Tag Archives: budget traveling

Roma e Sorrento (e Napoli)

8 Apr

We made it to Rome, but not on that pre-dawn train. Even so, we arrived early enough in the day to do the ancient city and even found ourselves checking sights off the list that we hadn’t planned to get to until the next day. Rome is so small and convenient/twisty and you’re never really quite sure what direction you’re heading.

I’d been to Rome once before, remember, so I didn’t really take too many photos. There were a few new things for me (like the Bocca della Verita and the Raphael rooms in the Vatican), and of course it’s always more fun to do things with a friend. I also felt a lot less piggy getting a gelato a day when I wasn’t doing it by myself.

Look out, he bites!

After two and a half days in Rome, we were ready to head south for Sorrento. More train troubles meant we didn’t arrive to the area of our hostel until about 10:30 at night, and we probably wouldn’t have found it at all if it had not been for an older Italian man who was friends with the owner and offered to give us a lift up an incredible hill.

The view from Casale Antonietta in Sorrento

We were a little travel-weary but rallied with a lovely breakfast the next morning and managed to catch a bus headed to Positano, I believe the northernmost town in the Amalfi Coast area.

Mamma mia, what a cute little town! Our friend Kera had recommended we visit it, and I’d say it was easily one of my favorite parts of the trip. It was so nice to be by the sea, and since it was still low season, there wasn’t any competition for space on the sand-rocks. The half-day we spent there was just enough time to relax and recuperate.

Those are some sorry winter feet if I've ever seen some.

The next day was spent in Pompei, and my iPod had just enough battery left for Rick Steves to guide us around the town. Obnoxiously, at 11 a.m. they were out of English maps and booklets, so once Rick Steves was finished, we tried to piece together what information we could from the Spanish (Noel) and Italian (me!) guides.

Pompei definitely came with a few mind-blowing moments. I think top among them was the fast-food industry that was established in the city. Marble countertops with holes for pots of hot food and cool wine; tracks in the doorsill for an accordion-style sliding door; grooves in the sidewalk for attaching an awning. Mind. Blown.

This seems like a nice place to discuss how darn easy it was to get around down south without a car. In the Napoli train station we switched to the Circumvesuviana line, which is somewhere between a regular train system and a light rail system. Ticket prices are reasonable and trains run twice an hour between Napoli and Sorrento, the two terminal stations, and stop everywhere I can imagine a tourist wanting to visit, including Pompei and Erculean (another Vesuvius-preserved town). The staff at the Sorrento station had perfect English and helped us with the bus system, for getting to both our hostel and Positano.

Downtown Sorrento, too darn cute

Anyway, I really liked every part of the Sorrento leg of our journey and am happy I’ll get another chance to visit it again in May. We had a brief time in Napoli before we got on the train back to Bologna. Poor Napoli. It was a bit drizzly (the only bad weather we had on the whole trip), we were carrying all of our stuff and a bit paranoid because the first thing most people say about Napoli is how sketchy it is, and we didn’t even get to eat at the amazing pizzeria because the crowd in front of it was just too darn big. Napoli, I’m sure you’ve got a lot to offer, but you kind of reminded me of a developing country.

Ahh one more thing I need to write down so I don’t forget it. On the train back to Bologna we were in a compartment with the most charming Italian kid I’ve met and her grandmother. The 7-year-old had no DS, PSP, iPod, cellphone–niente–and yet she managed to stay well-behaved and not at all annoying the entire eight-hour journey. About halfway through the trip, her curiosity was enough that she started chatting with us, and in my very broken Italian and with the assistance of a 20something with less-broken English, we shared our story. And then I pulled out Noel’s sudoku book and the girl sat right next to me and wanted to know how to play. One of the other passengers knew the game and explained the basic rules in Italian, but then I was left to try to explain strategy in Italian. Oi. But she got it!

Vacation!

28 Jan

After a long, tough semester and an intense few weeks of finals, Colin finally is at the end of his first semester at SAIS. The joy in the air is palpable, as more and more of his classmates wrap up final papers and group projects and head off to Prague, London, Spain, Budapest, Egypt (uh-oh!), and elsewhere.

As for us, we’re heading to northern Italy, the Dolomite Mountains, for some fun in the snow. Another couple, my friend Leah and her fiance, Aaron, who is a SAISer, are sharing a cabin with us. We’re taking games and hot chocolate and a frozen lasagna that I put together this afternoon. I’m super excited.

I found the cabin on AirBnB, which aggregates all the people who want to be amateur BnB hosts. It’s a better deal than an actual BnB, and the experience can be just as enjoyable. So far the host has been really great over email!

We get back late Monday night, and the rest of the week holds a (day)trip to Venice and possibly a (day)trip to Florence. Also a lot of sleeping in and watching movies.

Long-legged misery

22 Sep

As a budget traveler who needs at least 30 inches of inseam, this article makes me feel conflicted and, well, cramped. At a recent airplane tech show, some company unveiled a new “stand-up” seat with about two-thirds of the space of a regular coach seat. The writer described it not like “riding a horse,” as the manufacturer suggested, but like being wedged in a stand-up roller-coaster seat.

It’s one more incentive not to get on a damn airplane. No one has actually installed these yet, but the airline I’m likely to fly on when we do any traveling here, Ryan Air, is chomping at the bit to put these in.

Honestly, I’d be happy limiting the trips that require flights anyway. I wouldn’t have expected that three-month trip to have any lingering effects on my psyche, but I get almost anxious when we go away for the day. Luckily, Bologna’s in a pretty good location to explore a lot of Italy; I could even get to Rome in just over two hours on the train.

I do want to take advantage of being in Europe, of course. I’d like to go back up and explore the Baltic states, and Colin and I are talking about going to Croatia for his spring break. We discussed a trip to Germany in the winter, and apparently a group of students are planning a school-related weekend trip to Morocco. Colin will have three-day weekends every other week during the first semester, so we’ll have a few opportunities to go a little farther than Parma and Pisa.