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Cruise: Naples, Italy

“Naples?” you say. “Naples? Haven’t you already been to Naples?” Yes, yes we have. Two Novembers ago, in fact, when Chris went to Naples for work and I tagged along. So instead of doing another tour, we decided to venture off completely on our own. We already had a list of things we wanted to do:

  1. Go to Pompeii (since I couldn’t stop talking about it last time and Chris wanted to see what all the chatter was about).
  2. Get pizza at Da Michele (initiate mouth-water sequence).
  3. Get gelato.

Nice and easy :) Besides, the cruise tour to Pompeii would have given us less time and cost over $100 a piece. Getting there on our own gave us all the time we wanted, and between the train and the entrance ticket only cost us something like 18 euros each. Awesome :)

So while Josh and Kolie boarded a cruise tour to Capri and Sorrento to see a bit of the Amalfi coast….

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…. we hopped on the Circumvesuviana train to explore Pompeii!

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C² and Vesuvius

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Gladiator Style

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Pompeii the second time around was just as good as it was the first! You can seriously spend hours exploring and not see everything. We got to see a lot of the places I missed before AND they updated their maps! We didn’t get lost this time!

The next MUST-DO on our list was eat pizza at L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele. We tried it on a friend’s recommendation before and we have been thinking about it ever since (I’m not even joking…it comes up every other time we eat pizza). In case you missed the previous post about it… it’s a little hole-in-the-wall pizza joint that only makes two kinds of pizza: margherita and marinara (ie with cheese and without). And really… two pizzas are all you need. Fresh, brick-oven baked, covered in balls of squeaky buffalo mozzarella cheese….::drool:: You really can’t beat it! We consider ourselves extremely blessed that we got to return to Naples and try it a second time. Although… after too much longer eating Norwegian “Grandiosa” frozen pizzas we probably would have snapped and bought a plane ticket back to Naples anyway just to eat some real pizza again!

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And of course, what visit to Italy would be complete without gelato?

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Well… that’s it for our cruise folks! We left Naples and docked back in Civitavecchia where we began our journey homeward. I’m sure you’re thinking, “It’s about time! We’ve been hearing about this cruise for weeks now! Let’s move on.”
Yes… let’s :)
NAPLES: Cathedrals

One of my favorite parts of Italy were the cathedrals.

I was a bit of a nervous wreck a good portion of the time traveling around Italy alone. I found myself jumping out of my skin if a scooter passed me too quickly or if a toothless old man gave me the stare down as I passed his shop. It was always a great sigh of relief to come upon a cathedral and walk inside. It was like stepping into another world. Outside there was noise and crazy cars and purse snatchers, but inside was just pure beauty and a quiet, peaceful spirit. I went into as many as I could.

It struck me as a nice analogy how just as the cathedrals brought me comfort and solace in the craziness of a foreign land, my belief in Christ brings me the same comfort and peace in everyday life.

I also found it quite beautiful when an old Italian lady sitting in the pew across from mine gave me a small smile as I sat down on the squeaky bench. We were generations, cultures, and languages apart, but we shared a sort of bond that crossed all barriers because of our faith in our Savior.

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NAPLES: Sorrento, Amalfi, and a web of lies

The day after my Vesuvius/Pompeii adventure I decided to venture down south to see what I could of the Amalfi coast. I had plans to spend the entire day hoping around between 5 or 6 different towns…but it turns out my Italy-navigating skills weren’t as hot as I thought they were. Between getting lost and busses not running when they should have been and random breakdowns and car accidents I only ended up making it to Sorrento and Amalfi. But it was still quite the adventure!

Sorrento:

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Amalfi:

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Hello strange red hair…

Web of Lies:

I had just finished wandering around the streets and shops of Amalfi and was heading back to the bus station to try and catch the bus to Positano before it got too late in the day. I was just crossing the street when an Italian guy about 30 years old suddenly startled me to death by walking up to me and asking if he can help me find where I was going. Now…don’t get me wrong, the Neopolitan people were extremely nice and kind overall…but the men are a bit pushy and forward when it comes to foreign women. (Sister missionaries aren’t allowed to serve in Naples…if that helps illustrate the idea). The past few days I had been stared at, whistled at, cat-called at, lewd commented…at, and followed around and at this point I was completely tired of it. Even though it seemed this guy was trying to be helpful, I was in a hurry, already knew where I was going, and just didn’t want to deal with having a conversation at the moment.

I guess I looked a bit surprised when he approached me, because he asked if I spoke English. That gave me a brilliant idea! I mustered up the best Norwegian accent I could (which I’ll admit was rather pitiful, but he didn’t know that!) and told him “Just little…” while showing him how little with my fingers. He didn’t seem to have strong English himself so that would surely get him to go away right?? Nope… He asked where I was from as he continued to follow me down the street to the bus station. I told him I lived in Norway in half-English/half-Norwegian, again hoping it would make him go away, but no…he followed me all the way there. At least it’s a short walk and I’ll only have to keep up this Norwegian thing for another minute, I thought.  Wrong again. The brief conversation I had with him up the street had caused me to miss the bus and the next one wasn’t going to come for another 2 hours! Drat.

