Friday, November 5, 2010

Napoli, Ercolano, Vesuvius, Pompeii

My second day in Italy was Connie’s first, so I had to wake up and find my way back to the airport from Ostia Antica.  I had a cab called for me, and made it to the airport with enough time to grab a cappuccino and croissant before Connie made it through passport control and got her bags.  The Rome airport is not actually in Rome, but about 30 minutes outside of the city, so we had to take a train to the main Rome train station, and then take another train down to Naples for the beginning of our journey.  Once in Naples, we had to take the Metro another stop to get to Giovanni’s Home, the first hostel we were staying in.  This is the part of the journey where we met the other American girls.  Once we made it to Giovanni’s, he had us all sit down and gave us a run-through of the city and the things we should see and do while in Naples.  The hostel was really just your typical European hostel, but Giovanni really made it something special.  He was such a character, and he had such passion for his hometown.  His information session and map drawing really helped us a lot during our stay too, because we had so much we wanted to do and not very much time to do it in.
After talking with Giovanni and putting our bags down, we headed straight back out for the Napoli Sotterranea, a tour of the Naples “underworld.”  Giovanni recommended it, so all 7 of us took his recommendation and went on the tour.  The tour is literally, underground, and takes you through underground quarries from the Roman period, a Greco-Roman theater, cisterns, aqueducts, and caves that were used as bomb shelters during World War II.  The underground theater was actually built inside of and on top of when the Naples population was booming and there was a law that prohibited building outside the city walls.  Part of the theater was later discovered as someone’s apartment storage, so the tour takes you through the old apartment and down the cellar where it was first discovered.  The cisterns were massive, and we were able to see the cuts in the rock where the “little monk” would put his feet to clean debris out of the water with his nets.  Once the cisterns were abandoned, Naples started depositing garbage in the underground caves, and then at the start of World War II, they covered the garbage with rock, and used the area as bomb shelters.  There was one well that didn’t get covered when turning the cisterns into shelters, and that was because the well was located inside a church.  The Italians didn’t think that churches would get bombed, so they didn’t cover the well.  One day the church got bombed, and everyone inside the shelters died.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Sorry folks.  Lack of internet coupled with computer issues had led to a severe lack of communication and blogging.  I sincerely apologize.  We had internet at our hostel in Naples, but my computer wouldn't connect, and I wasn't able to figure out the problem and didn't have time to do some serious problem solving.  THEN, in Rome we were hit with some crazy internet nazis who vastly limited our internet using capabilities.  We were told it was "illegal" to provide free internet to tourists because the government needs to have a way of monitoring who goes what and does what on the internet.  Apparently the only way to get internet in Rome is to either hand over your passport and complete all the paperwork for a sim card, which costs lots of money and takes lots of time, OR sign your life over and pay an arm and a leg for 15 minutes worth of internet at a grungy internet cafe.  These people are no joke.  They looked at my passport, copied down all the info off my I.D. into a computer, and then had an entire screen of my information, computer usage, time, websites visited, etc.  It's borderline communist crazyism.  These internet laws are supposed to be in effect all throughout Italy, but the convent turned hostel we're staying in now in Naples has free wi-fi and no scruples.  Haaaa-lle-lu-jah!!

We have been going non-stop since we landed in Rome, and there's no sign of stopping anytime soon.  We pretty much leave the hostel every morning by about 7-8, and don't return until anywhere between 8-10 pm.  Needless to say, sleep is precious.  We have seen and done so much since the last blog post that I don't even know where to start.  Naples was an amazing city with so much to offer.  I feel like we didn't even get to scratch the surface of exploring Naples with the short time we were there.  We definitely took advantage of the pizza capital of Italy, and ate at the "best pizza place in the world" for both dinners we were there, and we've been craving it ever since.  Gino Sorbillo's really is the best pizza in the world, and there is no way on earth I could come up with a just comparison to anything served in America.  The pizza is so thin and is topped with just the right amount of ingredients that it's impossible to pick it up and eat it with your hands.  We kept wanting to return to our natural instincts and pick it up, but it's just not possible.  

