October 19, 2019 Naples IT

We slept in a bit today, and after pottering around the campground a while we headed into Naples.  When we got to the train platform here in Pompeii we ran into the French couple we did the Amalfi coast with yesterday.  Ginette and Michel were also going into Naples for the day and we ended up joining up for the day.

Romance in the air in Naples.  Ton had no idea she caught the couple in the lower left corner in the photo.

We did a couple of driving tours of Naples to get a feel for the city.  Naples is an interesting city.  It is as chaotic as any city you would find in the world, Ton said the traffic reminds her of Bangkok.  The traffic is a free for all, and entertaining to watch.  The city itself is grimy but seems full of character.  The setting for the city is absolutely beautiful with a large bay with the Amalfi coast in the distance, and Mt. Vesuvius looming over the port.  This is a city that no one is going to be neutral on, you are going to love it for its character and in your face attitude, or you are going to hate it for its grime, and lack of discipline.  I was a little tempted to extend one more day to spend some time on foot to get a better sense of the city, but Rome is calling.

The fort guarding the harbor in Naples.

We had a nice meal with Ginette and Michel, and really enjoyed our day with them.  Despite not having a common language we had a good time and learned about each other.  As the day went on Michel tried out his limited English, and Ton even began to dredge up some of her college French.  We really enjoyed their company and feel like we made some new friends.

Ton really liked this dog water fountain.

October 18, 2019 Amalfi Coast IT

Yesterday was a bucket list item for me, and today was a bucket list item for Ton.  Before every trip Ton gives me some places we must see, and we took care of one of them today, visiting the Amalfi Coast.  

One of the many stunning views on the Amalfi coast.

The Amalfi Coast is a spectacular 40km stretch of road strung along a peninsula.  The road is carved in cliff side, and the views are spectacular.  Part of the fun is watching the drivers deal with the hundreds of switchbacks on what is effectively 1 and 3/4 American lanes.  RV’s are forbidden which allowed me to enjoy the views and the chaos on the road as a spectator.  It was worth every dollar we paid to not be driving.  

A relatively straight section of the road, of course we are on the same road looking across at that stretch.

To give an example of Italian driving from today.  Our driver did not speak English.  At one point we were crossing a bridge and I saw a little village and harbor tucked under the bridge and pointed to get Ton’s attention.  Next thing I know the driver pulled over into the on coming lane (there were cars coming), threw the van in reverse, and backed to the middle of the bridge where he parked, turned around and looked at the 5 of us in the back seat and said “Picture”?  The five of us looked at each other and said why not? So we got out of the car while cars going in both directions dodged around us and the van.  The funny thing is this did not seem to faze any of the Italians in the other cars, vans and busses in the least, they all just shrugged and maneuvered around us like it was perfectly reasonable to stop in the wrong lane of a narrow two lane bridge to snap a few pictures.

The view from the bridge.

Our tour included  three towns and a tourist attraction.  The first town we saw was Positano which is the jewel of the Amalfi.  Steinbeck wrote a short story about it, and it has been featured in several movies.  It is a beautiful sea front with the town flowing up the cliffs.  Tourism is the main, (possibly only) industry in the town now, but the setting makes it worth dealing with all of the people.

Positano as we are dropping in on the road.
The harbor in Positano with ferries and tour boats coming and going.

The next stop was at a tourist attraction called The Grotto.  There were six of us on the tour, two other Americans, and a French couple.  None of us were quite sure what we were getting into, but it turned out to be a short tour of a pretty underwater cave.  

The light for the Grotto comes from an underwater entrance to the cave.  It is natural.

We next stopped at the largest city and the namesake of the Amalfi Coast, Amalfi.  In many ways it felt a lot like Positano.  A small harbor leading to another town carved from cliffs.  Amalfi did have a really beautiful cathedral though we decided to pass on the interior as we are getting a little jaded about cathedrals.

The exterior of the cathedral in Amalfi is really spectacular.

The final town for the day was Ravello which was up in the mountains of the Amalfi away from the sea. It was clearly the most prosperous of the towns, and looked like it dealt with a higher end clientele than the other two towns.  

Ravello way up in the mountains of the Amalfi coast.

We enjoyed poking around in a ceramic store with the French couple.  At the beginning of the day they were pretty quiet as neither one speaks English.  But by the end of the day we had a fun time communicating with them using broken English, broken French, broken Italian, sign language and smiles and laughter.  They have been traveling extensively and it is a shame we cannot communicate better as Ton and I would love to talk to them about their travels in Morocco and Greece.

This is the high end ceramic shop in Ravello, some of it’s clients include Mark Rufallo (the Hulk), Steven Tyler (from Aerosmith), Mariano Rivera (NY Yankees), and Rod Stewart (the singer). 

October 17, 2019 Pompeii IT

Since we are parked across from the entrance to Pompeii we decided to visit the site.  I have always been interested in Pompeii since I read about it when I was a child, so I was excited for the visit.  Pompeii was destroyed and buried when Mt. Vesuvius exploded and the ruins were not discovered until the 1700’s.

The city walls of Pompei.
A public fountain, all of the public fountains had faces on them.

But for me it was seeing the more day to day buildings such as bakeries, baths, taverns, public toilets and even brothels. The different houses from the rich, working class, and the poor were on view.  

A fresco from a wealthy home in Pompei.

It was very easy to imagine what life was like in this Roman town.  You can see very clear similarities between how people live today, and how they lived back then.  You can see how very highly developed things were and how some things are very common to today.  As an example the ovens used in the bakeries are almost identical to those used today for Pizza in the local restaurants.

An oven in a bakery that is almost identical to the pizza oven in the restaurant next to the campground. We think the large stone on the left is for grinding grain into flour.