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Trip Report Trip Report - Perugia, Capri, Pompei, Naples, and Rome with a Recalcitrant Husband

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Trip Report – Italy, July 2004

In July of 2004, I returned to Italy for the first time since 2000. I traveled with my husband, who had never been to Italy. I lived in Italy for a period of three years, and thus had a very different perspective on “the Italian way” of doing things.

I have decided to write a trip report now because A) I am currently unemployed and therefore suffering ever so slightly from ennui; B) in case any information I have might be able to help someone else on their trip; and C) I like to reminisce about Italy.

Day One – Departure

So, we departed from Washington DC’s Dulles International Airport, and, as anyone who has ever been through that airport will know, chaos reigned. We had decided to go the carryon-baggage route, and I had (I thought) smartly decided to go with duffel bags instead of wheeled suitcases, because the duffel bags weighed a mere 10 ounces, thus optimizing our ability to stuff our own crap into the bags. We traveled on British Airways – they have a 13 pound limit for carryon baggage.

The duffel bags started to seem like a bad idea about 10 minutes into the trip when we were standing in the security line. The line weaved back and forth across the terminal about 15 times and I think we stood in the line for an hour and a half. My shoulder was already red by the time we went through the metal detectors.

If I recall correctly, our flight to London and our subsequent plane change was mostly uneventful.

Day Two – Arrival in Italy

We touched down in Rome to a gloriously sunshiny day, bypassed the baggage claim area, and headed outside to pick up a bus to Perugia. We headed directly to the bus area to wait. And wait. And wait. I spoke to several of the other bus drivers, asking them if there actually was a bus to Perugia and, if so, what time it generally decided to show up.
After waiting 30 minutes beyond the bus’ supposed arrival time, I decided to give up and take the train. So, on we went to Termini, where we caught a train to Foligno where we were supposed to change for a train to Perugia. We jumped on a train that everyone SAID was headed to Perugia. The train, after about 30 minutes of travel, stopped in the middle of nowhere and everyone exited the train. I asked a lovely older gentleman why everyone was exiting if we weren’t in Perugia. He said it was the end of the line for that train, but another would come along. Another train did come along, but when it finally arrived, it took us to Perugia Sant’Anna, not the main Perugia train station. No cabs or buses wait outside of Sant’Anna.

Fortunately, an entrance to the escalators that went up to the centro storico was right outside the train station. We took the escalators, and then walked up, up and up to Corso Vannucci. It was about this time that I really started to want wheels on my bag. My husband was starting to wonder why in the name of all that is holy he had come on this adventure.

We were staying at the Hotel dei Priori on Via dei Priori, just off the main drag. I had stayed in the same hotel seven years prior on my very first trip to Italy. The hotel was essentially the same as it was then. Nice interior, well kept and clean, and extremely affordable. I had booked a Junior Suite (lured by the promise of air conditioning) for 100 euros a night. We checked in, walked up the four flights of stairs to our room (the hotel has no elevator), and were greeted by a waft of tepid air. The air conditioning had not actually been turned on in anticipation of our arrival. My husband was most amused by the tiny wall unit air conditioner that was supposed to cool off our three-room suite.

We dropped off our things, washed up quickly, and decided to go to dinner. For our first night, we went to Pizzeria Etruschetto, on Corso Garibaldi, over by the Universita’ per Stranieri. These were my old stomping grounds. I first stayed in Perugia in 1997 for a two-month language immersion course, and this pizzeria was my hangout.

It turned out to be as cheap and fabulous as ever. The pizzaiolo and owner is from Naples, and the walls of the small pizzeria are decorated with images of Naples, Capri, and the rest of the Bay of Naples. We had two pizze, both margherita, and a bottle of wine. Their wine selection is not particularly skewed toward local wines, but they have a fairly decent selection of very consistent Italian wines (think Santa Margherita). I believe the entire dinner cost us 21 Euro.

We lolled our way back up the Via U. Rocchi (I swear the steepest street in all of Christendom) and back to our (now cool) Junior Suite. But the day’s adventure had not ended. No, next came the shower.

My husband, we’ll start calling him C, entered the bathroom and stared at the handheld shower head in a tub with no curtain. All things considered, he took this pretty well in stride and blithely soaped himself up and rinsed himself off. His first encounter with an Italian shower complete, we watched a few minutes of Italian television and then drifted off into sleep.

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    Day Three – In and Around Perugia

    We woke up early to the sound of church bells ringing, and ventured downstairs to the hotel breakfast. All things considered, it was quite good. C’s favorite part of the breakfast was the bacon – it was quite possibly the saltiest bacon we’d ever tasted, but very good and hearty enough to get us through until lunch.

    We spent the third day in Perugia itself, exploring some of its more interesting sites. In the morning, we went to the market off of Piazza Matteoti. I was hoping to entice C. to have a porchetta sandwich, but the sight of a posse of lazy flies in the vicinity of the pork was enough to turn him off the idea. We also found the stands selling carne equina, or, horse meat. This evidently did not stimulate the appetite either.

    We then wandered down to the Museo Archeologico and viewed the Etruscan artifacts that are so abundant in the Umbrian region. C has a background in anthropology and archeology and therefore found this fascinating.

    We also viewed the church of San Ercole – very beautiful, but that particular site remains more memorable due to the vagabond guitar player outside the church. He had a sweet little mutt of a dog that slept peacefully in his guitar case as he played.

    We were planning to go to the paninoteca on Corso Garibaldi for lunch (another old favorite of mine – I was dying for a salame, gorgonzola and hard-boiled egg sandwich), but it proved to be too hot for C, so we wandered back down the hill to a nondescript, but air-conditioned, bar where we had some prosciutto and mozzarella sandwiches and a couple of cookies.

