It has been too hectic of a time to write as I have been traveling since the end of May: first to Portugal to see something of the country for a few days before starting work at an archaeological dig in eastern Portugal. I visited Lisbon briefly before taking the train to Porto and spending a few nights there, exploring the city by day. I met up with an old friend from New York and we had a wonderful chat at a crowded outdoor bar near my hostel.
The next day I picked up a rental car and drove to Spain. On the way I visited a site in Portugal called Citania de Briteiros, where a settlement full of round, stone houses once flourished from around 200 BCE til the Middle Ages.
I continued on toward northern Spain, crossing a beautiful National Park and finally arriving at Ourense, where I’d read about thermal baths along the river. I found one and spent some time there, relaxing with locals in the natural hot mineral water, not far from a Roman bridge which was still in use for traffic until recently.
I went back to Lisbon and there met up with the rest of our dig team at the airport to head out to our home base in a small town called Safara. We were staying in the family home of the dig leader, Mariana’s partner, Joao. They had a toddler and lived downstairs in the newer part of the house, while we all bunked upstairs. Normally we would have left for the dig site before dawn every morning because of the heat, but we had unusually cool weather, so our mornings were surprisingly relaxed.
We ate cheese sandwiches for snack time between hardcore digging sessions. We unearthed slag, beads, and even a spindle whirl. We had lunch each day at a local restaurant which catered to us, serving traditional Portuguese dishes. In the afternoon we would wash pottery and chat before a bit of rest and dinner, shared at a long table to fit all the participants in the dig, which was the first season of excavations at this site, called Castello Velho. On weekends we had field trips to local sites, including a couple of medieval walled villages.
Once the dig was done, I had a full agenda: southern Spain, Malta, Sicily, Southern Italy, and Sardinia. My itinerary was shaped largely by my interest in the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, related groups that originated in Canaan (modern Lebanon) and spread across the Mediterranean during the early Iron Age. Some (surviving) notable cities founded (or heavily inhabited) by the Phoenicians include Lisbon in Portugal, Tangier in Morocco, Cadiz and Malaga in Spain, Palermo in Sicily, Cagliari in Sardinia, Genoa in Northern Italy, and Marseilles in France.
Unfortunately, the more successful and long-lived a city, the less likely it is that we can find traces of it’s foundations, as they are lost under layers of subsequent construction and occupation, with many of the original stones reused in later buildings and walls.
Luckily, at Cadiz a recent demolition in the old city allowed archaeologists to excavate several meters below current street level to find the remains of the Phoenician settlement from the 8th century BCE. Though a theater has since been built on top of the excavations, it is still possible to visit the subterranean site for free and get an idea of what Cadiz (Gadir) was like in the early era of Phoenician habitation there.
They even found a skeleton of a man who died when the settlement was destroyed by fire and genetic testing revealed him to be born of a local mother and a Phoenician father. I stayed in the enchanting city for days and befriended two lovely women at my hostel: one from Belgium and another from Finland. I loved Cadiz, but had to move on for time’s sake, so I rented a car and my Finnish friend, Karin, came along for the ride.
First we visited a site near El Puerto de Santa Maria (on the other side of the Bay of Cadiz) where the ruins of a Phoenician settlement have been excavated. It didn’t look like much, but it was very interesting to see this Middle Eastern-style tell in southwestern Spain. Further south, we pulled off to visit a beach for a picnic and swim and I walked out on a long stony quay or water break poking out toward the island of Sancti Petrie. It doesn’t look like much, but it bears the crumbling remains of a medieval fort built atop the once renowned temple to Hercules (Phoenician Melqart), which made the region famous in antiquity, attracting even Julius Caesar to pay homage there.
We continued on along the coast to Bolonia, where we stumbled upon a Roman site known as Baelo Claudia – the name alone speaks of its Phoenician heritage, since Baal was one of the primary deities of the Phoenicians (the name means ‘lord’ and the deity was the consort of Astarte, the queen of the Phoenician/Canaanite pantheon). However, the Romans constructed a new city on top of the original settlement around 200 BCE, completely obscuring the Phoenician city except the name and the heavy focus on fishing and maritime activity.
