Italy. What an incredible country. Anita and I arrived to Milan at 8am and immediately took a train to Naples and then Pompeii. After a two-hour flight delay and a one-hour train delay to Napoli (Naples), we caught the wrong train to the ghetto, had some friendly Italians redirect us, landed in Pompeii late, took a ride with an unofficial taxi driver and landed peacefully in our beds at Eco B&B. Thanks to the help of Anamarie, the hostess there, we were able to navigate more successfully the next day. We visited the ancient petrified city of Pompeii, preserved in ash and now uncovered by archeologists, we could walk the streets and view the recreated bodies of the people who were surprised by the volcano. We didn’t know, but the next day the workers went on strike and the entire city was closed. We also asked several people where we could buy tickets for the Pink Floyd concert. We thought a cover band was doing a tribute. Turns out there was no concert at all, only a museum with pictures and videos of a concert Pink Floyd did at the ancient coliseum in 1971. Oops. Cool museum.
From Pompeii we explored Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast. Driving down the crazy roads of the coast, we stopped to try out some Italian diving. Anita had never been, so she did one snorkel and one exploratory dive. I went on two dives, swimming with schools of barracudas and diving into a cave. The cave dive was interesting as my dive instructor and I turned off our flashlights because no light reached the cave. When I flicked mine back on, he was right in front of me. Whoa Italian! Once we finished our dives, we ventured to Positano to eat some lunch and take in the scenery.
The next day, we explored the church and tower close to us in Pompeii and then took a train to Roma (Rome). Rome was HOT! Think 40C = 104F, lots of concrete, an AirBnB with no air conditioning or fan. We were irritable to say the least and ended up fighting for part of a day – we’ve been friends for 15 years. We did start our Rome adventure with a night tour of the Coliseum, walking in the depths where the gladiators and animals were kept. We met up with some friends of friends afterward for some Italian cuisine and interesting conversation on fashion with our new friend, or was it Jack Nicholson? Of course, we toured the Vatican and many many relics. We also saw the Capuchin Crypt, a series of chapels decorated with the bones of 3,700 Capuchin monks – as a reminder of how fleeting this life is. Later in the day, we toured Rome on bikes to see a few different perspectives of the city. I love riding bikes. We decided to take the bus back to our Trastaverre neighborhood for dinner. A sweet highlight of the trip came when we asked a non-English-speaking Italian lady which bus to take, she rode on the bus with us to show us. Despite the heat, crazy lines of people, and higher prices, we really enjoyed Rome. Maybe it was because we stayed next to a place that had amazing DAIRY-FREE gelato (for my anti-lactose bowels). Either way, Rome was an experience.
After Rome, we took a train to Cinque Terre, the five towns – five towns close together that you can hike in between that are right on the coast and beautiful. We stayed in Vernazza at a great little AirBnB that was across the street from a breakfast place that had a sign that said, “We do not serve eggs. Don’t ask. This is Italy. We have excellent food. Eat it.” The food was good. We hiked to Monterosso after breakfast, milled around, meandered through a cemetery of mausoleums (next to a church that was a part of the Capuchin Monks), and then got lost finding the train only to end up in a beautiful winery and vineyard. It was a great find and enjoyable tasting and setting. Our time was short in Cinque Terre before we rode the train to spend our second week in Italy in the Italian Alps.
Is there a life lesson in this? Always. So much beauty surrounds us no matter where we are, if we only look, we will see that there is hope. In friends fighting, we find resolution and deeper relationships, in unpredictable travel, patience, in unexpected kindness, grace.