We drove into the city on a nice (new –looking) interstate from the airport Fium. Once we excited the roads were pretty narrow with no shoulder or sidewalk and walls going up 100 ft on each side with homes and trees atop them. They were barely wide enough for two cars, yet our driver claimed the right of way at excessive speeds. Once we reached our neighborhood (just down from St. Peter’s Basilica) the street widened and sidewalks appeared; tiny cars (that they don’t make in the States) and motorcycles lined the streets. People drive crazy all over the city here, they don’t appear to really have lanes – it is kind of how they drive in Cartagena – whatever gets them where they need to go, with plenty of honking involved. We seemed to be on the benefitting end of the aggressive taxi drivers which was nice :)
The city is amazing. There are ancient buildings, fountains and monuments next door and even underneath (I’ll get to in a minute) newer buildings. Even mundane buildings are intricately decorated with twice as tall as normal doors with ornate knockers to the light fixtures with sea creatures on them. The Roman Forum ruins were excavated in the middle of the city and stand a good 30 feet below everything else. It is nuts to see the generations of huge buildings layered on top of one another. At one point before excavations the entire square there had been a cow pasture. The current office of the mayor of Rome (well the temporary one, I’m not sure what’s happening there…the only political signs I saw were against Gay Marriage, how bout that), is built on top of ancient ruins, you can see the side of the building is ancient ruin, another 15th century building molded on top of that then the current building as it stands blending on top of those! There are lots of arches in the ruins because they used arches so they didn’t have to have as much material to build. It was pretty clever at the time. The Romans have way too many inventions to list but I will mention the aqueducts because they are too cool not to…back in the day (like way back, BC) they wanted to be able to bring water into the city without walking 10+miles to get it. So they engineered aqueducts to carry fresh water from the mountains down to the city…this may actually have been when they started using the arches (as you can imagine that would be a lot of material). And they had to have it just right so it didn’t barrel into the city. The longest at one point was 69 miles! It just dropped down inch by inch. I forgot what they used for leveling purposes to figure this out, but they def didn’t have the tools we do today – just amazing.
I went for a run in the rain this evening. It was still warm which was great and the rain made for a few less people on the streets – the sidewalks are SOO crowded since just about everywhere you turn is a piece of history. The cobblestone streets are made from ‘sampietrini’ which is a black volcanic rock (imagine putting your hands together to make a square, that’s about how big they are) and they are SLICK! …and uneven, but I managed to stay vertical J I ran past the Vatican & St. Peter’s, down by the river, past the San Angelo Castle, up to Popolo, around to the Spanish Steps, over to the Trevi Fountain, straight up hill to the X, down to the Forum (not all of the ruins require a ticket, since they are pretty much everywhere, especially in the center of town), ran around the Colessium to the Palantine and back across the river at the Island of and back up through Trastevere (which may be my favorite neighborhood). Trastevere had little streets with shops and outdoor seating, it was very charming. They sell pizza and gelato in every other shop here – they are not very familiar with “gluten free” and even if they are, give you a funny look.
Naples & The Amalfi Coast
Naples is best viewed with your back to it. The sea is gorgeous and you can look across the bay to see Mount Vesuvius and the rest of the Appennino meridionale, that’s the Italian mountain range down here, in the distance with the small town of Sorrento built up into the mountain side. Even the nicest areas and the most historic castles, monuments and walls have graffiti all over them. I asked a local on the train about it and she said the police just have more important things to worry about. It gives the entire city a sketchy vibe and it disheartening to see some stupid kid has ruined a piece of history that has been there hundreds of years. No respect.
It’s pretty crazy though that even the shacks seem to have lush gardens with all sorts of vegetation from Pine trees to cacti! Even lemon, orange and fig trees! Lemons are HUGE here and they make and sell Lemoncello and other lemon products every where. Same goes for olive trees and olive oil. They don’t seem as proud of the orange trees, and I probably could have gotten away with grabbing one to eat had they been in my reach. Oh, and they have Laurel/Bay Trees too. We learned in Rome that they used to make crowns for the champions out of the bay leaves (laurel wreath) and that’s where the term Nobel Laureate comes from as well as the phrase, “don’t rest on your laurels” (meaning don’t stop working hard just because you achieved something).
From Naples, we took the regional train, Circumvesuviana, to Sorrento. People here do not wait for anyone to get off of a bus/train/metro before they get on – as soon as the doors open they stampede in and people must squeeze their way out as newcomers scramble to find a seat. There were MANY people standing on the morning train, which usually means a butt in your face if you got a seat but fortunately this morning – it did not. Despite the loose departure times and jammed packaged train cars, this is apparently the most economical and efficient route to getting to Sorrento (or Pompeii). Sometimes the train even passes all the people on the platform and the whole crowd runs after it! LOL…it happened twice on the metro too. London was very precise in time and door placement (down to the paint on the platform that said “MIND THE GAP” lining up with the doors of the carriages). Once we arrived in Sorrento, which is a beautiful little town over looking the sea with clean buildings and orange trees full of fruit lining the cobblestone streets (where were originally supposed to stay, and I would definitely recommend), we then got on the *SITA (city bus) to ride the 22 miles down the Amalfi Coast. It was spectacular! I used to say Patagonia was the most beautiful place I’ve ever been as it looks like a fairy tale, second to Hawaii that looks like a movie set…with that still standing true, the Amalfi Coast can only be compared to a dream. Fluffy white clouds float at the top of the lush green mountains with cliffs that drop drastically to the vibrant blue sea below. Buildings are built into the cliff side and appear to be stacked nearly right on top of one another in bright colors (mainly white, yellow and light pink) with red tiled rooftops. The contrast and vibrancy of colors is breathtaking. Positano is probably the most beautiful of all of the little coastal villages.
*tip, sit on the RIGHT hand side of the bus and don’t get on if you can’t get a seat, if you have time, wait for the next bus so you can get a window on the right (going from Sorrento to Amalfi).