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Rome Again Rome Again

After 2 1/2 months in Italy and lots of life-changing and cultural experiences, I’m back again.  This time is going to be a completely different experience because A: I have much more freedom and a limited amount of time to see everything, and B: The greatest world traveler and best friend around (Connie Hoover) is joining me in this adventure.  The plan is to meet up in Rome and take the train straight down to Naples and Pompeii for the start of our trip, and then work our way back up the country and over into France.
For those of you that know me, I like to wait for the last minute for everything, and I rarely plan out details in advance.  I know it drives some people crazy, but it’s just the way I am.  Everything generally works itself out anyways, so why waste time planning the nitty gritty details??  Welllll...sometimes this habit of mine comes back to bite me in the butt.  Connie practically had to force me to sit on the computer a month before this trip and purchase our plane tickets home together.  No easy feat, seeing as how she was halfway around the world and a full 12 hour time difference away.  But, alas, it all worked out.  Finally, few weeks ago I decided to start looking for a plane ticket TO Italy.  A flight home from Paris was great, but I needed to get there somehow.  Being the obsessive internet ticket searcher that I am, purchasing a plane ticket generally takes anywhere from 4-24 hours.  No joke.  Maybe that’s why I put everything off for the last minute...because I know its going to consume me for the greater part of the day.  So I work my magic and find a single plane ticket to Newark, and then another ticket to London Heathrow, and then on to Rome.  Seriously, I don’t know how British Airways didn’t lose money on me.  I sent Connie my itinerary, and she wrote back a day later something along the lines of ‘Don’t freak out, but I don’t fly in until the next day.’  Umm....Oopsies!! 
After a little panic attack from mom, and reviewing all my options, I decided (as we all should about everything in life) to make the most of it and find something super cool to do on Tuesday when I arrive.  Before we get to that, though, lets recap the trip over here.
I flew from Orlando to Newark, which I thought was in New Jersey, but everything on the plane tickets said New York, so now I’m not really sure.  Since this was a single ticket not attached to my British Airways flight, I had to check my bag, claim it at the Newark airport, and then re-check it with British Airways.  With that being said, I have now officially become a master plane traveler.  By the time we got to the airport in Orlando I had less than 30 minutes to check my bag, go through security, and make it to the gate before they started boarding, and I’m proud to say I made it there with 15 minutes to spare.  I lugged my 11kg backpack around the Newark airport until I found British Airways (they’re doing construction so it was a little hard to find) and then went off in search of some lunch.  When I was riding the train between terminals, I caught a glimpse of the New York City skyline, complete with the Statue of Liberty.  A little bittersweet for me, because on November 1st of last year I ran my very first marathon through the streets of New York, and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life.  I didn’t get in on lottery this year, but on the bright side, that meant I was able to go on this trip!  I made it to the Newark gate with about 15 minutes to spare...just enough time to load a new book on my Kindle and call home.  The flight from Newark to London was from 6pm to 1am according to our time in Florida, but by the time we landed in London it was 7am...just in time to see the sun rise.  The flight really felt like it was 2 hours long because I slept practically the entire much so that the lady I sat next to complemented me on my sleeping abilities.  I started watching Sex and the City 2 (I know, terrible choice), but apparently one of the in-flight entertainment systems had some electrical issues and started smoking while we were flying, so they had to shut down the entire thing.  But, because of this, everyone received $25 British Airways vouchers for our next flight.  Again, I don’t know how they made money off of me.  And, anyone looking to travel to Europe, I am completely a fan of British Airways.  Much more so than Lufthansa.  The seats are bigger and more comfortable, you have more foot room, nicer blankets, pillows, eye masks, socks, nicer flight attendants, and an overall more relaxed experience.  The Lufthansa planes seem nicer/newer, but the overall flying experience is uptight and a bit stressful.  So we land in London and I head out in search of breakfast, since I slept through it on the plane.  The London airport is by far the nicest airport I’ve ever been in.  You can tell it is brand new or newly remodeled, but there are also other little things that make it a pleasant airport.  For instance, in order to keep the noise down and the terminals more quiet, they only announce final calls for flights over the speaker.  No gate numbers, changes, or other useless information that nobody listens to anyways.  To make up for this, they have strategically placed computer stations where you can check your flight status, gate, time, etc.  The airport also had a wide range of healthy food choices, which I greatly appreciated.  Organic soy latte and all natural fruit salad for breakfast is a major win in my books.  Oh yeah, and I watched the sunrise while eating.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


