Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Life Could Be Worse

Summer is drawing ever nearer and we have reached May. Yesterday I returned with my entire District 2040 from our week-long trip to Southern Italy. I don't know what to say other than that it was the best week of my life. Every single day was filled with friends, fun, and unbelievable sights that I will never forget. Let's start by giving a basic layout of our week in paradise:

Day 1 - departure from Milano / Herculaneum / arrival in Sorrento
Day 2 - Capri
Day 3 - Baia di Jeranto / Sorrento
Day 4 - Caserta / arrival in Roma
Day 5 - Roma
Day 6 - Roma
Day 7 - Roma / return to Milano

Southern Italy is notorious for violence and theft, so we were on guard as we arrived in Napoli. We took a train from the Napoli station to the ancient Roman city of Herculaneum, one of the two cities destroyed in CE 79 when Mt. Vesuvius erupted. (We wanted to also see Pompeii but it wasn't possible.) The ruins were extremely well preserved, thanks to the scalding ash that rushed from the volcano down to the sea. Later that night we went a bit farther south to Sorrento, where we had a hotel for the first three nights.
The Rotary chaperones kept telling the girls to clutch their purses tighter. 
Ruins of Herculaneum from above.
Vesuvio :)
Day 2: We took a ferry from the mainland to the island of Capri, whose beauty is incomparable. After getting off the ferry, we took a funicular up a mountain to reach the main part of the island. The weather was beautiful, how it would be for the rest of the week, and we walked through picturesque towns of white buildings until we reached a secluded beach. After swimming in FREEZING water, we climbed to the highest mountain on the island to see the villa of the Roman emperor Tiberius. It was a tiring but satisfying day.
Vesuvio from atop Capri
Day 3: We went all natural. After taking a bus to the other side of the peninsula on which Sorrento lies, we hiked for a few hours before reaching a grove of olives and lemons, at the bottom of which was yet another secluded beach. This beach came complete with jellyfish!  -.- The water was once again ridiculously cold, but it was fun. In the afternoon we took a walking tour of Sorrento and had a bit of free time to relax downtown. 
On the trail to the beach!
All for us. 
Enjoying a cool evening in Sorrento. 
Day 4: An extremely early wake up call so that we could make it to Caserta, a town 45 km outside of Napoli where the royal family lived. I definitely did not expect a Versailles-esque residence from the Kingdom of Napoli, but there it was! A humongous palace full of gold, plus a long series of reservoirs that extended up a hillside into the distance. I was one of the few to walk all the way to the top, in the blistering heat no less. In late afternoon we took a train that dropped us off in Roma! 
La Reggia di Caserta

View from the top, back to the palace. 
Day 5: ROMA. My first full day in the Eternal City was filled with the typical sights, including: Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Spanish Steps, and Piazza del Popolo. At this point, I already suspected I would fall in love with the city, but the confirmation of this would not come until my second day there. 
Throwing my coin into the Trevi Fountain!
Drinking Coke in front of the Pantheon, no big deal.
Spanish Steps
First sight of the Forum.
Day 6: In the morning we visited the smallest country in the world, Vatican City. Which had no border security, by the way. Oh well. We stood in line for a long time to get in Saint Peter's Basilica, but we did it! Inside it was stunning; you really feel the power of the Catholic church. I also did not mind viewing La pietà of Michelangelo. In the afternoon we saw ancient Roma: the Colosseum and the Forum. The atmosphere was so perfect that I couldn't help but declare when I saw the gardens above the Forum, "The Romans built paradise." And it's true. They did. 

In the Vatican, in front of Saint Peter's.
La pietà di Michelangelo 
On a bridge after an indescribably beautiful walk along the river. :)
Day 7: Sadly, our last day in Roma. We had free time, so we went shopping. In the end I only bought a Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt and some postcards, but it was a great time exploring the small streets of the historic center. Southern Italians are so much friendlier and all the exchangers were captured by the relaxed feel of everyone. In the late afternoon, we boarded our train and tearfully said goodbye to Roma, the city that had spiritually spoken to us, the city that had breathed its secrets into our ears, the city that exuded history from every corner. 

The station's name "Termini," or "ends," is a very fitting name. 
Now I am back in Milano and tomorrow I must resume the daily grind of going to school. Thankfully, I have only 5 weeks of school left, but since I'll be in BERLIN the last week, it's technically only 4 weeks. Reality is becoming clearer now that I am in my penultimate month in Italia. Only 57 days left, not all of which will be spent in Milano. Suddenly I do not want to leave. As my Australian friend Mel said rather cheekily, "Life could be worse." <3