So with your expectations successfully lowered, I'll proceed.
The trip: my mom came to visit me for a few days, and the we went to Italy. First to Rome/the Vatican, then we went south to Naples where we took trips to Pompeii, Sorrento, and Capri.
Overall: Lots of 2,000-year-old stumps that used to be buildings, lots of dead guys, lots of genitals. Lots and lots of genitals.
Coffee!! France, your bread is infinitely better than the rocks we tried making sandwiches out of in Italy, same goes for your pastries, but good lord, Italy's coffee is God's gift to humanity. It's been so long since I've had good coffee. So long. France...you need to do better.
The first time I went to Rome in October, it was the last leg in an exhausting two-week trip that I swear nearly killed me. I didn't think I'd be back so quickly, but I'm glad I was able to return and actually enjoy it, see some new things, and keep my eyes open the whole time.
The trip was slightly, just ever so slightly tainted by the growing realization that I'm leaving France very soon and my future is hazy at best. That sat in the back of my mind for the first few days and made it slightly, just ever so slightly difficult to fully enjoy.
I need to take a moment to just say how much I adore the Italian alora. I love when you ask Italians for directions they'll take a look at your map, take a breath and start with "alora, you go to this street and then turn left..." The French have alors which is basically the same thing, but something about the...bouncy-ness and the rolled r of the Italian version makes me smile every time I hear it.
The Vatican Museum: One of the things I missed the first time. It was amazing and impressive, but also sort of made me want to roll into a ball and rock back and forth and never speak to another human again. It was overwhelming: there was just so much of everything and so many people! I heard more French and Polish than Italian, I had no clue where I was. We spent four hours in there. The first three were great, but by the end I was speed walking through the endless rooms and only glancing at the intricate murals and ceilings. Despite the crowds and staggering amount of everything, I think it was one of the best museums I've even been to.
Besides that we saw the usual things, the church, the Colosseum, the Pantheon, etc.
Rick Steves starts off his Naples episode by saying something like: Italy gets more intense as you go south. That basically sums it up: intense. Narrow, crowded streets, people shouting, selling a million different kinds of fish in the streets, random firework shows outside our window at midnight, Vespas ceaselessly honking as they zoom past pedestrians, missing them by an inch or two, cars doing the same. I'm trying to remember if the traffic on the streets was even going in the same direction at any point. It made anywhere else I had ever been feel tame. It definitely had a vibe of its own. Even watching the people talk to each other, using their whole bodies to get a point across, was a show. What to call it...spunk? Grit? Buzz? Whatever the word, it had something I've never felt anywhere else, and it successfully distracted me from worrying about my return home.
I need to talk about Vespas for a moment. When you're talking about Italy I feel like they deserve a paragraph to themselves. Especially in Naples. The city is full of them, and the way people drive them made me wonder how everyone in that city isn't dead. I saw families of three squeezed onto the back of them, I saw kids no older than eight riding them, I saw a toddler asleep on one, head against the handlebars. I could write a post called "the things I saw happen on the back of a Vespa."
Pizza. Let's not forget the Neapolitan pizza, the original, which is nothing like what you get in the US. We only had pizza for three of the three nights we were there. First at Da Michele, where Julia Roberts apparently ate in Eat, Pray, Love. It's supposedly the best pizza in the world, and from the huge crowd of people waiting outside and the necessity to share a small table with strangers, I think everyone got the memo. The place offers two kinds of pizzas: with cheese or without. It was alright but I wasn't blown away, and the constant coming and going of people made me feel like I had to swallow the thing and get out as fast as possible instead of enjoy it.
The next two nights we went to another place (that I forgot the name of) with the most flirtatious waiter on the planet. He was openly hitting on an american girl next to us as he was taking her table's order, quite amusing. I wish I remembered the name of the place because THAT was some good pizza. Not a lot of cheese, thin crust, unbelievable sauce. So now I'll be that pretentious asshole who'll just never be able to enjoy the abomination Americans call pizza. Sadly, when we went to the same place the next night and ordered the same thing, what we got was a mostly-raw piece of dough with too much stuff on it and barely any sauce that made my stomach hurt, but I won't dwell on that.
Our Airbnb hosts were a really great middle-aged couple of artists who quickly made us feel at home. The place was completely covered in paintings. For once my French was more handy than English, and when we sat around the table to talk it was a strange back-and-forth. They'd say something, I'd translate into English or Polish, my mom would respond, I'd translate to French, they'd say some stuff in Italian... They were very open too. The man asked me if I had a boyfriend. I said no. He said a girl my age should have a boyfriend. The wife chimed in saying I should find someone in France...
Pompeii was alright. I found it fascinating that a city buried in ash nearly 2,000 years ago was so well-preserved, but it required a lot of imagination to reconstruct a city out of the ruins, and I think the story itself is more impressive than the actual city. That being said, I'm still glad I went to see this place that caught my attention the first time I read about it when I was in elementary school.
We had some time after Pompeii and decided to catch the train a little farther out to Sorrento, a cute little town which seems to be constructed completely for tourists. Known for Limoncello, a sweet alcohol made from lemon rinds. It's like ultra-sweet, much stronger hard lemonade. Like I said, the place was cute and lively, everything seemed to be yellow and have a lemon on it, but for me it was a little too cookie-cutter. My mom loved it though.
On our last day we took a ferry across the water to the island of Capri. We had planned on seeing the blue grotto (YouTube it, it looks amazing), but they didn't take credit cards and we didn't have enough cash, so we hung our heads and took a tiny bus up the incredibly narrow, magically two-way windy road up to the main city, inhabited by the rich and crawling with tourists. We took a lift up to the top of a hill with a beautiful view of the sea and the surrounding islands.
Like Sorrento, it felt a bit too cookie-cutter until we finally walked out a little further through the teeny tiny residential "streets" surrounded by lemon trees and cacti.
In conclusion: a good trip. Now, too many photos. Click on them if you want to scroll through enlarged pictures.
Our room, the walls all looked like this
Capri's narrow streets surrounded by rich people's houses
Our lovely Naples hosts