The title says it all really. I survived Naples.
Okay back up a bit. After writing last, I ended up deathly (at times I literally thought it was the end) sick… Again. I didn’t get out of bed for 4 days, at the end of which, I gathered myself together and attended my first American Thanksgiving. Although only 4 Americans were in attendance, 14 of us from around the world enjoyed whatever excuse we had to eat, drink, and spend time together. I met some awesome people and was able to spend some ‘out of work’ time with colleagues. Sometimes you have to make more than friends when you’re traveling on your own, so we made family. Looking forward to Christmas dinner gatherings with this crew as well!
The weekend rolled around and for a friends birthday we hit up the town in style. Seriously: private suite above a fancy restaurant on the river overlooking the Ponte Vecchio. Feeling rich for a night, as tourists from the bridge took photos of us drinking prosecco on the terrace, most likely wishing they were us. Is this real life? An opera singer sang happy birthday while a Swedish girl played the background tune on a recorder… I’m not kidding this actually happened. My friend Mickael from France had also returned to the city and it was so nice to see another familiar face. We enjoyed the Christmas markets and took a trip to Fiesole for his last night in Florence…. And then, we went on a little “vacanza”… And heres where the excitement begins….
About 2 weeks ago, as I was saying goodbye to him and another guy from The States, I said hey, let’s all meet up in Naples sometime… Everyone casually agreed. Now I was pretty excited because, well Naples isn’t the safest place on earth, especially for a single female travelling on a holiday weekend. But, I feared it was one of those agreements where someone says like, “We should totally all die our hair green sometime” and everyone agrees simply because it sounds like a good idea at the time, but it never actually happens… Well guess what, we pulled it off! In preparation for the trip I decided to try and fix my boots. The bottom is falling off and I’m too cheap to buy new ones, so superglue it was. In my attempts to open the tube, I ended up super glueing my fingers together….. Sometimes I don’t know how I get through the day. But I still had some glue left and was able to patch up my boots. So Mickael and I headed off to Napoli, but were unable to find anywhere to stay in the cit, so we hopped on the train to the next town of Porticci to stay at a hostel there. Okay, first impression here: excited to be out of Florence, bus ride was beautiful… Then we got to Naples… Well this is sketchy… Then we got to Porticci… Dear god where are we? The town, covered in graffiti, looked like there had been a garbage strike.. For the last month and the only people around looked like they were going to rob us or stab us. We finally found the hostel (Fabric Hostel) and were thankful it was actually decent. Pool table, ping pong, clean rooms, and best of all they had a cat named Betty that took a liking to us.
Our American friend Chase was to meet us in Pompei the next day where we would all take a bus to Vesuvius… Okay pause right there. So I’ve been obsessed with Vesuvius since I saw volcano week on the Discovery channel in like the 5th grade. The story of Vesuvius, Pompei, and Herculaneum are part of the reason I love Italy. “Why are you only going to see it now if you’re so obsessed?” You’re probably thinking… Well, I have tried twice before, each time something came in the way of me actually getting to the historic site. “Third times a charm” I said. I was then corrected by an Italian friend who said well no, “non c’è due senza tre” (not two without three). Determined, I said shut up… Anyways, the day proceeded as so: Chase missed the train to Pompei, so instead of Vesuvius in the morning we decided Mickael and I would do Pompei and Chase would meet us there before going to the volcano. We finally met up and walked the ruins for 4 hours. Just a heads up, you can spend a full day there for anyone planning. At 3 we headed to catch the bus to Vesuvius only to find the last bus left at 1:20. Denied a third time! And the Italian wins. After explaining to the guys very carefully that I wasn’t going back to Florence until they got me to Vesuvius, we decided to do it the next morning without Chase as he had to go back to work. Honestly, at this point I didn’t care who joined/didn’t join. I would climb it myself with a pack of wild dogs if I had to. So we took the train to Naples for the evening and got Chase back to his ferry. After attempting the traditional blind folded walk in Piazza deal Plebiscito, we went for some famous deep fried pizza before heading back to our sketchy village. So we hop on our train, get to the first stop, doors open and bam, gunshots, women screaming outside, doors close, Jody’s heart starts beating like the Energizer bunny is pounding on it. Nobody says a word. Second stop, doors open, gun shots, doors close, but train doesn’t start again for about a minute. I don’t think either one of us blinked for that entire minute. Turns out it was some kids with poppers throwing them as the doors opened… Hey kids, I want you to know that I hate you. First time I saw my life flash before my eyes… Anyways, So the next day we headed to Pompei to catch a bus to Vesuvius…. Onto the next adventure
After finally finding the bus, only the two of us on it, we soon realized our driver was a psycho…. This was the second time we thought our lives were about to end dramatically. The 30 minute drive up to the top of the volcano was a mix of tiny mountain roads and one lane highway shared by traffic travelling in both directions. The ride was a combination of our driver cursing under his breath, slamming on the breaks so hard that we hit the seat in front of us, accelerating where nobody in their right mind should ever accelerate, passing vehicles along the side of a mountain as our bus hit the trees along the side of the road, and violently honking every 6 seconds at nobody in particular. This was no casual back road people, we are driving on a volcano! We went through an array of emotions: uncomfortably laughing, crying on the inside, and repeating “oh my god no, no, no” over and over again. But, we made it! Crazy. The only word to somewhat explain what we went through. We started the hike to the top of the crater. Legs, butt, lungs… Everything got a workout. Totally worth it, so amazing. Like come on, i stood ON a volcano! No words. Give the ol’ bucket list a check mark. (Speaking of bucket list, check out my new page coming called, well, the bucket list) Left the selfie stick at home as per Mickaels request, but managed to still get a couple of good pictures.
