Monday, July 6, 2009

When in Rome...

We left Italy last night and we will arrive in Croatia tomorrow morning for a 4 day adventure. We were in Italy for 5 days, 4 of which I was traveling around southern Italy. I did a long excursion that included Rome, Caserta, Pompeii, Sorrento, Capri and Naples.

ROME- Day 1 and 2

We arrived in Rome the morning of July 1 by motor coach from our ship that was docked in Civitavecchia, about an hour drive. We stayed in Rome for 2 days and we walked all over the city. Rome was a lot dirtier than I expected, but it amazed me how the people just live around all these historic monuments. When we arrived in Rome it was so crowded and there was graffiti everywhere, and then we turned a corner and the Colosseum was looming over us for hundreds of feet. It is amazing that something as grand as the Colosseum was built such a long time ago. In Rome we saw the Tigre River, Colosseum, Arch of Constantine, Roman Forum, Arch of Tigre, St. Paul’s Basilica, Sistine Chapel, The Vatican, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona and I am sure there was more.

First we walked all around and inside of the Colosseum and then we walked to the Roman Forum where there are a lot of churches. The Arch of Constantine is also right across from the Colosseum.  After we wandered around Rome with a tour guide for quite a few hours we had free time and lunch. Our hotel was on a busy street near the train station so there were a lot of shops and restaurants nearby. I met a few girls: Aubrey, Victoria, Sarah, Gloria, Violet and Amanda, and we all went to lunch at a small family restaurant basically in the basement of a shop we found on the street. We all split a few pizzas – our first Italian pizzas. We also got our first real gelato and did a little shopping before dinner. Our trip included dinner in a little Italian restaurant, again in the basement, and we had Manicotti and a potato dish. In Italy they usually have many courses with dinner, which we were not aware of, and therefore many of us could not eat the second course. The first course that they give you is plenty for lunch and dinner, let alone allowing for a second course after that. We also had tiramisu for dessert- we had that a lot in Italy. After dinner we took a walking tour of Rome at night and we saw the Trevi Fountain which was beautiful, the Pantheon, and Piazza Navona. At the Trevi Fountain there is a tradition of throwing pennies into the fountain for different things. The first penny we threw was for a safe return to Rome at some point, the second penny was for love and adventure in the future. Supposedly if you throw a third penny you will get divorced and the fourth penny will kill your mother in law- we only threw two pennies each. On the way back to the hotel we asked our tour guide what we should wear to the Vatican and she said we had to wear something to cover our shoulders and knees- “you are all too sexy, you can’t wear shorts or else you will excite the Pope and cause problems in the Vatican.”

We visited the Vatican City on our second day in Rome. As most know, Vatican City is its own country, but you do not need a passport to enter the country. We took a tour through the Museum and then through the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. The Sistine Chapel was recently refurbished to show the original color of the paintings. You cannot take pictures of the Sistine Chapel but the colors that were used in the paintings were amazing. It was a lot smaller than I expected but at the same time I had never seen a picture of it. St. Peter’s Basilica was huge and immensely decorated.

After our visit to the Vatican the girls and I spent the day walking all around Rome. We walked from the Vatican back to our hotel near the Colosseum (we think about 5 miles) and shopped along the way. During our adventures we wound up in front of the Parliament building. There was a protest going on, we tried to ask the policemen what was going on but they didn’t understand English. The next day in the paper there was an article about it- if only we spoke Italian. That night there was a huge thunderstorm, the power at the hotel flickered quite a few times. We made it inside right before the storm and then waited to go out to dinner until after. I took a video of the storm, it reminded me of a hurricane because the winds were very strong and there was hail and torrential rain.

For dinner we went to a restaurant that looked like a castle. One of the girls had been there the day before so the waiters knew her, which was fun. I got really good homemade lasagna and we shared a bottle of White Sparkling Wine. After dinner we walked to the Colosseum and took pictures at night. We had a lot of fun and couldn’t stop laughing all night- we even started to write down funny things that happened, most of which will be shared at a later time J


Caserta is where the summer royal palace of Italy is located. It is built by the Bourbons of Napoli and was modeled after Versailles in France. It was 1,200 rooms, 1,790 windows and 34 staircases. We only saw a handful of the rooms, thank goodness, but the rooms were spectacular. We saw rooms decorated for each season and there were different rooms for visitors to wait in, depending on the level of importance they held with the royal family.

NAPOLI- Day 3 and 5

After Caserta we drove through Napoli (as our tour guide stated- we are in Napoli, Naples is in Florida). We only had a panoramic tour of the city on this day because we ended up in Naples later on in the trip. Naples is a lot dirtier than anyone expected and is mainly used as a port city. It is not a very safe city either, I only went out for dinner in Naples during our last night in Italy.


We spent most of day 3 exploring the ruins of Pompeii at the foot of Mount Vesuvius. When we first arrived we had lunch at a local restaurant. After that we took a tour of the excavation and saw the ruins of what was left behind during the volcanic explosion of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE. I was told that the ruins were first discovered when a farmer was trying to dig a well on his property. Pompeii was buried many meters below the earth from volcanic ash. Mount Vesuvius erupted twice, the first eruption did not affect Pompeii so the villages decided to stay put. The second eruption devastated the entire town. Some people tried to escape but many were left ill fated. Throughout the ruins there is evidence of life. When they were excavating the area they started to find bodies. Instead of unburying the bones, they started to fill the holes where people were lying with concrete and essentially created a statue of the people. Some of my pictures can show this better than I can explain it, but they had two bodies in cases that we could view. You could see the body was arched up as if gasping for air- proof that they died of suffocation. Pompeii had 200 restaurants and 400 shops throughout the city, some of which were “fast food” places. There was also a brothel that we walked through. It was a large hallway with rooms and rock beds. On top of each doorway was a picture of a sexual position, the men simply picked which position they wanted and went into that room. Women were simply seen as sexual slaves at the time.


