A Travellerspoint blog

Herculaneum and Pompeii

Day 15 - Wednesday 13th July 2016

sunny 30 °C

After our tiring day and big night we took our time getting up and having breakfast today. We set course to see the ruins of Herculaneum - the entire town was submerged in 16 metres of lava from the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79AD. It was built over the top and it wasn't discover there was a town underneath for 1700 years. You can clearly so the line around the top of the city where the lava fill topped. The town was on the coast at the time, people tried to flee by getting to the water but lava flowed at up to 70km per hour. The first sight on the tour shows some concrete shelters where they housed boats and where they found 300 skeletons of people that hid there sheltering from the lava. It looked eerie to see the skeletons, many with their mouths opened as if screaming. I had thought these were the original skeletons but heard a tour guide say the originals were in a museum and these were all replicas.
The town itself was not very big, it had 3 main streets but the things unearthed were well preserved as the lava hardened around it. We spent the next couple of hours walking and looking and we all had audio guides to hear the stories behind the places.

Another hot sweltering day, we rushed the last little bit and headed back to the car. We drove then to Pompeii which is on the other side of Vesuvius and found parking and ate lunch. By the time we entered the ruins there it was already 4pm, we had an audio guide which had to be returned by 7pm so then we spent the next three hours looking through this city. Unlike Herculaneum, Pompeii was not consumed by lava but instead it was destroyed by the volcanic ash and fire and debris that fell on the city. Pompeii was a large city for that time, I heard someone say it spread over 1600 acres. The streets were all paved with large rocks so you had to be careful not to twist your ankles. A large number of the exhibits were closed off but we still saw a lot of buildings that remained. When our time was up we headed back to the car for the drive home.

We showered and came up for dinner later than normal at around 8:30pm. There seemed to be a few extra people dining tonight so service was a bit slower, it was quite late by the time we retreated to our rooms for well deserved sleep.

Posted by Ace from Oz 11:33 Archived in Italy Tagged pompeii herculaneum Comments (0)

Mt Vesuvius and Elton John Concert in Pompeii

Day 14 - Tuesday 12th July 2016

sunny 30 °C

We took our time to get going today, it was gonna be a long day so didn't need to be up and out the door at an early time. After breakfast we hit the road and our aim was to get to Mt Vesuvius, attempting to climb up to the crater. The traffic getting out of Sorrento then a bit further along was bad, it took 1.5 hours to get to the base of the mounts despite a distance of only 50kms. We had to park a few kms away and pay to catch a shuttle up to the ticket office, it was only 1 euro each way for each person. Once we alighted we bought our tickets and started the walk uphill.

Today was another very hot and dry day, as soon as we started walking we were sweating. We walked up a bitumen the path to the entry point, from there it was supposedly only 890 metres to the crater but boy it didn't feel like it. The path was all soil and rocks and very dusty, not to mention all uphill - the people exiting that had been to the crater had shoes with dust all over them. It took a long while to get up to the top but the views are incredible.

The crater itself was deep, how hard to tell in metres and it was completely filled in. Before it erupted in 79 AD when it devastated Pompeii and Herculaneum it had a peak like a mountain but the force of the eruption blew it right off. On the other side we could see for miles - to Naples and beyond, we could see Pompeii down below and further. It was such a wonderful sight and definitely worth the hard work and sweat to get there. This region is known for growing lemons and making limoncello - an alcoholic liqueur made from lemons. Right at the top of Vesuvius there is a little shop selling a few things, and also an older man selling souvenirs and home made limoncello. I had to buy one to say I've drunk limoncello at the top of Vesuvius. I actually had two - the standard limoncello but also meloncello which is the same thing except made from rockmelons (cantaloupes).

Once we were done we started our descent - I was thinking going down would be easier. It was easier but still difficult as the soil would shift under your feet. By that evening my ankles were very sore from that walking. We got to our car and started the drive back down the mountain looking for somewhere to have our standard late lunch. We found a nice place halfway down and ate up. Tonight we had tickets to see Elton John live performing in the ruins at Pompeii. Given it takes so long to drive back and forth to our hotel we all brought change of clothes for later. We still had five hours to spare, we drove off to Herculaneum as we had planned.

For the first time our GPS took us about half a kilometre from the ruins but that was based on the address we had from our Lonely Planet guide. By the time we walked to main ticket office it was 5pm so not worth trying to squeeze the ruins in before the concert, we bought our tickets to come back tomorrow and headed back to the car.

I hadn't realised what the actual venue would be for the concert but was thrilled to find he was performing In the ancient Ampitheatre, believed to be the oldest one on Earth! We drove towards the venue to find parking. As we were so early we found a great spot on the street very close by. We found a bar to sit in aircon and drink and eat for the next hour or so after I picked up the tickets. I stripped down and had a towel so washed up in the bathroom and changed into fresh clothes. After we were done we headed over to the Ampitheatre just after 8pm. Once we entered we were greeted by an amazing arena. We had seats on the flat, the night was warm and as we were outdoors we sat under the stars. We were 60 rows back but could see the stage clearly. The great thing about the concert was that there were only 2700 seats sold so quite an intimate setting.

