04 April, 2008

Semi-Summer: Ventotene

I had been meaning to write this post since last week, but I have been so busy with finals coming up, a doctor visit, credit card issues, and registration for the summer and fall semesters at Temple - there just wasn't time! Anyway, I went to Ventotene last weekend with some other students. It's a little island near Naples about one square mile total. We left at 6 am on Friday morning by bus to the ferry in Naples, which took about 3 hours. Then the ferry took another 2 hours.

Here I am on the Ferry

The weather that morning was a bit chilly and rainy, but by the time we got to Ventotene it had pretty much cleared up and was slightly warmer in the sun. However, our rooms were extremely cold, especially at night, as they had no heat. Most of us had not packed our winter jackets and I pretty much layered up all my shirts underneath a sweatshirt to stay warm. As long as we were in the sun, though, we were warm. Unless we were in the water of course, which was also freezing cold!

On Friday afternoon we met our tour dude for lunch, and later again for dinner which was a little pricey (as lunch had been) but still nice because all 18 of us ate together. Plus, the prices included water, bread, and wine, and primi- and secondi- plates (i.e. pasta, and then fish) and our accommodations were inexpensive and beautiful.

Hallway leading from the back of the house to the street.

View from Terrace

The terrace was so beautiful in the evening and at night, while enjoying some wine and star-gazing. I was feeling more relaxed than I have been since my arrival in Italy.

On Saturday morning we got an early start and headed to the beach. It wasn't raining anymore, and there was plenty of sun. Part of the group decided to take on the challenge that was clearly tempting: swim to the nearby volcanic rock island just off the shore. I stayed behind with everyone's towels and belongings, awaiting a call from our friend Tim who was organizing a tour for later that day. The group made it to the rock and stayed for about an hour, basking in the sunshine and taking in the views. Everything seemed to be fine except one person who stayed on another small rock about 10 feet away the entire time. Turns out, it was our friend Lindsey who had become slightly hypothermic due to the extremely cold water on the way over, and on the way back she refused to get into the water again. The rest of the group returned, explaining that they had stayed for so long to try and warm up again. I myself swam about halfway over to meet them as they were returning, and felt my chest constricting. Ultimately, an ex-lifeguard friend had to swim out and rescue Lindsey from her perch on the smaller rock with a type of surfboard.

After all these festivities, Tim came and told us where and when to meet for our tour of Santo Stefano, another volcanic island rising out of the Mediterranean, visible from Ventotene.

This is the view from our rooftop terrace of Santo Stefano.

Several of us grabbed a quick lunch; delicious and outdoors!

"Jardino" Restaurant for Lunch

After our long morning at the beach on Saturday, we took a little boat to visit Santo Stefano. At least, half of us took a boat... the other half took something that more closely resembled an inflatable raft with a motor, including myself.

The Guys on the Dinky Boat

The Calm, Safe Harbor of Ventotene

Leaving the Calm, Safe Harbor

The buildings sitting atop the Isola di Santo Stefano served as a prison from the early 1800's until the 1960's. They held many political, war, and other prisoners, under the precept that criminals could be redeemed. It is now privately owned and treacherous to visit! Since we'd experienced the chill of the water that morning, none of us really wanted to repeat the experience in the late afternoon as the sun was disappearing. Anyway, we safely arrived at the island, muscles tense from holding on so tight to the rope running around the raft.

Water, Water, Everywhere

Then we had to climb up some very uneven stone stairs.

It was a long way up!

At the top, we had a "tour" in Italian. There was a woman there who knew English and Italian so she translated some of it for us. When the other Italians on the tour realized some of us knew a little Italian, they asked us what the heck we were doing there from America. We told them we were studying in Rome so they kind of understood that, but few tourists visit Ventotene and even fewer ever see Santo Stefano, especially given how remote it is.

By the way, the whole complex is in a state of decay. In America, we would have had to sign a waiver for this...

But there are really some beautiful views.

The tour basically consisted of us walking up the stairs, entering the prison where the cells were located, making a circle around the outside of a middle courtyard where mass was normally held, viewing some old photos in a binder held by the tour guide, and then exiting and descending the numerous stairs to meet our raft and return to the mainland.

Inside the Complex

I believe they held religious services here.

Tyler School of Art students at work!

Just outside the prison cells. My photography skills are improving :-)

I wish I could say the way back to Ventotene was easier, but halfway to the mainland, in the open, rough water, our driver mentioned something along the lines of "si e rotto" which translates to, "it's broken" and those of us who knew some Italian freaked out a bit. However, we got back to the mainland safely with our driver manually steering by turning the motor with his bare hands. What a day!

We had another dinner with the group and our tour guide that night. Later on, we made a bonfire on the beach which was a lot of fun except for the part where I sat on a nail that was sticking out of my improvised wood bench. It was nice to feel some real heat, though. When we went back to our rooms they were slightly warmer than the night before since I had left all the windows open that day to let some sunshine and air in, but still very chilly.

The next day the weather was beautiful again. We spent some time on our terrace and some more time at the beach before heading home on the ferry at 15,00. So sad to leave!

The ferry back to Naples was super-crowded, as it was the last one leaving the island for the day.

Arriving in Naples

We got back to Rome around 20,00 Sunday. And I got back to reality. As in, maybe I need to get a tetanus shot for that nail I sat on...

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