My ship left early on the 19th of September. So early in fact, I had to stay out the night before because there wouldn't have been a launch boat for me to get ashore before it departed in the morning.
So I had to start my leave early, the damnedest luck. Although I did have to foot the bill for a four star hotel at the last minute, I didn't really mind. I would leave Naples the 19th as well, having already seen most of what I wanted to in time that I had ashore during the week while the ship was still there. It was actually a relaxed few days of work leading up to my vacation as we adventured thru the hectic streets of Naples (which I personally got to drive through, and that was an exciting yet stressful endeavor), all over Pompeii, and even up to the crater of Mt. Vesuvius!
Standing atop the sleeping beast I remember thinking how foolish all of the nearby residents are. Especially with the daily reminder of their worldwide attraction still set in 79 A.D. I also remember thinking that the wine we toasted to after looking out at the sea and the ship that brought us there, that the wine grown on the side of the volcano, was horrible! From the top you could see Pompeii and the rather long path leading to the ancient city that the smoke and burning debris had to travel.
I'm still amazed at so much from Pompeii, the size and the sophistication of the society in particular. I made my own way through the city after I grew tired of crowds of people in my picture frames. I only feel slightly bad for hopping wall after wall and to see behind the scenes. After all, it was evident that I was not the first one to stray off the path, but at least I was respectful enough not to leave my wrappers and bottles behind. It was slightly creepy, however, exploring the ruins, hut by hut and church to church by myself, but it was also a much more personnel journey.
I caught a train to Rome out of Naples. In my cabin I met a nice older couple from Washington state that was on their way to Tuscany. We talked for a while after I attempted drawing some things and designing the family crest. Rome, like Naples, was a big city, but it was much different. I walked a few blocks from the train station, mentally patting myself on the back for booking a hostel so close that I wouldn't have to lug my duffel bag and absurdly heavy backpack too far. It was more of a coincidence actually, as I was keen on staying at this particular hostel that was conveniently located near the station.
It was late afternoon when I check in and I decided to take the night walking tour offered by the inn. A girl from Ohio led the tour, which started out at an old Roman bath, and ended two hours later at the Pantheon. Most of the sites were lesser known, by me at least; It was a good introduction to Rome. I ended up revisiting a few of the places the next day because they had been closed during the tour. I also searched for a microfiber towel for a few hours because I didn't want to pay for one at the hostel, and I would surely use it again on my trip. This was the start of my exhausting trip. I would walk ALL day, party most of the night, and then drag myself out to walk the cities again.
It may sound as if I am complaining, but there is really No better way to do it. I did walk and climb more stairs than I ever would've anticipated though. I spent nearly a full day at the Vatican and it was totally worth it. Saint Peter's Basilica was jaw dropping. From its sculptures to the view of the city, it was well worth the money and the climb. The Sistine Chapel and the museums were pretty great as well. I just wished that I had remembered more from my 18 credit hours of art history and the meaning and importance of a lot of the works and styles that I (at least) recognized.
This was where my struggle with motivation and discouragement for my own art began, and would last throughout Italy and Greece. In the presence of hundreds of masterpieces from the last few thousand years, I had mixed feelings. On one hand, I felt like an ass for not pursuing my art more, and sketching more, and studying more and just doing more artistic things (things of substance) in my free time than I have been. It was an aspiring feeling. Then, from the other hand I felt heavy and suppressed. The looming thought that there is so much amazing art from the past, and current artists that my work will surely never make a ripple, began to creep in. Not that I doubt myself or want to quit, I'm just a realist. Anyway, we all struggle with something right?
Rome was full of sights and I saw them! The nightlife that I found, was quite lacking though, and after 3 days with the Romans, by the 23rd, Florence was calling my name.
The station to hostel walk was a lot longer this time, but the streets of Florence were quaint and peaceful in the early evening, so I didn't mind the walk. I found some pizza after dropping off my bags, and proceeded to walk the city until I was lost. It's a tendency of mine, even though I usually have a destination, and a map, I usually get sidetracked and end up losing myself with in the new surroundings. Florence was an amazing city with a plethora of great art. Not being a huge city, I really felt a connection there and would love to stay longer in the future. The Uffizi museum was especially nice and included many artists and styles that I really enjoyed. Three days wasn’t enough.
I did slip away to Pisa for a few hours which was really great except I had to pay a fine on the train because apparently having a ticket isn’t enough. No one tells you that you have to validate it until they are also telling you to pay a 40 Euro fine. Fuck that! I talked her down to 5, playing the stupid tourist card.
Next was Venice! What a unique city, but damn it was expensive. What’s worse, I booked a hotel this time instead of a hostel, and out of the entire trip it was the worst place I stayed. I had my own room (more like a closet) but shared a one person bathroom with the whole floor. That wasn’t so bad, it was just extremely awkward because there was no frame to the shower, and it was directly adjacent to the toilet. What a mess a shower proved to be. I asked if there was a fridge at the hotel, or wifi and the clerk laughed and said, “No, this is just a one star hotel”! WTF, I didn’t even know 1 star’s actually existed, especially for 90 euros. Oh well, at least it was close to the station. Other than that, Venice was a blast as I had the best company in the world! It was quite easy to get lost there, and we kept going in circles, it felt like I was in the Labyrinth. On the water it was much easier, beautiful too! Venice didn’t last long enough either, but I nearly had to stay because the damn hotel almost made me miss my flight to Athens. The front desk which was supposed to be manned 24 hours was empty, and I was locked in at 4 am while needing to catch a bus to the airport. After searching for a key, yelling a bit, and banging around some, the guy finally woke up and came down to let me out. It was wild because I literally stepped onto the bus as the doors were closing.
The walk to my hostel in Athens would’ve been quite short if the metro was running. However, the first two days I was there, they were on strike which is a normal occurrence in Greece. The location of the hostel couldn’t have been better though, and its rooftop view of the Acropolis can attest to that. Although having some pretty sketchy areas, Athens proved to be very cool! Three days was more than enough to see the sites, but their nightlife is in full force and lasts until the sun comes up. Plus, the gyro’s and Greek salads are pretty damn good. Acropolis and all the sites and museums around it were very cool. It really is wild and humbling, walking around among such ancient ruins and trying to imagine the lifestyle and being alive in those times…