Last Sunday night I arrived back at my dorm tired and exhausted, both physically and mentally. I definitely didn’t feel like a million bucks, but I had just gotten back from a weekend in Italy with views, people, food, and experiences worth more than a million bucks.
Thursday morning we awoke at 4:15 to make our 7:00 flight from Budapest to the Rome Fiumicino Airport. I traveled with my friends Molly, Margaret, and Solveiga, who all live on my floor and go to DePaul as well. After sleeping most of the hour and a half long flight, we landed in Rome at 8:30. The adventures began when we split a cab to Termini station; the cab driver weaved in and out of traffic quite dangerously (which I’ve come to expect of all European cab drivers at this point), tried to point out landmarks to us in very broken English and mostly Italian (which none of us speak), and literally exclaimed “Mama Mia!” several times. The cab ride ended at the Termini train station where we dropped off our carry-on bags so we wouldn’t have to bring them around all day. By this point it was 10:30 and we were starving, so we tracked down a paper map and set off to find some food.
After some mediocre sandwiches at the first food place we could find, we ventured towards the Colosseum. We took in the beauty and fascinating history of the Colosseum and the Forum, then walked to the Victor Emmanuel monument, which is very grand and regal. On the way to more monuments, we stopped for some gelato, which I proceeded to spill all over my hands and onto my white shirt… typical. However, the stop was not in vain because we found ruins that operate as a cat sanctuary, much to Molly’s delight. After petting some cats we walked to the Pantheon, which was probably my favorite monument just because it is such a marvelous building. On the way to the Trevi Fountain, Molly and I stumbled upon the Church of St. Ignatius; the ceiling fresco is definitely worth the visit if you are ever in Rome. From there we found our way to the Trevi Fountain, which was disappointingly under construction. The fountain is very beautiful, but the water effects weren’t operating. I still threw a coin into the small area they left for coin tossing because apparently doing so means you will return to Rome one day.
The four of us then stopped for a late lunch at Al Picchio, which was recommended by HostelWorld and is right next to the Trevi Fountain. After dining on delicious caprese, bruschetta, and white wine, we walked down the high end fashion street to the Spanish Steps. The steps are nothing to rave about, however it was nice to sit on them after a long day of walking. We then walked back to the Termini train station to get our bags and find some dinner at a nearby restaurant to fuel the next few hours of travel. I had some of the best mushroom risotto I’ve ever had and some fantastic calamari as well. From the train station we took a shuttle bus to the Ciampino airport for only four euros. There we met with our Bus2Alps group, which is a travel company catered towards students. From Ciampino we set off with a bus full of other study abroad students (all Americans) and rode three hours to Sorrento, Italy.
We arrived to our hostel at 3am and had a rude awakening when we woke up at 6:30am to take the public ferry to the island of Capri. Right away we took an amazing boat ride around the whole island; we saw some grottos, the famous love rock, and the area of Capri that houses some of the most expensive real estate in the world. We unfortunately couldn’t enter the famous Blue Grotto because the tide was too high. After docking back at the Marina Grande, we took a steep 20-minute walk up to Capri Town. There we admired the view, wandered through some shops, and enjoyed granitas.
From Capri Town we took a local bus father up the island to Anacapri. Famished, we stopped for lunch at a restaurant recommended by our Bus2Alps trip leaders. The pizza was to die for; it reminded me of my favorite pizza restaurant in Minneapolis, Punch Pizza, but even better because this is Italy after all. We then stopped at Carlos’s sandal shop where Jackie Kennedy bought sandals back in the day. I got a custom pair for myself as my splurge purchase in Italy. You can pick the exact model and color you want and then he fits them right to your feet for the perfect fit.
Next was one of my top two favorite parts of the entire trip – taking the chairlift up to Mount Solaro. The ride up was beautiful and the view at the top was even more breathtaking. The pictures don’t even do it justice. We took lots of pictures and had some gelato, naturally. After taking the chairlift back down to Anacapri we were running a little late to meet the rest of our group, so we took a topless taxi (which is basically a convertible taxi) down the windy road to Marina Grande; the ride was very fun and relaxing.
The rest of the day involved taking the ferry back to Sorrento, showering at our hostel, eating way too much for dinner in downtown Sorrento (though my seafood pasta was the best I’ve ever had), and checking out a local bar. Unfortunately the great day ended on a sour note when Solveiga and I took a 7 minute cab ride back to our hostel that cost 45 euros. Lesson learned: always get a price quote before getting into a cab in Italy… we would learn this lesson again later.
The next day we took a half hour bus ride to Positano and had a beach day. We walked down lots of steps to get to the beach, which thankfully we didn’t have to walk back up at the end of the day because each bus is only permitted to drive down to the beach once a day. I spent the day reading on the beach, exploring and taking pictures by myself, swimming in the waves, eating an amazing panini, and ending the day with a great boat ride; the boat ride was the other one of my top two favorite parts of the entire trip. We got about 25 other study abroad students together on a boat and could basically tell the driver where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do. The boat made some stops where we could jump off and swim to cliffs (which some people jumped off) and swim through caves with crystal clear blue water. It honestly felt like a movie; I was really wishing I had a GoPro to document more of the fun. We ended the night with some food, drinking, and dancing at the more upbeat hostel that other Bus2Alps people were staying in.
For our final day in Italy we went to Pompeii. Our bus was an hour late to pick us up, which made our visit in Pompeii a little rushed. We went on a guided tour of the city which was really interesting and fascinating to see. It was crazy to think that we were walking on floors and looking at structures from 79 C.E. After some more pizza we boarded the bus for our 3 hour ride back to the Rome Ciampino airport. There we said goodbye to our new friends we met from Barcelona and London and took another expensive taxi to the Fiumicino airport where our flight departed. Though I may not have been happy to leave Italy, I sure was happy to leave the Eurozone! I couldn’t wait to get back to the cheap Hungarian Forint.
By 1am I was home in my bed in Budapest. Yes, home. It was a fantastic whirlwind weekend, but I’m so happy to be able to call Budapest home. Don’t worry though Italy, I’m coming back for ya one day. But for now… Ciao!