We took a morning train from Florence thru Rome to Naples to change train lines to Sorrento. The Italian first class trains are like flying first class on a major airline, very comfortable and free WIFI! We found the station for the Circumvesuviana Railway Company that operates the services south and east of the Naples metropolitan area. Electrically powered throughout, the system uses the narrow gauge of 950 mm and operates 142 km of route on six lines. Think old, old New York Subway covered in graffiti!
First rule: hold on to your possessions as there are professionals in the Naples railway station ready to pick your pockets and/or backpacks and purses. They are mostly well dressed men trying to help… right. It was an interesting hour and a half ride to our destination.
We exited the train station and got our first view of this sensational town overlooking the water. Looking for our Airbnb, we followed our phone maps which kept pointing to a cliff. Below was a road 200 feet below with stairs to take us down. This being a non starter, we asked for an alternative in a restaurant above the cliff. They pointed us to a public elevator several blocks away. You would have loved it, 1 Euro down, but 1.80 Euro back up.. Making it down to the port we had to find the building. We dragged our suitcases around a number of beach paths until we came to where the GPS told us the B&B would be. A few questions later and we found it! It was fantastic, right on the beach and with a direct view of Mt. Vesuvius. Pamela, our hostess, directed us the apartment and explained the area and all about the remaking of her apartment.
We had a great dinner in the port, then headed back for a good night sleep, Pompeii tomorrow.
Pompeii and Herculaneum
We took the public bus back up the hill to the train station to catch the Circumvesuviana to Pompeii and meet our tour guide Rosanna. This tour was incredible. As we entered the main gate of Pompeii, she spend the first 15 minutes telling us the history of the city, the influence of the Romans and set the stage for the entire tour.
Greeks (called Opici) Traditions of the Opici fall into the legendary period of Italian history, approximately the first half of the first millennium BC, down to the foundation of the Roman Republic. No agreement can be reached concerning their location and language. At the end of that time, the Oscan language appeared and was spoken by a number of sovereign tribal states. By far the most important in military prowess and wealth was the Samnites. The Samnites rivalled Rome for about 50 years in the 2nd half of the 4th century BC, sometimes being allies, and sometimes at war with the city, until they were finally subdued with considerable difficulty and were incorporated into the Roman state. The region around Mount Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples attracted wealthy vacationers who wanted to soak up the sun and the scenery. By the turn of the first century A.D., the town of Pompeii, located about five miles from the mountain, was a flourishing resort for Rome’s most distinguished citizens
The way Rosanna built the story made Pompeii come alive in front of us. It was initially inhabited by the Greeks and other tribes in the first half of the 4th century then the Romans. The city was on the sea, so the port was right at the gate of the city. There were more than 2,000 shops and over 200 bakery’s and Pompeii covered over 140 acres of land. As the people left the ships and entered the gate by the sea, they first had to bathe, so they entered the baths before they could enter the city gates. After the gate there were many food shops along the way where the people stopped to partake in food after their journey. It is surprising that this city was once on the sea. It is now at least 1/2 to 1 mile away but the power of the eruption pushed the ground up and created a hill between Pompeii and the sea. As you walk along the roads you see the indentations from the wheels of the wagons that carried the products from the sea, the lead pipes that ran water from the aqueduct that was built towards Mt. Vesuvius to capture the water from the springs. Water ran into public fountains and these had pictures where the water came out. These pictures were actually the road identifiers as most people could not read.
While the ruins of Pompeii was first discovery was in the 1700’s, the people who discovered it mostly stole marble and other items they found. Then in the 1800’s some serious excavations began. One of the early excavators had noticed, as they dug through the volcanic debris that covered Pompeii, a series of distinctive cavities in the lava, sometimes containing human bones.The reason for that soon became clear. The material from the volcano had covered the bodies of the dead, setting hard and solid around them. As the flesh, internal organs and clothing gradually decomposed, a void was left – which was an exact negative imprint of the shape of the corpse at the point of death.It wasn’t long before one bright spark saw that if you poured plaster of Paris into that void, you got a plaster cast that was an exact replica of the body and contained any of the bones or other materials in that void. Most all of the items in the pictures are reproductions all the original items are contained in museums most in the Naples museum. The Large theater was built into a natural hill in the second century BC. This theater sat roughly 5,000 spectators. In the Greek style, the tiered seating extends from the orchestra carved out of the hillside. There are paintings that remain on the walls at Pompeii, which is one of the largest group of surviving examples of Roman frescoes.
