This weekend, Daniela Curioso, one of the Italian professors at Temple Rome, organized a trip to the gorgeous island of Ventotene. A group of 19 students left Rome on Friday morning and spent most of the day traveling to the Italian island. We took a subway, a train, and a ferry, and were on the island by 5:00 and in the sea not long after. Swimming in the ocean during the last weekend of September was unreal. Swimming in the Tyrrhenian Sea on a tiny island off the coast of Italy with a professor and new friends was absolutely incredible.
On Saturday, our group toured an old abandoned prison on Santo Stefano Island, which is within swimming distance of Ventotene’s coast. The prison is currently privately owned; however, the owner is letting the place crumble. The citizens of Ventotene would like to see the Italian government step in and protect or restore the ancient prison, but politics have prevented this from happening. Our tour was led by Salvatore, who was very careful about taking us to places on the island where the land wouldn’t crumble beneath our feet. We saw the main prison building, the chapel, and the cemetery. It was very interesting to hear him speak (Professor Curioso translated for us) about the way the Italian criminal justice system used to work and tell stories about various prisoners that were jailed on Santo Stefano. The prison saw births, deaths, romances, marriages, escapes, and torture. If I was ever put in jail, I’m pretty sure I’d like to be stuck in this one if only for the fantastic views. By 2:00 that afternoon, we were on a blow-up boat, bouncing over waves and headed back to Ventotene to spend the rest of the day relaxing on the beach and trying not to think about our upcoming midterms.
The staff at Hotel Isolabella was extremely gracious and genuinely interested in our group. Ventotene really is a remote vacation destination that Italians typically frequent in the summer and the few people on the island were genuinely fascinated by us exotic Americans. The weekend afforded us with plenty of opportunities to practice our Italian because unlike in Rome, very few of the Italians on Ventotene knew any English. The hotel chefs invited us into the kitchen to teach us how to make dinner on Saturday night. We split into 3 groups: 1 made tiramisu, 1 made swordfish, and 1 made lentil soup (a Ventotene specialty) and pasta in seafood sauce. I was in the latter group and spent most of my time in that kitchen cutting up squid, octopus, and shrimp. Antonio made slicing fish look so easy, but the chef couldn’t contain his laughter every time he looked at my pathetic work. It’s now Tuesday and I can still smell fish on my fingers, but it was so worth the delicious dinner that we were served on Saturday. Many of us agreed that the meal we ate that night was one of the best we had in Italy so far.
Sunday was overcast and the group split up to swim, shop, and explore Ventotene. Leaving that afternoon to come back to Rome was not easy. We were all sad to say goodbye to our new friends and the hotel staff who so adored us, but the girls on the trip agreed that one of us would have our wedding on Ventotene. Now we’re all looking forward to returning and enjoying another amazing weekend on the beautiful Italian island together!