Published: July 1st 2009
June 29th 2009
Ruins of Pompei
1st of 72 point on our audioguide
We will now pick up from where we last left off: our arrival in Naples, Italy.
When we arrived in Naples, we were very surprised at how busy and in-your-face it seemed to be. There were people everywhere, cars racing through the streets, Vespas weaving in and out of traffic, and again, pedestrians are on their own. Many of the streets were narrow with little shops and restaurants lining both sides. All of this, combined with how old it looked, reminded us vividly of India. We both had a moment... *sigh*
Our first impression of our hostel was that we were entering an old apartment building in the Bronx of New York. The walls of the entrance were crumbling, water was dripping, and it was poorly lit. As we climbed the 4 flights of stairs to the reception, our expectations sunk lower and lower. However, we were pleasantly surprised when a fellow Canadian greeted us at the brightly colored reception desk, along with a cute little dog! As soon as we settled into our beautiful private room, we quickly headed out for some much needed food. Naples is said to have some of the best pizza in the world,
Some of the ruins as we were leaving
and we were anxious to test it out!
Upon recommendation from our Canadian receptionist (we've already forgotten his name), we tried a small pizza joint just around the corner from our hostel. It was filled with hungry Italians and a staff of tomato-stained artists. Now, we say artists because if you've ever seen a real Italian make pizza, it truly is an art-form to them, and not just another job. These people take great pride in their food, and trust us, it shows! We ended up chatting with a couple of them for a few minutes, as they were quite curious about us Canadians being in Naples. These were probably some of the friendliest Italians we had met thus far, and to our delight, they fit into every stereotype you've ever heard about Italians! We're trying to figure out a way to explain how "Italian" they really were, but you'll have to wait for our pathetic imitations in person.
Now, on to the highlight of our trip (mine (Rob), at least)... the pizza. Let me ask you this, do you remember watching the cartoon show Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and seeing how the cheese and sauce would literally
melt off the pizza? Well, that's exactly what this pizza was like. It really was the single best pizza, hands-down, either of us had ever had (sorry, Lynz, it's MUCH better than in Rome... and cheaper too). My mouth is almost salivating at the thought of it again.... ok now, where was I...
The next morning we woke up early to explore the fascinating archaeological ruins of the ancient city of Pompei. We paid the pricey entrance fee, picked up one audioguide between the two of us, a map, and headed inside. Pompei was a city that was buried by volcanic ash in the 79 A.D. eruption of Mount Vesuvius. It wasn't until the 18th century that it was actually rediscovered and excavating began. Many of the buildings including a few amphitheaters, a brothel, homes and bakeries are still standing as they were almost two thousand years ago. There were many beautiful paintings and mosaics still on the walls of some of the buildings. Some of the most interesting things to see were the plaster casts of some of the victims of the eruption. Most of them were in a position of either running away or cowering from the
Painting in Pompei
Still in tact after almost two thousand years
blast. There was even a plaster cast of a dog that was in obvious pain.
Pompei was really quite interesting to explore, but it was also incredibly exhausting. That day it was around 30 degrees with high levels of humidity, and in addition to this, Pompei is HUGE! We were there for 5 hours and only saw about a third of what was on the map. There was a total of 72 points on the audioguide, and after the 27th we decided we would pick and choose what to explore since there was no way we would be able to see all of them. Not to mention, all we had that day for energy was a bag of salty peanuts and two small bottles of water. We were not well-prepared at all!
Later that night we decided to explore Naples a little further and see what else it had to offer. Luckily, that weekend was their version of the Fringe Festival, which was partly why the streets were so packed with people. After some wandering around, we decided to reward ourselves with some more gelato! Again, it was far better than Rome's (sorry Lynz....).
That night, we
Most amazing pizza in Naples. It really is the greatest thing known to man (or at least to me...)
were awoken by what seemed to be a massive explosion somewhere in the vacinity of our hostel. We both shot awake, completely confused, and slightly scared, at what might be going on. When you shoot awake from a deep sleep, you don't always know what's going on, where you are, or sometimes, who you are. We both looked at each other and thought "what the HELL was that??" Moments later, there was another blast! This time... it was obvious as to what it was... mere thunder. This storm truly was the most intense and loud storm either of us had ever seen. The power cut out in our hostel, and still wasn't on again in the morning. We were both relieved that we weren't being bombed, and slowly fell back asleep.
The next morning we woke up early in order to catch our morning train to Florence. While packing, we decided that we weren't going to be late for anymore trains and would give ourselves lots of extra time to get to the station. We left with over an hour to spare and casually strolled to the subway station. We had two subways to catch which would take us
Home Sweet Home
The entrance to our shady looking hostel in Naples
right to the train station. After getting off the first subway to make our connection, we realized that something was wrong as there were no people anywhere, and we couldn't get into our connecting subway platform. So, we quickly asked a security guard who told us in his most broken english "Uh... no go. Problem. Take bus."
