Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Naples, Italy

Howdy! Today is a CLASS day. So is tomorrow. Then the next day, we arrive in CROATIA! A country that I know basically nothing about. So, that should be interesting. Our ship left last night around 8 PM from the port of Naples. A lot happened and I saw a lot, so I’ll try to sum up my experiences sort of quickly and try not to get off task ;)

Okay, so last Thursday, on July 1st, me and Lee were still in Rome and our field trip had just ended. The week before getting to Italy, we had the option on the ship to either sign up to stay on the ship in order to get to Naples, or to find our own way to Naples and meet the ship in the port on that Saturday (July 3rd). Lee and I signed off and decided to find our own way. Now in hindsight, we know that it would have been much easier to just let the ship take us, but at the time we thought it’d be a fun experience traveling by ourselves. But the thing is, once we made our decision, the ship wouldn’t let us change our minds- so we weren’t allowed to come back to the ship if we had signed off already, because it messed up the list they had to give to Customs, or something like that. Sooo, Thursday night, me and Lee found our way to the Roma Termini – the main train station in Rome, and bought two tickets to Naples for the 9 PM train. We were stressing big time for a few minutes before the train left, because we could NOT find our train on the screen, and we were asking these two Italian guys (who we thought were security guards, but…I think we were just confused by their strange vests they were wearing) for direction to our train, but they were no help AT ALL. They kept laughing and they led us to a DIFFERENT train! We have no idea what was going on there! But in the end, we found our train and got on just in time. In each little train cubby, there are only 6 seats, and it’s very cramped and HOT. Even though we were a little stressed at the time, the train was SO much fun for us! We were sitting with 4 other people: a middle-aged Italian woman, two Italian 18 yr olds who were dating, and a 20 yr old Italian soldier! Haha. It was so much fun, because after just a few moments of all sitting quietly and keeping to ourselves, the 4 of them all started talking quite speedily in Italian while me and Lee listened in mystery. After a moment, the girl said to us, “Holiday in Naples?” and we tried explaining to her that we were studying and traveling in Italy for a week. She said that she couldn’t speak English, but she actually knew a LOT of words! For the rest of the two hour train ride, all of the Italians tried communicating with us, and it was sooo much fun getting to talk to them! The girl explained how she and her boyfriend were dating, and one of the first things they asked us is if we had boyfriends, haha! They gave us tips about Naples, hotels/hostels there, and the girl gave me a list of the best places and things to see in Naples. She even taught me the days of the week in Italian!! Haha! ::

They were so funny! Now, I just have to say one thing… Lee and I were in love that night with the Italian soldier – he was in his uniform, and was just so charming!!! He could speak very little English, but when everyone in the train started talking to us, he knew where we were from! He asked where we were from, and then answered for us, “Texas?” We were delighted haha. We asked how he knew we were from there, and after they all stumbled for the right word, he told us it was because we talked slow! “Slow, talk slow!” Isn’t that funny?! He taught me and Lee how to say “Gratzie” (thank you) the CORRECT way, since we were saying it wrong the whole time. When we finally got it right a few times, they all cheered for us! It was just so much fun. We were all all smiles the whole time, trying to figure each other out. I was sad when the two hours were up and we had to leave the nice Italians haha. As soon as we got off the train, it was about 10:45 (the train ended up leaving late) at night, and we were exhausted and smelly and gross. There was this man standing there right when we got off, and he asked if we needed a taxi. We needed one to get to a place to stay for the night, so we followed him. He ended up leading us out of the back of the train station, and I guess we weren’t too smart to follow him out there…it was deserted back there! No other taxis were there, and when we got to his “taxi”, it wasn’t even a taxi at all! It was just a plain white car, with no light on top or any marking on the car. We looked inside and there was no meter, either, which is  bad sign! We asked how much, and he said 20 euros, but Lee and I both had a weird feeling, so we told him no gratzie and started walking away. He was NOT happy with us! He ran after us yelling at us, and we kept saying that he didn’t have a meter and it wasn’t a real taxi! Haha! Anyway, the whole thing was just sketchy. We walked back into the train station and went outside to the front, with the fake taxi driver right behind us the whole time, whining. When we got out there, there were TONS of taxis out in front, real ones! That other guy left and we got into a real one. Naples is really dirty and sketcy and not well-lit, so we weren’t feeling super safe that night. We saw a Holiday Inn from the train earlier, so we asked to be driven there! We finally got there and finally felt safe and relieved. Lee and I split the room, and were so happy to find the guy at the front desk spoke English. He gave us one hour of internet free! I was happy to get on facebook again ☺ Needless to say, Lee and I slept like logs that night. We each had a double bed to ourselves, and lo and behold, the room was air conditioned!!! What a blessing! I think we were just so ready to be in bed and secure after our long day, and after seeing just a small bit of Naples. The city is just not what you would expect. It is so poverty-ridden and there are so many deserted, trashed streets, and lots of sirens going off in the distance!!

