I really enjoyed my trip to Southern Italy this weekend. It focused mostly on Rome, but also included a day trip down to Naples and Pompeii. However, a common thread that united the four-day weekend was the phenomenon of “You Can’t Get There From Here.”
We started with the Vatican Museums, which include some of the most famous sights such as the Sistine Chapel. When we found the entrance to the complex, there were two separate queues labeled “Guided Tours” and “Reserved Tickets.” Seeing as my friend and I didn’t fit into either category, we asked a security guard that informed us we could walk right in using either line. Thankfully, the museum was fairly well-labeled and we saw all of the main sights while playing human Pac-Man with the gigantic tour groups. While walking through the picture gallery, we were rather informed by a guard that we were going the “wrong way.” His voice contained the same angry vitriol usually reserved for children attempting to touch the paintings. By the way, there was no sign indicating this and the “correct entrance” was through a set of closed doors. Hmm. On the way out, we decided to backtrack to the Egyptian Museum that we had missed earlier. After viewing the exhibit, we found that the only exit led into the giant loop we had just seen. We finally escaped into a courtyard after ten minutes of backtracking and hoping we wouldn’t get reprimanded again by the guards. Another word to the wise: you can’t get to St. Peter’s Basilica from the Vatican Museums.
Saturday was our day trip to Naples, and we found ourselves asking “Why Did The Tourist Cross The Road.” In our trek from the train station to the city’s most famous pizza parlor (the one Sarah Jessica Parker eats at in “Eat, Pray, Love”) we saw a grand total of one crosswalk, for about ten busy intersection crossings. Getting to the other side involved either a frantic sprint, or assimilation into a group of locals who casually sauntered across the street as a truck barreled towards them at 40mph.
The Coliseum was no different in terms of its entrance/exit confusion, and the map of the sightseeing plan resembled one of those games in a clear box with the maze and the silver ball. Obviously the intention was to direct tourists past the bookstore on their way out, but I also wonder if it was for the amusement of the security guards as they watch large groups of tourists wandering around aimlessly to find the exit.
It was a frustrating experience, as after two months in Italy we were feeling more confident in our navigational and language skills and hoping to blend in. Nevertheless, we found ourselves just as lost as the rest of the American tourists complete with fanny packs, flip-up sunglasses, and Yankees t-shirts as we tried to figure out why the only exit in Pompeii had a large sign across it that said “Entrance Forbidden.”
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Elizabeth Benz is a lifetime upstate New York resident who never takes the snow brush out of the back seat of her car. Originally from Buffalo, NY, she is a senior Music Education/Violin Performance major and Italian minor at Ithaca College. These three passions were intertwined on a life-changing trip in 2006 to the International Suzuki Method Conference in Turin, Italy, where she not only saw the communicative power of music across young artists from many nationalities, but also fell in love with the language and culture of the country. Eight years later she is fulfilling the promise she made to herself to return to Italy, after completing her senior student teaching practicum. She is particularly interested in observing the emphasis and importance placed on youth music and arts programs across Europe, and returning with ideas to inspire and support her own program at a future teaching job.</span></p>