Pompeii – An Incredible Journey

To visit the ancient Roman city of Pompeii is like peaking through a curtain of time.  Pompeii offers the rare opportunity  to view what life would have been like for Roman citizens before that fateful day when Mount Vesuvius covered the town with volcanic ash. 

Pompeii, Italy

The year was 79 A.D, and the town of Pompeii was a thriving community and lovely resort area.  Located only 5 miles from Mount Vesuvius and near the Bay of Naples it offered the ideal spot for wealthy Romans to escape from their busy lives in Rome and enjoy relaxing times in their elegant villas. 

Pompeii, Italy

The town was complete with all that was needed to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle, including numerous shops, taverns, cafes and of course, bath houses.

The people of Pompeii would rise with the sun to begin their day.  Only wealthy citizens would have water in their homes, so most people would head to the public fountains to refresh themselves after their nights sleep, and then enjoy a breakfast of bread and cheese.

 

By sunrise, shops would be open and street vendors would be pedaling their merchandise.  The streets would be busy with people going about their business for the day.

After a lunch of bread and fruits, a wealthy Roman might head over to the amphitheater to view the gladiator games.  These were events of enjoyment, perhaps similar to a sporting event.  However, our current point of view would find them quite barbaric and inhumane.    

Other choices might include a visit to the theater for a play, religious celebrations or musical concert.  

Later in the afternoon, the wealthy and the slaves alike, would gravitate to one of the four thermal baths.  The public baths were a social meeting place where important events of the day might be discussed.  Men and women had separate bathing areas.  Some may have included a gymnasium for exercise as well.

Pompeii, Italy

The streets of Pompeii were not considered safe after dark, so Romans ended their day early. Shortly before sunset, Romans would head for home to enjoy a dinner of olives and eggs, perhaps fish for the wealthy. As there was no evening entertainment as there is today,  Romans would retire early.  

Pompeii, Italy

A day late in August 79 A.D. around noon,  Mount Vesuvius began to sputter it’s fury.  Across the Bay of Naples, Pliny the Younger, was staying at his uncles villa and later wrote of the disaster.  His letters report of a cloud “like an umbrella pine, for it rose to a great height on a sort of trunk and then spit off into branches.”  You may read Pliny the Youngers letters of the disaster here

By evening, ash and white pumice begin to fall on the town of Pompeii and roofs begin to cave under the weight of the debris.  Many of the people of Pompeii were able to flee taking with them what they could.

Vesuvius continued to pummel pumice, rock and ash on the town and victims of Pompeii for a 25 hour period.  Pompeii was eventually buried in volcanic ash.  Ironically, this same ash preserved bodies of the residents, art, jewelry, and fragments of their everyday life.  A visit to this amazing archaeological site opens a door to an incredible history of a town from long ago.  

Our visit to the ancient Roman city of Pompeii left me in awe of it’s amazing culture and deeply saddened by the events that occurred there.  By touring the ruins, I gained a much deeper understanding of how advanced this ancient society truly was.  I also felt a certain reverence at how quickly so many lives were taken along with the town and thriving culture in ancient Pompeii.  

 

 

Gardens of Augustus, Capri, Italy

With steep cliffs rising majestically from shimmering, turquoise blue waters, it is difficult to surpass the beauty of Capri!  Located in the Bay of Naples, Capri is well known for it’s magnificent views, as well as being a playground for the rich and famous.  Although there are many designer shops and fabulous restaurants and hotels, the incredible natural beauty of this island is what lures thousands of visitors to visit each year.

For our brief visit, we took a funicular up to the Piazzetta, or main square, where you will find numerous shops and restaurants.  A fifteen minute walk through the Piazzetta will lead you to the Gardens of Augustus, the idyllic terraced garden that provides sweeping panoramic views of the stunning cliffs below.

 

 

 

Originally, known as Krupp Gardens, named for the German industrialist who established them, the Gardens of Augustus are beautifully landscaped featuring bouquets of geraniums, dahlias and pansies.  The beautiful flowering gardens offers a perfect compliment for the numerous statues displayed there.   



Even more amazing than the gardens are the fabulous views of the bay of Marina Piccola and the Faraglioni.

