The next stop of our magical European adventure was ITALY! What a dream. The second we stepped into the streets of Messina, I was struck by all of the quaint, cobblestone streets lined with colorful, rustic buildings with balconies filled with plants. We spent a bit of time walking around a little square complete with a beautifully sculptured fountain and a grand church over-looking the streets. Turn each corner to find a cute little corner general store, a coffee shop with plenty of outdoor seating and little bistro-style restaurants. The city center of Messina has an incredibly old yet comforting style of architecture with ratty buildings that are just so charming.
After a full morning of walking around and relishing in the beauty of Italy, we decided it was time to find somewhere for lunch. Leading up to Italy, I only had one request: I needed to find the best seafood pasta. So this was my chance. After looking and looking for the perfect little restaurant, we found Osteria del Campanile tucked away in a little side-street off of one of the main roads. Thinking it looked a little run down and a bit out of the way, I honestly wasn’t expecting much. But after looking at the menu and seeing that they had a seafood spaghetti in a tomato-based sauce, I just had to order it. I still don’t know the words to properly describe it, but it was hands down the BEST pasta I’ve ever had in my life. And I eat a lot of pasta. That’s all I can say.
After being stuffed with meats, pasta and red wine, we headed out for the afternoon. We walked through the city center a bit more before heading to the shopping district. Simply a few rows of streets lined with stores on end. One of the stores I discovered while in Italy was Kiko Milano. I was on the hunt for some new colorful eye shadows when I first walked into their store. Everything is so affordable, but the products I’ve tried so far have been really good. After a few more hours of shopping, it was time for our first Italian gelato. We found a little coffee shop and popped it for a sweet treat. Overtaken with all the flavors, I finally settled on one scoop of cherry amaretto and one scoop of almond dark chocolate. Not to sound like a broken record, but best gelato I had ever had in my life.
Up next, the Amalfi Coast. The drive there was nothing short of incredible, stopping along the way at all of the prettiest of panoramic views. The picturesque shoreline with scattered villas, hotels, vineyards and houses was exactly what I was expecting. I constantly felt like I was looking at a background, so so so beautiful. The water was such a rich shade of blue that it almost seemed otherworldly. The town of Amalfi was exactly what I would have expected. The second you pull up, the salty smell of the ocean surrounds you as the sound of waves crashing lightly on the shore and the voices of so many happy people fill your ears. People say Disneyland is the happiest place on earth, but I might want to argue that.
Walk into the town center of Amalfi, a walled in area of streets and stores, to find even more bustling. Boutiques, food stores, cafes and restaurants are absolutely everywhere you look. There’s no stopping, there’s no break, it’s just go go go, in the best way possible. The buildings’ first floors were all filled with stores, but the second and third floors were all balcony and flower-lined, looking like someone may live there. We popped into store after store and I was simply stunned by the sheer amount of things stuffed into every small space. Every kind of pasta you could imagine, snow globes, shot glasses and magnets lined shelf after shelf, and bottles of limoncello could be found at almost every store. The whole time walking around, we were hot, sweaty and sticky from the Italian summer sun beating down on us, but it was also just so magical I didn’t care if I was sweating or not.
With the heatwave coming up to the southern coast of Europe from Africa, it was absolutely sweltering. And what’s the one way to cure a hot, Italian summer day: more gelato. I had already had my first, and what I thought was the best I would ever had, gelato in Messina, but I was ready to have another one. This time the flavor was Amalfi Limoncello. It was tangy, sweet, icily creamy and refreshingly cold. The heat was beginning to softly melt the triangular scoop of beautiful yellow gelato, but that did not stop us from finishing every last drop. As the days moved from morning, to mid morning, to evening, the Amalfi just seemed to get more and more beautiful. Sunshine draped over the town creating beautiful pockets of light and shadows on every building.
Our last stop of the Italy leg was Napoli. Another quaint town, similar to Messina. The city center seemed to be a shopping district, filled with more boutiques and name brand stores. The public library was as grand as you can imagine, looking over the downtown area. We spent time walking in and out of stores, trying to cool off every second we could. Still looking for my Italian pizza, we were ready for an Italian pizza lunch. Once again, we happened to just stumble upon this little cafe/restaurant that we decided to sit down at for a break. Not expecting too much from their pizza, we just ordered a margherita pizza, a pasta with olives, capers and tomatoes and a salad to share. Seriously not trying to sound redundant, but it was the best pizza I’d ever had in my life. It was so simple with some crushed tomatoes, whole slices of mozzarella and basil leaves, but it was so delicious. The dough was soft but chewy and had a deep taste of bread. Italian pizza, check.
Another visit we made in Napoli was to Pompeii. It was quite a different experience, given the history. I still remember learning about the history of Pompeii during history class in sixth grade and it was so incredible to be able to visit the site of the buried city. We decided not to buy the headsets with the audio tour as we thought we could just walk around on our own, but I would highly suggest going for the audio tour since the area is so big and sprawling that it’s a bit hard to navigate on your own. But besides that Pompeii was actually gorgeous, despite it’s dark history. It just made me think of how much natural beauty can come out of something so dark. The afternoon we visited, the sky was a deep blue with just a few clouds scattered around. From a few spots within Pompeii, we had a perfect view of Mount Vesuvius, which was half scary, half amazing.
The last afternoon in Italy, we ended up snooping around a Sephora and Zara at an outdoor shopping mall-like area of downtown Napoli. It was another hot afternoon, so what else did we do that sit down for a glass of iced coffee and, yes, another gelato. This time it was strawberry, and just as delicious and refreshing as the other ones had been. The best end to the Italy leg of this adventure.