Today we're going to the excavations of Herculaneum, one of the cities that were buried by Vesuvius' big eruption in 79 AD - the same eruption that destroyed the better-known Pompeii.

It is a 1.5 km walk to Naples' central station. Here we follow the signs to Circumvesuviana and get on the Sorrento train at 9:15. After almost 20 minutes we get off at Ercolano. There is also a sign saying "Ercolano scavi".

We follow the signs and get on a detour via the parking lot. A ticket costs 11 euro. For 18 euro you can buy a ticket that gives access to Pompeii too, but it is valid for 3 days only, and we leave for Ischia tomorrow.

Street in Herculaneum
Click to enlarge

The excavations in Herculaneum are by no means as extensive as in Pompeii, but houses and stuff are better preserved and are very impressive. The material that buried Herculaneum wasn't as hot as in Pompeii, so even some woodwork is preserved.

Herculaneum was a small, but mundane town (some 5000 inhabitants), and there are big pompous villas, where lots of art and artefacts have been found. Most of the findings are at the museum in Naples.

Just a fraction of the old town has been excavated, and it is unlikely that much more will be unearthed. First of all it is a costly and big project, and secondly the modern Ercolano is built on top of the buried remains.

Wall mosaic in Herculaneum Wall mosaic Fresco
Click to enlarge. More pictures from Herculaneum at the photo page

The sun is burning the skies away, and there is not a breeze in the pit, so it is getting too hot for us. We leave the site with no detours.

Street work leads us astray into some small streets with a market and many people. The atmosphere and what you see is probably not that different from markets 2000 years ago.

Ercolano with Vesuvius looming in the background Fish at the market in Ercolano
Click to enlarge

Back to Naples

Train ticket

We stay in the train and don't get off at the central station (Garibaldi). Instead we get off at the next and final stop, which is the station of Circumvesuviana. This saves us some steps, and if you are going in the other direction and want seats, it can be a good idea to use this station, because most people get on at Garibaldi.

Corso Umberto's west side is in the shadow, and African immigrants stand shoulder-to-shoulder selling genuine copies. Here you can buy Prada and Gucci for record low prices.

You'll be fined heavily, if you are caught buying, so it is a bit strange that the trade is allowed to carry on. However street traders are probably impossible to control, and there must be some real culprits behind it all. I don't know if the authorities try to get to these organisers; organised crime is a complex matter in Italy.

We buy two panini for lunch in our hotel room, and with the sun power-playing outside we embrace sleep.

Back in the maze

Death cult in Naples
Click for larger pic.

At 4 we stroll into the maze and its hectic street life. Youngsters - some mere children - drive their scooters recklessly through the narrow streets. Teenage girls seem to be the worst. With up to 3 girls on one scooter they drive through the crowds using the horn non-stop.

Across Via Duomo lies an osteria, which looks tempting. Some women are chatting outside before the work begins. I ask the woman in a pink plastic smock if they have a table for two at 8. She says yes, but doesn't write anything down.

It has been humid all afternoon, and now drops begin to fall just as we're being seated under the parasols in Via dei Tribunali. This is where we enjoyed an aperitif yesterday - there aren't many places with tables outside in this neighbourhood.

It is just a drizzle, but it gets the young scooter terrorists off the street, and some teenagers seek refuge under the parasols in our oasis. They don't buy anything, but are permitted to stay.

The drizzle soon stops, and we walk home. The pavement is wet and slippery. In the narrow streets iron posts mark the "pavement" and prevent cars from parking, unless they want to block the street. However they don't prevent scooters on the "pavement", so pedestrians are forced to walk in the street anyway in a never-ending conflict with hooting cars and scooters. Naples is one big traffic jam.

Antica osteria Pisano

We are some of the first guests at Osteria Pisano, but soon the place is full. It is not a big place, but despite the waiter's slightly untidy appearance, he knows his business.

We share a deep-fried pepper and some pickled anchovies. The pepper is nothing special, but the anchovies are good and spicy.

Seabass - spigola

Helle has ordered scallopini al limone, and I get a spigola (seabass). We share a mixed salad and enjoy it. Helle's dessert is panna cotta. Ice cream was sold out, so I comfort myself with a grappa.

It is a nice place and lies at the corner of Via Duomo and Via Vicaria Vecchia

Back at the hotel we have a Drambui at the bar. Each glass could be home to a happy goldfish.

Saturday May 16th, 2009

To Ischia

Breakfast at 8 and then we pack. We are going to Ischia. A ferry at 13:55 is convenient, because check in in Ischia is from 4 to 7, and the ferry trip takes 1 hour. A hydrofoil is 30 minutes faster, but also more expensive (6 - 7 euro), and we have plenty of time.

There's a supermarket down the street, and we buy some stuff for breakfast tomorrow. The supermarket looks small from the outside, but like the caves in Postojna it has many rooms in the back.

We check out and leave the suitcases at the hotel. The weather is nice and not too hot. After a bit of walking we visit the beautiful monastery garden in Chiostro delle Clarisse, where Via S. Biagio dei Librai ends and becomes Via B. Croce. It is a peaceful yard with beautiful glazed columns, frescoes and orange and lemon trees.

The monastery garden at Chiostro delle Clarisse Columns in the yard
Click to enlarge

From here it isn't far to "our" place in Via Tribunali - coffee and water and people watching. The kid who begged in the street last night arrives. The waiter shouts "Mario!" and some more to protect his guests, but Mario doesn't care.

The hotel receptionist calls a taxi, and it arrives in 3 minutes. The ferry's hospitable sundeck offers two seats that will be in the shadow during the crossing.

Naples was like a prelude, and the wake is pointing back. Now the holiday starts for real, but we'll return to Naples in a week.

Follow this link, if you want to come along to Ischia, or this link if you want to return to Naples after a week.