Doesn’t time fly? It was year ago now that I was on a cruise holiday. Back in February I decided that I would provide a blog on each of the places that we visited, to share my photographs more than anything, but it is almost 6 months since my last blog – Cruise Holiday Part 5: Kotor, Montenegro. However, I am determined to finish the project and, since we didn’t have an exotic holiday this year, what better way to cast off the winter blues than to reminisce on holidays past.
And so we finally come to Naples, which we visited way back on 31 October 2011, so my memory is getting a bit hazy on the details. I have previously commented on the gamble of booking trips from the ship – they are not always worth the cost. In the case of Pompeii, however, it was well worth it and this trip was possibly the best of the holiday.
We berthed in Naples and grabbed breakfast ready for an 0800 start. The coach trip to Pompeii took around 45 minutes and we were lucky to have a very informative and entertaining guide. We were provided with headsets for the tour, but unlike the tour from Kotor, the guide was very particular to make sure they worked properly, so we could actually hear what he was saying.
The city of Pompeii was a Roman town which was destroyed and buried under ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. It was lost for nearly 1700 years before its rediscovery in 1748. Since then it has been excavated to provided an extraordinarily detailed insight into the life of a city and is now an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Sadly I can now remember little of the detailed information we were given on the tour, but looking through the pictures brings back the wonderful feel of the place. The site was much more extensive than I had imagined and we spent a very interesting couple of hours wandering around the ruined city. Throughout the sun shone and it was very hot – the weather couldn’t have been better.
Much of the city is narrow streets flanked by ruined but often largely intact buildings. There was an impressive amphitheatre and numerous Roman columns to see, as well as surprisingly well preserved murals.
Pompeii was clearly a pretty broad-minded kind of place and much hedonistic’ art was discovered there. Some of this hedonism can still be discerned as phallic symbols can be seen on the outside of buildings to indicate the kind of activities which may have taken place within. Phalluses can also be seen engraved in the road, pointing the direction towards the brothels should you be a stranger in town.
More sobering were the all-too-detailed casts of the poor people caught up in the eruption that can be seen here and there around the site. Amazingly you can still see their teeth as their faces contort in the agony of their deaths. One especially harrowing figure is that of a pregnant woman squatting on the ground apparently praying to no avail.
The city was quite busy and, as we wandered off to take pictures it was very easy to get separated from the tour. It is usually me that goes missing in such events as I get engrossed in my photography, but luckily I managed to keep up. There was drama however as a couple of people did go missing, but luckily we caught up with them as we headed back to the coach.
It was still only lunchtime when we arrived back at the ship, so we used the courtesy shuttle bus to take us into Naples. Our initial impression of the city was that it was chaotic, crowded and not a particularly pleasant place. We fought our way through the packed streets and unpredictable traffic and found somewhere for a lunchtime snack. Here I had the dubious pleasure of watching Sharon and Andy share what looked like a delicious, authentic Italian pizza whilst my dairy intolerance prevented me from actually joining in their enjoyment. Sob!
Either by luck or good planning, our lunch stop turned out to be very close to the Umberto I Gallery, an incredibly impressive and ornate shopping precinct. We weren’t too interested in the shopping, but were sufficiently awed by the architecture. From here we found our way to a very pleasant open plaza and the Town Hall building – an oasis of calm amid the chaos.
Heading back toward the ship we came upon Castel Nuovo, overlooking one of the closer cruise terminals (not ours – that was still a bus ride away!). This was also a very pleasant place for a wander around, especially one part of the building which had a thick glass floor allowing you to look down onto the ruins below – very disconcerting to walk on!
And so we headed back to the ship, where Halloween preparations were well underway for the evenings entertainment.