We continued on to Tarifa, where we met up with our Belgian friend, Julie, for tapas in the charming old seaside city, with winding little streets.
Then it was on to Malaga (Malaka) where almost nothing remained of the original Phoenician settlement, though the local museum had much in the way of artifacts and information about the Phoenicians who founded the city. A few kilometers from downtown, a boatbuilding workshop and ethnographical museum called Astilleros Nereo has been working with archaeologists to reconstruct a Phoenician boat based on remains of a shipwreck found off the coast of Spain. Its size and dimensions are very similar to the Spanish fishing boats (jabegas) which were still used for fishing until recently, when prohibitions on net fishing put an end to the trade. They even still have eyes painted on them, just as the Phoenicians used to do!
Julie arrived in Malaga and the three of us went to the Festival of San Juan on July 24. It’s an ancient pagan ritual co-opted by Christianity and given a Saint’s name, but it remains pretty Pagan. A former coworker from Spain told me about the festivals around the solstice and several years ago I attended a rather fateful party on her rooftop in Brooklyn, where we celebrated the festival, with a ritual fire in the firepit, which we jumped over at midnight. The festival in Malaga was huge – thousands and thousands of people gathered on the beach for a concert and general merriment, not unlike New Year’s Eve in Rio de Janeiro.
Julie and I went to a less populated part of the beach and found people with bonfires sitting quietly, some with candles and other ritual implements. We found a fire with a beautiful scooped hearth and chatted with the family who built it. They told us what to do and let us participate in the ritual using their lovely fire. First we had to write three wishes on a piece of paper and burn it. Then we were to jump over the fire. The final step was washing hands, feet and face in the sea, but Julie declined the last step.
I, on the other hand, waded in.
Though I’d have liked to search out more sites in Spain, I was soon on to Malta to see the famous megalithic temples there. I knew there was also Phoenician history on the island, especially at Mdina and Rabat, but unfortunately my time was too short and I had to skip the trip there in favor of seeing Gozo. The archaeology of Malta certainly demanded observation, Phoenician or no. I saw some wonderful temples and visited the archaeological museum at the capitol, Valletta, which had quite a large section about the Phoenicians and their impact on Malta. The museum is full of great finds, though it isn’t a large space and many labels are outdated and even illegible. The sites of Ħaġar Qim, Mnajdra on Malta, and Ġgantija on Gozo were fascinating and well worth the visit.
After Gozo I had to make time getting back to Valletta to get my bags and catch a ferry to Sicily. There happened to be a free MTV sponsored summer concert happening in the city just at that moment, so I had to hop off the bus and speed walk to the shop where I’d left my bags and then again to the ferry terminal, by which time I was a total ball of sweat. But, I made it on time and celebrated with a glass of rose and a packet of chips.
We departed at sunset and the city looked beautiful from its glittering harbor: I could just imagine the delight of the Phoenician sailors who came to Valletta and set up camp on the island just off the coast. It was a quick ride over to Pozallo once we left Valletta’s beautiful harbor. Google Maps took me on a wild walk about town and a sympathetic taxi driver stopped to pick me up and offer assistance. When I finally arrived, I was exhausted and ready for the luxurious single room I had booked for the night. I wasn’t hungry, so I washed laundry under the light of the full moon and hung it to dry on the rooftop lines, then went for a beer at a local cafe and wrote in my journal. I was impressed by the activity in the small city, with children and adults alike strolling the boardwalk and playing in playgrounds, though it was after midnight.
