This may sound obvious, but it’s hard to conceptualize when you’re here: Italy has a lot more to offer than simply Rome. Once I truly internalized this message, I became a bit overwhelmed with all of the things I wanted to do and all of the places I wanted to go. From Tuscany to Sicily, I realize that Rome isn’t my classroom: Italy is; and all of the ways in which the Italian culture shifts, changes, and is influenced by the different regions within itself provides interesting levels to the topics we discuss in class.
This weekend I traveled to southern Italy and spent the weekend in the Amalfi Coast. My first day there, I took a ferry from Sorrento (the town I was staying in) to Capri (an island just off the coast). After taking a boat tour around Capri, seeing the many grottos and rock formations that lend themselves to certain Italian traditions, we took a funicular to Capri Town, a town of higher elevation than the marina. After walking around in Capri Town, we were scheduled to take a bus to Anacapri (even further up the mountains). However, the bus was about an hour late. This was the first thing I noticed about southern Italy: in comparison to Rome, which (especially judging by its transportation) seems to be go go all the time—albeit, not quite to the level of places in the US such as New York City—southern Italy is well-rooted in leisure. Everything there is about taking your time, not worrying about the specifics, and throwing away whatever sense of a frantic urgency you may have. We waited an hour for a bus that should have already been waiting for us and our guides’ response was: “Welcome to southern Italy.” **We also got the same response when the number of the dock for the ferry back to Sorrento had changed last minute and our entire group had to hustle to the opposite side of the marina as to not miss our way back home.**
Besides the incredible view and lax atmosphere, there was something incredibly charming about southern Italy. [To preface, I need to admit that, to me, there’s something incredibly charming about Italy in general.] When I went to lunch in Anacapri, a man who was seated next to us in the restaurant dining with his wife, educated me on the best way to eat calamari (with a bit of lemon squeezed on top, *not* the standard marinara sauce). As we went through the towns, many people complimented my hair—unsurprisingly, it seemed as though the texture and style of my afro was something they were not familiar with—and were more than willing to talk to us. We joked around with the shoemakers who worked at one of the shops where you could get custom Italian leather sandals made for you. While there were many other differences between Rome and the coast that I noticed, the main one (in addition to the one discussed above) is that: if you’re smart and into that kind of thing, then you really want to order a meal that includes seafood rather than just pasta, because there is no better seafood in Italy than directly by the Amalfi Coast.
I also traveled to Positano this past weekend and that was the icing on the cake. Paddle boating on the Mediterranean Sea, the importance of which (at least in antiquity) to the founding of Rome I had recently discussed in class. It was very interesting witnessing the different atmosphere of southern Italy compared to Rome and applying that surreal classroom to my real one, in which we discuss the Mediterranean and the importance of the different regions of Italy and how they influence each other.