August 17 - Pompeii for a Day

Today was a day of culture, learning, and fun. We visited the ancient ruins of Pompei.

Since it was a sunny day outside we decided to stroll down the long winding road leading from our hotel to the town and stop at some interesting sights along the way. Just parallel to the main street is a pedestrian zone that's a tourist's delight. One store after another offers limoncello samples and products and you can actually watch how it's made and bottled. Hundreds of shoppers were there and the streets were so narrow we had to rescue a long trailing silk scarf off David's backpack that got snagged on a keyring. In the middle of this area is the Sorrento Men's Club. Surrounded by frescoes on the walll, men, mostly retired, talk and play cards. No women are allowed.

Another interesting sight was the Lemon Grove Garden right in the heart of the city. As we walked through the lemon grove it was hard to imagine that right beside it are apartments and a playground. Benches made of logs were conveniently placed on the paths. Suddenly a voice called out, "Hello!" It came from an organic lemon stand at the entrance. We tried traditional limoncello along with blueberry and licorice flavored. It seemed so surreal that it would be there in a place where we were the only visitors at the time.

On the train trip to Pompei, an accordion player and his preschool age son appeared. The skill of the accordion player was terrible, but even sadder was the son solemnly walking in front of him, hands cupped, but receiving no coins.

Our visit to Pompeii was amazing. In August 79 AD, Mt. Vesuvius erupted and buried Pompeii in 30 feet of volcanic ash. It wasn't until the 1600s that the area was discovered and excavations began in 1748.

Pompeii was much more extensive than I ever imagined. There is an incredible network of stone streets with chariot wheel tracks worn right into the stone over the centuries. People seldom cooked so there is evidence of restaurants with huge brick ovens, stone wheat grinders, and marble counter tops with holes to hold warming pots. Several houses had mosaic tile floors and frescoes on the walls.

Continuing on our tour we discovered several dogs lying in the cool shade of the houses. One was even sleeping inside a bathtub in the bath house. Signs at the entrance encouraged people to consider adopting one of these dogs. In the meantime they are being sheltered and cared for by the Pompeii Heritage site staff. Before leaving we toured an ampitheater and saw ancient lead pipes, jugs, and plaster casts of people and a dog as they were found during excavations.

Tonight in town we were pleasantly surprised to discover it had become a pedestrian zone for the evening. Hundreds of people casually strolled down the street and even the most fashionable shops were open.

Dinner was at Ristorante Pizzeria S. Antonio. The manager was so friendly and made a point to stop at each table to chat with the people.

On our way back to the hotel we stopped at Gelateria Primavera. The gelati here is so good that even Pope Benedict has been here and they have the pictures to prove it. It was so jammed in there you just had to just order the first flavor you saw. For us it was Irish Cream and it was delicious.

Looking across the Gulf of Naples after midnight, we can no longer see Mt. Vesuvius. It's hard to believe what happened so long ago at Pompeii. I'm glad I got to see it today.


Susan Erickson said…
It seems like your entire trip has been just wonderful and full of new surprises at each stop! Loved all the lemon pictures and the description of Pompei sounds incredible.

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