THE ISLE OF THE SIRENS

After taking the train to Rome and checking in to my hotel, I realized I had an incredible headache… whether from not sleeping the night before, my irregular eating patterns, the long climb I made to the top of the Duomo dome in Florence that afternoon… who knows?  I tried to head to dinner (my goal was the Trevi Fountain) but my head was pounding so much I found myself walking in circles and felt lucky to find my way back to my hotel probably an hour later with no sign of the Trevi Fountain or food in my belly.  I ate some delicious gnocchi at a restaurant close to my hotel before heading to bed.

I woke up with a start, to a ringing phone… my tour bus was waiting for me.  “WHAT?”  How was that possible?  I set my alarm!  I asked if they could wait 10 minutes and the front desk called me back and told me the bus would wait five minutes.  Seriously?  Never in my life have I gotten ready so quickly!

I made it onto the bus (which was really a van) and didn’t seem nearly so bad for the bus trip from Rome to Capri, except… the van was only going to the train station where there were real buses waiting.  So the passengers of the small van all shuffled on to the tour buses – and were the last ones on the buses thanks to my trusty tardiness.

The bus ride was long and it took almost that long for me to feel fully awake and smoothed out after rushing around like an idiot.  The woman next to me was Polish and asked me why Obama wanted to get involved in Syria and how he could possibly know who might have let off chemical weapons.  Although it didn’t sound like this woman believed they were used.  I feigned ignorance and gave a non-committal shrug because trapped on a bus IS NOT THE PLACE for a political conversation and I am not the expert in these things anyway.

We arrived in Naples and took a boat to Capri.  Unfortunately I was trapped inside without even a window seat.  When we disembarked the boat on the isle of Capri, it was sheer chaos!  I didn’t see our tour guide, I had no direction on where we were going, what the plan for the day was.  All I could see was people everywhere, rude people, people with suitcases, babies, mostly speaking foreign languages and all in a hurry to get somewhere on this tiny island.  My first impressions were sheer chaos.  I was unimpressed with the island and more unimpressed with the tour guide.

capri_1

However, I hovered near a Canadian family because well… I understand English and better to get lost with a group then all by yourself because then you aren’t lost.  We were found by the tour guide who told us the Blue Grotto was closed due to the rough water conditions.  I was going to both towns Anacapri and Capri.  It turned out my biggest decision for the day would be whether to lay on the beach at the end of the day or take an hour boat ride circling the island.

In Anacapri, I took the chairlift up to Monte Solaro (1,932 feet above sea level). The ride was incredibly peaceful.  Then we had a group lunch where I sat with a lovely French couple who tried very hard to communicate with me and bought me a limoncello shot.  Limoncello is an Italian lemon liquor that the island is known for.

After lunch, the group headed down to the town of Capri near the port and had just over an hour.  I spent the time laying out on the beach which is made up of the smoothest stones, the clearest water and the least shy people ever.  Luckily I did not catch the old man changing on the beach into his speedo till he was already “dressed” if we’re considering a speedo as dressed.  It was beautiful although there were a lot of tourists on the beach.

I fell alsleep on the boat ride back before loading the bus in Naples to head back to Rome.  I arrived back at my hotel after 10pm and left for the airport the next morning to return back to real life.

LA DOLCE VITA

My lessons in Italian cuisine gained during my conversation with my Roman tour guide during my private two-hour Espresso, Gelato and Tiramisu walking tour around Rome were numerous…

  1. The primary difference between ice cream and gelato is the freshness of the ingredients, so it is much healthier with less sugar needed and less preservatives.
  2. Banana gelato should never be yellow.  Bananas aren’t yellow, the peel is, so the color should be closer to white or light brown.
  3. Also, pistachio gelato should never be neon green, but a light green like the actual color of pistachios.
  4. Fettuccine Alfredo is an invented dish.  Italians do not eat pasta with white sauces.
  5. White pizza is only for picky children.
  6. Pineapple is a fruit and does not belong on pizza, maybe as a dessert after dinner.
  7. If you order a pepperoni pizza you will get a pizza with peppers on it.
  8. No more than four toppings belong on a pizza.
  9. Chicken Parmesan is also an invented dish.  Chicken is usually roasted.  There is Eggplant Parmesan though.
  10. In Capri if you order Caprese, you will end up with a torte (a cake) instead of a salad made up of tomatoes and parmesan cheese.
  11. Cappuccino is only for breakfast.
  12. Italians drink about four cups of espresso a day, most drank at cafes while standing up (sitting down costs more).

Below are some pictures of the delights I enjoyed throughout my week in Rome, Cinque Terre, Florence and Capri.

To be honest, many of the meals and foods I ate were not full-on meals because I did still avoid dining alone (a teeny bit).  I focused on atmosphere (as I will describe in some of the other posts on Italy).  The best tasting meal I ate was the fresh fried calamari with  lemon that I ate out of a paper cone in Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre.  It was a true test of the senses while sitting on a rock wall over the crashing waves… listening to the waves crashing all around me, smelling the salty sea air, looking up at the beautiful moon and delighting in the taste of the lemon flavored fried calamari.  Quite amazing!

Flavors of gelato eaten by yours truly…

  1. Lemon Basil  — my personal favorite
  2. Peach Lavender
  3. Banana
  4. Fig
  5. Chocolate Chip
  6. Pistachio