Thursday, August 30, 2012

European Adventure Part 3

Well, I've finally gotten around to finishing the last part of my summer adventure to Europe (see part 1 here, and part 2 here!), and, believe me, I definitely saved the best for last!

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely loved all of the places we visited, the sights we saw, and the people we met throughout our adventure, but Italy was hands-down my favorite and most memorable place. Filled with beautiful ocean views, warm waters, picturesque villages that hung precariously off the cliffs, and friendly and charming people, I think it might literally be impossible not to love it there!

Amalfi Coast & Pompeii


The last leg of our journey began with a flight to Rome, then a train to Salerno, and finally a bus ride along the winding Amilfi coast. After many hours of travel and a bus ride that was both frightening and thrilling at the same time, we were thankful to step out onto the main street of the striking village of Amalfi. Hot and tired, we could barely wait to get to our room and recharge for some exploration.
 
We spent the first couple of days discovering the village, and by that I mean primarily shopping and eating! Amalfi thrives off of summer tourism, so there was no shortage of quaint shops filled with trinkets, copious amounts of local pottery, and vendors standing ready in the streets to snag the hungry, thirsty, or fill-in-the-blank tourists as they went by. We didn't mind being snagged! After spending the previous few days in a large city, it was nice to just relax, eat the delicious local fare, and to generally not have an agenda.


We also spent a good portion of our time lounging on the beach and exploring the mysterious looking pathways leading up the cliffs. Most of them led to the homes and apartments of the local residents, but some led up to interesting statues, hidden courtyards, and ancient churches with sweeping views. It felt very adventurous indeed! We also had a chance to spend some quiet moments drinking wine and peering out of our hotel window, which overlooked the bustling Piazza Duomo and gave impressive views of the looming Amalfi Cathedral. 

On our third day we decided to take a day trip to the ruins of the ancient city of Pompeii, which was destroyed by Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79. The weather forecast said that it was going to rain that day, which meant the local ferries were not running, and which also meant the buses were packed. We were lucky to get a seat for the usually 1 1/2 hour ride that ended up taking 3! Rain on the horizon also meant that the weather would be hot and humid, but despite that, back on the bus we went!

After our arduous journey, we finally arrived at the ancient site. Storm clouds dotted the horizon, but we paid little attention - a little bit of rain will feel good in this stifling heat, I thought (you may be able to see where this is going).

For a couple of hours we walked the ancient streets, doing our best to imagine what daily life would have looked like for the ancient citizens. We stood in what would have been the houses and shops of a bustling city, and pretended to be Pompeians - selling goods, making meals. I wondered how different or similar the people would have been to us today. All the while the skies were darkening.

By the time the first drops of rain started to fall - it was hopelessly too late. Despite our umbrellas, which we had brought for the sun, we became utterly and thoroughly soaked. It rained so much that the previously dusty streets turned to flowing rivers, showcasing the impressive engineering of the ancient city, and washing away all the ghosts we had imagined. Tourists took off their shoes and waded through the ankle high waters. Hair dripped, shoes squished, cameras were put away, and everybody headed back to the train for their long journeys home - including us! I was sad we didn't get to see more of the ruins, but it gives me an excuse to go back again someday.

Rome


We decided to spend an extra day in Amalfi, to recoup from our trip to Pompeii, which we spent mostly relaxing on the beach and, you guessed it, eating, before heading off to Rome where we finished our trip. We had planned to have two full days of sightseeing in the chaotic city, but only ended up having a full day to explore. We were limited by time and the oppressive heat, but managed to fit in a few sites - the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, and the Colosseum (just the outside) before exhaustion set in and we found ourselves in our hotel room watching Italian television and eating Pringles - romantic, I know. Despite the amazing things we experienced, we were definitely ready for our trip home by that point.

Favorite Food and Drink


As I mentioned several times before, eating was one of our main activities while in Italy! I'm going to go ahead and address this with an incredibly sophisticated statement: OMG so good!!! Every. single. thing. we ate was to die for. It's hard to choose a favorite among all the wonderful things we tasted, but I would have to go with the Pasta al Limone, pictured above, that I had in Amalfi. It was so incredibly simple, but managed to fill your mouth with flavor and spark every taste-bud with a sweet and biting punch of lemon and garlic. I definitely plan on recreating this at home - I just have to figure out how to do it!

My favorite dessert, of course, and most likely the reason my jeans were snug on the way home, was the handmade gelato in Amalfi. I'm pretty sure we tried almost every flavor, but the best, in my opinion, was lemon. Again with the lemon, but that is what Amalfi is known for, after all!

Lastly, my favorite drink was the cheap local wine we got with each meal - a nice compliment to the local food, and a great way to add to our state of relaxation.

Wrapping it Up:

I absolutely loved our trip and, although it may be a while before I can go, I am already planning my next big adventure! I never thought I would be lucky enough to take a trip like this, and am so thankful. There is not a single thing I could complain about...well, except for the fact that the food in Amalfi completely ruined any future pasta or pizza experiences that I could possibly have here at home! I will never again be able to eat pasta or pizza without recalling the deliciousness we encountered, and instantly feeling a bit sorry for myself.

In fact, my husband ordered a simple spaghetti at a local restaurant the other day. He twirled his fork around in the thick sauce for a bit, then took a bite. The look on his face was one of utter sadness as he turned to me and said, "it's just not the same."

"I know," I replied as I patted his back, "I know."




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