Angel's Bridge in Rome is a must-see for a Roman holiday.
Travel blog

A Roman Holiday: Pompeii, Fab Friends & Workation on the Way

By on April 28, 2017

We’ve been a little quiet on the blog front, but we’ve got good reasons for it, promise. Grin. We decided after our last Sicily tour to have some down time so we could sit down and crunch. We opted for a semi-Roman holiday.

I’m working on a campervan guide book and Armando’s working on a film featuring people living in vans that we’ve met on the road. We really wanted to just… breathe. And organize.


A Tourist-Coated Pompeii

The Outskirts of Pompeii, Italy

On the way to Rome, we stopped by Pompeii. Armando wasn’t interested, but I was. I’d read about the tragic city when I was a child and it’d always held a nugget of fascination for me. The reality, even in the off-season, wasn’t exactly what I expected.

I was surprised at the amount of disrespect from tourists. Like having a sloppy lunch on the ruins. The disrepair of the site, generally, because it lacks funds. And most of the archeological gems had been spirited away to the National Archaeological Museum in nearby Naples.

However, the trip was more than worth it for me. It gave me pause and somehow affected me deeply. I’m glad I went. I’m glad I still carry it with me.


When in Rome… Nah, Nevermind

Mom and daughter at the Italian coast.

Our next stop: Rome. Where all roads lead, etc. etc. Grin.

Luckily for us, Armando’s friends Luca and Tati (and their adorable twins, Giulia and Ascanio) offered for us to stay with them. They live just outside of Rome in the forested hills.

It was perfect. So quiet and peaceful, for the most part. Ziggy bonded with their crazy dog, Alicia, and they monitored the fence borders with zeal.

We had pizza nights, a beach day and in general adopted (or were adopted) by this brilliant Roman family. We were sad to leave, but so thankful for their generosity and kindness.

Italian buddies meeting again.

I wasn’t super interested in visiting Rome itself, but since we were there, we went. I think if Rome had been one of the first European cities I’d ever visited, I would have been gobsmacked.

There is a certain cynicism that comes of being ‘over-traveled’ (not a word, but should be). A sort of ‘Oh, more columns… cobbled streets… gypsy street musicians… another church.’ The famous Spanish Steps weren’t as grandiose as Hollywood films would lead you to believe. I know, shocking, right?

That being said, it’s a gorgeous, vibrant mecca filled with a dizzying history and culture. A must-see if you’re anywhere near the European continent. I haven’t forgot, without Rome the Western world as we know it wouldn’t exist.

It reminds me of that old Monty Python sketch:


Oddly enough, it was the Vatican that was the most emotionally moving sight. Neither of us are remotely religious, but it was an imposing structure. The extravagant fountains; the imposing saintly statues rising above; and the famous balcony the Pope says ‘Howdy’ from were impressive.

Facing the Vatican, Vatican City.

I kept asking Armando questions about legalities in Vatican City. I’d heard somewhere you couldn’t be arrested. He finally got fed up and found some policemen to ask:

A: “If I go into the Vatican courtyard here, can you arrest me?”

P: “We can arrest you outside of the building.”

A: “What if I’m inside the building? Like if I kill someone and you chase me into the museum. Can you arrest me then?”

P: “No, the Gendarmie would. We couldn’t.” Pause. “Why, are you planning on doing something bad-?”

… Poor Armando, saddled with an inquisitive wife. Ha. We also met up with Armando’s friend, Tomaso, just past the ‘Angel’s Bridge’ (which I loved, though it was creepy – maybe because it was creepy-?).

It was a nice capper to round out our Roman holiday, which for the most part was exactly what we needed: quiet, quietly good friendships, and the freedom and space to get down to the nibbens of work.


Meetups and a Quick Dip to the Southern Italian Coast

#vanlife meetup with Vandog Traveller

The last time we met up with Mike of Vandog Traveller, we were all driving through Morocco on separate exploratory journeys. It was great catching up with him again, and Armando got an eloquent interview with him for the film (safe travels, friend).

We also met fellow van lovers, Silvia, Lorenzo and their pup Boe – plus a group of their friends. We had some serious van gadget envy for some of their extras – Lorenzo has made skillful additions to their van. A quick stop by the ghost town of Pentedattilo (also in our last photo below), a longer stop by one of our favorite beaches, Praia a Mare, and then we took the ferry to Sicily.


Our First Workation in Sicily

We’ve now made our way back to Sicily, for a specific purpose: we’ve been chosen for a ‘workation’ for a sustainable tourism NGO called Consume-Less MED. We’ll be working in a small team for 10 days, creating content, structure and multi-media for the project, with other digital nomad professionals.

I suppose one of the reasons we’re both pretty excited about the project is that we’ve been given an opportunity to do a fresh project (it’s the first of its kind in the area) from the start. Consume-Less is also a project after our hearts: the focus is on sustainable tourism, which is a huge problem in the Mediterranean.

Avola, Sicily cleaning the beach of waste.

For example, the locals have to ration drinking water – while golf courses use it freely to water their greens for tourists.

And don’t get us started on the problem with waste, especially plastics, on the beaches.

As travelers, we try to leave the places we park at least a little better or cleaner than how we found them. So many areas we’ve visited (all over Europe) were garbage covered, destroying the inherent beauty of the landscapes. Making lakes and seas unswimmable (not a word, but should be).

It’s just… disheartening to see.

Having an opportunity to actually do something is fantastic. Being able to use our skills for a good cause? Even better. We’re grateful for the chance (thanks #consumelessmed). Wink.


Technical Problems with Really Bad Timing

Not everything’s been Rome and roses, though. We had a rather dramatic short circuit in our solar system, which not only killed the system but shorted out Armando’s Mac. Mine wasn’t plugged in, thankfully, or we’d be out 2 and y’all wouldn’t be reading this too-long post at the moment.

The solar system was fixed, finally, by car mechanics. Note to self: solar problems? Don’t go to an RV/solar panel expert. Go to the kids that do electronics on cars. They seriously know what they’re doing.

T4 VW Westfalia campervan with flex solar panels.

It turned out we had a wonky wire to the back batteries. Now, our system is plus the 2 new panels and we’ve got crudloads of power. Yay, team. The Mac has been in the official Mac shop for… today would be 4 days. It was 4 days ago they told Armando ‘We’ll have it for you in 2-3 days.’

Ever been stuck on a beach, in the middle of nowhere, with a madly hyper Italian that’s chomping at the bit to work – but can’t? I wouldn’t recommend it for amateurs. Grin.

Nah, he’s actually been mellow enough.

The problem is we have to do a lot of back work for the project, and at the moment he’s not able to do anything. It’s frustrating. Fingers crossed (one hand only) it’ll be sorted today, as nerves are getting a bit frayed. And I do mean frayed. Rueful grin.

Pentedattilo, Italy - A ghost town in the south.

That’s about it on the Mork front for now. What about you guys? Have you been to Pompeii? Had a Roman holiday? What were your experiences? Let us know in the comments below!

Keep an eye out for updates on our workation through our Facebook and Twitter. We hope this finds you well, and safe travels, all.

Mel, Armando, Ziggy & Mork




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