The next stop, after Rome, was Naples. However, we didn’t actually spend any time in the city. We wanted to visit Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast, which we had heard was absolutely beautiful. So, before the cruise, we arranged to join a private tour with other members of Cruise Critic. The tour, by APTours, took us, first, to Pompeii, where they arranged for a private guide, and then to Positano and Sorrento.
Pompeii is probably the closest you can come to seeing what Roman life was like ~ 2,000 years ago. Most of you probably know the story. But, I’ll provide a short recap. Pompeii was a thriving port town located about 5-6 miles from Mount Vesuvius. It had villas, shops, bathhouses, brothels, and fast food cafes (yes, fast food). When Mount Vesuvius erupted, there were ~ 20,000 people living in Pompeii. The eruption, in 79 A.D., sent a plume of ash, pumice, and gases miles into the air. Most of the residents left Pompeii that day. But, ~2,000 remained. At first, a light layer of ash fell on the city. Then, more ash started to fall. Roofs and buildings collapsed under the weight of the ash. Finally, a pyroclastic flow (a fast moving wave of superheated, toxic gases and ash) hit the city killing all of the people who had chosen to stay. By the time the eruption ended, Pompeii was buried under ~20 feet of ash. The city was abandoned and forgotten for centuries. It was rediscovered in the late 1500s – early 1600s; but excavations weren’t started until 1748. To date, about 3/5 of the city has been uncovered.
Picture of the main gates to Pompeii.
Almost immediately passing through the main gate, we came upon this building. Notice the pot dropped into the wall in the bottom left of the picture. This was their version of fast food. The store owner would have food cooking in the pot and sell it to customers dropping by for a quick bite to eat.
A fancier version located close to the Forum:
The next picture shows how the people of Pompeii built their columns. They would use bricks for the inside (the main structure) and then cover the bricks with a thin layer of marble or, as a cheaper alternative, a mixture of marble dust and white stucco.
Below is the basilica of Pompeii (the Hall of Justice). Here’s an interesting fact for you. The term “basilica” refers to the style of a building, not a church. The original basilicas housed schools, judges and/or markets and served as the prototype for early synagogues and churches.
This is the Forum, the commercial, religious, and political center of Pompeii. You can see Mount Vesuvius in the background. (Surprise, surprise…I’m actually in one of the pictures!)
Remains of the Temple of Jupiter.
Another view of Mount Vesuvius.
Pompeii had numerous public baths, each with a men’s and women’s section. We toured the men’s section of the bath house closest to the Forum. There was a steam room, warm room, or cold bath option. This was the frigidarium (the cold bath room).
The caldarium (the steam-bath room) has a double floor, heated from below, and a ribbed ceiling to carry water down the walls (so, no drips).
Decorations from the wall of the tepidarium (the warm room). This room was heated by braziers.
The thick layer of ash that fell on Pompeii helped to preserve a lot of the buildings, decorations, and, the bodies of those who perished in the city. At one point, you can see several of the plaster casts of the bodies. But, it didn’t feel right taking pictures.
A lot of the villas had mosaic floors, several of which have been uncovered and restored.
And, several of the villas and buildings had fresco paintings that have been partially restored.
The streets still consist of the original stone.
In several places, you can see the ruts in the street left by the chariots. The stones going across the street were placed there as stepping stones. A lot of times, there would be mud, rainwater or sewage flowing down the street. So, they added the stepping stones as a way to cross the street without getting their feet dirty.
Public water fountains are scattered around the city. (This one has obviously been modernized.)
You can’t talk about Pompeii and not mention the thriving prostitution business. We didn’t actually make it to the section of town housing the brothels. But, our guide showed us markers in the street which would, ahem, point the way to such a business.
Our last stop in Pompeii was the port area. Until Mount Vesuvius erupted, Pompeii was a port town. Currently, Pompeii is situated at least 2 km inland. The following pictures are of one of the port areas of the city.
After leaving Pompeii, we headed down the coast to Positano. The Amalfi Coast starts at Positano and stretches 55 kms down the coastline to Vietri sul Mare. The Amalfi Coast is absolutely beautiful. Note the windy, curvy roads clinging to the coast. Jerry was glad I didn’t make him drive.
Positano is a cute little village situated above the water. In the early 1900s, it was a fishing village. But, it gained popularity among tourists in the 1950s. The driver dropped us off and we had free time to walk around the town.
This covered path leads down to the beach.
Views from the beach:
We walked around and looked into some of the shops before heading back to our meeting point.
From Positano, we drove back up the coast to Sorrento, where the driver dropped us off for some more free time. We were going to eat a late lunch there; but decided to walk around instead. Jerry got a small take away pizza from one of the cafes in the main square and we browsed through some of the local shops. I don’t have a lot of pictures from Sorrento. It seemed to have more shopping than scenic views.
This was at the entrance to the Opera House.
At the end of one of the streets, heading away from the main square, is an overlook with views of this abandoned mill.
From Sorrento, the driver took us back to the port. We really enjoyed our day at this port. Pompeii was interesting and educational. Positano was cute. Sorrento would have been nice if we were more into shopping. But, the Amalfi Coast was absolutely beautiful. If we ever go back for another Mediterranean cruise or land tour, I would definitely want to stop there again.