You guys are in for a treat today… 🙂
After finishing my last blog post at 6:30am, it was back to bed for a 2.5 hour nap. For a moment, since I was already awake, I had entertained the thought of going for jog, but it was already hot and muggy and I knew I had a long day ahead of me with sight-seeing and travel back to Rome. After the first stressful day of jumping from plane to train to train to metro to ferry, I knew I was in for another exhausting afternoon completing it in reverse.
At 9am I got up, threw on my jeans and a tank and headed down to breakfast. I was delighted to find another amazing spread of food, this time with the addition of meats, cheeses and fresh rolls for some delicious little sandwiches. Another yummy surprise was fresh lemon/orange/carrot juice. It was absolutely amazing! I’m definitely going to attempt to reproduce that one when I get home! As usual, I tried a little bit of everything and filled my belly up for the day ahead of me.
Without a real plan, I referred to my trusty little notebook where I jotted down suggestions from TripAdvisor. I decided on 2 things I absolutely didn’t want to miss.
First stop, Giardini di Augusto, a beautiful botanical garden established in the early 20th century by Friedrich Alfred Krupp – some rich guy who wanted a mansion on Capri. He had 2 yachts and because his dwelling was so high, he had a hairpin walkway built so he could “easily” get to his boats. Appropriately, this is called Via Krupp. It’s closed to pedestrian traffic due to falling rocks. Having already walked up the hill of Capri once, I’m not sure why anyone would be interested in this little stroll anyway.
The gardens were beautiful; full of color with staggering views. A beautiful, sunny day made the perfect opportunity for tourists and locals alike to get out on the water.
The famous Faraglioni (giant, rigid rocks developed due to erosion from ocean waves) beautifully jutted out from the southeast side of the island. The gardens were a great viewpoint for them and the better option to a €20 tour up close and personal. I think they must be more majestic from afar.
A review on TripAdvisor had recommended getting a limoncello before entering the gardens. Just meters away (because they don’t do feet over here), there was a REAL lemonade stand. I ordered a lemon slushy, which, aside from being delicious, was a perfect method of keeping me cool when I emerged from the shade. I had set it down to take a picture of the Faraglioni, and then moved on to a different area of the garden when a couple from Florida whom I’d briefly met asked if I would take their picture. I sat the slushy down and spent about 5 minutes trying to get the perfect photo for them. Afterward, I went back and picked up my slushy, but it tasted particularly lemony. I suddenly realized the straw and spoon were different colors than what I remembered. I had to refer back to some photos I’d taken to confirm, and sure enough, it was someone else’s drink. Gross!!!!!!! Unfortunately, when I went to pick up my slushy, I went to the first place I had set it down and forgot that I’d actually set it on a park bench. Woops!
After enjoying the gardens for a while, I decided to look for souvenirs. Because I only have my backpack, they would need to be something small, or something worth shipping home. Suddenly I came upon a store window with cute little boy sport jackets and bowties. I thought maybe I could get each of my nephews a bowtie from Capri! I went in and started perusing, when suddenly I realized I was in Dolce & Gabbana and the bowties cost nearly as much as my hotel stay! Abort mission!!!!!!
I continued up the increasingly crowded pathway when I saw a small store with a beautiful white summer dress in the window. Very sneaky, these stores! Their window displays are no joke! They pull you right in like a moth to a flame! I started searching all the gorgeous white garments until I found the dress from the window that sucked me in!!! It was just as amazing up close. I reached for the tag and almost puked. Only a measly €1500! Ha! Abort mission!!!!!!
That’s it! No shopping in Capri! I decided it was time to tackle the last visit on my list: the Grotta Azzura (Blue Grotto). The Blue Grotto is a small cave that when the light shines in, it makes the water a fluorescent blue. It was discovered in 1926 by a German poet and has been a main attraction ever since. While I enjoy writing, and do my best to make you feel like you’re experiencing the trip with me, Mark Twain describes it better than I ever could:
The entrance to the cave is four feet high and four feet wide, and is in the face of a lofty perpendicular cliff — the sea-wall. You enter in small boats — and a tight squeeze it is, too. You can not go in at all when the tide is up. Once within, you find yourself in an arched cavern about one hundred and sixty feet long, one hundred and twenty wide, and about seventy high. How deep it is no man knows. It goes down to the bottom of the ocean. The waters of this placid subterranean lake are the brightest, loveliest blue that can be imagined. They are as transparent as plate glass, and their coloring would shame the richest sky that ever bent over Italy. No tint could be more ravishing, no lustre more superb. Throw a stone into the water, and the myriad of tiny bubbles that are created flash out a brilliant glare like blue theatrical fires. Dip an oar, and its blade turns to splendid frosted silver, tinted with blue. Let a man jump in, and instantly he is cased in an armor more gorgeous than ever kingly Crusader wore.
