Sorrento or a Dream?

By: Sara Whitman

I honestly cannot put my weekend in Sorrento into words. It was an absolute dream and I do not know how I got this lucky or how I deserved it. I am so thankful for every single thing I do and I will never let any moment go to waste or without gratitude. I cannot wait to see what other surreal things I experience on this trip.

I blogged about my whole weekend in Sorrento for my personal site, but in order to save readers from 3,000 words, I have taken excerpts of my writing from each day:

Night 1:

The ride to Sorrento was not too bad, and as we got closer and passed Mt. Vesuvius, the eagerness piled on. We arrived at the Sisters Hostel and then drove to dinner. We ate at a restaurant called Da Peppino. And by ate, I mean feasted. It seemed like a never ending line of new plates and options. We started off with a whole half chicken for each of us, which was probably the best chicken I have ever consumed, with its crispy, salty skin and moist meat. Then, we were greeted with plates of bruschetta, French fries, tomatoes and fried and grilled calamari. We ate like royalty.

Day 2:

We arrived at Capri and after a few minutes of sea-sickness recovery by some of my classmates, we boarded our private boat. For the next chunk of time, I felt like a complete celebrity as I cruised around this gorgeous island. Mixed in with jaw-dropping sites and fresh Bay of Naples air, we were fortunate enough to go inside the Blue Grotto. This is a sea-cave on the edge of the island that allows sunlight to pass through a small cavity and light up the water in a bright, beautiful blue color. I have never seen anything like it in my life. We were not sure if we would be able to explore it, because the water had to be the right level to fit into the small opening, and the water could not be too choppy. I would lay down squished in a tiny row boat any day to see this amazing sight.

Day 3:

After our time with the boat expired, were supposed to meet up with Shields, our tour guide, and rent chairs for the beach, but we could not find him. Luckily, the people working the beach gave us the discount Shields said we would receive, even though he was not with us. These beaches are not sandy, but full of rocks and pebbles, so the most comfortable way to relax on them is with beach chairs. These were nice lounge chairs one would find at a resort. As soon we we put our stuff down, Sarah, Lauren, Mitch and I headed for the water. After a fun swim, Professor Hillebrand waved us in for lunch. Because our group is so big and the sandwich shop we planned on ordering from is so small, only some of us went to pick up the food. Beachside delivery? I will take it! My sandwich, which came from Vini e Panini, was hands down the best sandwich I have ever consumed in my life. I got the “Randy Special,” which was stacked with mozzarella cheese, olives, salami, prosciutto, and a swipe of pesto. The rest of the day was spent swimming and relaxing seaside. I could do do this all day, every day.

Day 4:

After climbing Mt. Vesuvius and touring the ancient ruins of Ercolano, most of us were unsurprisingly completely exhausted, and voted to go back to the hostel. Once we dropped them off, only four of us, plus Shields and Professor Hillebrand, made it to the next destination: a swimming hole hidden along the Amalfi Coast that once was used by Roman nobles. Hidden along the foothills of the coast, this swimming area is a secret paradise. The water was clear, warm and inviting. The small rocks that enveloped the area were perfect for climbing and I am so glad we got to experience that one more time.

Day 5:

Our first stop in Naples was Cappella Sansevero, which is a church just for the use of the family who owns it. However, its grand marble statues and beautifully painted ceiling is open for public viewing. Its claim to fame, however, is The Veiled Christ. This is a marble statue created by Giuseppe Sansevero in 1753, and is considered to be one of the great masterpieces of sculpting. In an underground chamber of the church are two bodies with artery and vein systems perfectly intact. These were made by Giuseppe Salerno around 1763. The whole church was impressive and beautiful.

This journey I am experiencing is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. It has barely been a week, and I already do not ever want to leave.



Amalfi Coast or Paradise?

By: Sarah Schwartz

This weekend was definitely one for the books; it was simply blissful. The Hofstra Romans took the trip down to the southern part of Italy known as the Amalfi Coast. I have been back at St. John’s for only an hour and I’m already having withdrawals from the Amalfi Coast. We explored Sorrento, Positano, Naples,Vesuvius and the island of Capri. Between the food, amazing views and never ending laughs, this trip will be unforgettable.

