Thursday, January 22, 2015


Naples to Pompeii was our first longish ride, 16 miles. This may not seem like a lot, but we were going through crazy Napoli streets in the rain, with panniers and a funky GPS, and, and. . . well, anyway, it was a good challenge. As we cycled, a teenager on a motor bike road beside us and tried out his English. We told him we were going to Pompeii and he warned us that this was way too far for the bambino.  Obviously, he didn't know Leaf.  Mark led the way because there were many twists and turns and he was equipped with the GPS (which was actually behaving). Monet was in the back although she found it terrifying watching Leaf's maneuvering the busy streets of Naples (darting in and out from behind parked cars). Still, after a few miles, Leaf had mastered his bike and started getting comfortable in traffic (maybe too comfortable, often hopping up on sidewalks and jumping curbs for fun). After the three-hour ride, we found a hostel in the modern town of Pompei (one "i", not two) and devoured some pasta. . .

Before going to bed, we stopped at the Shrine of the Virgin of the Rosary of Pompei built in 1873. The modern town was founded in October 1891 as a result of this shrine not because of the ancient ruins.  Catholics continue to make pilgrimages here (we're guessing mainly for the pasta).

Into the Ruins

The road to the ruins was guarded by a dog and a recycling container pictured with a sexy half-naked Roman soldier.   Both of these challenges were met with little difficulty. Once inside old Pompeii, the first thing you notice (and can't stop noticing) is Vesuvius, quiet and imposing, unrepentant, peeking over your shoulder.  And of course you think, what kind of fools would live so close to a volcano?   (Flagstaffers, perhaps?  Is that what you're thinking? Look, the S.F Peaks are dormant!  That said, if you know Flagstaff or have lived with a mountain constantly over your shoulder, well, this is a very familiar feeling. )

Monet read from the guidebook: According to historical accounts earthquakes were frequent and according to one historian, the writer Pliny the Younger (who met his death in Pompeii), said the earth tremors "were not particularly alarming because they are frequent in Campania."

Porta Nocera Gate

The second thing we noticed about Pompeii, was how big it was. It was obviously a happening city with hundreds of streets and businesses and neighborhoods and cemeteries and stadiums and farms. . . and the entire thing was vanquished in an instant.  Poof.  Monet was mesmerized. "I love this place.  I thought I was going to enter a room with a still living (albeit old) inhabitant of Pompeii grazing on fruit while being serenaded by a harp player." Mark was mesmerized too, but quickly decided the city was a confusing maze that required a map; and it was also a place where one could easily get lost, especially if one were eight-years-old and not listening to his father. "Leaf!  Leaf!  Wait up!"

Above, Monet wondered if she found the oldest ever pizza oven.  "What do you think, Mark?"

"Sure. Sounds great."  Mark peered around.  "Leaf!  Leaf!  Stay right there!  Don't move!"

At this point, Monet started unpacking camera gear. "I'm going to get out my tripod." And below you can see one of Monet's few successful tripod shots at Pompeii.  For some reason, they didn't allow tripods, and a guide quickly told her to put it away.  Maybe they thought the legs would damage the stone streets?  No clue.  She smiled and complied, but needless to say, Monet was not happy.

The Stadium

"Leaf? Wait up!"

House of Ceii- Hunting Scene Fresco
Many of the walls in Pompeii were painted with exquisite frescos. They must have employed an army of artists. Even the Lupanar (or brothel)  housed many illustrated scenes advertising the "specialties" of the resident prostitutes.  Do you think that they prayed to the Virgin Mary?

"Oh, man. . . Where did he go now?"

rain catchment
ancient skyscrapers

We also noticed some strange and mystical artifacts. . .
barbell for gladiators? wine press? 

water vessel

"I'm right here, dad!  Where are you?"

The Thermopolium- the modern equivalent would be a fast food restaurant
The Triangular Forum

Eventually, we found each other at the Garden of the Fugitives

Monet read from her guidebook, "As excavators continued to uncover human remains, they noticed that the skeletons were surrounded by voids in the compacted ash. By carefully pouring plaster of Paris into the spaces, the final poses, clothing, and faces of the last residents of Pompeii came to life."

We got pretty quiet here. It's an intense thing to see, the poses of people while they died. We missed the famous guard dog of Pompeii (see below, a picture of the dog from Trip Advisor), which was probably a good thing. Monet hated to see dogs in pain. "I have never been so affected by a tourist attraction as I was by Pompeii in both positive and negative ways.  It is an amazing site to behold."

eerie... family of three?

To lift our spirits, we finished our tour at the theater

 Leaf will be a thespian one day

"Leaf! Quit standing on the ruins!"

So, after three hours inside of old Pompeii. . .

We started walking back to modern Pompei. We wished we could have spent more time at the site, there was so much to see, but we needed to start biking to our next destination.  We had to reach Sorrento before sundown and Mark was getting anxious.

View of Modern Pompeii from Ancient Pompeii

Monet's Mileage Count: 

  • Naples to Pompeii: ~18 miles (+2 for riding through town and a slight detour)
  • Walking around the ruins: ~6 miles

Travel Tip:

Get to the ruins early (8:30 AM).  We were nearly the first ones there and visited the old cemetery first.  It was like a ghost town.  Around ten, the tourists from Naples show up and getting clear photos proves difficult.

 Next: a flat tire and a farm. . .

No comments:

Post a Comment