The Longest Day Ever to Naples & Pompeii

Exploring Rome had become quite a draining task, so we were happy to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for a while.  We hopped on to the Metro and headed over to the Termini station, Rome’s main train station.  During our search for the right ticket machine, I had unknowingly been pulled along by someone who I thought was a train station employee.  It turns out, she was a pickpocket trying to steal my money.  Thankfully a man walking by heeded a warning to me, and I realized my stupid actions and promptly walked away.  I found my friends once again, and we finally got the right tickets.  But the harassment did not stop there.  Once on the train, a group of creepy men decided to sit in front of us and endlessly pester us.  After a long day in Rome the previous day, we wanted to sleep on the train, but they just would not shut up.  We held our tongues and gave them dirty looks until we were able to transfer over to the our next train.  Thankfully, we did not have any creepers on the next train, and we got to Pompeii safely.

If you read my previous post, you know that I visited Italy a while ago with my family.  Seeing Pompeii this time was a completely different experience.  It was amazing to see this ancient city and witness the power of Mt. Vesuvius.  If you’re not familiar with the history, Pompeii was a huge city that was completely covered by ash and pumice when a nearby volcano, Mt. Vesuvius, erupted.  The entire city was preserved for thousands of years because the ash and pumice did not allow for water and air to destroy the ruins.  The most interesting part, in my opinion, is that excavators found spaces in the hardened ash in the shape of human bodies.  It turns out that many of the citizens of Pompeii had been sealed in the ashes, and their remains have long since decayed.  What was left behind were glimpses into the last moments of their lives.  They filled in these voids with plaster, and the figures are on display throughout the city.

Sadly, we only had a few hours to explore both Pompeii and Naples, so we headed over to Naples after we saw a few of the bodies.  We were all under the impression that Naples was a coastal city, but we got off the train and found ourselves nowhere near the water.  It turns out that the nearest “beach” required us to take another thirty minute metro ride.  We sadly had to buy another train ticket and hoped that it would be worth it given that the last train back to Rome left in a few hours.  In my opinion, it was not worth it.  We found ourselves in a dirty looking part of town, with little to do.  There were no sandy beaches, only a small rocky boardwalk, and it was starting to get dark.  We walked along the boardwalk and took pictures and then found ourselves the closest pizza joint and gelato place.  After our meal, we headed back to the metro station where we thought there would be a metro every few minutes.

Unfortunately that was not the case.  We had to wait another thirty minutes for the metro, cutting it very close for our connecting train back to Rome.  I am pretty sure that it was the last metro of the day, because there were all types of strange people on there. It was completely jam packed, and we were stared at by almost every single guy on board.  There was one man in particular who I believed to be homeless and sick.  He was coughing up a storm and vomiting into his hands right behind us. I soon noticed that he was staring at us in a particularly strange manner, and then he proceeded to move to the seat right next to where we were standing.  We moved away as quickly as we could, scared that he might attack us or take our bags.  Soon after, he walked behind us and grabbed my friend’s butt before exiting the tram.  I have never taken such a scary metro ride in my life.  Thankfully, there were five of us, and we stuck together.  (I guess girls do move in packs)

However, our problems did not stop there.  Since we had to wait so long for the metro, we were cutting it very close for our next train back to Rome.  As soon as the metro halted at our stop, we jumped off and flew through the station.  I have never been good at running (13 minute mile anyone?), but I think I could have set a top record that night.  We flew up stairs and through hallways until we got to our train terminal and found our train just leaving the terminal.  We had just missed the last train to Rome Termini for that night.

Dejected and fatigued, we trudged back to the ticket office to see if there were any more trains that we could take.  Thankfully, I had made friends with one of the ticket tellers when I was asking for directions to the beach, so he was extremely nice and helpful. There were no more trains to Rome Termini that night, but there was one last train to a nearby station.  The ticket teller let us use the balance of our missed tickets towards another train ticket, so we only had to pay around 15 more euros.  He told us that we would be able to take the metro from this station to the Termini station, and then from there, we could commute back to our apartment.  We had a much needed treat when we found that we had our own private cabin in the train (Harry Potter style).  We all immediately fell asleep for the next three hours and woke up ready for our commute back to our apartment.

