A Bit of a Dichotomy
17.04.2017 - 28.04.2017 15 °C
On Thursday, May 27, we took the speed train from Rome to Naples. Just getting to the Termini (main train station) was quite an adventure in the morning traffic jam. Our cab driver was excellent though. It still amazes us at how people here drive. There is little regard for right of way it seems, and do not think because you are a pedestrian that means they will stop or slow down for you, even if you are in a crosswalk. You take your life in your own hands just stepping off the curb. When you finally courageously step out into the street, you must rush to cross, dodge the cars who just keep going or those that edge up on you sort of like saying "Hey, hurry up!" and continually twist and turn your head to ensure you are still safe and remain in one piece. It was an interesting experience and makes me appreciate that in the United States you are somewhat safer in a crosswalk. As you travel in a vehicle along the streets, there can be people on scooters whipping around you on all sides. Some even travel on the wrong side of the street hoping to pass as many cars as possible before scooting back into the flow of traffic. Going one direction, there can be several cars traveling the same "lane" because many of the cars are tiny Smart cars or Fiats, but then there are giant buses and trucks, too. As John says, you can barely slip a credit card between the cars, yet we never saw even one car accident. It was truly amazing.
We had prepurchased our train tickets before coming to Italy, so when we went to the station we just had to show our printout to pass through into the train area. There was very little security there which surprised us after seeing police everywhere throughout the city, many with automatic rifles, especially at the major tourist attractions. It took awhile for us to find our gate, and then we had to keep watch on the ever-changing board to catch sight of our platform number. Lots of people were there scurrying around like little ants. They obviously knew what they were doing and regularly rode the train.
Much to our pleasure and surprise, we did not encounter any real difficulties. We had been warned of the possibility of pickpockets and such, but we must not have looked very vulnerable because we never saw anyone or encountered anyone who offered to carry our bags or help us in any way. I was happy not to deal with that issue. We will see if we are as lucky when we return to Rome next week.
The train ride was peaceful and pleasant. They come along and give you free water and snack bags in Business Class. I'm not sure that is the same throughout the train, but it was a nice surprise. In the little bag they gave each of us were crackers, a paper cup, a candy, and a hand wipe in a package. The travel from Rome to Naples was a quick one hour. Upon arrival in Naples, our driver met us just inside the station. From there we were off on a pleasant drive to Sorrento. The beauty of having a personal driver is you can stop whenever and wherever you want. We stopped for photos and to buy a converter for charging our devices. It is not an adapter like we brought from home which turned out to be malfunctioning. Most devices now are able to be used with just an extra plug because the device itself has built-in ability to adjust to the different voltage. Our first hotel loaned us one, but we needed to buy one before returning to Rome. It was great that our driver, Tomasso helped us find a store that carried the needed plug.
There is such a contrast between Rome, a city with busy, streets, crazy frenetic drivers, a church on every other street, and a ton of monuments and significant sights to see and the quieter city of Sorrento. Sorrento is really a city area created from four separate cities along the coast of southern Italy. The popular tourist location is the final city of Sorrento. It is filled with tiny tourist shops selling herbs, lemon everything, handbags, belts, and sandals made from leather, trinkets, and did I mention everything LEMON! They even sell limoncello ices at ten in the morning. That's a little early to imbibe. John and I call this area where our hotel is located Cruise Ship Way. It seems like all the cruisers come to this street to walk the little shops, and they are open from about nine until eleven at night. The street is active and engaging all day and night.
Although we are located on a busy tourist street, the remainder of the city seems quiet and rather peaceful. The drivers are not in a huge rush. They don't push you or rush to go through the intersection barely missing hitting people are very relaxed as well. We found the people in Rome were polite and helpful, but seemed more rushed kind of like some places at home.
At meals in a restaurant, you are never, ever rushed! You can sit for the entire evening if you'd like. They do not bring the check to you until you request it. That's very different from home. It was also the same in Rome. You are allowed to linger and visit, and people from table to table chat with one another. It is not unusual to have a full conversation with people from another table as a part of your evening.
Our hotel is lovely, the service is terrific and accommodating, and the room is huge with a very long hallway to the bathroom. John thinks it is larger than our first apartment, and I'm sure he is correct. It seems there is air conditioning, but we are not allowed to use it at this time of year. When you only have double doors that open to a Juliet balcony with our screens, you cannot get any cross ventilation. John is always too warm, so we have opened to doors anyway to keep the room cool. It is interesting to listen to all the goings on on the street below. It is silent when the doors are closed, but every conversation is easily heard when they are open. Breakfast is included each morning, and the breakfast room is huge, so we know there must be a lot of different rooms in this hotel. We don't hear anyone though within the hotel. There is a quaint elevator you access from the first floor above registration. You enter the courtyard at the ground floor, then climb up the stone staircase. After that you can access the elevator to go up to the other floors. In order to enter the elevation when it arrives, there is an outer door you open just like you were going into a room. Then there are two small doors that you push into the elevator before you step in. These doors must be closed, then you push the floor you want. You must push zero to go down to the floor where you get off and climb down the stairs, even though that is not the bottom floor. Now that was quite confusing at first, in addition, you must be certain to shut those little inner elevator doors, or the next person who wants to access the elevator cannot call it to their floor.
Upon entering the room, you must put a metal card into a slot by the door. In doing this, you activate the electricity in the room. If the slot is not filled with the card, then the electricity goes off automatically. It is quite clever, and I'm sure it saves on the electric bill! We removed the card from our key chain because we wanted it in there when we left the room in order to charge batteries and devices. We spoke with our maid, and she agreed not to remove it. We were sure to turn off all of the lights in order to conserve.
Today we were supposed to go to Pompeii and Herculenium but it was threatening rain all day. We moved our tour to Sunday, so we will have a very full day that day. We thought we'd go to Capri and see the Blue Grotto, but with the inclimate weather and wind it's not going to happen. If we don't get to go, then it gives us a reason to return to Italy. 😊
As we took a walking tour of the city today, we were approached politely by a small group of young students. They were doing a survey for school. As a part of it, they had to ask us a set of interview questions and record the entire process. At first John was quite cautious thinking it might be a scam, but it was just a bunch of small groups of three or four students who were given an assignment requiring them to practice their English skills. They though it wa super funny when they asked me my occupation and I responded retired teacher. There was a lot of giggling because they knew I would help them. One girl was very shy and not proficient in her English. The others made her talk to me, so I helped her a lot. She was so cute.
Eating is a big part of traveling because of course in a hotel it is difficult to bring food to the room to prepare. We have found the food to be delicious and really not as heavy and large portions as at home. Everything is more or less a la carte. Each course is selected separately. You can eat one or many courses. We have yet to eat more than two courses, like soup or salad and either pasta or meat. Well, if dessert is a course, we are experts at that one. 😂 The food in Italy is surprisingly different from the Italian food at home, at least so far. We haven't had anything yet that has as much garlic as Italian food at home. That has been a bit of a surprise. Everything is delicious though, and from what I understand the food is different in different regions of the country. We shall see as we go along.
Tomorrow our driver, Tomasso, is taking us to olive oil tasting, making mozzarella, making pizza, touring a lemon grove, and then following with limoncello, of course. It is addicting. This tour was at Tomasso's suggestion. It is out of town and will be a nice opportunity to see more of the area. But for now, we are off to dinner before it gets super late. We are enjoying a more relaxed day today and resting up for activity-filled days tomorrow and Sunday. Ciao for now!
P.S. I don't have time to proofread this, so I hope it makes sense. 💕