Toussaint holidays are upon us in Europe, which means classes are off for the week and I wanted to experience a taste of la dolce vita. With discount plane tickets in hand, Morgan, Miguel and I headed off from Paris to Napoli early Tuesday morning. Off course, airports are difficult to navigate and we were cutting it close arriving late to begin with, but we made it on board just as the sun rose over Paris. Two hours later, and we had landed in Italy!
Discovery Number 1: Italy is way hotter than Paris, but the ruins are way cooler (especially at the foot of a volcano)
We left France in relatively cool weather. We were all wearing long sleeves and light jackets. When we arrived in Napoli, we were greeted with shorts and sandals. It felt much hotter than what our weather apps told us it was! With the sun beating down on us, we carried our backpacks on a hike through ancient Pompeii. Chipped painted frescos and half-buried mosaic floors depicted images of the ancient gods and Roman life. The ruins of clay-shingled villas hinted at how the richest Romans would have wined and dined at the ancient resort before Mount Vesuvius buried it in volcanic ash in 79 AD.
Grand amphitheatres appeared around the corners of narrow cobbled streets and the necropolis held dozens of Roman statues, each depicting the figure of the person buried somewhere nearby. Roman columns guarded large plazas, most of which had long toppled, still laying in pieces where they fell. We enjoyed a sunny picnic lunch in one of these beautiful Roman plazas, sitting on the broken stumps of fallen columns, with a view of Mount Vesuvius beyond.
Discovery Number 2: Italian trains are always late
The train from Pompeii took us up to Napoli again and then on to Roma. This was when our second discovery was made. Maybe only 5 minutes, maybe up to 15 minutes or more, but it seems as though every single Italian train we take is stereotypically late. But the ride to Roma was smooth enough and as it was a local train (not a tourist one), we received a more authentic experience. They may not always be the newest nor the prettiest machines around, but they take us where we need to go.
Discovery Number 3: Don’t speak Italian? Try your French
I know native English speakers are spoiled around the world with English being the modern lingua franca. But I suppose I was still shocked at how many Italians many speak no English. And by no English, I mean actually no English. Like we say “Ello” and that’s it kind of English. When I went to pick up our reserved train tickets to Roma, I asked the teller in Italian if he spoke English and he said no. We sort of looked at each other for a second before I began an elaborate game of charades. Fortunately, Italian is extremely close to other latin languages. I added some vowels to the end of some French words and I was impressed when the teller actually understood what I meant! Plus, with Miguel being a native Spanish speaker, and all of us speaking French, we managed to get through most conversations relatively easily. The locals will speak one language to us, we’ll respond in another, and somehow everyone understands what is going on. It’s quite amusing too.
We are now in Roma, exhausted from Pompeii and full of deliciously cheap Napoli pizza. Our apartment is a mere 300 yards from the Colosseum, our first destination in the morning. We expect many more “Ciao bella!”s in the coming days as we backpack our way through Italy.