Our fourth day we woke (very) early and caught the express train from Rome down to Naples. We thought we might snooze on the way but ended up in a compartment with fairly talkative Americans. George and his friend “Sid” (Some Italian Dude) were both from New Jersey. George had been backpacking around Europe for several months, and Sid had come over for a few weeks to see Italy and meet some distant cousins of his in Naples. We talked about Italy (all liked it), which country was the friendliest to tourists (Germany), whether Americans were actually rude tourists or if we just got associated with our country (both), and where the Statue of Liberty is really located (New Jersey).
From Naples we caught a commuter train down to the ruins of Pompeii. We got seriously confused trying to buy a ticket for the commuter train, but Dannie made friends with a homeless, toothless man who insisted, no, demanded that he help us. After defacing our travel guide and yelling at us, we ditched him and found the long walkway down to the commuter train. It was here that we jumped on entirely the wrong train.
Realizing we were screwed shortly after the doors closed, some very helpful locals who spoke very little English helped us figure out how to get back on track. There were some stressful minutes on a very nasty, dirty station in the middle of nowhere, but it all worked out.
I’ve always been fascinated by ancient things, so Pompeii was basically a must-stop for us. I knew a lot about the history, but was surprised at how large the excavation was or how much they let you wander around. We picked up a free booklet and set out for three hours of wandering the bumpy cobblestones.
After the size, the biggest surprise for me was how little had changed in 2,000 years. The streets were a grid, with major thoroughfares, side streets, one ways, and pedestrian walkways. There were sidewalks. Little houses and apartments butted up against huge homes. Bakeries made bread for street vendors to sell. Fast food shops (McPompeii’s?) lined the major streets where people could grab a quick bite and get back to work.
Strangely it was the streets that made the place real for me. Every day Pompeii flooded the streets to wash them clean throughout the city. So across the end of each street they put large stones that were the height of the sidewalk and shorter than the width of a chariot. That way pedestrians could walk across when the streets were flooded, and the chariots could drive over the top. To the side of each of these stones were ruts dugs into the hard cobbles by the chariot wheels. It was such a little thing, yet so practical and real that it somehow made it all hit home more than the crumbling walls and pillars. Twenty thousand people.
Many of the buildings were in amazing shape, with the images still clearly visible on the wall. The Pompeii citizenry was much less hung up on the topic of sex than we are today. One building had a large picture of Priapus, weighing his… asset… on a scale. It was a blessing of fertility and prosperity. The brothel had pictures on the walls of many different sexual positions, possibly for use as a menu for customers.
Pompeii is home to a large number of stray dogs. Friendly and pretty darned cute (if a little scruffy) they snoozed in the shade and gardens of ancient homes. Crowds going by didn’t disturb them in the least until they got hungry.
We caught the train back to Naples with no wrong turns this time, and took some time to poke around Naples near the train station. Similar to Rome but a little grittier, maybe on a future trip we can spend more time. We rolled into Rome about 9:00pm (Dannie slept most of the way), and tried some more wine and another Cuban cigar until we basically passed out. Another good day.
For more info see this link.
(We’re adding to our photoset each day here)