Kinda makes you want to go, huh? It truly was an unbelievable experience. I caught a boat from Marina Grande after taking the funicular down from the city center. That’s right – the funicular. That baby would’ve cut about 30 minutes off my uphill trek, although I would’ve burned about 500 less calories. Nonetheless, one trip on the funicular and it became my go-to! So easy! And cheap! The boat traveled for about 10 minutes when it finally reached the entrance of the Blue Grotto. There were several other boats waiting. In fact, we had to wait an hour or more before the small rowboats came to take us in. Thankfully, I had a nice spot in the shade, although the constant rocking was making me sick. Finally, it was our turn. Being by myself, I had my choice of any rowboat as only one person could comfortably fit in the front of the boat. I jumped in with the assistance of the rower. I found it entertaining to watch them sip white wine from plastic cups in between customers. Fortunately, my rower was sober enough to gracefully row us in and out, and even take a few steady photos for me.
When we first entered, I couldn’t see anything. Everything was black, with a small blue reflection at the base of the boats. I was looking inside the cave and initially thought: I paid €27 and waited on a rocking boat for an hour for THIS? I turned around in the boat, and was instantly mesmerized by the glorious bluish-green water beneath me. It was absolutely gorgeous and I couldn’t stop looking at it! I’ve never seen anything like it! The photos I’m including are not edited at all. It is truly that color, and even so, the pictures don’t completely do it justice.
Finally, it was time to go back and I was ready. I took the funicular back up to my hotel, grabbed my bag, and FINALLY saw the white cat to which my hotel is named for. His name is Matisse, and he thought about letting me pet him. Perhaps I was snubbed because I called him “kitty” instead of “gatto”. Either way, I’m more of a dog person.
I took the funicular back down to Marina Grande, bought a ticket for the ferry back to Naples and then grabbed some quick gelato (Spagna and Tiramisu) for the 30 minute wait in the sun.
I took a seat on the ferry amongst a large group of Asian tourists. I might add, I have heard very little English on this trip, and of that I’ve heard, few are actually from the US. I would say I have come into contact with less than 5 people/groups from the US. Sure makes you feel alone! While on the ferry, I bought a bottle of water. I’ve been really bad at keeping myself hydrated, especially with all the walking and heat. This would turn out to be an unexpected poor decision. As the ferry neared Naples, I really needed to use the bathroom, but I couldn’t find any signs on the boat indicating there was one. I decided I would find one at the train station. The boat docked at the port, and as I was walking off, I saw there was, in fact, a restroom at the back of the boat. At this point it was much later than I’d realized and I just wanted to get going. I decided not to take the 5 minutes and go… also a poor decision.
I walked toward the nearby street and debated whether or not to take a bus, the tram or to walk back. I wasn’t sure I could remember the way to walk to the Metro, and I couldn’t find the tram, so I went to the ferry ticket window and asked where I could purchase a bus ticket. He directed me to the nearby snack bar. I went to the snack bar and purchased a bus ticket for €1.50 and he directed me to the bus stop and kindly told me which bus to wait for.
