Thursday, February 23, 2017

Pompeii

From our base camp in a seaside villa in Sorrento, we explored some nearby Roman ruins on the shoreline before heading north to walk off lunch by wandering the ancient city streets of the long abandoned Roman city of Pompeii.
Cave Canem: Beware of Dog


Breakfast at the seaside villa
We woke up at the Capo Santa Fortunata to a crisp silver-blue day dawning outside our windows over the Gulf of Naples.
The villa property view from our window
Our kids, bodies still set two hours ahead, woke up "early" and played in the whirlpool bathtub as we waited for breakfast, which we set last night to be at 8 am. Opening the windows, we heard birds chirping as they flittered around the nearby lemon and orange groves.

We were joined for breakfast by Scotty (Biscotti?) the dog. He must have known it would be a big breakfast. The furry little guy had a growth on his face that couldn't be treated, but he was super friendly.
Should we let in the dog?

Scotty begging for a "puppuccino"
We explored the lemon and orange groves after breakfast and absorbed the scenery as a cool, damp breeze enveloped us.
RRR in the lemon grove

A cloudy day in Italy beats a sunny day in Saudi Arabia, hands down.
On our way out of the villa grounds, a bird pooped on our younger daughter's face. Some folks think getting pooped on by a bird is lucky (since it's so unlikely). I think it's more like karma since she's the one who has recently entered a phase of calling other people "poop face". After dealing with that mess, we were once again on our way.

Roman ruins on the shoreline
Turning right out of the villa gate, we walked and skipped our way between stone walls on our way down a narrow, paved path to see some Roman ruins on the cliff shore.

video

The path eventually brought us to a natural rock bridge that extended over a hidden tidal pool.
A little further on, you could see where the hillside became mad-made, evidenced by all the brickwork.

Creative brickwork
Shortly before ascending the top of the ruins, we stumbled upon what I assume was a homeless guy living out of one of the cave-like structures. We gave him 3€ to leave us alone. Win-win. We explored a few more places, but stopped at a rickety bridge that looked like something out of an Indiana Jones movie.

Underground structures

Adding this spot to my "Happy Place" list

You shall not pass!
From the rickety bridge, we turned around and walked back towards the hotel, taking a small detour to walk down to the hidden tidal pool we saw when were first arrived. I like how the whole in the rock leading out to the bay looks like a violin.
After returning to the villa, we all rested for a while before driving up to the city of Pompeii.
Mount Vesuvius

Pompeii Today
It was after noon by the time we arrived in the modern town of Pompeii, so we stopped for some fuel and directions to a restaurant from the gas station attendant. What we got was something like "go past the train station, then right 1 km. Acqua Ventiquattro". Did he mean "turn right at the station and continue for 1km" or "it will be on your right 1km after the station?" What about "Water 24?" You've probably deduced that we couldn't find it. Once we decided to stop looking for that place, we parked where we were and looked for a new place to eat. The first place we walked by was a sparsely stocked deli with a only few prepared dishes, and nothing looked particularly appetizing.
Door #1
The second place seemed like it might be good, since it  the establishment's sign clearly said "pasta", unfortunately they only sold it in raw form...so, not really a restaurant.
Door #2
Is the third time the charm? The sign said "Taverna 49 pizzeria gourmet" and it looked closed, but the door opened into a dark foyer that felt like a grab-and-go pizza place with only an oven and a cashier station. But, the farther in we walked, the more Italian restaurant-y it began to look.
We started out with Prosciutto: delicious. Napolitano pizza (no cheese): more deliciousness. House red wine: Yum. Bread and olive oil: of course. Tiramisu (in a mason jar) and coffee: I regret nothing. But of course, our picky eater wanted pizza "with no cheese or sauce", but didn't want the bread by itself. Go figure. I highly recommend Taverna 49 if you're looking for a restaurant in Pompeii.
Scene from an Italian restaurant
After lunch, we drove to the Pompeii archaeological site following the signs for "Scavi". We parked near the Piazza Anfiteatro entrance (SE corner of site) and threw 2€ (the max limit) into the parking machine at 1:55pm. We're good until 3:10, which I know isn't going to be long enough...but the site closes at 5pm so hopefully we don't get ticketed.

Pompeii Archaeological Site
We wandered the ruins of  Pompeii from the amphitheater to forum using a combination of the  Rick Steves Pompeii Guide Map and the map they gave us at the entrance to the site.
Pompeii Map
I think the kids got in free because they were young enough. We opted not to get a guide, which was the right call for us because the girls were free to explore and make their own discoveries.
One of the main roads on the east side of town.

It's more colorful than I had expected.

They even had water features!

This is what the start of the Vesuvius eruption might have looked like
As you may or may not know, the ash from the volcanic eruption of Mt Vesuvius covered the city, and large voids were found during later excavations. The voids were filled, and turned out to be cavities formed when the bodies of the victims decomposed. We saw the plaster casts of the voids that helped them discover that.
We also got to walk through several homes, and I can only imagine how grand this must have looked centuries ago.

Another fun feature were the elevated cross walks. Apparently, the streets would occasionally flood or have waste in them, so yeah, you don't want to step in that. But the gaps are spaced so that wheeled carts can pass through without going over a bump. Clever.
Abbey Road or Via Abbia?
Having walked the city from east to west, we reached the forum and headed north.
Sadly, nothing funny happened on the way here.
Oh, and we made a well-deserved stop for gelato in the cafe there.
At this point, I think the parking meter expired about 30 minutes ago. Nothing to be done about it now. One of the highlights was the House of the Tragic Poet, which had "Cave Canem" written at the feet of the dog. It means "Beware of Dog." Sorry I couldn't get a better photo of the letters, there was some glass in the way. I guess they want to preserve it for future generations or something.
House of the Tragic Poet
Walking back towards our car, we turned up a side street to the Casa di Vettii.
It just goes on and on.

Casa di Vetti

Detail inside Casa di Vetti

Pondering the sculpture

Interior panorama of a room in the House of Vetti

Ancient Roman pot holes

We headed out of the site through the ??? Gate, passing through the necropolis to get back at car by 4:30 pm. No parking ticket!

On the drive back to the villa, we followed the scenic route along the coast as we used the tunnel route last night.
 Relaxed at the hotel until dinnertime. We hadn't planned to eat at the villa (we would have needed to tell them this morning to get the ingredients), so we planned to get dinner in Sorrento. As many of the  restaurants are still closed for the winter season, our host made some calls to see if any of the ones they recommend are open. No luck. So, we headed into downtown Sorrento, parked the car in an underground lot, and walked until we found a place. I ended up getting bruschetta, a mixed grill platter, and a Sorrento sling made with gin & limoncello. It was a pretty good way to end a pretty good dayday.


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