Published: September 23rd 2012September 16th 2012
I woke up nice and early in preparation for our trip to Pompei. The day before, we had booked our train tickets and had a deadline. I packed up my stuff and soon it became panic time. While Gwosh were packing, I ran downstairs to check us out. They soon followed, we made a few croissants and wrapped in foil and started booking to the Termini train station. And I mean booked. Friggin Gwosh - times like these show how short my legs really are. I should have left when I was packed, getting a head start. I literally had to run every 10 steps and I still could not keep up! but, we made it. However, we had a hard time find our seats on the train to Naples (Napoli) and I suspect it had something to do with people sitting in them! And let me point out- they knew it too. We were all in different sections, but we wound up finding an area where Gwen and I could sit in the same cabin, with Josh on a fold out seat in the hall. Not the best way to spend the hour and a half, but at least we
At Naples we had a little bit of time between trains to get a bite to eat. A quick bite. On the ride in, we were very glad we did not book or even plan to visit this city. There is a lot of graffitti all over Italy - it is EVERYWHERE - but it is especially prevalent in Naples. And the city itself did not look all that inviting.
I was worried that we were taking the wrong train as my hostel confirmation had directions that said to go downstairs at the station and take the regional train, but we had booked on trenitalia and one booked already. So, we went with our booking and took a long way about to get to Pompei, but I truly loved getting to see the mighty Vesuvius in the background through almost the whole ride. At one point, Josh was getting nervous - we had planned to visit the ruins that afternoon and leave early in the morning - and he asked "Anyone see a volcano?" I said "Uh, right there!" There are mountains on one side the train and ride and on other, there is just this
one lonesome mountain, towering above the area - I can see how it would be an attractive place to live.
We wound up getting off in Pompei, and sure enough we were 8km from our hostel. We were in the actual city of Pompei. We had started walking, figuring the phone was incorrect but the directions on my email did not match, so we walked back to the station and waited for a taxi. For future reference, if you go make sure you get the regional train to Pompei - Circumvesuvia or something.
The taxi drove us right up to the hostel and an old man let us in the gate. I knew right away this had to be the owner's father who was discussed in the reviews for this place (more on that later). I had told Gwosh i was pretty sure there was a pool and I was right! I had meant for them to have their own room that night as I just booked a dorm room for myself when Josh decided to join us but the owner's father let us into a quad room that was just for us. Who am I to argue?
Gwosh hurried into their swimsuits and jumped right into the frigid water. I took notes for my future blog. :)
Then we hurried to the ruins, each grabbed a sandwich outside and got our tickets. An old man came up to us saying an English speaking tour was about to leave and asked if we would like to join. We said ok (even though I was kind of toured out) and what a mistake. The guy was ok, I guess, but he was wacky. First of all, there were a bunch of young girls in our group - I'm not sure what their deal was but they were from all over Europe and seemed to be some kind of study group. They were not too into it; I don't necessarily blame them because if it is not your thing, I'm sure touring a bunch of rocks is boring, but they were a bit annoying because I was into this. I had dreamt of seeing Pompeii since I was a child and not only were they not enthusiastic, the old tour guide was irritating me as well - he was hitting on them, not explaining anything to us when he
took us to the hot spots, and getting annoyed with us if we wanted to stop and take photos. Gwen and I were quickly over it, but Josh seemed to have found his kindred spirit! He finally gave the guy a promised payment and we left on our own.
The guide did tell us some basic information, almost all of which I already knew: Vesuvius erupted in August 79 AD, burying Pompei and completely obliterating nearby Herculaneum; people died not of lava or rock falls, but by breathing in poisonous superheated gases; we have the exact date and time and various other observations by a first hand witness: Pliny the Younger, who wrote about his experience from across the bay. During the tour, we did get to see the main plaza, the theater and the brothel, though the only thing he said about the brothel was you could find a bunch of phallus symbols etched into the rocks on the roads or on buildings which would tell people where to go. While the frescoes in the brothel are very explicit, it is still amazing that they are in such good condition almost 2000 years later. What I knew about
the brothel (and not told by the guide) was that due to the direction it was facing, a corner of the building escaped the worst of blasts and so these frescoes were saved. He also took us to a "market" area where there were two preserved plaster casts of people who had died in the blast. Then he took us aside, again angry that we were taking our time getting photos and looking, where he told us what a blatant lie that was. That the scientists discovered these bones and put them in place for maximum emotional effect to tourists. I was offended and that was the end of the tour for me and Gwen. First of all- is it possible that he is right? Yes, of course, but I don't think that it is, at least not to the extent he was saying. The plaster method was used a couple of hundred years ago and I find it hard to believe that this lie could go on for so long when we now have a society that is driven by conspiracy theories. Secondly, I do think he may be partially right in that some of the pieces of bones
Our tour group
and Josh's new bff
or clothing that may be represented on these casts are not accurate. Clothing would have been blown or burned off immediately, so any victims you see with this are exaggerated. Exaggeration I think is the extent though.
We found the baths, which were pretty cool, but I wanted to find this one area that was supposed to have some amazing, colorful frescoes - apparently it was closed for renovation. We wandered around the outside of the main town, just within the city walls to get to the amphitheater which Josh really wanted to see. I was tired and ruined out, but we went along, and aside from the nasty bug bites Gwen and I received all over our bodies, and despite the most disgusting bathroom i have ever been in in my entire life, the amphitheater was probably one of the highlights of the ruins. It was so massive and inspiring - just being on the floor and looking around at the complete arena - definitely worth it if you ever find yourself in Pompei. We walked through a portion of town that had some more somewhat intact ruins and looked for the Garden of Fugitives, where people fleeing
town were found in a field - these are where most of the plaster casts were made. This too was closed for renovations. Grr.... To me, this is the most important part of the ruins. It is what brings the whole thing together, knowing that this was a city of 10,000 people going about their daily lives when one day, nature annihilated them. Otherwise, for people unfamiliar with the story, it's a pile of rocks. But all in all, I am still so happy that I finally got to see Pompeii and Vesuvius. The ruins are taken care of very well and it is an ongoing work in progress. I do recommend seeing it on your own though.
The second part of this portion of the trip was the hostel. All the reviews recommended spending the extra 10 euros to eat the dinner the father serves and every single one was correct. I got to meet the owner, Giuseppe, who was extremely friendly and seems to genuinely enjoy talking to people from all over the world. He likes to travel as well. However, the food - Oh My God. I think Josh and I, and maybe even Gwen, agree
this was THE best dinner we had the entire trip. He first brought us out some homemade wine, a little sweet but good. Then we had our appetizers: bruscetta, sauteed red peppers, and mushrooms. This was followed by a plate of meats and cheeses - I am definitely getting my pork fill while here. Then came the plate of pasta with meat sauce. Gwen thought it was our main dish, and even I was like there cannot possibly be more, but Josh assured us that there was still the main dish to come. And sure enough, out he walks with the pork and steamed veggies. It was not just the amount of food that we were given, but it was truly so well done and a real homemade Italian meal. Fortunately dessert was nothing more than a large slice of melon (probably honeydew), which was a perfect end. Then we hung around drinking and sharing the wine we had bought earlier and getting to know our owners and fellow guests. I had a "shot" of melon juice while chatting with the owner - great evening altogether.
In the morning we woke up for breakfast, which included cappuccino, croissants or
doughnuts, yogurt and a slice of breakfast pizza. We found the much much closer train station and head back to Naples where we were to board our train to Florence.
I cannot recommend Easy Bed Hostel in Pompei enough!
There are more photos below