After a good night’s sleep, I hung out at my hotel to make arrangements for my next steps. I booked a train for Syracuse that evening and had a flat arranged for my arrival there, though I committed a classic blunder and didn’t check how long it would take to get from the train station to the flat. My train was over an hour late, and it turned out that the flat was an hour’s walk from the center of the city – practically outside of Syracuse! By the time I arrived there, I was quite sweaty and exhausted and since the buses didn’t run very late, I stayed in the area, buying groceries to cook for dinner and then visiting a nearby beach I saw on the map. It turned out to be associated with an old church, now in ruins, called Santa Panagia – the saint of all things – a common appellation for a female ‘saint’ likely related to a goddess in pre-Christian times. I brought a beer and chips and went in search of the sunset, which was beautiful with Mount Aetna in the distance. I explored the ruins and found a good spot to enjoy my well-earned happy hour.
Then it was back to the flat for a rare bath and the chance to make my dinner in a real kitchen – welcome after weeks of hostels.
In the morning, I had breakfast and went back to Santa Panagia for a swim. I cleaned up the litter around the rocks heading to the cove and then hopped in and swam for the little beach at the head of the cove, where I’d read that a fresh water spring flowed. The beach was covered in bottles and other plastic litter, and I set about cleaning it up as well. In half an hour, the beach was largely cleared of rubbish, though I couldn’t get it all. And I even discovered a “globster” – the remains of a sea mammal, maybe a small whale which had died and washed up in the cove some time ago, leaving nothing but a decaying pile of whitish blubber.
Thinking back, I’m reminded of the trip I took with my best girlfriends from college for our 30th birthdays, the August before my sister Erika died. We drove from New York to Maine and spent several days exploring the area around Bar Harbor. Our last morning, I was hungover from the festivities of the night before and threw up even before we visited one final beach. It was a misty morning and we couldn’t see much of the sea, but suddenly a rock emerged from the mist. As it cleared, the rock seemed to move closer until we realized it was a whale. Everyone on the beach stood motionless, awed by the sight of this enormous creature, dead and floating into the bay. Then the wind shifted and we were all hit by the smell of the rotting whale. Sarah moved so fast it was like she teleported to the other end of the sandy expanse, away from the putrid behemoth. Nora and MC likewise moved back to safe distance, gagging all the while. I retreated to the edge of the beach and barfed. It was a strange finale to a bizarre birthday trip.
This whale was pretty far gone, however, and aside from a little stench, the globster was nearly imperceptible, covered in seaweed. Otherwise the beach looked lovely cleaned up. Then I walked around toward the back of the beach and found the freshwater spring, trickling from some rocks and down into a stream which flowed to the sea. I drank from it, giving thanks for the beautiful beach and the clear sea, and then headed back to the flat to pack up and leave.
I arrived to find that I’d been given bad intel and I was late to check out, so I packed in a hurry and headed into the heat of midday. Rather than wait for an hourly bus, I walked back to the center of town with all my things, but I had a good sun hat and my parasol from Seville, which served me well.
I forgot to mention Seville, as it wasn’t my favorite stop, but there was a wonderful archaeological museum there, which I entered for free and which contained some fabulous traces of the Phoenicians in the form of the Carambolo Treasure, found not far from Seville. I also learned of some archaeological sites near Seville where the remains of Phoenician temples had been unearthed, but I couldn’t manage to reach them.
Syracuse was full of Greek and Roman ruins, but something about it had the scent of the Phoenicians: they loved to settle islands just off coastal areas to form trade relations, and they loved places like Santa Panagia, where fresh water meets the sea. I walked through the large archaeological park on the way to my hostel near Ortygia, the island of Syracuse. Once I’d settled in and showered off the sweat from that long stroll, I took my parasol and headed to the archaeological museum, where I spent several hours learning about the prehistory of Sicily and seeing countless wondrous grave goods from all sorts of burials. There were also the remains of temples, some of which had once been on Ortygia, which was the hub of the city from the beginning. I was struck by the near complete absence of a mention of the Phoenicians.
