Return to Napoli 


“Even now I miss Italy dearly, I dream about it every night.” ~Eila HiltinenTuesday September 1, 2016

Day 102

Napoli, Italia.
The dirty streets of Napoli delivered just what I needed. I came back from Sardinia after spending 5 nights sleeping on beaches and one on the top deck of a ferry boat outside. I was ready for a warm sleep and a friend. 

I had stayed with him before I went to Sardinia and he was one of my favorite people I’ve CouchsurfEd with. Very knowledgeable. Walks a lot. Affectionate. Tiny apartment with a loft bed and toilet inside the shower and the beautiful big terrace which was the roof of an old church. He knew where the cheap wine was and the good food. Cheap food. He was the adventure I needed. 


He took me to a gorgeous beach. I had to give my passport to the man in charge in order to get in. But people swam around the barrier to get in anyway. They were trying to keep it a special place. A pretty place. Not many people. The other beach where everyone else laid around was crowded. The water was clear. The cliff faces were stunning. He took me to a sea cave tucked in amongst the rocks. We shouted into it and giggled as it echoed. We attempted to walk through it until he stepped on something soft and squishy and we turned back. We ate bread and cheese and grapes and laid in the sun. It was a long walk down to the beach through a gorgeous twisting turning road. The sides of the road were walls that enclosed fancy villas with wild gardens and stunning views. 


After, we hiked back up to the top and wandered through a pretty park that ran the length of the cliff and led itself to some gorgeous panoramic views. Beautiful flowers. Water spigots that provided much needed fresh water in the midday heat. 


The evenings when we got back from our adventures we’d shower the hot sticky sweat off and laze around. On the terrace, smoking cigarettes and chatting. Up in the loft, trying to take a nap but my second wind would come and I’d get way too excited and I would ask him the most random questions i could think of or play dj with the songs on my Spotify. 

Then we would go out to get wine at his favorite place. A whole bottle for 2 euros. We would take it to the steps of a church or a bench in a park or on the edge of a fountain and talk. Tell stories. Joke around. After 2 bottles down we wandered to find his friends. He was quite famous with his friends. Napoli people are intriguing. Very different than any people I’ve ever met. I loved it. At one point we’d realize we’d barely eaten all day and go get a pizza. We’d sit on the curb and stuff it in our mouths in the light of the distant streetlights, the cheese oozing and dropping off the slices. We’d fight for the cheese bits that dripped off our slices. 

I always found the most magical things in the graffiti. Beautiful messages. In English and Italian. “I love you forever” and whatnot. 

One night I saw, “why did an angel break my heart?” A deep sadness washed over me. 

The 3rd day he took me on the train. We were going to go to a lake. Into the wilderness. But on the way, it was so hot we decided to stop by the sea. The sand was dark, crunchy like brown sugar. People were scattered about, scarce. The view in front was wow. A castle on one side and a little island on the other. Neither of us thought to wear swimsuit so we hopped in in our undies. No one looked twice. There were a lot of teenagers with boom boxes of sorts, blaring Italian pop music. Their heads thrown back in laughter. Lots of romance all around. Guys kissing their girl’s necks. People laying on each other on beach blankets. 


We went to a grocery store to grab lunch. I am always fascinated by foreign grocery stores. Everything looks and smells so amazing. We got bread and some sliced meat thing and artichoke hearts. 

As we exited, it started pouring down rain and we had to seek refuge under an ivy covered gazebo. It was a warm rain. I could see the sun still shining off to one side. A rainbow was going to appear. I was sure of it. And to my delight, as we finished the last bit of our makeshift sandwiches (more like bread ripped apart with our hands and meat thrust in and dipped in garlicky artichoke olive oil marinade) the rainbow appeared. Right over the hill we had to cross to get to the lake. And the rain let up. 

We walked down this lonely road. Bamboo lined one side and an abandoned looking vineyard was on the other. We snuck a thing of grapes and munched on them, spitting out the seeds as we walked. We found fresh, plump blackberries hidden amongst the bamboo. We are those too. Further on, we found a fig tree and grabbed some of those too. The sky was still cloudy, but we were blissful. We joked that we were like Adam and Eve. Wandering around, alone, the only humans, eating all the forbidden fruit. 

The lake was huge. Still, no sign of humans except for the music carrying over the lake from a party going on on the opposite end. We walked around. Picked more blackberries. Tried to get the dragonflies to land on our fingers. Spotted turtles. Tried to catch frogs.


And there was this ancient roman ruin up ahead. He told me it was from an ancient Roman bath. I wanted to touch it. Extract it’s stories from the crumbling walls. Unfortunately it was too wild around and I couldn’t get close. We walked a little further and I spied some benches off to the side near the ruins. I explored and found a trail that led down to the ruins. It was wow. I touched it. I wanted to climb it. I wanted to explore. I wanted to know its secrets. He called me back. We laid out a towel and laid around in the peaceful wild nature with no one around and told stories of growing up. 