We then went to Herculaneum. This city was more of a vacation city for the wealthy. The buildings are much more elaborate and large, not so many shops or businesses. Many buildings exist that cover the old city so excavation cannot proceed. Small caves have been dug discovering riches that have been moved to museums. It was also a city on the sea before the eruption as can be seen by the boat houses . One of Rosanna’s university professor was one of the major players in the excavation of the boat houses where they also found many bodies. Again Rosanna made the city come to life. She showed the beauty of the frescoes on the walls, some of the incredible mosaics and even the real wood from the original building prior to the eruption.
and the efficiency of the homes and shops.
Think about it, the cleanliness, lack of disease and sophisticated living of the people, including running water in the homes and sewage systems.
It is estimated that anywhere between 10,000 and 25,000 residents of Pompeii and nearby Herculaneum were killed on the spot.
Just recently there was a tomb discovered near Herculaneum and the body was a young girl estimated from 4000 BC.
We have been on many tours and this was one of the BEST! If you plan on going to Pompeii ask for Rosanna from Tours of Pompeii .
We returned to Sorrento for a lovely dinner at the cafe right by our apartment, this was the cafe where breakfast was served for us as part of our stay. Gabrielia Rogoz was delightful and we learned she was from Poland, now lives outside Sorrento with her almost 2-year-old son and traveled to work each day for about an hour.
The Amalfi Coast is a 50-kilometer stretch of coastline along the southern edge of Italy’s Sorrentine Peninsula, in the Campania region. It has sheer cliffs and a rugged shoreline dotted with small beaches and pastel-colored fishing villages. The coastal road between the port city of Salerno and clifftop Sorrento winds past grand villas, terraced vineyards and cliff side lemon groves. Along the way we made our first stop at Positano. Positano was a port of the Amalfi Republic in medieval times, and prospered during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. By the mid-nineteenth century, however, the town had fallen on hard times. More than half the population emigrated, mostly to America.
We strolled down to the beach through the pedestrian walk to the beach, passing the lovely church of Santa Maria Assunta . There were lovely vista’s back up the cliffs. After our visit we continued our ride south passing Amalfi headed to Ravello.
The roads were extremely winding with many switchbacks and with large buses, To tight for comfort while sometimes there were sections where lanes took turns to pass a section of the road.
Ravelo was very lovely with the Villa Rufillo, Nicola Rufolo, one of the richest Patricians of Ravello built it in 1270, it is very interesting to explore. As we continued exploring we happened upon a beautiful pottery store where we purchased a few handmade items to ship home. We returned to the car, next stop Amalfi.
Along the winding road there were often miniature towns that have been put together by the local churches, they are amazing. Our guide dropped us off and we walked into the town square with a lovely church, Saint Andrew’s Cathedral (Duomo). We sat at a cafe for some lunch and a half liter of wonderful Italian wine.
We met Julia back at the car and started our ride home. We think she scheduled the trip perfectly. The road was backed up for miles going south while we were heading in the northern direction by two in the afternoon.
Julia was terrific and informative. She allowed us time to see the sights while keeping watch on the schedule. If ever in that region of Italy We would recommend Julia from Giuseppe De Toro. We were dropped at the port and had a last half liter of wine with our friend Gabriella.
The next morning we left Sorrento by a hydrofoil boat. Our AirBnB host Pamela came down to the apartment and took us for tickets and helped with the luggage. This young lady was wonderful. If you plan on Sorrento you must stay at her apartment, Surrientto Suites It was only a 45 minute ride up the coast to Naples where we caught a taxi to the train station. It was unfortunately it was very foggy that morning so we did not see the sights along the way. We got our train to Rome and off we went to start our next adventure.
We arrived in Rome at the station and headed to the metro subway which took us to several blocks from our apartment for three nights. Antonio, our host, took us up to the apartment and showed us around and gave us maps of the area, he was very gracious and a very nice host. So not to miss the rest of the day we headed out catching the metro to the TrevI Fountain. We stopped along the way for some lunch and a glass of wine, it was lovely. Next stop the TrevI fountain. it was gorgeous and reminded us of the old movies filmed their. They had just completed a cleaning of the fountain so it was brilliant white marble. Of course we had to throw coins in the fountain!
Heading back to the apartment we decided to go to a restaurant recommended by Antonio, it was closed permanently, Antonio does not live in this neighborhood, so we got on YELP and picked one about 15 minutes away, Osteria del Cavaliere. As we wandered down the streets we thought we may have made a mistake then all of a sudden there it was..this was a fantastic experience, Mother was the chef and the daughter ran the front with room for maybe 30 people. The food was outstanding and the house wine was superb, a great find! We made reservations to return there for our last night in Rome.
