Gates to the ruins open at 8am. Best time to see and feel the ancient city.
It’s a very eerie feeling, stepping into an actual ghost town.
Everything is as it once stood…rows of identical homes…mazes of stone streets…water fountains which once quenched the children’s thirst. The temples, dedicated sanctuaries…the markets, common meeting-places. The etched graffiti, ancient forms of social networking. The amphitheater where gladiators fought and died.
Mount Vesuvius in the background of Pompeii ruins.
And looming above it all, Mount Vesuvius, still active and trembling to this day,
The Pompeii ruins are an entire city, excavated and preserved in the Campania region of Italy. Buried by the volcanic eruption in 79 AD, it lay covered for over 1,600 years. In 1748, the first big excavations began. But of the settlement’s 66 hectares, only 44 have been revealed.
The best time to see and experience the ruins of Pompeii is at 8:30 in the morning. Try to get there when its gates first open. You’ll escape the crowds that tend to gather at midday, the tourists with selfie sticks and tour guides waving flags.
The early light also has a dramatic effect on the giant sculptures, buildings and crumbled stones.
In those early morning hours, you’ll also escape the intense summer heat which pounds the city by 10am. The glory that was once Pompeii may be mostly in ruins, but from the stone ovens and common baths, the temples and gardens, you’ll get a sense of life that once was.
Of all the frescoes, mosaics and art in Pompeii, this portrait of a child on the walls of one home, impacted me most.
Pompeii was one of the places in Italy I’ve always wanted to see. It was with awe and reverence that I stood, sketched and tried to grasp the reality of this place.
You’ll see giant stone slabs everywhere. These were the old pedestrian crossings, to enable Pompeii’s inhabitants to walk without soiling their feet when rainwater muddied the streets.
My children skipped between the giant stones which create passageways and bridges between the streets. They explored the mazes of houses, aware that in the background, stood Vesuvius. That powerful, destructive volcano.
Standing on Pompeii’s grounds felt surreal.
Large stones, fitted together, made up Pompeii’s streets .
A part of a home in Pompeii–colorful art, mosaics and frescoes still adorn some walls.
From Pompeii, we continued along the Bay of Naples. Our next stop was the Archaeological Museum of Naples, following the buried city’s treasures.
Things to know before you go:
- Wear good walking shoes. Luckily, I’d picked up a super comfy pair of Flexx sandals in Rome the day before. What a good investment!
- There is one cafeteria onsite, but you can save by bringing bottled water on your walk.
- Go early. In Summer, the sun is very hot already by 10am.
- Lucia is a professional tour guide, who gave me some great tips via phone the night before. If you book a tour, expect 2-3 hours tour. The city is huge, and we only got to see a fourth of it.
- Bring an ID—passport or driver’s license. You will be required to deposit your ID in exchange for an audio guide.
- Where to Stay: We booked “Apartment Pompei Wellness”, just walking distance from the city ruins. They have a gym, modern amenities, and a terrace. (Viale Giuseppe Mazzini, 108)
Detail of a floor mosaic in one of Pompeii’s homes.
View of modern-day Pompeii City (outside the ruins) by night. e had a great rooftop terrace view to have dinner and watch the sun settle over the lively city.
…Next stop, Naples!
Up close with the leaning tower of Pisa, one realizes the iconic structure is pretty tiny. Tourists with selfie-sticks, groups of stumbling visitors, and street-sellers add to the busy hum in the Piazza dei Miracoli. We’d paid a one-hour parking ticket just to see it but then ended up getting lost on our way back out the complex.
Traveling through Italy is both familiar and foreign.
Our kids both speak the language fluently but have to follow their inter-racial, tongue-tied parents around. When we really can’t communicate or get lost, we send them to ask questions and directions. It works out pretty nicely.
Folks are usually confused/amused and then relieved and pleasantly surprised when they hear the kids.
The city of Pisa is like many medieval cities this side of Italy. Romanesque churches, clusters of bars and pizzerias lining the streets, peddlers, and tourists. We only stayed for a couple of hours, because the rest of the country’s coast is calling.
The goal is a little ambitious: to see as much of the Italian coast as we can while the kids are on summer school break!
