By Angela Noelle Pape
There is only one country whose weight of culture – from music, art, food, architecture, political thought and scientific achievement merits the distinction of being wholly instrumental in the development of Western society. That country, Italy, is also home to some of the most beautiful natural landscape in the world. Pilgrims from all over have come and will continue to come to pay their respects to this land of enchantment. In fact, Samuel Johnson, arguably the most distinguished man of letters that England has ever produced, wrote: “A man who has not been in Italy, is always conscious of an inferiority, from his not having seen what it is expected a man should see.”
So it is easy to understand that this burning desire in me to see my family’s homeland was so strong that after graduating from University of Miami, my friend and I hopped on a plane and made our way to this fairytale of a land. And before we knew it Isabel and I were there!
An hour train ride on the Leonardo Express took us directly from Rome’s Fiumicino Airport to the city’s central station known as Roma Termini. Our hotel was located in walking distance of this main station providing us with hassle-free transportation both within the city as well as from region to region. Termini Station also serves as an international transportation center, making it a great asset to have in close proximity of your accommodations. After a brief stop at our hotel to drop off our luggage and prepare for the day, Isabel and I headed back to the station.
We hopped on the city’s metro line en route for the Colosseum. I had always envisioned this architectural masterpiece to lie slightly off the beaten path in a field of ruins but to my surprise I took two steps off of the metro and Hello Colosseum! Right there in the middle of the Eternal City stands one of the most structurally significant pieces of Western culture. I could not believe my eyes. Its presence felt overwhelming as I drifted away to a time long ago when 50,000 roaring spectators filled this amphitheatre to watch as gladiators engaged in battle. Just as quickly as my mind wandered away to distant times it was brought back down to earth by an aching in my feet. You see, I had been under the false impression that if you can tackle Manhattan in heels you can go anywhere in heels. Ironically enough the cobblestone streets of ancient Rome were not constructed with Prada stilettos in mind – shocking, I know!
After being in Italy for all of two hours, naturally the next thing I wanted to do was eat. On the plane ride over I found myself with plenty of time to create a list of all the Italian dishes I hoped to enjoy. With a list as long as mine it was obvious that we had some serious work to do. We stumbled upon a quaint restaurant nestled on a tiny yet charming side street. Da Gino’s turned out to be exactly the type of hidden gem we were looking for. In fact, the nearby Parliament workers use Da Gino’s as a flavorsome mid-day get-away and I can understand why. Everything we tasted left our mouths watering. From the freshly made pastas served with your choice of sauce to the succulent Veal Osso Bucco, we experienced the heart of Italian cuisine.
By the time Isabel and I had finished investigating the ins-and-outs of the magnificently detailed Roman architecture, ceaseless history, and designer shopping, we could officially say that we came, we saw, we conquered Rome.
It was then time for our journey to continue down to the town of Sorrento. Unlike Rome which is filled with inconceivable structural designs, Sorrento is known for its natural beauty. Overlooking the Bay of Naples, Sorrento is a small town located in the enchanting region of Campania. With mountains rising out from the sapphire waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea, Sorrento will take your breath away. Where else can you relax in your lounge chair at the beach while Mount Vesuvius rests quietly in the distance?
One of the many day trips we were able to take pleasure in during our stay in Sorrento led us on a boat trip to the Isle of Capri. This adventure was by far my favorite as we found ourselves swimming through radiantly glowing grottos and fresh waterfalls. As a child I had always dreamt of becoming a mermaid but this was almost too good to be true! When we arrived at Capri we came across a sign that read “Piazetta” alongside an arrow pointing up a flight of stairs. Ah, this is the way we must go, we thought and so we made our way up the stairs carved into the rocky mountainside. I can assure you that no amount of Stairmaster training could have prepared me for the fifteen flights of stairs that were to follow. Although the view from the top is absolutely spectacular my advice to you is to find the tram, known as the funicolare, that comfortably carries you up the mountain and run to it!
Despite our fair share of lessons learned along the way, Isabel and I could never imagine anything more remarkable than the undeniable treasures we uncovered on our journey through Italy. We were spontaneous just like the frequent strikes and always made our way to the top, even when it did involve an unimaginable number of stairs. My greatest lesson learned is, when in Rome, or any part of Italy for that matter, indulge in its countless pleasures. Enjoy a gelato in the middle of the day and have wine at every meal. Why? Because you deserve it.