April 21, 2015 – Castrocielo to Pompei (not our best effort)

After a fond arrivederci to our new friends at Liola Hotel, we hit the road for the Vesuvius National Park. I have programmed our GPS, Jack, to take us there. Jack, though, can sometimes be perverse and we are caught in warren of tiny streets leading to the edge of the Park but no further. After driving and driving through crowded streets. (John actually nudged a pedestrian’s elbow with his side mirror, AGAIN! All time score for Italy vs. John, John 2 and pedestrians 0.)

Jack is totally useless so we try looking at an actual paper map! That’s useless too! So ultimately after driving around fruitlessly we decide to head to our hotel in Pompei and ask them how to get to the summit of Mt. Vesuvius. Arriving at the hotel which is actually a B & B, we find that the owners are not home and we are greeted by Romeo, a large golden retriever who likes to jump up and hump John’s leg and a cleaning lady from Ukraine. Surprisingly none of us are equipped to converse in Ukrainian. We borrow the internet and Sarah takes screen shots of the routing to the summit and we are off again.

Mary and the aptly named golden retriever, Romeo
Mary and the aptly named golden retriever, Romeo

As we drive along the autostrada we can see Mt. Vesuvius looming over us. Somehow we must find the road to the top.

Mt. Vesuvius
Mt. Vesuvius

Eureka! We have found the correct road. It is a narrow road with lots of switchbacks. Luckily there is very little traffic coming downhill. It never occurs to us to wonder why there is no downhill traffic. After several minutes of carefree driving we come across an immense traffic jam. Uphill behemoth buses cannot get by downhill behemoth buses. The road is too narrow. We all just sit there for a while. Then some enterprising German tour guide starts directing people to move over as far as possible to the edge of the road. All this is complicated by the fact that some people have abandoned their cars to take a look at what is going on. Whole busloads of people are wandering around. Finally the traffic begins a slow crawl up the mountain again.

On the way to the summit of Mt. Vesuvius
On the way to the summit of Mt. Vesuvius

We stop again. Some guy from the parking lot further up the mountain comes down yelling that the lot is full and we all have to turn around (somehow) and leave. The cars make many point u-turns but the buses have to back down the hill. It’s all a big mess. By the time we get back to the autostrada it is 1 PM. We have wasted a whole morning getting lost and getting stuck. So frustrating!

On the way back down Mt. Vesuvius a picture of the Bay of Naples
On the way back down Mt. Vesuvius a picture of the Bay of Naples

We decide to have lunch and discuss what we will do next. We head back to Pompei and have lunch at Zi Caterina, a place that John and I have eaten on a previous trip. We each have a beer, a salad, and share a smallish pizza.

We decide to try Mt. Vesuvius again first thing tomorrow morning and to head to the ruins of Herculaneum which is the smaller of the two archaeological ruins from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. We find the site and its parking lot with no trouble.

Sarah overlooking the ruins at Herculaneum
Sarah overlooking the ruins at Herculaneum

Whereas the people in Pompei were killed by the ash from the eruption, the people in Herculaneum were killed by hot gases. We rent audio tours and hear the poignant eye-witness story of Pliny the Younger, who survived and his search for his uncle, Pliny the Elder who died. He describes the scene in Herculaneum at the time of the eruption in detail.
We tell Sarah to go at her own speed through the ruins and we will meet later at the end of the audiotour. My knee is making for slow-going from the old folks.

The audiotour is kind of confusing. There are multiple labels on the different houses from earlier audiotours and many of the places that the current audiotour talks about are cordoned off.

A bas-relief from one of the houses
A bas-relief from one of the houses

A taverna where people could stop for a quick hot snack from the pots of food heated from underneath
A taverna where people could stop for a quick hot snack from the pots of food heated from underneath

Beautiful mosaic
Beautiful mosaic

Room decorated with wall paintings
Room decorated with wall paintings

As we make our way back to our meeting spot. I see Sarah waving down at us. Oh good, I think, she has finished the tour and is making sure I see her. We get a little closer. She is still waving. Then she calls out, “I’m sick!” Oh no! I snap into mother-mode and tear up the incline and the stairs. It seems that she has food poisoning and has spent the time while we have been wandering about the ruins throwing up etc. She looks pretty ghastly. The man at the audiotour kiosk has offered to call an ambulance. She says, though, that she is feeling a little better and we should just get back to the hotel. We decide to rest until around 8 PM and then decide what to do.

At 8 she comes down to our room dressed for dinner. Oh, the resilience of youth! We walk the half mile to the restaurant Add’ U Mimi (because no way are we taking the car out again) and have a nice dinner. Sarah appears to be totally over her illness. The place is boisterous and full of mostly Italians although one can never escape a sprinkling of Americans. At the end of the dinner the owner decides which things we will be paying for and what will be free. Weird. He offers us limoncello or meloncello gratis. The meloncello is surprisingly delicious.


On the left our new favorite after dinner treat, meloncello!
On the left our new favorite after dinner treat, meloncello!

What an exciting day it has been. I think we have gotten getting lost, getting stuck in monumental traffic, and Sarah getting sick taken care of. It should all be clear sailing ahead! (I hope)

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