    In the afternoon, we explored the duomo, looking particularly for the multiple boxes that purportedly hold the wedding ring of the Virgin Mary, and the Palazzo dei Priori. In the heat of the afternoon sun, we sought out Gelateria 2000, off of Corso Vannucci, and had our first gelato of the trip. After wandering back down the Corso, we sat on the steps of the Palazzo along with hundreds of others, and were endlessly amused by an Italian teenager eating a sandwich. It wasn’t the fact that he was eating the sandwich that was funny, it was more the pigeons that decided to actively stalk him that really amused us. Every time a pigeon would get too close for his comfort, he would kick his foot at the pigeon, never hitting it, and the pigeon would coo indignantly before returning doggedly to its pursuit of sandwich crumbs. It was quite hilarious. A battle of the wills, really, between pigeon and man.

    In the afternoon, we also checked out the enoteca on Via U. Rocchi, and purchased six lovely bottles of Umbrian wine to be shipped back to us in Virginia. The proprietor was both knowledgeable and friendly and I felt like we got a very good deal on our wines. We purchased four bottles of local red and two bottles of white. The total cost for six bottles was 58 euro. Of course, the shipping ended up being about equal to that, but it was worth it to be able to enjoy some Italian wine when we returned home.

    We had dinner reservations at Dal Mi’ Cocco on Corso Garibaldi, a restaurant that I had always wanted to try when I lived in Perugia, but could never afford. The restaurant is a fixed-price, fixed-menu deal. For one price, they serve you two appetizers, two pastas, two meat dishes, and two desserts. When I lived there the price was about 18,000 lire, or 9 dollars. Due to inflation, in 2004 the price was 13 euro per person. Really, an unbelievable deal. The restaurant seats by reservation only, but you only have to call a day or two in advance.

    Our meal consisted of various crostini, two types of fresh, homemade pasta – both with a tomato-based sauce, a couple types of meat for second course (I think sausage and a veal cutlet), and a mixed selection of desserts. We also ordered a carafe of the house wine and a bottle of water. I believe our entire bill was 31 euro.

    We took a passegiata down Corso Vannucci with all the beautiful locals, and then retired back to our hotel. We watched a bit more television before falling asleep – I only mention it because it was watching television that several of the funnier memories from our trip occurred. It was this particular evening that we first saw the commercial for the air conditioning unit that was on the wall of our hotel room. The commercial featured several severely acting-impaired people who flailed around in apparent extreme discomfort due to heat sickness. Of course, everything was fixed with the arrival of the air conditioning unit. Inexplicably, in the middle of the commercial, they focused on a waterfall with a Chow Chow dog wandering around it. For some reason, we found this hilarious.

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    Hi Nnolen:

    This is a great report! How wonderful to both have had the original extended stay in Italy, and to return to see it with new eyes.

    I understand the TV watching too - when we were in Hungary we could not get enough of the fireplace channel. Just a channel of crackling flickering fires......

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    Thanks, Cheesehead! By any chance are you a wisconsinite? I grew up in WI.

    Day Four – Going to the Ipercoop and an Accidental Trip to Assisi

    After consuming our daily ration of bacon, we took the escalators down to Piazza Partigiani – I had decided I wanted to take C to the mall, to show him the up-and-coming industrialized side of Italy. We were told to board the bus to Assisi, and the bus would stop at the Ipercoop along the way. The bus left precisely on time, and drove right past the Ipercoop. I approached the driver, and asked him where the stop was for the mall. He said we had already passed it – we had might as well go on to Assisi and we could catch a return bus from there.

    We debarked in Assisi, where we had the good fortune to find a small market going on in the bus parking lot. C was looking for a hat to wear, as his head was getting rather sunburned. He had not wanted to bring a baseball cap for fear of looking too obviously American, so we looked for an Italian hat. The only hats sold at the market were those little golf caps with the brim in front and the poofy top that you can snap to the brim if desired. For 4 euro, we purchased one, merely to avoid any further sunburn. Now, instead of looking American or Italian, C looked like a golf caddy.

    We wandered into Assisi, through its back streets and towards the Basilica of San Francesco. We stopped for a couple slices of pizza and a Coke at a small pizzeria on one of the back streets. We were the only tourists in the place, so we must have still been some distance from the Basilica.

    We approached the Basilica from the upper part of the town, and we could see it starting to appear in front of us, growing larger and larger the closer we got to it. We went in to the upper basilica first, and C was impressed with the frescos, and I told him of how the church essentially collapsed during the earthquake in 1997 and that much of the artwork was pieced back together after that.

    We then went to the lower basilica, and descended below to view the artifacts and the tomb of St. Frances. Even though St. Frances is a good 800 years removed from us today, seeing the reverence in which he is held, and knowing the kind of life he lived is really quite moving.

    Upon completing our tour of the basilica, we went down to catch our bus back to Perugia via the Ipercoop. In order to avoid a similar incident on our return trip, upon boarding I informed the driver of our desire to stop at the Ipercoop. The bus started out on its return trip, and approximately a mile from the Ipercoop, the bus driver stopped in the middle of the road, next to a field, and told us that we needed to get off there. I should have realized at that point that we should have stayed on the bus, but we gamely got off and stood there for a good couple of minutes laughing hysterically at the fact that we had been dropped pretty much in the middle of nowhere.

    To make what could be a long story short, we ended up calling a cab to get us back to Perugia.

    Cost of cab from Ipercoop: 24 euro
    Laughing hysterically in a field with your husband: Priceless

    After an already adventurous day, we played it safe for dinner and ate again at Pizzeria Etruschetto. Two pizzas, a bottle of beer, and some potato crocche’, and all was right with the world again.

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    Hello nnolen, what a delightful trip report! I love Perugia and Assisi but I have to say that your adventures were more fun them mine. Obviously you are a great traveller. And please do continue - thank you!

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    Day Five – Traveling to Capri

    We woke early and left the hotel without eating breakfast. In order to avoid a repeat of our arrival, the hotel very kindly called us a cab to take us to the Perugia train station. Once there, we purchased our tickets to Naples, and stopped into the station’s bar to have some breakfast.

