Daily Report: May 25, 2002

It was back on the road for the Notre Dame women’s basketball team, which spent another three hours traveling the highways and byways of northern Italy as it trekked from Bologna to Venice. Along the way, the Irish made a lunchtime stop in Verona, known famously as the place where Romeo and Juliet fell in love. The team visited Juliet’s balcony and had their picture taken with a statue of the famous lover. In fact, legend has it that one will have good luck by touching the bare right breast of the statue, a tradition which is evident by Juliet’s tarnished bronze bust.

The players and staff also passed the Verona Arena, which was being prepared for an Elton John concert later that evening. After hearing tickets were only $40 Euro dollars (about $36 American), many were interested in making the 90-minute return trip to Verona from Venice later in the day. However, there were other items on the agenda and the concert had to go by the wayside.

By midafternoon, the Notre Dame crew was in Venice, the city known worldwide for its miles of canals and gondolas, with their singing gondoliers. After checking into their hotel in suburban Mestre, the Irish boarded a water taxi for a 20-minute boat ride to the main pier in Venice. Once there, the team split up to do some heavy-duty shopping and sightseeing while wandering Venice’s narrow alleys which hugs the inland waterways.

Besides the tremendous shopping available in Venice (including a plethora of world-renowned Venetian masks), there are many sights to see in the city. Among them is the main “piazza”, or town square, which is lined on three sides by massive ornately-decorated buildings and shops. The piazza is headed by the main cathedral in Venice, which is in the process of some renovation but still open for services … and where the team will celebrate Mass on Sunday.

Another less well-known Venetian landmark is the pigeons. Thousands of the birds descend on the main square and surrounding areas, and vendors in the piazza will sell bags of bread crumbs to passersby to feed the winged visitors. The Irish got in on the act as well, with Jill Krause doing her best to tame the creatures in her debut as “The Bird Whisperer”.

Following Sunday’s Mass, the team will do some more shopping and visit a glass-blowing shop in Venice. They also will split up into groups of six for rides in the famous Venetian gondolas, which have rarely seen a group of young ladies as tall as the Irish. The team then will return to its hotel to prepare for the third game on its four-game tour on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. local time (11:30 a.m. in South Bend) against Reyer Venezia in Mestre. Reyer is made up of players from three teams in the Venice area — First Division clubs Schio and Venezia, as well as Second Division squad Vincenza.