We left Bolzano and headed south towards Naples. We decided to go down the east
coast of Italy and ended up staying the night in San Marino, a separate country (about
6 miles square) within Italy. It is known for its fancy postage stamps, a castle
and low prices. We didn't see any of that and drove to Pompeii the next day. Once
there we stayed at a campground near the train line and across the street from the
entrance to the Pompeii ruins called Camping Spartacus. Because it was raining we
rented a small bungalow with our own bathroom. The next day (Sunday) it was still
raining, so we went to the museum in Naples and looked at a lot of the stuff that
had been removed from Pompeii and other sites.
Naples has a reputation for being crime-ridden and not-a-nice-town. We didn't see
any crime, but we have never seen such a filthy, run-down, dirty, graffiti-covered
mess since we were in Juarez, Mexico. Every flat surface that can be reached by
a person on foot is covered with graffiti. Some of it "art" but most is just gang
tags and junk. This picture is of a train station near Naples, the station, the
wall and the buildings outside the wall are all covered with it. The city is an
old city and is in a poor state of repair. Buildings are run-down and streets and
sidewalks rough. Garbage and litter are everywhere, and people just discard items
when they are done with them (water bottles, paper, etc.). This is so much different
from northern Italy where it was clean, neat and the citizens were obviously proud
of their towns.
Driving here is an experience too. Lane markings are not even regarded as suggestions,
they are ignored. A corner with the traffic lights not working became chaos. In
the US that becomes a 4-way stop and drivers take turns. Here it was a free-for-all. There
were 6 or 8 cars in the intersection, a truck and a lot of scooters "scooting" in
between (and us on the GoldWing). Some wanted to turn, others going straight, the
turning drivers cut off the straight ones and the straight ones would pull around
the turners, horns blowing and drivers yelling.. The one who got through the intersection
was the one with the biggest set of balls; the one who out-bluffed the others the
best. And if you didn't crowd in and bluff you were not going to get through. The
traffic behind you would just squeeze around you and go ahead. At another time and
place, (but in that same day) two-lane, two-direction road with a solid line between
the lanes, a no passing zone. The speed limit is 50 kph for construction, but traffic
is doing 80+. It was not fast enough for several drivers, they pulled out and drove
up the road straddling the line, passing several cars at a time, and with on-coming
traffic!!! The drivers being passed and the oncoming drivers all moved over and
let him by. This happened several times. They didn't drive this bad in Mexico and
it's famous for bad drivers. But we survived and made it back to the campsite unscathed,
partly by being as bad a driver as they are, but mostly by watching all directions
at once, yielding when necessary and going when necessary.
On to why we came here. The museum we visited was filled with the plunder of historic
Roman sites. The statuary, mosaics and frescoes were splendid. Even before Michelangelo
those Italians knew how to carve marble.
There were hundreds of statues and busts (heads as well as female anatomy, the Romans
like nude art).
This is a sarcophagus (burial box for somebody rich).
This is a mosaic about 12" square and made of thousands of pieces no bigger than
the head of a pin.
We took the whole day to ride the train, walk to the museum and see everything and
The Pope was expected in town that day. We didn't know it until we saw a poster
stuck to a wall telling about it. They were closing streets and the various police
agencies had hundreds of officers about. I don't know what time he was due but we
made it out that afternoon before he got there.
The next day was Pompeii. It still has some statues (but they are replicas, the
originals are in the museum). And Mt Vesuvius has snow from yesterday's cold rain
All the good art stuff that can be has been removed and the ruins consist of parts
of buildings; shops, homes, theatres and temples.
Pompeii was showered by a storm of hot ash and burning pumice on the fateful day,
Aug. 24, 79 AD. About 2,000 of the 20,000 residents of the town were killed.
Excavations were started in the mid-1500's by amateurs who carted off the goodies
they found. Scientific work was started in the 1700's. Various signs say work is
ongoing, but except for one group of students from a Spanish University, it's been
a long time since any work was done. The site has very poor maintenance with many
of the barricades rotting or rusting away.
The streets are interesting. The Romans build their cities with a square block pattern
as we know in the US and the straight streets are all lined with sidewalks raised
above the street level and have stepping stones to cross at intersections. The carts
wheels would go in between the stones. This street was wide enough for two-way traffic,
but most were too narrow for two carts to pass each other.
In some of the houses there were still the original frescoes for us to see. The
Romans liked to split the wall up into sections about 4 or 5 feet wide with painted
fake columns, fake windows or decorative lines and then put a pictures (sometimes
large but most often very small, less than 10" high) into each section. This house
had both sizes.
The sun came out the next day and we decided to do the famous Amalfi coast drive. This
sort of like the Cinque Terre country, but with a road instead of a trail. The terrain
is very similar with steep cliffs dropping into the sea and little villages tucked
into bays with "streets" made of stairs leading up to houses perched on the hillside.
We had lunch in front of this view.
Here's a better picture of the view without those pesky tourists.
This road is famous for its congestion. The road is often very narrow but still
has two-way traffic, including tour buses and semi-trucks. We got stuck in one traffic
jam for about 15 minutes while the bus and the truck figured out who was going through
the narrow spot first. These decisions are complicated by all the cars crowded up
behind and honking their horns and then additionally by the scooters cutting through
between and filling up the smallest gaps, like sand between rocks. Soon no one can
move forward or backwards, but eventually with much shouting and arm waving it was
Half and hour south of the Amalfi is the ancient Greek temple complex at Paestum,
our next destination. The Greeks built a city here in 700 BC and by 500 BC it was
a powerful entity in the area called Magna Graecia (southern Italy). The Romans
later took it over but didn't destroy the temples. They are the best Greek temples
anywhere in the Mediterranean and lie amongst the ruins of the Roman city's foundations.
Our last day we went to Herculaneum, another town buried by the same eruption. Only
this town was buried in hot mud, not ash and pumice. It was buried very deeply and
wasn't discovered until the mid-1700's and so escaped the amateur raiding. Instead
the pro's did it and took the stuff to museums, but there are some beautiful things
The wall in the foreground (with the arches) is actually straight, the program that
stitches together several pictures tends to curve things.
You can see how deep the mud was from the tree line on the right side of the picture. Because
it was covered in mud, not pumice, this has survived much better with many buildings
retaining their second and third stories. Both this city and Pompeii extend out
under the current cities built above them. Here work was ongoing in several places
and the barricades were in good repair. This is the better city to visit, but like
many people we didn't even know about it until we got here.
Here is a mosaic floor.
And a wall mural.
Here is a wall mosaic about three feet square.
A private garden space inside the home with fountain and shallow pool.
A shop that probably sold olives.
We enjoyed Herculaneum much better than Pompeii. There was more to see, it's not
so spread out and it's in better condition, both the ruins and the maintenance.
Tomorrow we leave for Rome. It's the 24th of October and that's the last stop before
heading home this year.