FOMO is a real thing. And the more you travel the more real it gets. For those of you who aren’t into hashtag trends, FOMO is the Fear of Missing Out or aka the fear of the unknown. When each trip is a new fulfilling discovery, it becomes addictive. And when you hear about an exciting place you’ve never been to and think of what you can potentially discover, your curiosity turns into a physical longing, much like a drug addict going through withdrawal. Then you start to cower at the thought of missing out. Ironically, this is how I felt as we rode along the sun-kissed Mediterranean coast of Amalfi in Southern Italy about a month ago during Easter Break. The more natural beauty I saw, the more I wanted and feared that it was just beyond my grasp.
“In Awe” are the most accurate words I could use. I’m In Awe of Italy’s natural wonders. Nothing compares to a 360 view of snowcapped mountains from the front seat of a double decor bus on your way across country to Rome. Or from a lighthouse overlooking the renewed Adriatic Sea as its slow spring currents instinctively cleanse itself to a crystal blue. Or when you’re riding along a rocky edge of a mountain and the road seems to protrude and hover over the marina below full of bobbing sailboats… and in the near distance colorful riviera houses stagger on top of each other as if competing for attention … this is Amalfi.
Not that many people get to see stunning Riviera towns as they grow up, but for me there was once a time where Central Park was as beautiful as it gets. Despite living in the one of the grandest cities in the world, I grew up with limited means and couldn’t take advantage of the cultural opportunities in my own back yard so to speak. So when you come to a place like Sorrento where every inch of land is reverberating with natural beauty, you tend to look at things differently.
For example, the erie drumming and chanting of the catholic Procession, celebrating Easter, that woke me up at 4:30 in the morning, didn’t seem to bother me at all. The fact that the people participating in the ceremony were dressed in colorful costumes that disturbingly resembled the Ku Klux Klan, didn’t bother me much either. Because even through a sleepy fog, I knew I was witnessing something rare. That was my first night in Sorrento.
The morning after the procession, we took the local ferry across the way to the Island of Capri, aka, heaven. Capri is home of the Blue Grotto, a small cave in the side of the Island’s cliffs that glows from the transcendent blue reflection of the sea bottom, and one of the Seven Wonders of Europe. Four of us and a guide/rower/serenader squeezed into a tiny row boat that just barely fit through the hobbit like entrance to the cave… and by squeezed I mean we laid out as flat as we could, practically on top of each other… and still my face missed the entrance ceiling by an inch or two. It was amazing. The guide sang “That’s Amore” the whole time.
After the Blue Grotto, we took a boat tour around the Island and docked for some amazing limoncello slushies. The Amalfi Coast is full of lemons and oranges. But not just any lemons, volley ball sized lemons as big as my head. They’re all rind and more bitter than sweet, but could definitely compete for the Blue Grotto’s place as the one of the Seven wonders.
The next day was a lazy beach day on in Positano. Although it was cloudy and rained in and out, you couldn’t have peeled me off that beach if you tried. On the way there, we passed miles of groves that housed those infamous lemons and oranges. I remember thinking, if I could only live as naturally amongst this Italian terrain and it’s people as these lemons and oranges do, growing side by side in instinctual bliss.
On Easter day, I climbed Mt. Vesuvius. I wish I could say it felt like a triumphant conquest, but it was also raining that day and the more we climbed, the deeper into the clouds we went, and the blinder we became. But it was an accomplishment none the less. I could tell by how much pleasure I got out of receiving the official stamp at the tourist shop confirming that I dared to and successfully climbed one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes! The same one that erupted and destroyed the entire city of Pompeii all those years ago.
After surviving a hail storm during lunch, we made our way to Pompeii’s ruins. Somewhere between the burial site of mummies with faces calcified in expressions of horror and pain, and the red light district with perfectly preserved frescos of couples in erotic positions hung in the brothels, the reality of what I was seeing hit me. That an entire, functional, thriving civilization, with shops, markets, houses, spas, brothels, streets, chariots, plazas, fountains, men, women, children, and dogs was wiped out in a single natural disaster. And that the beautiful mountain like volcano in the backdrop that I had just climbed was responsible. An imaginary bullet invaded by brain. Mind blown.
On the last day, we spent an afternoon in Naples. I don’t care what anyone says about Naples, I loved it. I remember coming out of a restaurant after a simple lunch of Neopolitan pizza and wine, and walking down the main avenue. The sun was shinning and music seemed to follow us with every step. A jazz band there, african drums here, traditional Italian accordion over there. And maybe it was the wine or the world’s best Pizza in the birthplace of Pizza, but I felt so elated, satisfied, and content that I thought someone had slipped ecstasy in my drink. Sure the streets were dirty, laundry hung in every corner and alleyway, and the people were loud… but it all added to the charm and most of all the energy. Naples has an indescribable energy to it… it’s lively, but not too aggressive, colorful, but not too flashy. I learned that there was an obvious cultural difference between Northern and Southern Italians. Southern Italians have the dark latino features and muscular build that most Americans associate Italian men with vs. the lighter scandinavian features and slimmer build of Northern Italians. However, the main difference is in the dialect and gestures. Neopolitans are expressive, loud, slur their words, and speak a mile a minute. I couldn’t understand a word anyone said, but the gestures translated for me.
That same evening we reluctantly took a 7 hour bus back to Marche. Needless to say, it was an unforgettable trip.