Destination: Pompeii & Naples, Italy
Where we stayed: Crown Princess
Best restaurant: Antica Pizzeria da Michele - serving just two types of pizzas (margherita and marinara, basically a no cheese pizza) this little place is packed with locals and tourists with a line out the door. Vastly different than pizza in the states; the gooey, cheesy and thin pizza is best eaten folded over and some of the best we have ever had.
Best of: The most well preserved frescoes of Pompeii exist in the Brothel, read into that what you wish. The gooey goodness of Antica's (above) famous pies.
Worst of: Almost all of the artifacts from Pompeii are in a museum in Naples which we didn't have time to see. If you came to see all the pottery, "cement" men and other moveable objects save time for the Archaeological Museum in Naples.
We started the morning in Pompeii. This ancient city is one of the finest and intact examples of everyday life during Roman times. It was a bustling port city up until 79 AD when everything changed. Mount Vesuvius blew her top and completely covered the city in 30 feet of hot ash leaving it virtually intact and as it was on that day. Although most of the precious artifacts are in a museum in Naples, the city still provides a good overall glimpse into the daily life.
Serving an estimated 20,000 people, Pompeii had over 40 bakeries, 120 bars, lots of hotels and restaurants and of course, the oldest profession in the world - over 30 brothels. As a reminder of how the Earth is constantly changing, you enter through the old port where the ocean once lapped up to the walls, now nearly 30 miles away. Their famous "concrete" men were created when excavators found pockets of air buried in the ash they filled the holes with cement leaving a mold of how the victims perished in their various poses. Most of them are in the museum, but a couple are found here to explain the process.
The raised stones in the street served as stepping stones for pedestrians. Everyday the people would wash out the streets (no toilets back then) so these stones kept them high and dry. There are also remains of Egyptian temples and a synagague (yet to be uncovered) providing a glimpse into the diversity and tolerance for other cultures this city had.
Even the mosaics here are copies (the originals in the museum as well) but the copies give you context. "Have" means "Hail to Thee" in Latin, or basically, your 2000 year old door mat.
The best preserved frescoes in Pompeii are found in one of the Brothels. These small frescoes line the top of the walls as if reading like a menu of services. Scratched into the walls are the exotic names of the workers with comments filled in below like signing the guest book.
After Pompeii's exposure to the 1st century we headed back to the 20th century in Napes. As the third largest city in Italy, and the most densely populated in all of Europe, many visitors find Naples unappealing. We however found it quite enjoyable. With no real gangbuster sights (aside from the Museum) the appealing part is the humanity. We took a stroll through the older part of town stopping at a couple of places along the way. Hungry from Pompeii, we hit the pizza joint first (mentioned above), grabbed a drink from the convenience store, and sat in the "park". One down side of Naples is the lack of green space, but we made the best of it by finding a flower pot to sit on in a tiny plaza. From our spot we watched the people go about their day. Families lean out from balconies. As a side business, these homes sell various items and send them down to the street in buckets. Two guys sat on their motorbikes talking more with their hands than their mouths. Locals sat in the little cafe enjoying their long, leisurely lunches, sipping on coffee and smoking away. Ladies in stiletto heels and Gucci bags (perhaps knock offs?) buzzed through the street on Vespas. Children chased after one another. This is the real Italy. No tourist sights, no famous paintings, just the buzzing of life in a concrete world.
We made our way back to the ship for one last night of three course meals and the comforts of English speakers all around. Next stop, the end of our cruise and the sight packed city of Rome!