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  • Writer's pictureAlta's Oyster

Four Days in Southern Italy

Picture it: Italy, March 2023. Three beautiful Haitian girls roam the picturesque coastal cities of Vico Equense, Pompeii, and Amalfi to celebrate a milestone 30th birthday. They tour a UNESCO World Heritage Site, ride horses, pamper themselves, and they even squeeze in a photoshoot in Rome. They ate good and felt even better (for the most part: a suitcase was hella delayed). They left Italy with a vow to return to explore more of its coastal jewels.

Early thirties Black woman with natural hair posing like the Vetruvian Man in front of an Instagram frame in Rome International Airport
Doing my best rendition of the Vetruvian Man after landing in Rome International Airport

I gushed about our host town Vico Equense and our lovely accommodation at Hotel Mary in a previous post, so in this one I'll be focusing on the activities we did while in Italy. We made the most of this trip and still wished we'd planned a longer stay. We booked our activities through Airbnb Experiences, and everything was a hit!

A caste of a citizen of Pompeii lying inside of a glass case.
A Pompeiian frozen in time. I learned that they were a short bunch.

We hit the ground running with the Pompeii Ruins, Horses and Wine tour. The ancient city of Pompeii is impressive, not only because of how it ended but because of how they lived, what they built, and how they expanded. Did you know they had sliding doors? I'm always impressed by how innovative and ingenious ancient civilizations were (not just Pompeii and not just in Europe).

They built their structures to work with nature and the seasons. Pompeiians integrated a type of white rock on their streets and when moonlight hit these rocks, they reflected the light thereby serving as streetlights! Our Pompeii tour guide was Lala, and she was knowledgeable, thorough, and answered our questions. Our group was a decent size, and I have to say that one of my favorite things about traveling internationally is the buzz of multiple tour groups covering the same material. It's electrifying, throngs of people expanding their knowledge of the world.

I'm spoiling the tour for you a little, but I learned that in the days before Mt. Vesuvius erupted, water had become scarce, birds were evacuating the area, and there were strange noises coming from underground. The Pompeiians had no idea that these were signs of impending cataclysm. How eerie! It's been almost four months to the day that we toured Pompeii, and I don't quite have the words to describe how I felt. It was a profound experience, as you might expect. The tales of how busy Pompeii was contrasted with how abruptly and completely it ended...I just kept marveling at how random life is, how it doesn't make any sense. Here in the morning, gone by evening (it's estimated that Mount Vesuvius erupted around 1:00 p.m.).

After Lala regaled us with the daily life and culture of ancient Pompeii, a new guide named Roberta took us on a wine tour at Cantina del Vesuvio where they produce an average of 64,000 bottles of wine a year, focusing on quality over quantity. I’m no wine connoisseur, but I’m always up for a tasting! We tasted three of their bottles (four counting the pre-tour wine), and they served us lunch. The food left a lot to be desired, but it was at least something to put in my stomach.

Early thirties Black woman with locs drinking wine
A stunning photo of my sister Janine

Finally, Sofia (Co-Host of this Airbnb Experience) led us on a serene horse ride around the vineyard. If it's one thing Janine, Jennifer, and I will do is take a horseback riding tour. We were surrounded by mountains, and Mount Vesuvius itself was draped with low-hanging clouds. This experience was a 10/10. Look them up if you want to tour Pompeii. They don't offer hotel pick up. Rather, everyone is directed to meet at a certain location. Also, shout out to the people in our tour group. They were good company.

Jennifer is like a second little sister to me, so I was thrilled to celebrate her 30th stroll around the sun. We had hoped to do a boat tour to Capri on the big day, but the sea was dangerous for two days straight, so we chose instead to pamper ourselves in Hotel Mary's wellness spa.

A Black woman with braids lounging next to the pool with her eyes closed
Jennifer indulging in the soft life

We started things off with the pool jets, and I felt like a water nymph under the waterfall. Jennifer and Janine melted in the sauna, and we all got a much-needed massage. That massage was fall-asleep-on-the-table good, and the entire experience only cost 90 euros each. We must've been in there for three hours, just us.

We grabbed lunch after, and then we got gelato and other desserts for the birthday girl and walked the streets of Vico. The cool breeze coming off the Mediterranean Sea was the perfect topping.

