Diaries - Travel - Photos

Previous Diary - Next Diary



September 29-30
Written September 29-Oct 3-7

Dear Family and Friends,
On Saturday, September 29, we started north, toward home in Germany.  We had been on the road for three-and-a-half weeks and now planned to take a week or so getting home.  Saturday's drive took us out of the heel of the boot, through mountains that run down the country's spine, and onto the western Italian coast.

The drive was 400 kilometers, on a mix of roads, all called either "superstrada" or autostrada.  The flat four-lane freeways we started on stayed four-lane, in theory.  In fact, through the mountains, almost 100 kilometers were construction zones with each side of the superstrada getting reduced to a single lane.  Nevertheless, we made decent time and hit the six-lane A3 autostrada on time.  We would stay on this toll road for the next several hundred kilometers.

It was a nice drive today, but we have a long way left!
Our goal was Pompeii.  We wanted to spend a full day on Sunday in the ruins, but first had to find our hotel, "Studio83".  Selecting hotels on the internet can be a challenge, especially if the website does not match the hotel in quality or details.  In the case of Studio83, I'll admit I was having doubts when we found the address, a large office-apartment building on a busy, chaotic commercial street.  Not good curb appeal.

Marianne parked in a driveway and I went in to find out the story. I was met by Fabio, the manger/owner and we confirmed that we did have reservations in his hotel, in one of only three rooms!  Fabio volunteered to park the car, so we brought our bags into the small room, gave him the car keys, and wondered.  All our objective criteria for hotels were met: clean room, secure parking, friendly staff, good internet connection and we even had CNN on the television for the first time in Italy.

Task one was lunch.  We took Fabio's advice and walked to a trattoria in the town of Pompeii, an adequate family environment.  After that, we went to see where the entrance was to the ruins.  We had planned on putting all our ruin exploration on Sunday, to save admission costs I presume, but when we got to the archaeological park, we discovered that the Pompeii ruins were free this weekend!  Some sort of UN-sponsored memorial event.  We went in.

Since we had a full-day planned for Sunday, these are just first impressions. We would have far more pictures than we should.
Day 1: Colosseum and a few houses. 
Street stones still show wagon ruts.

On Sunday, our tour of the Pompeii ruins was all we could hope for.  We took many pictures in the four or five hours that we managed to work in, but afterwards felt that nothing really conveys the magic of what we had seen.

d120930_02_longWalk.jpg First, the place is huge.  We had been warned, but the  reality of the size of the unburied Roman city defied the warnings.  Next, we were impressed that everywhere we turned we remembered that these walls and buildings and frescoes and  roads were over two thousand years old.  Pompeii was destroyed in 79 AD, but it was a 500-year-old regional sea port at that time.

And the colors and decorations that were still visible!  Amazing. It seems that the house and building interiors had been covered with bright colors and frescoed paintings.  The outside surfaces were also originally covered in plaster and paintings, including painted advertisements and messages.  The Roman city would have put these white Italian hill towns to shame.

I have not added too much more description, beyonds too-many pictures.  I really could not do justice in the limited time I had, and our two part-days were simply not long enough to develop enough insight.  I'll leave it to the many available professional guide books and websites.

Pompeii -- the modern town.

Clearly, the modern town of Pompeii makes its living from servicing the Roman ruins' tourists.  Streets near the ruins are lined with kiosks selling maps, guide books, t-shirts, and Roman kitsch.  On its own, Pompeii has a nice church, but little else that is attractive to tourists.  We had two lunches where the food was OK, but the service a bit grumpy.  To balance, we had an excellent dinner at La Bettola del Gusto, just across from the train station.  The larger hotels we saw looked a bit travel-worn and some of the smaller places looked worse.  Unfair, I know, without staying, but it's our impression.

Overall conclusion:  Everyone needs to see the Pompeii ruins.  Ignore the crowds.  Ignore the "touristy" nature of the visit.  Just try to imagine people living here thousands of years ago. 

Seeing all of the Roman ruins really needs two days, so an overnight or two is convenient.  If  a simple room with great service is OK with you, contact Fabio at Studio83.  If you want a nice meal, go to La Bettola del Gusto.  If you want kitsch, we have no recommendations.


John and Marianne


Diaries - Travel - Photos

Previous Diary - Next Diary