Last weekend my roommate and I decided to take an adventurous weekend excursion to Naples, Pompeii, Sorrento and Capri. And yes, for our adventurous excursion I succumbed to the all-too-awful combination of sneakers and jeans usually reserved for soccer moms in fanny packs; painful to look at, yes, but definitely necessary for the weekend’s activities.
Since our flight was too early in the morning for Milan’s public transportation to allow, we had planned to sleep in the airport again. However, Milan’s public transportation workers had planned a strike for that night, forcing us to arrive at the airport 14 hours before our flight. Apparently transportation strikes are quite common in Europe and particularly Italy—in fact, there were 23 planned for the month of November alone. Thankfully, Mom saved the day (doesn’t she always?) and told us to splurge and grab a hotel room at the Sheraton attached to the airport. So after a luxurious evening of Italian-dubbed CSI, a hot shower and a big fluffy bed, we boarded our flight to Naples.
You know how I’m always raving about falling in love with every city I’ve traveled to so far? Well, then there was Naples. To be fair, I didn’t spend much time in Naples, mainly just traveling to and from the airport and walking through to find busses and ferries, but I was still thankful we had decided to spend the night in Sorrento instead. After arriving, we made our way to Pompeii, a place I have wanted to go my whole life. It was incredible to see how intact so many of the ruins were, and creepy to see some of the bodies preserved in ash. I had no idea how large Pompeii actually was before arriving. Apparently it was a thriving city and some speculate it would have become an important shipping port and empire had it not been for the eruption of Vesuvius.
After a big pizza lunch (we had to, it’s Naples), we lucked out and got a private car to take us up Mt. Vesuvius, since there weren’t enough tourists to fill the tour bus. From where the car dropped us off, it was a long 600 meter hike to the top of the Volcano. Did I mention the Volcano is still active? It’s all fun and games until you reach the top and see the crater is smoking—doesn’t that mean it’s time to go?
We spent the night in Sorrento, an adorable little seaside town with colorful houses built into the cliffs. We had a cute nighttime stroll, walking along the streets all decorated for Christmas, and decided on a grocery store-bought dinner of Ferrero Rochers and red wine—don’t you just love Italy? In the morning, we caught an early ferry to Capri, an island just off the coast of Sorrento with the bluest water in the world. Capri is usually a summer destination, so we were just about the only tourists around. Putting my sneakers to good use, we did a treacherous cliff walk all around the island; going up and down steep stairs and cliffs. I had always heard of Capri being a beautiful resort destination, but I had no idea how green and wild it was until I was miles into the woods, hiking down cliffs on the water and trekking through grottos.
We made a stop at the ruins of Villa Jovis, one of the highest points on the island and the former palace of Roman Emperor Tiberious. The view from the villa at the top of the cliff was absolutely stunning, and we even saw some wild mountain goats grazing inside the ruins. Unfortunately, they were on the staircases that lead to the exit. Assuming they were like any other reasonably small wild animal, my roommate and I hoped that they would be more afraid of us than we were of them and their horns. That is, however, until they spotted us coming down the stairs. In a moment that could have been staged by Animal Planet’s “Unlikely Predators” (if there was such a show that would feature mountain goats as deathly predators), the goats stopped, stared at us, tilted their heads down so as to expose their horns (for ramming us I presume), and started to pick up speed. So there I was admiring the bluest water in the world on the island of Capri that’s just one of the many stops on my glamorous European adventure, once again putting my soccer mom sneakers to good use and running for my life from wild mountain goats up an almost 2000 year old staircase. Of course, as a result of my awe-inspiring getaway speed (and my fear of death by mountain goat), I tripped running up the stairs and acquired a nice black and blue third kneecap; a souvenir from my island getaway.
Who said my semester abroad wouldn’t be glamorous? I don’t remember the part of the movie where Princess Anne is limping down an Italian cliff after escaping wild mountain goats. Then again, I don’t think Princess Anne would have ever been caught dead in jeans and sneakers. Nevertheless, I’m thankful for my mom sneakers, they nearly saved my life—that and high school track practice.