The morning after I met my tour group in Naples was Easter Sunday. And what better way to celebrate the holiday than to go visit Pompeii and see where once an entire city was covered completely in ash by a near by volcano! So I grabbed some chocolate easter eggs that the hotel staff had for us at breakfast and we were on our way.
Pompeii is amazing though and one of the most famous historical sites in the world. The last time I learned anything about this historic city was in grade school so I was looking forward to actually walking through the ruins and seeing everything with my own two eyes.
We were there for half of the day, but you could easily spend a whole day there as it is so large, and we had a guide named Leno who took us on an hour-long tour around Pompeii making sure to give us a brief history lesson and show us all the most important spots in the town that he wanted us to see.
If you’re not sure what this whole Pompeii business is about, in 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius, which is about five miles from Pompeii, erupted unexpectedly and the resulting ash descended on Pompeii and covered everything and everyone who hadn’t evacuated the city and killed 2,000 people. There was so much ash that even the very tops of the city were covered. Restoration of the city did not start until 1748 but continued until the 19th century and it is pretty amazing how in tact the city is today – partly thanks to the ash. When I walked around I realized just how developed of a city Pompeii was and then it disappeared in a day. Here’s what I saw:
Once we went down the steps out of Pompeii, we came down to the biggest tourist trap I’ve ever seen. Down at the base of Pompeii are stands with tons of knick-knacks and souvenirs, big tour buses, and a few restaurants and shops. The food options are not so great and so I settled on a big slice of pizza, one that couldn’t compare to the pizza I had in Naples and whose crust was so ashey, it stained my fingers black.
Our tour guide Elisabetta then took us on a 15 minute walk away from the ruins to a more residential part of Pompeii. We followed her like little ducklings all the way to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of the Rosary. Since it was Easter Sunday, Elisabetta wanted to go and get holy water for her grandmother and I wanted to try and light a candle so I was happy to follow her. While the church had people walking around or sitting it wasn’t as packed as I thought it was going to be on the holiday but it was an enormous space. There were so many rooms beyond the altar and pews and I followed Elisabetta through all of these rooms to one in the way back where they were selling holy water. Surprisingly, there weren’t any candles to light but one thing that stood out to me was a hall of framed pictures of strangers – young, old, male, and female – along with silver hearts and lungs. Elisabetta said that the pictures and silver organs were gifts to the church as a thank you for its blessings that cured ailments and diseases that belonged to all of those faces. This display was in a hallway I would never have found had I just stayed by the altar and the pews.
The threat of rain loomed all day so when we were leaving the church, it was pouring outside. Thankfully, it wasn’t raining while we were touring the ruins because there really is no place to take cover over there. We braved the rain and walked a few minutes back the way we came and arrived at Pasticceria De Vivo – a warm and dry haven filled with pastries, cakes, tarts, gelato, and coffee.
There is so much eye candy here and I wish I could have tried everything but I ended up buying a rum baba with an espresso on the side. A baba is a traditional Italian spongey cake soaked in liquor. There are plain ones or there are ones filled with chocolate or vanilla cream. I of course got one with chocolate cream. It was the perfect afternoon retreat especially when the rain started to really come down outside. In a matter of minutes, the ground was covered in a thick layer of white from the hail that came down. For someone like me who has been living through a California drought for the last few years, the rain and hail in Pompeii was like magic. I wish I could have brought it all back home with me.
Once the rain finally let up, our drivers picked us up and drove us to the Amalfi Coast. As I sat in the back seat, I loved hearing Elisabetta and our driver Aldo chit-chatting in Italian, laughing and catching up like the old friends that they were. As we got closer and closer to the coast, the roads got curvier and curvier and we finally made it to Sant’Alfonso, the agriturismo in Furore where we would be staying for the week. The place is amazing but I’ll have more to write about it soon!
*I paid for my own way on the “Local Living Italy – Amalfi Coast” tour with G Adventures and all thoughts and opinions are my own.