hotel to Lake Como. Still sporting our matching purple t-shirts and traveling with a group of 50+, we knew we stood out in this smaller, quieter town, but we were too engulfed with the beautiful and historic architecture to care. As we marched down to the lake, we were surprised at the amount of narrow cobblestone roads and we laughed at the parking jobs, literally cars would be parked just about anywhere on the road. Our guide made sure to point out spots to eat and along the way, I only noticed one McDonalds. The rest of the town consisted of family-owned restaurants, small shops, apartments, etc. This was one of the coolest parts for me because every popular city in the United States is riddled with Starbucks, Wendy's, and Burger Kings, but the authenticity in this town with the small "mercato," the fruit stands on the street, the flowers and plants decorating apartment balconies, really made me stop and say "wow, we're really in Italy right now."
In between our walking tour and dinner, we enjoyed relaxing at the rooftop pool at our hotel. At dinner, I asked everyone's favorite part so far, and the rooftop pool was a popular number one simply because it was quality time spent with family and friends all while enjoying extraordinary views. While not the Colosseum or David, these memories are just as fun and important. I know that as the trip continues we will not only get to enjoy more of each other's company but also get to know every one of our teammates better, whether that be through sharing a love for gelato or just finding yourself sitting next to them on the plane.
As for dinner, I think it is important to note that, yes, we did enjoy our first authentic Italian meal: pizza. We enjoyed dinner at a restaurant right on the edge of the lake, and after amazing pizza, we snapped a few pictures with a gorgeous backdrop, followed by gelato. As we walked back to the hotel, we enjoyed the soft glow of lights from the small shops, the various Italian chit chat we overhead, and once again our favorite saying: "We are really in Italy."
-- back to top --
By: Addie Becker
While we may have only squeezed in a handful of hours of sleep on the plane, or none at all, every free second we've had today has been spent trying to close our eyes. We took a speed boat back to Como, had two hours between our tour and game, bused to our game, then sleeeeeep. We've found out that some of us have a hidden talent of falling asleep no matter the place or accommodations (*wink wink* Tori Grasso). The exhaustion is understandable, though, because we really have been nonstop ever since we've set foot in Italy, and we wouldn't want it any other way—there is just too much to do and see!
We started off our day with a boat tour on Lake Como to Bellagio. Along the way, we saw George Clooney's house, a filming site for Star Wars, the spot where John Legend and Chrissy Teigen were married, and several different "vertical" towns lining the lake. Our boat stopped at each dock and while at first glance these small towns looked the same, every town had its own flavor and its own small distinct differences, making each stop captivating. After about two hours we pulled into Bellagio where we enjoyed lunch and a quick walk around the town. A few steps off the dock and right around the corner, curving steps filled in with stones greeted us. As we wandered to the top of these steps, shops surrounded us with fine silks, jewelry, and accessories. At the top, more shops and restaurants awaited us, but as we turned around to admire our small climb, the mountains were now perfectly positioned behind the painted stores we had passed. It was absolutely breathtaking! We admired the views before we enjoyed a nap on the speed boat that returned us to Como.
Not long after our return we had time to rest before we prepared to take off to our first game. Traveling roughly an hour away for our 8:00 p.m. (local time) game against an Italian national team, we packed up and headed out with plenty of time to account for traffic. While the gym we played in was no Cap Center, we were still stoked to be playing in Italy. Yes, Italians play basketball just like us, but nuances like warm-up music in Italian and hearing "screen right" in Italian helped remind us we weren't playing Otterbein or Mount Union. However, dubbing the game a "mug fest," the physicality of the game did give us flashbacks to several hard-fought OAC games.
Going into halftime we had the edge over the other team, and as the clock winded down we put ourselves in a good position to win the game, but too many missed free throws and layups earlier on didn't help us down the stretch. We ended up losing 51-50, but we fought hard, ran our new offense in a game for the first time, and just played a game after flying 4,500 miles. While we were hungry to win, and still are, we walked away from the game happy with the competition as it will prepare us for the competitive and physical OAC. While not the final score we wanted, we are excited to get back on the court in Florence for our next game.
