I’m back! Actually, I’ve been back for a few days, but jetlag is real. It wasn’t as bad for me coming home as it was going there, but it still smacked me down a bit. Fortunately I suspected that would be the case and left myself a cushion to readjust…except for the doctor and dentist appointments I foolishly made for myself for the beginning of this week. But that’s all under the bridge, and I’m ready to dive back into my craft room. First though, I’d like to share a little of my trip with you!
We left home on April 24th and took a series of LONG flights to Italy. In our airport here in Portland you leave the secured area, and can greet whoever is picking you up, before you pick up your luggage. In Naples, we had to wait for our luggage first. Which nearly drove me crazy, and my husband kept saying “Just go hug your boy. I’ll get the bags.” I finally took him up on it. A year is too long to wait for a hug from your kid.
Our son lives in a small town just inland from Gaeta, where he works, and he drove down to Naples to pick us up. The first thing I learned about Italy is that the driving situation is insane. A one lane road is turned to three, cars will pass each other with traffic in the oncoming lane, and it feels like everyone’s bumpers are touching because they drive so close together. Fortunately, the cars are tiny. If I lived there I would have to take public transportation everywhere!
The first place we spent some time was Gaeta. Apparently it’s not a big tourist area for people from outside the country, but it is for Italians. The weather was good, and being from Oregon anything over about 65 degrees is shorts and tanks weather. We were the ONLY ones. Everyone else was wearing muted colors, heavy coats and boots. Me and my white, flowery, sleeveless top and my pasty white arms stuck out like a sore thumb.
Of course one of the first things we did was sample some gelato and cappuccino. It’s probably good I don’t live there, or that’s what I would have every day.
In the afternoon, we stopped at an outdoor bar for drinks. We were sitting at a little table, when suddenly car after car started pulling up, filled with people clearly dressed for a wedding, including the bride and groom themselves. The bar was ready for them with champagne and snacks. We just sat at our little table while an entire wedding reception was happening around us!
There’s a castle next door to my son’s apartment building (!), so we spent part of a day exploring that. We were on our way to figure out how to get in, when an Italian man that works with my son happened to drive by. We asked him where to enter, so he hopped out of his car and gave us a mini tour. He grew up in the area, and talked about playing hide and seek in the castle as a kid.
Tucker had to work during much of our visit, but he was able to get about a week off, so we planned a trip. We decided to take the train, which made for a much more relaxing trek than I think driving would have been. Our first stop was Rome, where we stayed for a couple of days.
We visited most of the things you’d expect in Rome, like the Forum, the Coliseum, Trevi Fountain, etc. Being from the United States, and specifically the West coast, we just don’t have buildings anywhere near as old as almost everything there. It was surreal to me to be walking down the street and realize you’re walking by something that’s been there for thousands of years.
In addition to all the sites, you can find a café and gelato shop on nearly every corner. That wasn’t completely surprising, but what was is the number of Irish pubs. Who would have guessed?
When we left Rome we stopped in Pisa, long enough to see the Leaning Tower. I wish I would have taken a photo of all the tourists there, with about 75% of them taking the “Hey look, I’m holding up the tower with one hand” pic.
From Pisa, we continued on to a town called La Spezia. We had an airbnb there for a couple of nights so we could visit an area called Cinque Terre. You know those photos you see of Italy with the colorful buildings climbing up a steep hillside? That’s Cinque Terre.
We took the train between each of the five villages, and each one had its own personality. They all sit on the side of a hill, so there is a lot of walking and climbing stairs. I think I understand how the Italians can eat so much pasta, gelato and bread and still be thin and fit.
The views were absolutely amazing everywhere you looked. You can look to the hillside with all the colorful buildings, grapevines and lemon trees with the biggest lemons I’ve ever seen.
Then you can turn around and see an expansive view of the ocean. Beautiful in every direction.
We stayed in La Spezia because we’d heard it was easier than trying to find lodging in Cinque Terre, but it turned out to be a fun place to spend time also. Our airbnb was across the street from a music conservatory, so we were treated to amazing music most of the time we were there. We also visited an Italian Navy Museum and walking through the shopping and along the waterfront.
After our travels, we returned to our son’s apartment where we celebrated my birthday and Mother’s Day. He had to go back to work, but my husband and I were still able to have some mini adventures, like figuring out how to shop in an Italian grocery store, visit our favorite café for our daily cappuccino and try to decide exactly which shop had the best gelato.
On Tucker’s last day off before we left, he drove us up into the hills to a monastery. You could see all the way past Gaeta to the ocean. It was a perfect way to top off our trip.
We had an amazing time, not only visiting the tourist areas, but getting the opportunity to really experience living in Italy, if only for a short time. We were there for about four days when we decided we are definitely going back next spring!