I just got back from an amazing and breathtaking weekend in the South of Italy on the Amalfi Coast. This was the trip that was organized by Umbra that I mentioned in my first ever post. It started to get chilly in Perugia the past week or so and this trip was like a journey back to summer. The weather was amazing, in the 80s-90s the entire weekend.
We began our travels early in the morning, starting out in Pompeii. We had a two-hour long tour of the ruins, and we barely covered a fraction of the place. The Roman ruins were pretty awesome, but I think Pompeii has them beat. The entire town was much more intact and I didn’t have to strain my imagination to try and picture what it used to look like. There were whole buildings still standing, roads still apparent, even plaster casts of the human inhabitants who suffered a horribly tragic fate. The threatening Mt. Vesuvius presided over the town and was visible at almost any position within the ruins. It filled me with a sense of awe at the powers of nature, the unpredictability of it, and the fragility of human life. Those plaster casts showed people who were just living their lives, and happened to be in the wrong town at the wrong time.
After an overpriced lunch at a touristy shop, we headed on to the port at Naples, to take a ferry to the island of Ischia. The ferry ride was quite bumpy and a few people were feeling a little green around the gills by the time we got to the island. We settled into our fancy schmancy, modern hotel and explored a little before dinner. The island was quite beautiful and there were many shops along the main street selling limoncello, fashionable shoes, dried red peppers, and jewelry made of coral and shells. Everyone met up for a group dinner which consisted of five courses, and every course was flavorful and filling.
The next day we took a water taxi to the nearby island of Capri to spend the day. Me and a bunch other people from Umbra decided to take a discounted boat tour of the island. Seeing the crystal clear turquoise water from the boat and the rock formations that surround the island was unreal. I don’t think I could grasp the full beauty of the place. We cruised along around the Capri as our tour guide pointed out romantic places, like the tunnel of love (which we went under and he played kissing noises on the speaker for special effect) and the “bambino factory” beach (he told us “you go in as two, and come out three”). He also pointed out the mansions of many famous people and celebrities like the fashion designer Armani, Ferrari of sportscar fame, and a famous Italian singer or actress whose name I can’t remember. We went past the green grotto and the blue grotto, but unfortunately only got a glimpse because of the incredibly long wait to go into the cave. In these grottos, the turquoise water reflects the sunlight inside the cave, creating a beautiful effect on the walls.
After our boat tour, I went with a smaller group of friends and we decided to take a bus to Anacapri (the highest town on Capri) and take the chairlift from there to the very highest point on the island. The bus ride was terrifying to say the least. The roads were so narrow they could have been one-way, and our bus kept passing buses with maybe an inch or two between us the entire way up. The road kept switching back to get up the steep cliff, and at one point we looked down and we were on the edge of a sheer drop to the ocean far far below. With only a short wall to protect us from going off the cliff, my friends and I now knew why that part of the road was called “Mamma Mia Road.” Some of us commenced to singing Mamma Mia from the musical in order to deal with the shock. At Anacapri, we got on the chairlift and were rewarded for our hair-raising trip up the mountain with some spectacular views.
It was a very steep, very peaceful ride up to the top and when we finally arrived, the sight took my breath away. We were as high as the clouds and had an astounding view of the gorgeous Mediterranean and even the mainland. Many pictures were taken and we all felt so grateful for each other’s company and the fact that we could be taking in that view at that moment. We explored a bit while we were up there, and one of my friends spotted a man proposing to his girlfriend. It was such a lovely sight to see, and it just added to the beauty surrounding us.
We took the chairlift and the bus back down the mountain, which was only a little bit less scary the second time, and decided it was time to hit up the beach. The beach was covered in pebbles rather than sand which made the going quite uncomfortable, but eventually we found a rock to put our things on and swam out into the warm, crystal clear, bright blue water of the Mediterranean. The water was quite deep but I could see straight to the bottom. Some of our other friends who had spent the day hiking joined us for a dip in the super salty water. It was so easy to float and it was wonderful to relax in the sea after such a full day.
We all returned to Ischia at the end of the day for another nice dinner together. The next day we went to Napoli (Naples) for a guided tour of the city starting with the beautiful Umberto Gallery, that had a plexiglass ceiling. Our tour guide was a bit slow and did not have a lot of useful information for us, so at the end of our tour me and some friends took it on ourselves to explore. We saw the panoramic view of the Mediterranean, Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius, Capri, and Ischia. It was really fulfilling getting to see everywhere we had been that weekend, all at once, and also getting to say we had been at each place.
Next we went to find ourselves some authentic Neapolitan pizza. We were in the birthplace of that timeless Italian dish after all. We demolished the pizza (which tasted very good, but I wasn’t extremely impressed), and then went to the Gran Caffe Gambrinus, the home of the original Italian coffee, to have un caffe (espresso). That espresso made me want to drink espresso every day. The caffe also had many many pastries for us to try.
We met up with our group for the bus ride back to Perugia. The ride was filled with gorgeous views of the Umbrian countryside and when we arrived in Perugia, we were greeted with a watercolor sunset. What an amazing end to an amazing weekend! Every time I return from an exciting, jam-packed weekend trip, it makes me that much more grateful that I live in Perugia where the town, the views, my apartment, and the shops are familiar. I’m beginning to appreciate Perugia more as a city, and as home, when I compare it to the other places I’ve been. I can’t explain it, but it’s just a nice feeling knowing you’re finally home. I get a similar feeling, times about one thousand, when I’m finally at my house in good ole RVA.