The ferry from Italy to Greece seemed new and clean. Like a mini cruise ship, there are restaurants, cabins, etc. Now most people buy cabins so they have a bed to sleep in for a 15.5h trip, but I tried out the “Deck” method. I found a plug in the wall, a chair, and a table, so as far as I am concerned that was good enough for me. However, sleeping wasn’t very easy. All the lights were turned on all night long, movies are playing all night and they can get quite loud, and there are no pillows or blankets. So I tried to sleep on the floor and maybe got three hours in before I started getting too cold.
The ferry arrived right on time, it was raining when I got to Greece though. The train station was nearby, so I went there and had a cheeseburger while I waited. In the afternoon took the final train (plus a transfer in the middle) to Athens. Then relaxed at the hostel the rest of the day.
I’m writing this in the morning since I won’t be able to send anything for the next day or two. My plan is to take trains from Naples to Bari, Italy this afternoon. Then at 8PM get on a ferry from Bari, Italy to Patras, Greece arriving at 12:30PM. Then another train from Patras to Athens, Greece, arriving in the city at about 5:30PM. This will be my first time on a long ferry like this.
Some bad news, I lost my iPod. It was in my pocket, but I think I dropped it on or around the seat of a train when I was taking things out of my pockets. So now I have no books or anything to listen to for these long rides. All I can count on now is my computer battery to hold out as long as possible.
Update: One thing about trains in southern Italy, they are always late. I thought I was going to have almost two hours to get on the ferry, but I had about one hour now. I could have taken the bus to the ferry terminal, but it wasn’t free, so I walked. Only a mile or so, but it looked like I was the only person crazy enough to walk through the docks and all the way there. I was able to get a “Deck” ticket with not too much time to spare.
Today I woke up fairly early and walked to nearby Herculaneum. It was an Ancient Roman city buried in over 70 feet of volcanic ash and lava in 79 AD. Archeologists have been uncovering the city for 200 years and I saw a few still working there. It was very neat to walk down streets and into homes that are nearly 2000 years old.
The next stop was Pompeii, a city with a similar fate but much larger. It much be a mile walk from one side of the city to the other. I was expecting to see lots of dead bodies and skeletons, but they were all removed except a couple plaster casts.
I took a break and found a Pizzeria. They had about 40 types of pizzas on the menu, but I picked out two: Margherita (the original pizza â€“ sauce and cheese) and Filetto (cheese & tomatoes). Naples is where the pizza was invented and every pizzeria here has a big stone oven that is wood burning with coals off to the side. It was nice to see them cooking it right in front of my eyes. Came out to about $9 total for these and they were about the size of a medium pizza. I was so hungry I ended up eating both in one sitting. They were fairly simple though, not as much crust and cheese as an American pizza.
The last stop of the day was the National Archeological Museum in Naples. This museum had a lot of the artifacts that were removed from the two buried cities.
I started off the day at the Museum of Roman Civilization. That museum is supposed to have a huge model of the city when it was near the peak of the Roman Empire, but that area was closed off today. Then I stopped at a church called San Paolo fuori le Mura. Later, I tried to find and walk an ancient Roman road called Via Appia. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a map of that area. I got close but didn’t find it. Instead, I came across a huge aqueduct and walked along that for a while.
In the afternoon I got on the train from Rome to Naples. Then I got checked into the hostel and that’s where I am now.
As for the weather, it has been clear skies and sunny for the past week or so. Temperatures have been in the lower 80’s for highs. So it has been really hot in the sun and I think that is above normal for this time of year. Today was the first day with some clouds and a little cooler. Now for gas prices, it looks like the going rate is 1.30â‚¬/l. If I calculated correctly, that is $6.70/Gal.
Today I spent most of my time at the Vatican. From the subway, I walked through St. Peter’s Piazza (plaza) to St. Peter’s Basilica; one of the largest churches in the world (could easily hold the Statue of Liberty). Unfortunately, I dropped my hat in there somewhere and lost it. I couldn’t find it, so I guess I’ll be hatless until I find a good replacement. Afterwards, I visited The Vatican Museum, which is the largest in Rome. The museum included the famous Sistine Chapel (no photos, but I snuck one). Later I visited The Pantheon which is an ancient roman temple that has a huge concrete dome with a circular skylight which is open to the air. For lunch, the first and only buffet I’ve seen in Rome was my choice. It was an Indian restaurant and seemed like some fairly healthy food. After two plates, the waiter took away my silverware; maybe they aren’t used to the all-you-can-eat idea.
The hostel I’m staying at doesn’t have any wireless. It is right in the middle of the city on the 6th story of an apartment building. Looking out the window, I can see all angles of roofs and many television antennas above. There are open windows close by and all around with laundry airing out and I can see neighbors talking to each other through the windows.
My plan is the next two nights in Naples, Italy. Afterwards, a ferry to Greece.
First thing I did today was walk to a new hostel, since the one I stayed at was full. The rest of the day was filled with seeing the ruins of Ancient Rome, mostly. This included The Colosseum (not inside), Circus Maximus, Roman Forum, The Capitoline Museums, four Egyptian obelisks (I believe there are more in this city than in all of Egypt), famous stairs and fountains, Mausoleo Augusto, Museo Nazionale d’Arte Orientale, Domus Aurea (not inside), San Pietro in Vincoli (church). In between I had lunch at a Chinese restaurant next door to the hostel. I did a lot of walking, so got pretty tired out.