Wow. By this time, we had only 35 minutes until our train left and we had no clue how to get to the station! We quickly ran to the nearest bus stop where a bus was pulling up. We asked a local if it was going to Central Station, to which he answered "yes." Relieved, we hopped on and headed on our way. I decided that we had better double check that it actually was going to the station, and found out that it would be taking the very long way there... great. In our moment of panic, now 20 minutes from our scheduled departure, we hopped off the bus at the next stop (which was now further from the station) and frantically debated our options, or lack thereof. Since it was Sunday, all of the shops were closed and we had
Crowded Streets of Naples
There were tons of people!
absolutely nobody to ask for help. So, we walked back towards the subway stop in hopes of finding a taxi. Finally, we found one with only 10 minutes to spare!
I told the driver we were in a rush, and he madly swerved through traffic almost getting hit by a bus! Sarah and I, both leaning forward in our seats, felt as though we were contestants on the Amazing Race (we know we've said this before, but this time REALLY felt like it). As we pulled up to the station, now with 4 minutes to go, we grabbed our bags and ran to find our platform. Sarah found the platform number, yelled it back to me and we sprinted (as best we could) to catch our train. This time.... we were a little too late. As we neared the platform, we heard the whistle blow and saw our train pull away...
Kidding! We just know that you guys like to see us suffer in our blogs, as when we were seemingly dying in India, we heard from you the most. Jerks!
Anyway, we made it to Florence just fine. It was terribly boring and expensive, and completely
Coast of Naples
With Mount Vesuvius in the background
crowded with tourists (damn those pesky tourists!). The Uffizi Gallery was overpriced and a complete letdown, you had to pay to enter either of the two main churches in town (but, at least the Duomo was pretty from the outside), and the gelato, supposedly the best in Italy, was mediocre at BEST, and EXTREMELY overpriced! Michelangelo's David was definitely worth seeing, though. It was absolutely massive and amazingly perfect. We had planned on doing a day-trip to the Cinque Terre, but it was raining all day. So, instead, we worked on the last blog for YOU!
One great thing that did come out of our time in Florence was meeting some extremely friendly people. We were in a 6-person dorm, and for our last 2 nights, it was filled with two adorable British girls, Pip and Shereya, a guy from San Francisco, Tolly, and Andrew, who we got to know the best, from Hamilton, Ontario. Andrew is an aspiring archaeologist who just finished working on an excavation somewhere in Italy. He even gave us some pieces of a pot that he dug up from the 2nd Century A.D.. Very cool!
On our last night in Florence, we hung
Us along the waterfront in Naples
out with all of our roommates in the hostel bar, and met some more interesting travelers. One of which being an ignorant and arrogant young man from Montreal, who absolutely hated Canada! After asking him several times as to why he hated his own country, we realized that he had no real basis for it. He's never even travelled outside of Quebec! On top of this, he had an equally arrogant and ignorant American sidekick who was raving about how the American healthcare system is far better than that of the Canadians... what?!?! We were talking about different parts of Canada, and Sarah brought up Halifax. His response: "Halifax? Yuck!" This gives you an idea of his level of intelligence. We don't expect everyone to love Canada, but if you don't love your own country, at least travel outside of your province, and have a valid reason other than "I just don't like it."
The next morning, we woke up and made our way back to the train station. This time, we would be heading the sinking city, Venice. Due to a derailment (not our train), we were almost 2 hours late arriving. Venice was absolutely beautiful and had
The Duomo of Florence
This is as close as we got, since we are opposed to paying an entrance fee to a church
an expensive price tag to match. One ride on the waterbus was €6.50, which is around $10CAD. Crazy! One downside was that we were staying in a suburb of Venice, which you had to take a waterbus to and from. However, on our small island called Lido, we found some amazing gelato and a stunning beach.
That night, I took Sarah out for our first "date night" in a LONG time. We went into the main part of Venice and spent well over an hour trying to find a suitable place for vegetarians that was off the tourist track. We finally found a lovely little restaurant that was tucked into a corner and had the most romantic 3-course dinner filled with delicious Italian food, wine, and an authentic Italian ambience (again... please send money).
After dinner, we decided to explore the romantic city of Venice... and by explore, I mean we got terribly, terribly lost trying to find our waterbus stop. The streets of Venice are incredibly narrow and windy, and have absolutely no rhyme or reason behind the layout. Everywhere you go, it all looks the exact same and there are no street signs. At one point,
Us and Andrew
Our last night in Florence. Andrew rocked
after looking down three possible streets to go down, I pointed to one and said "let's try this one." Another couple walking towards us, also completely lost, yelled "where are we?! Who are we!?" We all had a good laugh, then continued on our maze.
At this point, even though we were lost, we were absolutely in love with Venice. Many people had told us that a day is more than enough time to see the city, but we couldn't understand why. The next day, we realized that Venice is a completely different city during the day. After seeing St. Mark's Square and Basilica, and the Rialto Bridge, there was nothing left to see or do. There are tacky souvenir shops everywhere, and the only people you see are fellow tourists. It seems to be lacking any authenticity during the day. In the evening, however, most of the tourists head back to their cruise-ships or hotels, and the streets thin out completely. It's much nicer, as it has that "magical" feeling that you so often hear about.
That evening, we headed back to the train station to catch our next night train to Zagreb, Croatia. This is where
Me at the Beach
I'm clearly in my best beach clothes.
we will leave you. In a few short hours we will be catching a plane to Athens, Greece. We will fill you in on everything in between in our next blog! Ciao!
There are more photos below