On the first night in Italy, we slept. I think we slept a total of 12 hours. Liz was getting over some sort of bug and we were tired from the long journey. Because we went to bed really early it did not prevent us from getting up bright and early the next day. This is something we have tried to do consistently throughout the trip because I wanted to take as many pictures as possible and the best time to take landscape pictures is first thing in the morning. Unfortunately for me, the day ended up being pretty cloudy in the morning, but I made do with what I had.
One of the odd things about Southern Italy in general is the preponderance of dogs just walking the street. I am not sure if Italy just does not have the same amount of animal control as the States do but the loose dogs on the street was quite noticeable.
The golden dog pictured above became our guide in Sorrento. He seemed determined to show us the sites and followed us wherever we were going. It was early, and the streets were empty (another advantage of taking pictures really early in the morning) so he probably had nothing better to do. He eventually guided us down to the coast where I was able to get some good pictures of Sorrento early in the morning.
After the hard day of traveling the day before, it was very serene to be on the Sorrento Coast with nobody else around. After walking around the city in the early morning, our next stop was to make it to Pompeii and see the ruins. This was supposedly a short train ride from the Sorrento Train station but like most things in Italy, my wife and I found a way to make it difficult.
On the train, called the Circumvesuviana, has two stops marked for Pompeii, Pompeii and Pompeii Scavi. For those who do not know anything, Pompeii seems to be the right one. But for those who know Itallian, Scavi means "dig". So Pompeii Scavi is the right stop if you wish to go see the ruins of Pompeii. It is also the easier stop to get to as there is no transfer while there is a transfer of trains to get to Pompeii.
My wife and I were in the last train car and were confused about which one to get off on. We guessed "Pompeii" and as it turns out we were wrong. Only one person in our car got up to exit the train at the Pompeii Scavi stop so we figured we were OK. But when the doors closed we saw a throng of (excuse me for being racist here) white tourists who had exited the train and heading toward the site. We quickly looked up "scavi" in our dictionary to find out what it means and quickly determined we had missed our stop. To compound the situation, the train heading in the direction back passed us on the way to the next stop meaning we had to wait even longer for it. When we got off on the next station it was clear we had made a mistake. We were the only ones to get off the train, clearly not something that would have happened at a major tourist site. On the bright side, my wife and I will always remember that "scavi" is the Italian word for dig.
When we finally made it to Pompeii Scavi, the ruins were right outside of the small train station. The site is huge. It is hard to imagine a whole city like that being buried by a Volcano only to be dug up later by a bunch of archaeologists.
While I think it was an interesting place to go I think I was somewhat disappointed by the whole thing. For me, the ruins start to blend into each other after a while. One pile of rubble starts to look like the next pile of rubble. What was even more disappointing was that all the best places to go were restricted to tourists by gates. Below is a picture of a typical experience for us.
It is probably safe to say that a third of the places listed on the audio guide were closed off to the public. It is probably equally safe to say that all of the best and most interesting places were gated off. It became increasingly frustrating that the audio guide would tell you to walk through a doorway and see a beautiful fresco painting only to be met by a locked gate. Even worse when you could not walk into the site in the first place. Since there were so many places that were closed, we were able to walk around the whole of the Pompeii site in a matter of about three or four hours. Our luck being what it was with the trains, we saw the train back to Sorrento pull out in front of us so had to wait for the next one.
That night, we went to another out of the way restaurant. I had the calzone, she had the spaghetti with clams. They were both excellent. It was seriously the best calzone I had ever had. The crust of the calzone was excellent and the cheese was just superb. We were also given some of the local champagne, prosecco which ended up being pretty tasty. Thus far we were pretty impressed with the food we had been served in Italy. And this was only the beginning of the trip.