May 25, 2003 — After a delicious breakfast at the Hotel Minerva we went across the street to buy bus tickets to get to the train station. Once again, I don't know how the busdriver managed not to kill anyone, twisting through impossibly narrow streets. The train line is called Circumvesuviana because it arcs around Mt. Vesuvius making many stops along the way. It was a long ride and the train was full of tourists bound mostly for Pompeii as well as students on their way to school.
When we got to Pompeii (see the cloud above Vesuvius that looks like a puff of smoke) they hadn't opened the gates yet. So people were crowding into the area as if it were Disney World, waiting to get in. We kept inching our way closer and closer to the gates and were in pretty good position when they opened it. Then long lines formed at the ticket windows.
Here is one of the typical narrow streets in Pompeii with big stepping stones to help pedestrians get across. Most of the roads had wagon wheel ruts carved into them. The town had running water, although I don't think they had any available to us on that very hot day.
Here is a mongrel who seemed to live there along with many other cats and dogs. Paul shared some water with him. I told him I couldn't touch him because he was a dirty, dirty doggie.
This photo shows the estate of one of the richer families of Pompeii. It hints at the extreme opulence that was once there. The town was very advanced in many ways, and much of the artwork survives to this day.
Speaking of surviving, this guy did not. It seems many of the people were trapped and preserved for a time in the volcanic ash. This photo shows a workshop where they continue to restore broken architectural elements, create casts from the volcanic-ash tombs of the people, and piece together the history.
It was so hot that day that many people escaped into the giftshop and cafeteria. But beyond the cafeteria was this lovely garden surrounded by a covered arcade lined with restaurant tables. We had a great lunch there of mozzarella alla caprese salad and lasagne. When we got to the restaurant we were seated immediately, but the place filled to capacity in no time, and people were being turned away. That's when you can really appreciate how the Italians don't try to rush you out. Instead of moving you along to make room for the next party, they wait for you to ask for the bill.
After we'd seen everything and passed by all the souvenir stands, we took the train back to Sorrento but did not get right back on the bus. Instead, we walked around the town and got a feel for the place. We asked the maitre d' at a restaurant if we could buy a bottle of wine to go, and he brought us back to a refrigerator. It felt as if we shouldn't have been allowed way back there, but he selected a wine bottle and sold it to us. Then we found a place to catch that bus and went back to our hotel, thoroughly exhausted. Paul went out and found a little shop that sold him some bread, cheese and prosciutto so we had a little snack with our wine and watched a Steven Sagal movie on tv. Later in the evening we went up to the rooftop bar of the hotel and ordered some Limoncello. The bartender, a friendly young man named Antonio, told us how Limoncello originated in Sorrento. I think they made their own there, and it was truly the best. We talked to him for quite a while, and I mentioned how I no longer felt as if I didn't look Italian, since I'd seen so many Italians who did look like me. I told him my family is Napolitano and he absolutely did not believe me. He shot down my theory. We told him that we wanted to go to Colle Sannita the next day, where my grandfather was from. He wasn't sure where it was, but we knew we had to take the Circumvesuviana into Napoli and then take another train to Benevento.