The guy (I don’t remember his name except that it started with an ‘r’, so let’s call him Rinaldo) insisted that he would keep me company until the next bus came and wouldn’t take no for an answer. There was no getting out of it now…I had to keep up my Norwegian-who-only-spoke-broken-English guise for 2 whole hours! We walked up and down the boardwalk while he jabbered away, either ignoring or forgetting that I supposedly “didn’t understand.” It was hard work, especially when he started telling me all about his travels to the US and I had to pretend that I’d only been to the US once before and could only understand half of what he was saying, all the while keeping up my terrible Norwegian accent. (It was really great when he started telling me all about Las Vegas…)

By the time the bus finally pulled in it was too late for me to visit Positano and make it back to Naples before dark (total bummer!), but as soon as it came I said goodbye to Rinaldo and jumped on anyway. I waited until I saw him walk away and disappear and then hopped off again to wait in the nearby cathedral for the next bus to Naples. Which ended up not being for another two hours.

 

Moral of the story? Lies lead to more lies lead to not getting to visit Positano. Heed my warning.

NAPLES: Food

I was only going to be in Italy for 3 whole days, so I decided to focus on eating as much good food as I can. I regret to say I got caught up a bit in other things…but I did get to eat lots of delicious treats!

Here are the best things we ate:

1.

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Pizza

Pizza: My all-time favorite food. Naples: Birthplace of pizza. I was in crust and sauce and cheese heaven the entire trip!

The best places we found were:

Da Michele: They only have 2 kinds of pizza – Pizza Marinara with JUST sauce and Pizza Margherita with cheese. We were way skeptical at first, but it was DELICIOUS. I shocked myself by enjoying the marinara one more than the one with cheese! And I love cheese!  You get giant pizzas for 4 euro each so it’s a great deal…just be warned about the line to get in! Go before 7pm.

Il Pizzaiolo del Presidente: A little hole in the wall not quite as good as Da Michele, but still WAY delicious. They had about 15 times more choices too. And also arancini…which I had a minor love affair with during the trip (shhh…don’t tell Pizza)

2. 

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Gelato. Gelato. Gelato.

It strangely really does taste better in Italy than it does anywhere else I’ve had it. I always thought people were full of it when they would tell me…but it’s actually true!

3. 

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Panini

Ham and mozzerella on a baguette. That’s all. Proof right there of how amazing Italian cooking is. No sauces, toppings, or anything else…yet the quality of the ingredients made it one of my favorite things I ate in Italy.

 

4. 

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Random pastries from various bake shops.

Some I liked…some I really didn’t. All of them were beautiful to look at though and the bake shops smelled fantastic!

I think next time I’m in Italy all I’m going to do is eat. And gain 15 pounds. But it will be a 15 pounds well spent!

 

NAPLES: Volcanos and Villages

Hiking a volcano?? Yes please! Hiking Vesuvius was the very first thing I planned when we decided I was going to meet up with Chris in Naples. Something about climbing a volcano just seemed super epic. It ended up being not quite as exciting as I had hoped (the “hike” was even less difficult than hiking the Y back in Provo, for those of you who can relate to that. For those of you who can’t…there were full tour busses of senior citizens trekking up it) but the views over the Bay of Naples were spectacular and it was quite awesome (in the real sense of the word) to look down into the still-steaming crater and picture it exploding like it did back in the days of Pompeii.

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Travel Tip: You can get there super easy via the Circumvesuviana train. Just get off at the Pompeii Scavi stop and catch the buses that leave to Vesuvius from right outside the train station. Keep in mind that there are 2 buses: The public bus which is blue and a private company bus which looks all vintagy. Although the private company bus is a bit more convenient (I didn’t know the difference and got on that one), it costs about 5 euro more than the public bus and the driver decided to take us to Herculaneum on the way home instead of going back to Pompeii like it was supposed to.

 

Speaking of Pompeii, after hiking Vesuvius that morning, it was only natural to spend the rest of the day exploring the city it destroyed.

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View of Vesuvius from Pompeii

I L.O.V.E.D Pompeii. It was by far my favorite part of the trip. Probably because I’ve always had a secret parallel life-dream of studying archaeology. The ruins are massive! Way bigger than I ever pictured. It sounds silly, but it didn’t dawn on me that Pompeii was an actual real city until I was way lost and confused in it’s twisted and convoluted streets. It isn’t just a few ruins…it’s a huge metropolitan area that they dug up! And archaeologists haven’t even uncovered the entire thing yet! It was fascinating.

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I was a little bit bummed about the lack of information about various locations within the city though. I ended up going back to rent the audio guide because there are NO signs in the entire place. Even with the map that came with the audio guide I spent the better portion of my 4 hours there completely lost and wandering aimlessly through the streets. I loved it though. Since it was November and the tourist season was over there were very few people there and I was exploring alone for a lot of the time. I tell you, wandering alone in the ruins of ancient city is a hauntingly beautiful and surreal experience. Especially when I found myself in a room with the plaster casts of some of the victims.

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At one point I just sat on a broken pillar in the middle of the central square and looked out at Vesuvius and pictured an ancient Pompeiian doing the exact same thing thousands of years ago. Totally amazing. I wish I could sit in a place like that and watch time as a super fast time lapse of history. 4 hours was definitely not enough time to see enough of the city. I could have easily spent 6-8!  Hopefully I’ll get the chance to go back someday and bring Chris.

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How to get there from Naples:

Couldn’t be easier. Take the Circumvesuviana train for Stazione Centrale towards Sorrento. Get off at Pompei Scavi stop. Bam! You’re there.