Then it was time to see Ortygia. Two bridges connect the island to the rest of the city and boats crowd the canals and marinas. Upon entering the old city, the temple of Apollo is the first things one sees: a cluster of columns remains, a couple of meters below the ground level. Nearby is the market and to the other side, the city’s ancient streets wind in a pleasantly tangled web of churches with stately edifices and restaurants serving pizza and seafood. I went in search of the fountain of Arethusa, which is said to have been created when a nymph sought escape from unwanted advances and was transformed into a sweet spring on the island. Ortygia supposedly means “quail”, possibly referring to the island’s shape. I wasn’t able to drink from the fountain (which was more of a pool) but went for a dip at the small beach nearby, which was most enjoyable. I got a prosecco and some snacks at a nearby establishment, and settled in for the sunset. The streets were crowded with tourists and residents alike and the bustle was pleasant. Once the tangerine sun disappeared, I went in search of food and found a pizza place outside on a main pedestrian street. In spite of asking around, there wasn’t much happening in Ortygia that night, as far as live music, so I wandered back across the bridge and home to my hostel.
In the morning I went bright and early to the archaeological park, and was disappointed to find that much of the sprawling area was closed: I was able to visit the so-called “ear of Dionysus” and a few nearby caves as well as the Greek theater, which was rather interesting because of the caves located just above the seating area, sometimes used as tombs. All in all, I was disappointed that so little of the park was accessible, and moreso because the ticket hadn’t been cheap. There are so many Greek and Roman theaters throughout the Mediterranean, anyway, that unless you specialize in them, they get rather repetitive: I’d seen one in Cadiz, another in Malaga, and there were more to come.
Then I went back to Ortygia to look for a Jewish ritual bath or mikvah, discovered beneath a hotel. I passed through the market on the way and then had a bit of lunch before taking the guided tour to the baths. The guide told us that the baths likely existed in some form long before the Jews of Ortygia modified them, possibly dating to the Greek era of the city, before the Roman conquest. I smelled the Phoenicians, knowing how they held sacred springs which met the sea, but I held my tongue and dipped my feet into the baths before re-emerging to the brightness of Ortygia. I made my way back to the font of Arethusa and took a swim at the picturesque little beach before heading to my hostel and then to a bus for Catania. I caught it by a few minutes and headed north to Catania.
I didn’t have much on tap for Catania, except that it was a good jumping off point for going to other parts of Sicily. The city itself was rather unexciting, though I did find a park with a lovely gazebo that reminded me of a Maxfield Parrish painting, and as I was walking back to my hostel, a tiny kitten scampered out of the shadows at me and I spent several minutes cuddling it before the park was closed and it was time to go. Kittens encountered in my travels always remind me of Erika and her propensity for feeding strays on her travels.
The next morning I got up bright and early and strolled toward the historic center, where a fountain with an obelisk astride a black basalt elephant is the symbol of the city. According to legend, the elephant has been the symbol of the city for a long time, with the elephant perhaps coming from Libya around the time of the Roman victory over the Carthaginians. The city was associated with elephants long before the current fountain was built in the mid 1700s. I visited the nearby fish market and had a yummy apricot cornetto with a cappuccino for breakfast before wandering back toward my hostel to get my bags and make my way to the airport to catch a bus to Agrigento, the next stop on my tour of Sicily.
Agrigento is famous for the so-called Valley of the Temples, located just outside the small modern town. Until around 300 BCE, Agrigento had been an influential city by the sea, famous for its temples. I checked into my hostel and made some lunch before walking to the temples. It was a long hot walk and I was grateful for my parasol. Luckily, it was free that day and I got to spend a couple of hours exploring the popular site, which is the largest archaeological site in the world, with temples dating mostly to the 6th century BCE, built in the Greek style.
The Carthaginians overthrew the Hellenistic city and spent about two hundred years in Agrigento, but little of the information at the site mentions them, except as the destroyers of some of the temples when they conquered the city in 406 BC, though there is an area of excavated Phoenician-style settlements not far from the acropolis.