    The station bar was filled with cab drivers and station workers, no other tourists at that ungodly hour of the morning, and we had two cornetti and two cappuccini. Train station coffee is for some reason always really delicious.

    We had a direct Eurostar train to Rome, where we switched to take a connecting train to Naples. The trains and the switching were relatively unremarkable. Upon arriving in Naples, we transferred to the Circumvesuviana tracks, where hundreds of people were waiting to board the next train to Sorrento. We crammed on like sardines with everyone else, and ended up standing in the vestibule for a good portion of the trip. C looked most displeased with the heat and the general surroundings, particularly with the lovely gypsy children that fondled his pockets. Luckily, I had warned him ahead of time and he carried nothing in his pockets.

    We arrived in Sorrento, took a bus from the Circumvesuviana depot to the port, and boarded the next hydrofoil for Capri. We went to Sorrento in order to shorten the boat portion of the trip – I don’t get along well with anything that moves, but I do particularly poorly on boats. The hydrofoil from Sorrento to Capri is only about 20 minutes – which I can handle if heavily medicated.

    We arrived on Capri without further incident, and waited at the bus stop to go up to Anacapri. We amused ourselves during the long wait for the bus by investigating the people on the beach, particularly a woman that looked like nothing so much as a Slim Jim jerky stick due to what was clearly an excessive tanning habit.

    I think it was on the bus that C first began to have a breakdown. As anyone who has been to Capri and ridden the bus from Marina Grande to Anacapri knows, the bus travels up a narrow road that is perched rather precipitously on the edge of a cliff. At times, it feels as though the bus is actually leaning out over the edge of the cliff. I, having lived on Capri for year, was used to the buses and their crowds. C, whose face was unfortunately close to a fellow passenger’s armpit, was not.

    We arrived in Anacapri, where we would be staying in a bed & breakfast called Il Tramonto. We followed the signora’s instructions on how to arrive at her home, winding through a back street of the piazzetta in Anacapri for about 15 minutes before we finally reached Il Tramonto. She had billed it as a short walk, which it is when you don’t have a duffel bag on your shoulder. With luggage, it seems a bit longer.

    We arrived at Il Tramonto and buzzed at the gate. The signora came down to meet us and bring us down to our room. We had a huge section of the patio all to ourselves, and the house and its surroundings were landscaped very lushly and had a magnificent view of all of Capri and the Bay of Naples. The room itself was cute, with satellite tv and a very modern bathroom, and tall windows that opened out onto the patio (90 euro per night). Unfortunately, there was no cross breeze in the room and it got very hot. I had assumed that since we were on a hillside there would be a nice breeze, and there was – outside.

    That afternoon we began our quest for a fan. Fans are not common in Italy, just as air conditioning is not common – particularly in Southern Italy, people consider them to be health hazards. We did manage to finally find a small fan in an electronics store on Anacapri. The fan, which was produced under the brand name Hercules, was quickly and affectionately dubbed “Herc” by C, and made the room much more pleasant.

    I, being all too well acquainted with the Italian psyche, realized that the signora could not know that we had purchased the fan as it would be an affront to her hospitality and would indicate that she had not provided everything we could possibly need. We solved this problem by re-boxing and hiding the fan each time we left the room.

    Our ventilation problems resolved, we headed out to find dinner. I had planned to eat at Trattoria Al Nido D’Oro on Via Tommaso d. Tommaso, where I used to work, but upon arriving found that the previous owners had divorced and left the restaurant business, and the trattoria had been turned into a touristy spot with the menu in four different languages. A disappointment, but we headed down Via G. Orlandi to Trattoria Il Solitario, another place that I had gone to in the past. Their menu had also become slightly more touristy, and the food was not quite as good as I remembered, but by this point we were very hungry and in that case it more than fit the bill. We had the menu’ turistico, with gnocchi for the first course, a chicken dish, and torta caprese for dessert. With a bottle of water, dinner was about 35 euro.

    Physically spent from a long day of travel, we headed back to our b&b, turned on Herc, and watched a little television. We were pleased to discover that the air conditioning commercial was not regional, but nationwide, and we watched the Chow Chow prance by the fountain with barely contained hilarity.

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    Oh nnolen, you have me in stiches. The trip from Naples to Capri was very rough. I would have felt alright except for passengers, uhm, being very sick. And some were Italians! I did manage to make it to Capri without embarrasing myself but I know my face must of been green when we landed, lol.

    And we stayed in AnaCapri. That night we took the bus down that wonderful, fantastic road to Capri to have drinks in the piazza. Did I mention I am so scared of high cliffs that drop down to the water? Oh good grief, I thought I would die of fright!! I sure can relate to how your dear husband was feeling. It was so beautiful though. Some wine (probably to much) and then dinner in Capri was fantastic. The bus trip back to AnaCapri, nooooo problemo! After that I was fine. In fact we were suppose to stay 3 nights and ended up staying 10 nights. Paradise! Except for my dear daughter and a lovely young man, native of AnaCapri who really did fall in love. She cried all the way back to Naples. And the whole time it took us to pick up our car in Naples and drive to Bari. And the entire time in Bari. I think by Pescara her dear broken heart was a bit settled down.

    Now, about hiding the fan in the box each time you left your room. I completely understand! Honest I do. Sooo - please continue with your fantastic trip report.

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    This is so much fun. It sounds like one of our trips. Sometime the most outlandish thing that happens seems like the most fun. I think we sometimes word it as we would to our friends back home who obviously think we are crazy to take so much delight in these ridiculous occurrences. Wonderful trip report. Tell us the rest. I can hardly wait. Sometimes we laugh so hard when we tell of our misfortunes that people think we are nuts. This is great fun. Keep on. We love it.

