Well, my back and legs hurt, I’m dead tired and I can’t eat pasta or pizza anymore…but Italy was the most amazing week of my life! First thing when we ported in Naples, a few friends and I grabbed a taxi and went up to Mt. Vesuvius, the volcano that famously destroyed Pompeii long ago. Our driver, Giuseppe (pronounced, according to him, “Josep”) was the coolest guy ever – he drove us around for eight hours, waiting for us to climb the mountain, explore Pompeii and even eat authentic pizza for the first time. He sang for us, let us stop to take pictures, and everything in between.

We trekked up Mt. Vesuvius and got to look into the crater and all that jazz, but it was a little disappointing until the very top – that’s when the fog miraculously lifted and gave us a 360-degree view of what felt like the entire country of Italy! What a great way to start our trip to Italy. Next, we were whisked away to Pompeii, where we were greeted with a few testers of local alcohol (I believe it’s spelled lemoncello?). I’m not going to lie, most of the testers tasted like crap, but it was still fun. We brought a bottle of wine to Pompeii and sipped it while exploring the awesome ruins.

Later in the day, we saw the coliseum of Pompeii, the only structure that seemed to still be somewhat intact. We also saw some bodies trapped in plaster, an old brothel and the community baths. After running through a closed-off vineyard and hopping a brick wall to meet Giuseppe on time, we headed back to Naples.

Naples itself wasn’t that impressive to me – the garbage workers are on strike right now so there are garbage piles everywhere. But even more than that, it just was a creepy, crowded city; which is unfortunate, because all the surrounding areas (Vesuvio, Capri, etc.) were really cool! But the one thing I can definitely say for Naples is that the pizza is freaking amazing! Best pizza I’ve ever had in my life, hands down. No more Pizza Hut for this guy…

The second day, I went to Capri with a huge group of Semester at Sea kids…we took a 45-minute ferry there and rented a little boat. We grabbed some HUGE, cheap bottles of wine and got an hour and a half long tour of the coastline of Capri. That little town is absolutely gorgeous – unfortunately the world famous Blue Grotto was closed due to high tides, but we still got to get out and swim, see a natural arch and other cool things.

On the third day, I did Mt. Vesuvius again because some of my friends hadn’t done it yet and wanted to…once again, it was awesome! Then, we caught a train to Pisa that night and got in around midnight. It was actually a really cool little town in my opinion, but I could definitely see why you would only go there for the leaning tower. After eating and wandering for a bit, we found a hostel called the Pisa Hostel and got some nice cheap rooms for the night (we only slept for a few hours…). We got up around 6 am to trek over to the leaning tower and got some awesome pictures of it as the sun was rising!

As soon as we could, we got on a train from Pisa to the Cinque Terre. For those of you who don’t know, that is a succession of five little cliff side towns on the west coast of Italy. They are absolutely gorgeous – we took the whole day to hike through them. Some of the most amazing views and pictures were captured here, and I can’t wait until I have a good internet connection so I can show everyone!

After a horrible (to say the least) overnight train ride from Monterosso to Civitavecchia (where we ported for our days in Rome), we finally got to explore the big city itself! Our first day, we explored the Spanish Steps, went down to the Trevi Fountain and the Villa Borghese. All three were pretty incredible sights. The second day in Rome, we hit the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and Vatican City. I loved all these places, and the Sistine Chapel definitely was worth the visit (yes, I snagged an illegal picture with my camera in there).

On the last day in Rome, we visited the Pantheon, then took the train back to Civitavecchia for one last pizza/gelato meal. Overall, my visit to Italy was an absolute blur, and despite all the sore muscles it was worth every Euro spent! I cannot wait to go back, especially to Rome and the Cinque Terre. Stay tuned for a brief recap after Croatia, where we are porting tomorrow morning!