That evening there was a festival in town in honor of the patron saint of the city: bright lights arched over the small main street and sellers of sweets and balloons filled the village square. I ate some dinner at the hostel and then poured some wine and brought it along to watch the festivities, but I found myself feeling a bit under the weather and ended up leaving before the fireworks to fend off my impending cold. Unfortunately, I felt even worse the next day, so instead of visiting the famous Scala dei Turkiye, I just went to the local museum for a few hours and then came back to the hostel to rest.
In the morning I left Agrigento for Marsala, where I stayed in a brand new apartment for practically the same amount I’d been spending on hostels. I was feeling a bit better and my host was a young Sicilian guy who had his friend, Salvatore, come over to make me lunch and show me around the city. We took his scooter to the local museum, which was famous for the remains of a Carthaginian war ship dating to 235 BCE.
I showed Salvatore around the museum and explained things in my extremely limited Italian: the museum itself was located on the site of the ancient Phoenician city of Lilibeo, which was founded after the island site of Motya was destroyed by the Syracusans around 397 BCE; instead of rebuilding there, they’d opted. The museum was small but full of treasures and I enjoyed exploring it. Then we went to the center of the city to see a couple of other archaeological sites and explore the old town.
The next day I visited a sacred spring and bathing pool under a church, which seemed to me likely to be the remains of a much more ancient religious site – probably a “Venus” or Astarte temple.
Then I caught a bus to go to the island of Motya, which was a very special place indeed. Founded by the Phoenicians around 800 BCE, Motya is unique in that the Phoenician city was left just as it had been after its destruction. On the ferry, I met a friendly American family who recommended I visit Erice, a medieval town to the north of Marsala – advice I decided to take. I spent a happy few hours Motya, exploring houses, temples, a fabulous sacred pool area, and the museum of local finds. It was one of the highlights of my journey, being the first large Phoenician settlement I was able to visit without any pesky Roman ruins to obscure it. In antiquity, a road existed between the island and the mainland, allowing carts, chariots, livestock, etc. to access the city. It was a truly fascinating afternoon.
I left for Erice the next day, taking a train to Trapani in the afternoon, and from there getting the bus to the funicular. A mountain juts sharply upward about half a mile inland from the sea, and at the top sits the city of Erice, known as Eryx in antiquity and famous for the Astarte temple that once stood on a rocky outcropping high above the surrounding plains. Funny little pods traipsed by and I got in one and watched Trapani spread before me, the sea washing perfect blue-green against the city’s shores and then receding as I went up the mountain, further and further till clouds enveloped my pod and all I could see in all directions was white. It was unearthly and the journey upward took some time, though we moved swiftly. Wind buffeted the pod, but soon enough I could glimpse the city’s towers and stones through the mist. I had arrived.
I was staying in another apartment, as there were no hostels there. It was still early evening, so I dropped off my things and went off to explore the little medieval town. It was certainly touristy, but I was in a sweet little flat not far from the temple site, so I headed in that direction. White clouds concealed the shape of the castle, called the Venus Castle, which was built atop the ancient temple, using many of the well-hewn blocks original to the temple. After several minutes, the clouds began to clear and the castle emerged from her shroud, shedding veils till the whole of the structure was exposed: the defensive wall and a tower were in tact and you could clearly spot the large Phoenician stones – yellowish in color – mixed in with the grey, small and un-hewn medieval stones. I was able to get into the castle for a discounted rate, thanks to my student status and it was a wondrous place, though I generally care little for castles. One section of wall was thought to have been Phoenician and the remains of Roman baths are also there, but as the temple was probably open air, and the stones of any structures have been reused, it is hard to know what the ancient temple was like.
Astarte, Aphrodite, and Venus were different names for the same goddess of love and war, and the dove was her principal symbol. Libya was another name for her, and it was said that Astarte’s sacred doves would fly from Erice to her temple in Libya and when a red or pink dove returned to the mountain, it was considered to be the goddess returning, and celebrated with great feasting. In Roman times, the temples was popular throughout the Mediterranean and devotees of Venus Erycina were many. It was in the first few centuries of the common era that her temple was destroyed and her worship was curtailed.
