With all the technical issues on my site, I decided to wipe my previous theme and start afresh with this new one, hoping it brings me better luck.
That’s not the only new thing I’ve been up to as well. I am now writing for another website, called The Outcask. The site was started by a good friend of mine, as a re-launch of a magazine she ran a few years ago. So, look out for my posts about craft beer and the craft beer industry! As of this entry, I already have 2 posts on the site.
Also, I’ve been having a ton of fun on the app Periscope. It’s a live broadcast kind of app, and I hope to take it on the road and do little travel pieces. Some of my favorite Periscopers are an archaeologist in Rome and a historian in Paris.
I’ve also been reflecting on my time in Italy last year. I have the Timehop app on my phone so it reminds me daily what I was doing via my social media posts a year, two years three years, etc. ago. Last year around this time I was soaking up the last few days of my trip on the beautiful island of Ponza.
That’s now for updates, and I’ll spruce up my Featured Publications page as long as it doesn’t crash on me!
It is often mentioned that goodbyes are permanent, which is why I chose to entitle what is to be the last installment of me blogging about my Italian travels with the phrase ‘see you later.’
When I first arrived in Italy, the stalks of corn were just below my knees, now my head is tilted back just to see the tops.
When I first arrived in Italy it was an American holiday, Memorial Day, and I return on the eve of another, Independence Day.
I have been shown a piece of Italy that is often looked over in the travel books and in the account of passerby’s. The house that my father grew up in still stands, but only as a shell of the home it used to be. The island where my mother’s family hailed from enchanted my mind.
What had started out as a semi-spontaenous trip to Italy, with plans to explore the alternative life of organic farming under WWOOF, took a turn, and instead I learned what it is like to live day-in and day-out in the suburbs of Italy. There’s hard work to be done but it was always rewarded with spending time with the people who matter in life, eating and drinking delicious foods, and trading stories and ideas into the late nights.
I did things that I do back at home, like bowling and billiards, but also did things I would have never done back in the States such as riding on a scooter and mixing my beer with Coke.
Moments of reflection each day were spent with a fresh cup of hot espresso in hand.
I saw a nation propelled with excitement for the World Cup, and witnessed their devastation with the failure to advance out of group. I made friends with people I could only hold small conversations with. I did and saw so many things that it causes my heart to ache just thinking that it will be a long time before I get to feel the same way again.
Today we visited the Abbey at Monte Cassino. It was a very fitting place to visit on my last day.The abbey has a long history, but in the more recent span of its life it is known for a large World War II battle that took place there.
It was a 20-mile drive which gave me plenty of time to stare out the window and think about the ‘last time.’ With every chapter marked by some big change, usually the end of a year or the time I moved back home from college, I think about the ‘last time,’ I do or see something special or unique. The things I was thinking about had me crying again. It’s the littlest things too, like going to the Conad supermarket or admiring the neatly placed bales of hay on a hillside…
The abbey sits atop a mountain, and the road there had plenty of hairpin turns and overlooking cliffs. But the ride was worth it with the view at top.
We got there a bit late, about a half hour before they close the abbey during the week so we didn’t see everything. What I did see was beautiful. The courtyards were mostly white stone accented with a green garden. There were a few doves perched on the rafters. After our mini-tour of the abbey we went to the nearby Polish cemetery. As mentioned before, there was a big WWII battle here, which you can read all about on the Wikipedia page.
And so, tomorrow I believe before dawn for the airport. Through the next couple of weeks I’ll be editing my blog posts about my trip and probably adding a few posts reminiscing about my time here.
I have spent my whole life looking at pictures hung up on walls or pasted into photo albums of the Isola di Ponza, the small volcano-created island located about 20 miles off the coast between Rome and Naples.
I have spent my whole life hearing stories of its beaches and how soothing its waters are.
And I finally got my chance to live inside the pictures and the stories. And now I have my own to share.
We woke up at 6 a.m. and were on the road by 7. Some traffic set us back and after we found parking, we sped-walked to the docks in Terra Cina (a city close to Sperlonga and Napoli). We quickly purchased our tickets for the ferry and scrambled to make it on board on time. The ferry undocked only five minutes later.
The ride was close to an hour long. It gave me plenty of time to reflect on what today would mean for me. I kept recalling a blog post I read the night before by my favorite musician Gerard Way. It’s entitled ‘The Happy-Sads’, and in it he discusses how his depression gave him a view on life that while he could experience happy occurrences, he still felt sad. I was happy because I had been dreaming about this day for so long, but I felt the sadness too. I was nervous that the island wouldn’t live up to the expectations I had for it. I was nervous that after seeing the island, would I still see my beloved Italy in the enchanting mysterious way I have always seen it? And, could I ever feel this happy again once I returned to New York? Italy has been completely amazing and I fear my life back at home will pale in comparison.
Overwhelmed with these thoughts I teared up a bit and I was very grateful to already have my sunglasses on.
