Night Location: Amalfi, Italy
Song of the Day: Walking on the Sun, Smashmouth
Mumisode of the Day: "Don't we know the way out of here?" (while looking exhausted after we'd gone down the third dead end in Pompeii).
The day began with breakfast at home; we had purchased pastries, cereal and fruit in the market the night before. The three children were up and ready for the day. When we knocked at the parents' room, Mum appeared naked in a towel, exclaiming "Your father's stupid alarm was set for the wrong time." Apparently she is getting up at 0600 tomorrow.
We decided to brave another adventure in the car. Not much other than the allure of Pompeii could convince Amber that this was a good idea. Dad and David, luckily for us, had been doing their research on the most scenic way to Pompeii, involving a Michelin starred road for views and spine-tingling adventure. So off we set, up, up and a little more up. Much better at this time of day with few buses and mainly crazy Italians rushing on their way to work. The view was fairly impressive, we have to admit. The sky really does meet the sea here; it is impossible to tell where one begins and the other ends. The road went past many arty type buildings with colourful mosaic rooves and artwork in the courtyards.
Our Navman had a few issues today. There seems to be some problem with selecting the fastest route in Italy. Perhaps not the best option. As we were descending the mountain on the 'highway', Navman directed us to turn left down what appeared to be a small billy-goat track. Dad, usually one for a challenge, exclaimed "You're joking!" and turned right. The other issue with the Navman was its power supply. It seems that the cord is fairly positional and at any given moment during the journey, the Navman could just switch off. Not very convenient when you are trying to edge your way through the traffic. It was slightly better than Nepalese traffic, but only just! We have conluded today that Italian drivers have real skill. How they are able to negotiate the roads in such a crazy fashion and not be constantly involved in major collisions is incredible. To date we have only seen one traffic incident, and possibly 10000 crazy Italian manoeuvres.
Eventually we arrived outside the walls of Pompeii. The excitement emanating from Amber was incredible. She kept saying, "This is the best day of my life." After applying a lot of sunscreen and Dad purchasing an Italia/Pompeii baseball cap, we set off.
Pompeii is nothing like we expected. Firstly it is so vast. Much bigger than any ruin seen previously. You can walk right inside the amphitheatre that has an oval field and you can imagine the crowds sitting up on the steps above. The streets are made of massive stones, in kind of octagonal/hexagonal shapes that amazingly just fit together with very little spaces in between. One of the favorite features, see in today's photo, are the giant stepping stones for pedestrians to cross. The stones allow the wheels of the carts to pass in between. Forget footbridges. This is a much better idea!
We walked the Via Del Abbondanza (street of abundance) lined with fast food stalls of the day; they were seriously way ahead of us. We walked into the theatre which seated 5000 people and overlooked the gladiator training ring. We were all pretty glad to have a seat, admire the view and feel the breeze. Pompeii was very sticky and hot today. Would not recommend a trip here in summer.
On and on we walked through the streets. You can't imagine how much has been excavated. No wonder they are still working on it and they started in the 1700s. We spilled out of a small street into the area of the forum. Such a magnificent place. You can just imagine the trade and chatter that would have been going on here.
We also entered the forum baths. We could see the little cubby-holes for the clothing. Each man would be wearing a different skirt so that you could identify which pigeon hole was yours. The baths themselves were a lot smaller than we had imagined. It would have been cozy in there, let's just say that.
Eventually we started heading for the main gate and this is where the real fun began. After having been walking for three hours at this point, and now trudging down a long stony road, we discovered that although on the map you could clearly get through, just around the corner was a barricade. It was extremely tempting just to jump over. The third time this happened, Mum exclaimed, "Don't we know the way out of here?". We were able to retrace our steps and exited via the necropolis. Interestingly, there was no segregation in Pompeii; the rich and the poor were all in together. They lived next door to each other (no Vaucluse here) and they were buried next to each other. They just lived and were buried in different residences depending on their wealth.
Dad was fairly keen to see the Greek ruins at Paestum, so off we set again. From a financial perspective as David pointed out, it doesn't make a lot of sense. You can pay to go in a certain distance or you can look over the temples and forum from the road for free! We chose the latter option, got some fantastic photos and then sat and ate gelato while overlooking the temple. Pretty great way to end the day.
Dad is clearly getting a lot more confident in the Italian traffic. The road back to Amalfi was done a lot faster today, so fast that David felt carsick! Dad has also started to overtake on the Amalfi coast road, true Italian style. Who knows how he will be driving by the end of Italy. They don't set him the best example.