MAY 26

In 79 AD life suddenly came to an end in the space of two days for a city and many of its 20,000 citizens.

Seventeen years after an earthquake had badly damaged Pompeii and before the city had fully recovered from the large shake, nearby Mount Vesuvius erupted and a storm of ash and cinders buried Pompeii. Those that managed to escaped did so with very few personal belongings. Some of her people hesitated and were overcome by the poisonous fumes. The city never rose from its ruins and the site was virtually abandoned.
Between 1594 and 1600 signs of the buried city came to light during an excavation to cut a channel for the waters of the River Sarno, however, investigations were not pursued.
It wasn't until 1748 that sincere excavations began in Pompeii but the search was focused on recovering sculptures, paintings, mosaics and other objects of art leaving the ruins themselves to be reburied.

Slowly interest in preserving the city itself rose and excavations took a more systematic approach.

The technique of recovering the shapes of buried organic material (human bodies, trees, wooden objects) started by identifying a hollow space below the surface where organic material had decomposed and drilling a hole and pouring in plaster to obtain a form.
The rain of ash was not unduly destructive and indeed caused the preservation of even the humblest momentos of everyday life in the first century - coins, food containers, cooking implements, glass funnels; even caramelized loaves of bread in the bakery. Roots from gardens have even been identified.

Before entering we purchased from the gift shop a book entitled Pompeii Past and Present which shows pictures of Pompeii, as we were about to see it, plus overlays that helped us to envision it prior to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

We entered Pompeii through the Porta Marina (left) where two archways (one for pedestrians and one, less steep, for pack animals) were once close to the sea (thus the name).
The Forum (pictured top of page), a rectangular piazza (124 ft x 482 ft) was the setting for important ceremonies and is surrounded by numerous public buildings.
Temples dot Pompeii with the ones for Apollo (above right) and Isis close to the Forum and Basilica.

The baths were another gathering place for the people of Pompeii. Although there is much evidence of sexual indiscretions, the men's and women's baths were in separate wings.

We walked through the change room with it's benches, warmed bronze massage table and statues holding up a shelf above where the lockers would have lined the walls; to the cold bathing room (frigidarium - ahhh so that's where they got the name). Passing through the tepidarium (warm room) we entered the hot bath.
Under the floor a furnace heated up air that kept the floor warm and then circulated through the double walls. The arched ceiling is ribbed so that the condensation would run down the ceiling walls and not drip of the patrons enjoying their leisure. At one end is a deep pool while at the other end is a fountain where one could wash their face and hair. 79AD was an election year in Pompeii and archeologists have dug up many propaganda items.
The hot bath's fountain is rimmed with words that basically say "I was responsible for putting this in here ... remember that when you vote."

Food outlets are not a twentieth century idea. Pompeii had many fast food shops open to the street for a quick-pick-up (although we didn't find one for a chariot drive thru). Holes in the counter top were fitted with bowls and, if needed, kept hot from below while at the same time being on display.
At one of the homes we saw an foyer paved with mosaic tiles depicting a vicious dog pulling on its chain leash and the words Cave Canum [Beware of Dog]. Another mosaic spelt out "HAVE" [Hail To You].
In the brothel frescos, like promotional ads for services, decorated the walls above the doorways which opened to small chambers only slightly larger than the rock beds within.
Pompeii was built on a grid system. Near some intersections there are still remnants of the water fountains that were allowed to overflow helping to keep the stone streets clean.

Also near the intersections are crossing stones which allowed pedestrians walking on the elevated sidewalks to cross streets without getting wet. Some streets - the narrow one way lanes, have only one steeping stone where cart wheels could travel uninterrupted on both sides.

We marveled at the centuries deep wheel groves in the street's paving stones. Where the street is wider there are two stepping stones spaced to allow two way traffic.

Feeding the intersection water fountains were lead pipes. The lead would have come from Brittany. Pompeii's water came in via an aqueduct (similar to the one we canoed under at Pont du Gard) and held in a reservoir above the town then pressure fed through three pipelines into Pompeii.

In case of water shortages the pipes supplying water to the baths could be shut off (the lowest priority need). If needed, the second pipe could be shut off which would eliminate water going to private homes. With these two pipes no longer demanding water from the reservoir, there was hopefully enough water to feed the public fountains from which most of the population took their water for drinking and cooking.
Pompeii needs a full day (or more) to appreciate both the way in which people lived here in 79AD and the magnitude of the archeological excavation and the means being used to accomplish this feat. We so very much enjoyed maneuvering through its streets, homes, shops, bakery (left), public buildings, brothel and temples and finishing at the theatres.

