July 1-4; Meta, Sorrento, and Capri

On the morning of July 1, we woke up early to catch the 7:00 train to Naples, from where we would travel to the coast via Circumvesuviana, a local train line in the area. On the train to Naples, I sat near Adrianne as well as near two Italian men who were talking in Italian sign language the entire trip. It was interesting and a little unsettling because I didn’t know what they were saying. It felt like we were on the train there forever-the ride to Naples is around 3 hours. 

Once we got to Naples, I found myself very aware of the fact that the train station is well known for its’ thieves. I am also the most paranoid traveler of all time so that’s a little rough on me. But overall it went very smoothly, and we made it on the next train to Piano, which is the stop I thought we had to get off at, although we could have just gotten off at Meta, which is what Stefania, our hostess, later told us. We got into Piano at about 11:45-12 and checked Adrianne into her hostel, and then made the climb up the side of the mountain to Casa Stefania.

But we took the hard way. Oh well. We made it, and that’s what counts.

The hostel was absolutely beautiful. It was basically like a hotel, but more homey, with very comfortable, very clean apartments. I ADORED it, and Stefania and her family were so nice and incredibly helpful when we had any questions at all. She helped us with buses, with trains, with restaurants-EVERYTHING. She was very on top of it.

That afternoon, after checking into the hostel, and paying, we made our way down to Meta beach, which was about a 20 minute walk down the hill/mountain. It was a beautiful beach-there wasn’t a lot of public space, but we worked with what we had so that we didn’t have to pay. We spent the whole day there, enjoying the sun and sand, and then made our way back up to the hostel to shower before going to dinner at a restaurant down the road called L’Agrumento, which was a farm turned to a restaurant that grows most of its’ own food and has a menu that changes everyday. Then mischief ensued.

When we got to the restaurant we were pretty excited to find that it was a dancing night for some italian senior citizens (who were really shaking it, might I add). So after our first what seemed like billion appetizers and our primo piatto (either spaghetti con vongole (clams) or gnocchi) we got up and shook it with them! The old men were really excited to have us to spin around without worrying about seriously injuring us. I met many of them, learned how to cha-cha, volunteered to sing and then didn’t know the words to the song (just because I’m from America doesn’t mean I know all the words to “New York, New York”), and overall had a fabulous time. It was a truly surreal evening and I cherished every minute of it. I don’t think I’ll ever have a chance to do something like that again.

Later that night, after all the old people hugged and kissed us goodnight, we made our way back down to Adrianne’s hostel to take her home. Shortly into the journey, though, she tripped and sprained her ankle pretty badly in a drain ditch in the road. It was going to be hard to get her back until Andrew took it upon himself to carry her on his back all the way there, alternating with Dan-the power of Dandy. What a truly touching moment. 

The next morning, we took a bus to Capo di Sorrento, a predominantly rock beach with Roman ruins, located past Sorrento’s city center. In order to make sure the bus stopped at the Capo stop, I made friends with the bus driver, whose name was Luzio. I had a good 20 minute conversation standing next to him, solely in Italian and I was pretty proud of myself. He was a very nice younger man, very polite, who originally thought I was German-at least he didn’t see me as American! We talked about the beaches in Sorrento and why I was in Italy and all sorts of things before he let the whole group off at Capo, giving me instructions about how to get to the good beach.

The beach was beautiful, even though it was a little dangerous due to the current and the sharpness of the rocks. We were really careful though, and spent a relaxing day swimming and soaking up Vitamin D in the peaceful scenery-located right next to Roman ruins! 

We were probably the only American people there, and we spent the whole day in 3 different locations. The first was a rocky little cove that looked out onto calmer water, which made it nicer for swimming. The second was a flatter, but more prickly beach, where it was much more dangerous to go swimming because the water would push you up against the sharp rocks. It was also a predominantly gay beach-you should have seen the looks those men were giving Andrew as he got ready to jump into the water. It was hilarious. The third was a mostly closed off inlet/cove that seemed kind of like a little oasis. Once you swam out of it, though, you were in the open water of the ocean, with a beautiful view of all of the island/surrounding area of Sorrento. It was yet another surreal moment (I have had a lot of those on this trip), and it was truly beautiful.

After a long day of lounging, we slowly walked back down the mountain and into the city for some dinner. Sorrento is kind of like a European Disney Land, so I’m glad our hostel ended up being in Meta-much quieter, friendlier, and more authentic. On the main street of Sorrento there were waves and waves of people-it was too crowded for cars to drive on. We were really hungry and annoyed by the crowds, so we really just wanted to find some dinner. We ended up at this place that had an upstairs garden and sold a lot of fresh seafood. I had crispy risotto with clams, mussels, and octopus. It was super yummy. Afterwards, we each got dessert-for me tiramisu-and it was excellent as well. The service wasn’t excellent but the food definitely made up for it. 

That night we bought a bottle of Limoncello to share once we got back to the hostel, but we all ended up being too tired to stay up and talk, so we just crashed and saved it for the next day.

I forgot to mention a major highlight of the trip-breakfast. This should be shocking to all of you who know me seeing as I am hardly a breakfast person. However. There are two cafes in Meta, run by the same family-one located across the street from the hostel, and one just down the hill-and they have the most delicious pastries of all time. I almost cry thinking about the fact that I might never have their giant Nutella filled brioches again-but don’t worry. In those four days, I ate way more than my share. 

