A trip to the greater Naples and Amalfi area of Italy isn’t truly complete without a visit to Pompeii to see the ruins that were left after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. I took the local commuter train out to Pompeii and spent a quick few hours exploring the site, which is just massive. I also visited nearby Herculaneum, which is much smaller than Pompeii, but better preserved, and between the two, as well as all the other Roman ruins around Italy, you get this incredible look into what life was like for people at the time. It’s fascinating how the one thing that is a constant through the ages is community. It sounds obvious to point that out, but whether in ancient Roman times, or medieval times, or present day, the importance of common places for coming together is in every culture and society.
My final day in Sorrento in southern Italy was a blissfully lazy day to just relax, enjoy my last day in southern Italy, and prepare for my short trip to Rome as my last stop before returning to the States. The last couple of mornings there were foggy in the mornings, and cleared in the afternoon, and I had lunch on the rooftop deck of the little boutique hotel where I stayed, and it was a perfect way to wrap up that part of my trip. It’s a quick trip to Rome from Naples, the first stop on the longer high speed train that goes all the way north to Milan, and then a very quick Metro subway ride to where I was staying in Rome, which was the perfect location close to the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain, and within walking distance of everything. I revisited some of the same places and a few new ones from when I was in Rome during the first part of my trip, and it was love at second sight all over again. It’s just such a fabulous city, where both ancient history and modern age are woven together in this beautiful tapestry, wrapped in a gorgeous bow of Italian style and pride.
And then the news from Paris broke, and my phone lit up in the middle of the night Europe time, with notes from friends, making sure that I was aware of the news (I have purposefully not been watching any TV or keeping up on the news), and wanting to ensure that my return travels were not taking me through Paris. It was an odd time to be in Europe during such an event, but in some ways, it was comforting in a way that is hard to describe — I felt closer to the humanity that emerges from the aftermath of such things by being closer to where it took place than I would be back in the States. The next morning, walking through the streets of Rome, everything just seemed a bit quieter, more somber; people were going about their daily lives, as were the tourists, but you could feel the compassion in the air, and the reminder that there are these types of events happening all around the globe, many of which aren’t making the news in the same way. What was striking to me, was the quiet dignity that I saw all around the city.
The flight out of Rome was delayed by over an hour, and then circled the airport a few times upon arrival, and then the skybridge to the door wouldn’t work and they had to set up stairs from the back door of the plane. So all of that combined meant a missed connection, and an unplanned overnight stay in London without the ability to see the city, but with so many people in the same situation, we all made the best of it. Lionel Richie was on our flight, so that was a fun little bonus, seeing him fly commercial. I was an unintentional photobomb when some people snapped a photo with him while we were boarding. So that photo is surely on the interwebs somewhere. I’m now on a flight back to Seattle, and will have landed and gotten settled at a friend’s place by the time I’m able to post this.
There are too many magical moments from my two months in Europe to list them all, so I will simply wrap up this journey by saying that in many ways it exceeded my expectations, and it forever changed me. I was seeking a greater global consciousness — a strong desire to get out of our overly ethnocentric American mindset for a while. I fully embraced the unique cultural differences in each place that I visited, while at the same time was reminded that we all share a common unity across the globe, a collective humanity that shows us that we’re more alike than we are different. What a gift this journey has been. And I’ve loved it all.
Photos added 11/17: