June 22, 2012

Ciao! We’re In Italy!

I think at some point everyone dreams of traveling through Italy for an extended period of time. We reserved a large chunk of our precious days to make sure we didn’t short-change it. We are excited to have 3 weeks to relax and soak up the Italian culture.

Our first stop was Naples, a concrete jungle in the south. Immediately upon landing, Naples felt a little too reminiscent of Rio. It was hot, we were on the defensive, and we didn’t know an ounce of the language. We only spent about 5.5 hours walking among the city’s highlights, and while it was fun to see this side of Italian living, I’d say it was enough.

 
Naples is the cradle of the mafia, and at times it felt like we were living in an episode of Jersey Shore. We laughed our way through the zoo of Guidos and future Guidos. 


Naples is where our all-time favorite food, pizza, was invented. Our first stop off the airplane was to a pizzeria. Our second stop was to a gelateria.


For only being separated by an hour (on the most notorious of pickpocket trains), Sorrento feels a world away from Naples.


This town is touristy but charming. It’s fun to stroll, shop and let the night linger by while you dine al fresco.



If you ever wanted to deck out your entire house with lemon paraphernalia, this is your chance. This area of Italy is lemon crazy! They grow all sorts of lemon varieties and use them to make whatever you desire.


Sorrento is also a terrific jumping off point for day trips to the surrounding area.

We first laid eyes on the intimidating Mount Vesuvius while we were in Naples, but it was even more eerie to see it from the Pompeii streets that it so infamously destroyed.


In 79 A.D. Mount Vesuvius erupted, leaving behind this Roman middle-class city caked in ash. Because the city was hidden under the debris for so long, it was saved from pillagers that destroyed other Roman ruins. Pompeii gives the best look anywhere at what life was generally like in Rome 2,000 years ago. It also shows us specifically what it was like on that fateful day.


Steve and I both expected to see more remnants of the ash, but that has really all been cleared away. What stands now is simply-put, a large city of ruins. I wouldn’t say that the architecture itself was impressive, but to have ruins of such a large and intact scale was special.


I have mixed feelings about Pompeii. From a cultural and historical standpoint, it’s an iconic site that feels like it would be a shame to miss. From a logistical standpoint, it was frustrating. On the day that we visited it was hot, crowded, and dusty. They ran out of information booklets the day before, and I would estimate that about half of the sites were temporarily closed to the public. Ugh.

The next day was a serious step up with a boat trip to the island of Capri. This was probably our single best day in Europe so far. It's only a 30-minute boat ride away, and as you approach the island, it looks like something out of Avatar.


There are massive white cliffs strewn with grottos, arches, vegetation, ruins, villas and flowers.




There are two main towns on Capri, and they are accessible by all sorts of quirky forms of transportation like funiculars, chairlifts and boxy orange buses.


To connect Capri Town and Anacapri, the orange buses barrel along a cliff-hugging curvy road missing oncoming traffic by inches. They don't slow down at all, and I saw the odometer on the bus we were riding…it definitely said 569,000 kilometers.


It seems that clouds don’t exist in this part of the world. Instead Capri has what Steve called, “disgustingly blue water”.


We’ve seen turquoise water before, but we’ve never seen deep cobalt blue water to compliment it. It was ridiculously beautiful and we’ve decided that we will be coming back to Capri later in life to spend a week on a sailboat and a scooter.


Our last trip from Sorrento was to the Amalfi Coast to visit several of its towns. The Amalfi Coast is one of the great drives of Europe, and there were definitely some white-knuckle moments as our public bus driver rounded a few corners showing off his confidence.

The entire coast is great…rocky cliffs, glistening turquoise water, and towns that are perched on the hillsides soaking up the sunshine.

Each town had a little something different to offer. Positano was the most beautiful village.


Amalfi had the best piazza with good people-watching. It was a beautiful place at night.


Atrani had lots of curious alleyways and hidden tunnels. Only a 10-minute walk from Amalfi (and with way less tourists), this is where we spent the night.

 

Pontone was a tiny little village set high in the mountains above Amalfi. To get there we did a great hike alongside Amalfi’s run-down paper mills and up into the lemon groves. We were rewarded with views like this.


One the way back to Sorrento, instead of taking the drive, we hopped on a ferry to see the coastline from the water. Every ten minutes we passed another ideally-set town drenched in purple bougainvillea with the tiles on its church dome glistening in the sun.


There is so much to love about Italy and we’re just getting started! The pizza is great. The gelato is great. The pasta and sauces are even better.

The Italian language, though we don’t know any of it at this point, is enchanting. There’s a rhythm to it that is so fun. Italians seem to use the words “Ciao” and “Prego” for just about anything. So whenever we don’t know what to say (which is just about all of the time), we say one of those two catch-phrases and it’s sure to draw a smile from the locals.

Ciao, Prego, Ciao, Ciao, Prego, Ciao, Prego, we’re in Italy!

2 comments:

  1. One phrase I just used a lot in Italy is "No Lo So" meaning I don't know. FYI. Looks beautiful, I now want to go to Capri!

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