The Faraglioni, three towering limestone rock formations just of the coast of Capri, tower approximately  100 meters above the azure sea.  The formations are named Stella, Faraglione di Mezza and Faraglione di Fuori or Scopolo.   Stella is closest to the shore.  Mezzo is the smallest and has the famous stone archway, which is large enough to pass through in a small boat.  Scopolo is home to the blue lizard, which can be found no other place in the world. The unique blue color of this lizard most likely developed to camouflage it in the surrounding turquoise water and sky.  

If you have the time, I would definitely recommend a boat tour that takes you past  the Faraglioni and visits the famous Blue Grotto.

After spending some time admiring the incredible views from the gardens, we wandered the lovely, flower lined streets of Capri and stopped at one of the numerous restaurants to enjoy a Cappuccino.

Our time in Capri came to an end all too soon.  I would have loved to have had at least a full day on this magnificent island, preferably a week……a month!

However, as we only had one day on the Amalfi Coast, ( not near enough ) we were wisked away to Sorrento for lunch and then a the fascinating Pompei!

If you have had the opportunity to visit the amazing island of Capri, I would love to hear about your experience!  As for me, it’s Arrivederci until next time.

 

 

 

 

 

Highlights of a Day in Rome

How can you possibly see the amazing city of Rome in just one day!  With it's incredible history, art and culture if you only have a day, you just do the best you can.

This was our quandary when visiting Rome on our Royal Caribbean cruise this past Spring. However, as with all of the ports that we visited, it's a matter of priorities.  For the limited time that we had, we choose the historical Colosseum and the Vatican. 

Our day began early with a bus ride into the Eternal City from our port in Civitavecchia and our first stop was the Colosseum.  Seeing the Colosseum was truly like stepping back in time as the amazing structure dates back to AD 80.  

Originally known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, this is a place where gladiators fought not only animals, but other humans as well.  The history is rather grisly, but the Colosseum itself is truly an amazing work of architecture, especially when you realize it was created over 2000 years ago.The Forum, Rome, Italy

From the Colosseum we took a walking tour and visited the Roman Forum, the place where Roman citizens would meet to exchange ideas, do business, and shop at markets. 

From the Forum, we continued on our walking tour through the city streets of Rome.  Our destination was the San Pietro in Vincoli to see the amazing sculpture of Moses by the infamous Renaissance artist Michelangelo.  This dramatic figure is nearly eight feet high in a sitting position.  A superb example of craftsmanship and beauty, Michelangelo's Moses sits with the Tablets of Law under his arm.  He is quite the imposing figure with intense looking eyes and muscular arms.  

After lunch, it was time to head to the Vatican City where we viewed the amazing Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo.  Lines to see these incredible museums can be quite long.  However, you can avoid the long lines by making a reservation and  buying your tickets in advance.  As with many European churches, it is expected that you cover your knees and shoulders, so no shorts or tank tops please!  

The Vatican Museum boasts an amazing collection of artwork and centuries old tapestries displayed in a long, narrow hallway that you pass through on your way to the Sistine Chapel.  We had a very competent tour guide to explain a bit about what we were seeing.  

The Sistine Chapel is magnificent and words really cannot describe the beauty of Michelangelo's impressive frescoed ceilings.  It is quite crowded as you pass through.  Remember, it is a chapel, and guards will attempt to quiet the large crowds that can be as great as 29,000 visitors per day!  Pictures are not allowed in the chapel.

Michelangelo's Pieta, his earliest masterpiece, can be seen when you visit St. Peter's Basilica.  Carved from a single slab of marble, this graceful sculpture shows a very youthful Mary holding the body of Christ in her arms.

I know that photos do not do the magnificent sculptures of Michaelangelo justice, nor the amazing city of Rome.  I came away with such a deep appreciation and better understanding of the history and culture of Rome. Even now, as I review these photos, I feel reverence to the memory of our visit.  

Although our time in Rome was brief, the experience was truly an event that I will always remember.  For now I have to say  Arrivederci Rome.  I will see you again someday!

The Amazing Views of Cinque Terre

The steep, rugged coastline of Cinque Terre is definitely a sight to behold!  Who could resist the magnificent views of the terraced patios and colorful homes cascading down the hillside to the sea!

Cinque Terre, Italy

Located in the northwestern corner of Italy on the Ligurian Sea, Cinque Terre consists of five seaside villages, all with amazing views of the Mediterranean Sea.  The centuries old villages are connected by a series of hiking trails, as cars cannot reach these quaint towns lined along the rugged coast.  The villages are also connected by rail, and each village hosts a train station.  You may purchase tickets online for the Cinque Terre Express to save time and waiting in long lines.  

