Saturday, April 3:  Pompeii

We used our tickets from the B&B at the Bica Bar down the street to get coffee, juice and a roll. I tried to order Robert milk (“latte”) and it arrived warm. “Latte freddo” next time. Pat hit the laundromat to do her’s and the boys’, while I continued my search for a place where I could connect my laptop to the Internet.

We’d decided to tour Pompeii today, so I set out to find the small deli I’d seen earlier to get supplies for a picnic lunch.  (Photo 6) Ham, cotto salami, provolone, and bread made for an inexpensive and delicious lunch. The shop was one of those small places you’ve seen pictures of, where about four customers might fit inside and then they’d be bouncing their heads off of strange meats suspended from the ceiling. No name outside, but I’m sure every local knows it as Francesco’s. (Photo 14) We also secured a soccer ball for the boys to use once we find some open space.

Set to go, we walked through the town square to catch the Circumvesuviana (“around Vesuvius”?) train. Principally, this is a commuter train into Naples, but we stopped halfway, just outside the entrance to the Pompeii site. We ignored the guides looking for customers and the folks hawking guidebooks and proceeded in. Later, a guide past us, noted we were using a Rick Steves guidebook, and said “Next time do as Rick Steves recommends and go with me, I’m his recommendation in your book.”

Photo 6  Pompeii Lunch Stop
Photo 7  Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius
Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius need little explanation. (Photo 7) Still, despite knowing exactly what we were going to see, the site was incredible. In some instances, entire Roman villas have been excavated. You gain a real appreciation for how their daily lives were lived. Having heard so much about the Roman way of life the past few days, it really made an impression to walk their streets, drink from their communal fountains, visit their baths, bakeries and brothels, tour their homes, and enter their stadium and outdoor theatre. Most all of the walls are about 50% present, and in various locations entire buildings are intact. The streets are paved with large stones (0.5 meter diameter) so the walking is a bit uneven, but the streets (and sidewalks) are all in excellent shape. However, I was most impressed by the villas, with their central courtyards and pools. It reminded me of my first day of Latin class in seventh grade: “Lacuna est alta.” Little art work remains at the site (we’ll go to Napoli to see that), but besides buildings we also saw cement casts made from the cavities in the lava where people (and pets) had been trapped and died (or maybe they died and then were trapped).

I’ve been telling people we are not on vacation, but that the trip is a “study trip,” as much for my own outlook as for theirs. A few days ago, David referred to the trip as a big field trip. That’s what its beginning to feel like, each day is like its own field trip, surrounded by meals, homework, errands and journal-writing. Only it is 86 field trips in a row, “no stop.” The weather was warm, without being hot, and the sea-breezes at the front gate were refreshing. Shirt-sleeves most of the day and we applied a bit of precautionary sunscreen in mid-afternoon. After the downpour all afternoon in Rome, I’d begun to second-guess our “forever-spring” strategy, but today it played out very nicely.

For the return trip, the ticket seller at the train station seemed very confused when I gave him 22 euro for the 12 euro fare I’d paid in the morning. He said the fare was 7.80 euro. I told him it had been 12 euro this morning, thinking maybe I’d paid a surcharge during commute hours. Perhaps I held a round-trip ticket from this morning, he offered. Sure enough. . .

Dinner was at the Red Lion, which was more authentic than the name would imply. Our hostess at the B&B had recommended it to us, so Robert and I had checked a menu during our wanderings last night. The main attraction was a 4-course dinner for the adults (pasta, meat, side, dessert) for 10 euro. It was pretty good, but nothing to write home about. David had a pizza that looked excellent, while Robert had cannelloni. We splurged and let them have milkshakes, rather than the mineral water we’ve been having each day with lunch and dinner. Robert ordered a chocolate milkshake (“frappe cocoa”) and I misled him on the pronunciation of the “cocoa” part, so he was delivered a coconut shake, even though it was not on the menu. He was pleased and David was jealous. Third misstep today.

We got to the restaurant about 7:30 since Pat was famished, despite a gelato break at about 5 PM. At this time, it was still pretty empty, but by 9:00 they were packing them in. We’ve learned to ask for the check early on, since apparently the waiters believe you will think they are rude if they present it to you before you are ready to depart.

Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, so religion class will be in session for at least the entire morning.