Sunday, December 18, 2011

Day 6: Pompeii, Sorrento, the Amalfi Coast and Capri

Declan amidst the ruins of Pompeii, with what's left of Mt. Vesuvius in the background.
Our next day was in the port of Naples.   Shane has been to Naples before, and didn't see much worth visiting again, so we opted to head out of town and visit some of the surrounding areas with our own car and driver again.  This time our driver was Gian Luca; he wasn't quite as awesome as Angelo, our Rome driver, but at the end of the day he gave us a bottle of Limoncello, so he wasn't all bad. First off, he took us to Pompeii, where we met up with our private tour guide, Rebecca. She was fantastic, very informed and passionate about Pompeii. There's nothing I like more than a first-rate docent. She really brought everything to life.  Besides, not only was she an excellent tour guide, Roberta also made a first-rate sherpa, shlepping our son all over Pompeii, whose cobbled streets were ill-suited for stroller travel. Shane and Roberta portaged that stroller around like a couple of French-Canadian voyageurs.

For Shane and I, Pompeii was our favourite part of our whole trip, in large part due to Roberta. For Declan, of course it remains Dinner with Wendy.  The city of Pompeii was buried under 30 feet of volcanic ash with the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. This disaster effectively froze the city at a moment in time, and allows us to garner amazingly detailed insights into what life was like during the Roman Empire.  The remains have  been remarkedly well preserved, and ongoing restoration efforts are uncovering more and more of the city all the time.

Clamouring to get in to see the naughty bits.

Culturally Pompeii was remarkedly debauched.  The city is littered with houses of ill-repute, and there's always a big crowd waiting to get in to see the stunningly ribald frescoes that adorn the wall, painstakingly restored in stunning detail.  I would post pictures but my blog would lose it's PG rating.

Shane looking for ancient pizza remnants.
  Some of the exhibits are incredibly heartbreaking. The archaeologists have been able to cast any organic forms buried in the ash to show what people were doing when they were buried in ash, always trying to cover their mouths and noses. 

Another exhibit showcased a petrified dog. I had been scarred in elementary school by the short story of "The Dog of Pompeii" wherein a blind boy who relies on his dog to steal bread for him daily, somehow manages to escape the eruption of Vesuvius, but the dog, who runs back to steal more bread for his owner, gets snuffed in the ash.  My middle-school self got a little teary-eyed to see this real life version, now encased in glass.

   We bid a fond farewell to Roberta, and Gian Luca drove us along the Amalfi Coast for awhile.  One drawback to travelling in Europe in August is that that is when all the Europeans are taking holiday as well, so everything is very, very crowded.  The views were spectacular but we got caught in some pretty terrible traffic as a result, and Declan and I ended up falling asleep in the limo.  Shane tells us that the views continued to be spectacular.  Gian Luca took us to yet another fabulous Italian restaurant in Sorrento, a very beautiful seaside village, where we later caught the ferry over to the Isle of Capri.

The mainland from the Capri ferry
I had really been looking forward to going to Capri, as I had long been a fan of their salad and their pants, the latter of which are a blessing to the short-legged such as myself.  It turned out to be a bit of a bust, as the traffic on the way to Sorrento was so bad we only ended up with an hour to spend there.  Then on the ferry ride over Declan fell asleep, so we were really hampered by comatose kid in stroller, as well as the lack of time.  So basically Shane and I sought out a beautiful patio right by the sea and enjoyed a cold beverage and some gelato while Declan snoozed away.
This is the only picture I took on Capri, and I'm not even sure why I took it.  I think by this time I was suffering from quaint seaside village overload, and forgot to snap pics to recollect how beautiful everything is there.
Then we elbowed our way through a bunch of queue-jumping Italians to catch a ferry straight back to Naples.
Shane trying desperately to beat my Fruit Ninja score on the ferry ride back.
 I call this picture "Fruit Ninja Fail".

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