Pompei and Mt Vesuvius

Trip Start May 09, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Italy  , Campania,
Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Well I was actually glad to leave Palermo. It was so noisy and dirty and we had seen too many pickpockets at work. We decided that the easiest way to get to Naples was by ferry so we took the overnight ferry. Although I had booked a cabin for us both to share, we were in fact given 2 cabins for the same price - I am not sure if that meant I got a bargain or if I overpaid.  We had a lovely crossing, the weather was perfect and the sea calm and flat. We arrived early in the morning and made our way to the Bed & Breakfast that we had booked here. It's surprisingly hard work surfing the net to make the booking for the next stage of the journey and trying to find the ideal place to stay for the right price. This one appealed because of its magic name "the Secret Garden".  The taxi dropped us outside a very ordinary facade where there was little indication of a B&B and we pressed the buzzer.  The door was opened to a cavernous, dingy internal courtyard. Mario welcomed us and apologised for the room not being ready (it was very early in the morning still) but said we could wait in the garden if we liked.  We went up a flight of stairs and he opened the door and there was this magic place, very green with lots of flowering plants, chaises longues, tables and chairs under canopies and hammocks. It was very welcoming and apparently a very rare thing in such a busy built up city.  We spent a couple of hours lazing on hammocks in this green space before setting off to explore our new town.  We found a market and picked up some delicious fruit to munch on (the grapes were delicious and they burst with flavour in your mouth).

Naples has a lot of history and many old buildings and, of course, churches but it seemed to me that these are very uncared for and although Neapolitans have a strong sense of pride, this doesn't extend to looking after their city.  As in Palermo, there was rubbish everywhere and many buildings were falling down. 

One of the things that Napoli is famous for is their figurines. If you ever want a really great nativity scene for Christmas then this is the place to buy one. They also make all sorts of other figurines including bread and pizza makers and many of these are mechanical.

The main things we wanted to visit here were Pompei and Mount Vesuvius so we took the local train to Pompei. Although we had planned to get there early, by the time we arrived there were already lots tourists and coach tours.  Because we were keen to get to Mount Vesuvius too in the same day, we decided not to pay for a tour as they take too much time. This may have been a mistake as I don't think we got as much information out of it as I expected but nevertheless we enjoyed it. This site is absolutely enormous and you can walk for miles and miles down different streets exploring ancient shop fronts and imagining the life in roman times. We walked and explored for a couple of hours and eventually made our way to the amphitheatre.  I didn't think this was as impressive as the one in Ephesus but it just may be that because I saw Ephesus first it made more of an impression on me.

We had a late lunch and then booked a minibus to Mt Vesuvius. We wanted to see this dormant volcano which had been the cause of such sudden devastation to Pompei and Heraculeum.  The vegetation was very lush on the way up to the crater.  The lava flow from last eruption in 1945 was pointed out to us. We were dropped off in a car park and we had to walk up the last steep 1.5km to the crater through the cloud. The rock was very red in parts and reminded me of Australian.  The air was much cooler up there and there were little cracks in the crater that emitted smoke, so I guess everything is still rumbling and bubbling under there somewhere.  Unfortunately we didn't have very long as the driver had only allowed us 1 hour to get to the top and then get back down again. I left Sasha who was still fossicking around while I started the descent by myself.  I didn't want to rush it and slip again and the ground was quite treacherous again with lots of loose gravel.  My heart was in my mouth.  I held on to the ropes on the side and must have looked like an idiot with my little tiny steps but I got down safely all in one piece this time. 

On our last night, we had a lovely meal on the waterfront at the base of the Castel del Uovo. There are lots of little seafood cafes there right on the waterfront and we had a lovely evening.

There are buskers and beggars everywhere all trying to make an impression to get you to throw them some money.  Check out my last picture - I just couldn't resist giving them some money. Not that the owner had to do anything - just set it up.
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