On my last day in Italy, I was faced with a tough decision. The choice was to take a quick ferry ride over to a famously beautiful little island named Capri or to stay in Naples and face potential mugging and purse snatching. Needless to say, I chose the short ferry ride over to Capri with my friend Caitlin.

As soon as the ferry arrived at it’s destination, we thought we had made the wise choice.Capri 003  View of Capri from the ferry dock

Once we got up to  the top of the island via tram, we KNEW.Capri 015 Capri 017 Capri 020
Only the most breathtaking views I’ve ever seen

Since we decided it best the wander the island, we inevitably ended up lost. However, there are much worse things than being lost in Capri. Now, remember how I mentioned that we took a TRAM up to the TOP of the island? Well, shortly after getting lost,  we found ourselves.

Where,  you may be asking?
Well, at the bottom of these stairs of course!

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 many, many more stairs were climbed than are actually pictured

After a long, LONG climb back up to the top of the island, we found a botanical garden with even more amazing views of the island and the water.Capri 030

After stopping to snap hundreds of pictures, we decided it was time for lunch. Somehow, Caitlin and I stumbled upon an amazing restaurant, Il Geranio, and had a meal that I know I will remember forever. Everything – company, food, wine, ambiance, not to mention the view and the service – was amazing! Caitlin and I decided to split some ravioli and a penne and eggplant dish, and both were so delicious, possibly the best meal I had in Italy. Our waiter, Roberto, was very friendly, especially since Caitlin and I were the only diners in the restaurant for most of our meal.Capri 049Caitlin, Roberto & I
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The view from our table, no big deal

After finishing our leisurely lunch, we noticed the time was around 2:30 pm.

Now, before I go on, let me explain that on the last day in a port, there is an “on-ship time” that all passengers of the M/V Explorer must adhere to. If you arrive back to the ship after the appointed time, you get dock time in the next port, meaning you get off later than everyone else on the first day, or have to be back ultra early on the last day. If you are super late, you can miss entire days, a whole city or get left behind! SAS doesn’t mess around with dock time.

So, knowing that we had to be back on board at 6:00 pm, we thought taking  the 3:30 pm ferry would be fine since the ride from Capri to Naples is only 40 minutes. The 3:30 ferry would have been fine, but somehow we bought our roundtrip tickets in the morning for the 5:30 pm ferry! All I could think was DOCK TIME, OH NO!!

While part of me was fine with being stuck on Capri, the other part of me was a little stressed out.

Not too stressed out to stop for gelato on the way down to the dock though.

Long story short, Caitlin and I run around like crazy women with 10 minutes to go, trying to find the 3:30 pm ferry. Once we find it, we learn that tickets are nontransferable and nonrefundable, so we have to buy another ticket! We ran to the ticket counter and realized that we might have a few minutes to spare, so I bought our tickets while Caitlin ran into a shop and bought wine. Running like crazy women (theme of the day I guess) .. we make it on to the ferry and pop open the wine to celebrate.Capri 066

We made it back to the ship feeling happy, full & sun kissed with plenty of time to spare!

The best part of the story?

The next day in class, a girl that has never talked to Caitlin goes “Hey were you in Capri yesterday? I could have sworn I saw you and a redheaded girl running around the docks  yelling and trying to get onto a ferry!”

Oh.My.God.

So after visiting Pompei, the SAS tour I was on hit up our final destination in Italy: Naples, Italy – the murder capital of Europe. Yes, that’s right! If I thought Pompei was freaky, I had no idea what was in store for me when I reached our port city.

Before getting back to the ship, we had lunch at an “authentic Napoleon  pizzeria” where we watched our pizzas being made. Since one of the things I miss most while I’m on SAS is cooking, so I loved this, it was so neat!! Honestly though, I don’t know why it takes so long to make pizzas in America, these babies  literally took 3 minutes to make. One to assemble, two to bake, done.

