Thursday, April 7, 2011

When in Rome... Go to Capri

What an adventure this last week has been.  We left Arezzo last Thursday to go to Rome on our school trip, and though there were positive moments, for the most part I found Rome to be just awful.  There are some incredible things to see but the city itself is poorly marked, expensive, and frankly kind of scary to be in.

Thursday we took a bus from Arezzo and went straight to our hotel.  Elena, Trevor, and I had reservations at the Vatican museum so we raced there as quickly as we could.  When we were almost there, who did we see standing in line for the Basilica?  Mom and Pops!!!  What are the odds?  I knew they were still going to be in Rome that day, but since they had no phone and we were on different schedules, we had not intended to meet up. We exchanged a quick hello, but we were late for our museum reservation so we had to run off.  The museum was cool, but honestly not as spectacular as we expected.  We did see the Sistine Chapel, which was different than I thought it would be, but possibly more exciting.  The colors were so vivid and the figures popped out so much more than I would have imagined from the pictures I've seen.

Bus to the Vatican

Filling water bottle at the Vatican

After the museum we wandered a bit more around the Vatican area then went back towards the hotel in search of gelato.  That's another weak point of Rome- there's not very many gelato places considering it's such a popular place to be.  We finally stopped a local to ask where their favorite place nearby was, and we proudly understood the directions enough to find it.  We got our gelato, and upon exiting we looked up and realized we were standing not even a block from the Coliseum!  This was definitely another high point.  Gelato in hand, the three of us just strolled around the coliseum, being goofy and taking pictures.  It was quite enjoyable.

We then headed back to the hotel and rested before dinner.  We hooked up with Jonny and Emily and went to a restaurant recommended by the concierge which was enjoyable for a bit, until the bill came and we realized that because of a misunderstanding we were going to have to pay four times more for our food than we thought.  To put it lightly, we were less than satisfied.  To put it accurately- we were furious.  We then set out in search of somewhere to forget that whole mess.  A club, a bar, anything?  Well… at least in that section of Rome, such things don’t exist, only sketchy people lurking on street corners leaning into you when you walk by.  It didn’t take too long for us to unanimously decide to just go back to the hotel and go to bed.

Friday morning yielded the ultimate wonderful part of the Rome excursion: our Tarantella class!  During the excursion (which they do at ADA once every semester), the dancers get to have our movement teacher for a class and we get to have one of their teachers for a dance class!  It’s the one time in the semester we get to do this.  I REALLY dig the tarantella.  The teacher described it as being all about “the fire within,” and it was a fantastic way to release all of the misery Rome had brought down upon us.  We learned a few basic steps and variations and did a lot of improvising using them to music.  It was a fantastic class and I wish I could pursue it further.  I love a dance that has so much subtext and passion.  It was almost therapeutic to do it.

After the class we hurried to the train station to start the next leg of our journey to beautiful Capri and leave Rome in the dust.  If only it were so simple.  We arrived in the middle of a transportation strike, which eliminated our chances of leaving Rome that day.  It was so awful.  We were in the train station for 3 hours trying to find alternatives, but any that were available would cost more than any of us had.  Fortunately, our hotel in Capri let us cancel the reservation for that night without charging us, and the ADA was already paying for us to stay the second night in Rome, so it wasn’t all bad.  Just mostly.  We decided to use our train tickets for the 5:40 am flight the next day.  So, we went back into Rome and decided to eat away our sorrows with delicious pizza, more gelato, and (judge all you want… we had hit rock bottom) McDonalds french fries.  I hate to admit it, but it really did make me feel better.  We then spent the rest of the evening at a beautiful park doing acrobatics and frolicking in the grass.
I did not catch people at their best moments

Check it.

Dinner that night was phenomenal.  It almost made up for all the other bad tastes Rome had put in our mouths.  And, it was dirt-cheap.  We each got three courses for still less than the amount we had paid for one lousy course at the restaurant that ripped us off the night before.  It was fantastic.  I intend to have my last meal there before leaving Italy in a few weeks because my flight home is out of Rome.
Gnocchi with clams and mussels!!!

