Stray dogs joined us on our short walk from our hotel to the famous ruins of Pompeii. The sun was finally shining on us that morning, which felt great after the weeks of snow in Orvieto. The dogs run loose on the streets, befriending tourists, eating scraps from the locals, and laying in the sun like cats. The city of Pompeii is also much larger than the ruins they are notorious for. Nevertheless, most of the city is geared towards hosting tourists–including the dogs.
The ruins are quite extensive. Walking through them, you can envision how life would have operated in this ancient city. Shops, amphitheaters, homes, arenas, roads, etc. have been excavated after the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.
My favorite place among the ruins was the domus (Roman house) of Emperor Nero‘s wife’s family. Upon entering the home, I am standing in the atria where guests would be greeted. The space is typically open and grand and filled with frescos on the walls. In the roof is a square opening called compluvium and a recessed square pool called the impluvium in the middle of the floor. The light pours in from the roof during the day, also catching rainwater as funnels into the pool in the floor, draining into a collection basin below (cistern). Passing through this space is the tablinum, which served as a sort of office space for the father– meeting clients and keeping an eye on the rest of the house. Further into the next space is, in my opinion, the most beautiful part, the peristyle. It is a garden in the center of the home surrounded by colonnades that hold up the surrounding roof. Other spaces like the triclinium (dining room) exist around this garden.
The rest of the ruins were also interesting, especially their roads. Imagine a sunken street with raised stepping stones at the crosswalk, but with spaces where wagon wheels would pass through. Brilliant.
We finished the tour around 2pm and decided to continue on to the Archeological Museum in Naples. Mt. Vesuvius formed a beautiful snow-capped backdrop as we drove around the Bay of Naples.
My impression of Naples is not especially flattering. Tall apartment buildings everywhere. Trash, decay, slums, and streets lined with billboards covered in graffiti reinforced what I had heard about the economic disparity in the South. Despite this initial impression, I noticed that people on the streets still dress very well– better than the average American. People are everywhere too. Shops overflow to the sidewalks. Mopeds zip in and out of traffic.
Inside the museum we saw many of the original mosaics, sculptures, currencies, and paintings that have moved inside to be restored and protected from the elements. There were some truly beautiful pieces there.
In the book shop at the end, Cammie and I met a self-described “mad British woman” who turned out to be a paper restorer. We found out about a great paper store in Amalfi for sketchbooks and the like. We chatted a little longer about her moving from London to a place like Naples. She thought Napoli as a city was much more exciting than the increasing cost of life in London; It sounded stifling. The whole encounter was very memorable to say the least…
We had one more night’s stay in Pompeii paid for, so the bus driver took us back around the bay. Finding food that evening would be an adventure too, since most places are closed during the tourist off-season. Many of us walked in search of an open restaurant for 20 minutes before stopping at a wonderful little seafood place. I ordered spaghetti with clams, mussels, and artichokes. Cammie ordered grilled shrimp, only she couldn’t bring herself to eat it with the head, legs, and eyes looking at her. Naiho (a guy in our group) assured us that it was okay to eat it all, so I took her plate. Usually I don’t like the texture of shrimp in the United States, but I ended up eating the whole plate before my spaghetti arrived–pretty tasty. The legs felt a little strange going down, but otherwise, it was delicious. We were all very full by the time we left for our long walk back to the hotel.
During the walk back the stray dogs met up with us again. I played with them and jogged up the hill– two dogs alongside me. Later on, some Italian boys drove alongside our group and tried to talk to us… and show off. We weren’t a small group of girls either. We probably had fifteen people, guys and girls, along with Gary and Suzanne, so seeing them try for attention was pretty comical. Once they did a doughnut in their car, Gary told them off; very funny. .: Boys in Pompeii must be bored.
Back at the hotel. The our room (Cammie, Anne, and I) decided to go to bed early so we could see the sunrise over the mountains. The next day we would take the bus to Sorrento (as far South as private tour buses are allowed) and then a city bus around the winding coast to Amalfi. Everyone would meet back up in Sorrento in two days to go back to Orvieto.
Fun fact about Sorrento: Instead of useless ornamental trees along their streets, Sorrento has planted orange trees. Why wouldn’t a city plant food bearing trees for the public to enjoy (especially if the weather allows for it!) It makes so much sense! Free food.