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Step 1: sauce

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Step 2: cheese (he was a little stingy, not gonna lie)

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Step 3: bake

After eating one of those delicious pizzas (bringing my pizza count up 4), we had a “driving tour of the city” which was just the SAS field office sugarcoating the ride home. The views were beautiful though, and we got to stop at the top of a huge lookout and see the bay of Naples.Italy 259 At this point, we were all thinking:
“what are people talking about? Naples is sweet!"

Uhhh I wish I had some pictures as evidence of how scary/dirty Naples actually is, but I was  too busy clinging to my purse for dear life to stop and record the scenery. I’ll just pretend that Naples is as pretty as that photo above.

I know it sounds like I’m totally hating on Naples, but there were some good parts. Like having the BEST pizza of my life – the Paduese pizza at Rosso Pomodoro. I know I said I had the best pizza of my life in Florence, but  I lied.  The tour guides were right, Naples knows its pizza.
(pizza count – 5 – embarrassing)

The one night I spent in Naples was made even more amazing by the fact that during dinner, a homeless man with a guitar came up to our sidewalk table and serenaded us with “That’s Amore” Naples 002 (Emily & Caitlin, looking their finest)
(Please don’t kill me girls .. it’s the only picture I have!!!)

Another good thing about the port of Naples is that Mollie found her future husband in one of the “security guards” that “guarded” the entrance to our port. Naples 001( sorry Dan)
(and sorry Mollie -  you know I can’t help  myself hahahaha)

If you’ve read this far, you’re lucky (and obvi very bored) because the best part of going to Naples was …Naples 004MEETING GIULIANA AND BILL!!!!!!

If you don’t know, they have a show on Style/E! titled “Giuliana and Bill” Plus, Giuliana does E! news and Bill won the first season of the Apprentice. Or something, I don’t really know. He isn’t the one we were excited about, although he was the friendlier one. He thought SAS was the coolest thing ever.  We saw them walk by our table at dinner, but we were too starstruck/busy stuffing our faces with food & wine to ask for a picture. Luckily, right when we were done eating, we saw them walk by again and we crossed 4 lanes of traffic to run after them and get this picture. Sad, but true. And worth it.

Honest opinion: she’s prettier AND skinnier in person. Biotch.

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Mt Vesuvius is scary. I don’t care what anyone else who has been to Pompei has to say about it. I was freaked out when I saw this bad boy looming in the distance. I mean, we were walking around a city that got destroyed by that thing! After I got over my initial fear, I really enjoyed Pompei. It was probably the best tour I had in Italy. The guide was to the point and moved us quickly through the sites, and I learned a lot. I hate to start this post out on a sad note, but being there was unreal. I really could imagine the people walking around going about their daily lives, and then BOOM! Ahhhh it was too much. The site is so well preserved, and according to our guide, it’s the #2 most visited archaeological site in the world. (#1 is the Giza Pyramids) (Only 3 more weeks!!!)

Italy 252The petrified body of a person crouched over in pain, covering their mouth to try to save themselves from the poisonous gasses filling the air. This was bone chilling to see. Even worse was the pregnant woman, which I just couldn’t even bring myself to take a picture of.

Italy 253 Now okay, not to belittle an animals worth (I’m veg after all, you know) but people were like CRYING over this dog and like didn’t even blink an eye at the petrified humans. Uhhhh I don’t get it? This was sad though .. I mean that dog was so defenseless, and it really shows that the depth of the devastation that was the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.

Pompei was well worth the visit. I mean, I know I made it sound like it was the saddest thing I’d ever seen .. but it was also one of the coolest. It really is a little city frozen in time.

Rome was a whirlwind of sightseeing! The city is just what you would imagine a historical city filled with ruins to look like. Some highlights are:

The Trevi Fountain at nightItaly 154

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Tartufo

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The Colosseum

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The Vatican, Sistine Chapel, & St Peter’s Basilica

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Along with fun with friends

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And watching the sun rise out of my hotel balcony!

