This weekend I went with Duquesne on our second academic excursion to Campania in southern Italy! We climbed Mt. Vesuvius, toured Pompeii, Paestum, Vietri sul Mare, and Capri, and even toured a buffalo mozzarella farm! And on top of all of that, I celebrated my 20th birthday here on Saturday! It was an amazing weekend!
On Friday morning, we all got up bright and early to bus to Mt. Vesuvius! The bus drove us about half way up the mountain before we got off to hike the rest of the way up. This was actually pretty scary since the roads were barely big enough for one tour bus but they were two way roads climbing up the mountain! Our bus driver got us there safely though and we were ready to hike! The climb up was actually much more difficult than I had expected. The path was made of gravel and loose sandy ash and the path was very steep so everyone kept slipping! After hiking for a while and stopping to take in the amazing views along the way, we made it to the top of the volcano. It was absolutely stunning! One of the things that I found particularly amazing was that the ground I was standing on of the volcano is likely to erupt in my lifetime (some scientists believe it will erupt within the next ten years!). At the top, we all enjoyed packed lunches and learned some of the history of the volcano from our professors. Then, after taking in the gorgeous sight of the volcano one last time, we hiked back down the mountain to get on the bus and drive to Pompeii! Touring Pompeii was also an amazing experience. The town was much larger than I had expected and the ruins were very well preserved. We saw the theater, the baths, the forum, and even some homes of the people of Pompeii. It was so interesting to walk in their footsteps. One of the most moving parts of the tour was viewing the plaster casts of the bodies of some of the people who died in the 79 eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. Touring both of these sites in one day made the natural disaster feel so real.
After touring Pompeii, we drove to our hotel which was in Paestum! After checking in, we all got ready for an amazing four course meal! It was so delicious and was a perfect end to an exciting day!
The next morning, we set out for Tenuta Vannulo which is an organic buffalo mozzarella farm! I am obsessed with mozzarella, so starting all the way back in January on orientation day when I heard that we would get to a buffalo mozzarella farm I have been waiting to have this experience and just getting more and more excited! Now that it was finally here (and it was on my birthday!) I was super excited! When we arrived, we got to watch the workers make mozzarella and fold it into braids! Then, we got to hang out with some of the buffalo!!!! I loved being around them. The farm tries to treat their buffalo very well, so sometimes they play them classical music and they even have massage machines for the buffalo! Next, we got to see how they make chocolate spread with buffalo milk. After that we got to try mozzarella that was so delicious and so fresh that I could have eaten maybe about 50 pounds of it! We then had some free time to explore the farm, and my friends and I went to their cafe to try some buffalo milk yogurt! I had blueberry flavor and it was very good.
After that, we were off again to tour the Archaeological Museum of Paestum and the surrounding Greek ruins. It was amazing to see Greek ruins in Italy and it was such a beautiful day to explore them! One thing in particular that the Archaeological Museum of Paestum is famous for is the Tomb of the Diver, which is an intact, large scale Greek painting. After our tour, we grabbed pizza for lunch, and then we got on the bus to go to Vietri sul Mare!
In Vietri, which is located at one end of the Amalfi Coast, we had free time to take in the amazing views of the water and to shop for their famous ceramics! Our program director even challenged us to find the tackiest souvenir and take a picture to send to them for a contest. It was a pretty funny competition! Even though it rained a bit, we had a good time!
Soon, we got back on the bus to go back to the hotel for another amazing four course dinner! This one was extra special, though, because our program directors planned a special birthday suprise for me and another student, Anna, whose birthday it was too! When it was time for dessert, all of the lights went out, and our desserts were brought out with candles and everyone sang happy birthday! It was really nice! It made celebrating a birthday away from your family, which was tough, a bit easier!
On Sunday, we got up very early to check out of the hotel and take a ferry to the island of Capri! The ferry ride itself was really rough, but when we got to the island it was worth it! The island was much colder than we were all expecting, so almost all of us bought variations on the same Capri crew neck to keep warm. It’s now the unofficial uniform of Duquesne Italian Campus! Soon, the sun came out and we had an amazing time exploring the island city of Capri. The water was so blue and it was stunning. Unfortunately, the Blue Grotto was closed because the water was too rough, but not being able to do that left us more time to explore other parts of the town!
Overall, it was an amazing weekend. This was our last weekend trip, which means that I will be in Rome from now on until I leave to come home. It feels very bitter sweet. I am so excited to spend these next two weeks in Rome and am glad that I will get to spend my last moment in Italy in the city I love so much, but the fact that we aren’t traveling any more really hits home the fact that we are leaving Italy in such as short amount of time. The semester has really flown by!
The highlight of my weekend was definitely the amazing things I got to do on my birthday. I really loved touring the buffalo mozzarella farm and enjoying the most delicious cheese of my entire life. I also really appreciated my program directors celebrating my birthday at dinner that night. I had never celebrated a birthday away from my family before, so I was missing them and all of our quirky birthday traditions a lot. However, my program directors were able to make studying abroad feel a little bit more like home! They are always showing us how much they care about us, and it is so heartwarming!
The low point of the weekend was the ferry ride to Capri. Since it had rained the day before and the weather was still not that great that morning, the water was very choppy and it was very windy. This combination made for a very rough ride. About fifteen students and even one of our visiting professors got severely sea sick and threw up. I had never experienced motion sickness before in my life, but even I was feeling very ill. As more and more people became sick, the smell made the situation worse and would then trigger more people to be sick. The boat ride was about an hour and a half long, but felt like it was much longer. In my opinion, Capri was so beautiful that it was all worth it! However, this experience really goes to show that traveling is not always glamorous!