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    Hi Sprig, I think the differnce is between sharing these "horror stories" with family and friends versus people here on Fodors is that those here on Fodors love to travel. And we have all had our horror stories that turn out to be the part of the trip that we really remember after we return home.

    Only people that love to travel, and do travel can appreciate all the things that can go wrong on a trip and yet realize that the trip really was fantastic.

    Oh, btw, my dear daughter did survive her "love" on AnaCapri. But of course she always remembers him with great fondness. He is now in a professional man, married with children. And how many of us do have our first love on the Isle of Capri?

    OK, nnolen, continue on with your trip report. We are all sitting in front of our computers waiting for the next installment. I think this would make a great movie actually.

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    Thanks, everybody. glad you are enjoying it!

    I fell in love myself in Anacapri when I was just studying in Italy - the three years I lived in Italy were for love....but it just didn't work out. However, that's an entirely DIFFERENT story.

    On to...

    Day Six – Capri

    In the morning, the signora brought us breakfast at 8:00, which was a selection of toasts, brioche, yogurt, jams, fresh squeezed juices, and the most wonderful caffe latte I have ever had in my life. It was unbelievable. It is worth mentioning that she included two yogurts with the breakfast. We consumed only one; C does not like yogurt.

    We headed down to the piazzetta in Anacapri to catch the bus down to Capri. Our plan for the day was to do the Arco Naturale/Grotta Matermania/ Faraglioni walk. We started out at the Arco Naturale, which is really just stunning, and then worked our way around to the Grotta Matermania, which is an old grotto that was used by the Romans, supposedly as a ritual/prayer site. C, interested as he is in archeology, found a piece of ancient pottery in the grotto and had a good time considering the rituals that may have taken place there.

    We continued our walk past Villa Malaparte, and it was between the Villa and the Faraglioni that C decided that his golf hat had become too unbearably hot. Sitting on a stone wall next to a tree, he ripped open the lining of the hat only to discover that it was lined with burlap. The burlap made a quick exit over the cliff.

    Once we arrived back in Capri, we decided to make a quick lunch of some goodies from a little bakery shop called Sfizi di Pane. We shared four different items: pizza rustica, an arancino rice ball, a piece of margherita pizza, and a bunlike concoction that was stuffed with French fries and hot dog and then fried, and one other thing I can’t remember. Along with two Cokes, the lunch cost us 15 euro. We ate it on the steps of a church off the piazzetta.

    After such an unhealthy lunch, we decided we really should consume some healthy gelato J We purchased our gelato from what I believe is the best gelateria on Capri. I don’t know the name, but it is on the street that heads from the piazzetta down to the Hotel Quisisana. It is on the left-hand side as you go downhill; there is also a tavola calda in the back.

    We headed back up to our B&B for a rest in the late afternoon, after which we decided to head back out to have some dinner and generally poke around. In the back streets of Anacapri, we mistakenly wandered into a festival of some kind. The streets were lined with vendors of candy, nuts, toys and trinkets, and it seemed as though everyone in town had come out. The children were all dressed in some sort of costume, and they paraded through the streets with banners in a chaotic ceremony.

    That evening, we had dinner at the Ristorante Barbarossa, which overlooks the piazzetta in Anacapri, but which I was assured by several locals was authentic. A group of Italian fishermen were dining at the table next to us, so I took that to be a good sign. We each had a plate of mozzarella and prosciutto, and then primi for each of us, followed by two shots of limoncello. Can’t remember the cost, but was pretty reasonable.

    Stumbling in the dark back to the B&B, we looked forward to an evening with Herc. Turning on the television this particular evening resulted in the development of the term “Pantycam.” C had decided that each Italian television show was equipped with a special camera that did nothing but focus on the nether regions of its female dancers; hence, “Pantycam.”

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    Day Seven – Capri

    In the morning, the signora again brought us breakfast at 8:00 a.m. The breakfast included more or less the same selection as the previous day. There were two yogurts; we only consumed one.

    It was another early start as we wanted to climb to Villa Jovis, and, having done the climb before myself, I knew how difficult it was and how hot you generally get. The bus dropped us off in Capri, and we started our way up the hill to the Villa. The walk is essentially two hours uphill. There aren’t too many flat areas, so it really is rather arduous. The sun also tends to beat down on you mercilessly. We stopped at a little bar near the top and had some cold water and fruit juice.

    For C, Villa Jovis was the most interesting thing we’d done so far. He really enjoyed looking at the ruins and speculating as to the uses of the various rooms and why the villa might have been laid out the way it was. The ruins are not particularly well cared for and they seem to just keep crumbling further and further into dust every year. The view from the villa is worth the two-hour upward climb. From the top, you can see Capri, the Sorrentine peninsula and the entire Bay of Naples. Despite the hazy heat, it was still a beautiful sight.

    The trek back down was much more enjoyable, wandering through Capri’s hidden stairwells and tiny streets. When we arrived back in Capri, we stopped to have lunch at a nondescript pizzeria, which we chose for its non-exorbitant prices (a rarity on Capri), and its open windows with a lovely cool breeze. The waiter was kind enough to seat us right by the open window – I think we looked as tired and sweaty as we felt. Two pizzas, one margherita and one Quattro formaggi, and two bottles of water later, we wandered back out onto the piazzetta.

    Trying to escape from the sun, we went to the Gardens of Augustus and spent some time sitting under the shade trees enjoying the view and the cavorting vacationers. I foolishly offered to take a picture for two Italian friends. They spent approximately ten minutes scouting the correct location and posing in front of just the right flowering bush.

    Still in a lackadaisical mood, we spent a good couple of hours sitting at an outside café table, C nursing a beer and me with a caffe’ freddo. Cold, sugary espresso is delicious.