There are two theatres ... a smaller roofed odeum for recitals and mimes and a larger theatre (open but could be covered by an awning if required - retractable roofs aren't new either) which held about 5000 spectators. Behind the large stage, which back then had a high and elaborate backdrop, is a quadriporticus. Originally this enclosed space was used by theatre goers as one would use a theatre lobby today -- to stretch, walk and visit between performances. After the 62 AD earthquake it was converted into barracks for gladiators.
As we left Pompeii we met Marcus and Monica - one of the couples from yesterday's train ride to Sorrento. It's fun to bump into people you recognize when you are so far away from family and friends.
Pompeii covers about 66 hectares of which 21 hectares have not yet been uncovered. Just inside the exit gate a crew of archeologist were continuing to dig through this incredible piece of preserved history.
MAY 27

[Happy Birthday, Stephen !]

We learnt a lesson today ... one does not "visit" Napoli [Naples] nor does one "see" Napoli ... the truth clearly is one "experiences" Napoli. Today we experienced Italy's third largest city ... at ground level ... not in some posh tour bus nor peering from some American style hotel window, or being guided by some English speaking Italian with a bright scarf tied to the end of a stick held high so the tourist does not venture onto a side street away from the high priced shops and clean streets.

We experienced Napoli's traffic -- as chaotic as Rome with a New York attitude. Traffic that views stop signs as suggestions only and if there is an inch ... someone will take it - usually on a speeding Vespa. Should someone be so timid as to not jump a light or not pass a slower vehicle by going up on the sidewalk, tempers and voices flail through the air like the hand and arm gestures that accompany them.

We started off easy by taking the metro train into Italy's most crime-ridden city. 

On the train gypsy women bring their children on board to beg or musicians play a few bars of a song on their concertina and then walk around with their hand out. A third of Napoli's population is said to be unemployed and many work cons or do some light-finger pickpocketing. 
Off the metro (where most pickpocketing takes place) with all our possessions still with us, we walked up to the Museo Archeologico [Archaeological Museum] ... no backpack, no visible camera and looking as Italian as possible except for our shoes. The Italians are big on shoes (like the latest styles shown above) and quite frankly our hiking boots just don't make the grade.
Fearing another eruption from Mount Vesuvius (the last eruption was 1944), the powers that were decided it would be a good idea to gather together the artifacts (then housed in three different locations) and hold them in a former palace in Napoli. This relatively small museum, other than a section on Egypt (every museum seems to have one), for the most part is dedicated to Pompeii and it's neighbouring city Herculaneum which was also damaged by the 62 AD earthquake and buried by the 79 AD Mount Vesuvius eruption. The only difference was that Herculaneum was overwhelmed by clouds of scorching toxic gas and (at least six separate times) was bombasted by torrents of volcanic mud.

We were able to view mosaics (left) which upon first sight look like paintings. 

Some were large and beautiful while others were small and funny. One even looked like it could be a caricature of Jay Leno's ancestor.

In the Secret Room (by appointment only - to keep out youngsters) were more frescos removed from the brothel (a little more specific) as well as other X-rated mosaics, paintings, sculptures and even tableware.

 
Amazing were the glass pieces. Such delicate, thin glass in beautiful shapes, sizes and amazing colours. We were looking at pieces that had not only survived years of use but an earthquake plus being buried for centuries. We were in awe.
On the top floor we were able to see one room where the palace itself could be appreciated. The great hall is the third largest covered hall in Europe. It has a frescoed ceiling and the walls are draped with paintings. 
In the floor there is an long angled rectangle (now roped off and covered with glass) marked off in squares, some displaying the signs of the zodiac. It is a calendar. In line with the rectangle high up where the wall meets the ceiling there is a pinpoint hole allowing the sun to beam through. What a wonderful conversation piece it must have been during the banquets held here.
Leaving the peaceful surroundings of the Museum we ventured out into life at its most vibrant.  We once more took to the streets to experience Napoli.

Our route started by going through the ornate Galleria which was eerily quiet as if in anticipation of something more exciting than everyday shopping ... perhaps the stage erected at the end of one of the cross arms was a hint. We wrapped the camera cord around a wrist and finger and then clasping it out of sight up a sleeve we took to the crowded streets.

