ExperiencePlus! Blog

She’s Back – The 2014 SATT Winner

Florence photo by ExperiecnePlus! traveler Jacquie Malanga

Jacqueline Malanga was the winner of the 2014 Send a Teacher Traveling Award and she’s recently Photo courtsey of Jacquie Malanga - at the top of the Apenninesreturned from the ExperiencePlus! Bike Across Italy: Venice to Pisa ride so we thought we’d check in and see how her trip went, and how she’s incorporating her experiences in Italy in her classes.

Welcome home Jacquie! You recently returned from the ExperiencePlus! Bike Across Italy: Venice to Pisa ride and before you left you imagined that the highlights for you would be riding along the Po River; your arrival into Ferrara and the Villa Bardoe; Leonardo Da Vinci’s birthplace; the Tuscan countryside. Now that you’ve done the ride what are your highlights and why?

Now that I’ve done the ride, the highlights were most definitely Ferrara and the Tuscan country side. However, climbing Passo Della Colla ranks near the top, as does Ravenna, with the most beautiful examples of Byzantine mosaics one could ever hope to see.  

You planned on sharing your experiences with a photographic series – is it still in the works?

I am still in the process of working on organizing my photographic series, as there are nearly 1,300 photos to sift through, edit and organize based on a common theme. There are many threads to explore as I began concentrating on taking photos of people, as well as documenting the food we had the opportunity to delight in.  

Can you share a little about how you envision the final result? Is the process going to be the same as you originally imagined?

As I look through all the photos, there are a few ideas that I want to explore–the way people interacted with one another and how their expressions truly revealed the passion, delight, and happiness for all things history, Italy, and cycling. The process was not the same as I had originally imagined as things began happening organically and I allowed the photos to take shape as the tour carried on.

You haven’t had a tremendous amount of time since you’ve been back and school has just started but I wonder if you have you been able to share your experiences with your students.

It’s true that I haven’t had much time since I’ve been back at school, though I have already begun to share my experiences with my students, namely with my senior art history class. In a review, we discussed the discovery of linear perspective by Filippo Brunelleschi in Florence. Also, at the da Vinci museum, I was able to walk inside da Vinci’s Camera Obscura and used that experience to teach my photo students about the history of early photography.

How do you see this experience influencing your teaching in the future?

I believe the experience will influence my teaching in the future by allowing me to use travel as a means to feed my students art and art history. To see it and experience it directly and share it with them is far more visceral than just learning from a text book or a Google image search.

How did you like traveling by bike?

I loved traveling by bike and I now know that it’s the only way to travel! I was able to see so much more than I normally would have and the sense of accomplishment far exceeds that of normal touring.  You spend everyday within the landscape and this is something you can never do from the seat of a car.

How did you train for the cycling?

To train, I used the same ten week training schedule that I normally use for preparing for a century ride; slowing increasing my long distance rides by 10% each week, starting with one-hundred miles the first week and finishing with nearly two hundred by the tenth week.

Any culinary highlights to share?

Eating gelato nearly everyday was fantastic, though the bruschetta at our final meal nearly brought tears to my eyes…along with the steak of course! Though, when I think about the best culinary highlight, I think of the stuffed zucchini flowers at the Aguriturismo Cortecarezzabella; truly farm to table and magnificent.

Has riding a bike across Italy changed you?

There have been so many changes because of this trip. I found a love for climbing hills, which I thought would never happen. I fell deeper in love with cycling and feel stronger now than ever. And, I want nothing more to do this kind of trip again, as seeing the world from the seat of a bicycle gave me the opportunity to take in the culture of Italy on such a deeper level. Lastly, I was given the gift of slowing down.  In New York things happen fast and there’s little time for much of anything.  Everything happens at a super fast pace and taking my time riding through Italy, taking my time eating a meal in the middle of the day, sitting and having a coffee instead of taking it with you, really taught me to take things a little slower, to spend more time engaged with my environment and more time engaged with people. It’s given me the opportunity to find a quality life/work balance.

Any surprises along the way?

Yes, there was one big surprise. I never expected to fall in love with the most wonderful man. According to our tour leaders, that rarely, if ever, happens. I feel very lucky to not only have had the best cycling experience one could hope for, but the best life experience as well.

Wow! Tell us more.

I fell in love. He is coming to visit from Australia in December for the holidays. Definitely my soul mate/love of my life. I am going to visit him in April, then something permanent is on the horizon.

Check out 15 of Jacquie’s 1000+ photos from her ride, including one of ExperiencePlus! founders Rick and Paola Malpezzi Price, on our smugmug gallery.

We remind K through 12 teachers that S.A.T.T. applications are due the last day of February.