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St Peters and Pompeii

ITALY | Monday, 18 April 2011 | Views [438]

Posing in Pompeii

Posing in Pompeii

Determined to see St Peters & climb the dome before leaving Rome, I rose early and headed back to the Vatican for the third time. It was totally worth the effort. I joined the line that had already formed just before 8am to scale the 600 stairs to the top of the dome, winding our way up increasingly narrowing steps to a tiny corridor in the dome itself with skewed walls that made your eyes hurt, and finally ending in a tiny stairwell that made even me feel slightly claustrophobic. I’m guessing they must have some sort of size restriction when it comes to entering the dome! It definitely offered the best view of the city, though at 9am it was already hazy. After a mandatory wait at the top (strictly one way traffic in the dome), I headed down to the Basilica and was gobsmacked at the sheer size of the church. It felt more like several churches joined under one roof.

Made it back to the hostel just after 10am to checkout and catch the train to my next destination – the crazy, noisy, dirty city of Naples.

Hostel Mancini was situated near the train station and certainly felt like it was in the dodgy part of town (as all the reviews had stated), but the owner was lovely and extremely helpful, and I ended up with a private room for three nights which was a nice change! I spent the rest of the afternoon checking out the port area of the town and walked down to Castel dell’ Ovo on the peninsula, which was free to enter that week (good timing again!)

My first trip out of Naples was to see the famous archeological site that is Pompeii. I was very excited. Though I had my first trouble buying tickets on this trip as the grumpy ticket lady tried to sell me three return passes despite me holding up one finger and asking for “UNO returno”. I thought it was a bit suspect when the bill came to 25 euro! Finally I ended up with a daypass for 8 euro, which was still more than I needed but I ended up making good use of it. Pompeii was great, and I spent most of the day exploring the 3 amphitheaters, the garden of fugitives containing plaster casts of the bodies (whose curled up poses were not an indication of terror from the blast but “thermocontracture” of their muscles from the heat – courtesy of stalking a tour group), the brothel (with some very interesting pictures on the walls), and some of the many preserved houses. I ended up walking with an American lawyer, Dave, who had been working in the Middle East for the past three years with the army, and who conveniently also had a map (which I didn’t). After seeing most of the sights, including a mummified dog as well a several well fed stray dogs sleeping in the shade, he headed off to Herculaneum while I stuck around for a lazy lunch in the park. When several groups of screaming schoolchildren arrived I took it as my cue to leave, and caught the train to Ercolano, surreptitiously stalking an English school group to the Herculaneum site to avoid getting lost. Herculaneum is a much smaller site, but contains better preserved frescoes & tiles (most of the stuff from Pompeii is in the Napoli Museum) and had a plaster cast of the “mother protecting her baby”, which was quite poignant. Apparently this last time period has been the biggest gap between eruptions so far and it could be that the pressure is just continuing to build, so I’m glad I’ve managed to see it before it all blows up again!

Tags: castel dell ovo, naples, pompeii, st peters basilica, volcano

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