Mt Vesuvius blew its top off, covering the city of Pompeii with a blanket of ash in 79 A.D., preserving it until it was discovered in the 1700s. Not content to look up we had to go and see this lunar landscape! It gave us a sense of the big eruption and devastation it must have caused. Up there we saw all of Pompeii, Naples, the spectacular bay of Naples, some of the Appenine mountains and the Amalfi Coast.
High speed train whisked us away to Naples. We couldn't help but imagine pickpockets sneaking up on us as it has a bit of a rep for being seedy. Mading our way down the crowded streets to a character Airbnb with its thick wooden doors leading into a court yard and old mesh cased lift. A much more real and gritty city than Rome with the highest density population in Italy of 3.3 million in the province. We loved our foodie tour with Luca. Starting with expresso and sfogliatella (sweet ricotta pastry) then we visited a bakery to roll almond salty bread. At the deli we gorged on buffalo mozzarella, Parma ham, olives, sundried tomato and eggplant pickled and olive oiled up to the max. Oh so good. All cleaned up with a gelato of course. During our walk we fell for Naples, it's old castles and churches contrasted with narrow alleyways, people thronged fabulous markets and it's sweeping panoramas of the bay of Naples dominated by Mt Vesuvius.
The chance to enjoy idle time by admiring and taking in our surroundings was our order of the day. We gazed up at the largest unreinforced concrete dome ever constructed and marvelled, the Pantheon, 2000 years old! The rest of the day was wandering and taking in the architectural hybrids that continue on with the same glamour and style for streets and streets.
Resolution. To never go too far in one leg again! Though all the weary travel stories were forgotten as we finally touched down in the Eternal City. We were tour bound to learn about how Michelangelo and Raphael were the rivaling rock stars of the Renaissance. Grant was our guide who explained art and progressive techniques as we made our way through the Sistine chapel and other art-filled courtyards and corridors of the Vatican – brimming with frescoes, sculptures and tapestries. While the Sistine Chapel is the most famous ceiling in the world, Michelangelo was unwillingly so had to be forced to spend nine years of his life painting it. In St Peters basilica we saw intricate mosaics, gold painted ceilings, gigantic statues, and domes, the bronze Baldachin and the chair of Saint Peter himself. All the while the crowds and queues raged outside and in, we seemlessly made our way round and patted our backs for spending the time beforehand researching the best way to see these sights.
A quick delicious crusty bread roll before we descended into the underground maze of tunnels and dungeons, where the gladiators armored up before facing the crowds of up to 45000 in the massive amphitheater of the Colosseum. Sailing right past the lines with our guide we went on to the Roman Forum and its ancient sights. We walked the Via Sacra, where generals and their armies once held their triumphal processions, past the Temple of Caesar and pass the Rostra (speaker’s corner) where the head of the famed orator Cicero was put on display after his vicious murder. A few modest huts built on the top of the Palatine Hill in 200 BC were the humble beginning of the Empire, which grew to be the gigantic state.
"Rome is not like any other city. It's a majestic museum, a living room to tiptoe through." - Alberto Sordi, Italian actor.
Julie and Jo