The daily morning updates of my girls makes a wonderful beginning to each day

what a great buffet of breakfast, lots of eggs, meats, bread, tea, delicious, even tho I ate tons for breakfast, I was still starving by lunch

yah, I was bummed that we had such a low visibility, I was hoping to see Pompeii from up there

Spartacus and other slaves that were revolting against Rome hid in the caldera (before the famous erruption) from the Roman troops who were looking for them

i was quite disappointed in the wall, it wasn't very walkable

Al said nothing could beat this ruin b/c we were able to go through so many streets, but little did he know, we will see even more impressive sites

this was a pile of old rocks, our only one b/c it was alot older than rest of the ruins we were going to visit. All subsequent ruins were piles of old bricks (the Romans, more recent, used tons of bricks).

Italy II: Sorrento and Rome

Mt. Vesuvius and Paestum

The morning routine is as follows: Wake up and while the wife showers head down to the the lobby to get the daily report on the kids as emailed by my mom. More to try and stay connected with the kids than calm fears, we were excited to hear how Josie was becoming more potty-trained and Amelia was getting more proficient at walking. Next up, Italian breakfast. Sipping coffee and juice, munching on meats and danish, all while gazing over the Bay of Naples is a pretty cool way to start your day.
Our view at breakfast every morning

So, climbing back down to the wilderness parking resort to collectr Sal the angry, coughing car, I'm quite happy to find that he starts up right away. Maybe I don't have to worry so much about him dying on top of Mt. Vesuvius? I kept having nightmares that we'd be stranded on top of that volcano when our crappy car didn't start, and, um... was that some rumbling I'm hearing? Yeah, that would be poor.

But start he did, and I eased my way around trees and other cars, hit the pager to be let out, heard the front desk bark something unintelligible, I barked something back about our room number, the gate goes UP! and we are off.

Inside the ancient, lower caldera of Vesuvius

The drive to Vesuvius was only about 45 minutes, and with only hand-made brown signs with "Mt Vesuvius -->" painted on them, but we seemed to be going in an upwardly twisty direction, so we were cool. The drive up was very serene and we were looking forward to some quiet nature, but when we arrived at the top, we found a steeply graded gravel parking lot full of tour buses. We waited for the guy to tell us where to park, which me fighting the brake and clutch the entire time trying not to roll back down the hill, or into the car behind me. When it was my turn, who could have guess that first I snubbed it. Then, after restarting the car and hearing Sal cough and weeze for a bit, I totally gunned it and spun a ton of gravel behind me, and snubbed it again. Waving sheepishly at the parking guy smirking at me, on the third try I still blasted gravel at the car behind me, but was able to get the car in motion and got it into the spot. Americans!

Great view of Naples from Vesuvius!
From the parking lot we had a half hour hike up to the caldera. Even through there were tons of tour buses in the lot, the hike up was very nice, but the volcano was completely shrouded in mist, so that we could only see about 100 feet down the side of the mountain. It made for an eerie site and chilly hike; we were disappointed when we couldn't get a good view of Naples and the bay.

Up at the top we gazed down into the caldera, thinking of Pompeii and Spartacus, and taking lots of pictures with we would later describe as, "Oh, us and mist and brown rocks. More brown rocks. Some mist and brown rocks. Us and Mist and Brown rocks and other tourists".
We finished up our tour before lunch, and decided to drive down the coast to the Greek ruins at Paestum, also recommended by Rick Steves as some of the best preserved ruins in the world. Right up our alley. Sal, the angry coughing car, of course wanted nothing but to rest on top of this lovely volcano, just as I feared! I cursed Avis during the minutes it took to start him up again. He finally consented to driving us back down the volcano, and we had a couple tour buses in front of us clearing the path.

Back on the open road we drove past the Sorrentine peninsula and down past Salerno and arrived at Paestum about an hour later. We recharged the batteries on pizza, coke, and lots of water, and instead of heading into the site, decided to wait a bit until late afternoon, when the "setting sun hits the ruins of ancient Greek temples, bathing them in soft orange light and evoking ancient memories of times long past" or some crap like that. Lin-Wei, being a lover of walled cities, read that the ancient wall surrounding Paestum still stood, so we decided to hike around it.

Great times, man. Great times!
What fricking idiots we were. There we were walking around this crappy, low, crumbing wall through the brambles and thickets that lined the roads surrounding the site. Roads that, I might add, were quite busy with cars and trunks going by at 80km/hr, with us hopping into the brambles every time one rambled by. We spent about an hour walking around this wall, only seeing farm fields and the odd cow. We always seem to end up in situations like this. In Greece, we thought we had to hike up to the top of Acrocorinth from the base of the mountain, but we found out that we could have saved 90 minutes by driving to the parking lot at the base of the fort, which was near the TOP of the mountain. And here again misinformation as to the coolness of the city walls has us baking in the heat of mid-day and almost getting killed by Italian country traffic.

Now we're talking. History!
The entrance gates to the site, when we finally saw them as we rounded the last corner, were a welcome relief. And exploring the site itself was fantastic. Paestum was founded in the 7th Century B.C. by the Greeks, and the Romans moved in later and built it up a bit. The temples of Hera and Athena (dating from the 6th Century B.C.) had all their columns and some of the roofs even, and seemed better preserved than the Acropolis in Athens. We also had fun getting off the beaten path and into the grid of streets that was also being excavated. It was pretty cool walking down streets that have existed for a couple thousand years, and going through doorways into the outlines of houses that used to exist here.

After soaking in the sunset bouncing off the temple columns, watching some tourists fly a kite by the temple, and taking a quick tour through the museum, we loaded up Sal and headed back to Sorrento. Because we are gluttons for punishment, we started winding our way down the peninsula at 7pm...on a Friday night... to a RESORT TOWN in HIGH SEASON! AHHHHH!
Our target is waaaayy to the right
I believe it took us an hour and a half to drive 20km (12 miles), in a manual shift car, in stop-and-go traffic, on a street as wide as my kitchen table, with an entire army of vespa drivers doing everything in their power to making you think they they MUST have a death wish, or make you think about killing them yourself. The traffic didn't loosen up until 1km from our hotel, and I vowed NEVER AGAIN! Never again would I disregard the warnings of the Rick Steves!

A little dinner and checking of ferry schedules ensued. Tomorrow we were off to the island of Capri!

Capri Sun

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