Travel

Exploring Underground Napoli

Albertini-rid-1-2Almost 40 meters below Napoli lies the historic underground, which was first excavated by the Greeks for water storage in the fourth century BC. These cisterns have provided water first for the Greeks, then for the Romans for an estimated 23 centuries.

For a mere €10, we were guided through these winding tunnels, an area that I admittedly had no idea existed before our trip. Most of the tour was relatively well-lit (except for the section where Evan accidentally stepped into an ankle-deep puddle), but my favorite part was when we were led by candlelight through a pitch-dark passageway, so narrow in places that I had to turn to the side just to squeeze through.

These ancient tunnels were used as bomb shelters during World War II and now serve as a greenhouse for a nearby restaurant, providing an environment that is much purer than the city above. Clearly, the value of this space didn’t end with the Roman times and it should be interesting to see how its use evolves in the future.

*Image via Naples Underground, the company that provided our tour. 

Travel

Napoli: A Misunderstood Beauty

 

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Piazza Dante

Most people know Napoli as the gateway to Capri and the Amalfi Coast, a trash-filled and overcrowded city, a place where you should closely guard your wallet. While these stereotypes are true to some degree, Italy’s third largest city also has so much more to offer.

When I first learned that we’d be moving to Italy, I knew that a trip to Napoli had to happen at some point during our nine months here. My grandpa’s family on my mom’s side is originally from Napoli (the details are a little fuzzy but we know they were leather glove makers) so I was determined to explore this city of my ancestors.

I’ve heard from several people that Napoli is dangerous, dirty, loud, and simply not worth the visit. Napoli is known by most people as “that place where they stole my friend’s wallet”. Although I would still encourage you to keep a close watch on your belongings while in Napoli (as you should in large cities throughout the world), there’s really no reason to avoid this culturally-rich and historical place. Here are my top three reasons to visit the city:

  1. The food: Seafood, pasta, sweets (sfogliatella is incredible), cheese, and… oh yeah, Napoli is the birthplace of pizza – that’s reason alone to visit in my book.
  2. The people-watching: We witnessed aggressive car honking, multiple children on a single Vespa speeding down the sidewalk, and a massive crowd taking part in a taxi strike. And that was just within the first hour of being in Napoli. One of my favorite moments was sitting at an outdoor cafe table and watching the city’s colorful people pass by.
  3. The history: It is believed that the Greeks founded Napoli somewhere around the 7th century BC. I was overwhelmed by the amount of history thrown at me during our tour of underground Napoli, in which we saw the Greek-Roman aqueduct that is 40 meters below ground and the remains of an ancient Roman theater, plus so much more.
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The first of many pizzas of the weekend – at Pizzeria di Matteo
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Loved the modern art at Museo Madre
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The first sfogliatella I’ve ever had – I was instantly hooked

 

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Spring Break Memories

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Even though I graduated from college over two years ago, I’ve still managed to plan a little getaway every March or April, even if it’s just for a long weekend. Last year, Evan and I planned to visit New Orleans, a place that has long been on both of our bucket lists.

Unfortunately, our flight was scheduled to depart Denver the day after the area experienced record snowfall (19.5 inches, to be exact). Needless to say, we didn’t make it to New Orleans but we’re hoping we have better spring break luck this year!

Next week, we’ll be spending two nights in Naples and a night in Sorrento, and I can’t be more excited to explore Southern Italy!

Image via best_italiansites

Travel

Remembering Malta’s Azure Window

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A week ago today, Malta’s world-famous Azure Window collapsed into the sea. This sad event has left the Maltese (and everyone that was lucky enough to see the landmark in person) truly heartbroken. The Window was formed by erosion over 500 years ago and has been growing steadily larger with passing time.

It seems that its collapse was inevitable and one heavy storm was enough to complete destroy it. We were able to catch the sunset at the Azure Window when we visited Malta back in January.

It’s hard to believe that something so massive has been completely swallowed up by the sea and that there’s now barely any indication the iconic landmark was ever even there. Although the Azure Window no longer exists, I would still encourage anyone who visits Malta to make a trip to the now “Azure Pinnacle” or “Azure Stack”. It’s a magical spot by the sea, which I think is greatly captured by Evan’s time-lapse below.

 

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My Sardinian Food Diary

Friday

Lunch (meat and cheese plate with olives and traditional Sardinian bread)

Our first meal in Cagliari was at Ellusu, a casual lunch spot offering us exactly what we were in search for at the time: reasonably-priced Sardinian food and a table in the sun. Thanks to their charming menu, it was here that we learned how to count to five in Sardinian.

