Roma, Pompeii and Sorrento
Trip Start Apr 03, 2004
18Trip End Jun 21, 2004
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I was joining a tour that took me to Pompeii and Sorrento on the Almalfi coast. It's an Intrepid tour - there are only 12 of us (that's the maximum number on their tours)and we use public transport to get around. We had two days in Rome to start and I visited all the sights - the Collesuem, Roman Forum, the Vatican museum etc etc! It was a great week to be in Italy as it was Cultural Week and all the museums were free! Thats a huge help when we are travelling on the AUD - especially when its Euros you are spending!
After that wandering around looking at all the immense wealth the Catholic Church has, I went and had a look around St Peters
was a tad crowded. I didn't see him just recognised his voice. I don't even
know if was taped or live but it was cool all the same.
In the afternoon Lesley, Jenny and I went to the Catacombs - the ancient burial sites for the early Christians in the 300-500AD time frame. It was fascinating! We saw a really cool skeleton that was still in its coffin from 345AD - her name was Alexsandra - it was written on her coffin. It was great and am glad I took the time to go out there and see it. It was a bit of an effort to get there - the metro, then the bus and then we walked for about 3 kms - and I navigated! The most amazing thing was that we didn't get lost! I know James probably doesn't believe me but I am finding I can navigate my way around these Italian streets. Its a bit harder then the grid patterns of the cities we have been in lately though!
Next stop was Pompeii. We stayed in the "new" town of Pompeii, right next to the ruins of the old Pompeii destroyed by the volcano eruption of Mt Versuvius in 79AD. I don't know about you but I don't think I would be living near a still active volcano
The ruins of Pompeii were fascinating. It literally was like the people had just left. Most of the sculptures, frescos, and mosaics had been moved to the big museum in Naples, but a few were still there. We took a tour around the site from a retired archeologist whose main purpose it seemed, was to show us all the erotic mosaics and paintings in Pompeii! They seemed to be a bit of a randy bunch as most of the buildings had these erotic pictures in them.
There are still the bodies of people killed in Pompeii there. They were covered in the ash and their bodies decomposed leaving a plaster cast like shell of their bodies. That part was quite moving and sad as you could just feel the terror that they must have felt as the ash poured down upon them.
Later that same day we went into the city of Napoles. Oh. My. God. What a place!! I thought the Romans were crazy drivers but the Neopolitans are so much worse! The city cent re is made up of tiny little laneways, barely big enough for a car, but they manage to cram two cars going either way and street stalls - all into these little laneways! Amazing! It was just noisy and chaotic. It reminded me a lot of Mexico City in some ways - just the choatic-ness of it all I guess.
Naples is the home of pizza so we had to try some when we were there! We went to a pizzeria that has been making pizzas in the same oven since 1870 - the pizzas were pretty darn good
The next day we climbed Mount Versuvuis - the volcano that last erupted in 1944 and has been erupting probably since 79AD when it destroyed Pompeii. The only problem was that it was a bit overcast and was we went further and further up the mountain (we got a bus to about three quarters of the way and walked the last little way - it was harder then it sounds! It was very steep by then!) the more we entered the clouds! By the time we got to the summit we could only see about 20 metres ahead of us and couldn't see into the crater of the volcano at all. We had a guide there who explained to us the evacuation plan they have in place should they start to get signs that the volcano is going to erupt. Apparently 3 million people live in the area that would be affected by the gases that would be spewed from the volcano - that is what killed everyone in Pompeii, before the ash covered tham up. They think the next time she blows its going to be a huge explosion as after the last eruption in 1944, rocks fell into the mouth of the crater and have blocked the hole up creating way much more pressure then would normally be there. They think that there would be about 2 weeks notice before it blows, so if you are in the area, keep note of the volcano eruption warning notices that are around the area!
We then went down the coast about an hour to the port town of Sorrento. This is a lovely town but it has been over run by English tourist - so you have the English pub syndrome - ie English pubs everywhere, all menus in English and the food not that great as its been modified to suit the tastes from England
On Friday we took a day trip over to the Isle of Capri, about a 35 minute ferry ride from Sorrento. This is a beautiful little island - about six kms long and 3 wide - but it has a huge mountain (well almost a mountain!) in the middle of it. We took a boat ride around the island, visiting some caves and grottos along the way, then took a funicular up the hill to the main town. From there we took a bus (we took so many different types of transport on Capri!) up the mountain further to the smaller town of Anacapri. From there we took a cable car up to the very very top of the mountain - the views from there were amazing! We could see all the way across the bay of Naples for miles.
Saturday we took a bus down the Amalfi coast to the little town of Positano about hour down the road. Now this is a lovely town! Its built on the side of a hill so instead of streets it has stairs! It was really pretty.
That was the last day of the tour so now I'm on my own again and have taken myself up to Florence where I've managed (finally!) to find a hotel room - all the hostels are full with school groups on year end trips so have had to go to a hotel.
I'm here in Florence until Thursday so will report more on Florence in a few days!