Soon enough it was time to go back to the city. Our evening of showering and being lazy and wine continued. We met some of his other friends. As we walked back, we heard music. We danced and danced. Swirling and spinning and moving. 

Back at his place, as we smoked our final cigarette for the night he looked at me, “You know, my friends think we are good together. That you are good for me.”  

That was that. I left the next morning with a heavy heart. I had found a new kindred spirit. A new soul that I had touched. A new person that showed me that I could be loved. That I was fun. 

But my time in the Shengen was drawing to a close. I had started my 3 months in June 3 and it was now September 1. 

I didn’t want to leave Italy. It was the best weeks. It was beautiful. Rich with culture and food and history. The people are my favorite. The sun the warmest in every sense of the word. Wine everywhere. Vineyards. Beautiful people. Just everyday I couldn’t help but smile. 

I flew away to Croatia the next day. For a few more days of sun and sea before heading east.

Advertisements

Hitchhiking in Sunny Sardinia


“The best teacher is experience and not through someone’s distorted point of view”. ~Jack Kerouac
Saturday August 27, 2016

Day 98

Sardinia, Italy 
Sardinia. The Italian Caribbean. Absolutely stunning waters. Glorious shades of Aqua, teal, emerald and all the blues and greens in between. Some of the beaches had the color of a pristine swimming pool. I could imagine I was in one, until I went under and my eyes began to sting from the salty sea water. You could see your toes. You could see the fish flitting about below. Some of the beaches you could wade out nearly 75 meters and the water was still just barely at your waist. It was warm too, in the night I preferred to be in the water than out due to the setting sun taking the warmth with it. 

I will have spent 5 nights here. Every night I ended up sleeping on the beach. Not a bad way to sleep… In the dunes of the sand or in a little rocky cove tucked away… Waling with the rising sun. Spectacular sunrises here too. All across the horizon the colors changed and swirled until the sun burst over the hills beyond. But certainly not the most restful or comfortable. And it gets cold at night. 

Day 2… I wandered up and down Paetto beach. Tried to sleep since I hadn’t the night before but it was much too hot. I wandered up and down the streets of Cagliari. An interesting town. Lots of windy streets and fancy restaurants and souvineers shops. You can walk up and up and get a superb view of the town and surroundings and the sea. But I wasn’t feeling the best vibes from people, though I had heard happy people reside here. I tried to link up with a few CouchsurfErs but from the tone of their messaging they were not necessarily offering their couch, but their bed, next to them. I politely declined, saying I’d rather sleep on the beach. And so I did. I also discovered that the hostel will hold your bags for you for 3 euro a night, which was super helpful since I didn’t want to carry it anymore. 

Day 3-4 I met up with a CouchsurfEr after messaging him and asking if he could tell me a beautiful beach to sleep on. He decided to come along and show me. Perfect!! We spent the morning touring a few of the local beaches. Emerald waters. Pure white sand. Tons of dark, leathery skinned people laying under their umbrellas. 

We went to his house. He lived with his parents and his younger sister. I hear it’s a thing here.. In Sardinia I think… To continue to live with your parents into your 30s. His house was huge and gorgeous. Short four minute walk to a perfect beach. I was in awe. His mom cooked an amazing homemade pasta meal which I tried hard notto stuff my face with. I was hungry and it was delicious. His mom said she had seen it in a cooking show but could never find the recipe… But she was pro that at least she got the colors in the sauce right

After stocking up on wine, bread, cheese and pesto (all of my favorite things 😍) we got on a bus that took us to the end of the line.. 5km down the road. 

The next part was my absolute favorite. We got to hitchhike!! It only took about 20 minutes of sticking out our thumbs to get a ride. A lime green car with just the shell, no real doors or roof. It was perfect. My friend and the driver, a sweet old man in a polo shirt and khakis, chatted the whole way. I stared in awe at the coastline. Every turn resulted in a spectacular view. I wanted to stop and jump in. It just got more and more beautiful. There were cacti and Palm trees all over. It looked like the desert. The coastline reminded me vaguely of the drive from Monterey, CA to Los Angeles, CA.. But instead of waves crashing, there were all the colors of blue and green. You could see all the rocks on the bottom, even when we were way high up on the road. 

Our first stop was my favorite beach ever, Mari Pintau. Wow. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! It was like all those pictures.. those calendars.. The water was the most amazing color of blue. Like a pool. So crystal clear. I walked out and twirled around and wiggles my toes. You could see everything, even if you were up to your shoulders… And swimming where my toes could reach, you could still see the bottom. The fish below. It was transparent. It was wow. 


After getting my full of swimming there, I grew anxious to keep moving. 