Dinner (swordfish carpaccio, calamari and fried sardines, seafood couscous in spicy tomato soup)

Fork is the less expensive restaurant of Chef Stefano Deidda, who also owns the one star Michelin restaurant Dal Corsaro right next door. We had a very impressive dinner here but the swordfish carpaccio and our friend’s seafood risotto were definitely the stars of the meal.

Saturday

Breakfast (cappuccino)

I admittedly ate way too much during this trip so I consistently woke up every morning still feeling full from the night before. Most mornings, I just opted for a cappuccino and had my first (very large) meal of the day at lunch.

Lunch (Sardinian cheese plate, seafood linguine)

My favorite part of our lunch at Sa Schironada was the cheese plate, which was placed on top of several layers of Sardinian bread – a type of flat bread with a cracker-like texture. The place had an enjoyable atmosphere and it was fun to watch the cooks at work in the nearby kitchen, however, this was one of the more touristy restaurants we went to during our stay.

Dinner (lobster ravioli)

Still content from lunch and much to our waiter’s disapproval, I chose to only have lobster ravioli rather than both a primi and secondi. We were placed in an extremely quiet dining room (at 8:30 pm we were still really early for dinner) but by the time we were nearly finished with our meal locals began filing in and strangely, the sound of American country music filled the restaurant.

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Sunday

Lunch (mozarella panzerotti)

An on-the-go bite for lunch from one of the cafes along Poetto Beach. A panzerotti is basically a fried pizza turnover: satisfyingly greasy and the perfect fuel to get one through a moderately easy hike.

Dinner (seafood salad and calamari, traditional carbonara, bites of assorted desserts)

Our last meal in Cagliari was at my favorite restaurant of the whole weekend: Crackers. Despite the name, the place has an old fashioned atmosphere complete with white linen tablecloths, nicely dressed waiters, and meals brought to the table on rolling carts. The ever-smiling Roberto and his wife took great care of us and their radicchio with thinly sliced octopus salad blew me away. A great end to our food-filled weekend.

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Hiking to the Punic Roman Temple

 

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All three of us were in awe when we rounded the bend and were greeted by this sight

On our last full day in Cagliari, we decided to be more active and try to work off several seafood pasta meals. We began our efforts by climbing to the top of the Torre dell’Elefante, a 31-meter tall limestone tower that was built in 1307.

Perhaps one of the more grotesque details of the tower is that several decaying heads of prisoners were once displayed over its door. Luckily, heads no longer decorate the Torre dell’Elefante but it does offer an incredible view of the entire city.

Our next adventure involved hiking the scenic seaside trail to the Torre del Poetto and the Tempio Punico but I don’t think we were expecting it to be quite so difficult to find the trailhead.

We had to take a bus to Poetto Beach but thanks to a broken ticket machine (of course, there was only one in the whole bus station) and a large crowd of beach-bound teenagers, it took us almost an hour to finally get on the bus.

We were then dropped off at the wrong stop so in order to find the trail, we ended up walking more than double the length of the entire trail. While I was definitely cranky throughout our search for the trail due to my poor choice of shoes (I don’t recommend hiking over rocky terrain in Keds), once we began climbing the hill I found that the views were more than worthy of an extra blister or two.

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Spring in full bloom
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Overlooking the Torre del Poetto while Evan set up his Go-Pro
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The Tempio Punico Romano – built between the 3rd and 2nd century BC!
Italian Culture · Photography · Travel

Escape to the Cagliari Sun

 

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View from the top of Torre dell’Elefante

This past weekend we escaped the dreary, rainy weather of Bologna for the sun-baked streets of Cagliari, Sardinia’s capital city. Although it was my first time visiting, there were several aspects of the city that felt familiar to me.

Its picturesque beaches remind me of Greece, its winding alleys and colorful, ancient buildings make me think of Valletta, and its funny (and oftentimes frustratingly slow) way of doing things is consistent with mainland Italy.

Besides Cagliari’s top-notch seafood, one of my favorite parts of the city was its Castello neighborhood. It’s located at the top of the city center’s tallest hill (so. many. stairs.) and offers impressive views of the distant mountains, nearby port, and sea.

Although strong winds kept us from spending the entire weekend on the beach as planned, I wasn’t too upset since Cagliari felt like an old friend: comfortable, inviting, and charming.

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One of the roads leading up to the Castello neighborhood
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Cagliari’s cheery buildings add to a perfect beach vacation atmosphere