Then lamb second course!!!

We got a few hours of sleep and finally, FINALLY got on the train out of Rome, to Naples, where we would take a ferry to Capri.  Quick word on Naples—it’s disgusting.  I don’t know the details on the politics or anything, but for some reason or another they have not had trash collected in like over a year.  It’s ghastly.  Luckily, we didn’t spend any time there, but just the cab ride from the train station to the harbor was enough for me.  Not to mention, apparently no one in that city obeys any traffic laws whatsoever.  Quite a cab ride.

Okay… enough of my petty complaints.  On to CAPRI!!!

I can’t fully describe how incredible this place is.  If ANY of you EVER have a chance to go there, I urge you to take it.  This is the single most beautiful place I’ve ever been.  It’s paradise.  It’s Heaven on Earth. 

The second I stepped off the hydrofoil (the boat that took us to the island), I saw this view.  My immediate reaction was to just shout “Holy f*ck!”  Forgive my crudeness, but it was literally all I could say.  I was floored.  I felt weak in the knees.
My first view.

We made it to our hotel pretty easily.  There are two towns on the island of Capri, one is actually called Capri (where the harbor is) but we stayed in Anacapri.  Our hotel was delightful, and the five of us (Elena, Trevor, Jonny, Jeremy, and I) all got to share a room.  Unfortunately, Jeremy had the horrible stomach flu that plagued a large percentage of our program in Rome.  To sum up, it’s high fevers, chills, and liquids erupting from both ends.  Not at all pleasant.  Jeremy was the mastermind behind the whole Capri trip, and it was such a bummer that he had to stay in the hotel all day Saturday while we went out adventuring.  But, hey, better to be sick in a hotel room in Capri than sick in a hotel room in Rome or anywhere else.

As soon as we had settled in a bit we changed into beach clothes (yes!  Bathing suits!  Finally!) and headed to the chair lift that takes you up “Monte Selaro.”  It’s one of the main attractions of Capri, and perhaps the most spectacular thing I’ve ever done in my life.  It’s a 13 minute ride up the mountain, and I must have snapped 50 photos, many of which are only the slightest bit different, but I just couldn’t help myself.  Every second yielded an incredible view, or some cute Italian garden below.

Then there was the top of the mountain itself.  I know I say a lot that I can’t put things into words.  This is one of those instances.  Jonny and I walked to the edge, looked out, and both didn’t say anything, just cried.  The green mountain with a gorgeous cliff face surrounded by circling seagulls all against a backdrop of crystal-clear, blue water and clear, blue skies.  It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.  I will never forget my time on the top of that mountain.

We walked around, each angle presenting a view as beautiful as the last, and picked a sunny, grassy place to picnic.  We had stopped at an adorable market in town and gotten our usual bread, mozzarella, and fruit combinations.  Yet again, the pocket knife Sava gave me before I left proved incredibly valuable in our feasting.  We lay there for a while chatting, soaking up sun, singing, and then just taking it all in silently.  Eventually we decided to go back down (equally as exciting as the trip up) to visit Jeremy and see the next sight.

One of the funny tour groups we passed going down.

Jeremy was still not feeling up to much, so we decided to hit the beach.  We bused to Farro, alongside a few of the local youth who were heading there to hang with friends.  I thought there could be nothing as awesome as what we had done earlier that day… Somehow I was wrong.  This beach was wonderful.  It was rocky, no sand, which I loved because there was no awful clean-up to deal with afterwards.  I was a little worried about swimming at first, because the signs indicated it was very much “at your own risk.”  Eventually we saw a couple of the young locals hop in, so we boldly decided to follow suit.  My god.  It was FREEZING!  And WONDERFUL!  I swam in the Mediterranean!  Yes!!!  It quite literally took our breath away to jump in, but I eventually got used to it and we swam to the little platform in a cliff with some cute, chubby little Italian boys to jump off.  It was around this time we realized what a vast quantity of jellyfish there were.  Luckily, the water was so clear you could always see where they were, so those who were out would help those who were in by directing them around the jellyfish.  A month from now, I’m sure this place would be ghastly crowded, but it was almost empty except for some very nice Italian families and teenagers with guitars and bikinis.  It was such a nice sight.  Perfect time of year to go.

