Italy-beaches, pizza, and ruins

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June 29th 2018
Published: August 5th 2019
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Not long after school let out, I met with my best friend Dustin in Italy! He was there for a yoga retreat, and some sun and pizza sounded like a great way to start a summer holiday.

This was my first visit to Naples, and I did not know what to expect. We met at the port in Naples, and quickly made our way to the island of Ischia. What a sight! The ferry ride was easy, and we made our way by foot over to our hotel, the Hotel Panoramica, which indeed offered a beautiful view of the sea. It was clear on our walk that the island is used to tourists, and the views and sea made it clear why one wanted to visit. Our dinner at Il Gardinia was the first of many a pizza to come. In fact, we ate so much pizza, that I could not think about bread a cheese after my return from our trip! But that backlash was certainly worth every tasty bite.

One of the luxury places on the island is a spot called Negombo. It is difficult to explain what it is. There are beach chairs, so you can sun yourself and then dip into the Mediterranean to cool off, spa services, and then really impressive thermal baths. You climb up from the beach up a mountain, and there are little nooks with warm waterfalls or caves with thermal baths. Really a special spot. It was certainly popular, but it was not at all overcrowded. The restaurant situation also did not disappoint, with fresh fish and cool white wine on a shady veranda. What a treat!

The next day, we made our way to Aragonese Castle. It is a Medieval structure built high up on a hill. The views were spectacular. The castle and church had many surprises, including the room where nun's remains were set to drain! That was a first for me!

Though we could have certainly lounged and relaxed plenty more, we had made a plan to return to Naples that evening. What a contrast! Instead of the low key laid back pace of life on Ischia, Naples is buzzing! The roads are crowded with cars and zooming motorcycles, often with many passengers riding along without helmets. Crossing the street seemed was a bit of an undertaking. Once we reached our hotel, we decided we were very happy staying up on the balcony for a bit, enjoying the views, but not engaging with the flurry. But of course, at some point our bellies rumbled, and it was time to find some pizza again! So down the winding streets, thankfully we reached some pedestrian streets which were calmer, to some yummy pizza.

We took advantage of Rick Steves' free walking tour the next day, and made our way through the old city streets. It was a bit depressing to see the garbage and dirt everywhere, but when a city is as old as this, modern living and infrastructure is hard to build in. We then climbed up to the Medieval fortress Castel Sant'Elmo for some lovely views over the city.

After a god night's rest, a quick train ride took us out to the wonder of Pompeii. Again, we used the Rick Steeve's audio tour to gather some context as we meandered around the enormous site. The trip took the whole day, and we are sure we did not even see the everything there was to see. But what a spectacular place to visit. It was in no way a let down, which I wondered if it might be, after years of wanting to visit. The preservation is very well done.

Dustin and I were sad to part, but neither of us really truly warmed to Naples. We certainly enjoyed ourselves and the food and drink, and it was great to get a different take on Italy than the cities we had visited in the north, but it was indeed chaotic!

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