Archive for October, 2010
Pompeii! A city frozen in time. We were staying just across the road at Camping Pompeii. Although the site is convenient it is not very quiet due to all the tourist hubbub. If you are not keen on staying in the city, the campsite does provide parking for the day too. Entry to the archeological site is €11. Audio guides are available from the main entrance but these are not necessary if you get a map and brief guide in English. We spent two and a half hours there but felt a bit rushed as we left it late in the day (hoping the crowds had thinned) to visit. I’d recommend at least 3 or 4 hours for a decent visit. Make sure you take water and sunscreen if it is hot. There are some lovely shady spots great for picnics if you have time. Dogs are permitted at no charge.
We have by now seen quite a few Roman sights, and at first I wasn’t that impressed by Pompeii but after half an hour I realised just how huge and interesting it is. The scale is unmatched by any other excavation. It is a good walk to see all the sights and you will need sturdy walking shoes as many of the roads are uneven. There are deep grooves in the roads from the wheels of the carts which used to trundle across this city. The amphitheatre is huge – it used to hold an impressive 20,000 people and was used for gladiatorial matches. They used one gate for releasing them into the arena and the other to take the injured out. There are signs on the floor of metal rungs, perhaps to loop lions or other beasts onto.
A haunting sight was the mummified remains of the victims trapped by the pyroclastic wave of ash. Most of the forms are huddled up in a foetus position. Some of their faces show expressions of fear and pain. The garden of fugitives has a few all huddled together and includes children and babies. What they experienced must have been absolutely horrifying.
You can learn a lot about how the people lived in those times as so much of the town was well preserved by the volcanic ash. There are eating houses, with their ceramic food receptacles built into the marble table tops. The Romans used to eat lunch away from home and these ‘restaurants’ had a couple of different rooms to eat from. One had chaise longues and they used to eat their lunch lying down in the style of the Greeks. There is also a house which was built for use as a brothel, unusual in those days. The baths with their marble basins and piped water are dark but opulent. The forum is huge, a massive space which accommodated thousands of people. There are also numerous temples dedicated to the various Roman gods which are frequented by the numerous stray dogs that live in the ruins.
The van is both our home and our transport. At times I think it is a blessing and at other times a hinderance. We found ourselves in Cava De Tireni, a town on route to the Amalfi coast. Roadworks were prolific, and eventually we found ourselves navigating down a very narrow street, abruptly and rather suddenly a 2.5 ton limit sign appeared. My only option was to turn down one of the little side roads (even narrower than the one we were currently on) and pray! My prayers went unanswered and in moments I found myself at a junction filled with scaffolding, leaving a very tight squeeze for our wide van. I thought I had got through ok, but an impatient Italian on my tail was adding to the pressure, and just as I breathed out for the first time in what seemed like an eternity I heard the noise everyone dreads – a nasty long scratching sound followed by a sharp crack. There was no time to stop and check out the damage though with people tooting behind us. It turned out to be our vent for the gas which juts out very slightly and caught on some railings. We are left with a damaged vent, scrape along the side (luckily mostly superficial) and a rather less confident driver.
The day did not improve much. After vetoing Cava De Tireni as a stop we opted to make our way into the mountains which back onto the Amalfi coast. Motorhomes are only allowed to drive along the Amalfi coast from midnight to 6 am. This means your only option is to visit from either Salerno or Sorrento during day by bus, scooter or boat. Salerno is an ugly monstrosity and we definitely did not want to stop there. The mountains looked like a good stopover on the way to Sorrento. After a 45 minute drive around some very tight hair pin bends all we got to see was the view back towards Naples and Mt Vesuvius. The agriturismo camper stop was shut for the whole of October.
Another regroup and we thought we would just go to the coast. We ended up in Piano de Sorrento where most of the campsites are shut now as it is no longer summer. This would not have been a problem except that a railway line traverses the town and though there are a couple of high bridges, most are not suitable for vehicles like ours. In typical Italian style the road markings were shocking. You never know if a low bridge is coming up until you are right upon it, with no room to turn back the other way. At one point a sign saying “trucks this way” sent us the wrong way down a one way street! After an hour of similar battles in the crazy Italian traffic we decided to cut our losses and head towards Pompei.