Visiting Pompeii: A Road Too Far
Today we got out early to see Pompeii... or so we thought. The plan was to park at the rear Porto Anfiteatro entrance early (a rear entrance), before the tour buses dump their hoards at the main entrance. We would walk quickly to the main entrance (Porta Marina) and then work our way toward Anfiteatro before being swamped by the masses at our backs. Well, that didn't work. (Thanks a lot, Rick Steves, for the lame suggestion). The walk up hill was very rough and we kept being distracted by seeing all the fantastic sights. The ancient cobbles and high curbs were difficult to navigate--not quickly, anyway. Plus we weren't early enough... the hoards of cruise ship tourists, texting Swedish schoolgirls and pushy Chinese nouveau riche swarmed the place.
The going was very tough. I've read about the cobbles in Pompeii, but my Lord are they rough on your feet. They are eroded at the edges so badly that I felt like I was hopping stones across a stream. Some are high, some low. They are also rutted by chariot wheels... fascinating to ponder but hard on your ankles. Steps are a foot or more high... tough on knees. Some curbs are even higher. The ancient sidewalks are very eroded and uneven. Combine this with stones jutting out of the soil and tripping you. Lucas almost tripped once on a rock jutting up... I almost tripped three times. There is rock dust over everything so the rocks are hard to see. There are groups of three stones crossing the streets in places. These were used to cross the street and not get your feet wet--there would be water flowing through the streets for waste removal.
The history is amazing though. My favorite was the baths. Ancient pipes, hollow heated floors, walls and ceilings in the Caldorium. The baths also had lots of intact frescos and bas reliefs. Lucas was fascinated by the plaster casts of the people buried under ash. There was even a dog writhing on his back... frozen in time at the moment the hot ash took his life.
I also loved the street-side shops with marble bar tops with amphorae built into the counters. You could picture customers coming up and buying beer, wine and snacks. The wells all over the site are beautiful... each has the water coming out of the mouth of masks... and the water is potable. We filled our thermos 4 times and Lucas and I wet our caps. It was pretty hot today.
They also had a gated shed will thousands of artifacts from the city... mostly amphorae, but also columns, fountains and other treasures. They should really spend the money on a museum at Pompeii. Most of the artifacts and statues are in the Naples National Archaeological Museum--a city I'd never return to. Here's a link to some photos of what they removed from Pompeii.
Afterwards we took a ride toward Sorrento. We found it to be overly chic, with stylish designer shops galore... not our thing. Plus, we must have driven around the town three times trying to get to the main street. The one way streets really lock you in to making turns you don't want to take. So we headed up the twisty roads toward Masse Lubrense, a massive mountain area above Sorrento dotted with workaday village and views. We bought pastries for tomorrow's breakfast and headed down the pass toward the Amalfi Coast again.
We got to one point where you could see both sides of Sorrento Peninsula at the same time. Gulf of Naples and Vesuvius on one side, the Tyrrhenian Sea on the other. I couldn't believe the views. As we drove down the coast road again--the western area we hadn't been on before--I was struck by how much more natural the environment was. Huge light colored cliffs... caves... rugged pinnacles of stone jutting up from the sea and the mountainsides. And more curvy roads and insanely dangerous drivers--the locals pass you on inside curves, outside curves, when oncoming cars are approaching, in curved tunnels, they'll pass you while another car is passing, even when people are walking on the narrow side of the road, or when a huge bus is coming round the bend! And if you drive carefully around the hair-pin turns yourself, they'll ride your butt a couple of feet from your rear bumper--and then pass you!
I was so tired when we got back. I'm proud to say that I drove these amazing roads and the amazing landscape and the villages clinging for dear life from the cliffs above the sea... but I'll be happy to leave Amalfi tomorrow... Once in life is enough.
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