Thursday, Oct 6
Sunday, Oct 9 - Pompeii
They emptied the trash and turned down the beds every evening. Our room looked out onto a terrace/patio, and we could open French doors onto it. Pat spent the mornings out there with his coffee. Or rather espresso – they don’t do American-type coffee there.
Today we took the train to Pompeii, which is about halfway back toward Naples. Some rather rough-looking youths got onto the train at one stop and basically beat the snot out of each other until they got off (thankfully) at the next stop. Thank goodness they didn’t stay on the train long, and they remained in the space between cars.
Pompeii was HUGE! They’re still excavating sections. The villas and houses were impressive, some with beautiful mosaic tile, marble fountains. In one we saw the remnants of a wine press and a wine-making facility. It also had a huge wine cellar, where some of the poor victims of the disaster ran to hide. They had several of the bodies that were excavated on display in glass cases, one a pregnant woman, one a child, a man crouched as if in prayer (but he was probably just covering his nose and mouth with both hands). It was weird taking pictures of the ruins with Vesuvius looming in the background. The volcano is still active and dangerous, in fact many people living around Naples are at risk.
There was a big earthquake in 62 AD, probably a harbinger of the disaster to come seven years later. One huge villa was being repaired and renovated when the volcano erupted in 79 AD. Vesuvius is the only active volcano in Europe. Dogs live in the ruins (rather than cats, as in Rome). Actually there are stray dogs all over Sorrento, and they sleep in the street. People feed them leftovers. They look a bit mangy, but well fed.
The weather held for a little while; then it began to rain again. In Pompeii we walked down to the huge arena or theater – not as big as the Coliseum but better preserved. You could talk on the ground level and be heard in the highest seats. Pompeii also had a forum and a huge basilica that they used as a sort of stock exchange. There were temples for Zeus, Apollo, and Vespasian. And Roman baths, of course. Everyone had an open courtyard, which collected run-off from the roofs to help supply fresh water. Pompeii was very affluent and was a port before the volcano blew. We brought meat, cheese and bread with us for lunch and ate in the forum by the temple of Apollo.
On the return train trip, many youths got on the train halfway back and stayed on until we arrived in Sorrento. They were loud and obnoxious and smoked, but they were better dressed and not quite so hostile. When we got off the train, they all massed together and began singing and chanting something. We thought maybe they were going to a concert or a game. Most were male.
We ate dinner at a restaurant called La Basilica. Rather than referring to a large building, it apparently referred to dishes cooked with basil. Very nice. I had lasagna Neopolitan, and Pat had one of the specials with pork. I also had grilled prawns. They cooked them with the heads on. Drank some local wine from a vineyard called Terredora. Excellent, both red and white were good. Pat complained that I kept choosing the best meals! Had limoncello with dessert, which is lemon juice with alcohol, and it’s very good, like a lemon liqueur.