A Trip to Pompeii

We get up early and skip the hotel breakfast in order to get to Pompeii when it opens at 8:30. We have dreamed about seeing Pompeii for years, and with the ruling heat wave it is probably wise to get there early.

We walk directly to Circumvesuviana's station in Corso Guiseppe Garibaldi. The train to Sorrento leaves at 7:39 and arrives to Pompeii Scavi 38 minutes later.

There is time for a coffee and a prophylactic leak before we can buy tickets. An American lady heads the short line and wants to pay the 11 euro with a 20 euro bill, but they have no change and ask the American to step aside and wait until they get some change.

Pompeii has about 2˝ million visitors every year, and then ticket sales opens without any change. Italy in a nutshell!

Vesuvius seen from Pompeii Faun From Pompeii
Click for a larger image

Pompeii was buried and wiped out by Vesuvius' eruption August 24th 79 AD. There are lots of pages on the Internet about Pompeii and Vesuvius, and you can read Pliny the Younger's eyewitness account here.

Vesuvius lies some 10 km north of Pompeii. The volcano stands mighty, but slightly blurred in the haze reminding everybody that it is not a question if a similar catastrophe will happen, but rather a question about when it will happen. Vesuvius doesn't relieve itself regularly by "farting", and it is an explosive and deadly.

We go directly to the Villa of Mysteries (Villa dei Misteri). It lies a bit outside the antique city, and on the way we pass Cicero's villa and a grass field with thousands of crimson poppies.

Street in Pompeii Field with crimson poppies From the Villa of Mysteries, Villa dei Misteri
Click for a larger image

It is already pretty hot. Fortunately you can find shadow at this time of the day, and back in the city we take breaks and sneak along the house walls. It is a good thing we don't have to follow some energetic guide! There are many small green-backed lizards and also some dogs that could be wild.

Pompeii is a fascinating place, but also very big. Some of the more interesting houses are closed for restoration or excavations, but there is plenty to see, and we have no illusions about seeing everything.

After a few hours the sun is reaching zenith, and shadows shrink. Some guides carry an umbrella as a "sign" to follow, and it is a good idea to bring your own parasol. We have had enough of Pompeii's time capsule for now and head for the exit. It is very hot, and we are very glad that we came early.

An elderly American lady has just entered the grounds, but has already realised that this will be too hot for her. The group's guide explains how she can find a café outside, where she can wait. I feel sorry for her - imagine if she has dreamed about this for years!

Back to Naples

We check the train timetable and let off steam at a café next to the station. The toilets are on the platform. A Danish woman has water in her eyes, but no change for the toilet. I take pity on her, reveal my nationality and give her 10 cents.

Countrymen must help each other. I ask the daughter if they are waiting for the train too, but no: they are about to visit Pompeii. Poor devils!

It is also hot on the train. Two Americans, who come from Pompeii, get off in Herculaneum at high noon to see this attraction too. "Crazy people!" we think, but of course they may live in Death Valley and be used to heat like this.

On the way home we buy panini and something to drink. The traffic in Corso Umberto is murderous, but we defy death, cross and get home. The panini are devoured in our cool room, and then it is time for siesta.

Shopping

It is hot and oppressive as we go out at 16:30. The air is heavy with exhaust, and I light my pibe as a contribution to the fumes.

In Via dei Tribunali there's a salumeria selling Parmesan cheese at 10 euro/kg. It is a small and narrow shop with a deli-desk at the end.

I ask for a kilo of Parmesan, and the guy begins to slaughter a cheese the size of a millstone. He uses a short knife with a broad blade and stabs the cheese until it cracks. The procedure is repeated a few times, until he holds lump that could weigh a kilo.

The scale says 1.4 kg. He asks if that is ok? I hesitate, but Helle happily says "Si!", and we ask him to cut the lump in two.

Outside I notice the little beggar-boy Mario give some cellophane wrapped cornetti to his mother. Maybe he got them from some merciful shopkeeper. Mario munches a cornetto as they turn the corner to a dark and gloomy alley.

In one of the tourist-minded shops we buy a bottle of limoncello from Ischia for 5 euro. In Ischia they charged about 10 in the souvenir shops. No wonder they poured samples so generously. We go home and recover in our cool room. Who could foresee a heat wave in May? This could be August! Later we learn that this May was the hottest in Italy for 250 years, so no wonder...

Aperitif and supper at Osteria Pisano

Half past six we stroll to our aperitif-place in Via Tribunali. A mother with a baby boy is talking with Granny and some other family members. The boy has a comforter in his mouth, and like always in Italy he is the centre of attention.

A couple of old women in nightgowns and housecoats stagger across the street to the café, but this doesn't prevent a driver from loosing his patience and use the horn.

Fortunately Antica osteria Pisano across Via Duomo is open. At 20:10 we get the last table, close to the door. At this hour all guests are tourists. That isn't strange, because as already mentioned there are just a few restaurants in this neighbourhood.

For starters we have marinated/pickled anchovies and marinated octopus in bite sized pieces. The octopus is very tender and tastes a bit like salted tounge. Delicious and not unlike the octopus we had at Aqua e Vino in Krakow 2007.

For main course we both have scallopini al limone with a tomato salad and fries. Portions are small - just two thin slices of meat, but we like that because it leaves room for dessert: panna cotta with honey.

Just across the street lies a church with a small square in front, and wherever there is an open square, you see boys playing soccer.

The bill says 47 euro. Home isn't far and we enjoy the trip's last Drambui from goldfish bowls. Goodnight!


Tuesday May 26th, 2009

Home journey

We packed most of our stuff yesterday, and the rest is fixed quickly. We check out after breakfast and order a taxi for the airport at 9:45.

I say "l'areoporto" to the driver, and he asks if I speak Italian. When I answer "just a bit", he starts chatting as if I were a native Italian. One of his first questions is if we liked Naples, and when I say yes, he gets really friendly and talks even faster.

He highly recommends a trip to Sorrento and Amalfi, because it is so beautiful. He dislikes Circumvesuviana and tells us to call him instead - he'll give us a good price. I seriously doubt that he can compete with the cheap train tickets, but of course he's just trying to make a living.

He explains that the city centre is jammed, and that is the reason why he'll take a detour on the highway - it is not to cheat us because we are tourists. He lets go of the wheel to show how he will drive around the city. I nod and say: "capisco" ("I understand"). Immediately after this we are stuck in a traffic jam near the central station, but it dissolves like magic, and soon we're on the highway, where traffic is smooth.

As we reach the airport the meter says 21.70. He presses a button, and the display changes to "ERROR". He asks if that is okay, and of course it is. I give him 30 and get 5 back. Fair enough.

The courteous driver snatches Helle's suitcase and carries it speedily across the street. The old man (me) has to drag his own suitcase. We meet half way, shake hands and say "arrividerci!"

We are through the check in line in 20 minutes. The lady behind the counter has some problem with our luggage, and we wait for a long time, while she tickles the computer. Finally the suitcases get their slips attached and an additional yellow slip with the word "HOT" in print.

Maybe she thinks that time will be short in Munich, where we have only 45 minutes between flights. However she doesn't say anything and just confirms that the baggage is checked in to our final destination in Aalborg.

After takeoff we fly out over the sea and then turn back over land. Straight below to the right is Vesuvius with an open mouth, holding its breath.