    This day happened to be our second wedding anniversary, and we went back to the B&B to change and get ready for dinner. We went to Le Arcate, a restaurant on Via Tommaso d. Tommaso. We had insalata caprese, two first courses (I’m relatively sure I had penne arrabbiata and I think C had gnocchi), and torta caprese for dessert, along with a bottle of local red wine – the owner recommended it to us. Total cost for dinner was less than 50 euro.

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    Day Eight – On Our Way to Pompei

    In the morning at breakfast, C now considered the yogurt to be a personal challenge. He found the signora’s insistence in placing two yogurts on our breakfast tray to be a slap in the face with a doeskin glove – it was a dueling of the minds. I think the heat was starting to get to him, so we headed off to Pompei to our (supposedly) air-conditioned hotel.

    We walked to the piazzetta with our bags, Herc discreetly robed in several plastic bags so the signora would not see him, and took a taxi down to the port as C absolutely refused to deal with the bus on our last day in Capri. I have to say, it was a wise idea. The cab was open and cool and quiet and lovely, well worth the splurge.

    With a bit of a wait before the hydrofoil left, we sat at one of the tourist-trap bars at Marina Grande and had a caffe’ and soaked up the last bits of the atmosphere of Capri. The hydrofoil was uncrowded on our return trip; the sea was calm and we arrived in Sorrento without any problems.

    The bus trip back up to the Circumvesuviana station was a bit more eventful, with the bus having to perform the back-up and inch forward maneuver approximately a hundred times, having encountered another full-sized bus coming down the hill. C held his breath and waited for it to be over, which it soon was.

    A couple more gypsy-fondlings later, we were in Pompei. We were going to be staying at the Hotel Forum (90 Euros per night), which was located directly across from the back entrance of the scavi. They stated that the hotel was within walking distance of the Pompei Scavi stop on the circumvesuviana line. Again, with luggage it was most definitely not within walking distance. We walked for about 20 minutes with our duffel bags, and arrived tired, sweaty, and with sore shoulders.

    The hotel allowed us to check in early, and when we got into our room, I think C almost had an epiphany. The room was fantastic. It was large, with at least a queen size bed, if not slightly larger. There was a couch, a desk, a table, a dresser, and a gigantic marble bathroom with a hair dryer and a normal shower. When you turned on the television in the living area, the sound was transmitted in the bathroom. We turned the air conditioning on full blast, had an impromptu funeral ceremony for Herc, and then just lay on the bed laughing hysterically. I think it was the quick transition to air conditioning that messed with our minds :)

    After getting settled, we really didn’t want to leave the room, but Pompei was beckoning right across the street. We were getting hungry, too, so we stopped first to have some lunch. Don’t know the name of the restaurant, but it was directly to the right as you exited the Hotel Forum. We each had a pizza margherita and a large bottle of water, and then some fresh fruit for dessert. I think the total cost was 18 euro.

    Thus refreshed, we wandered into the back entrance of the ruins and began our Pompei trek. As might be expected, C had been waiting to visit Pompei the entire trip. In classic C&N style, we had entered the ruins with only five pictures left on our disposable camera. Not really good thinking. We toured the ruins until they closed late in the day, went back to the room to change, and then headed out into Pompei.

    We first went across the street to the Lunapark (small amusement park) and watched all the little Italian kids on the ladybug rides and scooters, and we checked out the video game arcade. C was impressed with their selection. We also wandered through town – I had wanted to bring C to the Santuario, but a service of some sort was going on inside and we didn’t want to disturb, so we settled for looking at the outside while I told C tales of the miracles that had supposedly occurred there.

    We poked up and down the main street, looking at the shops full of trinkets until it was time for dinner. We returned to the same restaurant where we had lunch, and decided we were really going to go for it. We had antipasti (bruschetta and mozzarella/prosciutto), two primi, and two secondi – one veal scallopine al limone (blech – too lemony and rubbery) and one scallopine Marsala (ok, but still a bit rubbery). We also had a bottle of the house wine. To explain this wine is to explain all things that are good about southern Italy.

    The wine was in an unmarked, green glass bottle with a plastic stopper in the top. Clearly, it had been made by the owner or his family. When you opened it, it was a lovely rose color with miniscule bubbles (yes, bubbles!) floating near the edges of the glass. It was very clearly an extremely young wine, with no hint of bitterness and most definitely with no tannins. When you tasted it, it went down like water, and the little bubbles effervesced just in the back of your mouth. We got fabulously, rip-roaringly drunk on this lovely 3 euro bottle of homemade wine, and stumbled back next door for our nightly television session.

    On this particular evening, one of the shows (I can’t remember which one) had two guest stars – Linda Grey and Patrick Duffy from Dallas. Linda and Patrick were meant to push gigantic buttons to stop a wheel from spinning. Ms. Grey played along rather gamely, but Patrick Duffy just sat there with a look on his face that so clearly said “What the hell am I doing here? I’m going to kill my agent.”

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    Day Nine – Naples

    Anyone that has spent any time in Naples knows it is a city of too much. Too much traffic, too many people, too much trash and graffiti. But for me, Naples has always seemed to have a deep, pure, almost untouchable soul. Neapolitans are loud and brash and they gesture wildly, but they are hospitable and kind and have a great sense of humor. You can’t, however, reach the soul in a one-day trip, as we unfortunately learned.

    We awoke in our air-conditioned room, and tramped downstairs to the breakfast room in the hotel. This breakfast was fantastic. There was a display of meats, cheeses, fruits, and fruit juices, and then the waitress would bring you your choice of coffee as well as a plate of hot, fresh out of the oven cornetti. They would steam when you opened them. Delicious.

    After breakfasting, we got ready to take our trip up to Naples for the day. We were planning to go to the Museo Archeologico. I had never been, and C very much wanted to see the artifacts they had pulled from Pompei. I had figured we would exit the train station, walk from there to Maschio Angioino, Piazza Plebiscito, walk through the Galleria, up to the Museum, and then walk back through Spaccanapoli to the train station at the end of the day.