After Pompeii we headed to our hotel in Sorrento. Sorrento is along the Almafi Coast and is absolutely gorgeous. Only pictures can explain the beauty but even they do not pay enough tribute to the beauty of this area. Sorrento is built upon cliffs overlooking the bluest water and all the houses are white and stacked upon the cliffs. The drive into town was very hard to make in the bus because the roads are so curvy and steep. The hotel that we stayed in was on the Sea side. There were only two hotel rooms for our group that had balconies and I got one of them. My roommate for the trip- Victoria- and I had a corner room on the 4th floor with 2 balconies, one on either side, and white tile floors. Our room looked over the pool and the sea. We slept with one of the glass doors open because it was so hot and in the morning it was like a scene out of a movie. Our sheets were white and the white shades were being blown by the wind, the sun had just come up when we woke up and we could see the water from our beds. It was absolutely gorgeous.

We had dinner at the hotel and afterwards we all walked into town and got gelato at a famous gelaterria where a lot of celebrities go. Sorrento is said to have the best gelato, and this place is supposed to have the best gelato in Sorrento- therefore we had the best gelato in the world I guess? We did some window shopping and listened to a band at a restaurant and then headed back to the hotel. That night while Victoria and I were sleeping we were woken up by fireworks on the coast. They started right before midnight on July 3rd, although we have no idea why there were fireworks, we decided to make them 4th of July fireworks J


In the morning we walked to the ferry that would take us to the island of Capri. Capri is a very expensive and elite island. Many celebrities have villas on the island, including Keanu Reeves. Capri is also a mountainous island with many cliffs and white villas. We walked around downtown and went to the beach. We put our feet in the sea (I have now been to a beach in Spain and Italy). The beach was a rocky beach and was hard to walk on but people were still laying on the ground. Me, Victoria, Gloria and Violet got pizza after we walked on the beach, it was the best pizza I had in Italy. We then walked around town some more and took the tram up the side of the mountain. At the top there was more expensive shopping and you could tell that difference in the shops below and above. We saw many jewelry shops and expensive clothing boutiques. Then we walked to a garden and an overlook of the island. The water was so blue and there were white villas and boats everywhere. We saw the big rocks where the grottos (caves) are. It was a picturesque sight.

Capri was my favorite place in Italy, it was what I had envisioned for Italy. Rome was big and crowded, yet still impressive with the Colosseum and Vatican, but Capri and Sorrento were the Italy that I was looking for. Pompeii was also very much what I expected “old” Italy to look like with the ruins and historical meaning. I can’t wait to come back and see Florence, Venice, Milan and Tuscany.


We arrived back in Naples that evening after Capri for the 4th of July. I went out into Naples with Elissa, Julie, Emma, Carrie and some other people I met that night. We took a taxi into Naples which was the scariest thing of my life. The drivers in Italy don’t pay attention to red lights, pedestrians never have the right of way, and it is basically bumper cars to see who can get somewhere the fastest. There were 15 of us to begin with and we made sure each taxi car had a guy in it. The taxi drivers try to get you where you are going fast so he went backwards on the road to get to an opening where he could cut across to go the other direction. I do not think I will take a taxi in any of these countries haha. We went and got dinner at a family restaurant- pizza again- and then we went walking around town. Seven of us decided to walk back to the ship and we meandered through downtown and stopped at a few bars- one of them being an “American Bar”. I had a lot of fun with the new people that I met and we made it back safely to the ship.

The last day in Italy I had a field trip for one of my classes. We visited a family winery outside of Caserta. It took about an hour to get to the town, the winery was called Mustilli Wine Cellars. They used to make the wine in their house which has been in their family since the 16th century. The woman that is now the wine maker moved the winery to a farm outside of town because they recently increased their production. They used to make the wine in the courtyard inside of their home. We went into the cellar- about 45 feet underground- and saw the barrels and wine bank. There was about a half an inch of dust on the bottles of wine in the cellar. They also had barrels that were so big they had to be made inside of the cellar because they would have been too big and heavy to transport down there. The woman answered a lot of our questions for class and assured us that the Italian government has a lot of regulation when it comes to wine production. She also said that she used to export to the US but since the value of the dollar is so slow right now it is too expensive for her to export at the moment. She plans to export her wines again soon. After the tour of the cellar we had a wine tasting with two whites and a red wine. It was a lot of fun and since wine is such a huge industry in Italy it was one of my favorite parts of the trip to Italy. A lot of friends that I met on the Spain and Rome/Pompeii/Sorrento trip went on this trip with me so it made it even better. It is fun to see people on the ship that I have traveled with, it has definitely made being on the ship more enjoyable now that I know more people.

Those are all my adventures in Italy. We will arrive in Croatia tomorrow morning. I am doing a city orientation tomorrow, visiting Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegonvina on Wednesday and I am visiting Montenegro on Thursday, and I think some friends and I are going to find a beach or something relaxing on Friday before we ship off to Greece.

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