We started out on the west coast, heading from Milan straight to Genoa, then crawling back up north to do the entire stretch from the Italian Riviera. These first pictures are in Genoa. More adventures to come!
Our two kids, who speak fluent Italian, are great to have as translators. We’ve brought a tent and sleeping bags, embarking on the most spontaneous adventure we’ve ever set out to have in our 8 years as a family.
I woke up today in a beautiful Agriturismo in the hills of Savona. I’m anticipating lots of fun, challenge, mishaps, and maybe still married by the end of this summer adventure lol!
Survived days 1 and 2 in Liguria, lots more to go, 😂 kids are having a blast… will try to post updates when there’s WiFi and charged devices.
Come along and experience Italy with us!
Ferrara took me and my sketchbook by surprise.
On a whim, I decided to go with Ellie, my four-year-old, on a trip to a city I’d never been before, much less heard of. It was for the fifth edition of the Autori Diari di Viaggio Festival, or Travel Diaries Festival. A three-day event with workshops, exhibitions and art!
I knew I had to go. I wanted to sketch and meet other artists.
Ellie knew she wanted to go to eat.
Visiting this UNESCO World Heritage site in the beautiful Emilia-Romagna region was like walking straight into a medieval storybook. A fortified castle looms over the city center. It’s complete with a moat, drawbridges, towers and a dungeon.
In the town center, mazes of cobblestone paths and arches hide hidden passages. Brick housing and terracotta roofs line the tiny streets. The shopping is good: everything from luxury clothing to artisanal wares and Italian patented shoes.
Travel with a Kid Makes You Stop and Notice
Perhaps because of her short level, Ellie paid a lot of attention to the ground. She was constantly asking me how the stones “got this way”, or how these designs below her feet were shaped and built and cut.
While most visitors to the castle look up and marvel at the colorful frescoes, we spent a lot of time marveling at the tiles and mosaics she kept pointing out below.
Of course, it’s possible to visit Italy and do nothing but eat and drink. And when traveling with a young child, it’s almost better to visit as little museums as possible.
You may notice instantly, the coppia Ferarese, fragrant, twisted bread loaves. My first dinner was cappellacci alla zucca, pillows of egg-based ravioli. And thanks to my kid, we found the characteristic restaurant, Osteria I Quattro Angeli. When in Ferrara, come here for the most delicious Tagliatelle al Ragu ever.
Ferrara’s mignons were so pretty to draw! Bite-sized bursts of pleasure. Mini cakes and creamy pastries, paired perfectly with a shot of espresso, or glass of prosecco.
Stumbling on The Oldest Wine Bar in the World
In 1982, Olivier Bernier wrote about this ducal city. “And still there are squares and hidden churches. Just forget your map, allow yourself to get lost and you will find them.”
And that was how Ellie and I wandered down Via Della Volta Street.
Little did we know, we were treading one of the oldest streets in Italy—possibly in Europe! To stop and sketch (and drink), we chose Al Brindisi. We only found out upon our return home that it’s listed in Guinness Book of Records as the oldest wine bar in the world!
There is no better teacher than a child to show you how to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. In Ferrara, we’d come without a plan or travel itinerary. And we found fun everywhere.
Active travelers may want to do more than we did. Because we were just commuting, we chose a hotel in the center of everything, very easy to get around on foot.
But you can rent a bike and head for the outer walls of the city, where there are nine kilometers of biking trails. For more art and culture, Palazzo Dei Diamanti has ongoing exhibitions. During summer, the seven Comacchio beaches draw the sunbathers. To see even more of the lush area, join a motorboat cruise along the Po River.
Stay: Hotel Nazionale (Corso Porta Reno, 32/Tel: 0532 243596)
This boutique hotel in the historical center is a stone’s throw from the Este castle. Stylish rooms, allergy-free furnishings, chromo-therapy showers and a breakfast buffet. Doubles from €103
Drink and Dine: Osteria I Quattro Angeli (Piazza Castello, 10) or Al Brindisi (Enoteca Via Guglielmo degli Adelardi, 11)
Travel didn’t always thrill me.
The first memory I have of an airport was that ugly tarp in the old Philippine International Departure Terminal. It was muggy and gray, just like my memory of that particular day.
The year was 1985. I was five years old, and my parents had told me that we were flying to India!
