Blog  »  A return to Italy: Rome, Naples, Cortona

A return to Italy: Rome, Naples, Cortona

November 22, 2011

Since I finished studying in Italy nearly three years ago, I had longed to return. The landscape turned up in dreams, the food remained (sadly) unmatched, and the language lay in a forlorn, unused corner of my brain. So, when a good friend of mine moved to Rome for a year (fully-equipped with a free place to crash), I saved my money and jumped at the first opportunity for a two-week visit.


As my home base, I spent most of my time in Rome. It’s a city overflowing with history, architecture, and culture. Around seemingly every corner in the city center is a monument straight out of a textbook. Having a personal tour-guide with local connections, though, allowed me to see a side of the city outside of the tourist attractions: la Roma dei Romani (the Rome of the Romans, as one local described it). I visited centri sociali (social centers) with modern art and music, and unmarked restaurants free of the ever-present international tourist. I didn’t carry my camera with me nearly as much as I should have, but these are a few brief impressions from my time in Rome:

Streetcorner bus - Rome, Italy
  • Basilica di San Giovanni - Rome, Italy
  • Church candles - Rome, Italy
  • Piazza fountain at night - Rome, Italy
  • Piazza fountain at night - Rome, Italy
  • Villa Sciarra - Rome, Italy
  • Marketplace - Rome, Italy
  • Rome, Italy
  • Vatican Tiber River - Rome, Italy
  • Tiber River - Rome, Italy
  • Vatican - Rome, Italy
  • Vatican at night - Rome, Italy
  • St. Peter's Basilica at night - Rome, Italy


One of my biggest regrets from my first trip to Italy was that I never went to the south. Although plans to visit Sicily didn’t materialize, this time I did stay a few days in Naples. The typical line on the city is this: it’s dangerous, it’s dirty, and traffic is horrible. My experience: it’s no more dangerous than other cities, parts of the city could use a good cleaning, and traffic is horrible. That said, it’s still an incredibly interesting place, with the geography making for some stunning photos. The weather wasn’t quite right for a trip out to Ischia or Capri (islands off the the mainland), but it was perfect for a daytrip to the ruins of Pompeii.

Bird in flight - Naples, Italy
  • View from Castel Sant'Elmo - Naples, Italy
  • Castel Sant'Elmo - Naples, Italy
  • Piazza - Naples, Italy
  • Motorino - Naples, Italy
  • Streetcar tracks - Naples, Italy
  • Graffiti - Naples, Italy
  • Rags - Naples, Italy
  • Narrow streets - Naples, Italy
  • Seaside apartment - Naples, Italy
  • Narrow street - Naples, Italy
  • Column - Pompeii, Italy
  • Ancient columns - Pompeii, Italy
  • Ancient columns - Pompeii, Italy
  • Ancient streets - Pompeii, Italy


And, finally, my last stop was Cortona. My first trip to Italy consisted of three very influential months in this place, and to say that the city “meant a lot” to me seems to be a bit of an understatement. I wasn’t quite sure how I would feel riding the bus up to the hilltop town. Would I be overwhelmed? Would I feel alienated after having been gone for so long?

As the bus pulled into Cortona’s Piazza Garibaldi, though, I felt serene. Calm. It was as if I had returned home after a long journey away. I spent my first evening walking the Tuscan streets, reacquainting myself with the sandy yellow houses and clay shingled roofs. A few days back in this city yielded some great photos, and put me in the perfect mindset to head back stateside.

Panoramic - Cortona, Italy
  • Piazza Garibaldi sunset  - Cortona, Italy
  • Piazza della Repubblica - Cortona, Italy
  • Mirror portrait - Cortona, Italy
  • Hilltop journal - Cortona, Italy
  • Machina - Cortona, Italy
  • Lights at dusk - Cortona, Italy
  • Trees - Cortona, Italy
  • Rooftops - Cortona, Italy
  • Hilltop panoramic - Cortona, Italy
  • Piazza Garibaldi - Cortona, Italy
  • Piazza Garibaldi - Cortona, Italy
  • Sunset - Cortona, Italy
  • Sunset - Cortona, Italy

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