I will forever remember Florence as the place that led me to discover my love for Chianti and Carbonara. It’s a romantic city and Nic and I fell for it. I’ll file this under love story material and go into detail in that e-book I keep meaning to get started on. Until that celebratory day, here are some photos of the beautiful city and followed by a more detailed account of our time in Rome and the Amalfi Coast.
After weeks of travel, our tolerance for public transportation and people in general was running low. Knowing we were going to spend the weekend with college students traveling abroad, I booked a private room at a small bed & breakfast. Some of the reviews said that “it felt like staying at someone elses grandma’s house,” which intrigued Nic and I. We are so glad we stayed at A Casa Totti, where Nonna (Italian word for grandma) and her kittens run the show. She provided us with more breakfast pastries, coffee and orange juice than we could possibly consume and a quiet space to rest and recharge. We spent several days in Rome, enough time to get a bit sick of paninis, pasta and pizza. We had some amazingly good homemade Italian food, but we also had some overpriced bland meals. We happened to have one of the cheapest and best meals a block away from our bed & breakfast on our last day. Lesson learned: don’t feel obligated to go across town for dinner. More than likely, the restaurants closest to tourist spots are over-priced and not family owned.
Besides eating and drinking, we had a lot of sights to see in Rome. We started with a walk in the park that led to a “casual” stroll by the Colosseum. Like I said in my instagram post here; I have a hard time grasping that this still stands. Add in the Roman & Imperial Forum and,”Oh my god” was all I could manage. A few days later we took a tour with Walks of Italy through said landmarks and again I realized how little I know. Again I realized how much I enjoy just marvelling and wondering. My reaction wasn’t much different the day we toured the Vatican City, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. Despite the heat in my long sleeve cardigan & full length skirt (I almost didn’t get the memo on the covered shoulders and knees) and slow shuffling of our tour group, I found Michelangelo’s personal story fascinating. My prior knowledge of his life had me thinking he was some sort of anomaly; which he was in regards to his artistic talent, but physically speaking – his accomplishments took an immense toll on his body and quality of life. In one of his pieces he depicts himself as a loose sack of skin, like weathered leather. He was a sculptor, painter, architect and even wrote poetry. When I was ushered into the Sistine Chapel and found a safe spot to stand still and look up….it was hard to imagine that one man had completed it, in three years no less! We then made our way to St. Peter’s Basilica, which is the biggest, most ornate place I’ve ever stepped foot inside. The crowd was much thinner here and we were free to roam and gawk. Several sections were roped off for prayer and it moved me greatly to see the number of people kneeling. I tried to think of something to pray for, but ended up just fighting back tears. There weren’t any ‘No Talking’ signs, yet it was silent. I remember thinking how nice it was to be in a place with so many different types of people and know we were all thinking the same thing. I don’t know, I guess you had to be there.
Thursday evening we set off towards Sorrento with Bus2Alps, a tour company mainly for students looking to take weekend trips while studying abroad that I’ll be reviewing more in depth soon. The coach bus trying to maneuver its way through tiny streets wasn’t my favorite, but I knew it’d be worth it. Although I technically graduated, I figured my post-college wisdom wouldn’t prevent me from living it up one more weekend. I initially (wrongly) assumed that students who studied abroad would love travel/culture/history, but it turns out a lot of them came to party. Nonethless, Nic and I found our like-minded crew and saw Sorrento, Capri, Positano and Pompeii.
I’ll do a quick day by day rundown; to the point where you’ll probably be jealous, but not so much so that you feel like you were there too and don’t have to go see for yourself.
Friday – Board ferry to Capri, then transfer to a private boat for a tour around the island. At 10am, the waves were a bit rough and the clouds overcast, but the water was unmistakably blue. We saw where famous people owned fortresses and where a Beyonce sighting allegedly happened a week prior. I stood to take a picture and was almost tossed into the water. You know, doin’ it for the ‘gram. We docked back at Capri and waited for our transfer to Anacapri, a higher point on the island. Nic and I boarded a van with two open spots left. Everyone craned their neck to see over the monstrous cliff and oohed and awed at the drivers skills, until he hit the guard rail that is. It made a terrible grinding sound that caused Nic and I at look each other as if death was imminent. The driver recovered and took the remaining turns a bit slower, but the emotional (and paint) damage was done. I was very happy to know we’d be hiking back down. Even after that fiasco we conquered heights yet again. There is a single chairlift that goes up to Mt. Solaro, where a panoramic view awaits. The whole thing looked a bit sketchy, but it was in the must do category. Instead of “we went on the chairlift and it was awesome,” I’ll try to replay what went through my mind.
The beach chair on cables swung around and headed straight for the back of my knees. I braced for impact and was pleasently scooped up and ushered away. I moved up, up and away from all of the noise, leaving my initial fears behind. The ride was fifteen minutes and in that time I took the obligatory scenic pics, as well as the appropriate number of selfies. Then I crossed my arms and breathed deeply. Behind me was miles of blue skies and sea. I felt content – in every facet of my life. I told myself to “remember this moment,” although I always eventually forget. I found myself looking, really looking, at the people who passed me by on their way back to reality. I smiled, probably manically, at each of them.
I reached the top and took more pictures, until my phone ran out of storage. The ride down was scarier – I was more aware that falling meant rolling down a mountainside. When we disembarked a woman in line asked if it was worth the wait. Nic and I answered “YES” in unison.
Saturday – We bused to Positano, the home of black sand beaches and colorful houses on a hillside. We parked ourselves and basked in the sun like turtles, breaking for snacks and swigs of our liters of Peroni. We looked on as college students popped bottles and all but released a public service announement for the upcoming shit show. I turned my nose up like I’m too good for straight vodka (uhm tequila please!?). At the height of the freshman downfall, Nic and I stole away to attempt stand up paddleboarding. I am proud to say that depsite the waves and wake of incoming boats, I remained shakily upright. When we really got the hang of it we paddled to a little private cove and coasted into park. Nic found a rock to jump off of, and I promptly fell on it. Luckily I was able to laugh it off and we upped the cute factor by digging for sea glass. I’ll insert a photo of our prize below. We both agreed that the hour we spent paddleboarding made the month worth it alone.
Sunday – On our way back to Rome we stopped at Pompeii. Although we were counting down the hours until our return flight home, we rallied for one more historical site. Nic has always been fascinated by Pompeii, whereas I knew little about it. In short, Pompeii is a 2,000 year old city that was preserved in time when a nearby volcano erupted and covered the city in ash, the gases killing any and all who remained. Over the years, excavations have revealed new information about the city and its people. If you’d like to see human and animal figures frozen in time in a casing of volcanic ash, Pompei is the place for you. It was the perfect final destination on a trip that blew my mind in numerous categories: architecture, history, nature, and culture.
Sidenote: Please feel free to contact me about any travel/destination questions you may have. I’ll be working on a post of all the random tips I cultivated and what I wish I had done differently – hopefully this is helpful for any travlers out there!