Quite incredibly the concert started on time, out walked the band then Elton all dressed in red and black. The concert started and the light show made the whole experience magical. He played for two hours straight, the music was still incredible but the vocals a little hard to hear. For a guy aged 69 he still put on a great show. I sat there bopping and singing along to the old favourites, took some pics and video as mementoes. Definitely an amazing night and something very few people would ever get to experience.

Needles to say it was late getting back to Sorrento and for the first time here there was little traffic - then again it was almost midnight! We got back to our room close to 12:30am, as I drove back I was still a little hyped up so was up checking Facebook etc until after 1am. We planned for tomorrow to see the ruins in Herculaneum and Pompeii but we also needed to sleep in a little.

Posted by Ace from Oz 11:27 Archived in Italy Tagged pompeii vesuvius elton Comments (0)


Day 13 - Monday 11th July 2016


We had a booking today for a trip out to the island of Capri. We were being picked at 10:20am outside our hotel so we could sleep in a little and have a leisurely breakfast admiring the view. We packed our swimming gear and were shuttled to a marina outside Sorrento in a town called Massa Lubrense. There were several different boat tours going, we were allocated a wristband and waited to board.

Our trip was run by Vervece Charters, boat only took 12 passengers so there was room to sit on the front - on the padded cushions - or at the back. Our host and driver today was Nando, very friendly young guy and soon he and I got to chatting a lot as I was able to speak to him in Italian although his English was very good too. We took off and went a short distance along the coast of the mainland where there was a small waterfall. He backed the boat up against it so we had a turn of getting wet from the waterfall.

We then made our way across the water to the island of Capri, about 25min away. He pulled up at the point of the island and from here he would stop many times to point out things and give the history or geography of them all. First stop was to look up high to see the remains of the holiday residence of Tiberius, an Emporer from the first century AD. We then stopped at several grottos to admire the beautiful clear waters beneath us. We saw the White Grotto, the Green Grotto, the Coral Grotto and the Heart Grotto. We also got a chance to jump into the water to cool off and paddle around, it was refreshing as it was a hot day.

We moved further around and saw the Fraglioni Rocks, most notable is one that has a big hole in it so we were able to cruise through it. From here we could see Marina Piccolo - little Marina. Still impressive with lots of nice buildings and holiday rentals no doubt. After our second swim we made our way further around to the Blue Grotto area. Easily the most famous grotto - but also the most crowded. Our tour wasn't booked to enter it, we had the option of going there once we landed on the island in our free time however Nando told us the queue to get in is sometimes 1-2 hours, and once you enter the grotto you only get 2-3 minutes to look.

Nando then dropped us all off at Marina Grande - the big Marina - and we had 4 hours to do what we wanted. A few people told us to go up to the town of Anacapri and catch the chairlift to the top of the mountain. We were told it is way quicker by taxi, we didn't mind paying extra as we had a stretch and open roofed taxi but was covered by a shade. We we driven up high by the side of the mountain and got great glimpses of the Marina below. Despite being all given a panini and a drink by Nando on the cruise over, by the time we got to Anacapri it was 2:30pm so we sat down for lunch.

After we ate we bought tickets for the chairlift to take us to the top of Mt Solaro, the highest peak on the island. The chairlift was a single seat with one bar that folded over your lap, felt like being on a carnival ride. The ride took 13 minutes and the view was amazing. We got off at the top and were nearly 600 metres above sea level. Amazing views all over, lots of pics taken. We grabbed drinks and ice cream/gelato before heading back down to Anacapri. By now we had less than an hour before we had to board our boat, we caught a taxi again but this time with another couple we got talking to on our boat. Once we got down to the Marina we only had about half an hour or so left so just wandered along browsing the shops.

Nando then arrived and took us on our journey back to the mainland. We had a great day, Nando was so nice and friendly and funny - I would definitely recommend Vervece Charters to anyone staying in the Sorrento area for a trip to Capri.

We got back to our hotel and all showered up and went back upstairs to the restaurant again for dinner. Tonight I tried the cannelloni, not as big a serve as the first two pastas but still tasted nice. We got to chat to our friends from the boat trip who were staying in our hotel, then headed to bed to rest for another day of sightseeing to come.

