April 30, 2011

When In Rome: Easter Vacation (April 20th) Part 3

This past Easter I was able to visit Rome on vacation and I had an absolutely wonderful experience. I spent four days and five nights in Italy and was able to see so many unbelievable and breathtaking sights – things I never thought that I would ever be fortunate enough to see with my own eyes. I was also fortunate enough to meet a handful of really awesome travelers – people who I may never see again but will never forget! For blogging purposes, I’m going to break the adventure down into numerous installments so that I can include everything. This is the third part of my vacation, which includes a day trip to Naples and Pompeii and plenty of complaints about Rome's horrible public transport.

Before we even got to Rome (and, honestly, before I had even signed on as Brenna’s travel companion) a trip to Naples and Pompeii was on the agenda. How could we not visit, with such a cool city and historical site so close to the city? We decided to go on Monday – mid week – so that we could spend the first few days in the city getting used to the trains and transport of Rome since we’d have to catch a 3 hour train to Naples. The night before, at the hostel bar, we had befriended some fellow travelers and so when we ran into them on the commuter train into Rome the following morning, they expressed interest in tagging along to Naples. Kait and Larissa were going to enjoy the trip with us. They were studying abroad in Ireland and had come to Rome for vacation, much like Brenna and I. We got a long really well with both of them. Four American girls in Italy! Que bella!  

Admittedly, we woke up late that day – my alarm didn’t go off – and so we didn’t get into Rome until nearly ten o’clock and had a 10:50 train to catch that would take us to Naples. We managed to sort through the madness at Termini station and purchased our tickets (10,50 EUR) and then rushed off to our train. Unfortunately, it was completely packed and we had nowhere to sit so for the first 30-45 minutes of the journey we had to stand up in the aisles until seats became available to us. The Italian countryside that passed by us outside was absolutely beautiful. As we left Rome there were still ancient ruins to be seen and once we got further south – the ocean! It was beautiful and it reminded me so much of home to see the shore out the window of the train. I felt as if I were just driving along the coast in Pismo Beach or Santa Barbara and I felt a slight ache for California. It didn’t last long because, HELLO, I was in frickin’ Italy!

Our train arrived in Naples at about 12:30 and from there – we had to figure out a plan. We knew that we wanted to try for the “world’s greatest pizza.” Or so they say. There was a rumor going around, mostly from Eat, Pray, Love fame and from a friend’s suggestion that we could find the best pizza of our life in this little pizzeria called Da Michele. We had Google map directions on how to get there but that ends up being a great laugh when compared with the crazy, directionless streets of Italy that never seem to have street signs anywhere. We asked a woman at the train station, to no avail. We asked a woman at another train station (one which we’d actually have to go to later in the day) after we got lost with the first set of directions given to us. After that, we got lost again. So we asked a man on the street who spoke no English. But I knew Spanish well enough to translate between the two languages to understand that he kept saying, “second left, second left.” We made it to the street that we wanted to be on but were then still confused so we asked a man in a shop who told us we were very close. And we finally found it – tucked inside of a small Italian street and filled to the brim with eager customers. They were spilling out the door and standing on the street, waiting for tables inside the tiny restaurant.

DSC09531The street where we found the pizzeria (which is to the left)

DSC09532Nothing all together spectacular, eh?

Brenna, Kait, Larissa, and I had to figure out what the hell we were supposed to do – which was pay for our pizzas, to-go, and then wait for them to be made. The cool part was that we got to stand there and watch it happen. The kitchen was absolutely TINY but they were all so efficient. They had to be with the crowd that waited outside and the packed house that they had to cater to. One man made the pizzas and then another loaded them into the oven – which you could see straight through into it’s belly. There were about ten pizzas in there at a time, cooking over the flames. There were pictures put up from Julia Robert’s scenes in Eat Pray Love because she actually filmed the pizza scene in their restaurant since it is the same restaurant that the author visited and wrote about in her book. We waited at least ten to fifteen minutes for our pizzas – which were only 4 EUR each. Once we had them, we left because there was no way we were waiting any longer and we still had to catch a train to Pompeii.

Pizzas in hand, we walked back to the smaller train station that we’d found on accident earlier in the day and found out when we could jump a train to Pompeii. A train would be leaving at 3:10, in twenty or so minutes. We bought our return tickets – 6 EUR – and then were accosted by Italian homeless people who wanted our pizza. We ditched them to sit in the stations tiny restaurant and eat our pizzas. We bought drinks there so we could actually get away with it and then we proceeded to shovel pizza into our mouths. It was cold, since we’d spent fifteen or so minutes trying to get back to the train station, but it was still good. It wasn’t the best pizza I’ve ever had, not by a long shot but it was pretty tasty.

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The train ride to Pompeii was little more than 30 minutes but we had a strict time line to keep since we had to worry about a 3 hour train ride into Rome and the craptastic time limits of Rome’s public transport. We got to Pompeii and paid 11 EUR for admission into the ancient ruins and then spent 45 minutes wandering about the massive archeological site. Pompeii, as most already know, is famous for having been completely buried in volcanic ash from Mount Vesuvius. We didn’t manage to see even half of the site because of time limits but what we did see was breathtaking. I wish we had stumbled upon more of the preserved bodies and stuff but we missed out on a lot of that. We explored the side streets and alleyways and saw what we could in the time that we had. It was worth every second, regardless!

223054_1897309909776_1152450433_32057834_7873713_nMe, Kait, Larissa, and Brenna at Pompeii

DSC09546Mount Vesuvius in the distance

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DSC09579Stray dogs in Pompeii – you can adopt them, too!

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After Pompeii we had to rush back to the train station to catch the commuter train back to Rome. We stopped for DELICIOUS lemonade on the way and marveled at the lemons that were as big our heads. Beautiful colors in all of the market stands, too. Pretty fruits! Once we got on the train, we made it back to Naples just in time to jump on a train that would take us back to Rome for 9:30 pm. Or so we hoped!

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DSC09624Kait at the train station in Pompeii

The train ride back seemed endless – three hours is a long trip! Eventually we made it back to Rome, hoping that we would make all of the necessary connections for our commute back to Prima Porta and our hostel. We did not. Haha. We stopped for Chinese take-out – which took forever. And then we tried to find cigarettes and Coke for some of the other girls. And then we realized that once we down on the platform for the metro, that it was under construction and we needed to take a bus to the Flaminio station instead. We managed to get on the wrong bus and went about eight stops in the wrong direction before we figured it out. So we got out, ran to the right bus, and then followed it all the way down to Flaminio, or something like it. We were so confused. When we got to the train station, somewhere around 10:45, we were met with a “SERVICE TERMINATED” message and so we had to find an alternate way home. Fortunately, there are cabs everywhere so between the four of us, we split a 30 EUR cab fare and got right to our hostel, somewhere close to 11 pm. We sat on the floor in mine and Brenna’s room and ate luke warm Chinese food, drank wine, and Coke (not together, of course) and then met up again in the bar some 30 minutes later. ‘Twas another good night of merrymaking and new friends and an excellent venue to releasing the stress of a pain in the ass travel adventure. After all, Brenna and I do love those hostel bars and the Italian beer!

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