Our next to last cruise port was Salerno, on the west coast of Italy. We had so many things to choose from in one day.... Isle of Capri, Naples, Salerno, Amalfi Coast, Vesuvius, Herculaneum, Positano, Pompeii, etc. We found a web post from a family from Oregon asking for other passengers to join them in hiring a private guide for a small group tour. We jumped at the chance and were very pleased. Our group consisted of Norma and Tom, their adult children and a very nice young couple from Dublin, Sinead and Roy. Our group was able to enjoy a personalized visit, interact more with the guide and get to know each other. I highly recommend this route for anyone visiting the area.
Our group loaded the comfy van and decided to head to the top of Mt. Vesuvius before the buses and heat hit. The tour guide's first words were, "I hope no one gets car sick because the roads up the mountain are steep and curvy!". Chuck looked at me in horror. Knowing my seasick patch was newly applied that morning, I just smiled and hoped for the best. (Thank you Dr. Sequita Morris!!)
pointed out that in 1944, the mountain was much bigger and came to a more classic cone shape before it's last eruption that year. You could still see the side of the mountain that used to meet the present summit and imagine how huge the mountain was.
When we reached the visitor's center and parked, we bought our tickets and proceeded to climb, and climb, and climb....and climb..............and climb (huff, puff), and climb the steep path to the summit. At least there were great stopping spots with views that were incredible. As a side note, there is nothing more motivational than having someone 20 years older than you with a cane pass you on the trail.
At the summit of Vesuvius, you can see down through the clouds to Naples, Salerno, the Amalfi Coast...just gorgeous. The guide pointed out where Herculaneum and Pompeii were. There was a path almost all the way around the crater. There is also a path inside the crater where people used to walk.
I considered rolling down to the van, but we slid down the cat-litterish path just fine. Once back down the winding roads, we made our way to Pompeii.
I will give a brief history of the town. At the time of the eruption, Pompeii had a population of 20,000. There had been earthquakes, one major, in the months before the eruption. On August 24, in the year 79 AD, Vesuvius buried the town in 12 layers of ash to the depth of 25 meters. Pompeii became a time capsule of life in the Roman era and has been a tourist destination for 250 years.
We only had 1.5 hours to walk around and look. It was fascinating. The site was out of maps in English, so we were pretty much on our own which in it's own way made our imaginations work in overtime. Wall paintings, tile floors, windows to empty houses all made us feel like voyeurs into someone's life. I would love to go back and spend a day.
Our group also wanted to see a beautiful Amalfi coast town, so our driver took us to Ravello, which was not only a gorgeous town hanging onto cliffs over the ocean, but seemed to be untouched by the tourist crowds. We were able to wander the town square, visit shops and eat a snack at
an outdoor cafe and enjoy some cappuccino and gelato.
Of all the places we had visited so far, Ravello made us want to move to Italy some day. The people were friendly, the area was beautiful and well-kept, and the town seemed less rushed that home. Maybe that was just a first impression, but it was one I will cherish.