The next day was much brighter for us, however. We woke up around 9 and got our bags together and took a taxi to the ferry station. We bought tickets to the Isle of Capri for the 11:10 AM ferry, and after a delicious nutella-filled croissant, Lee and I were on our way to CAPRI!! It was only a 40 minute ferry ride, and it was totally worth it. The island is right off the coast of Naples and is a big resort/honeymoon area. I can totally see why! The island is beautiful. The dock where all the ferries and private boats come in is right next to this strip of cute, local gelato shops, pizzerias, and bars. The beach is on the right; we were thankful to find out that it was not a nude beach, like the ones in Spain. We headed for the beach as soon as we were off the ferry. It was so hot there, but the water felt sooo cool and refreshing. The water is SO blue and clear there, I love it! I am a huge beach/ocean person, so this day was one of my favorites.

Lee and I stayed on the beach for awhile, and then we went on a boat tour. We had so much fun! The tour was on this small boat with only about 15 people on it, and it took us around the entire island of Capri, and made a stop at the famed Blue Grotto. It surprised me that there was really NO beach on the island, except for the small strip of one we were on at the beginning of the day. Bluffs make up the entire island for the most part, and there were places here and there that had big, outdoor restaurants/bars on the tops of the bluffs, and a couple of really nice hotels, as well. It was awesome to see all the caves that the island had. The Blue Grotto was SO AMAZING! Back a long time ago, fishermen thought that the Blue Grotto was where the mythological Sirens lived! It is a natural cave that’s underneath the island, and once you’re inside, it is completely lit by this deep, beautiful blue color. It’s blue because the little sunlight that comes in plays off of the walls of the cave, the water, and the sand at the bottom! Once our tour boat got to the spot next to the Blue Grotto, we had to pay another man in a small rowing boat to take us under the island to the cave. Ugh. They totally milk you for all you’re worth, since it’s such an amazing spot! But whatever, we paid it, and climbed into the rowing boat. Only 4 people plus the rower can fit. Our guy was this loud Italian man. He made us all lie down on our backs in the boat, so that we can get under. From the outside of the Blue Grotto, it’s only this small opening in the rock, so you have to be as flat as possible to get inside. He rowed inside with one big push and we all popped up; we were transported into this surreal, blue, cool CAVE! Ahhh! It was just too cool. There are probably about 3 or 4 other row boats in there at a time – the cave is actually pretty big. ALL of the rower men were SINGING really loud in Italian, and they actually all had good voices. Their song was echoing off the walls and made for an even better experience. Mine and Lee’s rower was making fun of us for awhile, by yelling, “Oh my god!” –I guess he was teasing us Americans. Then he made us climb up on his little seat and take pictures with him. I think he just wanted a reason to kiss us; that’s probably why he even wanted the job: so he could kiss all the hundreds of tourists who go to the Blue Grotto! HA! He ended up kissing my neck in a random spot because I kept turning my head, haha, but he got Lee dead-on on the cheek! Yummmm. Anyway, he was funny. If you ever go to Capri, you MUST go to the Blue Grotto! You can walk there from the other side of the island, which is called Anacapri, which is higher up, as well.

After the boat tour was over, we were both pretty starving. We took a bus to Anacapri (other side of the island, higher up, great view of the island at the bottom and the ocean) and ended up meeting two other girls who were on Semester at Sea and who were traveling independently, too! We ended up all having dinner together at a great outdoor restaurant and walking around Anacapri a bit. We had to get back down to the town of Capri to catch our 10:30 PM ferry back to Naples (We didn’t want to stay the night in Capri, because all the places are supposedly pretty expensive). The two girls, Kayli and Lindsey, decided to come back with us and split the hotel room at the Holiday Inn for our second night- that way it was even cheaper than it was before!! We all had fun together and had enough time to get MORE gelato (my 3rd for the day!!) before getting on the ferry. I know, it’s a good thing I’m leaving Italy. I’m pretty sure I gained 20 pounds from all their amazing food.

The next morning, Saturday, us 4 gals split a cab to get back to our ship, since it had finally arrived to Naples. We spent the day catching up on some sleep and uploading our pictures, taking it easy. We were pretty exhausted.
On Sunday morning, me and Lee had signed up for a day trip to Mount Vesuvius, which was so much fun! Mount Vesuvius is the only active volcano still on the mainland of Italy, and we got to “hike” it! We were expecting something like a 4 hour hike up to the top of the volcano, but it was much less hardcore than that. We took a bus to this “rest stop” area, and walked up about a little over a half mile to the top of the crater haha. They gave us pretty sweet walking sticks, though! We had fun taking karate pictures with those. It was SO hot out, but it was worth it to look into the inside of the crater. Me and Lee were laughing once we got there, because we don’t know what we were expecting, but I guess I expected to see lava. Yeah, I know, that was a stupid expectation, but there was nothing of the sort! There was, however, some smoke/steam still coming out of that thing! It was just really cool. You could walk almost all the way around the mouth of the crater, and the view of Naples was amazing from that high up. There were also tons of beautiful flowers up there, surprisingly. We were higher than the clouds, too! Isn’t that cool?! I thought we would be able to see the ancient remains of Pompeii from the top, but we couldn’t since it was too hazy out. BUT – the crater that we were on was not the same one that erupted and was the end of Pompeii- it was actually the collapsed neighboring crater, Montesuma (sp?). You could see it from where we were, though. Pretty sweet! So, that was a fun day. I bought a postcard. ☺ It was also a fun trip because we got to hang out with another girl named Mallory, who also goes to Baylor!

