Europe 2014 – Pompeii – Ancient Ruins and Fast Food Joints

Timeline: October 19th – 20th

Rome to Sorrento via Pompeii

Rome to Sorrento via Pompeii

We cleared out of Camping Village Roma early as we had a nearly three-hour drive ahead of us to get to Pompeii and our tour there. The journey went smoothly, driving on the toll roads at a cost of 15 Euros, and we arrived per the GPS in a crowded part of the city; not the best choice for approaching on a Sunday afternoon.

Modern Pompei Outside the Gates

Modern Pompei Outside the Gates

After crawling through the crowded streets we found parking near the entrance to the site, parked, and grabbed a quick bite to eat from a shop nearby. We entered the park and wandered around trying to orient ourselves so that we could start our walking tour at the spot the Steve’s guide recommended, tough to do when the park ran out of maps and you have no idea where you are.

Outskirts of the Ruins

Outskirts of the Ruins

After some time, using the map in the guide and periodic displays inside the park, we found a good route and spent another three hours following the tour as outlined by Steves. I’d last visited Pompeii in 1979 and remember how much it impressed me, bringing to life how civilized and advanced these folks were. A blurb from the Steve’s guide is an example:

Every day, Pompeiians flooded the streets with gushing water to clean them. These stepping-stones let pedestrians cross without getting their sandals wet. Chariots traveling in either direction could straddle the stones (all had standard-size axles). A single stepping -stone in a road means it was a one-way street, a pair indicates an ordinary two-way, and three (like this) signifies a major thoroughfare.

Three Steps

Three Steps

The basalt stones are the original Roman pavement. The sidewalks (elevated to hide the plumbing) were paved with bits of broken pots (an ancient form of recycling) and studded with reflective bits of white marble. These “cats’ eyes” helped people get around after dark, either by moonlight or with the help of lamps.

Fast Food Joint Unadorned

Fast Food Joint Unadorned

Fast Food Counter as it Would Have Appeared

Fast Food Counter as it Would Have Appeared

This step into the past, reinforced by our visit to the Roman Forum the day before, helps us understand what life may have been like for a typical Pompeian. Few, if any of the houses had kitchens, as the danger of fire was pervasive. Most citizens relied on local vendors for their meals; our love affair with fast food is not a modern innovation as locals here could step out of their home and grab a bite to eat from a shop down the road as they went to work or set about on errands.

Track for the Sliding Door

Track for the Sliding Door

At a typical fast food joint, holes in the counters held the pots for food, each acting like a thermos with a wooden lid to keep the soup hot, the wine cool, and so on. A groove in the stone floor identified where the shop’s folding accordion doors would have been placed.   Via Abbondanza, Pompeii’s main street would have been lined with shops, bars, and restaurants, a lively, pedestrian-only zone. Three “beaver-teeth” stones acted as traffic barriers to keep out chariots and other traffic.

Beaver Teeth

Beaver Teeth

We completed our walking tour, having dodged an onslaught of tour groups from cruise ships, and made our way back to the car. Thus began an hour or more of harrowing driving through the crowded, clogged, and manic streets of Pompeii and the cities along the coast on the way to Sorrento.

Cruise Ship Tours

Cruise Ship Tours

Driving here is hard enough with crazy aggressive drivers in cars and when you add in the legions of moped riders who disregard every known law and any concern for their safety and Sunday afternoon pedestrian traffic, it was a white knuckle drive worthy of a Disney thrill ride.

I had thought I’d made a reservation for a trailer at a campground just south of Sorrento, Camping Santa Fortunata and when we finally arrived at the address, the gates were closed and there were no signs of life. Two days later I’d receive an email from them sampling stating that couldn’t fulfill our reservation request (see link below).

Villaggio Campeggio Santa Fortunata Request of Mann Jerry

Picture our plight; it has been a long day and we’ve just realized we are shut out with no access to resources to determine where we might find a lodging alternative. Fortunately we’d noticed a campground sign a mile or two back and so returned there, Camping Nube d’Argento, to find that they were open.

Camping Nube d'Argento

Camping Nube d’Argento

After a somewhat disjointed exchange with the owner, something akin to dealing with Basil Fawlty, we were directed to a lovely campsite, overlooking the bay below. Although we thought we were done camping, this would turn out to be a nice stop, one that would provide us with good facilities, a decent restaurant, good Wi-Fi and a pleasant covered patio to spend time in at night.

Campsite at Nube d'Argento

Campsite at Nube d’Argento

We set up camp quickly and efficiently, our practiced art and definitely for the last time on the trip. A semi cold beer brought some relaxation after the long day and we’d enjoy a couple of pizzas and inexpensive liter of house wine at the restaurant later in the evening. Fate had smiled on us once again, rescuing us from what could have been a minor disaster. Sometimes it is better to be lucky than to be good.

Pompei's Forum with Mountains in Background

Pompei’s Forum with Mountains in Background

Links

Pompeii: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pompeii

Camping Santa Fortunata: http://www.santafortunata.com/en/

Camping Nube d’Argento: http://www.nubedargento.com/en/

Basil Fawlty: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basil_Fawlty

One comment

  1. Your last days in Pompeii appear to have been significantly safer than before the volcano blew. Looking forward to hearing about your last days in Europe.

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