Last weekend, all 200 or so John Felice Rome Center students boarded a few coach buses and departed for Campania, a region of Italy about 3 hours from Lazio. After a break at the fanciest rest stop I’ve ever seen (fit with walls of wine, gifts, and Kinder candies), we arrived in Paestum, an ancient Greek city in Italy. Originally named Poseidonia (and dedicated to Poseidon), the wide-open ruins sprawled over the landscape. Most of the city has turned to piles of rubble, save a small amphitheater and two temples dedicated to Athena and Hera. The restaurant we went to for lunch had an amazing view of Athena’s temple.
I most enjoyed the dogs that chased each other around the ruins, blissfully trampling over thousands of years of history.
After another short bus ride, we arrived in Vietre Sul Mare to check in to our hotel. The night concluded with an opening reception (accompanied by prosecco and appetizers) and a group dinner. Jenny and I did our makeup the next morning on our balcony, with a view of the sun rising over the Amalfi Coast.
Our first stop on Saturday was a buffalo mozzarella farm called Tenuta Vannulo, where the buffalos actually live pretty lavishly. They are milked at their leisure, get massages, and listen to Mozart. They live such quality lives that the milk used to make the cheese is raw and unpasteurized, and the cheese can be stored at room temp for four days. After touring the farm and petting a few buffalo came the moment of truth: a taste test. Well, three taste tests – I enjoyed the mozz so much that I scammed a few more samples before we left. I also tried coffee- and cream-flavored gelato, which was delicious.
Second stop: Vini Marino, family-owned wine and olive oil farm, home of three very cute sons and a pup named Presidente. A tour of the farm concluded with a wine and olive oil tasting, followed by some free time to take pictures and chat in the courtyard. I’m still not quite over the fried pizza dough and the Fiano white wine. At this point I was realizing that I was probably experiencing the most Italian day ever (and I was loving it).
Our second day ended with a tour of the historic center of Agropoli, but I’ll save it’s beauty for a separate post. Saturday’s dinner in the hotel was eventful, to say the least. Although my “dessert” was a sad plate of sliced fruit (thanks, nut allergy), the five bottles of sparkling white wine our waiters so graciously brought us more than made up for it ;-). My friends and I also had a great time laughing at our classmates who spent a full hour dancing and chanting to a small musical group that played for us.
After a winding and terrifying drive up the side of a mountain on Sunday morning, we arrived at our last stop. Although it was freezing, I enjoyed our calm visit to Montecassino Abbey, a monastery founded by St. Benedict. While the tour of the grounds, crypts, and the museum were beautiful, I am still awe-struck over the Baroque church inside.
After three jam-packed days of travel, food, and lots of laughs with new friends, a sleepy bus ride home was much appreciated. A wonderful end to orientation and a wonderful start to the semester, this trip left me in great anticipation for my travels to come. Excited to see what comes next!