Thursday, October 13, 2005

My Italy Diary: Pompeii

Today we visited Pompeii. We took a hydrofoil to Sorrento, a bus to the metro station, and the metro to Pompeii. The car of the train smelled strongly of urine and we passed smaller cities on our way which were reminicient of the poorer areas of major U.S. cities—old buildings in need of painting and/or repair, graffiti, abandoned items beside the tracks, and laundrey drying from every balcony. There were many students on the train and it was interesting to be surrounded by the loud chatter of a language we don’t understand. I tried not to stare, but was very curious about them. Young men here are very demonstrative with each other, hugging, walking arm in arm, standing with their arms around each others’ shoulders. It is inspiring.

When we arrived in Pompeii, we were invited to join a tour group of about 10 people, mostly Americans. Our guide, Mario, walked us through the excavation while smoking a cigar. He smelled faintly of alcohol, was somewhat brusque in his response to questions, and didn’t linger in order to give
the group a chance to take photos. At times, he didn’t seem as knowledgable as one would expect for a tour guide. Nonetheless, he knew his way around—the site is very large—and at least got us to the main points of interest. After a whle, I just wandered from the group a bit if there were pictures I wanted to take or lagged behind while Mr. Man kept an eye out for which way the group was headed and then we would catch up, sometimes missing the beginning of his descriptions.

The city was very large and prosperous being so close to the sea. There were monuments to the Gods, Zeus’ being the largest in the center of the city. The streets, dating 80 B.C., are made of stone. I wish I could describe everything, there are beautiful frescos and mozaics, and phallic symbols, for luck, throughout. The villas were wonderful with the family living on the first floor with an opening in the middle of the ceiling where rain came through and was collected in a small pool in the center (used for cooking, bathing, etc.). The bedrooms were on each side of this central hall and were small in order to keep them warm. Behind the central hall was the owner’s room which then opened onto an interior garden, again no floor. The kitchen, baths, and slaves quarters were behind this. In some of the larger villas there were actually two interior gardens.

At one point Mario actualy dropped a flask (my suspicions correct) and while someone made light of it, I felt he was a little embarassed. After 2.5 hours of walking around on hard stone, we were exhausted. We settled up with Mario, grabbed a panni, and headed back to Sorrento and then on to Capri. We had dinner at Faraglioni in a private booth with a thatched roof outside. We shared both a first and second course: homemde pasta verde with arugala, tomatoes, basil and garlic, followed by roasted chicken with herbs, which was moist, tender and extremely flavorful. We also shared a bottle of wine which was very light. For dessert we shared puffed pastries with chocolate sauce and vanilla gelato. We are tired and looking forward to resting in Tuscany. Although, I doubt this is what we will actually do.

We leave in the morning via train to Florence, where we will rent a car to drive to Chianti. Mr. Man is a little nervous about driving in traffic such as we’ve seen so far. Hopefully, it will not be as bad as Rome, with its many cars zigging and zagging without regard for lanes; of course, there really aren’t any. In Capri the roads are so narrow, with a drop off on one side and a stone wall on the other, that only one car at a time can really use the road. When another care comes from the opposite direction you must each stop and slowly inch by, hugging the wall and each other as closely as possible. There are some places where even this is not possible and someone must back up to a spot which is wide enough. This is particularly unsettling at night as there are no street lights. When a car is rounding a curve, the driver flashes the lights to let any oncoming traffic know it is there.

No comments:

Post a Comment