One of the most awesome people in the world just went on a family vacation to Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada, and until I saw his pictures, I had absolutely no idea how beautiful Nevada was.  I went to Colorado 2 summers ago, and it was probably the most beautiful state I'd ever visited, but I've got to believe that Nevada is in a close competition with the Rocky Mountain state.  Every single picture was just breathtaking, and the state itself has a lot to offer in the way of adventure and outdoor activities.  
He brought me back one of the coolest souvenirs I may have ever received, not because it has anything to do with Nevada, but because it's just flippin' amazing.  I present to you, 1% for the Planet The Music, Vol. 1.
I have a huge appetite for music, and this is like 41 sweet surprises all wrapped up in one cardboard cd cut out.  From my personal favorites, The Submarines, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, and Jack Johnson, to some of the most well known names out there, like Brandi Carlisle and Jackson Browne. There are 41, YES, 41! different artists on this album.  All 41 artists have donated their music to 1% FTP to be used in this breakthrough album, most of which are rare and exclusive songs.  All the proceeds from the sale of the $9.99 album go directly to 1% FTP, and I assure you, it will be the best $9.99 you've ever spent on music.

So what is 1% for the Planet?  Only one of the coolest organizations I've ever heard of, and one that more people need to know about.  In 2001 the founder of the outdoor apparel company Patagonia, and the owner of Blue Ribbon Flies, good friends, avid environmentalists, and successful businessmen, joined their heads together to create a sustainable company that would be solely devoted to sustaining the environment.  They came up with 1% for the Planet, a business that encourages other businesses to practice responsible environmentalism by donating 1% of their profits to 1%, which, in turn, donates the money to environmental groups aimed towards sustaining the environment.  Sounds like a pretty awesome idea, right?  But what company, in their right mind, would sign up to DONATE 1% of all their profits to the environment.  Well...their first launch, at a Patagonia store in California, welcomed the first 21 businesses, and today 1% FTP has over 1,000 members worldwide, and has donated over $50 million to sustainability causes since the launch.  Famous companies who proudly tout the 1% membership logo include:

Barney's New York
Clif Company
Dandelion Communitea Cafe (in Central Florida)
Jack Johnson
Jackson Browne

Click on the links above for more information, awesome pictures, and some other 1% stuff.  You can also purchase the cd online if you're interested.

My favorite thing about today was getting a super sweet and genuine compliment about my blog from the lovely Mrs. Shepherd.

"In most cases, our so-called limitations are nothing more than our own decision to limit ourselves." ~Daisaku Ike

Friday, August 13, 2010


Last night I met up with Kim and Susan at a store called WineStyles in the Winter Springs Towne Center for a wine tasting.  Every Thursday night they have a FREE wine tasting/social hour from 7-8:30pm, and it was a seriously good time.  The store is set up kind of like a restaurant/bar, and they have a pianist (keyboard player) playing music during the wine tasting.  The waiters from the restaurant across the street come over and will take orders and bring you sushi or appetizers or whatever else you want to eat.  The combination of wine, music, friends, and food is perfect, and it's a laid back atmosphere that allows you to talk and just enjoy.  If you live in the area, you're welcome to join us next Thursday!

I have a million ideas for posts tonight, but it's late and I'm exhausted, so they're going to have to wait for tomorrow.  Instead, here's a picture of happiness that I took with my found camera at the Winter Springs dog park today.

100%, pure, uninhibited, free, happiness right there.  And loving every minute of it.

My favorite thing about today was experiencing the above photo.

