We went down to Rome for a few days, with the main purpose of visiting Pompeii. Our train arrived about 7PM, but it was dark by the time we got a hotel, and got checked in, and had dinner. But it was a full moon, so we decided to check out some of the ruins by the light of the full moon.
The next day we took off on a skate tour of Rome, after sleeping in late. We went down around the Coliseum, through the Circus and we were heading to the Pantheon, when Marcus spotted the river.
There was some sort of market going on alongside the river. There is also a nice bike path, that would have made skating easy, but the riverside market was fairly busy. Bob and Marcus each ended up buying something for their wives. It was pretty cool checking out the market, and we eventually ate dinner along the river.
We needed to figure out how to get to Pompeii, but since we spent so long checking the river out we never actually got online (and our hotel didn’t have wifi) so we decided to hit the Vatican. The plan was to get up early and head over, but I guess we didn’t get up quite early enough, and there were plenty of tourists already at St Peters. It was funny walking through the gauntlet of people trying to sell tours. They promised a quick entry, passing the long queue. One person told us we would get lost, and another told us the queue was an hour long. While the queue was long, it moved relatively quickly and was only about 15 minutes. And it was hard to get lost, just follow the crowd of people.
St Peters is an enormous cathedral. I’ve visited the cathedral before, but it was still a neat experience. One thing I missed out on before was checking out the vanishing point. There is an enormous arc of columns in front of the cathedral (two arcs actually.)
There are four rows of columns, but they are situated such that if you stand at the focal point, all but the front row of columns disappears. ,
On our way back to the metro, we passed a pizzeria (surprise! Actually you’ll pass about a dozen) that was handing out free samples. It was perhaps the best pizza we’ve had in Italy. Marcus ended up buying one as a snack. From there we went to the Hard Rock, mainly to get some TShirts but we ended up having a long lunch as well.
I took the guys down the steps, through the expensive shopping district, and by the Tivoli Fountain.
We also found our way to the Pantheon.
It was quite a day of walking, and we were fairly tired. Our plan was to get on the net for a while, catch up and figure out how to get to Pompeii.
McDonald’s has free wifi. As much as I hate eating there, the plan was to grab dinner and spend a few hours on the net. We grabbed dinner and then found out we needed an Italian SIM card to get a password! Fortunately I only got this small wrap. We were a bit bummed and started to head back to the hotel when we passed an internet café that offered wifi.
We decided to do Pompeii as a day trip. Which is doable, but not really recommended. We got up at 5:30 AM to catch a 6:30 AM train, and missed it because Bob and Marcus’s alarm didn’t go off. We made the 7:30 train. We got the slower, cheaper train at 20 Euros each (there is a faster train but was 47 Euros.) Our original plan was to hit the museum first, then go to Pompeii. But the lady at the info Office suggested we go to Pompeii first. So off to the train we went. The train to Pompeii is like a subway. It was fairly cheap, but with approximately 20 stops, it took us about 45 minutes to get to the ruins.
Someone had recommended picking up a book from one of the vendors outside the ruins. I think the best thing to do is to get the free map and just use that. We only had about five hours to spend in the ruins, and the first thing we did was ran into a huge mob of guided tours. Almost immediately we zigged when everyone else zagged.
Pompeii is a huge city, complete with avenues and alleys.
Some of these roads are closed, and some still need to be excavated. But it is sort of a grid system, so there are lots of different routes. We sort of went in a counter clockwise order and saw some of the bigger items. We also saw a few things that all of us had wanted to see, like the life like plaster castings.
These castings were created by filling cavities in the ash with plaster. (This same technique was used to discover many of the flora that was growing at the time.)
Our plan was to head out about 3:30 to go to the museum. As we were walking back to the entrance we kept seeing more cool things to see. Like the brothel, and the bakery.
We finally caught the 4:30 train back. We saw less than half the city. There are also several other sites that are probably worth seeing. There is a three day pass you can purchase, and it is probably worth it. It is probably worth spending two days walking through the streets of Pompeii.
We rushed back to Naples, to head to the museum. We got to the museum about 5:30, and discovered about half the museum was closed down! A few of the exhibits we really wanted to see were closed, and a few of the other exhibits were also closed. We did get to see the model that was built in 1879 that is an incredible rendition of the city (well about half, as the rest still needed to be unearthed.) The model was an amazing piece.
It was probably a good thing that a good portion of the museum was closed as we left the museum exactly at 7:00. We were heading back to the metro, when we got distracted by the traffic. The number of scooters driving through the Italian streets is staggering. And this particular intersection was a T intersection. It looks like one side doesn’t stop, so it was interesting to see how people were merging. At this point Marcus decided to walk back to the train station.
Off we went, and it is hard to describe. Naples isn’t over run with tourists, and I got the feeling that this is what life was like. Narrow streets, clothes lines strung between balconies, people on the sidewalks socializing.
It was quite the experience. With a two hour train ride ahead of us, we decided to grab some dinner before heading back.
As we were sitting there eating a delicious Italian dinner,
Marcus remarked that the Rome train station closed at midnight. We figured the last train back left about 9:30. Unfortunately it was about 9:30 when we realized this! We rushed to get out of there, and ran to the station. Turns out the last train to the main station in Rome left at 9:30. But there was one that would take us to the other station in Rome that left at 9:50. Except it was 9:52 when we realized this! We missed the last train out of Naples, and had to find a hotel for the night.
We got up at 4:00 AM to jump on a train heading back to Rome. We got back to Rome around 7, and still had a few hours to enjoy our already paid for hotel rooms in Rome before we had to check out.
Our next destination was only a three hour trip away, so we decided to go into the Coliseum. We thought we could do the whole thing in two hours, but I think we waited in line almost that long! We probably should have taken the shorter line and paid the extra four euros for the audio guide. I’ve also been in the Coliseum before, but it is still site to see. It is also amazing how cool it is in the shade, with breezes blowing through the corridors.
Fortunately there was a train leaving for our destination every hour, cause we spent longer at the Coliseum than we intended. We then had a long lunch, and took our time dragging our bags back to the station. It is nice not being in a rush.
Pompeii is a really cool place to go visit, and I would love to go back. But I would suggest staying in Naples for a few days. It is less tourist centric than Rome, plus it makes it easier to get to Pompeii when you are already almost there. And Naples is right on the water, where Rome isn’t.