Attempt No. 2 to catch the train from Sorrento to Pompeii worked – a 30-minute journey that takes you right to the gates of arguably the most famous archeological site in the world.
Having had local guides at Valletta and Mt Etna, we knew we’d benefit from the services of an official guide here, and, after paying the entrance fee (11 euros), were lucky enough to find the wonderfully informative and entertaining guide pictured to the left, Mario Visconti (10 euros).
I took notes, photos, a map and guidebook but nothing can beat the experience of being there … and my brief blog can hardly do any justice to the centuries of history encapsulated in these 66 hectares of grand villas, houses, shops, restaurants, temples, public baths, marketplaces and amphitheatre.
Highlights from our two-hour-plus tour include: concerned comments from an English Azamara Journey passenger about the state of the stray dogs; another question from the same person about why Mario was smoking (“I organise my life Madam, you can organise yours”); the floor mosaic of the dog in the Poet’s House, underlined by the words Cave Canem (‘beware of the dog’); the Forum Baths; a brothel, its use made apparent by the phallic symbol on the outside wall; stepping stones across the streets so the citizens back in Roman times didn’t have to get their feet wet when it rained and all matter of rubbish flowed past; frescoes in a grand dining room; and information about how the “human excrescences” were disposed of.
There is a storeroom (former granary) where various amphorae and some plaster casts of victims of the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79AD are on display – I believe most of the preserved bodies are in museums around the world. It is humbling to realise that there are some 20 more hectares of the site still awaiting excavation, and that restoration and research is a constant process.
On the train back to Sorrento, I overheard a woman saying that the nearby archeological site Herculaneum, also destroyed and preserved in 79AD, was “much better” than Pompeii – yet another destination I have to add to That List.
This was the final destination on our history-packed Azamara Journey cruise – the end of the cruise being Civitavecchia, the port for Rome, located miles from the city – so we treated ourselves to one more dinner at Prime C for our last evening.
We were thoroughly spoilt on the ship, met several Azamara addicts who somehow manage to fit in several cruises every year on Journey or Quest, and saying farewell to the crew made me appreciate the whole experience all over again. Until next time…