Somehow it all works. People dodging people, Vespas and cars. Cars dodging people, buses and delivery trucks and Vespas with their mufflerless chainsaw engines zipping through the tiniest of spaces left by buses, trucks, cars, other Vespas and people ... like us. The trick is not to alter your walking pace ... this way cars and speeding Vespas can guage whether to rub your nose or polish your backside with the wind they create.  It is helpful to also look like you know where you are going with facial expressions that announce "Yes, and I intend to get there."

Living in such cramped quarters most Italians share the sidewalk and street with their neighbours as part of their living space. Parks are rare in Napoli. Private space is also rare and neighbours know all about neighbours just as families do within their own home. Just like in some families tempers flare in loud passionate exchanges, hand jesters and facial expressions but just as quickly you can hear or see exchanges of love and forgiveness. In other cultures you might hear the phrase "don't hang out your dirty laundry for others to see." Here, all the laundry is hung out - both metaphorically and actually.

Narrow streets are like chasms with towering flat walled apartment buildings on both sides. Each window is fitted with shutters and most often below the window are three lengths of clothesline hung between two brackets set a distance from the window just as far as the arm can reach. Draped from these lines, like flags indicating the kind of person who dwells within, fly everything from sheets and jeans to dainty pink laced panties.

We walked through one of the squares which has a monument to the plague and where people congregated ... some to have dinner at one of the square's restaurants and others just exchanging news of the day's events ... which in some cases caused heated debates including pretend spitting as though they had a disgusting taste in their mouths that must be discarded upon the street.
Down another side street ... and we literally mean down the street because the sidewalk was either occupied by parked cars or people lounging in chairs after a full day's survival .... we could see the transformation of shops. During the day people living on the ground floor, with doors and windows fronting onto this compact street, use their livingrooms as shops to show and sell their wares from tools to toilet paper, from bananas to bandanas. In the evening they reclaim their living space and allow it to flow out onto their sidewalk front porches. 
A little further down the street amongst parked cars, we could see a gathering of men around an animated game of cards as though they were sitting in a private room at an unusual country club. Fascinated, Sherrie pulled the camera from her sleeve and snapped a picture. One of the men looked over with some suspicion at the bold move - in this city where organized crime is only slightly less active than Sicily - but seemed to relax when she flashed a big innocent smile and turned to disappear around the corner.
The memory of Napoli and it's people, who will continue to live with so much intensity, will balance our perspective when we return to home with all its space and greenery, it's well mannered traffic and it's polite people who often show a different face in public then they do in the privacy of their own homes while they change their laundry over from the washing machine to the automatic dryer.

MAY 28

Whoever designed the first rollercoaster must have been inspired by a bus drive along the Amalfi Coast ... only to save space did they change the ride to up and down rather than from side to side whizzing around narrow corners within an inch or two of some flimsy metal fence dividing road from sheer rock faces plunging to the water far far below. At least on rollercoasters the seats are attached to a guide rail rather than a four wheeled, free falling oversized tin can.

The bus was crowded with standing room only. In fact there wasn't even any standing room left as it squished from back to front including stepwells. The air-conditioning was keeping the breath-filled air only tolerable and even it had to be shut off when climbing up some of the steep grades. 

We were sitting on the right side (cliff side) in the second row of seats. Half way through the trip we snagged the front seats, cliff side still, where we could see even more clearly the inch space between bus and useless barricade and more visually appreciate the twists and turns and turns and twists and near misses with other cars and buses. The big blue bus we rode in would honk its horn "beee-bop beee-bop" which sounded a lot like a goose with a head cold doing an imitation of an ambulance siren. These noises were to tell the driver of a vehicle approaching that a bus was coming and was going to take the whole road to make the curve ... and upon hearing this painful goose, they were to stop and wait. 

Well, the locals might know what it means, but there were plenty who didn't ... much to the consternation of our driver and our pulse rate.