We got another ride with a young couple in an RV. They were on vacation from mainland Italy and decided to take the girl’s parents RV so they didn’t have to pay for a sleeping place. Once again my friend chatted with them while we woke up and down the road, tight s curves surrounded by cacti. With rolling mountainous hills on one side and cliffs beaches with little coves and beaches on the other.

We got dropped off in Villasimius and were told we could reach the beach just 5km walking down the road. No problem. The sun was beating down. I loved it, but craved a beer or gelato or nice cold glass of white wine. The sun, as hot as it was, was beginning to set sowe quickened our pace, finally making it to one of the many beaches in the area, Spiaggia del Riso. It was a beautiful little cove with a row of sailboats separating our cove and the sea. It was getting dark so I couldn’t exactly see the clearness of the water but decided it would be a wonderful surprise for the morning. We opened our wine and dove into our dinner. The sunset was gorgeous. The stars came out. I always forget that sleeping under the stars means the sun is gone which means the warmth is gone and therefore I forget to bring warmer clothes. We ended up crashing at midnight and since the sun rose behind cliff behind us, we got to sleep in a bit longer than usual (8am). Restless, cold I kept waking up to admire the stars above. 

And I was finally able to see the sparkling waters  we slept by. The clear transparent water. How it sparkled in the Sun. I jumped in for a little wake up/polar bear swim (even tho polar bears would die of heat in this water) and we headed on to explore the rest of the beaches in the area. 

Porto Giunco. Timi Ami. Simius. Long stretches of beautiful sandy beaches, clear Aqua waters. Lots of people. Lots of large sun umbrellas. And, as with all the beaches too, the peddlers selling their wares. Walking around with 10 hats on their head to sell or a large cardboard square full of sunglassess. They liked to wander amongst the people lazying around and lean down into their spade and ask if anyone wanted anything. 


After stopping more than a few times for pictures and swims in the sea, we reached the town again. We could wait two hours until the bus came.. Or we could hitchhike. 

And we did. And caught a ride after 30 minutes in the hot sun. He was relaxing in the shadows, melting even there. I was out by the road throwing my thumb up for every car that drove by and flashing a friendly smile. He would occasionally shout ideas and advice and tips on hitchhiking. He was a pro. Tho he had never done it on his own island before, but certainly China and Japan. 

We got all kinds of looks. Some shrugged as they sped past. Some gestured that they were just about to get off just up the road. Some motioned that they were already full. Some waved. And some outright stated. Most avoided our gaze and looked the other way.

A beautiful white car pulled over. Two men got out. An older man and a younger man. The younger man had yellow pants with cherries on them and a bright yellow, orange and green patterned shirt. I remember I was impressed. The older man knew some English and was genuinely curious, asking me questions. They had thought I was alone hitchhiking since my friend was staying cool in the shadows, mostly hidden from view of the road. They gave him a bad time for having me be the one out in the sun trying to get a ride while he relaxed. They ended up taking us nearly all the way to my friends house where I got a much needed shower and scoured the Internet for inspiration on my next move. 

I wanted to go back to Napoli. My friend there was one of my favorites. I missed having a friend. I was lonely. The beaches are beautiful and lovely and all that, but it’s not as much fun when you are alone. And I was just about to leave my friend, since he lived with his parents it was too complicated to have me stay and I didn’t want to intrude on a whole family. Flights out were over 150 euros. The only ferry to Napoli was Monday night. I wanted to go the next day. I looked into ferries. They were overnight ferries. It left Cagliari at 8pm and Put me just outside if Rome at 7am. Perfect. 

Just one more night alone on the beach. I could do it. 

I went back to town for some wine and to catch a bus to Chia, supposedly there were some nice hedges there. Of course, I missed it. Daydreaming. I got a few messages from CouchsurfErs, some being too far away or out of town or doing the creepo talk.   

I went back to Paetto. Discouraged. I wandered until I found a bar that wasn’t so crowded, plugged in my phone and of course the Internet wouldn’t work. 

I was at my breaking point. 

Then I heard it. Outside on the patio there was some guitar music and a mans sweet voice lulling some Bob Marley. I took my beer outside to finish and ended up staying til 1 listening to them. I was the only one on the upper patio with these two guys singing and playing their hearts out. I was in heaven. I could actually sing along to the songs too 🙂 it was a perfect moment of the universe telling me I was where I needed to be.

Sleep came easy. I curled up in the dark and tucked my stuff between me and the wall. I was out like a light. 


Day 5… The next morning I went to check on the ferry. The boat for the night was full. That meant I had to wait one more night. Sunday night. My heart fell.  Once again I tried Couchsurfing but the Ones that responded were 4 hours by bus and the only bus was at 2:15 and I had to be Back to Cagliari the next day. Not worth it. Sadly I passed and told them it wouldn’t work.. 