In most cases, our so-called limitations are nothing more than our own decision to limit ourselves." ~Daisaku Ikeda

Friday, August 6, 2010

Bigs and Littles

A few years ago I read an article about someone's involvement with the Big Brother Big Sister organization, and it occurred to me that being a role model to a child in my community was something that was very doable at my stage in life.  I'd like to say the article was about Andy Baldwin, aka the Best Bachelor Ever, and his involvement with the organization, but research has turned up no such connections, so the person in the article will have to remain unknown.  Either way, I decided then that I wanted to be a Big Sister to someone in my community.  It seems like we all so often want to help others, and the easiest/fastest/most mass-friendly way is through the giving of tangibles, whether it be money or food or clothing donations.  We never really seem to devote the time or have the opportunity to develop true, genuine relationships with the ones we want to help, when so often that's exactly what they need most.  Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Central Florida seemed like the perfect opportunity to not only help someone else, but to develop a personal relationship, and to be challenged as well.

I filled out my application to be a "Big Sister" over 2 years ago, and was full of enthusiasm and excitement for the following weeks until an e-mail came explaining that there was really no need in my area, but that I would be contacted if anything became available.  Bummer.  My Big Sister high balloon had been deflated.  I still received e-mails about updates and events in the area, but they were all the general, non-profit organization, keep-you-up-to-date type mass e-mails, and nothing was written specifically to me.  Until today.  I had long given up hope, when lo and behold, in my inbox this morning was an e-mail from the BBBSCF saying they had a need for me!  I was so excited you would have thought this was the career of a lifetime just begging me to accept.  

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

This I Learned in Italy...

Traveling is 25% sightseeing, 25% exploring/getting lost, 25% experiencing and learning the culture of the area, and 25% building personal relationships with the people you meet.  And, as always, 100% living in the moment.
Family is the most important thing in the world, and should be the foundation of YOUR world.  Everything in Italy revolves around the family unit, and the relationships are of the utmost importance, as they should be.
Even if you’re traveling on a budget, take just one day to have a nice, sit-down, relaxing meal.  So much of culture is in the food, and so much relationship building and bonding is done over meals.
Fresh is best.  Since returning to the states, I can honestly and truly appreciate fresh, unprocessed foods.  My body went into a state of shock after the horrible things I fed it for the first few days of being home.  Now, it’s fresh/organic as much as possible, and I carry a lunch box with me everyday so I have healthy foods available.
Don’t hold yourself as high as you think others see you.  Nobody really cares how you’re dressed or what you look like.  Italians are not as self-conscious as us prudish Americans, and they’d rather wear what they like than worry about what others are thinking.  The important thing is to be yourself, and comfortable with who you are.  “To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself." Thich Nhat Hanh
Live simply.  Forget about all the things that you “need.”  It’s just stuff and you don’t need it.  Life is so much more pleasurable with the simplicities; Chatting outside with the neighbors, riding your bike to the store, cooking a home cooked meal, etc.  The pleasure from experiences and relationships exponentially outweighs the pleasure from acquiring new “things.”
Travel is all about discovering yourself and who you are.  Even if you think you’ve got yourself defined, discovering new people and places has a strange way of showing you just exactly who you are in this world, and where you stand.
Without being open to the above mentioned form of discovery, travel is nothing more than a picture taking excursion unless you have someone you love to share it with.
With THAT being said, Italy is not a good place to visit without the one you love.

Every day is an adventure.  What you make of it is up to you, but the adventure is always there.

I learned much MUCH more about myself and the beautiful country I was sharing with you every day.  There is too much to put in writing, but in sharing my stories each night, I discovered that I really truly enjoy writing and blogging.  I love being able to share what I've learned and experienced, and I didn't want to stop just because I've returned to the states.  So how do I keep a "Life in Italy" blog alive when I live in the United States?  I've decided to take what I've learned in Italy and apply it to the new format of "Every Day is an Adventure."  I will post about my Central Florida adventures, including info on things that really interest me, like health and nutrition, and I'll do my best to make it as interesting and enjoyable as reading about beautiful Italy.  Every day really is an adventure, whether you're in Italy, Timbuktu, or Florida, and I want to continue to share that passion and zest for life that I've acquired in Italy.  I understand that some of the things I write about may not be the most interesting things ever (I mean, seriously? Can you really top Venice?), but I hope that you'll continue to read and learn along with me.