Posted by Ace from Oz 10:19 Archived in Italy Tagged capri anacapri Comments (0)


Day 12 - Sunday 10th July 2016

sunny 32 °C

After planning our itinerary for the next five days based here at Sorrento, we decided today we'd drive south and visit Paestum and Salerno. Paestum is a preserved town full of Ancient Greek ruins, the Greeks inhabited that area at the time. We got our first taste of the crazy driving here and how long it takes to get anywhere, there is only one main way in and out of Sorrento, we took off and it was almost 2.5hrs until we got to Paestum with all the traffic.

Today was very hot and we hired some audio guides and walked through the ruins. Some of the structures had a lot of the columns still intact and we were told parts of the ruins dated back to 500 BC. We were able to walk around and into a lot of the structures, hard to believe the buildings date back so much.

Once done we sat down for lunch, it's been the trend lately with our sightseeing days that we don't eat lunch until like 2 or 3pm and have a late dinner. The plan after leaving Paestum was to stop into Salerno which is more of a port city here but as we left so late we decided to drive back towards home. We had our swimming gear with us and after being hot walking through the ruins we detoured off the road and tried to find somewhere to swim. This in itself is a difficult task around Sorrento as the towns are built atop high cliffs so to reach the water you need to walk down a lot of steps. The other problems are finding parking, and also that a lot of the swim spots are privately owned by the hotels that are above them. We found parking but couldn't find a beach, frustrated we headed back to the hotel. Unfortunately the roads led into the heart of Sorrento, and it was bedlam. People and cars and scooters everywhere, we couldn't get out fast enough. Pedestrians just walk anywhere - Vicky was driving and her side mirror hit a guy on the arm. It was his fault, he decided he'd walk on the road despite there being plenty of room on the footpath and he was swinging his arms. She had to swerve to avoid another car but he didn't look back or flinch.

We got back to the hotel and showered and headed to the restaurant for dinner. We enjoy the view and the food so much and it is so reasonably priced we are figuring there's no point going anywhere by car for dinner. The traffic and parking makes it difficult, here we can relax with nice food and admire the scenery. I decided on a plain spaghetti with pomodoro (tomato), but so yummy as the sauce is made with fresh tomatoes. It's nice here as they give us all a glass of Prosecco and a small dish of food, mostly little bruschetta every night for free, more reason to eat here. Once back in the room I was able to chill for a while, we don't have an early start tomorrow so a tiny little sleep in can happen.

Posted by Ace from Oz 13:45 Archived in Italy Tagged paestum Comments (0)

Tuscany to Sorrento

Day 11 - Saturday 9th July 2016

sunny 30 °C

After a whole week in the big villa in Tuscany, it was time for us and all the cousins and my brother etc to move onto our next destinations. 10 were headed for Rome, 9 to San Marino, 4 went to the west coast and we headed further south. Our drive today was close to 480km, we took off from the villa at about 10:15am.

The traffic was ok and once on the autostrada we made good time. We stopped after two hours only to find one of the other families from our villa had also stopped there. We had lunch with them and soon headed off again. The road was pretty much countryside all the way along as we headed towards the west coast and towards Naples. We had another rest stop just before Naples as the roads after there are single lane mostly so we were unsure if there'd be designated rest areas.

I've mentioned before that gas and road tolls are expensive here - well today I nearly keeled over when we paid the toll to exit the autostrada. It was 28.90 euros, in Aussie dollars that's about $45. Just to use a road, geez that's a bit exorbitant in my eyes. After that shock, our road followed around the Bay of Naples, past Mt Vesuvius and soon hit the single lanes in the Sorrento region. If I thought driving up until now was scary, then this place gives scary a whole new meaning. Tons and tons of motor scooters everywhere, and they are a law unto themselves. They overtake whenever and wherever they want, they jump out of side streets to squeeze into traffic. They even overtake on the wrong side of the road so they are traveling opposite direction to you yet they are in your lane - what's worse is they expect you to move over for them!

We finally made it to our accommodation in Sorrento where we will stay six nights - the Hotel Il Nido. I chose this place as I needed somewhere away from the chaos of Sorrento that had car parking, but also the view is to die for. We parked the car on the roof of the hotel, as it's based on the side of the hill you enter from up top, and were greeting with an amazing panorama. We checked in and found the rooms very pleasant and clean and spacious. It's only a 3 star hotel but for two rooms for six nights I wasn't expecting anything fancy but we were all pleasantly surprised.

After a day of travelling we were too tired to go anywhere, we showered and decided to eat at the restaurant in the hotel, with sweeping views of the bay. Being in a hotel I really expected the food prices to be expensive and was shocked when the menu showed dishes pretty much priced as we had been paying whilst travelling. I had a big plate of spaghetti bolognaise, it was huge and only 7 euro! We all enjoyed our meals very much, hardly seems worth fighting the crowds elsewhere to eat out. Needless to say after a long day on the road we made ourselves comfortable and went to bed.

Posted by Ace from Oz 00:08 Archived in Italy Tagged naples sorrento tuscany Comments (0)

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