Yet again, it’ been an embarrassingly long time since I’ve posted anything and to be honest, there’s no good excuse. Our two-month holiday has finally come to and end, so it’s back to business; no more bumming around. Summer Semester began last Monday, and I’m taking six classes, all in German, except for my Spanish class. 🙂
Enough of that for now; let me tell you about Italy! This was actually a class trip and an extension of the class taught by Dr. Hans Peter Söder, resident program director, philosopher, writer, and an all-around swell chap. The class was called Goethes Italienische Reise, or Goethe’s italian Journey. Back in the 1700s, it was common for privileged young Western Europeans to pilgrim through Italy to reconnect with the culture left by the Romans and Renaissance men. Wolfgang von Goethe was once such t traveler and during this two-year journey, he kept a diary which was later published and became the foundation of a genre known as Reiseliteratur, or Travel literature.
Our journey was not so long–eight days in Naples, Palermo, and Venice. Needless to say, I took quite a lot of pictures, so the entire trip will be divided up into three posts.
We boarded the night train at Munich central station and woke up in Florence, then switched trains to get to Naples by late morning. We wandered to our bed and breakfast (that first picture is the view from one of the windows there), passing a corner of stray cats sunbathing on Fiats and feasting on plates of spaghetti left by a warm-hearted neighbor.
Finding this bakery was the best kind of accident. On just a short stroll from the B&B to the coast we stumbled upon the oldest bakery in Naples, stacked with every assortment of sugary delight. The owner noticed all of us drooling with our faces smashed against the windows, and invited us all in to sample sfogliatelle, a crunchy clam-shaped pastry stuffed with ricotta, and pastiera napoletana, a cake made with orange blossom water, eggs, ricotta, honey–Naples’ ode to spring. I also picked out baba (those muffin-shaped ones in the bottom right corner) without realizing it is doused in rum until I spent the rest of the day in a fit of hiccups. How embarrassing. How naive.
Just a short train ride outside of Naples, you’ll find Pompeii–the famous old Roman city of splendor and debauchery, buried in the ashes of Mt. Vesuvius. The city has since been excavated, and the artifacts housed in the Naples National Archaeological Museum. If you’re ever in Naples and short on time, see the museum, skip Pompeii.
So, we didn’t go to Pompeii. Instead, we saw Paestum, which is not as large, but the temples are some of the oldest and most intact. Hardly anything is known about this city, and excavations have all but halted. Still, it was most certainly a wealthy port city, which has since been conquered by stray cats and tiny wildflowers.
Naples often gets a bad rap, because most people flock to Northern Italy, where the cities are well-kept for tourists and everyone speaks English. Comparatively, Naples can be seen as shady and unkempt. Just be careful: don’t book a cheap hostel by the train station, where there are no locks in the doors. Don’t wave your cash around everywhere. Try to hang out in groups, especially after dark. There is really so much to do and see in Naples. Oh! And it’s the pizza capitol of the world. If you’ve seen “Eat, Pray, Love”, you’ve seen Julia Roberts rave about the pies at Pizza de Michele. I ate that pizza. And yes, it was all that and more. However, I was so busy thinking about food that I left my camera behind. Oops!