After the game, we returned to the hotel where we were treated with an unlimited, buffet-style pizza at a restaurant just across the street. Working out accommodations to stay open after hours so we could eat after playing, we found our party alone in the restaurant enjoying each other's company and incredible pizza. Each round of pizza brought out was different: ham; cream and bacon; margherita; mozzarella, tomato, and lettuce; and pepperoni. After about four rounds, we were wondering how they were able to keep bringing out pizza after pizza after pizza. When would they run out of ingredients? When would they run out of topping ideas? Finally, they told us to expect a special American pizza next, and when they delivered a pizza topped with hot dog slices and French fries, we couldn't help but laugh and cheer. How funny we thought, this "Pizza Americano" must be what Italians really think of us. Don't worry, we proudly ate every last slice.
Our last day in Lake Como did not disappoint, and we are so excited to continue our journey to Milan, Florence, and Rome. Hopefully by the time we reach Florence we will be adjusted to the time change and still excited to eat pizza and gelato.
Carlie Hulette for TWO!
Torri Grasso with the pull-up J!
-- back to top --
No cell phones. How do you entertain a group of thirteen 19 to 21-year-olds for hours on bus rides with no cellphones? In a world where we are checking Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat every other minute, Italy has presented a world where cellphone usage is only available through hotel Wifi: truly a nightmare. However, while we snuck in a few hours of sleep on the bus from Milan to Florence, the first bus ride from Como to Milan held a different adventure.
With everyone asking to play a game, I suggested a game of "Know Your Boo," teammate edition. I told everyone to team up while I quickly drafted questions for round one. Some of the questions included parents' names, birthdays, high school colors, and favorite place to be at Capital. People partnered up with the person closest to them and while that gave an advantage to Carlie Hulette and Caroline Taphorn (the Cincinnati connection) my favorite team was Cassidy Bosch and Jocie Kaiser. They might not be the best of friends, but they had the best time guessing each other's favorite TV shows and middle names. No question intimidated them, and even though they rounded out the score sheet in last place, they had the most fun answers and learned the most about their partner. However, at the end of the game, Jocie jokingly said, "I think it's time to find other 'boos." Cassidy, laughing, agreed. Carlie and Caroline did win by a landslide, but everyone still enjoyed playing. Lasting about an hour, our game kept us occupied, laughing, and entertained.
After our game of "Know Your Boo," we embarked on a walking tour of Milan. A world away from Como, Milan had a certain element of "busy" that Como lacked. While Como's aesthetic was beyond gorgeous, Milan had a certain feeling of "hustle, bustle" that made it feel more like Columbus. Milan has a rich history to accompany the busy city, though. Our tour included the Sforza Castle and the Milan Cathedral, two breathtaking and historic sites. After our walking tour, we had time to grab something quick to eat, and we struck gold, finding Italian fast food. While the prices were similar to McDonald's, the food was not even comparable. We all joked if we could bring anything from Italy back to the United States, it would be Italian fast food, essentially fried pizza. Not too long after our amazing lunch find, we were off to Florence.
After we arrived in Florence, we went out to dinner as a team where we enjoyed more amazing pasta: gnocchi, fettuccini, ravioli. As we finished dinner, we were enjoying some classic American tunes blasting from the speakers of the restaurant. We sang along to "Wannabe", "I'm Gonna Be", and more as we enjoyed the last bites of our pasta. As we collected euros for our bill, our waiter came outside to our table with a surprise: baseball hats for everyone. We proudly sported our new hats and decided we had to pose for a picture with our waiter. Not long after dinner we were off wandering the streets of Florence and ended up buying cheap leather bracelets—one for everyone, serving as a small memento for us all.
Although a short first night in Florence, we enjoyed the small taste and look forward to getting better acquainted with the city on our bike tour tomorrow.
KNOW YOUR BOO!
-- back to top --
By: Addie Becker
The bike tour. Before we even began our walk over to the starting point of the tour, Carlie Hulette attempted to bamboozle us all by claiming she didn't know how to ride a bike. Joking that she would need a bike with training wheels or have to ride on someone's handlebars, we laughed the whole walk to the bike shop, knowing when we began the tour she would be cruising along like the rest of us. However, little did we know that our ride would include very little "cruising."