But you're waiting for me to talk about Amalfi Coast, right? I got you! We reserved a driver to take us to Amalfi for some required shopping and for our last activity in Southern Italy. Listen to me: the drive along the Amalfi Coast is much better than anything you've seen on social media. The Tyrrhenian Sea stretches into the sky, so blue it's unearthly.

Picture from the Amalfi Coast, looking out over the Tyrrhenian Sea
Unedited picture from Amalfi Coast, taken by Alta. From a moving car!

A feast for the eyes. The driver dropped us off on a strip filled with boutiques selling clothes, purses, shoes, and limoncello. I don't know what the shopping strip is called, but JP Boutique is one of the stores located there.

After we productively killed time, we met back up with the driver, and he took us to our cooking activity. We booked the Tagliatelle, Ravioli, and Tiramisu experience hosted by Rosanna. Her husband Pasquale is the Chef, and he is a terrific, funny teacher. He's also all about the marketing! By that I mean, Pasquale's got two stands with ring lights at hand if you want to set up your phone to record the experience. Jennifer and I had our phones out, and he consistently checked to see if we were getting the angles. And Pasquale does this, okay? He's been featured in Hemispheres, United Airlines' inflight magazine. And I found the feature! Don't play with him.

Under Pasquale's direction, we made tagliatelle and ravioli from scratch while he treated us to stories about his childhood and the genesis of his love of cooking. He also asked us questions about our lives, our jobs, beautiful music by Massimo Ranieri playing in the background all the while. Sunlight spilled in through the windows and open door. All of this made for a cozy experience.

The description on Airbnb says you'll pick vegetables from their garden for the meal, but that was not part of what we did. However, Pasquale did take us down to the wine cellar after lunch, where he showed us his ancestral mural.

And then we returned to Rome. We had to since we flew into Leonardo da Vinci International Airport. And Girl. We were initially spared the...Rome-ness of Rome when we arrived, because 1) it was nighttime, and 2) we immediately set off for Vico Equense. Well, upon return, we were there less than five hours before someone tried to scam my sister with the friendship bracelet scam. Look up current scams when you're traveling internationally, people, because she thought she was getting a free bracelet, and I told her it was a scam. We were walking with our photographer at the time, so he confirmed. And then we literally walked by another scammer being handcuffed less than a minute later! There was a team of them running game.

Another Roman jewel is that after we finished the photoshoot and were looking for something to eat, some man followed us for about seven minutes straight, and he didn't stop until we ducked into a restaurant. Insane! Not to mention all the people that tried to get us to buy things. I literally had to shrug past a guy trying to sell me a charger.

Rome did way too much in the short time we were there. We were like: Vico Equense would never.

But like I said, we were there to fly out, and Jennifer booked us a photoshoot to cap off the trip. We checked into the Relais Giulia, a boutique hotel that is a little bit of a vibe but maybe not for three people sharing a room. The front desk guy was very hospitable, though.

We booked the Amazing Professional Photo Tour in Rome, hosted by Latif. His co-host Saint snapped our pics, and before I get into the talent, an impassioned warning: wear comfortable, FLAT shoes! For the love of God, don't be like me! Or Janine! I'm not sure how Jennifer fared. Her heels were pretty low. But my God, did I suffer. For whatever reason, I assumed Saint would drive us from location to location. Honey, no. We walked those cobble stone streets, me in my too-high wedges, Janine in her too-high boots. The girl flew back home only to find out she somehow lost the bottom of one of her heels somewhere in Rome. I was hobbling before we even got to the second location. The walking would not end! Do better than us.

Also, if you want to do the Trevi Fountain location, that is only offered early, early in the morning. But back to Saint's skills. I mean, he had beautiful models, so we really did half the work for him, ha! Him or his editing team did a great job honoring the melanin, though. He also has plenty of directions for poses if you can't think of any.

Black woman in floral dress with dense afro posing in front of the Colosseum in Rome.
Photo by Saint

Despite the sketchy encounters, I haven't written Rome off for a real visit. I'll have to be very intentional about it. Those few hours were just so intense. I'd probably spend three days there, do guided tours, keep a strong hand on my possessions, and fly to another, calmer location in Italy for a palette cleanser.

Vico Equense gave people visit here. Rome gave we eat tourists for lunch.

Head to my Tiktok to see my Italian trip in motion! I keep directing y'all to Tiktok instead of providing a direct link, because I'm unable to link to my account for now. I will fix that soon!


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