Italy Part 1
I have been really blessed to be able to see a lot of the US with my team as we have traveled from coast to coast playing teams from cities I had never seen before, so for my last Spring Break in college, we had to step it up a bit. Every four years, the team takes an international trip searching for new sights and new teams to compete against. For this cycle, we chose Italy and its many beautiful cities and rich history of soccer. I will be recounting our travels here for the next week:
There are some things college aged kids don’t like to do, and then there are things that no one ever wants to do. We started off this trip with a 2:15AM wake up call to be able to catch a 6AM flight out of MSP to Philly. To make us feel even better about our early wake up call, the flight was delayed another hour because of maintenance issues, because of course that happens when you have 3 hours of sleep to work on. We had a 9-hour delay in Philly, so we decided to ditch the airport and explore the home of the newly crowned Super Bowl Champs.
We had initially planned on visiting the Liberty Bell and channeling our inner Nick Cage, but we opted for the Reading Center Market, which was an indoor mecca of tons of food stalls and shops. True to form, most of the team got Philly Cheesesteaks, and yes, they did taste better out there than anywhere else.
We went back to the airport and every single one of us got our bags pulled by TSA because we packed too many snacks and looked too sketchy, apparently; but I can understand why when a few of my teammates packed an entire bag of fun sized skittles in their backpacks. When I mean entire bag, I literally mean the TSA agents had to take out 70 mini packs of Starbursts and Skittles (which we will eat all of, by the way, we are big girls through and through) and were simply not having any of us. Finally reaching the plane, I was super lucky to snag a window seat for the 8-hour flight to Rome. I am always amazed by the movie selection on planes, and cranked a few out before attempting to sleep through the night as we were chasing the sun around the Earth. One of the coolest things I have ever seen is the night sky above the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Being so far away from land, there is virtually no light pollution, so the stars are simply magnificent and innumerable. Combine the stars and the moon with their reflection off the ocean and the angle of the view at 30,000 feet and its clear why we all wish on shooting stars.
We landed in Rome around 9AM, or 2AM CST otherwise known as 23 straight hours of travel, and were greeted by our new tour guide, Flavio, who is the most stereotypical Italian man I have met (yes that list is quite short but still). After squeezing the team and coaches and spouses onto the charter bus, Guiseppi took us on a three hour drive to the ruins of Pompeii. I had the song by Bastille in my head all day, and the sunshine was out to play, so it was a good day minus the very, very limited sleep we were all operating on. Pompeii sits at the foot of Vesuvius, a massive volcano that famously erupted in 79AD, covering the town and the surrounding area in 8 – 12 feet of volcanic ash that had erupted 20 miles into the sky. The city was excavated and is now a massive tourism spot, and our tour guide Michael walked us through all of the pieces of the city and why it was built in a certain way. The whole city was much larger than I had anticipated, spanning almost 20 square miles of connected walkways and buildings. The interesting part is that life is really not that much different almost 2000 years later. Yes we have technology and underground sewage systems (thank goodness because they had stepping stones embedded in the streets to be able to cross the streets filled with raw sewage and garbage), but we still go to the store to get food, visit marketplaces to get clothes and other trade goods, and we still watch sports. All of these things have indeed evolved, but how relating to think that we are still engaging in a lot of the same activities as our ancestors.
It was actually very warm walking around the ruins, especially for all of us Minnesotans who just escaped the tundra, so coming down the hills to the bus we were looking for a refreshing drink. We found it in Matteo’s drink cart, where he sold fresh squeezed juices and other novelties. The coolest thing about him was that he picked the oranges he used for our drinks that morning from his orchard in his backyard. Matteo and his assistant were flawlessly juicing oranges at a blistering speed that can only meant they had done this for a long time, and after tasting the drinks, it made sense why this was their work for the past 15 years. The entire Amalfi Coast is covered in orange and lemon trees, and vendors everywhere are selling limoncello, the lemon flavored liquor that is much stronger than anticipated.
We re-boarded the bus and starting the very long and windy trek to Sorrento, which is named after the beautiful sirens (mermaids, like if Ariel had a glow up phase) that were said to have inhabited the Mediterranean and sang bewitching songs to sailors to turn them into their dinners in the sea. The hotel was very European, small and quaint with twin beds, but we slept harder than ever since it was the first time we were horizontal in over 48 hours.
We woke up early to catch the ferry over to the Island of Capri and only two people of our 60-person group lost their breakfasts on the bumpy Mediterranean. Upon arrival, we were immediately mesmerized by the incredibly blue water and the colorful houses lining the mountainous sea cliffs. Unfortunately, the weather was a little against us as the tide was too high to take the boat tour around the island, so we decided to hike. Going new places, my first thought is how and where can I see the prettiest place it has to offer, and luckily a few teammates and my parents were on board for the adventure. We hiked around half a mile until we saw the somehow more blue waters on the other side of the island, and the really famous rock formation that was on the list of things to see. I was probably on the verge of having a heart attack because everything was so. beautiful. I was running around and switching lenses and trying to find the best way to frame everything, all while having a huge smile on my face. It only grew bigger as we moved down the mountain to the sea and got to witness the power of the Mediterranean first hand. I was really trying to capture the spray of the waves crashing into the rocks and I definitely got smoked by a few waves, but as always, saved the camera. It was a dream, no other people were down there besides us, and I have been wanting to see crashing waves like that for as long as I figured out how to freeze water with shutter speed.
We decided to keep on trekking around the side of the island to see the Arcos Naturales, which is basically like the Utah arch but just in Italy and on a sea and it is white rock instead of red and they’re pretty different besides the formation piece. We didn’t know that this piece of the hike would take around an hour and a half and would involve lots of stairs, and we also didn’t know this while choosing our outfits that morning. So here we are, a band of misfit tourists, hiking a 3.5 mile hike with lots of elevation change, in jeans and vans. I felt like a Texan on the ski slopes, and it was awful and sweaty. The only way we made it through this piece of the hike was because I was surrounded by my teammates and a staff member who coaches us in team building. Though it was quite hot and we were very ill dressed, we encouraged each other through each set of stairs, making jokes about other hard workouts we had all done together, and we eventually made it all the way to one of the coolest natural wonders I have seen. We made it back to the plaza in time and treated ourselves to double gelato for working so hard, but I have still never taken a hike I regretted (maybe one, see the Scottish Highlands post for that story).
We came back to Sorrento and spent the evening exploring the city after catching an incredible sunset over the sea. There is something magical about dying light over crashing waves, and it was really special getting to see the sun kiss the horizon. I think growing up on the front-range in Colorado where the sun sets behind the mountains in the West and now living in Minneapolis where the sun sets behind the city have really made me appreciate the days when I can see the sun actually set.
We are off to Rome tomorrow! Much more to come,