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After another day of sightseeing in Venice, the SAS trip headed out via bus to Verona, the land of Romeo and Juliet. It was a nice little place to spend the afternoon. I didn’t see Letters to Juliet, but from the trailers on TV, I was expecting something much different from the place I saw. When we arrived, there were some arches we walked through into the city square, then a long street filled with shops, restaurants, and gelato stands. After a short walk, we ended up at Juliet’s balcony. The alleyway leading up to the courtyard was FILLED with letters to Juliet. Italy 057

Of course, I wrote one! Italy 061

Then we took pictures around the courtyard where there were tons of statues that you had to rub for luck, love, or money.

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Juliet’s Balcony .. there was an actress up there for a little bit, but I missed her!

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Me rubbing the statue for love 🙂

(Not as vulgar as it sounds)

After lunch, shopping, and of course gelato, we boarded the bus again and headed for Florence. Now, I had high hopes for Florence seeing as my older sister studied abroad there for a summer in college, and my younger sister told me it was her favorite city in Europe. However, as usual, I have to disagree.

Maybe it was my tour guide, maybe it was the fact that we walked/waited in line for 6 straight hours, maybe it was just super hot and our hotel was in a sketchy area  .. but Florence was probably my least favorite city in Italy. It was still beautiful, it had good food, it had AMAZING art, but I would have rather had more time in say .. Capri or Venice.

On arrival, our hotel was super nice inside, but there were dirty, old Italian men cat calling to the girls in our group outside! Ridic. The great view from my room made up for it though.Italy 078Just what I imagined Italy to look like!

That night, the tour group had a really nice dinner at the hotel and after that, I went out to a nearby restaurant for a drink with some of the girls in my group. What we thought was a local Florentine happy hour was more like stumbling into Cancun,Mexico Spring Break 2010. The bar was playing songs like Pitbull and that gasolina song, which was fine, but not what I had in mind for a night out in Italy. It was fun, but we called it an early night because we knew we had a long day coming up!

We woke up at what felt like the crack of dawn for a walking tour of the city. It was really nice to have a tour guide, but honestly, she just talked way too much and way too slowly for me to truly get a lot out of her. The best part of Florence was definitely seeing The David, which we weren’t allowed to take pictures of due to some Italian copyright laws. The next best thing was the famous bridge. It’s a bridge that there are houses and shops on! I had no idea Florence was famous for it, but it was so neat, I’ve never seen anything like it.

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I also think it needs to be mentioned that I had the best pizza of my life in Florence. While its true it was just a plain old cheese pizza, they gave us the BEST spicy olive oil to drizzle the top with. I ate the entire thing.Italy 134

Obviously, finishing large amounts of delicious Italian food was a trend .. Italy 135 

The best gelato in Italy, according to our tour guide!

While it may seem like I ate my way through Florence .. wait .. I did 🙂

Venice is a truly one of a kind city! It’s totally on the water, they aren’t lying when they say there are no cars here! The taxis are all boats, and their version of the “underground” is just a huge passenger vessel! It’s insane. Venice is definitely a one of a kind city, a must do when in Italy.

I got off of the ship in Civitavecchia bright and early at 8:30 a.m. After an hour and a half drive into Rome, we boarded a train for a four hour ride through the Italian country side to Venice. The ride was nice, but honestly I’m still so exhausted from Barcelona that I used it as a nap time. When I got off of the train, I wasn’t really prepared for what I saw. There was water EVERYWHERE!!

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Instead of getting on a taxi or charter bus, we got on a charted boat!

(As if we SAS’ers don’t do enough of that already!)

We got to our hotel, where we were assigned a random roommate. Normally, that would be fine, but when my roomie Angela and I got to our room, we saw this: Italy - Day 1 Venice 016

Yes. A queen sized bed. To share with a stranger.

On SAS, you make friends fast.