I can’t really decide which place was my favorite but it was definitely a tie between Positano and Capri. In Capri we cruised around the island on a private tour and I was in awe of the incredible scenery. The landscape of the rocks and the cliff side houses were so photogenic, I couldn’t put my camera down. Hearing the stories about what Tiberius did when he lived on the land was quite comical. Although my favorite part in Capri was getting the chance to go into the Blue Grotto. This was just pure luck because not everyone is able to go into it because of the different tide patterns. The water was this vibrant turquoise-green color when the light reflected off of it, and to top it off the manly voices of the older Italian men filled the cave. I felt like I was in a different world escaping all of my realities. I never wanted to leave and it left me with an abundance of happiness. Capri had so many cute little shops and I had to try to control my shopping addiction. I have to admit I did some damage, but a pair of customized leather sandals are totally worth it.

My next favorite location was Positano. My oh my, did I have fun that day; it was filled with salt water and sun. I couldn’t get enough. We started the day off renting a boat just for ourselves. Laying in front of the boat was one of the most relaxing things where we just tanned and listened to some good tunes (and of course us girls had to have a photoshoot). Getting the chance to swim in the ocean while exploring the area and jumping off one or two rocks was one of the coolest things ever. After the boat adventure we headed straight to the beach and spent the rest of the day there with a panini in hand.

With all of the places we traveled to this weekend we had to make a few stops because food is a top priority. The meals we ate this weekend blew my mind and I went into multiple food comas, but it’s all good. I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend with amazing people. It has only been a little over a week and I feel like we’re one big family.

While on the boat in Capri I waved, “Hello,” to a statue of the little boy when we passed by and according to the stories if you wave, you will visit Capri again one day. Let’s hope this holds true and it isn’t my last time.

A Weekend Getaway

By: Jordan Barry

This past weekend was one of the most incredible weekends of my life. This past weekend we, the Hofstra Romans, went to Sorrento in southern Italy. Not only was the weekend incredible, it was also exhausting from running around all over the place. For our first full day in Sorrento (Friday) we went to the island of Capri, where we took a tour around the island on a boat. During the tour we were fortunate enough to be able to go into the Blue Grotto, which was one of the coolest natural wonders I have ever seen as well as the highlight of my day. After the boat tour, we went on the island to eat lunch as well as shop in Anacapri. Once we finished in Anacapri, we took chair lifts up to the highest point in Capri. The next day (Saturday) we went to Positano where we had a relaxing beach day. One of the highlights of the day was when we all ordered one of the best sandwiches I have ever eaten from a place called Vini e Panini. After a nice and relaxing day we went to bed early to prepare for one of the more tiring parts of the trip. This past Sunday was by far one of the most exhausting,  yet most amazing days of the trip so far. To start off the day we went for a three and a half hour hike up and around Mount Vesuvius, which gave us an absolutely stunning view inside and around the still active volcano. After climbing Mount Vesuvius, we went to an ancient Roman town called Ercolano, which was also affected by the same eruption that destroyed Pompeii. One of the biggest differences between Ercolano, and Pompeii is that Ercolano was found almost completely intact. Once the exhausting, but amazing day was over, it was time to pack up and leave our comfortable hostel, and leave to go to Naples for a half a day (on Monday). During our short tour of Naples, we walked around the streets, visited a museum, and ate real Neapolitan pizza, and then got on the bus and sadly headed back home to Rome.


Is This Real Life?

IMG_2480By : Nick Boffardi

I still can’t wrap my head around everything we experienced this weekend. I’m not entirely sure this is reality. The places we went this weekend — Sorrento, Capri, Positano, Vesuvius — are head and shoulders above anywhere else I’ve ever been in my life. Each day seemed to be better than the previous in ways I had never imagined.

We left Rome for Sorrento on Thursday afternoon. And though we had a delicious chicken dinner at Da Peppino and watched some of the Euro Cup at a nearby restaurant, it paled in comparison to the rest of the weekend.

Friday we woke far earlier than many of us would have liked to catch the ferry from Sorrento to the island of Capri. Within the first few minutes we were afforded an opportunity like no other: the chance to enter into the Blue Grotto. Such an excursion would not have been possible if the tide was too high or the sea too choppy. From outside, it appears ordinary. From the inside, the water is an extraordinary neon blue. While the water itself inside the grotto is physically the same as the water outside of it, there is nothing in the actual water that changes its luminance. Instead, the sunlight coming through the mouth of the cave and reflecting off the surface and surrounding rocks creates a mystical blue glow. We later took a bus up the mountain to Anacapri, and then a chairlift to the top of Monte Solaro for a bird’s eye view of the island. A few of us decided to walk down to the ocean from the top. Though it was an exhausting walk down we were rewarded with several views of the coastline and Marina Grande (pictured at the top of this post). And at the end, we jumped into the water for a quick swim before heading back to Sorrento.

