Traveling to the “Lost City”

Piazza Anfiteatro entrance to Pompeii (southeast side)

Our taxi is prompt and we are on the road by 10:00 a.m.  We leave the little hamlet of Montepertuso where everyone seems to be a self-sufficient farmer, and we say good bye to Positano and the curvy narrow streets we have become so accustomed to.  As we travel to the “Lost City” Sergio, in his deep Italian voice, answers the many questions we have.  In summer eighty percent of those in Positano work in the tourist industry while in winter twenty percent work in construction. 

As we travel away from the Amalfi coast we take in the last views of the azure blue waters complementing the coastal highway. In the distance a looming Mount Vesuvius becomes the herculean story behind our next stop on the way to Rome.  Arriving outside of the Ristorante Suisse around 11:10 a.m. Sergio tells us he will be back at 13:10  (1:10 p.m.) for the last leg of our trip to Naples. After arriving and departing from the taxi we walk past the souvenir stands with their postcards, magnets, books, shirts, caps, cups, paper weights and more on our way to the Pompeii ticket booth.  These small but numerous little outside shops are plentiful but easy to pass up since we are there for less than two hours and we’ll be using our time wisely.  We wait in line about fifteen minutes while our green passes (covid vaccine card) are checked and while they scan tickets of those who purchased on-line and as they let them through.  The cost for two tickets was 32.00 Euros.  If you have coins they’ll be sure to notice so I hand over a 2.00 Euro coin as well as two 20.00 euros so it’s an even 10.00 euros back.  When we ask why it was 32.00 euros instead of 22.00 (like we had researched) the lady said, “That’s only at 8:00 a.m. when we first open.” So, come early I guess and you’ll get a discount possibly?  We now have approximately an hour and a half to see what we can inside the Lost City of Pompeii.

Bronze sculpture by Igor Mitoraj

The Piazza Anfiteatro serves as our entrance to Pompeii.  This is the southeast side of the ruins. We are two of the approximate 2.5 million visitors each year.  The city of Pompeii is approximately fourteen miles southeast of Napoli (Naples) and Pompeii looks out over the Bay of Naples.  It is considered a UNESCO World Heritage site, the second such site we’ll have visited after today.  As we enter at the Piazza we are greeted with the oldest surviving amphitheater in ancient Rome.  Without guides we are free to wander parts of this 163 acre city.  Before the entrance we did pass the Antiquarium where most of the plaster casts, frescoes, and other archaeological finds are housed and where they are safe from the elements.  Since we want to be in Rome before dark we chose to just walk around without a guide.  It is another sunny and warm day in Italy even though it’s just two days shy of October. The massive size of this city allows ample room for everyone and we aren’t close in proximity to anyone the entire time we look around.

Stone paths and large cobblestones are occasionally sprinkled with Franciscan Friars walking around and possibly studying the history behind this ancient city.  There are roped off areas where archaeologists are currently working.  In fact, just two months later archaeology students, “through ArchaeoSpain & ‘Pomeii: the Archaeology of Death,’ would uncover artifacts in the tomb of Marcus Venerius Secundo, a former slave and priest.” (Tricia Saputera Daily Trojan 2021/11/22).

Franciscan Friar walking the streets of Pompeii
Archaeology happening when we were there.

While we aren’t here as archaeology students the history of the city isn’t lost on us.  To think that Pompeii was undiscovered for almost 1500 years is truly remarkable.  When “Domenico Fontana (16th century architect) dug a water channel through the city he discovered Pompeii.” It would remain undisturbed until around 1748 when King Charles III of Spain had a surveying engineer, by the name of Rocco Gioacchino de Alcuberie, assigned the task of bringing antiquities to him in order to decorate the royal court.  Once the workmen had looted and carried off the treasures from one section of the city it would then be exposed to the elements. More damage came in the form of “modern warfare in 1943” due to allied bombs. For the antiquities that weren’t carried away or destroyed it was discovered that there were numerous cook shops, small fountains, and the use of a type of water tower at one time.

As we walk around in Regio V the barracks for the gladiators come into focus and in Regio VII there is the covered market at the northeast part of the forum.  We didn’t have time to see the Baths (Terme Stabiane) but archaeological records boast of their modernity.  Regio VIII is the location of the Basilica which housed the law courts and it was assumed the place where business deals were made as well.  It’s also where Pompeii’s municipal buildings were located.  There are also gladiator barracks in this region as well. Guide notes tell of possible trials in this area and because of that the judge was kept separate from criminals so they did not have access to him. The bronze sculpture by Igor Mitoraj is displayed close to the sanctuary of Venus, the patron goddess of Pompeii in this area as well. This sculpture (statue) can be seen from outside the walls of Pompeii due to its size and location.

We also walk by the Forum Granary where pottery of various sizes are neatly organized and which would have been used to measure grains and other products (fruit and vegetables).  Today many of the vases/measurement tools are broken and the area is used for storage purposes. With a closer look you can see markings on the shelves which indicate which Regio the items came from. The Granary is an area where I felt the true essence of the city and the fact I was walking where people had literally lost their lives to the mountain above them.  On that fateful day in 79 A.D. Mount Vesuvius erupted for eighteen hours and buried Pompeii under 14-16 feet of ash/pumice.  The “Lost City” would become a time capsule to be opened almost 1500 years later. It would also be a window into the ancient Roman city and how they lived.

