Monday, June 18th:
Monday came early! Our driver for the day, Daniel (Roberto’s nephew. It’s truly a family business), arrived at our hotel at 7:25am and swept us off to Mt. Vesuvius, Pompeii and finally dropped us in Sorrento.
The drive to Mt. Vesuvius was mostly highway until it wasn’t. The last 30min was full of twisty turns, narrow lanes full of tour buses and a steady climb to the parking lot. Lincoln almost lost his breakfast and the rest of us felt pretty green. The parking lot sits at the base of the final climb and full of tour buses and hired cars like ours. The actual parking is limited to about 10 cars, so the tour buses line the already narrow lanes making them mostly impassable. We were lucky enough to snag the last spot and just squeaked past – by a hair’s width – the line of buses.
Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79AD sending a cloud of ash, dust and rock 12 miles into the sky for 18hr straight. The bustling city of Pompeii with its 20,000 residents fled as roofs caved and floors collapsed. Then a flow of red-hot ash covered the town in 4-6m of volcanic ash and pumice killing over 2000 people who remained. It erupted again in 1944, but the damage was minimal.
Here’s a funny story…we paid 1e for the toilet before making the hike. It was horrible – no paper, terrible stench and no flushing. Tip managed after asking the man for paper, but I simply couldn’t with my already queasy stomach and active gag reflex. As we walk to the entrance of the hike, I see port-o-potties. I debated but decided to carry on with the hike.
The hike itself is not difficult other than the trail is made of loose volcanic rocks and the grade is quite steep. We were huffing and puffing the whole way up but managed to reach the summit in about 25min. The trail was packed with groups and families but we some how managed to grab some breathtaking views of Naples between their passings.
There are several snack stands along the way, but no bathrooms. We walked along the crater, snapped a few pics and then made our way back down to meet some friends in Pompeii for lunch before our walking tour of Pompeii.
The hike back down was only about 15min. Glad we arrived when we did because there were loads of people waiting to start the hike when we returned. Back to the toilet situation…by this time I was unable to delay my visit to the facilities any longer. Port-o-potties it was. I paid 1e for a port-o-potty, but wait just a minute you might say. 1E?!? I say totally worth it because there was a man attending the port-o-potties. They were sparkling clean, smelled fresh, had paper, flushed and contained a sink WITH soap. Amazing. Best 1e of the day.
Relieved, we loaded up for a less crowded and slightly less green-inducing ride back down the mountain to Pompeii for lunch followed by a walking tour.
We met our guide, Mikael, at the entrance and he quickly ushered us through the ticket lines and onto the main gates of Pompeii. Straight away, his passion for the city and its rich history was evident. I am always amazed when I visit Pompeii, so it was nice to see that mirrored in our guide. The painstaking process of unearthing buried items and the knowledge gained by their discoveries is remarkable to me. The Romans (great copiers of the Greeks) were highly developed with functioning aqueducts, thoughtful public spaces, streets with crossings, logical city plans with attention to detail, beauty and art in all facets. Just in the middle of our tour, it started to storm, dropping big buckets of rain on us with limited space to take cover. Our pictures were limited here because of the storm and because our cameras can’t really capture it well, but do yourself a favor make a trip to see it with your own eyes. I would recommend a tour so you can learn all of the fascinating details.
Back in the car for the drive to Sorrento. It took about an hour with traffic, but really wasn’t as bad as we expected. Sorrento is pretty small with windy, narrow cobble-stone streets that only flow one-way. The street leading to our hotel is pedestrian only, so we hoofed it the rest of the way. Our hotel room was nice with an interesting lofted layout with the loft floor made entirely of glass. The couch was a trundle sleeper – brilliant for small spaces creating two separate beds from one couch. We cleaned up and headed out to see the view of the sea and then eat some dinner. It was raining in Sorrento, too, so we dined inside on various seafood pastas! I win on most adventurous dish! Finished off with gelato and limoncello made that morning just in the next village.
Off to bed after a full day of travel and sites. We’re all exhausted!
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