Reflections from Art trip to Vienna, Venice and Florence

Arriving in Vienna was a lot like arriving somewhere familiar, though you can’t quite put your finger on when you have visited it before, much like a recurring dream that never reveals itself once you wake up and yet still leaves a lingering cloud over your subconscious.

Arriving in Vienna, I feel that every single one of us found something that we had all been waiting for; something new. New people with fresh faces. New places. New us, in fact. Whether it was discovering our spirituality in St Stephen’s Cathedral or spending a ridiculous amount of money on tourist hoodies that we couldn’t even wear in the summer weather of Vienna, we were all touched by the fact that we had brought ourselves to this beautiful place, and this beautiful place loved us as much as we loved it.

Visiting the Hundertwasser houses, seeing Gustav Klimt’s famous painting “Kiss” up front and in such glowing detail, exploring the Kunst Haus Wien and searching desperately in the city and paved streets of Vienna for a McDonalds in the early hours of the morning, were all experiences that could never be described with simple words. You must go. Very simply, to discover yourself and the part of you that Vienna has to offer, you must go. For if we hadn’t, we would all still be strangers to each other in the school passages, and the new found light of the city street lamps would not exist in any of our eyes. The art works that we were lucky enough to see personally offered us more clarity and beauty than any picture of them ever could, and we will always be eternally grateful for this beautiful opportunity that presented itself to us like a dream, and stayed much like a dream even when it was made a reality. Emma Sacco

Venice is like a beautiful woman. She will love you and then she will leave you. She takes you down one canal and then throws you out the next.

These words were said to us in an early tour meeting months before our journey began by Stan and Van Zyl, a couple who travel to Venice themselves every two years for the Biennale since 1970. This came true to all of us as soon as we stepped down the train station steps seeing her romantic waters, meeting her charming Italians and seeing her old flower potted windows and distressed walls for the very first time. Venice for many of us was an escape, a car free city meant an opportunity to see her in all her truths; her twisted paths leading us all in one too many moments of realising how truly lost one was (a little less romantic than expected)  her appreciation for the arts and true character not only seen in her beautiful and ostentatious architecture of Saint Mark’s Square, pop up galleries that seem to find you in the most unlikely places, her home to the most thought provoking contemporary art exhibition the Biennale but also in characters one meets , locals and foreigners that one managers to come across  through the gift of travel. The Biennale is an international contemporary exhibition running every two years with a chosen artist from each county exhibiting the most ground breaking and inspirational works that touch and seem to resonate deeply with everyone, not just the artists, through its political and social commentary. For two days our minds where filled with endless emotion and both question and understanding all at once. An answer in the form of a question is what seemed to bleed through each work. Many of us will always remember being on Saint Mark’s Square on our final night, listening to the church bells strike midnight along with a black-tied orchestra behind us, and somehow finding ourselves listening to a barefooted guitarist as we joined both him and strangers singing hallelujah on the water’s edge. Venice and the Art Tour gave us something that we will all struggle to forget. Ensuring we all rubbed the noses of the lions on Saint Mark’s square, we can only looked forward to returning in our own time, reminded of a past memory, a past love, of our own “beautiful bella!’’ named Venice.  Ruby Wilson

Being in Florence was very hot. However, it was only for the first couple of hours that we were particularly bothered by the heat, because the radiance of the incredible architecture was more distracting and mesmerizing than any amount of perspiration could be (and there was indeed a lot of perspiring involved).

Witnessing the famous statue of David was not only the most enlightening and powerful experience; it was one of many works of art that brought so many of us to tears. Florence gave us the most kindhearted clown, the most beautiful souvenirs, the most inspirational views which we took the time to interpret on paper. Florence gave us memories that will run through our veins, waiting to release themselves through our eyes and onto our cheeks once more when we finally get to return to this place of infinite streets and infinite laughter.

Ah yes, and Florence gave us a pool. That was also a very forgiving part of our journey with Italia.

This Art Tour of 2017 was truly the biggest and most inconceivable blessing that any of us could’ve ever asked for. We are eternally grateful to our two tour mothers, Theresa Wilson and Jackie Chambers, as well as our very own Papa Marco, Mark Wilson. They were the best leaders and were an integral part of this voyage of discovery; it would never have been possible without them. Thank you for this mind blowing trip of a lifetime. And thank you Europe, for welcoming us with open arms and outstretched art. We will be counting the days until we get to see you again. Emma Sacco

Going on Art Tour was just an amazing experience overall and it will be something that I will treasure forever.

The Biennale in Venice was definitely one of my favourite things, it was amazing to see such a variety of paintings, installations, sculptures and videos from all over the world. It was so remarkable to find random artworks in and amongst the old Italian buildings. Michaela Feldon

Eating raspberries inside the exquisite gardens of Schönbrunn Palace will always remind me of the peacefulness and beauty of Vienna.

Our attempts at waltzing in the centre of St Mark’s Square immediately spring to mind when I think of Venice.

Our 40 minute art lesson along the pathways on the outskirts of medieval town, San Gimignano, was greatly appreciated as I was able to sketch a piece of my own art of which I was truly proud because of how I felt when I drew it. Olivia Key

And somehow the places we visited and the memories we made became a part of me. Alexa Byrne

I’m strolling along the water’s edge with a faint guitar playing in the distance. I hear gondolas floating in the ripples and murmurs of people walking over the bridge.

I make my way towards the buskers and sway in the warm evening, singing hallelujah and throwing coppers in a hat. The welcoming smiles and happy voices unite the streets of Venice on a perfect summer’s evening.  Beth Woodroffe

Exquisite buildings everywhere. The heat of the sun. Bridges and canals. Throngs of people. Laughter. These are all the things that come to mind when I think of my time in Europe.

Vienna, or Wien, was short yet sweet. It was quite the adjustment: driving on the other side of the road, the sun setting at 9 whilst in Cape Town the moon had long since risen, and the sights. Everywhere I walked I saw something new and fascinating. Vienna is a city of reflections. When you’d gaze at a modern, glass sky scraper, you could see the image of an opposite, grand and historic building. It was a blend of old and new: art and architecture. The sheer amount of culture, art, and history in one place was mind-blowing.

Venice, to me, is a city of fairy tales and it certainly fits the part. The sinking city has a timeless quality to it, regardless of all that the modern world has brought. What I loved doing was getting lost and finding my way back because of all the small, hidden alleys and moments discovered. The Biennale was fantastic but after a while it can hurt one’s brain! Florence is wonderful and different to Venice in that there are roads. Once again. the art was breath-taking: literally. I gasped when I saw Primavera in person. Bartering in the leather market was enjoyable and it was interesting meeting up and seeing all of the bargains we got. I definitely miss all the varying flavours of gelato Italy has to offer. My experience is hard to describe in words but I am infinitely grateful for this opportunity and will treasure the memories for the rest of my life. Jordan Selous