I woke up and had a filling breakfast (with omelet) at the hostel. Yesterday I had scrambled eggs at the same place. You get to choose one main dish and then as much miscellaneous food (pasta, oranges, etc) as you want. So probably the best breakfast that I’ve seen in one of those places so far. I talked to one guy who said he is heading to Rome, “Only one hour by train!” That’s the express train. I told him I’m taking the slower, cheap train.
- 9:47AM – Got on first train in Florence.
- 10:00AM – Got off first train, wait for transfer.
- 10:23AM – Got on second train. So crowded, I didn’t even have a seat for the first hour. Well, I was able to sit down by the bathrooms on the floor, but not sure that counts.
- 1:03PM – Arrive in Rome.
- 1:30PM – Found the subway and got on.
- 1:50PM – Switched to a different train.
- 2:20PM – Got off the train. Wait for the bus.
- 2:50PM – Give up waiting for the bus, board the train again a couple stops closer to where I want to be.
- 3:00PM – Start walking to my destination
- 4:00PM – Arrive at the camping facility. Get turned away for not having a reservation.
- 4:30PM – Get back on the train.
- 5:00PM – Transfer back to the subway again.
- 5:30PM – Start walking to backup hostel.
- 6:00PM – Check into the hostel without a reservation.
So pretty much wasted the whole day. OK, I learned my lesson and booked rooms for the next 5 or 6 nights today. It is just really hard to find a good place in Rome. Right now I’m stuck at a place that isn’t very good. No place to lock up your luggage, only one bathroom, water all over the floor, just heard some people complaining about ants all over their toothpaste in there too. I’m changing to a different place tomorrow, but it doesn’t sound like it will be much better.
One interesting thing about this place is a Roman aqueduct that runs parallel to hostel’s road. It is neat to see these old structures popping up throughout the city. I went to a nearby pizzeria to taste my first Italian pizza. You can walk into a pizzeria and they have a large selection of readymade pizzas. So I pointed to one with spinach/ham/cheese and a second one with some herb, tomato, mushrooms, olives (strangely no cheese). They cut off as much as you want and they weigh and charge per Kg. It is all thin crust and it came out to $6 for me (four pieces). It was pretty good, but I think Italy invented the pizza and America perfected it.
Today I went to the Uffizi Gallery, which is supposed to be the most famous and important museum in the city. I tried to get there as soon as it opened, but the whole museum opened one or two hours late. There was a sign that said there was a staff meeting or something. So it got to wait two hours in line, but apparently that is normal for this place. I also walked around the city to see a few of the famous sights. Very crowded and lots of tourists. I talked to a couple of guys here from the USA and they said they just graduated college two weeks ago and have been traveling around Europe. That may be part of the reason why everything is getting so crowded.
Later in the afternoon I took a one hour train to Pisa, Italy. I wanted to see the famous leaning tower, but didn’t know exactly where it was. It wasn’t as close to the train station as I would have liked, but I finally found some signs after a while and made it there. Then another train back to Florence and that’s where I’m spending the night again. Tomorrow I’m planning on heading to Rome. I found a cheap camping type place an hour outside of Rome that I may try.
The conductor woke everyone up in my cabin at 7AM since we were almost to our destination. After a causeway over the water we came upon an island city: Venice. I didn’t really have a list of places to go or a map, so I set off walking around the city. It is quite large, over a mile in diameter, and not to many straight roads. There are no cars in the city, only foot traffic and boats. It was pretty much how I expected, lots of canals, old buildings, and tourists. I walked all morning and when I headed back to the station I did get lost for a while trying to find my way, but that’s all part of the fun.
Everything is really expensive in Venice, that’s why I’m not spending a night there. I think I saw large pizzas for $30, if I read the sign correctly. I did come across a supermarket, so I bought some cheap food including a 6-pack of ice cream bars for a special treat. I ate five and gave one away to a beggar I passed.
Continuing on my speedy portion of my trip, I took the train to Bologna, Italy. It was getting hot and I ran out of water, so I made it my goal to find some water in this city and I had an hour to my next train. Now to get water you can either pay your way into a bathroom for about $1 and fill up a bottle at the sink, or you can pay for a new bottle for over a $1. I’m trying not to buy water if I can help it. Later I did find a public faucet, but only a few drops of water came out. I ended up going into a Pizzeria and pointing to my water bottle and asking to fill up with “acqua.” And the guy did it, so that’s what I have to go through for a simple thing like tap water.
The final train was from Bologna, Italy to Florence, Italy. This is the first time I’ve gone to a city without a room reservation. And they guy at the counter said I got the last bed. And still not sure where I’m going to stay tomorrow. Now one big problem in Italy, public wireless is illegal without a government license. And when I do get wireless it is very slow. Also there is a law in Italy which requires logging of all websites visited by each person. So at the hostel I was giving a unique username and password to login with so they can record everything.
I’ve picked up the pace and started moving to my next country on the list. I started in Barcelona, Spain. Then I caught the 8:45AM train out of the country to Montpellier, France. Here I was finally able to buy my train tickets into Italy. I had an hour or so to kill before the next train, so I looked around the city. There are no “Dollar Stores” here, but the closest thing I’ve found has been a 2€ (Euro) store, which is a little over $2. This gives a good idea of the cost of living difference.
The next train was in the afternoon from Montpellier to Nice, France. Nice is on the Mediterranean Sea and is a big vacation spot. Although I was just there for an hour or two, since I don’t think there is much of interest there and the beaches aren’t that great. On both of the trains I got to see a lot of good scenery since the trains went along the water for most of the way. This is where traveling by train pays off.
Then at 10PM I left on a sleeper train from Nice to Venice, Italy. Another new country, new language, and new city.