I had been waiting all semester for this weekend to come, and it exceeded my expectations. This was the weekend that our director, Thanos, planned for us to just relax and experience culture. This “relax” travel concept is very different from when our art history professor takes us on trips that involved starvation and sleep deprivation just so we can see even more art, which is why I have hostile feelings towards Bologna. I was really looking forward to nice weather, hanging out with friends, and not worrying about any travel details because Thanos had it covered.
The first place on our itinerary was Naples. If you recall, I had been in Naples once before, and I did not have a very high opinion of it. I think that my exact adjectives were “pit” and “God-forsaken place.” Luckily, I had a completely different experience this time. The first of all, we didn’t set foot in that dreaded train station because we were on a bus, and secondly, I spent all of my time by the Mediterranean, which is gorgeous no matter where you are.
After some free time exploring the coast of Naples, we loaded on the bus to go to Mount Vesuvius. On the way up the mountain, we stopped for lunch at a nice looking restaurant. I had a sneaking suspicion that Thanos had a very cultural lunch in store for us. He did not disappoint.
The sea food kept coming and coming! I filled up on the first plate because I had no idea there would be two plates after that. It was all so delicious, so I ate as much of each plate as I could. The guy next to me finished everything that I couldn’t eat, which was impressive. It was too good to waste!
After that gigantic lunch, we got to hike all the way up to the top of Mount Vesuvius, which is one of the most famous volcanoes in the world. The priest traveling with us told us not to worry about the hike that it is more like a “brisk walk.” Um, I think that walking to school is a “brisk walk;” climbing up Mount Vesuvius was definitely a hike. We were walking up a steep and sandy path the whole way. I didn’t think I was going to make it, but I kept seeing adults a lot older than me climbing like champions, which was pretty good motivation. Everywhere I looked the view was gorgeous. I felt like I was standing on the edge of the world.
When we finally got to the top, we were standing right next to the gigantic crater of the volcano. I couldn’t stop thinking about how crazy this was. I never thought that I would hike up a volcano in my life. It’s not something that ever entered my mind. Yet, there I was, looking into the crater and seeing steam rising from it.
Of course, we wanted to know the likelihood of an eruption, so we asked one of the park officials. She said that last week there was a really loud tremor, and they were scared it might erupt! Last week! She concluded by saying that you can never be sure when a volcano will erupt. I live on the edge, ladies and gentlemen.
It was breathtaking. I would have stayed up there all day if I could have. And if I wasn’t getting so sunburned.
We left Naples and spent the night and the next day in Sorrento. We had all day Saturday to do whatever we wanted, so obviously, I decided to go to the beach with a couple friends. This was my first time actually swimming in salt water. We swam out to some rocks where tons of sea creatures were gathered. We saw a whole bed of sea urchins, a crab, mussels, and some unidentifiable fishes. Too bad that we didn’t have any goggles or scuba gear. We finished the day with yummy pizza and coconut gelato.
The next day, we took a detour on our way home to visit Monte Cassino. It didn’t look like much from a distance, but it was certainly the most gorgeous monastery that I have ever seen. The root of its beauty was in the elegance and simplicity of the building paired with the natural beauty of the view from the mountain top. We were lucky enough to have a tour of the building and learn all about St. Benedict, the founder, and his sister, St. Scholastica.
If I ever decided to live in a monastery, I would choose Monte Cassino.
Things are getting very busy here. Two weeks from today, I will be on my way back to Minnesota. I feel excited to come home but also very rushed to finish my classes strong and see everything in Rome. This weekend, I’m going to Prague!
Love from Roma, Lizzie