I didn’t have much of a view from the windows of the ferry to see the island before we arrived. I had seen the neighboring uninhabited small islands, but not the lovely spread of Ponza. When I stepped down the plank, it felt like I had to twirl around to take in everything. On my right side were docks and a swimming area, on my left there were bright pastel-colored buildings and homes slowly ascending a hillside, and in front of me was a little bustling street filled with people and taxis and bursting with life.
I could have spent all day standing there and watching the world revolve around me, but my feet knew to follow my cousins along the street until we came about a little shop next to a pedestrian tunnel. There the four of us rented two scooters to easily move about the island. I have never been on a scooter before and I must have looked a little silly clutching the sidebars so tightly, but, my goodness were they so much fun.
We sped up an down the the curvy hilly streets with ease and finally stopped at a set of stairs. We parked the scooters at the side of the rode and then ventured down these stairs. Marked every so often in paint was the word ‘Piscine’ accompanied by an arrow. ‘Piscine’ means ‘pools’ in English, and we followed the arrows to Le Forna. It was quite a walk down all these steps, but it offered some fantastic views of the ocean and some glimpses into the lush wildlife and little lizards of the island.
Le Forna is a region of the island and this beach is just one of them in the area. We placed our towels on rocks, changed to our bathing suits, soaked up a little sun before taking a dive into the incredibly beautiful water. Is the water blue, or is the water green? I have no idea how to respond to that. But it’s clear and clean and the water felt unlike any other ocean I’ve dipped it. It was smooth and the water didn’t weigh you down.
We swam right by a grotto and some caves, but I didn’t go too close to them. In the water you could see little fish hanging about in schools and small crabs scuttling about the rocks. It looked so peaceful under the water.
We spent a few hours at this beach sun-bathing, taking short swims, and even ate our pre-packaged lunches.
My cousins asked what I so far thought about Ponza and I stammered in my rugged Italian that I didn’t have the words in either Italian or English to describe its beauty.
A little after midday we packed up our sets, walked up the insane amount of steps, and jumped on the scooters again. We drove to another beach, I believed called Achilles and Lucia. This beach was very rocky and rough but we did manage to find a spot to lay our towels down, although we were a bit uncomfortable. I didn’t go in the water here because there were sea urchins on the rocks and they were difficult to see so I didn’t want to accidentally step on one or brush up on one. We stayed here for about an hour and a half, enjoyed some fruit and then finally returned to our scooters once more.
After we left this beach we took our time driving and stopped intermittently to take pictures of the scenery. The flora and fauna of the island juxtaposed with the multi-colored ocean was unlike anything. Simply divine.
We returned to the port area, brought back our scooters and bought some gelato at a nearby gelateria. I had nocciola and frutta di bosco. A little weird considering nocciola is essentially Nutella and frutta di bosco is mixed fruits but it was delicious. The nocciola flavor was exceptionally savory. We didn’t have any time to look at the other shops before boarding the ferry and I was a little miffed I couldn’t buy any presents for anyone, but I guess my pictures will have to serve as the only tangible souvenirs from the island.
One day is not enough to experience the 2-mile Ponza. But on the other hand, I don’t believe a whole lifetime would fulfill it either. I made a mental note to scold my family later for ever leaving a place like this. I will be back one day Ponza, the island can be sure of it.
So I had another lovely weekend after my visit to Napoli. The only downtrodden thing was Italy losing their match against Costa Rica on Saturday. We’ll rebound against Uruguay tomorrow.
After the match, we had dinner, and then I showered. We took in a trip into Sora to see them setting up l’infiorata, which is a traditional festival before Corpus Christi (Corpus Domini). There were people creating street art with flowers and vegetables depicting biblical scenes. There was also a large stage set up in the piazza and they had little kids singing songs and it was really wonderful. I also got to try Italian frozen yogurt. I chose Nutella syrup and strawberries as toppings. Let me tell you how great of a decision that was.
On Sunday we headed back to the charming seaside town of Sperlonga. I bought a bathing suit right on the beach for 14 Euro. Not a bad price at all. The top fits perfect but the bottom is a little small. That’s okay because I like to mix and match my bathing suits anyway.
My time here is beginning to wind down. I feel it. I leave on July 3rd, so I still have plenty of time to soak in the local sights and culture. But, I already feel that sadness seeping into my mind. We were driving back from the beach and I was looking at the mountains against the sunset and I got a bit teary-eyed. These sights have become so precious to me and I know I will miss getting to stare and revel at their beauty. I am envious of this life.
On the 28th, my cousin and I are going to Ponza for three days. The island of Ponza is where my moms side of the family originated from. They all moved to New York in the early 1900’s. I’ve heard varied stories as to why but the one that interests me most is the one where they were targeted by the fascist party and left to avoid capture by Mussolini’s camp. The island of Ponza and the neighboring island Ventotene served as political prisons for opponents of fascism. Mussolini himself was imprisoned on the island for several weeks after he was overthrown in 1943. But that was much after my family had left.
I’m so excited for this trip. I won’t rush through the week though because I know how short my time is running.