We spent the rest of the day wandering around the area, getting coffees, prosecco, gelatos, tomato & mozzarella .. you know, typical Italian food. The SAS group met up back at the hotel for dinner and it was AMAZING! We all got bowls of pasta – which were huge and we thought were our meal, then came our actual main dishes! I got a tomato mozzarella salad, which is a combo I’ll never grow tired of. At dinner, I enjoyed an 8 euro bottle of wine with some friends, which lets be honest, is one of the only pros of being in Europe.

After dinner, my roomie broke out the champagne she bought in the train stati0n. If you know me, you know how happy I was. Then us girls got our makeup on, talked a ton, did more makeup, more talking, and finally left the hotel. We ventured out where I embarrassed myself in front of countless Italians as a loud American, but it’s a title I wear proudly. We finally found a little bar to settle into.

There was a beautiful old woman named Chine working there, she was easily in her 90s and spoke perfect English. Instead of a mojito, she blended up a special concoction  titled “mocha bomb” .. umm whisky, kahlua, gelato and ice .. I died.

After that, we headed back to the hotel, because it was all of 10:30 and the little island we are on was ready for bed.

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Ellen, Emily, Me, Emily, and Mallory

The next day we had a guided tour of Venice. The city was super interesting and very picturesque.

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Gondolas

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Before I talk about the amazingness of the Strait of Gibraltar, I want to say that I updated my last post with some pictures from crossing the Atlantic Ocean!

To catch you up on the past few days of my life at sea …

I … wake up, eat breakfast, have class, tanning, eat lunch, more tanning, have more class, go to the gym or nap (usually nap), eat dinner, hangout, sleep…….. so in case you don’t get the picture, there isn’t much to do on this ship! I’m having a very relaxing time, but honestly I’m ready to get off! There is literally no where to go on this ship after about a day. It’s been a lot of lounging! At least there is no rush  to get anywhere .. everything is just a deck or two away. 10 days at sea is a LOT longer than you would think, I’m already dreading the long haul back home.

Okay, now onto the good stuff! If you don’t know what the Strait of Gibraltar is, google it now. Seriously.

Googled? Okay, good.

Imagine seeing no land for days on end, then seeing TWO CONTINENTS looming in the distance .. if that’s not a tease, I don’t know what is! I almost don’t want to write about this, because I know I won’t be able to fully describe how breathtaking it was.

First, some mountains off the coast of Tangier, Morocco started coming out of the fog, then a few minutes later, smaller hills and mountains off the coast of Tarifa, Spain were coming into view. People were going nuts!

Exhibit A waiting for the Strait

Exhibit B IMG_0074

Patiently waiting .. Victoria, Mollie, me, Erica, & Caitlin

I only  got a few good pictures of the Spanish side, but the hills were covered in wind turbines. Then I found out in global studies that Spain is actually one of the world leaders in alternative energy, especially wind and solar panels! After waiting to cross through the Strait for 2.5 hours, I totally get it. I’ve never been to such a windy place!

One of the other ships Spanish countrysideMaybe if you squint, you can see ‘em!

We were much closer to the African side than the Europe side, so I got some great pictures of the mountains, which were SO NEAT to see!!Moroccan mountains On the side of the mountain, there was a message in Arabic, kind of like the Hollywood sign in California. I could read it, but didn’t really know what it meant. haha, so much for that year of Arabic classes!  IMG_0092

Anyone reading this know what it means? (Dad or Mayada maybe?? lol)

There were a ton of other ships in the strait, we all had to wait our turn to go through. In the meantime, we were entertained with sea turtles, sunfish, dolphins and whales! There were maybe 5-6 whales in the strait that were pretty close to the ship. All we could see of them was their spouts (the water they shoot up from their blowhole) and it was so neat! I had no idea that the Strait was so full of life considering the high amount of traffic that passes through.

Needless to say, a few of us contemplated jumping ship and swimming to land. We were so close, yet so far! I arrive in Barcelona early on Thursday morning, but some friends and I are planning on waking up to watch the sunset and watch the ship come into port. I can’t wait, because if the sunrises look anything like the sunsets, it will be SO worth it.IMG_0114