Venice and Lake Como

After a few short days back in Sansepolcro, I packed my things and headed out for another travel break. On my second travel break, I traveled with five other girls to Venice, Lake Como, and made a short stop in Florence. Just as last travel break brought new understandings and conclusions, the second travel break brought out my inquisitive and curious nature.
Once we arrived in Arezzo by bus, we walked across the street to the train station to upgrade our tickets. Since we already had experience with upgrading our tickets, we made our way to the ticket desk and purchased a group ticket. Being the talkative girls we are and the need to sit together for safety purposes, we found out that you could buy a group ticket with seating assignments that we all together. After grabbing a quick snack from the café, we made boarded our train to Bologna where we transferred trains on our route to Venice.
Because of the location of our hotels, Katie, Amanda, and I got off at the first train station in Venice. The directions we had been given from the train station to our hostel were not exactly detailed, but somehow we managed to find our way to our hostel. To correct myself, I probably should mention that our hostel wasn’t actually a hostel, but rather a hotel. Our room was actually quite cute. It was a private room, of course, right of the common room with its own bathroom and three twin beds. The only thing I have to say I was not too pleased about was the Wifi that they had advertised all over their website. It was slow and could only manage a few users at a time. However, I had to remind myself that I had not traveled to Italy or Venice per say to use the Wifi.
It is so weird strong of an attachment our generation has to cell phones and technology. We have grown up in a society that has been more dependent on cell phones for constant communication through email, messaging, or social media sites. I have to say that I am attached to my cell phone. In times of silence or even in a quick transition from one topic or scene I find myself checking my social media sites to see what else is happening in the world. Technology is definitely a positive improvement for society. I could not imagine myself going this five weeks without being able to communicate with my family and friends back home. Through my cell phone and computer, I have been able to share my experience with them and they have been able to keep me updated with what is going on back home. However, there comes a time that technology becomes a road block in this experience. I know that if I was able to constantly use my cell phone, I would not be able to take in all the site around me. It’s hard to believe I would ever admit to this, but with my cell phone lost somewhere in my pocketbook, I find my attention focused solely on the world around me with no distractions.
After we washed up and got ready for dinner, we made our way to the bus stop to take a bus into Venice where we were meeting Leia, Molly, and Ashlea for dinner. Once we had finished dinner, we made our way down the street into some of the shops. We found ourselves surrounded by a large amount a blown glass. It seemed as if every store had different versions of the same piece.
Tuesday morning we woke up bright and early and headed back to Venice. Once we arrived, we stopped at a café for a quick breakfast of croissant and water. We then made our way
to the main tourist attraction in Venice, a gondola ride! Along the ride, we were able to see many different side streets, houses, churches. It was such a beautiful view of Venice. It felt as if we were spectators admiring a moving painting. The ride also exposed me to the flooding and decaying of Venice. There were many houses whose first floors were flooded and seemed to be decaying away because of the constant exposure to water.
It cannot be denied that the city is absolutely beautiful, but it made me wonder how and why a city was built on the water. I want to think that Venice was built around the water, not built and then exposed to water by some natural force. Either way, I am mystified on why the city was built the way it was. The flooding and decay of housing could not have been a new phenomena, but on that has happened over many periods of time. If this is true, then why hasn’t there been some type of improvement or method of slowing down the process. It cannot be easy to restore the houses that seem to be centuries old. However, I would like to think that the is an upmost of importance on the restoration of the damaged houses rather than a lack of concern. I was also bombarded with the thought of how the town was built. I am not exactly able to conceptualize how to build a city on water, especially a city this ancient. I would imagine the city was built on some type of slits, such as our beach houses are built along the coast to withstand high water. But even so, I was not able to see any evidence of this. Instead, I was only able to see concrete or block layers seemed to go beneath the water’s surface.
