Friday 31st August 2012 - Pompeii
"No there won't be any shops," I say, exasperated, "but you're coming anyway. I didn't pay for you to come to Naples just to do shopping. While we are so close we should go an see the ruins at Pompeii. They're well known and spectacular. One day you'll be pleased we went."
Teenagers! It was a tedious trip and a reluctant, sulky teenager didn't improve matters. We set of on what was becoming the familiar journey via the Cumana Line from Lucrino, via Mostra where we changed to the Line 2 into Napoli Central. From their we took the line South to Sorrento. It seemed to take forever, but eventually just before midday we arrived. It was hot and I was pleased we hadn't come in the height of Summer.
Louise had her student ID card with her which gave her a discount on the entry fee. Once into the archeological park we hired an audio guide and drew €300 from the ATM, which we intended to last us for the weekend, and then began our tour from the Porta Marina entrance. We decided to attempt the recommended half day tour.
Our first stop was the temple of Apollo. I was keen to listen to the guide and take photographs but from the outset Louise was impatient, always moving on, looking straight ahead, almost determined not to let herself become interested. Some sort of compromise was necessary. We hurried on from Temple of Apollo to the Basilica.
Temple of Apollo
The tour route we had selected took us next to the ruins of the public administration buildings. Nothing could have sounded more boring to a wilfully bored and disengaged 16 year old. We hurried on, or rather she hurried on and I followed, to the forum (main picture above). She seemed a little more engaged with her surrounding in the forum, after glancing surreptitiously at the colonnades of the Edifici di Eumachia and breezing past the other buildings skirting the forum she stopped in front of the Tempio di Giove as though she'd seen it all and it was time to go. This was the first half hour. What would she be like by the end of the day?
We took a quick look around the marcellum (market) but there was no retail therapy respite there! Where to next? Let's hurry on. This was all the same, just a load of ruins and cobbled streets. When you'd seen one of the Casas you'd seen them all. The subtleties of the styles and the range from small to grand, the ancient representations of status were technicalities of no interest. Only the human story of the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79 and the number of people killed and preserved while going about their daily lives caught her imagination. So as a compromise we cut out some of the temples and houses and made our way to the two theatres, Grande and Piccolo.
Via dell Abbondanza
From here things looked up for a while, enough of interest even for the most stubbornly obstinate teenager. The two theatres sparked some imagination and a realisation of how much work had been done to excavate them from the ashes of the volcano, Vesuvius, the mountain which loomed large behind us. Could it erupt again now, while we were here? Possible but unlikely although it is considered the most dangerous volcano on mainland Europe. It last erupted in 1944, the only mainland European volcano to have done so in the last 100 years. An earthquake was more likely. She looked worried.
From the small theatre we headed up Via Stabiana, left onto Vicolo del Meandro and round the block marked as Regio 1, 6 on our map. It was all getting to be too much of the same again for Louise who clearly liked the grand civic buildings more than the residential streets and wanted to move on to the Necropolis outside the Porta Nacera and after that the amphitheatre. In our "haste" we missed the laundry, Fullonica di Stephanus, the only one in Pompeii which we were standing outside while planning our route to the grave yard.
We zig-zagged through the cobbled streets, right onto Vicolo di Paquius Proculus, left into Via di Castricio, right into Via di Nocera and down to the Porta Nacera, stopping only occasionally to take photos. We stopped near the Nacera Gate to take photographs over the roof tops of Pompeii with Vesuvius in the distance. The people buried in the mausoleums we were about to see were probably the lucky ones. Those caught in the eruption of AD79 were either buried in the ash or killed when the buildings they were in collapsed on top of them.
From Porta Nacera over Pompeii with Vesuvius as a backdrop
Some of the tombs in the necropolis by Porta Nacera
Many of the tombs and memorials in the necropolis were grand and elaborate and probably gave testament to the status and wealth of their deceased occupants. This probably wasn't a place we would like to come to in the dark.
After making our way slowly through the grave yard we returned over the bridge and into the town, finally arriving at the amphitheatre. Like a gladiator of old (or should that be a capitve about to be cast to the lions) Louise entered through the tunnel and into the arena.
Entering the amphitheatre
She didn't get eaten by the lions.
After wandering round the amphitheatre, imagining the crowd roaring for blood, we left and slowly made our way back through the cobbled streets to the entrance where we had arrived. Deposited the audio equipment, collected our bags from the luggage office and them made our way back to the station to await the train.
We were sleepy on the way back. The three hours wandering around in the heat had taken its toll. We arrived at Napoli station, purchased our tickets and made our way to the now familiar platform for the train which would connect us to the Cumana line and our trip along the coast back to Lucrino. On the station we were approached by two young men who made a big fuss about the time. It seemed they wanted to look at our watches.
When we arrived back at the hotel we found that my wallet had gone and realised that the two young men must have taken it, one picking my pocket while the other distracted us. We were tired and frustrated. The €300 we had withdrawn from the cash machine for the weekend and the remainder of our holiday had gone, together with all my bank cards. It took about two hours to cancel the cards and notify the insurance company. The hotel was not able to help us notify the police. Fortunately Louise still had her card and the Webmaster, back at home was able to transfer money to her account which we could use for the remainder of our trip. In the end it turned out to be a minor inconvenience and a lost half day while we attempted to report the incident and get a crime report for the insurance company which would cover up to £250 in lost or stolen cash. In the end we had to return to Naples and talk to the police unit near the station, but it was all part of the experience and an excuse for Louise to visit more shops.