ILLUMINE COLLECT BLOG

The Euro Journal: Chapter 8

Day 18- Naples/Rome

As if the dreadful afternoon we had yesterday in Naples wasn’t enough, we woke up the next morning to booming thunderstorms and pouring rain. It was if the city was not on our side. There was no way we were going to let Naples get the best of us though. We had a train headed to Rome later that afternoon, which still left plenty of time to let Naples redeem itself We packed our things, suited up in our rain jackets, and got ready for a drenched day in the old city.

Rainy day in Naples

Luckily our Air BnB host was nice enough to let us stash our bags at their place. She even let us borrow some umbrellas, what a lifesaver! We began wandering around the town and as always, found a nice café to enjoy some breakfast and watch the rain come down. There wasn’t much on the agenda that day other than to see what all the fuss was about that pizza place we saw earlier that always had a line out the door. Unfortunately, the place didn’t open until noon, so we had a little bit of time to kill. Our server mentioned a museum nearby that gave tours of Naples Sotterranea, otherwise known as the Naples Underground. We were surprised to learn that there was another city…below the city. I was honestly shocked when I heard this. It sounded like something out of a movie.

The 2,400-year-old ancient city beneath Naples had seen everything from the birth of Western civilization to the dawn of the modern age yet was still somewhat intact thanks to the help of archeologists. As we walked the 40 meters below the city we were awed by the architectural ingenuity of the Greek-Roman Aqueduct and Roman Theater. I couldn’t help but feel that we were truly walking back in time. We continued through the underground and made our way back topside. Time to see if Sorbillo’s pizza was up to the hype. We arrived 30 minutes until noon and there was already a line wrapped around the block as if they were waiting for the newest iPhone. This pie better be worth it!

Sorbillo’s pizza in Naples

Good things come to those who wait. After standing in line we finally got seated. We decided to go with the classic Margherita. About five minutes later it was out, and just wow. The dough was soft and baked so perfectly. There were fresh chunks of mozzarella, and the best tomato sauce that I’ve ever tasted. It was by far the best pizza we Americans have ever had. So good it totally made up for our depressing French fry dinner date we had the night before!

Guess there’s a reason pizza was invented in Naples! After lunch we still had time to enjoy two more Naples cuisines. The first was the baba, which is a sweet yeast cake served with rum drizzled over it. We decided to give it a try, and I will say it was not as good as the pizza. Maybe next time we’ll keep the baba without the rum!

Naples Italy

Next, we had some limoncello, a popular lemon-flavored liqueur. This was much sweeter going down than the baba. We made sure to grab a bottle for home. Today had made up for our lackluster outing last night, but alas it was time to grab our stuff and head to Rome. After a two-hour train ride, we found ourselves in the great city and on our way to our Air BnB. If our host in Venice was the neighborhood dad, then this host was the resident grandma! She swung open the doors with arms spread wide for a huge and a kiss on the cheek. It was if we were family!

Much like our host in Venice, this nonna shared with us some info about the city, but she was more interested in who we were rather than how our trip was going. It was like catching up with well…grandma, really! It was a very sweet introduction to Rome.

Vatican City

The sun began to set so we headed out for dinner. We found a beautiful restaurant with patio seating and enjoyed a nice meal. Our place was 10 minutes away from Vatican City, so we decided to see how it looked lit up at night. As you can imagine it was beautiful. The piers of the buildings glowed in warm light as the mighty rotunda of the Vatican commanded the skyline. Just breathtaking. After taking in the sights and night life we made a rough game plan for tomorrow and strolled home under the night sky.

Day 19: Rome

We woke up that morning to the smell of the wonderful home cooked breakfast that our host made us. What a treat! Rome was giving us the hospitality package. After breakfast, we got ready and headed to Vatican City. Before we left, our host let us in on a little Roman secret; there is free, fresh, cold water on just about every corner that comes from the mountains. The continuous stream is part of the Roman aqueducts, a great ancient invention.

Saint Peter's Square

As we walked in the square, we were amazed by the sheer amount of people compared to the night before. Rome bustled with crowds packed shoulder to shoulder and zigzagging across the cobble streets. We must’ve looked overwhelmed because a tour guide approached us. This seemed great because we could really use some guidance. Thing was, the guy charged an arm and a leg but really tried hard to get us to fork over some cash. We declined and decided to go on our own self-guided tour.

We later found out that it’s illegal to solicit tourists like that but clearly no one cared as we watched more wannabe tour guides harass other patrons. Wandering around, we stumbled into long line not knowing where it led to. Turns out it was St. Peter’s Basilica. After waiting in line for about 30 minutes we made friends with some fellow Americans. As we approached the church, we were awed by its elegant Renaissance era stylings.

St. Peter’s Basilica

Next stop was the Sistine Chapel which was another 30-minute wait. Once inside, we took a trip through the Pope’s history and observed all sorts of priceless artifacts. The papal history and exhibits aside, we were there for one thing; Michelangelo’s heavenly ceiling mural. We were corralled through hallways, and up and down stairs, until we made it to the atrium.

Sistine Chapel

The place was absolutely packed, and you were quickly ushered out if you stood idle for too long.  They also had a very strict photo policy. Anyone seen with a camera was immediately escorted out…but I may or may not have snapped a sneaky selfie with the celestial ceiling. Even after all that hustle and bustle I never saw the famous Creation of Adam. Oh well, at least I got a nice selfie.

Pantheon

Next, it was off to the Pantheon, the former Roman temple, now converted into a church. I couldn’t help but gaze up at the massive columns and towering rotunda as we walked up to the building. Unbelievably, the Pantheon has the largest unreinforced concrete dome in history despite being over a millennium old. Afterwards we headed to the Trevi fountain where we tossed coins into the ancient sculpture fountain for good luck. We made a wish to ensure that we would someday return to Rome!

Trevi fountain

We only had time left for two more outings, the Colosseum and Roman Forum. First up was the massive Colosseum. It was like walking up to an ancient football stadium. Once inside we saw the underground tunnels or Hypogeum, where they housed gladiators and animals during events.

Colosseum

We wandered our way out of the Colosseum and across the street to the Roman Forum, where ruins of ancient government buildings remained. Walking through the forum was like strolling back in time. I must say, you gotta tip your hat to the Romans for creating these impressive structures centuries before the invention of heavy machinery.

Roman Forum

With a jammed pack day, it was time to grab dinner. We stumbled across a literal hole in the wall, halfway up two flights of stairs. As we walked into the darkly lit restaurant it had a mood like an old Italian movie where you meet with the “family,” but instead of talking business we got a taste of some authentic cuisine.

On our way back to our place we felt like we had done a pretty good job doing as the Romans did in Rome. But alas, it was time for some shut eye before yet another flight. Tomorrow we were leaving behind the fair weather and blue waters of Italy for Iceland.

Be on the look out for Chapter 9 of our adventure and don't forget to shop some favorites on our store

Story by: Jeremy Lux

Written by: Eric Gasa

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