Friday, September 4, 2015

The city that invented pizza

Hey everyone! So just as I promised, this blog post is going to be all about my 5 day vacation to the the beautiful city of Napoli (Naples)! I'm so sorry, I'm so far behind on my blog posts because I've been so busy!! It's ridiculous, I'm constantly traveling, sightseeing or going out, I don't get time to sleep much less write a blog post but it's okay; I'm not going to complain because it's so much fun having so many new experiences!

Anyway, where did I leave off with my last post? Oh yeah the party on the beach... Okay so we left for Napoli straight from the beach. Me and Sabrina left all of our luggage in Leo's car and then he came and picked us up right as the sun was rising. It was only a 4 hour drive and I slept almost the entire time. We first stopped at a smaller city near Napoli for coffee and breakfast pastries because Leonardo's dad used to work there so we got discounts! I'll never get over the friendliness of southern Italians. Literally, we walk in, Leonardo mentions his father and the people working treat him like their own family!

Next, we drove into the city center, checked in at our hotel and began exploring. Okay so as you all probably know, Italians are insane drivers... and the craziest Italian drivers I've ever seen in my life were those in Naples. Cars and motorcycles flew through the streets and scared the crap out of me!! Except, it's normal for most Italians to drive like this and pedestrians aren't worried about getting ran over at all... Sabrina would actually always make fun of how I darted away from the cars!

Most Italians I've spoken to all agree that Naples isn't worth a visit. It's also known to be the most dangerous city in Italy. However, my impression of Naples is very positive; it's a very rustic, classic, idyllic, Italian city. Many of the buildings are very old, and yes, of course, there are parts of the city that are dangerous (just like absolutely any other country in the world) but you just have to be smart. Obviously, it's probably not the best idea to wander into a dark alley alone at night but that's just common sense. I never felt unsafe at all.

The squad... Giuseppe (Salami), Leonardo, Sabrina and me!

Almost no Italians use dryers b/c they believe hanging clothes is simpler and more eco-friendly

Sabrina said not to walk down these streets because pickpockets are known to strike here
Anyway, next we went to an ancient underground Greek/Roman market, which was really interesting. We saw ruins of stalls where people once sold fish, remnants of murals and stone tunnels. The tour was in Italian so I didn't always understand everything but my friends would explain if needed. I'm actually really surprised by how well I still speak Italian! I was a little nervous and hesitant at the beginning of my stay in Italy because I've definitely forgotten a lot of words since I haven't spoken much Italian in 2 years. However, after only about a week in Italy, I regained my confidence and felt somewhat fluent once again. I truly think that the best way to learn a language is by immersing yourself in it because you're constantly being forced to listen and speak.  Italians always compliment my grammar skills but they think it's hilarious that I still have a very strong American accent (I tried so hard but I literally can not roll my R's)!

That night we went out to dinner at an authentic Napoletana pizzeria! In case you don't know, Naples is the city where the first Margherita pizza with just tomato, basil & mozzarella was invented in 1889 in honor of the Queen Margherita. And today they still boast to have the best pizza in all of Italy because of the unique, thick crust (Italian crust is normally so thin you need a fork and knife to eat it). We shared 4 different types of pizzas that were all so delish but my favorite was one called Vesuvius which had buffalo ricotta, tomatoes, raw prosciutto and a layer of fried crust over the top! Although the Napoletana pizza was definitely amazing, I honestly think all Italian pizza is equally good! Except I would never tell this to someone from Naples because Italians really take pride in the specific food from their region. Nearly every region specializes in a type of food, Naples = pizza, Genova for example = pesto and so on. Ugh I completely forgot to take a picture of the pizza we ate that night which sucks :( but you can probably imagine it!

The next day we were planning to go back to Puglia in the morning but the hotel offered us a real good deal to stay another night so we thought, "why not!?" and booked the room! Sabrina's aunt also lives in a city near Naples, so met up with her, walked to the top of the Castel Nuovo and took some pictures at a quarter of the city called Posillipo. The view was absolutely breathtaking; if you go to Naples, you absolutely MUST visit Posillipo!

Mount Vesuvius

The coastline is without a doubt my favorite part of Naples
So then Sabrina's aunt, Emily, invited us to stay at her house for the rest of the week! I was shocked at her hospitality. After all, 3 of us were complete strangers! Plus this vacation was meant to only last one day and one night, not an entire week! But of course, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to continue our vacation and thus spent the next 2 days at her home in Caserta (about 30 minutes north of Naples). We all had to do laundry at her house too since we only packed a couple pairs of underwear!

