Day 48, 14 May 2009
14.05.2009 - 14.05.2009 0 °C
This two day adventure started with tendering into Sorrento and climbing the stairs to the town. Sorrento was built atop the dramatic 150-foot cliff; a lovely city with its 19th century style buildings. But I’m off to catch a train to Pompeii.
The plan is not to return to the ship tonight but continue onto Rome and meet the ship tomorrow afternoon - thus giving me an extra four hours in Rome.
First stop is Pompeii. Over the course of the past 7 weeks I have seen some amazing ruins and, quite frankly, I am over ruins (about mid-Turkey). But nothing quite prepares you for the striking effect of Pompeii. It is as if the ancient Roman had departed only yesterday – the homes, the shops, public baths and bordellos (my first brothel too…).
In 79 AD one of the most disastrous volcanic eruptions in history – recorded by Pliny the Younger, who observed it from a distance (** get book/text) – buried the town under more than 6m of ash (not lava) that would preserve it until it was rediscovered at the end of the 16th century. It was not until the mid-18th century that large-scale excavations were launched, and two thirds of the city (about 60 acres) remains buried even now.
I had to wonder what the bustling life in Pompeii might have been like; carts travelling around the streets, water from homes entering the well designed guttering system. I think some lives seemed very grand, even extravagant, whilst others lived in poverty. I guess it’s still much the same today in Italy – the fancy cars and clothes of the rich; or the lady begging with her baby in one arm (and her pimp in the distance watching).
And then there are the bodies of people caught in the destruction. In 1860 plaster was injected into spaces that appeared. The moulds revealed people and animals caught in the final agony as suffocating clouds of dust and ash fell upon the city - very chilling.
Onto the train again and heading to Naples straight past Mount Vesuvius (at 1,277m). This is now the point of no return as the ship will soon be heading off. I have an increased level of anxiety as tomorrow’s known strike of the underground trains and buses in Rome. Will I be able to reach the ship in time?
The private train stopped at its own station and not the central station – so the first task was to find the main train station and get my ticket for tonight’s trip to Rome Termini.
Naples is Italy in the extreme (even after my Rome visit) – the grittiest, most polluted, and the most crime-ridden city in Italy. Overcome by a fear of being run down or ripped off – the drivers of the scooters are crazy and my greatest fear! To cross a road I simply put a local between me and the vehicles.
Next it was off to the National Archaeological Museum of Naples where many of Pompeii’s decorative and art objects taken for safekeeping. This added to today’s emotive visit to Pompeii. A visit to the museum’s Gabinetto Segreto (Secret Gallery) was a lucky extra – lascivious art from Pompeii.
Pizza for dinner and it’s off to Rome – which I reach at 11:30pm. What a fantastic day!