Joie de Vivre… Part Three!

I love Italy. Anyone who knows me knows that I completely love, adore and obsess over Italy. I love the language, the culture, the food (who doesn’t love the food!), the fashion, the people, the manic driving, the heat, the art, the architecture – just everything!
No matter how much I loved the various cities I was visiting – Prague, Budapest etc, I really found it hard not to feel impatient to reach Italy. I covered the most cities in Italy than in any other country – I travelled to six cities and the five villages of Cinque Terre during my week in Italy. I now love, adore and obsess over it even more, so I apologize in advance to all of my friends if I annoy you by blabbing on about Italy Italy Italy when you see me. I will try to hold my tongue.
Cinque Terre
I was actually stranded here for the night, thanks to Ray, a cocky Californian surfer to despite being the most irritating little shit I’ve ever met in my life, some how managed to befriend me for the day. He swore to me that he had walked from Monterosso to Vernazza in just half an hour, and so, as I had a little over two hours until my train, I decided to walk it. Half an hour my arse. It took us so long (partly because know-it-all Ray kept on straying off path, and believing that he had already walked the path I foolishly followed into all sorts of slippery, impossible-to-climb situations), by the time I made it to the train station, the last connecting train from Pisa to Florence had already left.
Still, there are worse places to get stranded for a night. And he did feel so guilty he helped me find a place to rest my head for a night.
There was just one city that I hated. I hated it so much that I stayed just long enough to visit Pompeii, and then I left pretty sharpish – I hated Naples.
Granted, Pompeii was amazing, as was the huge-ass, dirt cheap pizza that I ate in Naples, in the restaurant where they filmed the ‘eating pizza in Naples’ scene in Eat, Pray, Love (I didn’t recognize it at all but they really made a big deal of it). The people, however. Rough. I’ve since been told that the south of Italy is where most of the mafia activity takes place, and that it’s a very dodgy area, so it all makes perfect sense, but it put a serious smudge on Italy’s otherwise spotless record for me. Also – I discovered that in Naples, the chav culture exists. They wear Louis Vuitton rather than Burberry, but it’s there, poundshop scrunchies, neon mini dresses, cakes on makeup, slicked back hair, tacky ‘bling’. The works.
Even when I was heading back to Naples from Pompeii, dusty and covered in the grubby grimy dirt of Pompeii, I still felt so much classier than the hooped-earring-wearing family who were seated opposite me, obviously heading home from the beach. Call me a snob, I’ll happily call myself one, but seriously, I’d never recommend Naples to anyone. If you must try the pizza, get in, order pizza, get out.
P.S. this is why I have included no photographs of Naples. For a start they’re all on film, and I haven’t developed any rolls yet. Secondly, Naples was ugly, I want to show all my friends pretty.
A rare photograph of me! The one downside of travelling alone; unless I trust strangers to hold my camera – which I most certainly don’t – or stand there trying to take self portraits, there’s no one to take photographs of me in all of these amazing places.
However, in Pompeii I met a lawyer called Michael from Washington DC, and we ended up sticking together throughout the day, and so we acted as each other’s personal photographers.
Pompeii is pretty surreal, as can only be expected really. Over the years I’ve heard so much about it and picked so many random bits of information that only become useful on this one day of my life, and then the moment I step out of Pompeii I can file those once again useless dribbles of information back into the deepest parts of my brain where they will either stay forever, unless I ever visit Pompeii again, or be forgotten.
Michael had picked up a map at the entrance (me being me and collecting maps only to stick them into my travel journals – never to actually use them), but I’m sorry, I personally found Venice easier to navigate my way around than Pompeii – and Venice was, I swear, designed to be confusing and impossible to navigate. Every sign in Pompeii was different to what the map said the sign should say, we often found ourselves walking up and down the same street several times looking for something that was apparently on that street, or we would find streets that didn’t appear to be on the map at all, or we’d be looking for streets shown on the map that I swear did not actually exist at all.
It did not help that I was constantly on edge because there was 100’s of the biggest hornet/wasp things that I have ever seen in my life.
Still, Michael said that if we managed to leave Pompeii without being stung or falling flat on our face on the uneven surface, ‘we’ve done well’. We did well.
I also couldn’t help but notice that 95% of the original wall murals, mosaics, etc that decorated the various buildings of Pompeii were all destroyed in the eruption, but from what I saw, and from what I also overheard a tour guide saying, the best preserved wall murals etc are almost solely in the brothels of Pompeii, where you can find lovely ‘menu’ artwork such as this:
If I ever find myself in the path of a volcanic eruption, I know where to head – to the brothels!

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