The Granary

One wonders if Mount Vesuvius will erupt again.  It will since it is considered an active volcano.  However, with modern technology, warnings would come before an eruption.  Even in ancient Roman times there were warnings in the form of earthquakes and rumblings for days or weeks beforehand.  Mount Vesuvius is located on a convergent boundary which means it’s like sliding a dinner plate (African) under another dinner plate (Eurasian), which causes the volcano to become more active and volatile again.  Mount Vesuvius, in particular, has an extremely deep layer of magma so the movement of the plates does affect it.

Mount Vesuvius in the background
Taken before adjusting the camera……amphitheater

Are there other volcanoes similar to Mount Vesuvius? Yes, in the U.S. we have Mount St. Helens, Mt. Hood, and Mt. Baker while in Italy there is Mt. Etna (which was extremely active in 2021) and in Japan there is Mt. Fuji. What do they all have in common?  They are all located on convergent boundaries.

After looking at our watches (phones) we realize it is time to meet back up with our taxi driver.  We had made note of the number (54) we passed when we came out of the amphitheater area and onto the streets of the city.  Otherwise, we felt we might get lost. We are back outside Ristorante Suisse about five minutes before Sergio returns so plenty of time. It is a busy parking lot with taxis everywhere. 

If I ever make it back to Italy this is a place I would want to visit again at a slower pace so I could take in the Antiquarium as well as go to the Herculaneum metropolis since it seems to be well preserved, likely from being covered with more volcanic debris.  It’s also not talked about nearly as much so I imagine it is not as busy.  Both metropolises are within two hours of Rome so they are definitely doable as a day trip.  I would also insist on climbing to the top of Mount Vesuvius.  There are paths and such for you to use and they would warn you if they knew it wasn’t safe. 

Adding another UNESCO World Heritage site was definitely a highlight today and now we are prepared to visit Rome after a train ride there.  Sergio drops us off at the Napoli train station and we’re now on our own and he’s 160.00 Euros richer.  Kiosks are available for ticket buying and, yes, you can choose your language when buying the ticket (both names are on ticket). My daughter punches in all the necessary information (Roma terminal) and I feed it 84.00 Euros.  Now we wait on our train while watching the overhead screen for its arrival and destination display. Fifteen minutes before it arrives the display lights up. Our train is in bin 13 (this happens to be my daughter’s lucky number). Hoping that still holds true. Glad this went off without a hitch at the train station. We’ll soon board the train for Rome, approximately 201 kilometers (125 miles) in distance.

Napoli train station
The view out the train window.

We are boarding what we thought was the fast train to Rome but it stops at least six times before we get to our destination. We do pass through Gaeta, a peninsula which juts out into the Tyrrhenian Sea so it has some nice beaches and often serves as a vacation spot for those who want to escape Rome for a day or two.  It serves as a fishing and oil seaport (storage tanks are visible from the train), and as a tourist resort. Seeing the Italian countryside from the train window is nothing short of inspiring. At times you see water, at other times you see old castles, and you are bound to see some mountains as well. It was hard to ignore how dry things looked. It must be why they have so many grape arbors and great wine? From Napoli to Rome it was mostly farmland. We left Napoli at 2:35 p.m. and arrive at the Roma terminal at 5 p.m. so a little over two hours. Now, we depart the train and head to our Airbnb. My daughter gets her phone out and we follow the GPS route on her phone. Suitcase wheels clack on the cobblestone streets, and the sidewalks as we walk from the train station. Our Airbnb is very close to the Colosseum.  In fact, you can see the top of it as you walk to the double doors to the apartment building. Now, we lug suitcases up three flights of steps but we’ll be rewarded with a place to sleep and wash the days sweat off of us. The best surprise at the Airbnb was a glass bottle with a clasp top filled with cold water in the refrigerator.

After settling in we do go back out and find a restaurant close by to eat at. The La Base is our choice. When we walked inside we were a bit taken back with the American iconic pop art and items which adorn the walls, ceilings, and the floor.  The menu is definitely a full one. Sandwich options included Batman, Superman, Spiderman, and Wonder Woman.  Bruschetta options included Mick Jagger, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, and the James Dean to name a few.  I opted for the Aretha Franklin (a calzone filled with mushrooms, sliced zucchini, red peppers, and melted mozzarella cheese). The calzone was incredibly large!  I would order it again.  It was that good!  Our service was great, the food was great, and the atmosphere was relaxing. We also had water and Coke to drink. One small glass of water just wasn’t quite enough after the long day we had. And, yes, you’ll pay for the water too (for you U.S. people who aren’t use to this in small cities). Drinks are always served in glass (water in glasses and Coke in glass bottles).  After our Italian dining experiences further south in Italy this was a bit of a surprise to find a restaurant like this in Rome. We heard and read that locals have been coming to this restaurant for twenty years so it still has a local vibe to it. Oh, and get use to close quarters in Rome. It is an old city so you may see some rubbish as well. I imagine it can be hard to keep clean with such an enormous and older population. I pay at the counter for our dinners and we head back to our Airbnb, right around the corner from where we just ate.  Tomorrow night we’ll try somewhere different.  Now to rest up for the next day. 

Look at the size of that calzone.

https://www.brittancia.com

https://interative-archaeology.org

https://colorado-stormwater-council.org

12 Comments

    1. If I were to go to Pompeii again, I would make sure I have a full day there since some artifacts are in a museum in Naples and, of course, to see how massive Mount Vesuvius is by walking up to the rim.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Out of season as dusk descends and most of the tourists have gone off on their coaches, a strange atmosphere seems to fill Pompeii – it’s quite magical. You will love Herculaneum when you return to Italy.

    Liked by 1 person

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