Final Day & Farewell Dinner

Another hot 35C Italian summer day, and our last full day of the tour.

Train into Verona – some passengers clearly overcome by the heat!
Market Square clock tower
Original city wall

The tour group was split based on personal choice with one group deciding to head into Verona by train for a last look around. Another decided the pool was a better option given the heat and some also walked to the local supermarket for final supplies.

Refreshing hotel pool retreat

Most spent some time by the pool regardless of their activities for a dip and a refreshing cool down.

At 6:45pm we took a 10 minute stroll around to a local San Bonifacio restaurant to enjoy our final night together.  Apart from a minor mishap for Eliza and Chloe, being bathed in apple cider when the wait staff accidentally spilt a carafe on them (!!), the evening was lovely.

A new choral group from Lebanon arrived around 8:30pm, unfortunately not long before we had finished dinner. A brief interaction and a quick song, Sesere, for them and we were off.

On arrival back at the hotel, we shared a special time of reflection, thank yous, tears and laughter sitting around the pool for what was a perfect conclusion on a superb balmy night to our tour.

The overarching theme from everyone was how incredibly privileged we all feel for being a part of the tour group. The music, leadership, experiences and friendships made will be etched in our memories and hearts for a lifetime.

Stunning Lake Garda

An absolutely magnifico blue sky, hot Italian summer day was a perfect way to venture to Sirmione on Lake Garda. Another picture perfect location!

On arrival we boarded two speed boats for a tour around the beautiful lake.

The scenery was breathtaking, with brilliant blue water, 2000 year old Roman ruins on the hill and magnificent real estate on the hill sides.

The girls enjoyed a burst of speed as they re-approached the castle and finishing point of the tour.

We then wandered the narrow lane-ways to the Lido Public where the girls experienced the pebbled beaches of Europe. That certainly did not detract them from leaping into the crystal blue water of the lake. In true Aussie style, albeit not a footy, a ball was the entertainment of the swim whilst balancing on the rocks below us.

A stunning way to refresh topped only by the giant sized gelato to followed the swim!

Affectionately dubbed “Tour de gelato” it took no time to source more of the most amazing flavours of gelato we have tasted!

The group then wandered back to the bus to head to the Festival farewell lunch, via a slight detour to collect yours truly, who was left behind at a bathroom stop! (When I realised the bus had gone I was contemplating which of the magnificent hillside villas overlooking the lake to stay in…not so sure home would appreciate the extended stay, however!!)

Lunch was back at the same venue as the welcome dinner. A delicious menu of lasagne, meat & veggies and chocolate ice cream dessert was served.

The choirs all mixed to exchange souvenirs and our girls taught all choirs a fun song, there was a formal presentation of Festival plaques and many thank yous were made.

​Back to the hotel for a quick change into formal wear for the final singing of the tour – a Mass with the Chinese choir.

A fabulous sound to finish an incredible experience. Much emotion was expressed at the end with the realisation the tour is fast coming to an end.

Another amazing day comes to an end. The girls are tired but enjoying their last days in Verona.

Farewell Kev!

Our gorgeous little red-headed Russian friend, Margarite, was very taken with our Big Kev mascot from the time she met him.

She was also taken with our youngest red-head Makayla! So it was only appropriate that Kev has been adopted to go and live in Siberia in a new home!

Farewell our Aussie friend xxx

A birthday tour trifecta!

We completed the birthday trifecta with another special YAV birthday celebrated in style with Amelia celebrating her 19th birthday on Saturday 16 July in Verona.

The traditional harmonious happy birthday song and decorations greeted Amelia as she boarded the bus with some extras as the Russian choir also joined in the chorus!

Our day was spent in Vicenza, a lovely village 60km from our hotel and a quaint place of history and shopping for Amelia to celebrate her special day. A card from the group and a bonus cake and candle at dinner time with another burst of song and the regular ‘happy birthday Amelia’ every time she came near!

We hope you felt special celebrating your 19th birthday with us all in Verona, Amelia.

Happy 19th birthday!

19 claps for each birthday!

Magnifico Verona!

There was much happy chatter about the Carmen opera experience from the night before over a late breakfast.

Girls & Kev poolside

Poolside was the popular choice, soaking up the beautiful Mediterranean sun on our first full day of rest and relaxation in Verona. Kev had a good swim with the girls and handstand competitions were run and won!

And the winner is….Jen!!

The first commitment of the day for the girls was an hour and a half rehearsal at 3:30pm. After which we headed to the Festival opening dinner with the other choirs from Switzerland, China and Russia. Each choir presented one song following dinner before we headed off to our first concert in Montichiari, a 45 minute drive from the hotel.

A stunning 11th century church and art space set in a typical rustic Italian garden was the concert venue. The church was the chapel for a nearby castle. The acoustic was absolutely beautiful and one of our favourite venues on tour so far. So intimate, with a really special atmosphere.​

​The girls were first to perform and received an exceptionally warm Italian welcome. At the conclusion of their 30 minute set, the girls received a standing ovation from the capacity audience. A very emotional moment for many. A proud moment for us all.

The evening included the Swiss and Chinese choirs and finished with a combined set of two festival songs. A terrific way of bringing everyone together.

Church steeple lit by the setting sun
View from the back of the church over the village

Road to the entrance of the venue
BYO piano!

