Remind me never to drive in Italy
Pompeii Travel Blog› entry 8 of 22 › view all entries
We got to the train station a little early to get our seat reservations but had some problems with the language barrier. We thought the ticket seller told us to wait 30 minutes and then our tickets would be 5 Euro instead of 20. That would only give us 6 minutes to run to the train. We thought this was odd but as we watched other people in line, many of them got their tickets and dashed off to the trains. Maybe they knew about this Italian custom and we did not. So at our given time we went up to buy our cheap tickets. Nope, too late we were told. We wouldn't make the train now. What? Turns out the first guy was trying to get us to take the earlier train, not wait to buy cheap, last minute tickets. So we just took the next train instead, a little miffed that we waited around for 30 mintues when we could have been on our way!
We arrived in Naples and made our way to the Circumvesuviana train.
We took the Circumvesuviana train to Pompei. The commuter train was full so we stood near the door with a bunch of other people. Partway there, a man got on who was not in touch with this world. He stood by the door talking to himself and sneezing and coughing and spitting out the door. It was disgusting. Slowly the people standing around him, us included, made their way to a different area of the train. I couldn't stop staring at him, he was completely oblivious to everyone else around him. Finally he got off the train and immediately we doused our hands in hand sanitizer. Ick!
We double checked the closing time at the ruins and we were both right. The last entrance is at 15:30, but it does not close until 17:30.
The drive there was very wild, for lack of a better word. I was trying to get a photo of the volcano as we drove, but we were going really fast and kept changing lanes abruptly so I couldn't get a good shot.
Soon we turned off the highway and began the windy road to the top. At every curve, the driver would honk, then whip around as fast as he could. Or so it seemed. Back and forth through many switchbacks. He stopped near the top so we could get a nice photo of the Bay of Naples and then brought us to the top. He told us to be back by 13:10. We had about 60 minutes to walk to the top, take photos and get back.
We stopped to take photos at intervals that conveniently coincided with our need to stop for a quick break. It was hard walking - the steep trail had a lot of loose rock that we kept slipping on. But eventually we made it to the top, legs and lungs burning. Yay! There was steam coming out of a vent! I was secretly hoping we'd get to experience an earthquake or even an eruption up there, but nothing exciting happened. We took our photos and decided to head back. There is a little gift shop up at the top and a few more at the bottom. But we skipped these - we didn't want to miss our bus.
We raced back down the volcano and got to the bottom just in time to get stuck in a traffic jam. Cars honking, driving the wrong way on the streets, scooters darting in and out, fists shaking, etc. The inconviences we take to avoid driving in a foreign country are sometimes well worth it. So what if we would have liked more time on the volcano? Sure beats having to drive there! Back at the bottom, we thanked our driver and very shaky legged walked back up the hill to the ruins. Plenty of time! We got our tickets at 15:00!
We got our tickets to the ruins of Pompeii and headed in. You get a map of the city with numbered sites marked and a corresponding booklet that has a brief description of the room or site you are looking at. It is well designed, but we had trouble finding a couple spots. So we started out at number one and were already out of order by number 8. Then we decided to just skip around and see the sights we wanted to see and any that were nearby.
I was amazed to see Mount Vesuvius looming in the background of many of the stops (but what did I expect?). For those who need a history lesson, Pompeiians didn't know they were living at the base of an active volcano when it erupted in A.
The town is about 80% dug out but many sites need some restoration or are under renovation. Near the big grassy square are several rooms filled with artifacts including more body casts and lots of amphorae (big pottery). I was amazed at some of the details that survived the eruption. Some very intricate carvings were preserved, statues, mosaics and even some color paintings! Most of the artifacts have been removed and are located in the archaeological museum in Naples, but we didn't have time to go there.
Back in the day, the city was flooded daily to remove waste in the streets. Large stepping stones allow pedestrians to cross flooded streets.
We toured the baths, some fast food eateries and a couple of bakeries. I really wanted to see the bakery but we couldn't find it. We were headed off to the far northwest area, an area that is supposed to have more bodies and other things. But we were so tired from climbing up Vesuvius that we decided to re-think our tour here. Michele wanted to see the colosseum and ampitheater, both of which were about as far away as you could get in the opposite direction. I sort of wanted to keep going, but didn't really want to do both.
We dragged our feet off to the brothel on the way to the colosseum. It was interesting, complete with stone beds and pillows (very uncomfortable looking). Erotic pictures were painted above the doorways, perhaps as a menu for guests. Eventually we found the little ampitheater, but somehow ended up in the bottom stage area. We sat to rest as a tour group came through up top, knowing we were probably in a bunch of pictures and not caring.
The colosseum was mostly overgrown with grass, but you still got an idea of how many people could fit there to watch gladiators or whatever they were watching. We walked across and out the other entrance, near where we first walked up but didn't see it. And then we decided it was time to head back out since it was near closing time. We were dragging our feet, which is not the safest way to walk over paving stones.
When we got back to Naples, we set off in search of a restaurant that bears Michele's name. The city was in the middle of a rubbish strike, so there was trash everywhere. It was disgusting and dirty. We went a few blocks and decided we didn't want to be here any more. Instead we ate a couple slices of pizza at the train station and went home. Another exhausting day completed.