    We exited the station and found ourselves in the midst of chaos. To me, this seemed normal, so I took C by the arm and shepherded him across the street. The streets are jammed with immigrants selling their wares of fake Fendi bags and ripoff sunglasses, not to mention the general teeming population of Naples swarming up and down the sidewalks. In addition to this roiling mass of humanity, a couple hundred people had also decided to protest against the war, and marched loudly up and down Via Umberto with anti-american signs and shouting through a megaphone.

    We made it as far as Maschio Angioino and the port, and C confessed that he did not feel comfortable at all walking through the streets. I couldn’t blame him one bit, so we decided to focus on the Museum, and we hopped a cab to take us there.

    The museum was really quite lovely, with all the mosaics and other artifacts from Pompei. We toured the entire Pompei exhibit, including the Gabino Segreto, and then went to the main level to view the Farnese collection and the other exhibits the museum had to offer. Seeing an Italian museum for the first time, C was surprised by the lack of climate control and other preservation techniques.

    We headed across the street for lunch to an extremely touristy pizzeria, had a few mediocre and expensive pizzas, and grabbed a cab back to the station. We took the Circumvesuviana back to Pompei, and decided to just vegetate for the rest of the evening, as the next day was our first day in Rome.

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    I might be a bit late, but if not, how did Rome and the return trip go? A delectable travelogue without a conclusion... We share some interesting parallels. I toured Italy in 1997 with a college choir and again in late June/early July 2004 with an a cappella choir. Strangely enough, my wife and I also celebrated our second wedding anniversary during this time as well. I'd like to compare notes. If interested, contact me at [email protected]

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    Okay, this is now officially too weird....Kaukauna, I sent you an email.

    I never posted the Rome portion of the trip, you're right, so as soon as I have 3 free seconds (since I am now employed and no longer have copious amounts of free time to devote to writing) I'll see what the heck I can remember.

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    Day Ten – Off to Rome

    Having learned upon our arrival in Pompei that the Scavi stop of the Circumvesuviana line was most definitely not within walking distance when weighed down by baggage, the hotel called us a cab, which actually took us to the Pompei Santuario stop. The train arrived on time and without consequence, we made it to Naples and caught our connection to Rome without any trouble.

    We arrived in Rome by 10 a.m, which meant we had almost the entire day still available. We had booked a room at the Mecenate Palace (130 euro a night), which was not too far from the station, so we decided to walk to the hotel. It was approximately a 10 or 15 minute walk, and it was early in the day so we weren’t yet completely exhausted.

    We had booked the hotel at about the lowest price you can possibly get, considering the Mecenate Palace is 4-star. Our room size seemed to be directly proportional to the price we paid. The queen bed took up the majority of the room, with a very small space to shimmy back and forth between the dresser and the bathroom. In spite of the size, the room was clean and cool, and we didn’t plan to spend much time there anyway, so the small size was no big deal to us.

    After unpacking and resting for a few minutes, we ventured to the bar directly next door to have lunch. They had a really impressive display of lunch items, and we splurged on fresh vegetables, as vegetables were a commodity not readily available during our restaurant meals. Lovely fresh green beans, Roman broccoli, and spinach, along with a flaky ham and cheese pastry. We paid a fairly high price for our vegetables, considering it was a bar – I believe it was about 38 euro for lunch.

    Since C was most excited about seeing the Coliseum and the Forum, we headed there first. We walked from the hotel, straight down Via Cavour, stopping briefly on the way for a cocktail. When one views ancient ruins, it is best to be slightly tipsy. Okay, maybe the heat was getting to us!

    The line to get in the Coliseum was actually quite short; we only waited about 5 or 10 minutes. Once through the ticketing area, we traveled up through those ancient stone walkways into the main level of the arena. We stood inside and peered up, imagining what it must have looked like in the height of its glory. Since I did not know much about the structure itself, we tried to (discreetly) eavesdrop on some of the passing tour groups. And, since everyone here was acting like a tourist, we took pictures of ourselves in Roman statue postures. My favorite is the one where C is pointing his finger in the air like Augustus.

    Our ad hoc tour of the Coliseum complete, we dodged the modern day entrepreneurial gladiators whose main stock in trade is being photographed, and moved on to the Forum. It is incredible to think that you are walking the streets of Ancient Rome. We spent a good bit of time looking for ancient graffiti: the items of interest that were etched into the stone steps of buildings by Romans with an agenda, or maybe just Romans who were bored waiting for their girlfriend to finish sandal shopping. We found a couple of the ancient games carved into some of the steps. Of the monuments that still remain, the temples are some of the more striking, their stately columns reaching up to the clouds.

    Since we were already in this neighborhood, we climbed the steps at the far end of the Forum to get to the Campidoglio. In the future, I think I would have taken a cab to the Campidoglio and walked down the steps into the Forum. Climbing large sets of steps after an already long day is not a pleasant experience. (You would think we would have learned our lesson from the Campidoglio. But no – we’ll climb more steps later.) We sat in the cool shade beneath and arcaded walkway and admired the design of the Capital hill and the bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius.

    It was at this point that we noticed that our return route to the hotel would take us past San Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter in Chains), and since we weren’t sure if we would walk this particular route again, we decided we would go. That was before we arrived at the spot on the map where the church should be and saw a giant set of steps leading upward. I looked at C. C looked at me. We sighed, rolled our eyes, and began to slowly and painfully trudge our way up the steps. We got lapped by several Italian grandmas. Once we got to the top, the church was blissfully cool and empty. We looked at the Michelangelo statue, speculated on the veracity of the chains, and thanked all the higher powers that while physics required you to climb up the stairs on the way there, it also more gently asked you to climb down them on the way out.

    After a quick shower and change, we headed back out to dinner at a nondescript restaurant about a block and a half from our hotel on Via Cavour. Had heard good things about Agata e Romeo, but was too tired to find it or frankly eat too much at this point. And thus, day 10 came to a close.

