Traveling from Rome to the Southern Mountains of the Italian Countryside
Traveling from Rome to southern Italy’s Paola, Acri, Naples and Sorrento was filled with adventure, small town charm and all that this culturally rich European country has to offer. My Italian nationality is an important factor in my first trip to Europe because I never really felt like a tourist in Italy, especially Rome. As a New Yorker, I could swear I felt like I was at home walking around Rome, until you walk upon a 1,000 year old ruin, of course. I also had locals approach me asking for directions in Italian, which I do not speak. Perhaps if I was visiting Sweden my long dark hair and darker complexion would have me stand out like a sore thumb, but in Italy it was an easy transition and made for a truly enjoyable trip.
The city of Rome felt like lower Manhattan full of traffic, yellow taxicabs and graffiti but with some ruins and ancient pieces of art sprinkled throughout. Seeing the Coliseum amidst a busy Roman street with traffic and people, locals and tourists alike, walking past, was exciting. We wandered into a local ice cream parlor directly adjacent to the Coliseum plaza and grabbed some gelato, Italian ice cream, and sat on a seat outside with the Coliseum in our view. We visited the Forum and ate lasagna at a local restaurant before calling it an early night.
The next day we grabbed our travel books and took a walking tour through the heart of Rome visiting the Trevi Fountain and the Piazza Navona. Just simply walking around the piazza, you will see luxurious cafes, Baroque palaces and fountains: Fontana Dei Quattro Fiumi, Four Rivers Fountain, has the most details of any with its artistry and Fontana del Moro. We were able to walk from the Piazza to the Pantheon and Piazza della Minerva, a large pillared structure dating back to 118 and 128 and its surrounding square. We were able to see the Column of Marcus Aurelius before exhaustingly heading back to our hotel.
The next day we were to be heading south to the town of Paola. We passed cities and small villages of Italy, occasionally passing cows and sheep in a distant field, while on the train heading south. The train station there is at the lowest elevation in the town with the streets winding upward in the mountains to reach the center of the city. After a 20-minute ride, which seemed straight up, we arrived at our hotel along the mountainside, Sant'Agostino. We were on the third floor and had a view of the entire mountainside from our bedroom window. It was a stark difference from the hustle and bustle of the city of Rome to be in the peaceful, quiet town of Cosenza.
We made our way down the steep hill to a restaurant; the name is literally translated into “Restaurant” in English, in the center of town. It was located across from the B&B La Piazzetta. We sat down for the freshest dish of ziti and goat cheese I’ve ever had. The cheese was from the butcher’s goats, the sauce made on the premises and the pasta handmade. The wine we enjoyed with it was also from the local hillside vineyards. After our meal, we walked around the town and people watched enjoying the children playing soccer in the streets while their fathers watched from chairs outside a café smoking big cigars. Every apartment had a terrace that viewed the street below with clotheslines and flowered potted plants on the ledges. It felt like the authentic Italian experience.
After saying goodbye to Acri and Paola, we traveled back north by train to the oceanfront town of Sorrento. Sorrento is like the equivalent Hamptons of Southern Italy for a New Yorker. The shopping and restaurants are expensive, the people are high-class and the town is clean, beautiful and luxurious. When visiting Sorrento, the only option is to stay in the city of Sorrento in the heart of it all. Everything you need to visit is within walking distance. You will find among the expensive clothing shops, some touristy small shops and little cafes. It’s also a convenient place to stay when visiting the village of Pompeii. Pompeii was mostly destroyed and buried under 13 to 20 feet of ash in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. It left much of the city, including its inhabitants, intact. It is an amazing place to see for its historical significance and a popular tourist stop.
Naples is only a forty-five minute train ride from Sorrento and so a perfect stop for us before heading back to Rome. The thing I will always take with me from Naples was the authentic brick oven pizza that I had there. There are no slices of pizza in Italy such as you'd see in the NYC or other popular American cities. Here, you order by the personal pan size and order it with almost any topping you can think of. I had the margarita pie, which was a perfectly proportioned layer of sauce to fresh mozzarella cheese on a perfect crunchy crust.
We were able to see some historical sites here that included the 16th century chapel, Cappello, which hosts 18th-century sculptures of the late Baroque period. Our time in Naples was cut short in order to catch a train back to Rome. We arrived in Rome and had a good nights rest for the early start of our tour of the Vatican City our last day.
When Visiting the Vatican, you will see artwork, sculptures and of course the Sistine Chapel. You’ll enter into the museum and be able to visit St. Peter's Basilica. A few interesting facts about Vatican City is that they really are like their own country; they have their own currency and coins and the state of the Vatican City is a recognized national territory under international law.
My first trip to Europe was an amazing one that will always stay with me and I hope to be able to visit this country of pizza, piazzas and ancient ruins once again.
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