It's all about the view

Trip Start Sep 07, 2010
Trip End Sep 06, 2013

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Flag of Italy  , Campania,
Sunday, September 11, 2011

   You know how when you live somewhere you never really visit the local points of interest that tourists make a point to see?  Well we played the role of local tourist for a couple of weekends in a row, visiting sites that were within an hour's drive, or so.  Even these single day trips can turn into an adventure.

    On Sunday afternoon we decided to head up to Mt Vesuvius.  It’s a national park here, so we figured it would be fairly easy to locate using the GPS.  You have to get close enough to the location and put into the GPS "point of interest near you" when you don’t know the name of the city.  The Italian cities can be challenging for the GPS.  The little “town” near the house is called Licola on the street signs, and in conversation with co-workers.  It’s nowhere near that on the GPS.  I plugged Mt Vesuvius national park into the GPS and we headed down the road

    We had been near Vesuvius with our friends a few months back spending the night at a B&B perched on the hill side.  Plus Italian points of interest are labeled with brown signs on the side of the road.  Are they the same color in the US?  We could see Vesuvius to our left, it’s hard to miss.  It dominates the entire Naples skyline.  We drove slightly past Vesuvius and turned to head up the mountain.  Fifteen kilometers of wandering through city streets, and admittedly up, we came to a fence and a sign that said Mt Vesuvius national park.  Unfortunately there did not appear to be anyway in, and we were nowhere close to the top.  So next I plugged mountain top into the GPS.  Check yours and see if it’s an option.  In Hampton Roads I wonder if it would take you to Mt Trashmore?  For family and friends not from Virginia, that is the highest point around Virginia Beach/Norfolk area.  It truly is made out of trash, covered over so the former dump site has been reclaimed and made into a local park.  Back to my story…

    We found our way back down the hillside, through the small town we’d been through and on around to the other side of Vesuvius.  Then the interesting drive began.  For some reason the most direct route selected by the GPS included streets so narrow, that Randy’s car barely fit through.  On both sides were high walls, and if anyone else had approached us, we’re still not sure what we would have done.  It was so narrow we started laughing about getting stuck.  We felt like mice in a maze, wondering if we would be rewarded when we go to the end, hmmm cheese or mousetrap?  We popped out onto a street lined with numerous hotels and reception halls.  Each hall was occupied with some festive gathering.  It just made us all the more confused as to why we had traveled those skinny roads when clearly there was a party everywhere, but not one we had been invited to, and even more relieved that we had not met anyone else along the path. 

    Then the next phase of the driving adventure began.  Individuals may not drive up to Vesuvius’s peak.  Parking the car in a dirt lot, we climbed next onto an “ecobus”.  I haven’t a clue why.  The huge tires are supposed to help on the drive uphill.  It could be the econo-bus rather than the ecology bus we thought it was supposed to mean, because 1/3rd of the way up, one of the cheap seats, two rows in front of us broke, and the two people sitting there fell onto the people right in front of us.

   Arriving at the end of the road, you then exchange your ticket for another ticket and start to walk/climb the hillside of gravel, and volcanic dust.  Winding our way up the mountain side to 1050 meters above sea level (the brochure says so) was a race.  After all the travel just to get to the departure point, we were the last tour group to be allowed up the hill, and if we didn’t want to get stuck we had to catch the last eco/econo-bus back down.  So we took off at a fairly rapid pace.  Arriving at the top we were rewarded with spectacular views of the Napoli Bay.  About 20 Kilometers away is a gray/brown square that is Pompeii, where everything else is crammed with housing/buildings or something.  Our tour guide quickly explained the crater, the sites, gave us a lava rock showing the other crystals embedded in the rock and bid us to hurry back down the hill since the last eco bus was about to leave.  30 minute walk up the hill, 20 minute trot back down the hill and 15 minutes at the top….hmmmm, no wonder the locals just wait for the movie.  For some reason the eco-bus really made an impression on Randy.  I’m not sure if it was the drop off the hillside with no guard rail and he was sitting by the window on the bus looking over the edge, or the sheer climb as we rode, but for Randy that was the most significant part of the adventure.
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