But wait! Let’s just add one more problem.  It was midnight, and this Metro line had closed for the night, and we had no idea where we were.  We asked a nearby security guard how we could get to the Termini station, and he led us on a wild goose chase to find a bus that I am pretty sure did not exist.  After waiting thirty more minutes for that bus, we were done.  Despite the extremely high taxi fees, we decided that we deserved it, and we set out on a search to find a taxi driver that would let all five of us on at a time.  We finally found one, and we took the ten minute drive to the Termini station.  Then finally, we were able to commute an hour back to our apartment where we slept a few short hours before we had to be up again for the next part of our trip.

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The Colosseum, Palatine Hill, & A Special Birthday Celebration

Rome does an incredible job of packing as much history as it can into the smallest area possible.  Every corner exudes a type of beauty that can only be attained by age.  I visited Rome when I was ten years old with my family, and it was a completely different experience this time around.  I have a much greater appreciation for history now, and I actually understand the significance behind the monuments.  Seeing the Vatican on this trip affected me in a very different way from the first time.  In my middle school days, I had no regard for the pope or the fact that Vatican City was the smallest nation in the world.  It was just another place that my mom was dragging me to.  I would have rather stayed on the cruise ship and eaten at the 24 hour buffet. (I could eat like a fiend back then) However during this visit , I could really feel the glorious but reverent ambiance in the church and the whole square.

Although the Vatican was the highlight of my trip to Rome, the Colosseum can not be forgotten.  After paying a hefty fee for admission and waiting in a long line, we entered the ancient amphitheater.  I have seen countless pictures of the Colosseum so I was not really amazed when I actually saw it in person.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s still an amazing monument that should be visited if you find yourself in Rome, but I tend to prefer lesser-known attractions with smaller crowds.  With smaller attractions, there is less of a chance for it to be a let-down and for it to be overcrowded.  The Colosseum was packed with people as is everything else in Rome, so we quickly left after we snapped a few good pictures.

What I did not realize at first was that our tickets to the Colosseum were also valid for admission to Palatine Hill.  I had never even heard of this place before we stumbled upon the sign for it and discovered that our tickets were valid.  We entered the gates not knowing what to expect, and I was amazed at what we found.  It was an entire ancient city ready to be explored.  I absolutely love exploring things I know nothing about so I jumped at the opportunity to stroll the streets of the ruined city.  Unfortunately my friends were not as excited as I was, and we did not have enough time to see everything.  However, it was still my favorite part of the day.  (My favorite places always turn out to be places that I find by surprise)

We walked over to the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument where we agreed to meet up with the rest of our group.  Unfortunately when you are in a foreign country, you are often subject to leave your phone in airplane mode lest you be charged extravagant international fees.  Because we had no means of communication, we just had to wait at the monument until everybody showed up.  Due to a mix up, no one showed up, and we ended up wasting two and a half hours waiting.  At least we had gelato during the wait.

To end the day we celebrated my roommate Nicole’s 21st birthday.  We got a delicious Italian dinner followed by another round of gelato.  We continued the celebration at a local bar where we met a promoter and a group of people planning to go clubbing.  We decided to head over to the club after we finished our super cheap drinks (20 euros for a very large pitcher of specialty drinks).  The promoter got us into the VIP section (we felt so important), and they ordered bottle service for the rest of the night.  We danced the night away and by that time we wanted to head home, the metro was once again open.  We somehow managed an hour long commute back to our apartment where we spent our last few hours in Rome relaxing and recharging for the next few days in Greece.