Saturday and Sunday were quite the opposite of each other. Saturday was our day for a little R&R, which we spent on the black sand beach of Positano. Sunday was the day many of us dreaded: the hike to the peak of an active volcano. At its peak, Mount Vesuvius is nearly double the size of Monte Solaro.

On Monday our trip concluded with a brief visit to Naples where we experienced a city quite different from Rome. We walked the narrow, crowded streets as we made our way to a chapel to see what is considered by many to be the most incredible marble sculpture ever. Sculpted in the 1753, The Veiled Christ is breathtaking. It is an incredibly detailed sculpture depicting Christ after his crucifixion. Words are inadequate when you try to describe it. The Veiled Christ is a true marvel that no explanation does it justice. You simply have to see it in person. To end our day, we experienced true Neapolitan pizza, perhaps the best I’ve had on this trip.

The Amalfi Coast weekend has set the bar high for this upcoming weekend’s trip to Venice, Florence and Tuscany. However, I have no doubt that it will live up to and exceed expectations.

A Weekend of Adventures

By: Lauren Acone

Our time in Sorrento was the best five days of my life so far. We did so many things that I have only ever dreamed of doing. Friday we went to Capri. We took a boat tour around the island, although I was seasick for 95% of the boat ride and part of the day after, it was still magical. We went into the Blue Grotto, Green Grotto, Orange Grotto, and saw many 13613455_1023572371030640_1939851540774952148_osculptures all around the island. We also went to Ana Capri which had beautiful shops and views. Finally we went to the highest point in Capri. The view was breathtaking. You could see the entire Bay of Naples, Amalfi Coast, and all of Capri. The day ended with the most beautiful and tiring staircase. It consisted of 900 plus steps and amazing lookout points over the blue bay and harbor below. Then we ran, literally ran, into the water to swim. The water was warm and refreshing, an amazing way to end the trip to Capri. It was the most perfect way to start an amazing weekend, even with the seasickness.

Saturday we went to Positano, a town along the Amalfi Coast. We started the day driving down a winding road in a bus. How our bus driver, Maria, managed to drive down the street without crashing is unknown to me; it was impressive. Then we went on the best boat ride I have ever been on along the coast. Sitting at the front of the boat with the wind blowing through my hair, staring at the coastline was surreal. After the boat ride we got to swim all day in the clear, warm, blue water. It was so refreshing after the previous day in the sun. We also got to take some cool GoPro videos in the water and collect sea-glass on the shoreline. Then we went to the Pizza a la Metro, or the Pizza University. We got to watch how pizza was made, which was so cool and delicious. The restaurant could sit 2,000 people. It was actually a pizza factory. That night we went to the roof and looked at the lights along to coast and at the stars. There were also fireworks being set off by someone at the marina. It was magical.

Sunday we hiked a volcano. I never thought I would be able to say that I hiked Mount Vesuvius, an active volcano that was a huge part in the history of the Roman Empire. At 13603823_1015682305194119_831535361632731334_o (1)the volcano we got to walk around the outside rim. We got to see the Bay of Naples from another bird’s eye view, but also got to feel the volcanic rock  and the steam from the inside of the volcano. Sunday we went to Ercolano as well. Ercolano is almost fully intact ancient ruins from a city that was destroyed by Mount Vesuvius. I don’t think I can even begin to explain how amazing the ruins were. It was truly unbelievable to see such a real part of the past. We ended the day swimming in the ancient Roman emperors’ swimming hole. It was so cool to swim somewhere that was a place only royalty used to be able to go to.

Sadly the weekend had to end. On the way back to Rome on Monday morning we stopped in Naples. It was so interesting seeing a city with such culture and yet such poverty on every street. We went to see the famous veiled Jesus, an amazing sculpture carved out of marble that looked almost life-like. The streets were amazing. It kind of reminded me of New York City, but there was a lot more culture and older architecture on the streets. It was so cool to see the difference between the two parts of the city. Since our bus driver was from Naples we also got to listen to Neapolitan music, it was so different than anything I have heard before. The pizza in Naples was delicious as well, as it should be because Naples is the birthplace of pizza.

