Your family visiting you in Italy means a whirlwind of traveling…but in a good way! (At least I didn’t have to do any of the planning myself! 😉 )
My parents and my younger sister arrived in Naples last Saturday morning, where my roommate and I met them via a quick (and cheap) train ride from Rome. Not long after checking into Hotel Garibaldi and having a quick lunch did we depart for the Church of Il Gesu Nuovo for our private walking tour of underground Naples. Our tour guide was adamant in introducing the old center of the city as a “layer cake,” which was definitely evident once we entered the ancient forum below street level. The lowest levels underground are naturally the oldest, and in ascending order, you travel through history. Centuries were built on top of previous ones. Naples was originally founded by the Greeks, who were then conquered by the Romans. This sequence of time is clear in the forum’s layer cake. The lowest excavations show original Greek architecture and the lack of concrete, whereas the buildings on top of them are distinctly Roman in their layout and do use concrete because the Romans themselves invented it. I was surprised to see how well preserved the forum is in comparison to the forum in Rome. But again, this is attributed to the layer cake concept. Naples’ ancient foundation is still underground because a church was built right on top of it.
Of course by dinner time, all five of us were starving and eager to try some authentic Neapolitan pizza…which was delicious! Definitely the best I’ve had in Italy so far. The crust was thin but also soft, which apparently is so because of the water in Naples. It’s pure and doesn’t have any minerals, unlike Roman water which has more calcium.
Early the next morning we checked out of our hotel and immediately loaded into a car service which stopped first in Pompeii and then continued on to the Amalfi Coast, in Amalfi City, Positano, and Sorrento. Pompeii was amazingly preserved, including several plaster body casts of the Mount Vesuvius eruption victims, which I admit was a little creepy. There was even one of a poor dog! Unfortunately for them but lucky for us, the preservation of the city tells us a lot about the sophistication and lifestyle of the time period. Pompeii eventually became a Roman colony, so like Rome, there was an aqueduct system for running water. Our tour guide pointed out that every few blocks, there were three stepping stones intersecting the street so people could cross without getting wet…the streets were always flushed and flooding with overflowing water.
Next on the tour was a drive over to the coast, and every view from the three cities we stopped in was spectacular. Positano reminded me of a small beach town, with all of its shops built right into the cliffs. The shore line was filled with people playing in the sand and some venturing into the water. We ate lunch at a restaurant overlooking the scene. Sorento was a lot more modern and reminded me more of a bustling city, but with views of the Mediterranean and the cliffs still visible from the piazza. On the way there, we actually stopped at a roadside stand for some homemade limoncello…Amalfi is well-known for their lemons. It was overall just such a beautiful day…I actually plan to go back with a friend in a few weeks and stay for the weekend, rather than just a Sunday.
The drive from there back to Rome is typically only a couple of hours, but with the traffic (there is only one road that leads out of the coast), it took about two extra hours. It was a relief to be home and settled…but that won’t last long! That was only the first weekend of their trip and there’s still more to come!