Buonasera from Stabia, a suburb of Naples or Napoli as they call it here in Italia. We’ve since trekked up the coast from Ascea, leaving our small-town exploits and beloved Anapaola and Gino (the owners of the hotel) behind. Now that we’re here, we recognize how wonderful our stay in Ascea really was — three-course meals, big rooms, decent showers. Here in Stabia, our lunches consist mostly of sandwiches with inedible meat and peach juiceboxes (always a peach juicebox, strange accessory to have in a lunch), our rooms are tiny and our showers are even tinier. Literally a square box maybe a foot on each side. The WiFi is incredibly slow and only available in the lobby area, and the hallways and rooms are kept at a chilly 30 degrees. I’m exaggerating, but it certainly feels like that. I curled up pressed against the heater in the hallway last night when I needed to do some reading, and my roommate was sleeping. I sound so spoiled, but I have been; I didn’t appreciate the treatment we got at the small hotel in Ascea and regret it profusely.

Stabia itself is grimy and supposedly crime-infested. Our hotel sits on top of a hill with hairpin turns where the cars literally have to back up in order to get around them. Yet the winding cobblestoned alleys have a peculiar charm to them; despite the cigarettes squished into the cracks between the rocks, the people walking the streets have character. Every corner seems to be a prime picture and every sound ripe for an audio clip (yes, my journalist sense is still coming out, even here). I wish I could record smells because there would be plenty enough for a whole scrapbook, too.

The surrounding areas boast plenty of well-preserved ruins, and we’ve visited three sites in the past two days. One was a beautiful villa, the second a fairly well-preserved town smothered by Vesuvius and the third, the famous Pompeii. My favorite parts were the floors, made up of colorful tiled patterns and then the walls, also brightly colored and elaborate. It’s incredible that so much was kept intact after the horrific explosion. It was obviously easiest to picture Pompeii as a functional town because less is left to the imagination, but I was not as impressed by the city as I thought I’d be. Granted, it had been the third similar-looking town I’d seen within a week so I feel like the allure of the past is starting to fade from the sites, at least from my perspective. There were parts of it that were fascinating, like the bakery and laundry facilities we found, and the fact that we got to explore a bunch of sites that were closed off to the rest of the public, because our professor has connections. But Pompeii was also massive. We spent five hours walking around, and some sites we did in a hurry. There are only so many Roman houses you can see before you can identify every characteristic by name, especially since almost all of them have the same elements — an impluvium (which catches rainwater and pipes it outside), a peristyle (courtyard), an atrium, a vestibule, cubicula (one-bed bedrooms), at least one tablinum (a room where an owner would conduct business) and triclinia (dining rooms). Cool, but it just gets old after a while.

Tonight, a few of us went exploring and found some decently priced wine. We drank a few glasses (small and plastic, the opposite of wine glasses) and played this game we’re now calling telephone pictionary. Each person gets a pile of paper and writes a sentence on the first sheet. They then pass it to the next person and look at the pile that has just been passed to them where they have to read this new sentence, pass the paper to the back of the pile and draw whatever the sentence said. You then pass it on, look at the picture that has just been passed it to you, place that paper in the back of the pile and then write a sentence describing whatever picture you just saw. And on and on until you end up with your own sentence. Then you share your progression of events with the rest of the group. It’s addictively fun, even for me, and I hate pictionary normally. In this game, the point is kind of to see how ridiculous the sentence ends up though, so accuracy isn’t as prized. It was so nice to just chill out and laugh after a long day of walking. More walking tomorrow, but on flatter ground at the archaeological museum of Naples. Tired but happy.

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