Thursday, June 28, 2012

Nobile e folle

Napoli, Pompeii, and the island of Capri are all beautiful places. At least they are in my opinion. On Saturday and Sunday of last weekend, I once again ventured off to explore the Italian peninsula with a group from Stranieri. This weekend was bittersweet, however, because for many of the friends I've made over the past few weeks, this would be their last trip before they headed back home.

I was up at 5 a.m. once again this Saturday. Whereas last week I had made the mistake of forgetting to pack some essentials, this week I made sure to fill my backpack the night before with items I would need over the weekend. Our first destination was Napoli, a city that is notorious throughout Italy for being chaotic. I've heard Napoli be described as Italy's Detroit on a few occasions (usually referencing the run-down nature). Regardless, I was excited to check out the city for myself and draw my own conclusions. Our bus arrived in the city at about 11 a.m., which gave us about 5 hours to walk and sample what Napoli had to offer.

Welcome to the Spanish Quarters!

Our first order of business was, naturally, getting food to eat. My friends Melanie and Rafael (Dominican-Americans), Ben (English), Eduardo (Salvadoran) and I decided to head straight into the Spanish Quarters to find a place to eat. We joked about finding the most rundown-looking place to eat, expressing our desire to experience the rawness of Napoli. Eventually, we settled for a small trattoria-like restaurant.

We were the only customers there (great!), there was also only one person on staff (fantastic!), and when we were given our menu, we saw everything was written out (awesome!). Shortly before ordering, our waiter left the restaurant, which we naturally assumed was because he needed to find some ingredients for the food he was about to prepare us. Long story short, we spent the entire time laughing it up as we imagined the horrible things our waiter must have been doing with our food. The meal wasn't all that good, but we managed to have a fantastic time, nonetheless. The waiter/cook was friendly, but I'm sure he must have thought we were insane!

After paying and leaving the restaurant, we walked down Via Toledo (where there are tons of places to shop) and met up with a few other friends who were looking for a place to eat. They had first toured a few of Napoli's famous buildings, which we had skipped in order to head straight into the Spanish Quarters. After they split off to go eat, Ben suggested we head toward Napoli's port, which sounded like a fantastic idea. On the way there, we got to see more of what makes Napoli an interesting city. Old buildings throughout were tagged with graffiti, which made for an interesting look. The sidewalks were littered with garbage, but shops were well-taken care of. As we got closer to the harbor, we started to see the sea and Mt. Vesuvius far off in the background. It was a spectacular sight!

Napoli's port.

We spent some time walking around the port and "beach" area before heading back toward the historic center to do some more exploring before we had to leave. I stopped by an H&M to pick up a pair of trunks. We went through the Spanish Quarters one last time before heading to our rendez-vous point at 3:45. After getting back on the bus, our tour guide told us we were off to one of Napoli's nicest parks to take a few photos (if we wanted to). After a few minutes of doing that, we were back on the bus again on our way to Pompeii!

Thankfully, Pompeii was relatively empty when we got there. The fact that the sun was going down only made things better, as it wasn't too hot to walk around. Rafael and I split off from our massive (50+) group and headed toward the Roman amphitheater. Unfortunately, we couldn't climb any stairs inside the amphitheater to get a really good picture. Still, being able to walk in there at all was great. From there, we went came back toward the point where we had split off from the group. We then walked toward the remains of wealthy Romans' houses. We found the famous casts of humans that are synonymous with Pompeii. I felt uneasy thinking about their last few moments alive. There were four casts, two of which were in a lying down position. They probably didn't even realize they were covered in magma before it was too late. Another was crouched and seemed to be holding something (a baby?), which was particularly sad.

We walked around a little further and up a hill where we got to see a city, mountains and the sea off in the distance. For the devastating demise that Pompeii suffered in the year 79 AD, today it is a pretty serene and peaceful landscape dotted with columns and ruins. Rafael and I finished touring Pompeii at about 7, so we walked back to our meeting point for our 7:30 departure. On our way to the exit, we found a man looking at a sign with confusion all over his face. I asked him if he spoke Italian, he said yes, and then I asked him if he needed help. The sign he was looking at said exiting from the path we were heading toward was forbidden. However, the other exit was blocked. We decided the sign was wrong and left from where we had entered.

Pompeii, you are pretty.

On our way down, I talked with the man for a few minutes. He asked where we were from, and then told us he was German-French, but had been living in Italy for a few years. When I mentioned I was Mexican-American, he asked if I spoke Spanish. Then he added that he had studied the language in high school, but had since forgotten it. I mentioned I was in a similar place with French, which made us laugh. Rafael and I had seen him walking around Pompeii earlier. He was easy to remember because he was badly cut around his knees and legs. The injuries looked fresh, so I asked him what happened. Apparently, he had been on Mt. Vesuvius earlier that day and was late to catch his bus to Pompeii. As he was running down the mountain, he fell and cut himself badly. At the gate out of Pompeii, we parted ways. Sometimes you meet some really cool people while traveling!

After we were all back on the bus, we were once again on the road. This time, we were heading to our hotel in Castellamare. After a shower, a good dinner, and reserving a spot for a ferry ride around the island of Capri for the next day, a large group headed out to check out Castellamare at night.

View from my room's window. 

We walked by the beach, which was littered with trash (unfortunately), and found a plaza where a group was playing music. The atmosphere here was great, with people taking part in a dance that Ben said was Greek. The band members spoke in the Neapolitan dialect, so a lot of what they were saying was lost on us. Regardless, it was a fantastic time! We had to be up at 6 the next morning, so I turned in around 12. It had been a wonderful day, and Sunday promised to be just as good--and maybe even better!


  1. I am so enjoying Italy thru your eyes and camera. Keep 'em coming.
    Sue H (VanBelkum "crew")

  2. I'm so glad you're making the most of your trip! I guess even I could get up at 5am if I was absorbing so much on my Italy trip. I'm a little curious what essentials you forgot the first time. I'll ask Steve. He'll have some ideas.

  3. Thanks, Sue! Sarah, the essentials were a toothbrush/toothpaste, a hat, and lotion so I wouldn't dry up. No need to get Steven and his crazy ideas involved!