How exciting! It would be my first time out of the country; probably my first time on an airplane.
But what they didn’t tell me, was that they were also breaking up that day.
My mom and dad sat on separate seats in the giant jet plane. I can’t remember which parent I sat with. I was too excited, looking out at the vast sky, soaring through the clouds. I remember chatting with some other kids on the airplane, eager to make new friends.
I had no clue. No warning of what would happen next.
When the plane touched down in crowded Bombay (now called Mumbai), my parents went their separate ways. They had decided that when they parted, I would live with my mother. And so I did, for the next five years.
Funny thing is, that day at the airport is the oldest clear memory I have of life.
It must have been the shock of that single incident: the old airport tarp, the rush of the plane flight…
And then, life as this five-year-old knew it, changing forever.
We spent the next 12 months in India. It was a culture-rich country filled with mythical gods and swarms of people, exotic markets and potholed villages. We moved around a lot, eventually living in Madurai. Memories of India are still crisp in my mind: finding quartz stones in the neighborhood; passing holy cows on the road; loving Masala Dosa; learning Tamil, my first foreign language.
I do remember coming back to Manila, this time with only my mother—the sad old tarp staring back at me from the ground.
Maybe that’s why airports always have a bittersweet feeling for me. Every time I returned to the Philippines, and there was still that ugly tarp, my heart would hurt a little.
I was to board many planes again in life—how many exactly, I’ve lost count. For leisure; for work; for love.
Every time I’d return to Manila, I’d never stop checking to see if they’d finally gotten rid of that ugly old tarp. It’s no secret it’d been called one of the “World’s Worst Airports” many times, and yes, I shared the sentiments.
Then, one day, a couple of decades later, I stood in the Arrivals Terminal, clutching my son’s hand in mine.
And this time, the color of the carpet beneath my shoe soles was a beautiful, beautiful blue.
Image Credit: Within Striking Distance Blog
I just stood awhile, gazing and smiling.
It’s hard to explain to someone why you’re thrilled when an airport gets an upgrade. I remember sheer happiness washing over me.
That day in 1985 set the stage for everything else I was to learn about travel. And essentially, about life:
That, travel is so much more about just changing places, or going somewhere else.
Travel is a wake-up call. It shines the spotlight on other worlds, the ones outside our own. Travelling can make us feel so small, yet so strong at the same time.
Travel teaches us that sometimes, we get left behind. We fall. We must journey alone. And it’s up to us to get up, catch up, and keep on going.
My life today is wonderful. In part, because of the painful decisions my parents made decades ago, which led to circumstances I had no control over. But that’s okay. Cliche as it may sound, it was meant to be. I remain grateful for life’s unpredictability.
This month, we flew over 6,000 miles, from Europe, back to Asia. Yes, right back to the airport where my journeys began that day in 1985. My dad had suffered a mild stroke in December. I took the kids back to visit the Philippines after four long years.
This time, coming back was a joyful feeling. The blue airport carpet in the Arrivals terminal was warm and welcoming.
We skipped, hugged, took selfies. We created new memories and I re-framed old ones.
My kids, too, have been learning, throughout our travels, that home is not a single place. It’s not a country; not a concrete house; not even an association of people.
Being home—and coming home—is a state of mind.
And that incredible state of mind still thrills me.
Anitun Tabu by Nyx Martinez
HAPPY NEW YEAR, everyone!
My SEVEN Wishes for you in 2017 are that you:
1.) Prioritize Pleasure this year!
2.) Take CARE of Yourself. (Because you can only be good to others when you are good to yourself.)
3.) Take Your TIME. Spend it with those who matter to you the most.
4.) DO what makes YOU happy and fulfilled. That joy will have a ripple effect, you’ll see.
5.) ALLOW yourself to enjoy each day, enjoy your loved ones, see life as a rich and beautiful landscape.–Because it is!
6.) Find the PERFECTION, even in imperfection.
7.) Know that everything has a season, reason, and time. This could be yours.
When you allow yourself the luxury of imagining and then pursuing your desires, you are able to create with more passion; moving intentionally in the direction of your dreams.
And I wish that this will be the year you will look back on and know that your dreams really did come true!!
Much Love, and Happy 2017!