Happy hump day, everyone! You've made it halfway through the week! How has your life been? Are you still sheltering-in-home like me, or are you from a state that’s opening back up? Have you been setting any new goals and seeing them come to fruition? Or perhaps you’ve been playing Animal Crossing (I swear I didn’t name my island “La Croix”— ok, I did)? Whatever you’ve been up to, thank you so much for setting aside a few minutes each day to go on this virtual tour with me. It’s been amazing to get to relive my European adventures and to experience them with you! If you didn’t get a chance to read yesterday’s post - “craft beer, romper season, and volcano magic” - you can do so by clicking right here! Otherwise, buckle up, buttercup, it’s time for some more adventure!
As my tour bus took the winding roads back down Mount Vesuvius, our tour guide told us about a time in the past where there had been a funicular railway people could take to get up Mount Vesuvius. Similar to a ski lift, it was a cable car system that would transport people to the top, saving them time and energy. The funicular railway no longer exists due to the volcanic eruptions, but that didn’t stop our tour guide from playing the song “Funiculì, Funiculà” on full blast as we drove to our lunch destination. There’s something so exciting about an entire busload of people singing along to music (whether they know all the words or not). I couldn’t help but smile as all 50-or-so of us sang the chorus but also made “bah bah! bah bah! bah da dun da dun!” noises in time with the music. It’s really just the feelings of joy and giddiness that take over when stuff like that happens.
We made it to our lunch stop in Naples, enjoyed some more delicious pizza, and I got to sit and chat with a couple solo travelers - a guy roughly my age and a woman in her 50s - about our respective lives and what brought us on the tour that day. I love when conversations like this take place because although we were three very different people, we were able to find so much in common with each other while also enjoying the differences. We were especially all looking forward to touring the Lost city of Pompeii (yes, I sang the Bastille song in my head the entire time).
When we made it to the ancient city full of so many beautiful ruins, we had the most amazing site-specific tour guide (whose name I can’t recall at the moment because my travel journal is back east). He carried an umbrella and would yell out, “Mary Poppins! Mary Poppins!" so we could find him in a crowd, and he would answer questions and transition to new topics by stating the phrase, “okey dokey, karaoke,” which I have since picked up and has become engrained in my own personal vernacular. He looked like someone out of a film set in Naples with his tan coat and longer hair, which made the entire experience that much better (which is hard to imagine given his catchphrases!).
It was, once again, surreal to be standing on ruins where there once was a city bursting with energy and human life. We saw ovens where the citizens of Pompeii not only would make clay for pots but where they would also bake bread, we saw open fields where gladiators would train for battle at the Colosseum, and we saw large amphitheaters where crowds would congregate for city gatherings. The city also has a pretty impressive drainage system, separate bathhouses for men and women, and a fan favorite of the tour was the brothel (with a very specific type of arrow in the ground, pointing the way). Each doorway in the brothel had a sign above it with pictures so visitors who didn’t speak the local language would still be able to see which sexual acts were taking place in each specific room. I still get a chuckle thinking about the mom there with her husband and two sons and how she covered the younger son’s eyes when we all walked into the brothel. I wasn’t the only one who silenced her giggles walking in that building; nearly everyone I saw donned a cheeky smile at one point or another.
The pictures, as usual, never quite do justice to the magnitude of awe that one experiences in a place like Pompeii. As the tour wrapped up and we waited to board the bus back to Rome, we were able to look around a few touristy-souvenir kiosks setup outside the gates of Pompeii. Among the various trinkets were recreations of the brothel door symbols, as well as the largest lemons I have seen in my life. I didn’t end up purchasing anything since I took so many pictures, but on our way back to Rome, we did stop at a rest station where I tried limoncello (wasn’t a fan at the time.. I have since had it - chilled - with my boyfriend’s family and enjoyed it) and a local red wine called, and I kid you not, the Tears of Jesus Christ. It was a pretty hardcore name, and the wine was delicious.
The outing to Mount Vesuvius, Naples, and Pompeii concluded my trip to Rome. It was a whirlwind, jam-packed few days of fun, friendship, and food that ended with a bittersweet train ride to the airport and a flight back to Dublin just in time to sink right back into comedy, research, and dissertation-writing.
Have you had any tour guides you’ve absolutely loved? Or an experience like the one I mentioned above where your tour bus erupts into a singalong? I’ve actually had that happen on more than one tour bus, I am very excited to say. As this blog is being written out of order thanks to my journal being back east, I believe I will step away from Italy for a bit (and revisit my time in Venice at a later date) and, since I just completed a course from the University of Edinburgh, take you on a virtual tour to *drum roll, please* -- Scotland. How does that sound?
If you enjoyed something from my time in Rome or can relate to any of the stories, I truly want to hear about them! So please subscribe in the e-mail submission box below and reach out, follow me on Instagram or Twitter, or reach out to me on the “contact” page. I’m so happy you're here and that I’ve been getting a lot of really great, fun-to-read stories, questions, and feedback from a community all over the globe. The stories of other people’s travels that I’ve gotten to read recently bring me such smiles, and I am so grateful for all of it! Especially during this time of uncertainty and pandemic, it's important to surround yourself with good; we're all in this together. I couldn’t do this without you! So THANK YOU! From the bottom of my heart, truly, thank you.
P.S. - If you want to catch up from the beginning on this series of adventures, here's a cheat sheet to the posts (in order in which they were published):
1. Won't you join me?
2. grateful for starbucks and sandymount strand
3. Once Upon a December in the National Gallery
4. plant a smooch for that gift of gab
5. may the 4th be with you: Dingle style
6. cinco de mayo: the best Mexican food in Dublin
7. pizza in roma
8. mussolini’s window and the philosophers’ metro stop
9. father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife
10. it's the vatican, not the vatican't
11. spoiler alert: i did not lose my hand
12. more pizza and gelato and Neptune, oh my
13. craft beer, romper season, and volcano magic
P.P.S. - the lemons were huge!