On saturday we drove out to Vesuvius, passing some basic advertising
and, eventually, after following signs that led us to a dead end, and crossing over and along the motorway a few times (€2 every time you enter it), we managed to drive up the narrow hairpin road to the car park underneath the crater. Oh the excitement of dodging coaches and mad Italians, who use corner cutting to spice up their lives. (Or maybe they think that dying due to smoking takes too long?). I loved the sculptures that had been made of the local rocks
It costs €10 each to enter the park and then you have to climb the last 200m up (they mean straight up) along a very well constructed, zigzag of a path up to the top. The cable car that used to be there has been removed, but the five or so shacks selling tacky souvenirs are still there. Despite the tat, it was fantastic!
The crater looks just as a volcano crater should and there is plenty of steam still venting out to convince you that there is still stuff going on. (Vesuvius gives the impression that it has gone to volcano school and graduated with honours)
The views were outstanding, as Vesuvius stands quite alone.
It was a little sobering to contemplate that you were walking around a narrow path on top of a live volcano that is about 40 or so years overdue for its next big pop.
I bet you could get down the hill pretty damn quickly if it rumbled, despite the coaches that chug up and down the hairpin bends. It was well monitored, but some of the kit looked, to say the least, a bit tired.
I wondered who could be stupid enough to need this advice
We stopped for lunch on the way down (after being put to shame by this chap)
and the food was lovely, although Tim (who had ordered what I translated as lamb risotto, oops) (I only do German and Spanish, me) wasn’t to keen about the tentacles on the squid in its own ink risotto. (It could have been worse, i.e. cuttlefish and pineapple, like we had in Iceland).
On Sunday we took the train into Naples, which took just 30 minutes and cost only €5 each there and back. We walked through the centre of the old town
admiring the souvenir shops
and up to the Archeological Museum, as we had been advised by our new friends in Matera that the mosaics were very good.
They were fabulous, especially when you realised they had been dug out from the ash that covered Pompeii. Apparently mosaic artists were not considered to very special in ancient Rome, and they didn’t earn much money. Seeing the quality of these mosaics made that seem really shocking. There were more statues than you could shake a stick at
There was also a small room of naughty statues and wall paintings that made us giggle in a juvenile manner. I did feel a bit sorry for the goat…
Naples itself left me feeling quite sad and cross. There were so many beautiful buildings that had been totally consumed by urban infill and the litter and graffiti about the place made the whole city feel totally unloved and lost.
(Tim and I spent the whole day wondering about ‘See Naples and die’, what of? Boredom? Shock? Shame? Mugging?)
Despite the simplicity of the railway system around Vesuvius, we managed to get on the wrong train (note to self; Sarno is a town, not an abbreviation for Sorrento) and, after a few stations, it started to look unfamiliar. The final clue came when I realised we were on the wrong side of Vesuvius. Boy, we were lucky! We got out at the next stop, crossed over the bridge, jumped on the train that pulled into the station at that precise moment, changed trains to one that was waiting at the station where the routes parted and managed to arrive back in Pompeii barely 30 minutes later than intended!
On Monday had a ‘little drive’ along to the Amalfi coast. (Tim might forgive me for the idea, one day). We were going to drive the whole way around the peninsula, but my nerves were not up to it.
The narrow road, with its blind, hairpin bends, sheer drops and rock walls was bad enough.
Add to that drivers coming the opposite way on the wrong side of the road or trying to overtake on the blind bends AND I couldn’t shut my eyes because I could see further round the bends than Tim and had to shout ‘CAR’ as they came at us. We decided to take one of the roads that cut across the peninsula, which looked ok on the map, but, of course, we had to first drive up the one that made its way up the sheer cliff. There was not as much traffic, but it was fun getting past the busses on the special type of hairpin bends that tell you you are on the Amalfi coast..
The route back was, however, very pretty
One lunchtime, I decided that I wanted to eat out somewhere, away from our local tourist trap and we ended up at a cafe behind a petrol station that looked pretty poor on first inspection.
We ordered some beer and a couple of panini and were shocked when the nice waitress came out with our beers in pint mugs with parma ham clipped to them with clothes pegs, together with some other delicious nibbles. (Sorry, I was too hungry to take photos) The panini were probably the nicest we had ever tried and then they gave us lovely strawberries dipped in chocolate. The whole meal came to less than €16 including two beers each and they were so chuffed to have us there that they insisted on taking our photo for their Facebook page. It’s the first place in Italy that has given us really nice tapas for free! (Yep, Janet gets excited about free food, so no wonder her trousers are getting a tad tighter!) The staff were lovely, if a bit confused about two fingered salutes…..
On Tuesday we took the train to Herculanum and explored the ruins there. It is interesting to compare Pompeii and Herculanum. Pompeii is much larger and more developed and clearly explained than Herculaneum. I felt quite excited to be there and truly enjoyed the way it was presented.
As I walked around Herculanum, I started to feel quite sad. The story of the inhabitants was so clear. Vesuvius blew, some people escaped, but many more were trapped there, running to the beach and the boats were all gone. They huddled together under the arches and that’s where they died.
I was glad to get out of the site before the French school party came in because their jolly chatter seemed highly inappropriate.
Herculaneum is considered to be a much more important site than Pompeii; it is much more complete and more materials survived (like wood, lead and iron) than in Pompeii. It needs huge investment to save it and expose all that is still buried under the local town, but I suspect that most of the resources will keep on going to Pompeii…
Our last day in Pompeii was a ‘lazy’ one. We lazed about in the sunshine in between doing the washing and sorting out Camel. We had been admiring birds, enjoying the blackbirds singing (I swear it) lines from opera choruses and feeding a very brave little robin. How did they pay us back?
So the other job was cleaning the poop off the tent. It was looking all clean and better when…SPLOT. I wiped it off, swearing at the damn flying things when one gave me a nice little present on my back. I think we will bring the shot gun next time!
In the evening we walked into Pompeii new town for a meal, it’s not a bad place, in a touristy kind of way.
Apparently the Pope was going to visit in a couple of days, so we were lucky to be heading off beforehand, because the whole place would grind to a halt.
After a drink in a nice bar called Diva (The decor nearly worked, with large photos of Marilyn Monroe and champagne bottles, but I thought they blew it with a large banner for some kind of beer and the odd coke bottle.) We than had a meal at very quiet restaurant called the Corallo and got chatting to the owner called Antoinetta.
She was a very interesting woman, as she had worked with the BBC many years ago concerning the development of the Pompeii ruins, as well in many other official roles . She explained a lot about Italian politics and banking (remember that poor bloke that turned up hanged under a bridge in London?)
As we were talking, the news about the Tunisian massacre came on the TV. It was shocking, not least because we realised we had been at the Bardo museum just a couple of weeks before. Those poor people and poor Tunisia, which is trying so hard to get its tourist industry functioning again, as its economy is REALLY suffering at the moment.
As we were packing up the next day, the gardeners in the campsite started spraying the orange trees, which seemed a little strange, as nobody was that worried about collecting the oranges.
What interested me was that the bloke doing the spraying was wearing a mask, but he wasn’t that bothered about the rest of us. I had to give him a long, hard stare to let me get past to get to the toilet! But we survived and on we went.