As many of you already know our 2018 Wandering Scholars went to Italy this summer with Smithsonian Student Adventures. Their one week adventure took place in various cities throughout Italy where they were able to explore and learn about the different regions, cultures, and cuisine of the beautiful Italian country. Throughout their voyage our scholars contributed to the Smithsonian Student Adventures blog and shared their experiences traveling in Venice, Florence, and Siena.  


Our scholars spent two days in the wonderful city of Venice. Two of our scholars, Maggie Seye and Nancy Espinoza, wrote about the architecture and history they took in, the wonderful food they ate, and the many sights they visited.

Maggie described their first day in the city where they first explored the Grand Canal and went on a gondola tour. 

“I watched in awe as the beautifully crafted gondolas passed by. Equally beautiful, were the buildings. I learned from Devin that the front of the buildings were made with marble and the sides with brick to save money, while also impressing people. Marble or no marble, I was still very impressed.”

Jeraly, posted an amazing timelapse video on her twitter of their ride on the boat. The video does a beautiful job at showcasing how grand and stinking the water is along with the buildings.

Venice by Maggie

The scholars ventured on and explored one of Venice’s most famous sights: St. Marks Basilica and Doge’s Palace. Maggie beautifully describes her experience as,

“The palace is massive, which can fortunately hold the great amount of history entrapped in its walls. We split up in groups and took off in different directions. My group headed towards The Institutional Chambers where the important parts of the government (like the Great Council, Senate, and Full Council) were housed. Every single room (I mean every single one), had me entranced and my jaw dropping to the floor. Incredible paintings draped the walls from top to bottom with the most intricate details. Each painting tells a story and each one was told with the finest artistry.    

Venice by Maggie

To end their day the scholars reflected in their apartment and Maggie finishes her post by stating,

“Finally, we headed back to the apartment and looked out into the beautiful Venetian night. My friends and I agree that no photo or even video could truly capture the glittering water and colorful beckoning lights. I think from now on, when someone speaks of something captivating and mesmerizing, the word ‘Venezia’ will pop up in my mind.”

Nancy recounted their second day in the gorgeous city of Venice.

“It was our second night in Venice and only two things seemed to stay constant: the Sunshine and Cold Nights. This was something unusual to me, because my everyday life seemed like a routine. While here in Venice, different people and different languages appeared every which way. Granted it is summer and tourists are everywhere, I’ve still come to see its true significance as the island on water.”

Murano and Burano by Maggie

Their itinerary consisted of traveling to the islands of Murano, Burano, and Torcello. Nancy writes,

“The three islands made me understand three completely different things about Venice. The “Island of Glass” or Murano made me understand the delicate nature of our world and how most of us want to protect that delicacy. Although we want to protect it, most of us end up neglecting it, and sometimes breaking it entirely….The “Island of Lace” or Burano exposed me the beauty of “ancient” wisdom and human kindness; its Pastel Wonderland embraced the tourists with all its might…The third island was the Deserted Island or Torcello taught me that silence is okay, even if you’re traveling as a group. With only 10 inhabitants on the island, I was able to self-reflect and be one with nature. I heard the birds and saw the young tadpoles in the water. I heard the animals and saw the insect fly away. I appreciated the silence and sounds of nature whispering in my ear.”

Burano and Murano by Maggie

To finish their time in Venice, Nancy described their last dinner experience in the city.

“Dinner always included a scavenger hunt or being on the lookout for the restaurant. This particular restaurant greeted us with open arms, and fed us until our bellies were full. The owner came out to greet and speak to the group about the three course meal. He had taken into consider everyone’s dietary needs, as our group included vegetarians, a vegan, and meat eaters. It was the best hospitality any of us had ever experienced in Italy, 100% recommend: Osteria Ai Do Pozzi.

Since we are on the subject of food, Maggie shared on twitter a delicious dish that her fellow scholar Ummara ordered! All we can say is we sure are jealous of all the meals they had in Venice!

Venice by Maggie


Upon their arrival in Florence our scholars, off course, decided to get some gelato. Once again, we are all envious of the delicious food they consumed while adventuring around Italy. Jeraly writes,

“We left our luggage in the hotel because our rooms were not ready for us to stay in, so we went out to eat gelato. It is going to be odd going back to America and facing the fact that I will be unable to receive the same tasty, real gelato that I have been consuming almost every day in Italy. When we finished our gelato and Devin and Charlie finished their animal guts, we made our way to the Galleria degli Uffizi and saw many beautiful sights on the way. Something that really captivated my eyes was the amazing and aweing sites of the bridges. The aesthetically pleasing sights of Florence were mesmerizing and hard to believe a city could be so beautiful. Not only was the glittering water pleasing to look at, but even glancing up at the amazing architecture of the city was something I’ll never forget.”

After indulging it was time to explore. Our scholars visited the Galleria Uffizi.

“The Galleria was overwhelming in the aspect of it containing so many amazing, descriptive, and rooted paintings and sculptors. Often, I enjoy people-watching because you notice many things about people. Something I learned from watching people in the Galleria was that not many people bother to actually take the time and analyze a painting. Many just took pictures and of them and that sufficed. We had a time limitation of an hour and thirty minutes. Although that sounds like a perfect amount for just staring at paintings, I found that it wasn’t enough. This was because I could stare at the same painting, ceiling, sculptor, and any other art piece in the Galleria for thirty minutes, and I would still be unable to create my complete perspective on the painting. Also, I found that every time I would stare at it from a different angle, it would change my whole idea of the meaning because every detail had a part in the story the art was conveying.”

Jeraly ends her post reflecting on the time spent in the Florence.

“Soon enough, it was over but we all engaged in more conversations with each other on our way to the hotel, still admiring the glistening water. To me this day felt short, but that moment where there was music playing, no one complaining, a beautiful sunset, people taking pictures, and watching others unite as well, I felt like that was one of the best moments we’ve had so far. I wish to come back one day and have the opportunity to witness more sunsets and the union of people.”


Following Florence, our scholar Ummara Khan wrote about their time in the beautiful city of Siena. Ummara starts her post by describing one of the most famous events in Siena; the Palio di Provenzano

“Unity through division. This paradox captures the attitudes of the Sienese people during the Palio di Provenzano, a horse race which is held twice a year (once in July, and once in August). Walking up and down the hilly streets of Siena two days before the Palio, we saw buildings lined with flags representing the out of the seventeen contrade, or districts, competing in the Palio this year. The tradition of hosting a horse race in the Piazza del Campo dates back almost four hundred years. After centuries of attacking each other, the districts of Siena decided to replace the feuds, in which the people of Siena were trying to kill their neighbors, with an event that allowed pride for the different districts in far less violent manner.”

Siena by Ummara

Ummara signs off by writing about heritage and traditions; something that is important to many individuals around the world but more importantly, something that connected with her during her time in Italy.

“More than anything, Siena has planted a seed of desire in me to learn more about my own heritage. We all have roots that nourish us and help shape the people we become. May we partake in traditions of our own cultures that evoke the kind of pride that the people of Siena feel during this time of year. May we be fortunate enough to witness traditions from other cultures that showcase the beauty that arises from our differences.”

Siena by Ummara
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