We headed by metro to the Vatican. We met our small group tour right outside the entrance. This tour was a great choice only about 15 people and we went right in, one of the first to enter and that set the stage to see what is one of the most interesting tours one can take. We could talk about each place during the tour but the history of the Vatican is rich and so are the rooms, paintings and sculptures. One of the most beautiful sculptures was another Michelangelo, The Pieta. (1498-1499). It is the first of a number of works of the same theme by the artist
The Pietà (Italian: [pjeˈta]; 1498–1499) is a The sculpture, in Carrara marble and was made for the cardinal’s funeral monument, but was moved to its current location, the first chapel on the right as one enters the basilica, in the 18th century. It is the only piece Michelangelo ever signed.
This famous work of art depicts the body of Jesus on the lap of his mother Mary.
The amazing rooms of Raphael, and of course the Sistine Chapel, unfortunately no photos allowed. The ceiling is unbelievable, an experience of a lifetime. The other paintings along the walls of the chapel were unbelievable and represented the artists that painted before Michelangelo, demonstrating the changes in art moving forward.. There were so many beautiful pieces of art and sculptures it would be hard to talk about all of them so here are many of the beautiful items we saw and heard about during the tour.
The Vatican was an amazing tour we will never forget.
Colosseum, Forum and Palatine Hill
We left the Vatican for the Colosseum since we had purchased a ticket online before we started this trip. Walking back we discovered many old ruins along the way. When we arrived near the Colosseum we were approached by a young lady that said here company would take us on a guided tour of the forum, Colosseum and Palatine hill for a reasonable price so we signed up using our tickets for the entry and off we went with about eight others.
First was the Forum, it was for centuries the center of Roman public life: the site of triumphal processions and elections; the venue for public speeches, criminal trials , and gladiatorial matches; and the nucleus of commercial affairs. Here statues and monuments commemorated the city’s great men, obviously worn from centuries of wind and rain some missing parts. The teeming heart of ancient Rome, it has been called the most celebrated meeting place in the world, and in all history. The.Forum today is a sprawling ruin of architectural fragments and intermittent archaeological excavations.
Next to Palatine Hill. Rome has its origins on the Palatine. Excavations show that people have lived in the area since the 10th century BC.Rome has its origins on the Palatine. After the immigration of the Sabines and the Albans to Rome, the original Romans lived on the Palatine. Views of the Forum from Palatine Hill are remarkable. There is currently work being done to restore what is thought to be the home of the wife of Augustus.
Last was entry to the Colosseum. While much is restoration and little is original, one can see up to the seats and the underground below the surface of the area looked like. It consisted of a two-level subterranean network of tunnels and cages beneath the arena where gladiators and animals were held before contests began. Eighty vertical shafts provided instant access to the arena for caged animals and scenery pieces concealed underneath; larger hinged platforms, called hegmata, provided access for elephants and the like.
One thing to note is if there is a cross, making it a church that can not be destroyed in any way.
Exhausted after a twelve-hour day we headed back to our apartment and decided to just grab a bite down the street at a restaurant that was full of young men and women having a blast. After all it was Friday night!
The next morning we thought we might take a look at the cathedral up the street, Basilica St Giovanni in Laterano (ST. John Laterno) and visit the Parthenon. We walked down our street to the Basilica. When we arrived at the church we were very fortunate to see the bishop starting a special service and walked into the church with the followers. We did not go into the chapel where the service was being held, rather we toured the basilica. Although when one thinks of churches in Rome The Vatican springs to mind but The Basilica San Giovanni is actually the oldest and the mother of all churches in Rome, ranking before the other basilicas. What was originally used as the palace of Constantine was later re-modeled to serve as the church of the pope in Rome and today it serves as Romes official cathedral. The arch-basilica which was built on the site of the original church and is dedicated to St. John the Baptist.
We left the church and began walking to the Pantheon. The Pantheon is a building on the site of an earlier building commissioned during the reign of Augustus (27 BC – 14 AD). The present building was completed by the emperor Hadrian and probably dedicated about 126 AD. It is one of the best-preserved of all Ancient Roman buildings, in large part because it has been in continuous use throughout its history. There are “niches” in the church one of which holds the mortal remains – his “Bones and ashes”, as the inscription on the sarcophagus says – of the great artist Raphael.
We returned to the wonderful restaurant for dinner and were very pleased with the food and wine. John enjoyed having his picture taken with the daughter of the owner and her other server.It doesn’t get any better!!
On to Athens in the morning.