The rest of that day, Lee and I spent cleaning ourselves up and getting some studying done. That night, we ventured into Naples with our group: Megan, Matt, Erik, Lindsey, Bryant, Tiffany, and Sarah. Our destination: Pizzeria da Michele. Supposedly, it is one of the only restaurants mentioned in the book, “Eat, Pray, Love” ? I haven’t read it, but Lee and Lindsey have, so they really wanted to go there! The pizza was DELICIOUS, of course. Not surprising. It was funny, though, because the place was just a small little hole in the wall pizzeria. AND: it was super cheap. Only a 1.50 euro for a big bottle of water, and the same for a beer and a coke! That is basically UNHEARD of, at least it was in Rome. We had to pay almost 3 euro every time we wanted a coke or water. It got old FAST. So we all loved that. Also, one big pizza was only 4 to 5 euros. The pizzas in Rome were at the very least 7.50 euro, so we were ecstatic. We had 2 tables and each table split 2 pizzas each, so we ended up only having to pay about 3.50 euro EACH person for our entire meal; it was a great deal and such a fun night! After dinner, we walked around Naples some and got gelato, of course. The streets were, once again, dark, dirty, and really wet. We were glad we had a couple tall boys with us, otherwise we might have been a little more nervous about walking around in the late evening.

Last day in Italy: On July 5th, Lee and I woke up early, once again, boarded a bus and traveled about 45 minutes to Pompeii! Pompeii was once a thriving city (second largest only to ancient Rome) whose people were all killed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. It was so awesome because we walked the streets of this completely preserved city (for the most part!) and it looked as if it couldn’t be THAT old, because of how well-preserved everything was. The city was much bigger than I thought before going. Except the roofs, everything was there…rooms, frescoes, all the stone streets. The first settlement there was in the 8th century BC- is that not crazy?! It was first a Greek civilization and then the Romans took over. Anyway, it was really interesting. One of the things that stuck out was the prevalence of brothels in the city – we walked through one, and it was so weird to think that all that I was seeing was once real! You knew a building was a brothel if it had a *phallic symbol * on the front of it. Haha so that was fun to see. ☺ Near the end of our tour, after seeing ancient temples and the homes of wealthy citizens, we even saw body casts of real people from back then! When they were excavating, they somehow could excavate the shape that real people had formed in the solidified volcanic ash. We saw one person who was sort of tucking their knees and hiding their face; it was really sad, because that was their last position they took as they were dying from all the poisonous gas/ volcanic ash that killed them!!! (since it wasn’t lava that killed them or poured onto the city at all; it was gas and ash.) We also saw the cast of dog that was trying to bite off his chain to run away. Those really made Pompeii come even more alive. It was fascinating! If you ever go to Italy, you HAVE to go see Pompeii.

We had to be onboard our ship by 6 PM that night in order to leave for Croatia, so I had a little free time. I went with 2 friends to try to find the Archaeological Museum of Naples after lunch. It took us an hour in the sweltering heat, walking around, to find it, but once we got there, it was worth it! We saw tons more artifacts and frescoes from Pompeii and lots of statues of Greek gods and goddesses and allll that, dating back from the 1st and 2nd century AD and even older! We had a 30 minute walk back to the ship, and then our ship threw a BBQ dinner on the 7th deck outside for us, to celebrate the 4th of July! It was muy bien. Ribs, burgers, mac and cheese (my fav), corn on the cob, chocolate chake. YUM. That concludes my trip to ITALY. I do wish I could someday go back to Italy and see: Venice, Sorrento, Verona, Sicily, and Tuscany! AND spend more time in Rome. Italy is just such a great country with so much history and almost everywhere you go (except Naples ☺) is beautiful!

Man, well this was a really long post. I applaud you if you actually read all that! It’s about 10 AM back in Little Rock and Texas, but it’s about 5 PM where I am. Our ship past Sicily a couple hours ago, and we were really close to the coast. I like thinking about what time it is back home, and wondering what you all are doing at that moment! I hope yall are all doing great, once again! Thanks for being my fwends and faaamily!


  1. I can't believe no one is commenting on your blog...surely they are reading iti - I am!!! I love them! I know you don't have a lot of time to write them, with your studying and reading for classes, but thanks for doing it! Love you!

  2. Haha I don't care if people do or not really, but I'm glad that YOU do at least!!! Miss you