Split up into four separate tours, two for the adults and two for the players, the adult groups and player groups would be taking two different very different bike rides. We started our ride with a little site seeing, making two or three stops in the middle of Florence.
Before I continue with the details of our ride, I have to note that riding a bike in Florence is nothing like riding a bike in the United States. The streets here are maybe big enough for one car to pass through, two can squeeze through on the bigger roads; however, cars aren't the only vehicles on the roads. Motorcycles, Vespa's, and even smaller trucks share the road. It doesn't stop there, though. The sidewalks are usually wide enough for one pedestrian, so many walkers take to the streets as well. Sam Sech claimed she "had a new appreciation for Columbus traffic" after riding in Florence because although rush hour traffic is real, the focus it takes to navigate through Florence is a new type of traffic.
Now for the bicycles: you can only dream of riding on the sidewalk or a bike lane in Florence, so part of the experience is weaving in and out of cars and people, and in a group of nine or 10 people, a real-life game of Mario Kart is created. Caroline Taphorn even brought along a banana so she could throw the peel, throwing off her competition. Of course, we were not actually racing, but trying to keep up with the group while avoiding cars, taking in the sites of the city, and dodging pedestrians is no easy task.
We only rode through the city on the tail ends of our ride, though, and the rest of the ride was spent climbing a hill where a scenic viewpoint of Florence awaited us at the top. As we ventured outside of the square, a bike path aided us on our climb up, and we tried our best to adjust our gears to assist us in our wearing ride. However, no matter what gear we set our bikes to the climb mixed with the heat still made the ride rigorous. Almost to the top, we were bamboozled for real when we believed we would be pulling off at the first viewpoint. We sighed in relief only for our guide to quickly turn left and lead us further up the hill. However, when we did reach the top, we all agreed the view made the trek worth it. Hot, sweaty, and tired, we still managed to smile for a team picture.
On the way back down we were faced with the crowded streets once again, and navigating through the traffic was like a game of Frogger. While some of us cleared the busy streets, others found themselves bumping into cars—Tori Grasso and Cassidy Bosch—and some people even found themselves bumping into pedestrians—Elle Folan. Nonetheless, we all made it safely back, and had plenty of time for shopping in the afternoon. We bought belts, jewelry, wallets, magnets, postcards, and more. (To our friends and family, we really hope you like your gifts.)
Our first full day in Florence did not disappoint, and although we will only be here for less than three days, we know it will be impossible to forget this city. Every walk around the city held something different in store, but, somethings never change—we are still enjoying new flavors of gelato and different pizza topping combinations.
-- back to top --
By: Addie Becker
Our last full day in Florence kicked off to a slow start for most of us. In the morning we lounged around at the hotel, walked over to the market, or just roamed around Florence. However, some parents, other adults, and Sam Sech and Elli Wachtman participated in a cooking class.
While I personally did not attend the class, Sam and Elli made sure to report back their cooking adventure. Split into two teams, the red team and the blue team, each team was assigned to cook either pizza or pasta. Sam and Elli found themselves working diligently on fettuccini noodles and ragu sauce. They made the noodles from scratch and cut up each vegetable for their sauce. To finish out the meal, they even made melon sorbet. The best part of the class? Chowing down on the finished product. Elli said "cooking in Florence was primo! Ragù alla bolognese, fresh fettuccine, melon sorbet—we're fully prepared to bring the taste of Italy back to the 614."
In the afternoon we were off to see David at Accademia. Just a short walk from our hotel, we arrived at Accademia excited to see David, but not sure as to what to expect from the rest of the museum. As we waited outside to enter, we peered in one of the windows to scope out the museum, and to our horror, we were greeted by a common occurrence: no air conditioning.