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My Time in the World’s Smallest Nation

Late Thursday night, we arrived to Rome Ciampino Airport and were greeted with an extremely overpriced taxi ride to our AirBNB apartment.  I have never seen such outrageous prices for taxis, and it makes me sad to think that they just takes advantage of all the tourists that Rome gets. Anyways, after a lengthy introduction by our AirBNB host, he took us to a fabulous Italian restaurant where we had enough pizza to last us a lifetime.  We ended the night exhausted and ready to explore the famous city.

Over the course of our five day trip to Rome, we spent a good amount of time in Vatican City.  On our first morning, we navigated the only two metro lines in the city and headed towards the smallest nation in the world, Vatican City.  After a short metro commute and a long walk past vicious street vendors, we finally entered the tiny country through the huge stone pillars of St. Peter’s Square.  We were greeted with a mass of people in line to enter the church. Discouraged by the crowd, we headed over to the Vatican Museum in hopes that there was a shorter line.  Unfortunately this line was even longer, so we ended up wandering around the square deciding what to do.  Thankfully we stumbled upon a ticket office and bought tickets to the Vatican Museum, and we were able to skip the line. If you ever visit, I highly recommend you buy tickets in advance so you don’t waste your time in line fending off angry street vendors. For the last time we don’t want a selfie stick!

We strolled around the museum and saw a lovely display of historical pieces. Unfortunately, it was extremely crowded so it made it very difficult to get around the museum. At one point we were stuck in a crowd of people slowly making their way towards the Sistine chapel. I felt like I was at a concert with the amount of people squished in one hallway. We finally arrived to the chapel and were greeted with angry security guards screaming to put our cameras away and to move towards the center. The museum could have been a very pleasant experience, but given the amount of people, it was much too hectic.  I suspect it was due to the imminent Easter affairs.

After the museum, we decided to brave the long line to enter the basilica. We bought gelato to eat during the wait, and hoped that we would be able to get in before the church closed. Luck was finally on our side when the security guards cut off the line right after us. Thankfully our thirty minute wait was not wasted. However, we were too late to climb up the top of the dome. It was a sad day indeed. We were still able to admire the inside of the church. At one point we saw a mass going on towards the front of the church, but it was gated off with guards at entrance. We asked if we would be allowed to attend it, and they let us in. It was a small intimate ceremony, and there was a guest choir from New York. To add the cherry to the cake, there was a double rainbow outside as we exited the church. It was an amazing experience to be able to attend mass at St. Peter’s Basilica, and I’m so happy that we braved the line to get in.

When we were booking the trip, we had not realized that it was going to be Palm Sunday. As soon as I realized it, I researched if the pope was going to be presiding the Sunday mass. Sure enough, he was. We waltzed over to the office of the guards on Friday, and they gave us 5 beautiful tickets to the mass. They never even checked the tickets, but it is a nice keepsake to show to your grandkids. We woke up bright and early Sunday morning and headed over to the square. We wee once again greeted with a giant mob of people, but we eventually got inside the square and scores pretty good seats. The mass was extremely long, and I must admit it was very difficult to stay awake given we had about three hours of sleep. However, it was still an amazing experience, and I still cannot believe we were able to attend that mass and see the pope. After the mass, the pope drove around the square in his popemobile greeting his fans. He seemed the happiest when he was able to be in the crowd and with the people.  I am mad because I did not bring my zoom lens, so I could not get very good pictures of the pope.

After the mass, we decided to say in the area until they opened up the basilica because we wanted to climb the dome. We waited for almost two hours packed like sardines in the crowd. However it was completely worth it when we were able to climb up the various levels of the churc and see the amazing view. You could see the entire country, all of the 500 meters or so. Next we strolled around the church and observed the amazing architecture and statues. It amazes me how old the place is and how great the condition still is. Then as a final treat, I got some of my family some rosaries and got them blessed by the priests there. My family is devoutly catholic so I know they will appreciate these gifts.
I am not an extremely religious person, but it was still amazing to see the history of the church and to see the pope that close. It was a once in a lifetime experience and I will forever cherish it.

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