That's the four of us.

When we couldn’t take the cold or jellyfish anymore (Trevor had suffered some injuries) we walked around for a bit (there was a cool lighthouse nearby to look at) and then headed back to the bus.  We all napped a bit and when Jeremy was feeling up to it we all headed out to dinner.  Considering we were so close to Napoli (Naples) we decided it best to get pizza.  Good choice.  It was by far the best I’ve had in Italy.

Now that's a picture.

It's hard to see, but these were 6 old men playing a card game in this truck up the hill from the beach.  So wonderful, and so quintessentially Italian.

After dinner the exhaustion from waking up at 5 am and spending all day in the sun finally set in, so we went to bed.  The next morning we made the wise decision not to attempt the hike around the island (though I hope to go back one day and do it when I have more time) because that would have put us on a train that would not get us back to Arezzo until 1 am.  We instead decided to do the chair lift up the mountain again, this time with Jeremy.  It was amazing.  Again.  Even more so, perhaps, this time because 1) we were all together and 2) there were clouds around which were slowly enveloping the mountain.  It was heavenly.

Jeremy making the trek!

"The Lone Wolf isn't Lone, he's just Lonely"

Elena got daring.

We were sad to leave Capri, but knew we would be glad to make an early day of it and get back to Arezzo with evening left to catch up on work.  The bus ran a few minutes late, so the boat we were scheduled to be on pulled away as we were running down the dock.  This was not good.  We then had to wait for the next boat, which would probably make us miss our train in Naples.  Miraculously, the boat got into Naples a few minutes early, so our chances of reaching the train were increased.  Slim, but existent.  We bolted off the boat to the nearest taxi, shouted “Stazione!  Pronto!”, and only after we started moving did we realize how dangerous a request that is to make in a taxi in Naples.  I mentioned before the crazy driving in this town… I have never been more afraid for my life than on this car ride.  It was like being in an action movie.  He literally just plowed through, running every light, smashing the horn until every car moved from our path, going down the wrong lane of traffic.  It was thrilling.  Bottom line, we made our train!  We tipped him heftily, then ran through the station “Home Alone” style.  I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

I realize I don’t talk too much about my social life here on my blog.  I have amazing friends here.  Talented, generous, hilarious friends who I will surely remain in contact with after the program is over.  These 4 that I went to Capri with are the closest of them all, and I’m so happy I got to spend this amazing weekend with people who are so special to me.

Our family Christmas card when we all live together.

So, back in Arezzo again.  I thought the adventures were over, but unfortunately the “plague” stomach flu caught up with me Sunday night.  I was so thankful it didn’t get me in Capri, but boy what a miserable night I had.  I didn’t sleep a wink; the rapid and drastic change in body temperature was crazy.  I missed classes all day Monday, but some of them were cancelled anyway because so many people have this thing.  It’s so depressing around here.  It’s like a hospital.  They’re taking good care of us though.  The kitchen has prepared good meals of soup for us sickies.  Luckily, I woke up this morning feeling great!  I think mine truly was a 24-hour virus, though some parts are starting to creep back a bit.  I really just had the one bad night, which is much better than can be said for some.

In commedia today, Trevor, Elena, and Jonny performed the improv I directed.  I was so pleased with how it went, and I think the teacher liked it too.  We are now working in masks and costumes, and the class is very enjoyable.  I think I’ll be staying in Arezzo this weekend to save money and work on a big philosophy paper due next week.

Not long left now!  I’ll be seeing you all soon.  I must admit, contra-withdrawal has hit me badly this week between Bugstomp coming up this weekend and Summer Soiree registration opening.  I can’t WAIT to dance again.

Love and miss you all!



  1. I love your style and enjoyed your trip!! Love, MJ

  2. I love all of the ancient history in Italy!I am just absolutely fascinated by Rome Italy tours. I cannot WAIT to go there one day!

    Catacombs Tours in Rome