Take out wallet; distribute contents with reckless abandon
01.11.2008 - 02.11.2008 25 °C
So far on our journey, Pompeii wins the big prize for separating us from our money with amazing efficiency—all wrapped up in a charming, easy-going, English speaking, Italian smile.
But for this view, isn’t it worth it?
[That is the four of us in front of the Temple of Capitoline Jupiter, with Mt. Vesuvius in the background, just looking like it should be climbed for an awesome view.]
But back to our story…
We arrived in Pompeii Saturday afternoon. Saturday morning, we hustled to get to Roma Termini to catch our 9:00 train to Napoli (and then a commuter rail kind of service would take us to Pompeii). We got to the train station in plenty of time, but became alarmed that our train was listed, but was not given a track number. At 8:55, the board finally moved. Our train would be leaving at 10:00! And, then, at about 9:40, the board moved yet again. Our train was scheduled to leave at 10:30.
The Roma Termini station is not the worst train station to be stuck in. It’s more like a mall. We could have bought an entirely new wardrobe, new luggage, a library of books in English, various newspapers and magazines, and all kinds of food—without walking outside.
When our train finally arrived, everyone waiting on the platform stuffed themselves in. We had reserved seats, thank goodness, although we did have to kick an older couple out of them.
Anyway, we arrived in Naples about 2 hours late. And, then, we took the wrong computer line. We didn’t realize that three of the lines had stops in three different places in Pompeii. We ended up across town from our hotel. As we looked around outside the station, trying to figure out where we were, a man came over and asked if we needed a taxi. Well, we realized that we were stuck and at their mercy and that our hotel was not within easy walking distance, so, yes, we needed a taxi.
Let the games begin . . . .
The man called a taxi and told us that it would cost 10 euros. Well, it turned out that the ten euros was only for the people. Not our bags. The bags cost four euros extra. We must admit that our cab driver, Enzio, was very entertaining. He spoke English well and was very chatty. He also gave us his card and told us about all of the other places he could take us, and how much that would cost, etc.
Finally, we settled into our hotel, the Palma Hotel.
And, then, it was off to the ruins!
On the way to the closest gate, we had to run the “gauntlet,” the string of tourist stands and the people who run them, plus those who are begging for money, sometimes with a child in tow. Then, we came upon the audioguide stand. That woman just reeled us in. She spoke good English, she charmed the children and Joseph too. She had all kinds of deals for us. And, in the end, we had audioguides around our necks and a book as well. (The audioguides were okay — but despite the fact that they cost us 10 Euros a piece, they still had ads! The frescoes from this house are on display in that restaurant. After visiting the fuller, we were treated to an ad for the latest woolen products from Naples, etc.)
We were under the impression that we could buy a three-day pass that would enable us to visit the ruins for less than the cost of two days of separate admissions. Well, that wasn’t the case. We would have to pay the full 11 Euro admission price per person, no reduction for children for each day (There would have been discounts had we been citizens of the EU, but we’re not, and we’re too proud to pretend to be British, though I’m sure we wouldn’t have been asked for proof if we had asserted our British-ness.). Anyway, we were there. What else could we do?
We spent a couple of hours on Saturday visiting the ruins, until the ruins closed at 5:00. Actually, we didn’t get out until 5:30, but the Italians seem to be lax about times and rules and anything smacking of order.
The ruins of Pompeii are enormous. Once we started walking around, we were struck by the fact that Pompeii was a real town before it was blanketed with volcanic ash. And, what is left is the size of a small town, not just a small area for tourists. The sheer size of the ruins is awesome.
In our first couple of hours, we visited only a small section of the ruins, despite the fact that many of the houses are closed for renovations. Before we left, we found some of the plaster casts made from the empty places in the lava after the bodies decomposed. Those were really very moving. Adults, children and even animals were shown in that last moment of their lives, as they were enveloped in the ash. Here are two photos of the casts (though one is from a site we saw on Sunday).