We returned down the volcano with a much calmer driver. Sadly by the time we made it to our next stop, Herculaneum, it was closed for the day. We just could not catch a break. So we walked, yes walked, from the town of Erculano back to Porticci, just to feel like we were living life on the edge… And because we were too cheap to pay for the train again. We picked up our bags and headed to Naples for our last night, as we were finally able to find accommodations at a little place called “6 Small Rooms”. Perfect location, awesome people, great price. As we were sitting planning our trip to Roma for the next morning, we happened to meet two people who worked at The Yellow Hostel Rome… Ok, this is my favourite hostel ever. I’ve been there twice already. I was so excited and they helped us get a room for the next night. Making connections is half the reason I travel.
Our last night in Napoli offered me the best pizza of my life (yes, better than Gusta Pizza, barely). I ordered una pizza con ricotta e noci (a ricotta and walnut pizza) from al’22 Pizza. Nommmmmm. As we walked around that night we witnessed the weirdest things. A group of children playing soccer in a mall while older kids on motorcycles drove in circles until they fell off their bikes… Also in the mall… At 11pm on a Monday.. With no parental supervision. What? We ended up at a bar where we proceeded to talk to some younger people… When they mentioned they were 15 (and some younger) we decided it was time for us to leave. So basically that was Naples.
Onwards to Rome. Oh Roma… Every time I say I will never return, somehow I end up back in your ruins. It’s that damn wishing fountain, I know it. 4 wishes to return, 4 times in Rome. We walked all day, ate some gelato, had pizza at my favourite place, and met up with Mickaels friend visiting from France. Now I was the minority language wise. Although my French is a disappointment to Canadians, I can still sing Jack and Jill, tell you I like black cats, and count to 100… Apparently that doesn’t count as being fluent though. Pamplemousse, escargot, un chat noir. No? We stayed at the Yellow that night. That’s all I will say, as the Yellow needs to further explanations. The next day was slightly scary, as it was a holiday in Italy and there had been terrorist threats against the famous landmarks in Rome. We accidentally ended up at the Vatican on our walk and it was surrounded by armed military, carabinieri, police, civilian assistance workers, helicopters, and multiple multiple ambulances and Red Cross workers. This terrified me and we got away from there immediately. Finally it was time for me to head back to Firenze and say goodbye for the last time to Mickael.
When you travel, you have to allow yourself to become vulnerable. By doing this you allow people into your life, some for a day or two, and some for longer. When you allow yourself to be the vulnerable traveller, you get to know people so well so fast. And I mean really get to know them: you become attached to them and rely on them. Some people walk in and out of your life so quickly, but there are a select few that make such an impact and become a real friend. It becomes so incredibly difficult to say goodbye knowing you may never see them again in your life and all you will have is the pictures and memories you have created together in that short period of time. This was a very difficult goodbye, as we have been experiencing Italy together for 6 weeks now and we have become such great friends. Thank you for the companionship and the adventures Mickael, and if you ever visit Saskatchewan you know you have a place to stay. I swear it’s safer than Napoli.
And so I am back in Florence where I belong I guess. I have accepted a new class and will be teaching two Korean children English for the month of December. Always something new. Finally went to the Accademia to see the real statue of David, which just proved to myself that I don’t understand art. Last night I ran with my running group and moved up a level. Accomplished one of my goals and ran with the fastest group. I finished in the top 20 (about 200 people running) and as I came across the finish line they stopped me and requested I speak in the microphone…. In Italian… Panic… And suddenly I forgot how to Italy. All I could manage to say was “non, parlo Italiano” (I do not speak Italian) – lie, I could have understood what they were saying if I wasn’t in such a panic/blur from running). He asked how the course was and what I thought of the run. I answered in a mix of English and very poor Italian. Ugh. He finally asked for my name – Jody. Jovi? No, Jody. Ahhh, Jobi….. And he proceeded to make a song out of my “name” Jobi Jobi Jobi… All of the embarrassment.
With Christmas around the corner I am open to suggestions on ways to make it less lonely. Anyone? I am also accepting gifts from my wish list of the following: new shoes, a Christmas tree, Tim Hortons while hot chocolate, a name tag – Jody, groceries, and lots of wine. Goodluck to all my friends/readers who are prepping for finals at home. Also congrats to the University of Regina cheer team for winning gold at PCA Nationals, proud alumni. As always, don’t forget to keep me posted on your lives as well. Much love from the safety of Florence.
Your Armstrong Abroad