After the temple, I went in search of the city walls, which are all that remain of the Phoenician city. I wandered through the arched stone gates and marveled at the well-constructed walls, nearly circumnavigating the city to see them. Winding streets and charming buildings make the medieval city popular, but I was pretty into the walls.
I went back to my flat for some wine and a snack and found a lovely park to enjoy the last dim tendrils of sunlight. I thought of Erika and how she would have liked it there and enjoyed this happy hour with me.
I had to go in search of dinner eventually and headed into the winding streets in search of a vegetarian dish.
I searched in vain for signs of nightlife after an overpriced but tasty dinner and went home to bed. I awoke to wander the city, visiting the castle again and then breakfasting on the local pastry: a round fluffy sort of cookie filled with warm custard and topped with powdered sugar. I read my cards and sipped a cappuccino before checking out of my apartment and making one last stop at the local museum.
Again, my entrance was discounted and I thoroughly enjoyed the small but sweet little museum, with an interesting collection of Carthaginian and Phoenician artifacts.
Then I took the funicular back down, grabbed a bus and headed for Trapani. I explored on foot, stopping for a change of clothes and a quick dip in the sea by a convenient door in the sea wall. Little fishing boats, not unlike the jabegas of Malaga, bobbed about in the surf and the sea sparkled just as it always seemed to in these Phoenician port cities: they certainly had refined taste in coastlines.
I grabbed a bus for Palermo where I had booked a convenient hostel not far from the central station. Palermo was another Phoenician city, called Zizi or Sis before it was renamed Panormo by the Greeks. It was a large city, but I made a beeline for the museum and stayed till they kicked me out, absorbed by the remains of temples and artifacts from sites like Segesta and Selinunte.
The next day I went to the airport and rented a car (I’d attempted to reserve one in advance, but it apparently didn’t go through). Luckily I found one for a bearable price and went to Segesta to see some pretty lovely temple ruins in a stunning valley. Then I drove to Selinunte, just south of Marsala. I got free entrance to both parks, for which I was most grateful, since I was spending extra money on the car. Selinunte was so large and complex that I spent hours there, walking to the different areas. There were impressive temples and a sprawling Punic settlement by the sea – I even saw mosaic floors with the symbol of Tanit: a decidedly Carthaginian motif.
After my sweaty wander (during which my parasol again came in handy) I was ready for food and a swim in the sea. I drove to the nearest town, called Marinella, and bought pizza and beer to take to the beach. After my snack, I went for a swim and washed off the dust of the day’s travails.
I drove back toward Palermo, passing through Mazara del Vallo, to see what I’d missed (not much) and then on to the airport. After a bit of petrol stress, I returned the car and found a ride to my hostel.
It wasn’t too late, so I went out for some drinks with some girls from my hostel. It was oddly quiet for a Saturday night, but we went to the plaza near the Museum and the street was full of people drinking, smoking, talking.
The next day I planned to leave Palermo for Taormina, so I went to the train station for tickets and tried in vain to find another train for one final nearby site: Solunto. I ended up paying for a taxi (ouch) but it was a wonderful site and certainly worth it: perched on a mountaintop with temples and a wonderful city plan. White ships sailed in the brilliant blue harbors and you could really see what the Phoenicians saw in the place.
As I left the site, a family turned around to offer me a ride down the mountain. I had them drop me off at the station, but then I realized I had just enough time to go to the beach for a dip before my train back to Palermo, so I hightailed it to the nearest spot with sand and sea and immersed myself for a few blessed moments before catching the train. I had enough time in Palermo for a quick bite and a beer before I got the train to Taormina. I planned to continue to southern Italy from there, but I had a hostel booked for the night at least. Taormina didn’t hold much in the way of archaeological interest for me, but it was said to be lovely and it was a good place to catch the train to Naples, so I headed there all the same. The train from Palermo was comfortable and timely, though we did have a bit of a delay getting to Catania, where I needed to change trains. Luckily, we made it just in time and I got to Taormina a bit after sunset.
