Saturday, September 24, 2011

Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast - July 2011

This is it - my last blogpost for our Western Mediterranean cruise over the summer.  I figured I better finish documenting the experience since we have an Eastern Mediterranean cruise in less than a month.  

Our final port of call in Italy was Naples.  Our shore excursion involved a couple different things.  We kicked off the day by bus, driving to a cameo factory and then heading over to Pompeii for the first half of our day.  The cameo factory was really interesting because they explained the process and we got to see one of the cameo artists carefully carving away the layers of the seashell to create a work of art.  

During World War II, my grandfather was with the US army in Italy.  While there, he traded a local jeweler some items from his daily rations for a set of cameos.  My grandmother had the largest one set into a pendant that I wore on the day I got married.  My mother had two of the smaller cameos set into rings, one each for me and my sister.  I intend to get the 3 remaining medium-sized cameos set into smaller pendants, one for each of the great-granddaughters as a high school graduation gift.  I couldn't help but wonder if my grandfather traveled through this very same town in Italy back in the 1940s that I was touring with my daughter in 2011.  

We spent the bulk of the morning on a tour of Pompeii, and I must say it was truly impressive.  It's just mind boggling to me that I was strolling along a street created back around 450 BC.  

Look at the columns!  And to think everything was created by hand.

The pictures above were taken as we peered into a large, three-sided shed with bars across the front so that we could view the contents.  The shed contains items discovered as they excavated the site.  The second and third picture contain molds of the volcano victims, a man and dog.  As archaeologists uncovered Pompeii, they began to find voids in the ash.  They soon realized these were where humans (and pets) has fallen and their bodies had decomposed over time to leave a sort of empty space.  It was decided to fill in these voids with plaster and that is how the above casts were made.  Obviously the poor dog suffered a painful death, writhing as it was suffocated and then buried.

I could post a lot more pictures of Pompeii because it was one of the most fascinating places I've ever had the opportunity to visit.  The large marble basin pictured above was located in the baths.  The folks of the Roman Empire sure did enjoy a good bath.  It was explained to us that this basin would contain fresh, cool water for the bathers as they emerged from the warm, steam-filled rooms.

And check out what remains of the painted walls inside a well-to-do Pompeiian family's dining room.  The colors were still beautiful even though they were painted well over 2,100 years ago.

Above is a picture of the culprit - Mt. Vesuvius - that I clicked when we were walking through Pompeii.  Below is a smiley pic of Annie and Claire in Pompeii's ancient theatre.  

For lunch, our group dined at the Hotel Vittoria right outside the ancient city.  Mmmmm, pasta!  We enjoyed visiting with a sweet older couple from Houston.  Small world - one of their kids lives in the Texas hill country, too, just a bit further up I-10 from the town we called home.

After lunch, we drove to the port at Salerno where we boarded a boat for a ride up the Amalfi Coast.  It was a beautiful, albeit a bit wet, ride that afforded the following scenery.

Below is the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Amalfi, circa 1200.  A couple had just gotten married and were taking pics at the base of the steps - what a memorable backdrop!

We had to take a picture of Annie and Claire in front of this interesting fountain in the Amalfi square.  Yes... there are two spigots on the woman's breasts and water is flowing out of them.

The surrounding countryside was just beautiful.  This area is famous for growing football-sized lemons set into terraced gardens along the hillside.  We enjoyed yet another helping of gelato made from limoncello produced locally.

Crazy Italian driver story:  The bus driver was taking us back to the dock to board the cruise ship.  However, there was a really long line of commercial trucks backed up for about a half mile because the port had been temporarily closed for some sort of ceremony put on by their equivalent of the navy or coast guard.  Sooooo, the driver just backed up ON THE INTERSTATE to an exit we had already passed - yikes!  Obviously I'm glad we made it back in time, but it was quite a sight going in reverse down the far right lane, not even the shoulder, as cars whizzed by us going in the correct direction.  

Our last day on the ship was spent cruising back across the Mediterranean to Barcelona.  I was so tired from all the touring that I took an almost 3-hour nap that afternoon.  We all hobbled home with a blister or two, but I believe we agreed that it was a small price to pay for the amazing places we visited. 

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