Sunday, October 14, 2012

Adventures in Southern Italy: Amalfi Coast, Pompeii, and Vesuvius

Positano, Italy

It's been quite a while (almost a month, in fact) since I've posted anything because I've been so busy studying, traveling, and learning more and more about Italian culture, but its been such a crazy adventure! My apologies for having slacked on this quite a bit. Everything is going by so quickly and my days are so packed with activities that sometimes I feel like I don't have time to think. So I guess I have this blog to thank for making me sit down at least once in a while and reflect on my experiences here; I'll try to update this blog more frequently with shorter posts from now on. This one will just be a little longer to make up for my absence :)

I'm currently writing this blog post on my way back from the Amalfi coast with Euroadventures. Most people on the bus right now are sleeping or watching the movie that our tour guides have put up-Gladiator. Although I have seen the film before, watching it as the southern Italian hills roll by the bus window is quit a surreal experience. While Russel Crowe urges his horse on through the forest in an attempt to save his family, I can't help comparing the settings with the rolling hills and mountains that I'm currently traveling through. I don't think I'll ever see Gladiator in the same way again after living in Italy.

View of the Italian countryside on the way home to Florence

Quiet towns

So far, I have been in Italy for over a month, and the beauty of this country still continues to amaze me. Amalfi was one of the best trips I've had here so far. I felt like I was living some luxurious life that I had only seen in movies. We went to the island of Capri, had cruises on boats while drinking wine, beer etc., went cliff jumping (I jumped off a 49 foot cliff and still have the cuts and scrapes to prove it) saw the Blue Grotto-one of the wonders of the world- and simply relaxed and sketched on the coast of the Mediterranean sea.

bellisima Positano
booze cruise #1
frands :)
actually the scariest 2 seconds of my life

our Euroadventures group!
The best part of the Amalfi coast though, was taking an independent trip to Pompeii and mount Vesuvius with a couple of friends. My biggest regret about the trip was that I didn't have enough time to explore the ancient city of Pompeii because I'm pretty sure that it's the coolest place I've been in Italy thus far. Wandering around (and getting very, very lost) in such an ancient city was unreal.

It's quite humbling to walk into old houses, stand in the center of old coliseums, and stroll through the streets of these ruins and realize that the thousands of people who lived here long ago were so similar to me- and yet were completely annihilated in a matter of hours. While Positano, Capri island, and Sorrento were breathtaking, Pompeii held the most meaning for me because it was a dead city with so much natural beauty, history, and tragedy. I almost felt intrusive walking through the houses, stables, bakeries, and temples that once would have been so intimate and personal. Even though the place was bustling with tourists, the place felt eerie- for me the presence of death and the destructive power of nature still lingered heavily in the air. It's one of the most intriguing places I have ever been.

one of the many, many streets of Pompeii

me being really excited about the temple of Apollo?

the coliseum was strangely beautiful and peaceful for a place that was once filled with so much death
I wasn't lying about Pompeii being huge- we probably stopped 15 people to ask for directions!

Before we left, my friends Ruth, Steven, Tiffanie, Alice and I managed to find the mummified corpses of the victims of Mount Vesuvius. To see the bodies frozen in gestures of utter despair, or sometimes- peace, was difficult for me to take in. I can't even begin to imagine the overwhelming fear and hopelessness they must have felt to realize that they were about to die. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

After Pompeii, my friends and I decided that we couldn't leave southern Italy without seeing Mount Vesuvius, so naturally we decided to take our own little adventure/bus ride to the legendary volcano.

The gigantic military-like buses that hauled us almost all the way to the top of the mountain

View from looking over the volcano- you can see almost the entire coast of southern Italy

oh you know, just walking above cloud level

Feeling incredibly small next to the giant crater (it's probably twice the size of the USC campus at least)

Sitting on the edge of the crater, no big

Out of breath from literally RUNNING down Mount Vesuvius to catch the last bus, and very happy that we made it!
That's probably enough writing and pictures for now, but I will do my best to update more regularly and with shorter posts! I still have a lot more that I can say but I will save that for another late night in Italia when I don't feel like doing homework :)

Con tanto amore,

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