I waited… and waited… and waited. The tour bus stopped and went. Bus 154 stopped and went. I waited some more. A motorized gelato cart on a Vespa drove by entertaining me for 30 seconds of my 45+ minute wait. It started to sprinkle and I was certain I was going to be caught in another downpour. Fiiiiiiiiiinally, bus 151 came. As I went to hop on I realized there was no room. I was not waiting another 45 minutes for the next bus!!!!! I pushed and shoved my way onto the bus, knocking Italians left and right with my gigantic backpack. The bus stopped at 4 or 5 stops before the train station and each time the door opening pushed me into someone because the bus was packed so tightly there was nowhere for me to go. I had visions of falling out of the bus while in motion. Somehow two Italian men managed to stuff themselves on the bus in front of me, which at least protected me from falling out of the bus. Everyone smelled like cigarette smoke or body odor. It was hot and multiple sweaty bodies were touching my arms. It was not an enjoyable experience. The two men in front of me sensed I had no idea where I was going as I kept looking out to see which stop we were at. They got off at the Circumvesuviana train stop and told me, at least I think they did, that my stop was next. I had looked at the list of stops during my 45 minute wait, and was thinking that was my next stop, too. As we approached the next stop, I saw nothing that looked like a train station. I asked the young kid next to me: “Napoli Centrale?” He said, yes, so I got off with him. He also sensed my confusion, and offered to take me. It was up the block and around the corner. His English was minimal as well, but he and I chatted briefly. When we turned the corner, he pointed and said “tutti”, which I figured meant “all the way down there”. He smiled and shook my hand and I thought to myself how thankful I was for the nice guys at the ticket counters, and the guys on the bus that helped me get to where I was going. I am not a fan of Naples, and traversing through the city has proved stressful on both occasions.
As I arrived to the station I was overwhelmed with relief to see a familiar spot, and felt confident about moving forward. I went to the ticket counter and requested a train ticket to Rome. She quoted the price and I reached into my purse to grab my card.
It wasn’t there.
In fact, neither was my debit card, my license or my insurance card.
I looked and I looked. Surely I just stuck them in a different pocket. Alarmingly, I did remember that the zippered pocket was open as I was walking toward the train station. I thought to myself at the time – shoot, did I leave that open? The lady behind the ticket counter looked on with kind eyes… eyes that were clearly hoping I would find my form of payment. I moved to the side to allow other customers to purchase tickets.
I pulled everything out of my purse. My passport was still there (THANK GOD)! I pulled out my protein bar, my phone, some receipts and tickets. The purse was completely empty and no cards to be found.
That’s right ladies and gents! I thought I was on my toes and as it turns out some asshole on the bus (I’m assuming), took advantage of the chaos and sucked me dry. Fortunately, I had some cash locked away in my backpack. I pulled it out, purchased the train ticket and headed to the train station to keep looking. While I was sitting down going through my purse for the 50th time, a beggar came by and asked for €1. In my frustration I completely went off on him and he, seemingly surprised and perhaps terrified of me, moved on. Note: apparently that’s a successful way to tackle that problem. I was encouraged when 2 police officers in a golf cart saw him approaching me and came to my rescue. They told him to keep moving. Despite being violated, I felt a little safer knowing they were actually patrolling and trying to help out people like me.
After searching my purse and backpack multiple times, I finally accepted the realization that I hadn’t misplaced them; I was a victim of pick-pocketing. I had been keeping my debit card and credit card separate, and for the life of me I don’t know why I had them together. Lesson learned! I was keeping them in the back zippered pocket of my crossbody purse, and holding the purse against my body. The only thing I can think is that in the crowded bus, my purse got pushed to the side and someone took the opportunity. I can’t begin to tell you how thankful I am to still have my passport. Silver lining.
I immediately called my banks. There were already over $1500 in fraudulent charges, approximately $550 of which were at Hair Max. The gal from CHASE asked me, are you sure you didn’t go to a hair place today? Seriously, lady? I’ve been on a boat all day. Pretty darn sure I didn’t buy $550 dollars of hair products on my European vacation!!!!! Unbelievable! Both cards were cancelled and I was in Rome with minimal cash on Day 3 of my 20 day vacation.
Adventure! While it has dampened my spirits a bit, I am still grateful for a number of things. We’ll get there, but first, my approach…
I could let it completely ruin my trip, or I could roll with the punches and get it figured out. There’s always a solution to a problem – sometimes it’s just a solution, sometimes it’s a good solution and sometimes it’s a great solution. It is what you make it. I tried not to let my nerves and frustration get the best of me, and decided to figure out what the solution would be. I called my friend Sarah who will be meeting me in Florence on the 9th. I told her what happened and basically gave her the heads up to be on standby in case I needed anything from her before her flight was to leave the next day at noon. I remembered just before leaving Kansas City, CHASE sent me a different credit card from a different account that I haven’t used for years, as my old one had expired. I had no idea where I put it, but I knew it was at my house. I called my other friend Malorie, who will be joining Sarah. She lives close to me, and it would be easier for her to go to my house and try to find the card. I gave her specific instructions on what I was looking for and 4 places it might be. Incidentally, I forgot to tell her what was going on. She had no clue why there was such urgency! It wasn’t until she talked to Sarah that she learned what happened! She called me about 30 minutes later and informed me she’d found the card. She then sent me all of the card information so I could make online purchases, if necessary.
