Once I made the decision to go to Rome, I immediately set aside one of the days to take a trip down to Naples and eventually to Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii. The city of Pompeii and the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and what it left behind has always fascinated me, and you could say it was a dream of mine to see the volcano, the city and its remnants in real life. What actually happened that day didn’t exactly go as planned.
My semester abroad in Seville, Spain with World Endeavors was going splendidly and I had already had the chance to explore a bit of Spain as well as London, Dublin and Morocco, and I was off to Paris after my trip to Italy.
My friend and I spent a few days exploring Rome: the Coliseum, the Vatican, the Forum and a lot of delicious gelato. I was even able to meet up with a friend I had met in a London hostel who had been studying in Italy. She was also up for the trip to Naples! What better way to end the trip than to take my highly anticipated voyage to Pompeii with my two friends and the beautiful Italian weather? So we set off.
We woke a little bit later in the morning than we had intended, but it was okay! There was a noon train down to Naples, so we had plenty of time. It only took a little over 2 hours to get to Naples by train, so we stopped and got breakfast. We didn’t have a care in the world!
The train ride was full of laughter and excitement, talking about how excited we were to see the famous city of Pompeii and its people preserved in volcanic ash. When we arrived in Naples it was around 3:00pm, and we walked up to the counter that had various promotions featuring Mount Vesuvius and the city of Pompeii. My friend, who spoke the most Italian, asked for 3 train and entrance tickets. The next train to Pompeii left at 4:00 and didn’t arrive until 4:30 pm.
“Ci dispiace, è troppo tardi.”
“Sorry, it’s too late,” the Italian tour guide said. It took some motioning and pointing for us to understand that the National Park closed at 5:00pm.
I felt like an anvil had been dropped on my head.
Here we were, all rested and relaxed from our lollygagging, with my flight to Paris at 5:00am the next morning, and there was absolutely no way for us to go to Pompeii or Mount Vesuvius! The amount of disappointment and anger I felt at myself was paramount. I was an experienced traveler; I should have known to research these kinds of things! Needless to say, we were all pretty bummed at the end of that conversation.
We resolved to walk around Naples (which for some reason was covered in rubbish bags and bins – it was like all the garbage men were on strike and laughing in my face) and we walked to the shore and sat looking at Mount Vesuvius from afar. There it was. So close, yet so far away. I had never felt so disappointed! When was I ever going to be in this part of the world again?
The time to return to the train station had come and the train we booked left in 20 minutes at 6:00pm. Finding our way back to the train station turned out to be a bit harder than we expected. As we came running into the station at 5:59, we watched as our train took off down the tracks. Okay, this day was turning out to be horrible. How could it get any worse?
The next train left at 7:30 so we sat in the station, waiting impatiently and disappointedly. As 7:30 rolled around, unbeknownst to us, the train platform had changed for this train and as we waiting to get on, we realized it was not going to the right destination. We scoured the signs for any sign of ‘Roma Termini’ and discovered that the platform our train was now leaving from was about a good 95 meters away, about the length of a football field. We took off running.
When we arrived, we saw a train and attempted to ask a train station employee if this was the train we were looking for. There was a couple from Spain there trying to find the same train as us (having used our Spanish skills, the only good thing to happen that evening). The employee said we were in the wrong place and pointed us back in the direction we came from.
So, me, my two friends and the Spanish couple we had just met, who were dragging large suitcases, took off at a sprint towards another platform not quite as far away. When we arrived panting and I’m sure all with headaches, the train was already leisurely rolling down the tracks.
We all couldn’t believe it. Another employee must have seen our faces and felt pity so he came up to us to ask what was happening. We explained in broken Italian what had just happened and told him where we were trying to go. I was starting to get worried. I had to pick up my backpack from the hostel and head to the airport after returning to Rome. We just HAD to get back to Rome that night. Apparently the there was a train leaving in 2 minutes back where we had just been, and the next one wasn’t until 10:30pm! How could we have been led so far astray? We took off running one more time.
I felt like we were in a movie. The five of us running down the Italian platforms for the train, sweaty and determined, yelling to each other, “come on! There it is! I see it! Don’t give up now!” Thankfully we were all in decent shape.
Thankfully, the train was a few minutes delayed and we were all able to jump on at the last moment. We slumped into seats, drained from the day but relieved we didn’t have to be there any minute longer. A few seconds after sinking into the seats, we heard the creak of the train coming to life and slowly taking off. We must have been silent for 15 minutes as we all just sat there thinking about what had just happened. We said goodbye to the Spanish couple as they started down the corridor looking for their own seats. I would never see them again; funny how things happen sometimes.
Looking back on that day, I laugh when I think about our many sprints through the train station. I remember how disappointed and frustrated I was that day, but you can’t dwell too much on that. You have to look at everything as the adventure it is and run with it. In our case, literally.