Overall it was an unbelievable weekend filled with amazing adventures. I never wanted to leave because it was so beautiful, but all good things must come to an end. I hope to go back someday soon, but until then it is only an amazing memory.

Un Buon Compleanno

By: Mitchell Weitzel

I have loved having a summer birthday my entire life. The combination of warm weather, no school and total freedom allowed me to do almost anything I wanted. Most of them were spent either at summer camp or by the pool along side all of my closest friends. But nothing will compare to my twenty-first birthday in a brand new country with a brand new family. We spent the weekend traveling all around the Bay of Naples staying in Sorrento and making day trips to Capri, Positano, Vesuvius, and Naples. Saturday was the most relaxed day, but being my birthday made it the most exciting! We spent the day in the beautiful coastal town of Positano where we started off on a little boat ride to a private beach about twenty minutes away, where we were allowed to jump off the boat and swim freely. We found some cool spots to hang out and explore for an hour until we were expected back at the beach. We then spent the rest of the day relaxing in beach chairs or cooling off in the ocean; not even the intense heat from the sun could bring the day to an end. So we just lathered on the sunscreen and kept on enjoying the day. I got some gelato before dinner because Mom wasn’t there to tell me not to, then walked through the narrow path back up the hill to the pick-up spot where we stopped to shop in a few of the shops that lined the street.

A quick shower and a change later led us to dinner at Pizza a la Metro where we ordered two giant one-meter pizzas topped with some traditional Neapolitan topping combinations. This also came with a show, as we were able to watch how these giant pizzas were made through a layer of glass. The day ended a little bit early since we had to wake up super early to climb to the top of Mount Vesuvius, one of the remaining active volcanoes that towers over the bay area. For me this was an ideal birthday and anyone who knows me can attest to that. It was a nice relaxing day that was made even better by the very people who I have only started to get to know, but who I love as a family! They made my special day even more special and I am so glad I was able to spend it with them!

A Weekend in Paradise

By: Chris Munno

This weekend was by far the greatest weekend of my life so far. We visited Sorento, Capri, Positano, Napoli, Ercolano, and climbed Vesuvius. I wouldn’t be able to pick my favorite spot or activity even if I tried. Everything is so amazing here. Each city had its own identity that I loved.

Hitting the Amalfi Coast wouldn’t be the same without our amazing tour guide John Shields. We started by hitting Sorrento, a little town that had some amazing food with a great atmosphere. The main center of town was always busy but no where near as busy as Rome. Next we saw Capri. We took a boat tour around the island and swam in the Blue Grotto. I landed in the water when the row boat flipped. Luckily, I saved my phone with all my photos. I didn’t want to lose all those amazing photos that hadn’t been uploaded or backed up yet!

Stop number three on the Amalfi Coast was Positano, a small secluded village with very few tourists. Yet again we took a boat around the island and stopped in the middle of a secluded area . We all dove off the boat and swam around the area to the little beach. Poor  Espo got stung by a jelly fish. We also got to go to dinner and all have a great day for Mitch’s birthday.

We went back to Sorrento and we went for dinner after an amazing day in Positano. We went to Pizza University, the place where apparently every southern Italian goes to study how to become a true pizza master.

For the final day in Amalfi we got on the bus and went to Vesuvius. We all climbed to the top of the active volcano, Vesuvius, from half way up the mountain. After that we went to Ercolano to explore one of the two famous lost cities for an hour and a half tour. Never did I think we would actually see that much preserved and pristine ruins from what was once a Roman city.  For the last night in the hostel I chilled on the roof for an hour then down to the lobby to use the wifi. Next thing I know I wake up and its almost five in the morning, so I walk to my room.

Goodbye Amalfi; Hello Napoli. What an adventure getting there. The air conditioner on the bus stopped working about ten minutes into the two hour bus ride. Believe me, that was miserable for everyone. Finally we arrived in Naples. It was a much different city compared to the cities on the Amalfi Coast and even different from Rome, yet they’re both urban areas. Rome is the popular, clear, touristy city some people could compare to New York City’s Time Square in Midtown Manhattan. Napoli is much different. It was definitely more grimy, busy, loud and slightly dangerous, even if I didn’t notice yet. Yet Napoli had a strange feeling to it for me. It had the feeling of home more than anywhere else I had been. It felt like a self righteousness and belonging when I walked through the city.