I so wanted to vist Pompeii from the first time I ever heard about it way back in my youth

I love that feeling, I daydream what life was like back then (before the eruption)


Al said, nothing can compete with this ruin, he was wrong yet again.

This place lived up to my expectations.

I'm glad I convinced Al not to stay here b/c it was an ugly city

with all the effort to get there, it was not worth it

Italy II: Sorrento and Rome


Wake! Shower! Barely time to eat! Hardly any time to get our email report about the kids! Then we are off, map in hand, to the Sorrento train station. It was an almost perfect run. We did get turned around in the bus depot, along with another man, but made it to the train on time (train on time!). The ride to Pompeii was just 30 minutes, and dumps you off a few hundred feet from the entrance to the "Scavi" or excavations.

Getting lost in Pompeii
We were one of the first ones inside (surprise surprise?) which was totally awesome. There were times in that first couple of hours where it seemed as if we were the only ones in the ancient city. And it was amazing to walk the actual streets that the Romans of Pompeii walked two thousands years ago. We also found one of the very first AutoGrills near the entrance! That was an extraordinary archeological find! We also saw a lot of body molds that were made by pouring plaster into the area where the person died in the Vesuvian eruption. It was a surreal feeling, seeing the exact positions of the person who died.

The streets of Pompeii with Mt. Vesuvius in the background
We decided to hoof it to the outskirts of the city to check out one of the bigger Villas in the area. Then, to Lin-Wei's delight we walked along the ancient walls and got back into the city through a little used entrance. Then it was exploring of the grid of Pompeii. In and out of houses and villas, reading the fun facts about the people slaughtered by the volcano (oh, hey, did you know that Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79AD and wiped out the town, and it was rediscovered in the 1800s? Yeah, you probably did). We of course had to check out the arena, where we rested in the only shade. We drank our water and ate our yogurt treats while a group of German students rested near us, listening to the most boring lecture of Pompeii ever given, by their professor, in German.
Lin-Wei and a life goal realized
It is remotely possible that the lecture would have been interesting if had known German, but looking at the faces of the students I was sure my initial assessment was correct.

The rest of the morning was spent checking out the temples and searching for the Baths of Pompeii, which we couldn't find, and later found out were outside the tourist zone. Pompeii was a treat though.
Where are Jontilius, Gorgtus, and Ringonius?
I mean, it was a pretty big downer imagining what it must have been like for those people in AD79, but the fact that the whole city structure was preserved, with kitchens and gardens and even mini aqueducts preserved all these years was mind-blowing. The place was pretty busy by lunch time, though, so we got out of there.

For lunch we went to the tourist place across the street and had pizza, pasta, a beer, and the largest Orange Fanta ever constructed by man.
Um, I wanted the large Fanta...
I think this Fanta lasted us a couple days.

We hopped the Circumvesuviana train, but not back to Sorrento. We stopped halfway back in Castellammare di Stabia which is located at the start of the Sorrentine peninsula. I had considered staying here when planning the trip as I thought the drive on to Sorrento would suck, especially after a night on a jet, but Lin-Wei (luckily) talked me out of it. We came here today to
  1. Take the cable car to the top of the nearby mountain peak
  2. Visit some ancient villas also buried by Vesuvius in AD79.

The first part of the quest went off without a hitch. We got our ticket and ran onto the cable car just before it left, and had yet another terrifying ride to the cool and breezy environs at the top. And at the top was a gift shop/restaurant, and the old gentlemen who ran it was eager to press a map into our hands (with adverts for his snack shop on the back) and tell us about some of the trails along the peak.

Navigating around weather station to the right, and certain death to the left
We opted out of the three hour round trip hike to a monastery, and instead decided to just hike down the trail a bit. It was pretty deserted up there, but signs of human habitation were everywhere: old campsites, plastic bottles of fanta, and camping chairs that had seen better days. I wondered if there were homeless living up there based on the amount of trash, but we didn't see anyone.

About fifteen minutes down the train it aburbtly ended at some weather / communications station. A sort of trail seemed to go around it on the (steeply) downward slope side, and I volunteered to scope it out. The trail around it was narrow, but passable, so I called down the wife, who hung on for dear life as she crossed the Passage of Death.
Contemplating the destruction that can be wraught by nature? Or just taking a rare break?
Past the Passage of Death where some new homes being constructed, and we stopped there for rest and views before heading back.

On the packed cable car ride back down we were entertained as the other Americans on board talking about having a house up in those hills; oh and how it was really scary that only a thin cable was holding this car up, etc...

For phase two, we relied on Frommers to guide us to the "Scavi" area of Castellammare, and it failed us miserably. The map excluded a key road that we needed to take us to the street with the Scavi, so we wandered aimlessly for a while until Lin-Wei flagged down a passing motorcyclist (she seemed to have very practiced technique), and though the old man who stopped (ha!) did not know any English, he understood, "Scavi? Scavi!?" and pointed us in the right direction. The scavi we found were free to enter, but was a bit of a let down after an hour of walking to get there.

Back to the Circumvesuviana train, where Lin-Wei had a bit of a nap on the way back, and we were back in Sorrento. We stopped for a snack in the main square and did some shopping before dinner and bed.

Time to leave this Resort Town lifestyle and see some ruins!

Copyright (c) The Sticklers 2009