As I waited for the bus to take me up to the little city, I struck up a conversation with a couple of French women – sisters traveling together – and they showed me around the little city and then suggested we meet up once I’d checked into my hostel.
It took a minute but I grabbed my meager food and drink offerings – cheese, bread, and wine – and went to meet up with my new friends. We walked together to their Airbnb and there we feasted and chatted in French – I was a bit rusty but it was nice to meet these sisters, traveling together as Erika and I did several times. We enjoyed the rooftop at their place till it was time for bed, as they were due to leave early the next morning. I went home and climbed into my upper bunk, where cold air conditioning blasted me and I awoke with the sniffles.
I spent the morning making arrangements to renew my passport in Naples – booking an appointment and filling out the necessary forms over a cup of espresso and a sad excuse for a cornetto. In the process, I met another denizen of the hostel named Florian and we got to talking and decided to go for a granita, since I hadn’t yet had one.
We attempted to visit a ruined castle located suspiciously on a hill called ‘Mount Venus’ on a tourist map I saw, but we were stymied by locked gates – it was closed to visitors. Instead we went to the sea, as it was steaming hot. In the evening, Florian put on a juggling show in the main piazza, attracting a large group of spectators and awestruck children. Then he had a bus to catch and I a train. We said goodbye and I got the bus to the station and soon a sleeper train was whisking me away from Sicily to Naples.
I awoke when we were close to the city and prepared for a long morning. I looked like death warmed over, so I visited a Mac store in the station and begged the woman there to spruce me up for my passport photos, as I had an appointment that afternoon at the embassy. She did her best and I looked presentable for my photos, even though I had to retake them at the embassy after a slightly sweaty commute. Once I was in and out (and they let me keep my old passport in the meantime), I headed to the train station to get my bags out of storage and catch a train toward Otranto, in the heel of the boot of Italy.
I got to Lecce and my friend, Silvia, arrived to meet me there. It was wonderful to see her after several years since we both left New York, where we met. Now she was living in a beautiful place with her boyfriend, Robbert. I spent about a week with them, exploring the area’s many caves and other archaeological sites. We also went to some of the most beautiful beaches I’d ever seen – not really beaches, but white limestone cliffs and basins. The rest of our time was spent cooking, chatting, and looking after the Ortho de Lidro – their beautiful farm with fruit trees and arugula and a handsome peach-colored cat. A new kitten arrived during my stay, as well – a little tabby, fuzzy, like my Ivy kitty was when she was small.
It was lovely to be with friends and in one place for a while, but soon I needed to return to Naples to retrieve my passport. I went first to Herculaneum, near Pompeii and resumed some real sightseeing from my base at a nearby hostel. Herculaneum was nice for its small size and fewer people than Pompeii, which was overwhelming in scale, by comparison.
I went to Pompeii in the afternoon, and on the way to the train station, I met a tiny black kitten, filthy and hungry. When I discovered my train was still 15 minutes away, I went back and bought a chicken kabob wrapped in bacon and sought out the kitten, who had scampered down the street after me. I scooped it up and plopped it near the food and it was so hungry, the food was half gone in seconds. I caught my train back to my hostel. In the morning, I moved to a hostel in the heart of old Naples to be closer to the embassy and my passport. Once I picked it up, I was free to make other plans and explore the city. I wasn’t charmed by it, but I did enjoy it, especially dipping in the beaches and exploring the Spanish Quarter, though it was stiflingly hot.
I booked a ferry for Sardinia and spent one last day in Naples before heading to the docks. Unfortunately, my new passport had caused confusion about my ticket, and I had a last minute dash to get a new printout, but I made it on board and celebrated with bubbles.
Well, this post is overdue and long enough, so Sardinia will have to wait!
Love and miss – to be continued!