Cinque Terre, Italy

To experience the fabulous views of the rugged coastline by sea, there are private boats available for excursions, or public ferry boats run from La Spezia to Levanto from after Easter to November 1st each year.  

Portovenere, Italy and the Bay of Poets

Our day began in the charming fisherman’s village of Porto Venere which you can read more about here.  After wandering the historical town and enjoying the views of the marina, we boarded the ferry for our journey to Portofino.  Whether you choose a private tour or decide on the public ferry, the magnificent views of the amazing coastline will not disappoint! 

Cinque Terre, Italy

The public ferry stops at four of the five villages and people will depart and board at each stop.  Corniglea, the smallest of the five villages, is high on a cliff with no beach or marina, but is accessible by train.  Time did not allow us to visit each village.  However, we truly enjoyed getting out on the water and taking in those fabulous views!

Portofino, Italy

Our trip ended at the charming village of Portofino.  Here we enjoyed wandering the village with the many shops and delighted in a fabulous meal at Ristorante Moren.  I can honestly say I enjoyed the best ravioli I ever tasted!  Sadly, I can’t tell you the name of the dish.  It was recommended by the waitress as I had no idea what to order.  It was a seafood ravioli with a touch of lemon and I while I’m normally not a huge foodie, I would return to Portofino just to experience that dish again!

Portovenere, Italy

One day on the Italian Riviera is definitely not enough! This is a spot that I could return to again and again.  Highlights were views of the incredible steep and rugged coastline and experiencing this charming and easygoing Italian lifestyle.  Not to mention that delicious ravioli!

However, as it goes with cruising a day was all we had. Next stop….. Rome!

Until next time – Gerri

Why We Skipped Florence for Portovenere!

Along the rugged coastline of the Italian Riviera are five very quaint and picturesque villages dating back to Medieval times.  The colorful homes cling to steep terraces and the harbors are filled with fishing boats.  This charming area with it’s jagged and steep coastline is known as Cinque Terre.  

Originally, when we were planning our Royal Caribbean Cruise to the Mediterranean Coast, the plan was to visit Florence while our ship ported in Livorno.  However, as I was exploring the area of northern Italy before our arrival, I knew that my heart was calling me to Cinque Terre and once again, it was the right call.  I am all about the quaint and charming and those steep, rugged  views, so Cinque Terre was definitely the place for me!

To begin our excursion to Cinque Terre, we took a bus from our ship, Vision of the Seas, to the charming Porto Venere, an old fisherman’s village on the Bay of Poets.  The colorful homes that face the shoreline along the marina offer the quaintness and charm that I find captivating.  Right by the marina, there is a delightful spot to have a cappuccino and enjoy the views across the Bay of Poets.

 

From the marina, stroll back a bit from the harbor and you will discover the old town of Porto Venere.  Wander through the old city gate, Porto del Borgo, dating back to the 12th century.  Once inside follow the steep, narrow streets full of flower and fruit markets and enjoy the many artisan shops along the way.

 

After a steep climb up the narrow streets built centuries ago,  you come upon a beautiful view of the Bay of Poets.  The Bay of Poets was a favorite spot of the English poet Lord Byron, where despite of his club foot, he participated in many water escapades.  

On the rocky point overlooking the Bay of Poets, stands the Church of St. Peter,  also known as the Church of San Pietro.  Built in 1198 in Gothic style architecture over a preexisting 5th century pagan temple,  the Church of St. Peter stands out prominently boasting it’s distinguished black and white bands for all to see.  Over the years, fires and ransacking caused damage to the structure and it was beautifully restored in the early 1930’s.  The interior is magnificent and definitely worth the steep climb for a peak inside!

Porto Venere is not actually included in the five villages that create what is known as Cinque Terre.  However, it is where our excusion began and it is definitely worth a visit.  There is no train service to Porto Venere, however, it can easily be reached by car, bus or ferry boat from La Spezia.  

With it’s astounding blend of nature and architecture, as well as it’s mix of history and resort area, Porto Venere is included as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and definitely a place to add to your bucket list of places to see!

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods, 

 

There is rapture on the lonely shore, 

 

There is society, where none intrudes,

 

By deep sea, and music is it’s roar.”  –  Lord Byron

 

Next post will include our boat trip along Cinque Terre to Portofino.  – Arrivederci for now!