Sunday, July 9, 2017

May 17th, Part Two: Ruins, Traffic, and a View

Spending the morning at the museum helped give the next stop a bit more perspective. A little bit of driving later...

...we were at Pompeii!

There were a lot of tour groups wandering around, but Mark and I decided to just grab the free guide book and map and poke around on our own. I had downloaded a podcast that explained a few of the things in more depth, but we wandered off that path pretty fast and just made up our own tour. Those stones in the middle of the road were kind of like a crosswalk; the carriage wheels could pass on either side of the stones, and people could walk across on top of them without having to step in (what was then) the dirty street.

After a few minutes we reached the Forum. This was the center of daily life in the city and a lot of the main public buildings surrounded the square.

It was pretty cool to see Mount Vesuvius in the distance. We spent a few minutes looking around, then starting walking down Via Dell'Abbondanza, one of the main roads through Pompeii.

One of the first houses we came to was the House of the Wild Boar. It's called that because of the mosaic in the floor that depicts a wild boar being chased by dogs; you can see part of it in the middle of the picture. The sun glare washed a lot of the picture out, plus there was a gate across the entrance so you couldn't go back to explore, but this website has some awesome pictures of the floor mosaics in this house. (Part of the reason it's taking me so long to write these posts is that as I research, it's so easy to fall down the rabbit hole and just keep reading about the history of each place!)

The Large Theatre was a little further along. You could walk all through it, and people were sitting around, hanging out. This was the first large public building that was completely uncovered when they started excavating the ruins.

This is the atrium of the Fullery of Stephanus. It was basically a laundromat; they primarily washed dirty laundry. When they excavated this, they found a skeleton near the entrance carrying a bunch of coins; it may have been the owner. From the guidebook: "...slaves had to tread on fabrics and clothes for hours, placed under a liquid containing human and animal urine, collected in pots placed along the streets, which intended to treat the fabrics." So, there's that. I think I'll stick with my washer, dryer, and nice-smelling laundry detergent.

A couple buildings further down Via Dell'Abbondanza was the House of Paquius Proculus. The entrance was closed off, but you could still see through the gate to the entryway and atrium. There was a really cool floor mosaic of a chained dog at the entrance.

Looking across the atrium. The mosaic floor stretched through the entire room; this website has some great pictures of the rest of the floor about halfway down the page. 

We wandered through a few more buildings, then starting making our way down some of the side streets. It was pretty crazy to see the quiet remains of so many buildings and know that they used to be part of a busy city.

We eventually reached the Garden of the Fugitives. The area had been a vineyard, and 13 people were found trying to escape when they were hit with the pyroclastic flow from the eruption. As they excavated the ruins, the workers poured plaster into the empty spaces where the people had been to create casts of the bodies.

This is looking out from where the casts were. They've replanted the vineyard and actually make wine now. It's kind of crazy to think that for those people, this was basically the last thing they saw. We poked around for a couple minutes, then kept going.

A few minutes of walking brought us to the House of Venus in the Shell. The mosaic here stretched along the entire wall; Mars is on the left with a spear and shield, and there is a fountain with birds on the right. The detail of the frescoes was incredible, especially considering how old they were and what they had been through.

The amphitheater was on the far eastern side of the ruins. It was build in 70 BC, and could hold 20,000 people.

Some of the rows of seats had been destroyed and covered with grass, but a few rows of seats still went all the way to the top.

We started slowly working our way back to the other side of the ruins. We passed a few areas like this, that were filled with scaffolding and supports and hadn't been fully excavated yet. I can only imagine what they might eventually find; I'd love to get the chance to be part of a project like that someday.

As we got a little closer to the Forum, we came upon the Stabian Baths. These date back to the 2nd century BC, and were pretty extensive. There were areas for both the men and the women. We ran into a lot of tour groups here, but we were able to weave our way around them and head inside.

This was part of the wall and ceiling in the women's calidarium, or hot baths. The ridges running down the sloped ceiling helped keep the condensation from dripping all over the place.

Next door to the Stabian Baths was the House of Siricus. There were some pretty cool frescoes in the atrium; this is just a small detail of one of them. You can see more of the pictures here at what has fast become one of my favorite websites. 

We made our way down a few side streets. You could see grooves in some of the stones from carriage wheels, which was neat.

We eventually wandered over to the Lupanar. It was an, um, adult establishment. It didn't look especially comfortable with a concrete bed; hopefully they at least had some cushions. Don't worry; I spared you the frescoes depicting what services you could buy if you were so inclined.   :)

After wandering down a few more streets we made our way back out to the forum. We had been wandering around for a few hours, and it was pretty toasty out, so I think we were both starting to wilt a little.

We did make one last stop at the Forum Granary. There were rows and rows of jugs and bottles and amphorae, and there were also a few more casts on display.

I could have easily spent days in Pompeii and not gotten bored, but we still had a bit of driving ahead of us to get to our last stop of the day. We said goodbye to Pompeii, made a quick stop for a strawberry slushie (which was the absolute perfect thing, considering how hot and tired we were), then picked up the car and hit the road. Time to check out the Amalfi Coast!

The views along the drive were pretty impressive... was the traffic. Holy monkeys, that was insane. The roads are very narrow and steep and twisty, often with sheer drops just over the walls on the side. We hit several spots where we came to a complete stop for minutes on end because somewhere up ahead, tour buses were nose to nose around hairpin turns. Finding the hotel was even a bit of an adventure, but we eventually reached Praiano, found the hotel, found a place to park the car, checked in, and enjoyed our welcome glass of wine.

Second hotel of the trip, and another great terrace view. We hung out here for a little while, enjoying the view and decompressing from the drive, before eventually getting cleaned up and heading to dinner.

We had noticed a neat looking restaurant just a few buildings up the hill from the hotel while we were driving around, so we decided to walk up and check them out. We were able to get a table outside with a view of the water, and I ordered their special menu for the night.

It was a good choice...everything was incredible. Cuttlefish salad and fish ravioli and little fried anchovies and panna cotta, all washed down with wine and later, limoncello. The weather was gorgeous, the view was gorgeous, and the food was amazing. It was a nice end to a long (but good!) day.

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