And so now I’m on my way to Chia. For my last night on this beautiful, strange island. 

Then back to good ol Napoli. With my friend. Maybe this time I’ll find the catacombs. Or at least eat pizza… But drinking bottles of wine in the moonlight church steps and talking if anything and everything isn’t so bad at all. I’ll be happy with just that. Human connection is what I’m looking for. And laying around listening to music, mine then his… Sitting up on his terrace overlooking the kids playing street football…  

But for now I play in the waters and soak up some sun for how could one be sad surrounded by these waters 🙂

Venice is not just for lovers 

“Venice is the most romantic place in the world but it’s even better when there’s no one around.” ~Woody Allen. 
Wednesday August 17, 2016

Day 90

Venice, Italy 

 Venice… Everyone I talk to says its one of the most romantic cities on earth. With its little canals and gondola rides in sunsets and quaint little restaurants with candles and wide brimmed wine glasses and beautiful narrow streets… 

They asked me why I would go to such a romantic city by myself? 

“I bet you are going so you can find your own Italian Stallion, eh?” They would laugh, slapping my shoulder for emphasis. “Come on, you know how Italians are….” They would wink coyly. All I could do was laugh back. Listen. This is my trip. There is no right or wrong way to travel. I’m going because I want to see it. I want to experience it for myself. I don’t need to follow societies rules.  Besides, I am not looking for love. I want friends. Experiences. Memories. Moments. And I can find that just fine without a lover. This is MY time. And I am loving it. 

But most of what I saw were restaurants overflowing with tired, hot and worn down tourists stuffing pasta, pizza and wine into their face, but pausing first to take a picture to show off to the world that they were having the best day ever. The narrow streets were packed… rivers of lost people. And they all walked soooo slow. Pausing to check their phone or snap a picture, causing everyone following in their footsteps to make quick attempts to avoid a human domino scenario. 

I have to admit though, I was quite charmed by some parts of the deeper bits the city. The bits where locals lurk and the typical tourist is too happy with the known to want to venture off. I talked to the dishwasher who was dumping dirty water into a back alleyway, asking him about his day and where i should go. I talked to a bored looking young lady sitting behind the counter of a beautiful jewelry shop. I was going to find the secrets. And I certainly ran into some strange and beautiful people. 

I arrived and was hit with an overwhelming sense of thrilled excitement and nervousness. I had no idea where I was sleeping that night. The hostels were full. The hotels were absurdly expensive. 

I wanted badly to run around the city and find all the secrets. The nooks and crannies. But I decided to do the logical thing and try to find a place to sleep for the night. 

I wandered until I found a cute little cafe with beautiful umbrellas decorated with dangling Italian flag colored tassels over their tables and signs for free WiFi. I ordered a Spritz and sent out a few last minute couch surf requests. I always hate doing that.,. I usually like to take my time and write a nice message and personalize it to that person cuz I genuinely want to stay with them. But today I let fate take over. I sent out a bunch at random, each one with a quick little personalized remark so it didn’t look too much like a copy-and-paste. Because I didn’t write to just everybody. But to the ones I thought would be interesting to stay with. Ones that I knew I would get along with or sometimes those that seemed not like me, as a challenge to still find things to connect over. 

Thankfully I got a response within 5 minutes and another option for the next night. I promised I would be at their house with a bottle of wine at 7. Perrrfecctttt!! 

I threw my huge backpack over my shoulders, it seemed to increase in weight every time I put it on. After paying, I headed out to explore. 

My favorite thing. I weaved in and out of the alleyways and over the canals. Trying to take the path less traveled. The way with the least amount of people. Soon I found myself deep in the labyrinth. The only one around. It was beautiful. It really was a beautiful town. Colorful buildings. No cars. Surrounded by water. Canals. 

I grew weary with the giant backpack on my back. The sun beat down, causing my throat to grow raw with thirst. But wow this city sure had a lot of pretty. 

That night, as I was walking to my CouchsurfErs place, I noticed the clouds looked a little murky. Weird. I checked all the street signs and couldn’t find the one I was supposed to turn on. I felt a raindrop. 

Weird. I looked up. More raindrops pelted my face. 

Perfect. 

I kept walking, quickening my pace, debating if I should stop to pull out my sweatshirt or my rain fly for my backpack. 

I finally found the road. Just as I turned, the sky opened. Buckets of water fell. I shook off my flip flops and carried them. At least it was warm rain. After another ten minutes of walking in the rain, I finally made it to his place and I was greeted with a warm towel and eager conversation. 🙂

As the night passed, more people joined. His roomate, his friend, and 2 other Couchsurfers. All of us different ages. All of us from different places. Different countries. Different paths in our lives. Different languages. Different upbringings. But all of us with the same mindset.

The world is our oyster.