After leaving the ruins, we investigated our options for dinner and for obtaining provisions for the next day. We discovered that, since it was November 1, it was All Saints Day—a holiday. We were told that lots of places would be closed. The only place that we found to be closed, though, was the food store—and the restaurant the hotel (which was a little fancier than what we had in mind anyway).
The hotel recommended a place for dinner called “Pizza e Pasta.” Although it wasn’t the best pizza we’ve had, it was pretty good. And, they had Belgian beer. The pizza winner of the evening was my pizza, with tomato, parmesan cheese, prosciutto and “rocket” (Brit-speak for arugula). It was delicious.
On Sunday morning, we had breakfast in the hotel breakfast room, and headed straightaway for the ruins. If we were going to have to pay full fare for another day, we were going to get our money’s worth!
A guest at the hotel had told us that the ruins have no food offerings or even drinks, except for water available at various fountains around the ruins. It was officially the off-season and the restaurant and snack bar had been closed. Since we found that the local food store was still closed, it was now Sunday morning after all, we were a little concerned about what we had for food. We gathered up all that we had—half of a small loaf of bread, a jar of Nutella, a few pieces of fruit that we had pinched at breakfast, and some cookies. When we arrived at the gate, we asked about the food situation and we were told that it was true that no food was available (interestingly, there was no sign warning of this situation). So, we asked if we would be able to go out of one of the gates (our hotel was located at a minor gate, not the main gate) in order to pick up some lunch and then re-enter the park. The woman at the admissions desk thought for a moment, as she contemplated the cigarette dangling in her hands, and then said something along the lines of (in a thick Italian accent) : “Well, you should ask the person at the gate and they might let you out to get something and then back in without paying. They might. You should ask.”
So, we took our bread, our Nutella, the fruit and the cookies and we decided that that would be enough!
Thankfully, the day was gorgeous. Warm (hot, even) and sunny—not a cloud in the sky. Here’s the proof —
Here we are like the Roman Beatles on Abbey Road:
And Margaret's favorite picture -- Beware of the Dog (you can just make out the Latin saying Cave Canem in the mosaic at the bottom):
Here's Margaret looking cute in the House of the Faun:
And the kids looking great on the crosswalk stones in the Roman streets --
A generally awesome shot of the ruins (the gladiators' training area, behind the large amphitheater)
And, finally, Dad with the kids basking in the golden sunset of a generally great day:
We explored all over, into houses, the forum, the various temples. And, then, Joseph got that “itch.” It was such a beautiful day, we should try to squeeze in some other adventure—like climb Mt. Vesuvius. Wouldn’t that be a great idea?? He had a whole plan in mind. Call our new taxi driving friend, Enzio, and see if he might be free to take us there (the day before, he had quoted a price of 60 euros to take us to Mt. Vesuvius). Just after lunch, though, John took a nasty spill in the House of the Faun. He scraped the palm of his hand, his forearm, his knee and his side. After patching him back together with some band-aids, Joseph came to the realization that Mt. Vesuvius was out of reach. Oh, well.
But, we spent the entire rest of the afternoon at the ruins—well, almost. We saw everything that could be seen (except for one temple) and left the ruins about fifteen minutes before closing, We were a bit concerned about getting Joseph’s ID back, since the audioguide place wasn’t actually open when we went into Pompeii in the morning, but they were open when we got there. Fortunately. You just never know what will happen in Italy. The whole country—well, the southern half, anyway—seems to operate on a different schedule from what we are used to. It’s all part of the adventure.
We gave serious thought to eating in the Palma Hotel restaurant on Sunday, but it turned out that the restaurant was closed again on Sunday (for all we know, it’s closed until May, but we were unable to get any definite information on that score). We could have had expensive room service pizza in our rooms, but we went back to Pizza e Pasta, had a lovely dinner, and got ourselves ready for our early start to Vernazza on Monday.
Susan (and Joseph)