Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Day 14 Pompeii and Amalfi Coast

We were staying exactly across the road from Pompeii – a Roman town buried when Mt Vesuvius erupted on 24 August 79 AD. It has been excavated (and still is), and is very well preserved as a result. For some unknown reason, instead of 11 Euros each, it was free – a special day maybe? We never did work out why. We had yet another audio guide to follow, which really help our enjoyment and understanding of the places we were visiting, and it gave us an insight into what it must have been like to live in Roman times. Some of the houses were palatial, and still had frescos painted on the walls, and mosaics on the floors. Most of the larger houses had internal courtyards with fountains etc, which had the rooms around them. There was also a public Roman bath area that was very well preserved, with an outdoor gymnasium, massage room, changing rooms and of course baths (like big square marble pools with seats round the edges (like a modern day spa pool). The kids really liked the take out food joints – because many of the houses were small, they often didn’t really have cooking facilities, so locals would go to the bakery or cooking place to buy their meals. The cobbled roads were also very well preserved, and you could see chariot wheel marks, where the chariots had worn away the rocks the roads were made from. The layout of the city, and the way things were done seemed like a very organised sort of society, which I guess is no surprise when we are talking about Romans. There was also a temple there that was over 2000 years old. I am still coming to grips with just how old some of the ruins we have visited are, compared to NZ history.

It was a beautiful day (I even got sunburnt, but thats not hard for me), and that afternoon we headed past Sorrento and along the Amalfi Coast. This road was nothing short of spectacular, but I was quite pleased Richard was driving, as we had many very tight squeezes with buses on corners of cliffs and tunnels. The road winds itself around the tops of cliffs, where houses are clinging to the rocks, seemingly built on nothing at all. As we climbed up and up, with views both up and down the coastline, I alternated between wanting to look and wanting to close my eyes! Sometimes, in tight spots, we had literally less than inches to spare as we inched our way past buses, looking down over the wall to nothingness until the rocks many 100s of metres below. The towns we passed through also meant tight squeezes, past parked cars, motorbikes, and the odd truck. The shops and stalls seemed to be right on the road, and sold all sorts of interesting things, from strings of chillies and garlic, to brightly painted ceramics, to beautifully embroidered clothes. We had seen the beautiful Amalfi coast on a TV travel programme, only from memory I dont think they were doing it in a camper!!

Unfortunately, when we had got ¾ of the way along the coastline, and Richard was getting used to the tight squeezes, and I had got used to the extreme views, a policeman waved us off the road and onto a detour.... there was no arguing with him, and we had to wind our way to the very top of the hills, and ended up just about back in Naples, where we had started from, some hours after we had left. Oh well, I guess we still got to see the scenery.

From there we drove to Paestum which was further along the coast, and worked on finding a camp grounds for the night. Many of the ones here didn’t really look open and ready for the summer season. We parked in one, then decided to move to another, which Sarah thought was even worse than the first one! It was, however, cheap – only 20 Euro, which was less than half the price of some we had been staying at. There was a supermarket just across the road as well, which was helpful. We were the only people staying in the whole camp grounds, which feels really weird. There were lots of semipermanent caravans there, all wrapped up for winter, so i am sure it is a buzzing place in the summer.