Well, I’m so glad he didn’t turn out to be an ax murderer! When I was taking the train to Pompeii, I asked directions from a man who, it turned out, was also taking the train to his home in Seiano, a small town near Sorrento which is a few stops past Pompeii. We had a lively conversation on the train as he was quite interested in my travels and when he learned that I was planning to spend Saturday and Sunday in Sorrento, he ended up inviting me to his house for dinner on Sunday with his wife and three daughters.
So on Sunday I took the train from Sorrento to Seiano where Giovanni met me with his youngest daughter, Gaia, who is seven years old. (Ax murderers don’t generally bring a seven year old girl along, do they?) We drove over hill and dale through some very narrow streets only permitting one car (but they were two-way streets) and finally arrived at their house.
I met his wife, Eliana, and his other two teenaged daughters. They had quite a garden—both flowers and vegetables, many olive trees for which they get help harvesting their olives which they then have pressed for their own special olive oil. They even raise a few chickens, roosters actually, to eat.
Their home was lovely and from the terrace there was a full view of Mt.
Vesuvius, both interesting and ominous! The dinner was delicious–Eliana likes to cook—with many of their own vegetables and later in the afternoon, they insisted on driving me back to Sorrento. What a fun day I spent with such hospitable people!
One day I climbed up Mt. Vesuvius and looked into the crater. There were, in fact, a few jets of steam coming out, but luckily it didn’t blow up! Actually I didn’t walk up the whole way. I took a minibus up quite a ways on a very winding narrow road. I think I was more in danger of loosing my life in a bus accident (many narrow scrapes meeting buses coming down) than from the volcano. However, even then, it was a tough 40 minute climb which made me think that I could now eat a bigger lunch!
I did this after visiting Herculaneum, which was completely submerged in mud during the 79 AD eruption that buried Pompeii in ash. It was interesting and fun to explore the houses. Surprisingly there were a number of intact mosaics, murals, and a few statues, along with kitchens, baths, and columned porticos, as to some extent the mud had preserved some of it.
The last time Vesuvius erupted was 1944 which was a smaller eruption than 79 AD. There have been several other eruptions over the years and the locals know that it’s not an IF, but a WHEN as to the next one.
I revisited Capri because when I was there earlier it was rainy and I wanted to see it in full sunshine, which I did. This time I walked up, up, up to the Villa Jovis which was Tiberius’ residence for the last 11 years of his life, although it was built by Augustus. The site was worth seeing but more than that, the views from there were enthralling. And just walking through the narrow lanes of houses that had signs on them like “House of Love and Music” and “Capri, the Land of Dreams”, in Italian, of course, was fun. Then back in Capri town, I had a lovely lunch with a to-die-for view of the harbor and cliffsides.
I guess I wasn’t paying attention—the hydrofoil going back to Naples landed in a place unknown to me. I had been napping and this was a surprise. I figured out that we had put in to a marina quite a ways down the coast from where I had departed. The bad news was that I was already pretty tired from the mountain hike up to Villa Jovis and now I had another long walk; the good news was that I got to see the Castel dell’Ovo (Castle of the Egg) as I walked by which clued me in on where I was.
What can I say about Pompeii? My visit there was as grand as I had hoped. The excavations are quite extensive and include an amphitheatre, two theatres, a parade ground, a forum, and countless houses, some very large with remaining mosaics and frescos.
Sorrento was beautiful and from there I went on to the Amalfi coast to
Positano, a town that is completely vertical—all the houses are hanging on the cliffs. The hostel there had a wonderful terrace overlooking the town and the Mediterranean in complete sunshine, and, at night, a three-quarter moon lit up the Sea. It’s amazing that places like this are accessible to folk like me—it doesn’t get any better than this!
Hostel breakfasts are usually bad but here I had a freshly baked croissant with a wonderful Cappuccino—and it doesn’t get any better than that, either!