Wednesday, September 30, 2015


Top of Mt. Vesuvius
We had decided that it would be a fun mini  trip to go south and visit Pompeii and the Amalfi coast. Caleb, Joel and Danielle had learned about Mt. Vesuvius and Pompeii at school and we thought it would be a fun, full circle learning experience for them to be able to visit the sites that they learned about.  We headed to Naples and started our drive up to Mt Vesuvius.  Justin noticed some smoke coming from the mount and said he thought the volcano itself was sending out the smoke.  I started laughing and said it was just a factory or something like that.  The road was pretty sketchy, rather narrow and full of trash.  I kept asking Justin if this was correct and he kept telling me it was.  Eventually we saw several tour buses, so we knew we were on the right track.  I was surprised at how many homes and buildings along the way were completely  abandoned and vandalized.  We got to the parking and started heading up to the top.  The walk up is said to be 800 meters, which didn't seem too bad.  It is 800 meters but up a very steep and gravel slope.  The day itself was quite hot and combined with the hike we were all sweating and drinking lots of water.  I carried Eden on my shoulders for about 1/3 of the way up and Justin carried her the other 2/3.  When he put her down she started telling us all to hurry up and come on.  Once we got to the top we took in the enormous crater and the kids contemplated the ash and rocks shooting into the sky down to Pompeii below.  We continued to walk along the rim and again noticed smoke.  We then noticed a plane heading towards the smoke and dumped tons of water on it.  We walked over to look towards the hillside and saw that there was indeed a fire and that it was about 1km below where we were standing.  We proceeded to watch the plane fill his water tank in the sea and come back to dump the water on the fire.  We watched this for about 30 minutes.  I was completely surprised that they had allowed all these tourists, us included, hike up the mountain while there was a good size wildfire going on.  Apparently, concerns about smoke inhalation or the fact that the fire could move faster than expected was not on the minds of any governing agency.  Justin was right Mt. Vesuvius was smoking.    After watching the plane and fire, we continued around the rim and then headed back down the mountain.  You would think down would be easier but, wrong, wrong, wrong.  The gravel is very slippery and if you are not careful about where you step you can easily fall.

Looking into the crater at Mt. Vesuvius
Wildfire on Vesuvius with plane making a pass to dump water on a hot spot

Once back at the car we proceeded down the sketchy hill to visit Pompeii.  On our way there we saw several people throw trash out their car window.  Maybe this is what is contributing to the garbage issue?  We got into the city of Pompeii and started to walk around, and it really is amazing at how well the ash had preserved all of the structures and provided a very important view into the lives of the people living here in 79AD when Mt. Vesuvius erupted.  The first place we encountered was their colosseum, where they had a special exhibit set up.  Once inside the exhibit you got to see some of the casts of the people in the positions they were when they died. It was quite a sobering site.  We continued on our exploration and encountered a very nice guide, Giovanni, that proceeded to give us a private tour of some of the highlights of Pompeii.  We visited the home of a merchant, and oil producer, the baths, large amphitheater and small amphitheater.  We were impressed to see so many frescos that had been preserved under the ash and even the shopkeepers cases covered in marble tiles were perfectly intact.  He also brought us to a newly discovered area where they had found the bodies of 7 adults and 3 children trying to flee the city.  The bodies had been discovered in what would have been the garden of the home.  They had not made it very far because Giovanni explained to us that the toxic gases would have asphyxiated them in an instant.  He also explained to us that the ash that was falling was about 700 degrees Fahrenheit.   Giovanni explained also that once a body was discovered they made a hole in the skull cavity and filled it with a plastic that took 2 weeks to harden.  Once hard they then finished excavating the body.  If they did not do this process the entire body would crumble because there was nothing left inside the case except for some of the larger bones.  This process ensures that the person is preserved. They also use DNA testing to find out if the people found together are related.  The 10 newly discovered people were 2 different families.  We had a fantastic time visiting Pompeii and the kids loved being able to see firsthand a place that they had learned about in school.  Once we had finished we walked over to a gelateria and had gelato for dinner.  It was still so hot that no one was very hungry.  The man at the gelateria was so nice he gave Eden hers for free and kept calling her "bella, bella".  At this point we needed to find our apartment that we rented just for the night.  We put the address in our GPS Daniel and I started to drive over.  Let me tell you driving in Italy is one thing, driving in Naples is something completely different.  The roads are very narrow and there are absolutely no "rules".  It's do what you want, and let me tell you they do exactly what they want.  My favorite is honking when the traffic is not moving, like honking would somehow miraculously make the traffic start moving again.  Keep honking and maybe all the cars will disappear and the road will be perfectly clear.  I weaved my way  around cars, garbage and people and we finally made it to the apartment. The neighborhood was scary at best.  We met the husband, Aniello, who seemed nice enough and he let us into the courtyard to park.  Once we crossed the gate it was totally different. It was a nicely lighted, pretty garden.  Aniello and his wife Adele and their 2 1/2 year old son Luigi, let us into the apartment.  Eden and Luigi hit it off and started to play, they sat in the 2 large chairs and I made the comment that they looked like the king and queen.  Well, the kids liked that and were all smiles.  Adele and I took pictures of the kids.  We had a wonderful stay at the apartment and it even came with a great breakfast that Adele prepared for us.

