I’ve always had people tell me about the perks of taking Latin; their eyes widen, they look about as if to make sure that no one is watching, and tell me that it’s going to boost my SAT vocabulary score, look great for college, and help me save helpless baby seals from vicious predators or something like that. Well, I guess they won in the end, because I took Latin for 6 years. I’m not sure I’ve really seen the benefits they promised (the only question I got wrong on the SATs was a vocabulary question), but I LOVED it. I loved reading Roman poetry, being able to translate pretentious Latin mottoes on public buildings, and being able to speak the language (even though that’s a useless skill).
However, one of the AWESOME things about taking Latin that long was that I got to go on a trip to Italy with my AP Latin class two years ago, hands down the most incredible trip I’ve ever taken. So I thought I’d share some of it with you. The trip was 12 days long and I don’t think I could fit everything into a bloated novel, so I’ll just cover my top five favorite parts.
We landed in Naples after a sleepless red-eye flight from a layover in France (the international Parisian airport is about the nastiest airport to travel through I’ve ever seen. Avoid it at all costs, unless you enjoy smelly carpeting that looks like it belongs in a 1970s movie theater and above-100 degree temperatures INSIDE when it’s 75 degrees outdoors). Despite our somewhat rough night, we all felt awake as we drove through Naples. The villas were gorgeous and looked exactly as you’re picturing them now. Our first stop was the famed ‘Solfatara’.
For those of you unfamiliar with the locale, these are massive sulfur pits that spew noxious gas into the air. It may sound like an odd place to start, but the Italians have long claimed that breathing the sulfur-laden air provide health benefits unavailable elsewhere. Not to mention that even the pits themselves were beautiful to look at. There’s also a small café near the pits, where we stopped for our first taste of Italian food. This is not a food blog so I won’t write about how amazing the food was, except that I just did… oops.
After Naples, we stopped at Sorrento, a more touristy resort town in Southern Italy. Despite its touristy feel, Sorrento puts Miami Beach to shame. If you’ll direct your attention to your left, you’ll notice the white sand beaches and the cliffs overlooking them. I’m personally glad I don’t live in Sorrento; if I did, I wouldn’t have any motivation to do anything except sit and watch the sea all day. Sorrento’s nightlife is almost as cool; at night, the town lights up and comes to life. Street vendors haggle loudly under the soft yellow glow of streetlights, nightclubs playing techno music can be heard from the sidewalks, and the good people of Sorrento all go outside to enjoy the crisp night air and the social scene. Our Latin teacher, who knows Sorrento well, took five of us down a labyrinthine system of alleyways to what must have been the best gelato shop we visited during the entire trip. If you find yourself in Sorrento, go out at night and explore. The surface is just the beginning.
We traveled from place to place by bus, which meant lots of driving time, but I loved it. Our bus had tables, so we played card games, slept, and if we got bored, watched the picturesque Campania countryside roll by.
- Chess Game with Former President of Harvard Chess Club (He Won)
One of the stops we made was to Pompeii, which was awesome for several reasons. Reason the first is that we used the Cambridge Latin course textbooks, which begin in Pompeii. Another is that Mt. Vesuvius (which we climbed, but that’s another blog post) perfectly preserved the town when in erupted. Having been excavated by archaeologists, Pompeii is still intact, just as it was for the Romans almost two millennia ago. If you’re taking a trip to Italy, spend some time in Pompeii; it will really give you a feeling for what Roman life was like.
- Pompeii Just Before Lunch
A few days later we reached my favorite place: Roma! Rome is a spectacular city that has many attractions you can read about on other websites. I’m going to tell you what I loved about it. My favorite part was the balance between the past and the present. You walk through a cosmopolitan urban environment and suddenly spot ruins from the first century right in the middle of the block. It’s like someone sprinkled parts of the Roman civilization onto a modern city. If you choose to visit Italy without experiencing Rome, shame on you. One recommendation I would make for Rome though… buy a traveler’s purse that you can wear under your shirt. One of the most popular tourist destinations in the world naturally showcases some of the most talented pickpockets on the planet. I found it kind of funny almost. There are signs that say ‘Beware pickpockets’, but the thief are clever enough to stand right by the signs. People see the signs and immediately check their purses/wallets to make sure they’re still there. Of course, they just showed the thief exactly where their valuables are… and the pickpocket will follow them. I consider myself reasonably savvy when it comes to keeping money safe, but I almost got pick pocketed walking down a crowded alley with a group of friends. Fortunately, I had my guard up and the thieves trying to steal from me did not escape my notice.
- Waiting Outside of Our Hotel in Rome
- A Deliciously Stereotypical Photo
Our last stop on the trip was Venice, which is exactly as beautiful and cultured as all the cliché romance movies make it seem. The shopping is incredible (city of merchants and all that), but I loved the restaurants and the music. One of my future life goals is to go back and hear a different concert each night for a week (I’m a huge Vivaldi fan). If you enjoy walking, cities in the water,
good spectacular food, glass blowing, and classical music, please make Venice a stop on your trip.
- A Huge Bug I Found Outside the Hotel. I Named Him Henry
- Gondola Ride
I hope you’ve enjoyed this entry; I know I enjoyed the trip more than my feeble words here can hope to convey. Arrivederci!