My recent trip to Italy was a lot. In my mind, it’s a whirlwind of crowds and logistics with nice moments tucked in between—the true Tourist experience, I guess.
We started with a couple days in Rome. On the first day, we walked to the Vatican museums, passing through the park surrounding the Villa Borhgese + Piazza del Popolo, and met a charming cat.
We had ‘skip the line’ tickets to the Vatican Museum through an external company, and ended up skipping the line, for sure, but waiting to get our tickets inside the museum lobby for over an hour, anyways. It was a stressful start to a stressful visit; both the Vatican galleries and the Sistine Chapel were incredibly packed on the day we visited. In some instances, we were jammed into rooms and corridors shoulder to shoulder with other visitors (half of whom seemed to be coughing and sneezing, ugh). It was really rough on my parents (who midway through had to stop for a literal nap), and by the time we’d wound our way through the miles and miles of museum space, we were all exhausted.
That same evening, we had tickets to visit the Villa Borghese (which was quite near our hotel), so my brother, sister, and I tucked our parents into bed and went to explore the park around the museum prior to our strict 5pm appointment.
It was pretty glorious to see so many Bernini masterpieces up close—my favorite part was having my brother, who’s never taken an art history course, marvel over the sculptures and absorb all the details about their creation.
The next day, we took a two-hour train ride out to Naples, where we caught the Circumvesuvia aaaall the way to the end of the line: Sorrento. It was a cute town on the coast, also packed with tourists, with some charming streets downtown and lots of lemon trees.
The next day, we took the wildest bus ride through the hills to get to Positano. It was definitely my favorite spot that we visited during the entire vacation, for obvious reasons.
We got dropped off by a bus at the top of the hill, and wound our way down to the beach past small shops and restaurants. For once, a spot that wasn’t overly crowded.
We got to the bottom of the hill near sunset, and had dinner by the water before climbing the hill again to catch the bus back to Sorrento.
It was easy to imagine how crowded it must be in summer, and to appreciate it even more because of that.
The next day, we checked in at our (truly lovely) hotel in the city of Pompeii and then spent the afternoon walking through the ruins.
It’s an incredibly impressive historical site, and it’s just mind-boggling to think of the horrific volcanic explosion that led to its preservation. My mom was a social studies teacher for a long time, and her fascination with the city rubbed off on me at an early age.
I could’ve spent a few more days there, for sure, and I’d love to go back with a tour guide someday.
I’ve got to say, my mom did a great job of picking apartments and hotels, during this trip. I was completely in love with the Hotel Forum.
We took the fast train, the FrecciaRossa back to Rome the next day, and went on a double-decker bus tour of the city (the “Hop ON / NO HOP OFF” deal, as my mom put it on the itinerary) that was quite unremarkable except for the enclosed top deck and the blasting heater, which made we want to curl up and fall asleep as the city crept past.
The next day, New Years Day, we took a bus to Trastevere and had lunch in the Jewish quarter, which was one of my favorite meals of the trip.
My very last day in the city was spent walking around the city in pretty cold temperatures. We visited the Pantheon (and a legendary nearby coffee house called Tazza D’Oro) and ate outside nearby at a small but wonderful restaurant called Pietro al Pantheon, and walked to the Piazza Navona, and the Spanish Steps, too.
And last but certainly absolutely definitely the best, went for gelato at Giolitti. Ugh. UGH. The most beautiful sight of all.
It would’ve been much less stressful to cut our itinerary down to about 1/4 of what we did. If I had to do it again (and if I ever go back) I’d stay far from the Vatican and the Spanish Steps and the Pantheon and the Coliseum, and hide out in some of the quieter spots in the city. (Also, I need to go to the zoo.) But getting to do it all with my family definitely made for some unforgettable memories.
If you’ve stuck with me this long, you’re probably almost as tired as I was when I got home. Thank you for reading! Here’s to 2019’s adventures, whatever and wherever they might be.