Emily works as a police in the equestrian department of the Royal Palace of Caserta and so of course we visited the palace one day. We decided to pack a picnic lunch to eat in the royal gardens and it was hilarious because we stopped at 3 different shops to buy each type of food (mozzarella, prosciutto and bread). The Campania region (where Caserta's located) is known to have the best buffalo mozzarella and ricotta in Italy. It was honestly one of the best meals of my life (I'm probably going to be saying that a lot this year! lol). Mozzarella made from buffalo milk instead of cow milk is just so much more rich tasting. Mmmm my mouth is watering even just thinking about it...

Caserta has stores entirely dedicated to mozzarella di buffalo <33
We actually ended up taking a nap on the grass after our mozzarella feast haha the gardens were so huge and gorgeous. Inspired by Versailles, there's a lot of sculptures and fountains and also a gorgeous botanical garden. Emily said that a lot of the trees and plants are not native to Italy and were imported to make the botanical gardens more exotic. The ponds were all also man made. There was a lot of people sitting around relaxing, reading, picnicking and also many jogging and walking. Emily told me that you can buy a yearly pass to the gardens which I think would be really cool! If I lived in Caserta I would absolutely buy one! :)

Leo and Giuseppe trying to copy the pose I always make in pictures ahaha
So the Palace (Reggia in Italiano) of Caserta was built in the 18th century for the Bourbon kings of Naples and modeled after Versailles. Surprisingly though, Caserta is bigger than Versailles; it's the largest royal palace in the world, which is weird because I don't think most people have even heard of it... But anyway, the Kingdom of Naples was almost always under the rule of either the French or Spanish during it's existence. The architecture and decorations of the palace resembled French enlightenment concepts a lot! Haha It was really cool seeing the palace because I took AP European History last year and was able to make a lot of connections! Yay my teacher would be so proud! haha :)

As a graduation present to Sabrina, Emily bought all 4 of us ferry tickets to visit the island of Capri! Once again, I can't believe the generosity of southern Italians! Capri is an extremely expensive, luxurious vacation spot, frequented by a lot of Italian celebrities. We went there early in the morning and spent the first couples hours trying to even find a beach. Although a popular resort, there's not that many beaches due to the mountainous landscape of the island. We found an absolutely stunning beach, only to discover that it was private and cost 20 euros per person to enter... Well we're all poor teenagers so instead we found another really small public beach. Now when I say this beach was crowded and teeny tiny, I'm not exaggerating at all... Towels took up the entire beach, I couldn't even see sand. Even though the beach wasn't the best, the water was still clear, blue and mountains loomed in the background. We spent all day relaxing and swimming; it was a really nice day! However, I don't think I would recommend Capri unless you're willing to pay A LOT of money...

We spent the last day of our vacation hiking to the top of Mount Vesuvius! The views were nice, but I thought Posillipo was much better. We talked to a tour guide and learned that lava didn't actually destroy Pompeii back in AD 79, what really happened is that the clouds of fumes, debris and ash from the eruption were blown over onto Pompeii causing roofs to collapse and fires. Idk why but I always imagined lava flowing down from the volcano scorching Pompeii (I guess it's a more dramatic image, but it's not what actually happened). Vesuvius has been sleeping since 1944 but it's still one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world because it has the possibility of erupting at any moment (so crazy!). Good thing it didn't erupt while I was there... and hopefully it never does because there's more than 500,000 people living in the surrounding zone! We saw the center of the volcano and it wasn't anything special, just a dusty hole.. it's weird to think it has the power to kill so many people.

We wanted to go to Pompeii as well but unfortunately we ran out of time :( But that's okay because it gives me an excuse to come back to Naples again one day (maybe with Mihai!?)!

Yup so that's it for now! To summarize, if you're planning a trip to the Naples area, here's a checklist of absolute must-dos (You could probably see everything in just 3 days!)

1. Take a tour of an underground ancient City
2. Eat the classic Napoletana pizza
3. Have a picnic in the royal gardens of Caserta and eat mozzarella di buffalo
4. Take tons of pictures at Posillipo and the Castel Nuovo
5. Stroll through the 1,200 rooms of the Royal Palace of Caserta
6. Tour the ruins of Pompeii (even though I didn't do this, I've heard it's so fascinating)

I would say if you're short on time skip Capri (too expensive) and Mount Vesuvius (unless you really love volcanoes, Posillipo had a better view of the city).

If you're interested in seeing more pictures from my Naples vacation, just add me on Facebook and check out my Vacanza a Napoli album! My next post will be about my last week in San Vito and then Copenhagen! :)

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