Here in Italy, the little things have really been the big things for us. One day for lunch Emma Burns asked for ranch on her salad, and to her dismay, no ranch was available. Here in Italy salads are paired with oil dressings, not Hidden Valley Ranch. Caroline Taphorn regrets not bringing her own bottle because her favorite pizza condiment is ranch dressing. Ranch is not the only thing we're homesick for. Air conditioning has been lacking in most of the restaurants and buildings we have visited. Used to walking into a polar vortex anytime we enter a building, the lack of AC has been a wakeup call of us—we really are spoiled. However, this is all part of the experience: a different culture, different norms. Our tour guide Andrea told Tori Grasso and me that next time we find ourselves hot, sweaty, and uncomfortable to embrace the inconvenience. We should appreciate the sun on our skin, and not automatically complain; instead, we should embrace the sweat with a smile, and little by little we would adjust to the heat and uncomfortableness. Not to be cliché, but you don't grow when you're comfortable, and while these are frivolous examples, the core concept holds a lot of truth.
Despite the lack of air, though, we enjoyed our tour through Accademia and viewing David. The enormity of the statue, the details of the veins and muscles, and the skill required to carve that out of marble, absolutely incredible. The big question posed about the statue is if it is a depiction of David before or after the battle. I'll let you examine our photos and give your best guess. The rest of the museum included other Michelangelo sculptures and paintings by other famous Italian artists. We enjoyed wandering through the museum, admiring the details and depictions of different scenes.
Our last full day in Florence was incredible. All of us have really enjoyed Florence because it is truly unlike any American city. We are definitely sad to be leaving this beautiful city, but we are excited to see what Rome holds for us.
* As an aside, we were supposed to play our last game tonight, but this game has been moved to Tuesday in Rome.
-- back to top --
By: Addie Becker
Florence, we're going to miss you. Nothing like an American city, you enchanted us every day. We loved the walkability, the outlandish flow of traffic, and the beautiful scenery. I know one day we all hope to come back, and if we do, hopefully it's when we all have adult jobs to fund shopping for jewelry on the bridge, unlimited pizza, pasta and gelato, and still water! So, farewell Florence—and hello, Rome.
While we were excited to explore a new city, we were not excited to sit on another bus for another three hours. The views along the way, though, were indescribable, but you can only look at mountains and scenery so long before boredom eats you alive. I know what you're thinking—just sleep, it seems like a favorite pastime on this trip—and many did! However, after about an hour, we were getting restless in the back of the bus. Thankfully, one of our assistant coaches, Jason "Bubba" Wright, had read about our "Know your Boo" game, and decided to present a different version: "Know your Conference: OAC."
Although we are over 4,500 miles away from home, we can't escape our lives back in Ohio. While we might not be playing an OAC school in Italy, our neighbors back home were still on our minds. Questions included official school colors, school mascots, head women's basketball coach's names, and college or university status. Just like "Know your Boo," people were partnered up, having a partner as a sounding board, and as a result of our static bus seating, the same partner pairs were presented.
Last time we played, Cassidy and Jocie rounded out the scorecard in last place, but they climbed to the very top in "Know your Conference," winning the whole game. The game was very tight, though, second and third place squeaked in only one and two points behind them, but Cassidy and Jocie proved that although they might not know each other the best, they really know our competition. How does that old saying go? Keep your friends close and your enemies closer?
When we arrived in Rome, our walking tour had been changed to a bus tour as a result of the rain. This provided us with the opportunity to see more, including the Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri, a church that is almost five hundred years old. Because the weather presented a challenge, we adapted the original plan, and as a result of the transition to a bus tour, we were able to squeeze in a last-minute stop at the Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri. However, when we hopped off the bus and walked inside, we were greeted by a dress code sign: no tank tops and no shorter shorts. Just driving three hours, we were all sporting athletic shorts, which were a little too short, and t-shirts, but Cassidy Bosch had gotten a little cold during the ride, so she had slipped on a pair of sweat pants over her shorts during the ride.
Once we got inside the building, we were told we could not enter the main area, so most of us hung back while other parents, adults, and Cassidy continued. After taking several pictures, Cassidy ventured back to us and seeing our long faces she offered to share her sweat pants, creating a new version of the sisterhood of the traveling pants. Before we left, Elle, Caroline, and Sam had all slipped them on and slipped into the church. A little innovation and teamwork and we were set.
Arriving in our last stop of our trip, we are a growing a little sad because no one is ready to leave yet. We have a busy three days ahead of us, though, and we'll be sure to soak in every last second here.