We headed out around 10am from Rome and started making our way to Praiano, where we will be staying for the next five nights. Navigating out of Rome was much like trying to get into Rome … car swarms that merge in and out of space, with zero regard for lanes, right of ways and with motorcyclists zipping in between it all. I am honestly amazed that we have not seen more car accidents.
Once we got back on the Autostrade, we headed south towards Naples. We decided this morning that if we could leave Rome early enough and did not hit any traffic, we would stop at the Pompeii ruins. As things were tracking, it looked like we would be able to make it.
Heading south still had some industrial parts along the Autostrade. Plus there were some orchards with some sort of tree – I tried to search online and from what little I could find, I think they may have been walnut trees? The terrain is now changing to one that deals with a lot of heat. The hillsides are a lot more bare (versus the lush trees north).
Pompeii was fascinating. It is amazing how much of this city has been recovered. And hard to believe the level of sophistication that existed in AD 79 when Mt. Vesuvius erupted. We followed Rick Steves walking tour to learn more about what we were looking at (the following information is from his Naples & the Amalfi Coast book). While Jeremy was done with it in about 45 minutes, I could have easily meandered half a day there.
We started at the main entrance into Pompeii, which is the Porta Marina and the original town gate. Apparently before Vesuvius blew, the water came almost up to the entrance to the city.
While walking through the streets, we saw stepping stones every so often because the streets were flooded daily to clean them. Three stepping stones meant a major street, two meant a minor one, and one stepping stone indicated a one way only street. The stones were a standard width apart to accommodate for chariots, who also had standard sized axles.
As you headed up the major street, you ended up in the forum of the town. Much like the piazza’s today in most Italian cities and towns, this was the major hub. Many of the surrounding buildings were two stories tall back in their prime.
On the far end of the forum is the crumbling Temple of Jupitor where the columns are sticking up, of course with Mount Vesuvius looming behind.
We headed back onto the main street to find the Basilica. Flanked by columns that were all the same height, these were not destroyed when Vesuvius blew, but rather were unfinished at the time of the eruption. Pompeii had a major earthquake in A.D. 62 and was in the process of rebuilding from that.
We walked back out into the forum from the basilica and looked around at some of the remains in the offshoot dwellings. One contained the skeletal remains of the victims taken by the eruption.
From here we headed to view one of the bath houses. The one on display was the one for men. It was super crowded in here and everything was protected by metal bars, so the photos are crap except for these two below.
Next up we walked across the street to one of the old “restaurants” – apparently most Romans did not cook for themselves, so these places of business were sprinkled throughout the town. The holes in the tile were for cooking vessels that either kept food hot or cold.
From here we walked until we found the aqueduct arch. The arch hid water tanks to assist with water pressure (they had a 100 mile long aqueduct system).
We continued on until we reached the House of the Faun. This is Pompeii’s largest home spanning an entire city block, with the bronze statue of “Dancing Faun” welcoming you at the entrance.
Some of the original lead pipes for the cities water system were still in tact as we walked around.
The next stop took us to House of the Vettii, a bachelor pad for two wealthy merchant brothers. They apparently had “inflated” senses of self, but in reality the meaning of the art, “…the penis and the sack of money balance each other on the goldsmith scale above a fine bowl of fruit. Translation: Only with a balance of fertility and money can you have abundance.” The House was really incredible with old paintings along the walls, a bath in the middle to catch rain water and rooms for kitchen, etc.
We walked a little more, but Jeremy had hit his limit of heat and sunshine here. On our way out we stopped by the Temple of Isis – it was super crowded at the opening so I did not take any photos. From there we headed to the Theater and got views of both the small and large ones.
And of course the views on the way out…
We headed out so that we could make our check in time at Hotel La Maurella. We had read that some of the worst driving in Italy was on the Amalfi Coast. Both of us thought that was a bold statement given our experience driving at Lake Como. The route south had us in and out of a lot of tunnels, which was interesting – makes me think there has to be a better use of space back home. Once we made it to Sorrento, the road narrowed to a two lane with a white center line, which was a huge improvement over the lane and a half from before. We hugged the cliffside, switching back and forth on more hairpin style curves, watching for buses and other traffic oncoming. As we started to approach the different towns, cars started lining up on the sides of the roads, thus taking away that nice two lane space that we once had. And once you entered into a town, the roads were a lot like Lake Como, where buildings are close by, people are walking, and there is very little room to maneuver. At this point Jeremy is a pro at navigating it all.
Thankfully our hotel has easy parking right on top of it – the hotel is situated below on a cliff overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea and Praiano to the left. Our room is lovely, has a small balcony that gives us an incredible view and is super comfortable. Our host Michael is amazing and a huge wealth of information – Jeremy figured out bus schedules, how to rent a boat, where to hike – all of it – in one easy conversation.
We bought a bottle of wine in Rome and enjoyed it on our balcony and relaxed after all the crazy driving. We decided to have dinner at La Strada because they offered a car service to and from – basically they picked us up at the hotel and then dropped us off when we were finished.
I did not bring a camera with me this time, just my phone, since it was starting to get dark out. We were seated in the rooftop terrace that overlooked the ocean. The sun had set, but there was still some color left in the sky as we started our meal. Dinner was good and even after calling a car at 7pm, we still were early in there. As we were finishing up our meal, more and more diners came in. Funny how late dinner is here.
Once we were done, we headed back to our hotel and crashed for the night, getting ready for some walking tomorrow.