Aug. 7, 2012
On Tuesday, the Volunteers visited The Vatican City.
The number of countries visited by the Volunteers during their current European exhibition tour grew to two Tuesday, as the Tennessee basketball team visited Vatican City.
Headquarters for the Catholic church, Vatican City is an independent city-state located in the heart of the Italian capital of Rome.
While the Big Orange didn't catch a glimpse of Pope Benedict XVI, they did find themselves immersed in centuries' worth of Papal history during the nearly four-hour tour.
Second-year head coach Cuonzo Martin and the UT contingent encountered celebrated works of art by world-famous artists such as Michelangelo, Botticelli and Raphael.
Some of the most popular aspects of the Vatican tour included the Sistine Chapel ceiling -- adorned with nine frescoes by Michelangelo depicting nine scenes from the biblical Book of Genesis, and the enormous-yet-ornate St. Peter's Basilica, built atop St. Peter's tomb.
Sophomore center Yemi Makanjuola could be seen snapping what must have been hundreds of photos as he slowly took in the sights. When asked about his obvious appreciation for the experience, he explained that when he was growing up in Lagos, Nigeria, he had seen pictures from the Vatican, but he didn't believe a place like that was actually real. Thus, he wanted to take his own photos so that he could share them with his mother, back home in Nigeria.
Throughout the tour, several players gravitated toward Dr. Robert Bast, the UT professor who has been instructing the team's Foreign Study class. Bast spent time explaining the significance of several aspects of the tour, while the players around him curiously peppered him with questions.
"It was great to see their enthusiasm (Tuesday)," Bast said following the tour. "I made it a point to find coach Martin and let him know that."
Aside from breakfast, The Vatican tour was the only organized group activity Tuesday. The players, team staff and supporters had another night to explore Rome on their own.
Some likely destinations for various players Tuesday afternoon and evening include the Hard Rock Cafe, the famous Trevi Fountain and the Church of Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Adjoining that church is the Capuchin Crypt, which is decorated with the skulls and skeletal remains of Capuchin monks.
Another spot likely to see some Vol traffic is a shopping district near the base of the Spanish Steps. The area includes high-end shops such as Gucci, Fendi, Prada, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Salvatore Ferragamo, Yves Saint Laurent and Cartier, among others.