    Day 11, in which man and machine collide outside the Vatican, still to come....

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    Day 11 – Scooter Mania

    We woke up earlier than planned to the sound of garbage trucks emptying the giant trash bins outside our window, but chalked it up as extra time in Rome and decided to just get going and have some breakfast. The Mecenate Palace hotel offers their breakfast on the rooftop terrace, and the combination of the cooler mornings and the view of Rome was a great way to start the day. Another plus was that they had coffee. Now to me, this was no big thing – I could drink espresso all day every day. C likes espresso, too, but every once in awhile he just wants to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee, which is something the Italians don’t do. He found heaven at the Mecenate: his own pot of steaming hot, mostly Americanized coffee. The rest of the breakfast was nice, but not particularly memorable.

    Our second day in Rome, we planned to tour the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica. We decided that we would arrive at the Vatican before its planned opening time in order to get in “right away.” We grabbed a cab from the cab stop outside of Santa Maria Maggiore, and arrived at the Vatican at approximately 7:45. The line outside the museums already wrapped around 2 sides of the building. Early morning optimism quickly pushed aside, we settled in for a long morning of waiting in lines. It was while we were standing in line that one of the more frightening episodes of our trip occurred. There is a street that curves around the outside of the Vatican museums. At one of the curves, someone placed a crosswalk, rather without any sort of foresight. An older lady started to cross the street with her shopping bags. Around the corner, a Vespa traveling just a little too fast. The next thing everyone knew, the Vespa had slid out and collided with the woman walking across the street. She was actually knocked out of her shoes. In the end, the only real damage was to the Vespa (thank goodness), but after that, crossing the street always felt like a crapshoot.

    Once inside the Vatican (about an hour after we started standing in line), we toured all the rooms and ended with the Sistine Chapel. We looked for the back entrance to go to St. Peter’s, but couldn’t seem to spot it in the throngs of people, so we went out the regular way and trekked around the walls to the Basilica. St. Peter’s is always unbelievable. In retrospect, I wish we would have booked the Scavi tour and gone underneath, but the main area of the Basilica has plenty to look at. We watched the faithful rub St. Peter’s toe, rubbed it ourselves for good luck, and headed out into the columned piazza to catch a cab back to the hotel.

    Walking through the museums and St. Peter’s is tiring, so we went to the grocery store across the street to buy some lunch provisions, ate lunch in our hotel room, and crashed for the remainder of the afternoon hours into a sleep uninterrupted by the pedestrian sounds of garbage truck music.

    Later that evening, we managed to wake up, and we got dressed for our evening out. We were going to the Pantheon and Spanish Steps areas, so we pulled out all the stops for our evening wear. We went to the Pantheon first – and now that I am remembering, we passed an electrical fire happening inside one of the buildings about a block away. I think this was our day for witnessing misfortune! At any rate, we arrived at the Pantheon and went inside. For some reason, it was not completely jammed at that time of day, so we had time to look around at the tombs and inscriptions, and C had time to make plenty of jokes about how the Romans had left a hole in the ceiling. He also spent a lot of time asking me what they did when it rained. After the Pantheon, we decided to break with tradition and have dessert before dinner. We went to Gelateria della Palma, which had a really great selection of flavors. I think I had fig and mango, and C had lemon and strawberry.

    After our refreshing break, we walked to the Spanish Steps area and wandered up and down Via del Corso, stopping to purchase a Furla handbag for our friend who was dogsitting. I was hoping to purchase a pair of gloves at Sermoneta, but they were unfortunately not open when we were there. After exploring the area and spending some time sitting on the steps in front of the fountain, we decided to try and find somewhere to eat. Trying to find somewhere to eat in the Spanish Steps area at 8 p.m. on a Saturday without a reservation is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Eventually, we found a larger restaurant that could squeeze us in, and we started to eat. We ordered antipasti of olive ascolane, and bruschetta. I tried a local Roman dish of pasta with chickpeas (cold), and it was actually really delicious. C had pasta carbonara. We had planned to have the braised beef for a second course, but were so full that we had to cancel, and we went for a dessert of panna cotta instead. Our stomachs nicely full, we walked one more time down Via Del Corso, weaving in and out of the “beautiful people.”

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    Day 12 – Porta Portese with the 2 Fabrizios

    Before departing on our trip, we had gotten in touch with a fellow Atari collector (C collects Atari) in Rome. He had very kindly offered to meet up with us and take us to the Porta Portese flea market. The market starts early, and Fabrizio and his friend (also named Fabrizio) came to pick us up at the hotel at about 8:00. (Later in the story they will be referred to as F1 and F2). I asked to ride in the front seat, because I was pretty sure that my motion sickness medication was starting to wear off. On the way there, I got a little bit sick, but managed to grit my teeth and get there without any incident. The flea market was unbelievable. So much STUFF crammed into one section of Rome. Rugs, shoes, coins, shampoo, electronics (possibly hot) and food stands all jammed cheek by jowl provided a convenient environment for the pickpockets to practice their skills. Again, we planned ahead and carried virtually nothing with us. C actually found several Atari cartridges, I purchased some neat looking coins for my mom who had asked me to be on the lookout, and we just tried to soak up the atmosphere. After about 2 hours of bumping into people, we were finished and turned into a bar nearby for Cokes and espressos. F1 nicely paid.

    On the way back to the hotel, trouble was brewing. My medication had DEFINITELY worn off. The cobblestone streets combined with F1s driving was enough to make me pretty darn sure I was going to lose my cookies in his Jeep. After trying unsuccessfully to hold onto my dignity, I had to ask him to pull over to let us out, and we ended up walking the rest of the way back to the hotel. Luckily, we were only about a 20 minute walk away. The Fs were cool about it, and invited us to dinner with them and their girlfriends that evening at a Roman steakhouse.

