Archive for the ‘Amalfi coast’ Tag

Pompeii and Amalfi Coast – Festive period 2022/23

The obvious out-of-Naples places to visit are Pompeii/Vesuvius and the Amalfi Coast. Pompeii we self-organised. We took at train from Naples Central towards Salerno and a short shuttle bus to the Pompeii excavation from Pompeii railways station. All very straightforward. The Pompeii site closes about 1700 at this time of the year, so there was a bit of a rush to the train back to Naples. In the summer I suspect it is a bit of a crush.

The second – Amalfi Coast – we subcontracted out to a company called Tramvia. Tickets are sold from the many street kiosks. They pick up in the morning on a big coach from around the town and then separate passengers by tour at a spot on the edge of the city. We ended up in a transit van (with seats, obviously) with a driver who shocked many of us with his clifftop hustling and adventurous overtaking. In the dark. We were first dropped off at Positano (right). We had a couple of hours to walk down to the beach, get coffee, visit the church and wander through some of the many pottery shops. Enough time.

And then on to Amalfi itself. Another two hours sufficient for a bit of wandering along alleys in search of an entrance to the so-called cathedral (left) which we did not find – the entrance, that is. We settled for a glass of wine and a light snack. Suffice to say, the driver wasted no time getting back to Naples. We needed more wine to calm the nerves, or that is at least our excuse.

Pompeii…well, at least we controlled the getting there. We hired a guide (shared with a few others) who was good value. His Italian English was perfect. He sounded a bit like Francesco da Mosto, for those in know. And mischievous with it. We subsequently found out that some of the things he told us were not absolutely true; though it took the great Mary Beard to put him right. For example, the difference between slaves and slave owners was not as great as we were told. Beard tells us that many slaves won their freedom and became citizens of the city in their own right, though not if they did something that warranted a flogging. To be flogged is to be permanently labelled. Moreover, some slaves were highly educated and skilled by the standards of the time. The rich could have a slave doctor, for example. What was constant was food – rich and poor, slave and slave owner all ate much the same – seafood, grains and nuts.

Pompeii is a great experience. There is plenty of room and quiet areas, apart from the ever-popular brothel – which is not really worth visiting – there is more erotica on display in the Naples Archaeology Museum which we also checked out. There are a few lessons for all of us to take from Pompeii. Many people died because they did not know that Vesuvius was a volcano. And when they tried to flee, they hid. Knowledge is important; there was nowhere to hide from the ash. And those not prepared to forfeit their wealth, perished with it. Knowledge also was lacking in the plumbing. Whilst it was sophisticated in terms of capture of rainwater, piping and pressurizing, the lead pipes were also lethal (above right).

It is quite an extensive excavation – and ongoing (above left). The killer – Vesuvius – sits to the north. Pompeii itself used to sit directly on the shoreline, but the eruption essentially moved it backwards! The city is a great snapshot, too, in the developments in architecture. This bit of Italy is prone to earthquakes as well as volcanic activity. The Pompeiian – if that is who they are – architects learned how to strengthen their buildings – eventually adopting the diamond formation (right).

But ultimately the lives of the people before the eruption look just like our own: domestic, consumptive, with entertainment (albeit gladiators) and eating (restaurants/home).

And having written all of this, I suddenly read this in the Guardian under the headline ‘Astonishing’ Pompeii home of men freed from slavery reopens to public.