After our gondola, we made our way into the city streets to do some monetary damage. As we walked the down the streets poking our heads into many shops, we realized that we needed to go see another church for one of our journals. So we set out for the Basilica di San Marco. Along our hour walk to the basilica stopped in numerous shops, made a pit stop for lunch and then found ourselves right in the middle of Piazza San Marco staring ahead at the beautiful site. Once we had soaked up all the sites around and a cone of gelato, we boarded a water taxi to see more of Venice by water.
Wednesday morning we woke up bright and early to make our journey to Lake Como! We met the rest of the girls at the Venice train station! We grabbed a quick breakfast, upgraded our tickets, and boarded our train to Milano. After a few stagnant minutes we boarded another train to Varenna. Once we were in Varenna we walked down to the water way to ride the ferry to Menaggio on Lake Como. Even through the fog, the scenery was absolutely breath taking. All around us were these large mountains with small towns staggered across their bases reaching the water’s edge.
We managed to put on our bathing suits and head to what we were told to be a “private beach.” However, it was nothing of the sort. The beach we found was about 30 ft rock beach which was nothing that we were used to. We only sat laid on the beach for about twenty minutes before we decided we needed to make an adventure out of the trip. An hour later we found ourselves ten euros poorer and the key to a motor boat for an hour. Hiding the fact that we were a little scared about the adventure we had just chosen for ourselves, we made our way away from the dock. We all took turns driving around the lake until we found a good spot to lay out. The hour seemed to fly by as we enjoyed our time on the lake. After we had safely returned the boat, we made our way into the town to look at the shops and eat dinner.
Thursday morning rolled in just as fast as we wanted it. We woke up bright and early in order to make a pit stop in Florence. It hadn’t really crossed our minds that we would be carrying around our backpacks in Florence. Even though our time in Florence was short, we were able to get everything done. We made it back to Sansepolcro just before five to get ready for the long week of classes ahead.


Pompeii, Sorrento, and Capri

On the dreary Monday morning of May 27, 2013, Katie Shytle, Amanda Hall and I set out on our first travel break together. We did not know what adventures, lessons, and experiences that were awaiting us the next few days, but after the long week we had just experienced we were more than excited to set out on our own journey. The three of us girls were in route to Sorrento where we would visit also visit Capri and Pompeii.
Our nauseating bus ride got us into Arezzo a little after twelve o’clock. We had just enough time to activate our rail passes and grab lunch before our train left for Rome at one o’clock. As we waited in line to get our rail passes activated we were confronted with our first cultural barrier. The lady behind the help desk did not speak any English; therefore, when Amanda and I handed her our rail passes she had no idea what to do. Luckily, Katie happened to go to another teller where who to our advantage spoke English and knew how to activate a rail pass. The hardest part of living and trying to travel around Italy is the communication barrier. It is so hard to express what you need or want when you cannot connect in a common language. I know that it is so frustrating when I am trying to communicate to an Italian in another language that is often unfamiliar to them. However, until the moment at the train station I had not thought of how they must have felt and are feeling. Every Italian that I have asked for help or directions has tired their hardest to help me, so it is not like they do not want to help. So, when they cannot help us because they do not understand what we are asking and we do not know how to communicate, I would assume that they feel somewhat embarrassed and frustrated. From this recollection I have learned that I am not the only one feeling the consequences of the language barrier. During this process, we also realized that we would need to upgrade our train tickets because we were getting on a faster train. I did not mind paying three Euros at all if that meant our travel time would be faster. After we ate lunch in the café at the train station, we found our way to platform three to wait for our train’s departure.
After boarding our train, we found our way to our seat which to our surprise was a nice little cabin. Thankfully no one else was seated in our cabin, so we were able to stretch out and relax on our ride to Rome. Our nice relaxing ride got a little hectic when arrived at the Rome station. Since we had to upgrade our trains on the first ride, we assumed that our second train would also require an upgrade. We were not surprised when we check the departure boards and found this to be true. Upgrading the tickets was a lot harder in Rome than it was in Arezzo. As we searched through the train terminal for help, we found ourselves in a very long line with only fifteen minutes to our train’s departure. My nerves were getting the best of me and all I could think about was missing our train which would put the whole travel schedule behind. My mind was racing with all the work and configurations I had down with the two different train systems I had to use and then the bus schedule timetable. All of these things that I had no access to anymore due to my lack of Wi-Fi. In pure desperation, I searched the train station to the closest employee and asked him if we could upgrade our tickets using the kiosk. Thankfully, we were able to use them to upgrade our ticket and were once again on our way. The rest of our travel to Sorrento went quite well without any troubles. We arrived at our hostel in the early evening and rested in preparation the Tuesday’s travel.