    Back at the hotel, by way of a McDonald’s stop for some Coke and French fries (which for some reason settles your stomach), we rested for awhile before wandering across the street to finally check out Santa Maria Maggiore. The front steps of the church are populated by an odd assortment of individuals, from students catching rays to homeless people asking you for money. The church belongs to the Vatican, but it is left to languish in the middle of a grimy intersection. The inside of the church is slightly better kept, and viewing both what is purported to be the first nativity scene as well as the fragments of the manger was very interesting. We had a nice divinity student show us around for 3 euro.

    Later that day, F1 came to pick us up at the hotel again for dinner. We then went to pick up his girlfriend at her apartment, and off we went to a restaurant in a completely untouristed part of town. At the restaurant we met F2 and his girlfriend, and went inside to grab a table. As you came inside the restaurant, steaks were displayed behind glass for you to look at before you chose one. All the Italians ordered steaks. C and I, thinking that it was our last night in Rome and we could get a steak at home, ordered pizza. Big mistake. The steaks looked thick and juicy and came with steak cut fries. Our pizza was just okay. The moral of this story is that you should order the specialty of the house.

    We returned late to the hotel, after a drive in F1s second car that had Bluetooth technology in it that could link up with his cell phone. C was drooling. Unfortunately, our departure was scheduled for the following day, so we did some packing and drifted off into an uneasy sleep, dreaming of pickpockets and uneaten steaks.

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    Day 13 – We leave Rome in high style

    After messing around with public transportation for 12 days straight, we decided to return to the airport in high style. We had the hotel request a private car to take us to the airport. At this point in the trip, not having to mess with a bus, train, or our bags seemed well worth 50 euro. We got up, had our breakfast, and arrived downstairs to meet our driver. Our driver had clearly had his training at the Andretti School of Driving. We tore off through the city streets, monuments passing by in a blur as we glimpsed flashes of things we wanted to take one last look at. Oh, there’s the Coli – zoom.... Hey look it’s the zzrroooaaammmm…Wait, isn’t that the – vroooomm vrooooommmm… If you ever have 10 minutes to see the city, call this guy.

    We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare, had our last real Italian espresso and a cornetto, and wandered into the music store upstairs. We found no shortage of items to purchase, as I wanted to update my Italian music collection. C even joined in the party by purchasing an 883 album since he liked one of their songs we had heard on our trip.

    Last purchases made, last espresso consumed, last possible drop of Italy distilled into our blood, we waited at the departure gate for our flight to Heathrow. As the plane pulled off the tarmac and out along the coast, I had the same feeling I always had upon leaving Italy. Remembrance of the things I had done. Regret for the things I had not managed to do. Plans already forming in my head for what I would do the next time…

    THE END - thanks for reading!

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    Hi nnolen, isn't it terrible when you have to leave Italy. So depressing. And you had me laughing regarding your driver that took you to the airport. I have a couple of friends that drive like that. I have never said anything
    (I am sure my clenched fist are a giveaway though) but at times have silently said several Hail Mary's. Guess that has worked because I have always come home in one piece LOL.

    I love reading about spouses having such a great time travelling together as my DH and I did also. I know so many couples that don't, it is so sad. Thanks again for sharing your trip!! Wishing you two many more.

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    Thanks for a GREAT trip report!!

    I can SO identify with many of your adventures and experiences!

    My husband also purchased a Dopey Hat so his head wouldn't get burned (he'd forgotton to pack something and it was purchased in France), which he likes because it covers his ears so they won't get burned. I usually pretend I'm not with him when he wears it. :)
    Except this one time in Capri -- for a visual, go to our website / trip report at

    Italian TV -- Italy must be the place where faded American "stars" end up!! On a previous trip, we also witnessed a game show (which we couldn't figure out)with Sherman Hemsley and "Weezie" from the Jeffersons! (btw, he's now on "Surreal Life" wandering around with the same confused expression as Patrick "what am I doing here?"

    We also got dropped off in the middle of nowhere, had a driver from the Andretti school, and took a limo to the airport (well worth it)!\

    Thanks for sharing and bringing back memories!


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    Thanks for the feedback - I have to say that your husband's hat is actually less dopey than my husband's, so next time you travel you can feel better about it! Love your site, by the way...

    Have not been back since 7/04, which pains me. I'm planning a trip for 2007, which is not soon enough but it is the best I can do. In the meantime, I've got my copies of Bell'Italia to tide me over.

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    Thanks Astaroth. Glad you enjoyed it. I'll be returning in april (the week before Easter with my parents who have never travelled internationally before). I'm sure I'll have more to share. :)

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    Believe it or not - another trip to Italy (with my husband) is planned for April of this year. I'm surprised he agreed to return. I'll be sure to post more of our adventures.

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    OMG-have just started reading this. We were in Perugia last year and I have been saying ever since what a luxury it would be to take that course!

    Are you willing to share any info about the course? Know it'll be diff in 2010 but was it terribly expensive? I'm in my 60s so wonder about accommodations for someone older.

    We LOVED Perugia and met several lovely students who stayed on "while we are young and free".

    Back to reading your TRs....

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    I'm sorry - I took the course in 1997 through my college and I honestly have no idea what the price of the actual "Universita' per stranieri" portion was.

    It was a good learning experience. We took classes mostly in the mornings so we had afternoons free, and I believe it was either a 3 or 4 day a week class schedule, so we also had long weekends every weekend.

    Honestly, the best way to learn is to get out there and speak to people in Italian as much as possible. That combined with the course would get you set up in no time flat! ;)

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    Splendid stuff! I've often dreamed of a solo trip to Rome, and I see from the replies to your report that I'm not the only one. How I would love to see God in a bowl of beans and get lost in a Forest of Chocolate.

    I checked out your 2007 report, too. How lucky you are to have traveled with your parents, and what a treasured memory it will always be. Thanks for sharing.

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