On Sunday, we decided to go to Capri. We bus-ed down to Sorrento and took the ferry to the island (a roundtrip ticket was 30 E which was kind of steep, but we really wanted to see it so we didn’t complain). 

The island was truly lovely, but I found it more difficult to enjoy due to the volume of tourists there. Apparently during the summer 13000 people are on the island every day, but only 5000 live there year round-that is CRAZY. It really has just become more of a spectacle than anything else, which is kind of disappointing, I think. However, it is still an incredibly beautiful place.

We hiked the bajillion stairs to the town center, and then went back down on the other side to find the less crowded beaches. However, none of them were really uncrowded and the group had to split up once we got there because there was hardly any actually beach room. It was a lovely beach although it was packed to the gills with sweaty underdressed people (haha). The views on the way to the beach were absolutely breathtaking though, and with that pathway being less crowded, it really allowed me to appreciate the beauty of the island. 

That evening we took the ferry back after a long beach day and went to a restaurant recommended by Adrianne’s hostess, Rachele, called Aglio e Olio (Garlic and Oil). Because it would have taken too long to make our 13 individual orders, the man made a large assortment of pastas for us to eat-we each got the same plate. They were delicious and obviously home-made: very authentic. It was an excellent meal, even though he was kind of a weird guy. 

That night we walked back to our hostel and hung out on the front porch, telling stories, and taking turns sipping out of the Limoncello bottle-yep, super classy, but we didn’t have glasses-what can you do. 

We checked out the next morning and took all our luggage down to the beach with us, which was kind of rough when we had to make our way back to the train station. I was panicking the whole time, but we all got home safe and sound.

Overall, that weekend was one of the best weekends of my entire life.

And then we turned around and went to Venice :) which will be blogged about in the upcoming days.

lemon tree 

lemon tree 

the olive grove of Villa Peyron

the olive grove of Villa Peyron

Fiesole from the bus stop

Fiesole from the bus stop

more of “downtown” Fiesole

more of “downtown” Fiesole

Carmi and I (mostly Carmi) have a habit of accidentally leaving the fridge open pretty much every time we cook/get anything out of it. The poor thing has to work extra hard for us.

Carmi and I (mostly Carmi) have a habit of accidentally leaving the fridge open pretty much every time we cook/get anything out of it. The poor thing has to work extra hard for us.

June 25-Cinque Terre!

On Saturday, we woke with the sun at 5 AM-we being me, Julia, Anna, Kalina, Lauren, Lauren, Rachel, Andrew, Matt, Erin, and Max-and made our way to the Florence train station to buy a ticket to La Spezia, our connecting station with the Cinque Terre. The tickets were 9.20 E and they were successfully purchased and we all got on the train, and got seats without much of a problem.

We arrived in La Spezia Centrale at around 9:15, and had about 45 minutes until our next train left, which we spent walking around La Spezia. We ended up on the 10:05 train to  Vernazza and got there about 10:30. Upon arriving in Vernazza, we sunscreened up and then walked down into the city and found the trail. Without much delay we started up to Monterosso. The first staircase was the hardest, but I have to say having gone both ways, Vernazza to Monterosso is much less intense. And of course the views of the beautiful, sunny Mediterranean coast were breathtaking. 

Once we arrived in Monterosso, we fixated on lunch and then beach. I picked up a piece of foccacia from a forno with olives in it and it was fabulous, oily, and buttery-everything I was looking for. After that we found an large enough spot for all 11 of us on a public beach and got down to lazing around and being beach bums. I applied sunscreen probably close to ten times that day. We did a lot of swimming and reading and crosswording and a LOT of necessary relaxing. 

Some people did cliff-jumping into a cavern with rocks on both sides, which I strongly disagreed with, but hey-it’s their lives. 

The only bad part was the creep I had to yell “BASTA! BASTA! (STOP! STOP!)” at in Italian because he kept taking pictures of all the girls in our group, especially Julia, in swimsuits. Then Andrew protected our honor for us by obscuring the creep’s view. 

Also, we were really rushed with the train situation on the way home and ended up not getting dinner til 10:00, but it was an absolutely delicious kebab, so I was okay with that.

The past few days have been amazing and I’m really looking to more Italian beach in Sorrento this weekend!

June 24

Friday morning, we woke up late-ish and got to SRISA by 12:30, in time for our watercolor monotype workshop. Which I hated. The process was taking a plexiglass plate, sanding it down, covering it in gum arabic, and then painting on it with watercolor. While you do this, you soak paper so that it absorbs a lot of water. In order to print, you set your plate on the press and then put the damp paper on top and run the plate through. The damp paper picks up all the dried watercolor and there you have it-a watercolor monotype. 

I did one of a bulb of garlic, one experimental combo of drawings, and one abstract ground for a drawing. I wasn’t really thrilled by how they turned out but I wasn’t like heartbroken either. It was a really long process which was kind of disappointing because it was only supposed to go on for three hours and it went for almost 4.5. Igor and Regan kept telling us to do more prints so I mean….we did them. 

Afterwards we were tired and cranky and hungry and we went back home and sauteed a bunch of vegetables for dinner and then afterwards went down to the Arno to watch the fireworks for the festival of San Giovanni. They were beautiful and they went on for like an hour. We watched them all but were really tired afterwards and went home and went to sleep because we had to get up at 5 for Cinque Terre and Roma for some.