Tuesday morning we boarded the nine o’clock bus to Sorrento. After we got into Sorrento, we found a nice pastry shop to dine in for breakfast. In the corner of the counter display, I spotted a huge sugar covered donut. The donut and coke light was a great start to the day! Back at the train station, we
boarded our train to Pompeii. When we got to Pompeii we were swarmed with tourist attractions, but we found our way past those to the real attraction.
After we purchased our tickets into Pompeii, we head into ruins of the once civilization. As weird as it may seem, it was so amazing to see a glimpse of what the Roman town was like before the volcanic eruption. It was so astonishing to think that the town was so preserved after such a traumatic event. There were so many people walking around the Pompeii that felt as if we were the new civilization. I wonder how it must have felt that day to see the smoke and ash filling the air. I cannot imagine the feeling of worry and concern that must have overflowed through the community. After doing a little reading, I found out that only 2,000 people were killed from the eruption itself. The death total seems quite small compared to the other natural disasters that have plagued the world in my lifetime, but I must remember that times were different back then. I wonder if these people, along with other civilizations, had some type of warning system. I would like to assume that the presence of the volcanic ash and the earth trembles they would have known something was to follow. However, I must also ask myself if these things were common to the volcano; therefore, the plume of smoke and ash was nothing to be afraid of.
As we continued to walk through the ruins, we came upon a caged in artifact area with pottery, pieces of columns, tables, and a few bodies. The pottery and other everyday pieces of life resembled those of the present day. All of the preserved artifacts were fascinating. However, there was one particular body that still haunts me. The body seemed to be that of a man in a position that resembled a man praying. His knees were pulled into his body and his hands were pulled together in front of his face. It was a very haunting thought that swept my mind, I couldn’t help but wonder if the man was praying for help. Since the Romans believe in the Greek god’s I believe he must have been calling on the god’s to help him during his suffering and to help the others around him. Pompeii left a dreary and heart wrenching thought in my mind. It was a mix of emotions and wonder. I could never contemplate the feelings of those who experienced the tragedy that day nor could I come to any solution about what I would have done in the final moments.
After leaving Pompeii, we made our way back to Sorrento where we were graced with warm weather and beautiful skies. We made our way from the bus station with high hopes of the novelties we would find. Sorrento is so beautiful and colorful. The air smelled of fresh pastries, gelato, lemon, and the ocean. After wondering in a few shops, we found ourselves inside of a painted glass shop. An elderly man ran the shop and was so proud of all the glassware he had in his little shop. He knew every detail about the color, design, style, and artist who painted the glassware and dishes. All of the pieces were absolutely beautiful. I could tell how much time the painter spent on each piece, making sure that no detail was left out. For some reason the atmosphere of the shop and the passion the elderly man reminded me of the southern hospitably in the south. Even though we were confronted with a slight language barrier, I could feel the welcoming and care the man took toward his customers and his shop. It is so nice to know that you can find reminders of home even when you thousands of miles way.
On Wednesday we woke up early and took a boat ride to Capri! Other than the sea being rough, the forty minute trip to Capri was absolutely beautiful. We took our time strolling around the city and also took a chairlift ride to the top of Capri. After a long day in Capri we headed back to our hostel to prepare for our travel back to Sorrento. Overall the travel break was a great, fun, and exciting experience. Out of the two days of travel, I would have to say that I enjoyed Pompeii and Sorrento the best. Tuesday was full of learning and new experiences that I will be remember for a life time.