Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Naples, Italy

Herculaneum. You can see the town of Ercolano in the background literally built on top of the excavation site! 

The good weather finally deserted us in Naples, Italy. We were fortunate enough to have some patches of blue sky in the morning but otherwise rain accompanied us for most of the day. We also had to dig out our down jackets as we had sailed far away enough from the Eastern Mediterranean for the air to feel cold! Our day was delayed by over an hour as Italian officials decided that they wished to perform an inspection. The disembarkation was made worse by having only one gangway to walk off the ship from!

We finally made it out and met up with our guide for our private tour. We had been to Pompeii, Positano, Sorrento, and the Amalfi on our last visit and so decided to see something different this time around. Our first stop was Herculaneum, the OTHER ancient Roman town buried by the infamous eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD. The site was only accidentally discovered in the 1700s as it was buried under 20m of volcanic ash. Unlike Pompeii, Herculaneum is much smaller and mostly intact with approximately 75% of the town still buried. What amazed us was that the town of Ercolano sat on top of the area immediately surrounding the exposed part of the site.

The weather and the fact that Pompeii tended to be most visitor's first choice meant that there weren't too many other tourists around. It really helped to have a guide as she gave us an insight into the culture and architecture of the ancient town. It was hard to believe that everything we saw was nearly 2000 years old. We even saw remains of ancient residential lead pipes.

Our first stop, Herculaneum

Stone relief excavated which showed exquisite details right down to the toes

As one does if one were 4...look down any deep holes which one may fall into...

Most of the homes had summer and winter sections! This was an example of a summer section  which had covered porticoes surrounding a garden courtyard

original marble entry

Cavernous rooms all decorated with stuccos

One the best preserved mosaic found.

Details of the wall still visible in many of the buildings

A completely intact women's thermal bath

Mosaic floor as it was found

In disbelief that tourists are allowed to step on this ancient floor! Each square has a different picture

Details of the mosaic, this one is of the male private part...

Details on the wall

Even the benches are detailed

The people of the time were not very tall!

Ancient sign

One of the walls in the temple

A section only excavated one year ago

Originally timber "petrified" from the intense heat. People now pay a fortune for that stuff!

We left Herculaneum and headed to see the source of what buried the town, Mount Vesuvius. The volcano lost half its height after its big eruption in 79AD. The whole family couldn't believe how close houses were to the volcano! By the time we reached the top, the wind had increased significantly and it started to snow. The walk to the top was also (thankfully) closed. We continued on our way to a Naples city tour via a cameo school and shop. By this time, the rain was pelting down and it was miserable. We stopped at the Galleria Umberto, a shopping gallery with a glass dome built in the late 1800s, where we had an afternoon snack of typical Neapolitan pastries. The warm pastries improved everyone's moods immediately! They were consumed so quickly that I didn't have time to take photos. I was not going to miss out! We had sfogliatelle and baba au rum. You'll have to look them yourselves...

It was hard to truly enjoy Naples because of the weather and so it might be unfair to make comments from a single visit. However, the city seemed more disorganized with graffiti everywhere, and their buildings not as well after as other Italian cities we've visited. Modern additions seem haphazardly attached to what was otherwise amazing structures! By the end of the afternoon, no one wanted to be in the rain anymore and so our guides completely the tour and gave us the run down from within our vans. Our last stop of the day was a viewpoint on the hills of Napoli. The weather took pity on us and the rain stopped momentarily for us to take a photo overlooking the city. With that, we returned back to the ship where we had to sadly pack our suitcases in preparation for disembarkation tomorrow.

The galleria Umberto

A closer view of one of the wings

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