Exploring Verona

A later start after a late concert and the group enjoyed the full buffet breakfast overlooking the magnificent pool setting.

At 10:30am it was time to venture into the centre of Verona, a 15-20 minute drive from our hotel. Time to visit Casa di Giulietta – the famous Romeo & Juliette balcony from Shakespeare, stroll the ancient cobbled streets and see the sights and sounds of Verona.

The famous balcony
Balcony above the busy courtyard entrance to Juiliette’s house

Lunch for some was as they wandered around and for others it was a lovely sit down in a local cafe enjoying the Italian offerings (and celebrating a birthday!). More sightseeing was fitted into the three or so hours, including seeing Verona’s oldest bridge, the Basilica of S. Anastasia, the local market place, shops in and amongst the cobbled streets and a meeting place back at the famous Arena. And of course gelato!

Oldest bridge in Verona
Basilica of S.Anastasia
Anny outside her namesake

Typical cafe in Verona
Quaint shopping streets of Verona
Feeling the love

Teenager on tour!

In true warm YAV style Jess was ‘officially’ welcomed to the choir as a teenager celebrating her 13th birthday on Friday 15 July in Verona. A lovely card and the traditional harmonious ‘happy birthday’ on the bus had Jess beaming. The bus had the mandatory streamers and balloons for the trip into Verona, with the Austrian addition of ‘Fredriche’ – a happy birthday springing wooden girl – which was embarrassingly attached above her seat by Mum!

Some FaceTime calls from home, a special gift from Morano and the bonus of having Mum on tour, made for a fabulous day. Jess’ purple ‘fam’ added to her celebrations sharing a lovely lunch in Verona. The festival choirs sang a beautiful harmonious version of happy birthday complete with a tiramisu and candle.

​A 13th birthday etched in Jess’ memory forever with a very special group of girls (and Jamie, of course!).

Happy 13th birthday Jess!

Arena Di Verona: CARMEN

A balmy summer night (until 11ish when the wind picked up and YAV hoodies were very much appreciated!) greeted us in Verona and an opera at the famous Arena.

A group of very excited girls (& Jamie) attended the famous opera CARMEN.

We were all pinching ourselves as we watched the story of Carmen unfold with roses, treachery, love and so much more. Another experience of a lifetime for the group.


Venezia Bellissimo 

Small wifi glitch. Have to stand on my left foot with my other pinky in the air this time! I know you’re all waiting with bated breath for more photos and news…

Hot and humid was forecast and certainly delivered! As did the unique beauty, charming canals people and places of Venezia. The looks of wonder for those experiencing Venice for the first time and appreciation for those returning was evident.

We were very fortunate Eva (our guide from the first half of the tour) met us at Tronchetti, the bus station, and stayed with us until our private vaparetto arrived. Our luggage was loaded and we were taken across the canal to Guidecca, the island opposite Piazza San Marco, to our hostel accommodation.

Our accommodation – an old warehouse on the waterfront of Guidecca

Relief of monumental proportions was clear as the group walked into the front door and felt the coolness of air conditioning! We had an hour or so to get organised, unpack necessities, make up beds, etc before heading out to dinner. A stroll almost next door to a pizza/pasta cafe and another a short walk away was found for dinner by the groups.

The view was Bellissimo! A sunset view across the canal to Piazza San Marco watching the water craft and people moving by – just fabulous.

An evening stroll after dinner along the canal, over bridges brought us to THE best gelato we have had yet. The poor young man was run off his feet as he served each of us. The fruit flavours were like biting into a mango, apricot, peach, pineapple, lemon, etc and the chocolate was equally delicious. Fabulous way to finish the start of our visit to Venice.

Venitian Colours & Culture

Our final day in Venezia. Eva drove back from her home town in Croatia to spend the day with us as we toured the local islands of Murano and Burano. We watched a fantastic exhibition of Murano glass being made from the molten product out of the furnace through to the final product. The maestro made a swan, vase and horse while we watched. During the  display we were told their factory are suppliers to David Jones at home. We are sure some of you will reap the benefits of the visit, with many purchases of Murano glass being made prior to leaving!

Molten glass straight out of the furnace

Molten glass manipulated into the shape of a horse
The Ferrari horse complete!

We then traveled by vaperetto to our next destination – Burano. A small fishing village which has quite literally painted the town multi colours. The buildings are coloured to assist the fishermen to identify their homes when there is a thick fog. For visitors to the village it was a picture perfect setting amongst the water canals and bridges with blue skies and sunshine to perfect the view. We wandered the main village street, enjoyed lunch and meandered in and out of the shops. The island is also known for its lace so some found items to take home here too.

Stunning colours of Burano
Postcard scenes of Burano

Purple house for the Purple Pengus!

It was then time to head back to the hostel to collect our bags. We experienced the true Italian spirit on the vaperetto ride back with one of the crew wanting a song. The girls indulged him in Sesere.

The skipper then attempted a response of a famous Italian song but unfortunately (some may say fortunately!) the PA system stopped working!

Heading back to our hostel to pickup luggage
Final delivery to Tronchetto to meet our bus for Verona 

Safe arrival and feet back on solid ground, we farewelled Eva for the last time as she assisted us to meet our Italian bus driver and head for Verona. Two days of history, charm, food, gelato and an insight into the marvel that is Venice came to an end. Perfecto!