Casts of some of the bodies buried in the ashes and later discovered

Serpent fresco

At the bath house

Performing Arts Amphitheater
Sitting in Amphitheater

Arcade in Pompeii with a great name!

Eden with new Italian friend Luigi

Tunnel from parking to Amalfi city center
After breakfast we were on our way to the Amalfi coast.  We decided to drive along the coast to get to the city of Amalfi itself.  Well, we encountered yet another fire, but this time it was burning on the hillside along the road.  everyone just kept on driving.  We literally drive over some smoldering wood.  I was astounded!  There was no police, no firefighters, nothing.  By all appearances there wasn't even anyone trying to put out the fire.  So here we are on a cliff-side, narrow road with fires, talk about crazy.  This was something neither Justin nor I have ever experienced, and to be honest once is enough.  Although it was worth the risk because the sights and views were fantastic.  So by the time we reached the city of Amalfi we encountered about 4 more fires within close proximity to the road.  Once in Amalfi Justin drove into the first parking garage we saw.  I was not happy because it looked like you had to walk along this crazy road to get to the city.  I told Justin that I was not walking along that road. Once we went past the gate a parking attendant told us that everyone except the driver had to get out.  Odd.  So we all got out and they sent us down a long hall to wait for Justin.  While waiting I noticed a sign pointing towards Amalfi center.  They have a whole system of tunnels that take you into the city versus walking along the sketchy road.  I must not be the first wife and mother that refused to walk along that hazard way. The kids were quite amused by the tunnels saying this was totally James Bond.  They even figured that an Aston Martin could fit for a pretty cool chase scene.  Just a suggestion United Artists. Once in the city we had a great time walking around the safer routes and taking in the amazing views.  The water is such a spectacular deep blue.    We walked all along the coastline and on to a pier.  On the way back we stopped for a gelato.  Then we headed back to get the car.  Again, only Justin was allowed to get the car.  We never really figured out why that was.  Justin said the garage was bigger then some and the cars were parked just fine.  Still a mystery.  We decided to take the up and over route instead of continuing along the coast.  At one point we headed into a national park.  I was disturbed to see the mounds of trash everywhere.  It kind of threw me that there seemed to be no regard for the environment, or even pride of where you lived.  They seem to treat it like one big garbage can.  Also, I noticed that the neighborhoods and homes are not maintained at all.  It was really unfortunate because it is a very pretty place if you can look past the shabbiness and trash.  On our way back north to Ficulle you really could see the place where the trash ends along the freeway.  You could see a very apparent line of where the next region began because it was beautifully maintained.  Once back in Ficulle we got to talk to Shana our host about some of our observations, fires and trash.  She said that the fires were probably set by cigarettes being thrown out and that no one reacts because it is so common.  She said that Neapolitans are almost in a country of their own, they don't go south and definitely not north.  She also said that is what happens when mobsters run the city.  She had a very interesting perspective.  Although Naples had its quirks we had a great time and it made all of us appreciate when people care for where they live.  The kids loved being able to see Mt. Vesuvius and Pompeii and we all had a great time seeing someplace so different.

Amalfi Coast

Amalfi Duomo

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