On Saturday 5 October a group of 13 students and two teachers from Sophianum landed at Brindisi Airport to start their adventure in Italy. They were welcomed with open arms (as usual) and went to the host families to enjoy the weekend.

On Monday they were welcomed at the school by the head mistress, Mrs Giovanna Caretto and had a ‘survival Italian workshop’ during which the Dutch students were taught some basic Italian by the Italian hosts. This was followed by a walk into the town centre of Lecce, where they were shown the Piazza Duomo and the Piazza Sant Oronzo. At 10:30 the mayor of Lecce, Mr. Carlo Salvemini, welcomed the group in Lecce. After that there was some physical exercise: an orienteering race through the centre of Lecce, organised by two P.E. teachers of the Italian school. In the afternoon there was a draughts competition at school to ‘sharpen the minds’. At 18:00 everyone went back to their host families.

On Tuesday a trip to the lighthouse at Punta Palascia, the easternmost point of Italy, where the mountains of Albania can clearly be seen and to Otranto, a seaside resort with a gruesome history were on the programme. At the lighthouse all students were given a little tour of the museum, which focuses on marine life and the environment. In Otranto there was a tour of the town, castle and Cathedral, during which they were told about the battles that Otranto had to fight with invaders over the centuries and the plight of the ‘martyrs of Otranto’, whose skulls are displayed in a chapel in the Cathedral. Of course there was some free time to do some shopping and have an ice cream before returning to Lecce.

On Wednesday the group was divided into two. One group went to some companies to be shown what it is like to work in ‘modern’ industries like the Euro-Mediterranean Centre on Climate Change and an online newspaper: LecceSette. The other group worked on a computer programme ‘open maps’ to make a ‘walk around Lecce’ with videos and pictures of the highlights you see on the walk. In the afternoon the students did the walk prepared in the morning.

Thursday morning was spent at the University of Salento. The first thing we did, was a mathematics workshop about calculating angles on semi-hemispheres, which sounds very complicated, but the teacher, Mr. Vergallo, made it so clear that even people who do not possess a mathematical brain, could understand it. The second workshop, on Nano Physics was a little less simple. The students were shown around some laboratories and saw a film on how Nano Physics can influence environmental pollution in a positive way. The third workshop was given by a professor who did work on Marine Biology, who showed them life underwater at some of the points visited on Tuesday, which was quite fascinating. The students had the afternoon off, so that they could prepare the presentations for the parents in the evening, during the ‘farewell party’.

Friday was the ‘tourist day’. A visit to Santa Maria de Leuca, where there is a sanctuary and lighthouse on the southernmost point of Salento. It is also the place where the Ionian Sea and Adriatic Sea ‘meet’. In this little seaside town some wonderful architecture could be admired by the students. The next stop was Gallipoli, where the students were free to spend the afternoon. Most of them went swimming in the ‘warm’ (according to the Dutch) sea. At 18:00 everyone was back in Lecce again for their final evening there.

On Saturday we all flew home again, after a really wonderful week in Salento! We hope that this wonderful exchange can go on for many more years.

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