Now, I would just need to make it the next 2.5 days on the cash I had. Remember when I was talking about being grateful? My number one reason for being grateful is that my passport was spared. Secondly, I have two wonderful friends willing to do anything to help me. Finally, I managed to be seated next to a Canadian woman and her daughter who spoke MY ENGLISH!!!!! What a blessing – when feeling scared and alone, to have someone from my side of the pond there with me. The woman had overheard my calls to Sarah and Malorie and insisted I take €50 from her. I declined and told her I thought I would be ok. About 20 minutes later she insisted again and held it out to me telling me if I was her daughter, she’d want me to take it.
There are good people out there, too. We have to remember that.
I gratefully took the money and insisted I would pay her back if she’d give me her contact information. She handed me her card and I locked it away with the money in my backpack. I decided the most urgent of my needs were satisfied and I REALLY REALLY needed to go to the bathroom at this point.
I stepped into the corridor and met the conductor. I asked him to direct me to the restroom and he informed me there wasn’t one. Oh, and I wasn’t on the high speed train either, which meant that one hour train ride was actually going to be two hours! That’s right! Insult to injury, my friends! Enter my next thanksgiving! I’m thankful for a job that requires me to work 12 hours without peeing on some occasions. If I was in a career with the ability to immediately pee when necessary, I’d have peed in the train seat. Fist pump for trained bladders! I don’t think my bladder has ever been so full. I was actually planning what I was going to do when I couldn’t hold it any longer.
I finally made it to Roma Termini and searched frantically for the restroom. I fumbled with my €1, trying to get it in the little hole so the door would open and let me in. I sprinted into the bathroom and… well, you get it.
I was suddenly feeling a lot better. I called my dad and let him know I’d made it to Rome after having my cards stolen and put him on alert to the potential need for wiring money. I called my Airbnb host, Stefano, and let him know I’d just arrived – about 4 hours later than I’d told him. He gave me instructions on where to go and how to get in to his apartment. I grabbed the metro and found it to be much like what I’m used to in New York. Again, I felt a sense of familiarity and relief. I got off at the Colosseo stop, emerged from the underground and BAM! There was the Colosseum in all it’s glory! I wasn’t expecting that! I was suddenly reminded how ecstatic I am to be here!
I referred to my map screenshot and easily found the hotel where I would pick up my key. The nice guy at the desk took me around to the alley and let me in (all 3 locked doors) to get into Stefano’s apartment. I was starving, tired, emotionally drained and it was nearly 10:30pm. I had no desire to go out on the town and explore. I just wanted the safety of a quiet room with a comfortable bed. Knowing I am going to have to keep it frugal the next few days, I was delighted to find a few snacks in the room. I downed a bag of chocolate biscotti cookies – not the healthiest of choices, but taking what I can get.
I can’t help but be pleased with myself for saving my protein bar. There were a few occasions I was going to eat it and decided I would wait for a time when I really need it. I have a feeling that time will occur in the next 2 days!
I called my dad back and gave him the details, and he helped me work through some other things, such as my ID being stolen and risk for identity theft. Of course, I received a loving lecture, but I wouldn’t expect anything else. I deserved it. I made some poor decisions, but here’s another thing I’m grateful for: it can be fixed, and I learned the lesson early so I’ll be more careful from here on out. Additionally, it happened with enough time for Malorie to grab my other credit card for me and bring it to Florence.
I decided in order to save money I would take advantage of the breakfasts (eating as much as possible), skip lunch, and enjoy a dinner. When I awoke this morning and headed over to the hotel for breakfast, I learned I would only be receiving a croissant. Of course, the only day I really needed a gigantic breakfast and all I get is a measly croissant and coffee. That protein bar is looking pretty good.
I’m feeling slightly renewed and after doing some quick laundry in the sink, I am going to check out Rome! Cheers to adventure and an education!