Through the little villages clinging to the hillsides above the water, our driver would once again squawk the goose and citizens would pull their heads into their doorways and blend themselves and their bags of groceries into the stonework of the building they were passing. Every so often the space was just too small for buses to pass each other, so one would backup finding a few more inches and then the drivers would reach out, pull in their side mirrors close to the bus and then foot by foot, inch by inch they would maneuver past each other while we could count the eyelashes on the people in the other bus and smell the panic on their breaths. 
By the time we arrived in Amalfi about an hour or so after our departure from Sorrento, we were as gray as the rock faces that astounded us with their beauty along the way. 
We spent a short time poking through the shops in Amalfi before catching the two hour slow boat back to Sorrento.
The day had been pleasant - sunny with cloudy periods - but we took note of the dark clouds rolling in as we boarded the passenger ferry. Selecting lounge-style deck chairs on the coast side, we settled in comfortably and watched as Amalfi faded out of sight, dimmed by the incoming clouds. 

The cliffs were impressive and we could see blue buses skirting the edge of the road way up high and felt a tinge of sympathy for those in the front cliff-side seats and were grateful for the fresh-air-slow-paced smooth ride we were now experiencing. Ahh yes, to "experience" the Amalfi coast take the bus. To see the Amalfi coast, take the boat.

About a half hour into the trip rain started to sprinkle. People fled the top deck for the shelter offered below. When the wind picked up and the rain started to fall with more gusto, we abandoned our lounge chairs and went under the canopy deserted by all the others except a mom, dad and twelve year old daughter from England, a gentleman from Mississauga (now living in Italy) and a member of the crew behind the bar.

The rain came down with more impact splashing into the sea.

 The wind picked up and lifted the heavier material of the lounge chairs as though they were silk flags. A few of the centre chairs slipped along the deck towards the rear and the little English girl laughed with excitement. The wind whipped the rain around the wheel house and bar and we donned raincoats and took refuse in the little patch of protected space at the counter of the bar. More deck chairs fell and skidded along the deck, tables and chairs stacked up against the railings as the surf danced with frothy tops. We laughed, made jokes and visited. It was fun and exhilarating .... and so much better than the bus.
We passed the Isle of Capri (hummed the song) and got pictures as the rain's last dribbles fell from the canopy. We up-righted the lounge chairs (the little English girl was rewarded with a coke for the positive gesture she made in replacing the deck tables and chairs), shook off the remaining droplets of water and regained our comfortable positions until we docked in Sorrento.
Sorrento is a tourist town ... but in the nicest of ways. It has a long history of inhabitants ... starting with the Greeks, then Etruscans, Sanniti and the Romans who founded the town's first council. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the entire peninsula fell into the hands of the Byzantines after which it became a free state. During the 1800s, Sorrento developed a strong tourist industry to complement its agriculture trade and commerce. 
Prestigious hotels were built overhanging the cliffs that drop to the sea and entertained queens, writers, philosophers and musicians such as Byron, Keats, Goethe, Wagner and Ibsen. Today many other hotels in all price ranges are offered in Sorrento for those who want to take in it's natural beauty, its historical centre characterized by narrow lanes, as well as for its local products. Porcelains are big here as well as woodwork and lemon based liqueurs.
There are so many English speaking tourists in this town (much like Villefranche) that making yourself understood is not difficult.  In fact, so many English visit here a "Foreigners Club" was developed in one of those gorgeous cliff side locations ... where the English can still order their fish and chips and visit with each other. We took a peek after visiting the information centre in the same building but for our Euro, we would rather dine and visit with the Italians while in Italy.
 
The reason ... most English speaking tourists associate anchovies with being small and very salty. The delicious fried anchovies we had at Delphinos were about four inches long, plump, sweet and, no, not salty.
Even while enjoying the local cuisine we were aware of the efforts to please the English speaking palate. At Delphino's on the water front, below the Foreigners Club and beside the fishing boats the menu writes the Italian word for anchovies while the English translation is "Sardines". 
While we were dining at Delphinos on the anchovies as well as swordfish and a local fish, one of Rick Steve's twenty-six person tour group came in. They looked like a fun group enjoying their time together, but still, we are glad we are independent travelers (with Rick's book in hand).

MAY 29

A quiet kind of day. No big plans. No museums or churches. Just time to stroll around Sorrento and enjoy.

Gelato - name your flavour!

The worker's card club in Sorrento is a little more posh than the parking lot lean-to in Napoli

Terry went to the Bonaparte just off Sorrento's main square. It is a "Club dell' Acconciatura" - hair stylist [and spa] for men. This is not a typical clip joint ... they know what they are doing, take their time to do it ... and do it well. Worth more than the 15 euro cost and well worth a stopover in Sorrento if only for this experience.
 

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