June 12, 2014 - Day 7

I made a huge mistake by not reading my tickets properly. I thought I was due at the Vatican for a tour of St Peters and the Gardens at 12 noon, but the tour was actually at 9am. Facepalm. $50 down the drain. Oh well, the day must go on. I gathered my stuff and we entered the city once I got over my disappointment.

We hit up all the areas of Rome that we’d missed, including Lepanto, which led us to Castel Sant’Angelo. Huge and impressive structure. We decided to walk to Piazza del Poppolo, and sat there for about an hour trying to cool off. The day was incredibly hot and humid. Our clothes were soaked with sweat.

To entertain ourselves in the plaza, we started feeding a few of the pigeons. Before we knew it, I had about 15 of them pecking around, one almost flying into my head. It was time to move. We accidentally stumbled onto the Spanish Steps, and were horribly underwhelmed. There are steps behind Vittorio Emanuele Museum, in front of the church, that are ten times more impressive. 

Anyway, we wandered over to the Pantheon (once again by accident) and found the always beautiful Piazza Navona. The fountain in front was spectacular, super clean and massive. Then we found Campo de Fiori, another disappointment. The famous flower market was there, but so was about a weeks worth of restaurant trash piled up in the middle. Gross. We left, but not before my heart was broken by a homeless woman and her tiny and exhausted puppy. The poverty in Europe has made me rethink so many of my previous ideas of this continent.

We made our way to my favorite restaurant, MyBar, where I ordered waaay too much wine. Yum. We finally left for the campsite, where I drunk ordered a crepe (Nutella!) and a huge place of strawberries and whipped cream. Yum. The World Cup began tonight, so we sat at the restaurant, sweets in hand, to cheer on the playing teams with dozens of other travelers from round the world.

June 11, 2014 - Day 6

Bright and early we awoke (no, seriously, the sun is up at like 5am here in Rome) for a day at Pompeii. We organized the excursion with the campsite, and were pleasantly surprised to find a lot of people were going on the tour with us.

The bus scooped us up and took us straight to Pompeii. We got audio guides and a human tour guide to show us around. He showed us what Pompeii was all about - booze and brothels. No, seriously. There was a bar on every block, and penises everywhere showing the nearest whorehouse. I’m not surprised the place was destroyed! It was loads of fun though, taking pictures with all these taboo things. 

Afterwards, the tour took us to a restaurant, which Andy and I opted out of. Saving money meant bringing our own lunch, which admittedly, looked way better than the restaurants. We then hopped on a bus and went for a tour of Napoli and the Bay of Naples.

The area was truly the perfect Italian seaside resort. Beaches everywhere, and beautiful blue waters. We saw Maradona’s old mansion, the NATO base, the US Embassy and this massive iron structure that was actually the soccer stadium. We left Naples at about 5pm/17:00, when not even an hour later, a massive boom comes from the back of the bus (right underneath us). We pull over and examine the bus, only to see half the fucking tire is missing. No lies, our bus probably should have flipped over, the way that we were driving along. It was insane.

We should have made it home by 7pm, but didn’t arrive until 11pm. The bus had to be moved several times before it could be fixed. Even when it was fixed, there was an issue. Finally, we just changed buses in the middle of the road and set off. It was seriously, such a long day.

We did, however, meet some lovely German girls who told me Americans “sound like they have potatoes in their mouths.” We met a guy backpacking through Eastern Europe through to Israel, and a couple of other US college students. It was so cool to actually meet new people and see where their trips were taking them.

June 10, 2014 - Day 5

Well we couldn’t avoid it forever. Today we got caught up in an Italian transit strike. While asking a few questions at the info point, we overheard other tourists discussing the lack of buses in the area. Apparently, we wouldn’t be getting served until after 3pm. Fab.

We took advantage and made our way over to the massive wading pool and plopped ourselves down for a few hours. What a glorious way to spend a hot Roman day. The heat was rivaling that of Miami, and the water was the perfect, cool complement. It was heaven on earth.

Eventually we did have to make our way into the city, so we tore ourselves away from Plus Camping Fabulous’s pool and set off for Rome. The afternoon was so wonderfully cool and overcast. It really made for a completely different experience in the city. Andy and I set off for Piazza del Poppolo, by way of Via del Corso. This shopping street had just about every store you could think of. We made it our personal missions to locate a shoe store, as our feet were dying from the flip flop/thing/sandals we’d been rocking around town. 

Note to future travelers: DON’T BUY CLOTHES YOU CAN GET AT HOME OVERSEAS. We paid 90 euros a pop for shoes, which seems okay, until you realize that Adidas sneakers are $80 back home. We paid like $80USD more than we needed to, seriously messing with our budget. However, we were desperate, and the shoes were used loads of times throughout the trip.

Finally we made it to Piazza del Poppolo, a gorgeous and spacious plaza perfect for people watching. We set off for home after resting in the plaza for a while, preparing for the following day in Pompeii!

June 9, 2014 - Day 4

We rose early to make it to the Vatican for our 9am tour. We were being taken underground to see St. Peter’s bones, a must for any Catholic. Trying to avoid the total mess that is the metro at rush hour, we left early, making it to St. Peter’s by 7:30am. This meant we had an hour and a half to kill before the tour.

It wasn’t that bad, to be totally honest. Just sitting and soaking in all the sights were enough to preoccupy me during that time. We saw scores of nuns and priests running through the square. There were barely any tourists, which made it that much better. We did wander about, taking pictures of everything, hoping to remember this forever.

Ten minutes before the tour began, I went up to a Swiss Guard and in my best Italian asked, “Where is the excavations office”, to which he replied, “I speak English, you know.” Mortification. He pointed us in the right direction, which happened to be this small side street with absolutely no tourists. It was so cool!

We were soon ushered into the excavations office, where they started telling us the significance of the tour. We would be going to see the bones of St. Peter, the founder of the church. His bones, buried directly under the center of the basilica’s roof, some hundreds of feet above, have been a mecca for Christians for thousands of years. However, they’ve had to make do with visiting the Basilica. I would be going underground and seeing them with my own eyes.

We were taken through the mausoleums left by the Romans. They were so well-preserved, thanks to the heating/cooling/whatever system they have in place. Every time we went to a different part, doors would slam shut behind us. Deeper and deeper we went, seeing the various other basilicas and chapels built over his bones. Finally we saw the bones, tiny objects encased in heavy plexiglass. Everyone on our tour went silent. Several of us began to pray. It was such a moving experience to be there in this presence. 

We emerged back in St. Peters Square, and made our way back to the  Colosseum. Across from it, and honestly a bit of a walk, we found the gay district of Rome. We settled on a meal at MyBar, a yummy and affordable place with Wifi. Then we slowly made our way to Arco di Constantino, where we would be meeting a walking tour. This company was a nightmare, giving me issues even before arriving in Europe. This day was no different. Turns out that they sent me the wrong time on the reservation. Instead of 6:30, the tour was at 8:30. Seeing as I had been waiting since 5:30 for a group, I only stayed at the arch til 7pm. We gave up and 12 hours after starting our day, made our way back to our campsite.