Ok, I’m a sucker. I may or may not have teared up while landing in Rome today… and taking the train to Naples… and taking the ferry into Sorrento… and then walking forrrrrrrever at an 80 degree incline and then over 30 million stairs to get into the main part of the city, although that was possibly a mix of sweat and fatigue. What I wouldn’t have given for a Vespa – but I got a great workout and my heart was pumping at the top!
I keep saying to myself: I can’t believe I’m in Italy. I truly just can’t believe it!!! Many of you probably don’t understand my infatuation. I was asked last night at dinner: why Italy? As I was explaining it to the person, I realized a lot of you don’t really know what this trip means to me and why it’s so important – aside from it being on my bucket list, and if you know anything about me and lists, you know that I will not rest until everything is checked off… and that’s only after I’ve rewritten the list a number of times.
Both of my paternal grandparents were Italian, my grandmother even having been born in a small northern Italian town. As a child, I didn’t know much about my heritage. They lived in Connecticut, so I didn’t get to visit them frequently, and when I did, I was more interested in playing with my cousins and riding my grandmother’s bike over to my Great Uncle Nello’s house so I could have some Ginger Ale. By my freshman year of high school, I had lost both of my grandparents. As I became an adult, I became increasingly aware of everything they could’ve taught me about Italian culture that I never had the opportunity to learn. I had great aunts and uncles, and I loved that when we went to visit them they would put every cookie, cracker and sweet morsel they had on the table, and as soon as you could start seeing the bottom of the plate, they were getting up in the middle of conversation to go get more goodies to put out. You couldn’t convince them you were full, either. We always had hot tea, too. Even better, the children were always welcome at the table with the adults. These were things that I never experienced anywhere else and continue to remain some of my fondest memories of my extended Italian family.
One by one those fascinating men and women in my life became victims of aging, and now the only person I have to learn from is my aunt. It’s saddening to me. I wish I was an adult 25 years ago, solely for the opportunity to learn more about my grandparents and “the old country.”
So, it has always been important for me to come to Italy and experience the culture for myself – just to get a glimpse of what my family was like. I took 3 semesters of Italian in college and tried to learn more about the country. I’ve been surprised at how well I am actually remembering things now that I’m here. I can pick up (small) parts of conversation and can usually have a small chat with someone in Italian. Waking up to people speaking Italian outside my terrace this morning was unbelievable. It was one of those: “am I dreaming or am I really in Italy” moments. I’m really here!!!
So enough with the sappy stuff! When I closed my eyes last night, it was the end of a grueling day. I traveled for 15 hours straight: KC –> Newark –> Sweden –> Rome –> Rome train station –> Naples train station –> Naples metro station –> walked aimlessly through a car rental parking lot, bus station and finally found the ferry port –> ferry to Sorrento –> aforementioned 80 degree incline and 30 million stairs –> 30 minutes of wandering around trying to find the hotel.
Someone was making fun of me for printing off every single confirmation for transportation, hotels, tours, etc. Wouldn’t you know the ONE thing I forgot to print off (or screenshot) was a map to my hotel, where my pocket wifi was waiting. So I turned my data roaming on literally for two 5 second periods long enough to map my location and screenshot. BAM! $200. Don’t do it, people!!! Make your printed copies and let people make fun of you!!!!
I finally arrived at my hotel, Magi House Sorrento and a cheerful Alessandro greeted me with a big, bright white smile! He checked me in and then began to give me tour of the accommodation. We got to the “relaxation room” where he offered me a complimentary welcome glass of wine or Prosecco to have now or after the tour. Ummmm…. now, please! (Silly question)!
He poured me a delicious Prosecco and left me to relax until I was ready to be shown to my room. For a moment, I thought I would pass out on the chair, weary from hours of travel. I peacefully drank my Prosecco and proceeded back downstairs to let Alessandro know I was ready to continue. He showed me to my room and after taking only a moment to connect to wifi and let my mom know I made it safely, I collapsed for a much needed power nap.
I awoke at 8:30pm, ready to tackle the city. I peeked out my balcony window to find Sorrento bustling below me, inviting me to come out and play.
I had brought a small target purse I could wear across my body. It was perfect because it had lots of zippered pockets and it was small so I could keep it close to my body. Aaaaaaand, it broke at the Naples metro. It’s a good thing I had the foresight to bring a tote bag – it saved the day. As I strolled through the cobblestone streets, my first order of business was to buy a new purse – leather, of course. I found the perfect purse and know I’ll use it for years to come! Success!!
Next order of business: food. With fatigue relatively resolved for the time being, my stomach was ready to sample Sorrento. I had been carrying a protein bar with me all day long but didn’t want to spoil my dinner!
When I left Magi House, I asked Alessandro for a recommendation of a restaurant that was less known, and not too touristic. He advised me that was nearly impossible in the historical center of Sorrento as the whole area is touristic, but recommended Il Pozzo for the best pizza in the area. Sold!
One thing I’ve found is that numbers on buildings don’t mean much, and street names are nearly impossible to find as they are somewhere on the buildings – but good luck finding them, in many cases. I guess if you know which building to look for to find what street you’re on, you’re ok. I, however, did not. Thankfully, I (finally) had my pocket wifi and was able to map my location and find the restaurant without too much problem.
I took a seat on the charming patio and ordered Sorrento’s drink – a limoncello. Woooooo!! Amazing. I think I’ve only had limoncello once before and it tasted nothing like this. This drink was sweet, yet not overpowering, and had a delicious warm burn at the end. It also packed a lot of punch!
I ordered the chef’s choice of fritters for an appetizer and then had the Pizza Cappriciosa with
tomato, mozzarella, ham, mushrooms, articihokes and olives. It was amazing and I ate the entire thing, and why wouldn’t I?
Oh, you don’t believe me????
An unexpected addition to my dinner was the company of a delightful couple from the Washington DC area. The gentleman is celebrating the trip he was supposed to take last year when he learned he required an esophagectomy. I found this incredibly interesting because this is the type of patient I commonly care for in the ICU. It was interesting to hear his story as a healthy, recovered patient who is doing great and traveling Europe. Sadly, I see other outcomes in my line of work, so to see him living life with vigor was encouraging. As I was enjoying my first dinner in Sorrento, they were enjoying their last. It was a pleasant evening and I truly enjoyed getting to share it with them.
Last order of business: gelato!!! As I left Il Pozzo, I was discouraged to find that all the restaurants were closing for the evening. The streets, previously lined with tourists and merchants were now dark and quiet with the occasional restaurant worker taking out the trash, and an alley cat fight. Suddenly, as I turned the corner onto Via San Cesareo, there was a bright light shining and a group of people standing at it! For a moment I thought it was Heaven. Ok, I didn’t really, but as it turns out it was the next best thing. I enjoyed my first Italian gelato, strawberry and lemon from a gelateria called Raki. It was unbelievable. That lemon was so divine!!!
Walking down the quiet streets of Sorrento to sit on the patio at Magi House eating gelato was a perfect way to end my first evening in Italy.