Comedic Adventure On The Way To Pompeii

Our journey to Pompeii from Parma turned into a comedy of errors. There is nothing quite like navigating the train system in a foreign country. After accidentally buying tickets for a slower train that left at the same time as the faster one we initially wanted, we climbed on board to discover the AC and power outlets in our assigned car didn’t work. All eight of us had to be relocated to another car. Things seemed to work smoothly in our new seats. People napped, worked on homework, and enjoyed the picturesque countryside passing by.


Enjoying the countryside as we speed towards Naples


Nearing Florence, the train slowed down. Instead of having a normal brief stop, I noticed the train remained in place and the engine cut off. Sure enough, an announcement came over the speakers that the train broke down adding a two – three hour delay to our trip. The conductor further instructed those of us Naples bound would ride out the delay on the outskirts of Florence while everyone else found spots on new trains. A half hour later the Naples bound folks received instruction to catch the departing train into Santa Maria Novella. The SMN train left in five minutes and we had to sprint a few platforms over. We all made the train change and headed into Florence’s most well known station. Fate really decided to test our desire to reach Napoli that night. A long line awaited at the ticket window and we only had two other options to get us down south. Keeping a sense of humor, a classmate of mine who is from Sicily and I stayed in line to find out if our group of eight wayward travelers could find seats on one of the two trains departing. Customer service found us room on a freccarossa. They are very nice trains that travel at high speeds if you have not been on one. Our arrival time changed from 2 am to 11 pm.

Luckily, our hosts were extremely understanding of the late arrival. They messaged us back with “don’t worry about it. The trains regularly run off schedule.” Iolanda and Antonio, the owners of the Airbnb Home Sweet Home, greeted our cab at the end of their driveway with smiles. Italians possess an amazing level of empathy for travel struggles. They also extend a warm and welcoming hospitality to guests that I haven’t experienced in any other country. Once we settled into our rooms warm Margherita pizza sat on the table at midnight for us train weary and starving students.


The group devouring our very late dinner in Pompeii.

That midnight pizza was undoubtedly  one of the best I’ve eaten. Iolanda and Antonio quickly became our adopted Italian family in Pompeii leading to a fantastic weekend of exploring Roman Southern Italy, sampling scrumptious seafood dishes and Southern specialties like arancini paired with rich wines cultivated in the volcanic soils of Vesuvius.


Returning to Italy


Urbino Historic Center Photo Credit: Caterina Novelliere Sept 2016

I had not realized how emotional it would be for me to return to Italy. Seeing familiar sights and hearing a language that hasn’t so completely filled my ears for almost three years now moved me to the point of tears several times. Awake for over 24 hours, I managed to communicate effectively with several Italians in their beautiful native tongue my first day on the ground. It is amazing how quickly a language can emerge from the depths of the mind with little prompting. Throughout the bus ride from Bologna into the gently rising hills of Marche, a sense of coming home overwhelmed me. I hadn’t expected that at all. I prepared for being excited, tired, stressed and a sense of the familiar, but never such a strong feeling of returning to one’s roots. While I have ancestors who lived in Italy, I have not personally lived in Italy long term. But a beautiful sunny day warmed my face after a brief nap to help fight through jet lag welcoming me back to Marche! As always, nightfall was magical offering another interesting view of the Palazzo Ducale.

After a somewhat restful night as sleep played games with me, our first two orientation days allowed me to start seeing Urbino through new eyes: those of someone thankful to return to an amazing place and those of the historian interpreting space/place along with spotting important, but sometimes overlooked details.

On Day 2, we dined on some wonderful food at a restaurant called Rago d’Oro positioned on the top end of Via Raffaello. Roberta and Mirko saved us the quad and lung killing direct climb up the monster hill by taking the easier winding back road up to the rear walls of the city. If you’ve ever been to Urbino, you know exactly what I am talking about. If you haven’t, just picture a 120 degree climb for about a mile. In adjuster speak, that would probably be an 11/12 pitch from hell made out of uneven cobblestones rough on the soles of the feet even in good shoes. The commercial center that was under construction in 2013 now is a buzzing hive of buses and people. The 10 level structure houses stores, a wine bar, coffee shop, a cash exchange, and a new fairly large coop to buy groceries. Wandering through the historic center, I was sad to see a few of my favorite old shops no longer exist in their former homes. I am hoping to discover they merely moved locations as the semester goes on.

Our third day consisted of touring the historically significant sites of the city. We walked the walls, visited two of the well-known oratorios, the Fortessa – a medieval and Renaissance fort, and the Palazzo Ducale. Sadly, the duomo is closed for some restoration work. In San Giovanni I knelt down to photograph the iron work on the bottom of the alter. As I zoomed in on the center star, I noticed a pair of hands. I quietly moved closer to the alter to see if my eyes played tricks on me. I indeed discovered a carefully displayed body that I never saw three years ago. I am not sure if I was too awed by the amazing frescoes in the oratorio or just overwhelmed by being in Italy in general back in 2013. However, this early founding brother peacefully slumbers within the ornate alter for several centuries now. I was also able to rephotograph the beautiful Venetian glass chandelier my old camera so nicely refused to capture in all of its glory hanging from the decorated ceiling of the Oratorio di San Guiseppe.

Well, Somnus is lulling me to sleep with the hour being late. Stand by for future posts as I venture through Italy once again.

Sogni d’oro to all of you!



Urbino Historic Center Photo Credit: Caterina Novelliere Sept 2016