Friday, October 20, 2006

Week 2 - Massa Lubrense

Capri at sunrise, from the little balcony at the front of our house. Marina Del Lobra, the little port is below us, still in the dark.

Here we are in Massa Lubrense, which is about 6 miles south of Sorrento. What a great day. It rained a bit last night and was cloudy when we got up, but sunny and warm by 10 am. We’ve had great weather all week, actually all of this trip.

Where to start. Italy, where the street are narrow so everyone parks on the sidewalk & you have to walk in the street. Italy, where much of the economy is dependent on the tourists, but no one wants to bother to explain bus schedules, or opening & closing times. It really is an interesting country.

This is our 2nd full week. We left Tuscany on Saturday morning, on a train to Naples. As we pulled into the Termini station in Rome, everyone else was waiting for us. It was great that we all arrive in Naples at the same time. We caught the Cirucumvesuviana Train, which is actually a very uncomfortable and crowded metro train to Sorrento. Lots of stops in between, about a 70 minute trip. We had a lot of luggage and had to stand most of the way. We got into Sorrento about 3:30 pm and were expected at the house at 5:30 pm so Linda, Penny & Kristen stayed with the luggage and the rest of us went grocery shopping. Of course most of the stores close between 1 pm and 5 pm, so it was a while before we had much luck. Finally loaded down with lots of grocery bags we walked backed to the train station and got 2 cabs to take us the 6 miles to Massa Lubrense. Of course the drivers couldn’t find our rental house, they were both pretty excitable but spoke OK English. We ended up in the parking lot of a church about ½ way between Massa Lubrense and Marina Del Lobra. Massa is on the top of the hill and Marina Del Lobra is at the bottom. We called the lady who was to check us in, but she didn’t speak English. She thought we were at the church at the top of the hill and kept telling us to go down. So we walked all the way down to the port, no house. Then Virginia flagged down a passer-by who talked to the owner on the phone and explained we needed to walk back up the hill, past the church, about ¾ of the way up to the top. So we did, hauling all that damn luggage. At least we all got our exercise for the day, and no one fell over, but it was close. We got checked in and Vic & Tito started dinner. The owner came back with a few bottles of local wine so we drank lots of wine and ate and talked and relaxed. The house is great, perched on the hill overlooking the sea, with Capri out in front. The view at night with all the lights is amazing. The view during the day is really wonderful too.
Dinner at 'home' :-)

Sunday we had rather hazy day, not really cloudy but the sun didn’t shine through very well. We pretty much hung out at home, though we did walk up the hill into town to check the bus schedule and find out almost everything was closed. We did pick up 5 or 6 bottles of wine, that were supposed to last all week, but only lasted the one evening J. Monday we all went to Pompeii. We took the bus to Sorrento and then the Metro/Train to Pompeii with hoards of other tourists. It was pretty crowded but was really a great day. At one point we thought we’d only spend a couple of hours but ended up there all day. There is so much to see and Pompeii was a big city. Though at least 40% of it is still under the ash and still needed to be excavated. I took a lot of pictures, so those will all get downloaded and titled and put on my Yahoo photo album site sometime next week. I’ll add a link to them so check back if you want to see them. If you ever get the chance to see Pompeii, it’s definitely worth the trip. Tito acted as our tour guide, reading to all of us from the tour book, we had a good time.

Tuesday was a shopping day. We took the bus into Sorrento and shopped and shopped. I spent a bit of time reading, but had a good time. Downtown Sorrento, the old part of the town is built on high cliffs over looking the bay. Lots of narrow ally ways winding around and all full of shops. Sorrento is very definitely a tourist town these days.
These pillers are covered with glass tiles, all in a mosaic pattern and match the panels behind them. They were found in the house of the faun in Pompeii.

Wednesday we decided we needed to see the Archaeological Museum in Naples. People have been digging stuff out of Pompeii since the 1700’s. A lot has been destroyed or ended up in private collections, but a lot has been put on display in Naples. The Museum is great, we had a good time and I’m glad we saw it all. Some of the mosaics are amazing. Great color and perspective. There were some really wonderful artists decorating Pompeii and some people with plenty of money to keep them employed. Some of the frescos were recovered too. These are painted directly on to the wet plaster. Pompeii was destroyed in 79 AD, so most of this artwork is close to 2000 years old. That it still is so colourful is pretty amazing.

Unfortunately we decided to take the bus up to the museum instead of walking and I got pick pocketed. Lost my wallet but only lost some cash. I’m very glad I had most of my money, my passport & credit cards in my money belt.

Then we decided we needed to see Herulaneum too. It was a much smaller town, right on the ocean that was destroyed in the same eruption as Pompeii. It was first hit by a title wave, then covered in 60 feet of boiling mud. What an effort it has been to excavate. When you walk into the site you walk over a bridge that’s on the same level as the current city. In fact to the left is a big commercial flower growing operation. To the right is this huge hole, with a city at the bottom. I don’t think any of my pictures really show how deep it is, but you walk down into the excavation and look up and it really is apparent then. Again, like Pompeii a lot is very well preserved. It was a very interesting afternoon.

A chaple preserved by the volcanic mud at Herculaneum. The stone walls around it would have been plastered with 3 or 4 inches of plaster and then painted, but that had a tendancy to crumble off when the town was excavated.
Penny & Virginia with Positano in the back ground. It's a steep climb up and down.

Thursday we decided to see the Amalfi Coast. It’s just around the corner, but the bus schedule sucks, so we had to go back into Sorrento, hang out at the bus station and literally fight a big crowd of tourists to eventually get on a standing room only bus. At first we were going to go all the way to Amalfi but the coast was winding and very high up. The bus really swayed around the corners, I couldn’t look out the windows most of the time. So we got off in Positano, and had a very wonderful lunch. Then we walked around the town a bit and tried to take a boat back to Sorrento. Too bad for us they were only going to Capri so we had to hike back up to the top of the town and try the bus again. It was fight to get on it. I’m pretty sick of the buses, that’s for sure. In fact we hired a taxi to come get us tomorrow and deliver us to the train station in Naples. We don’t want to schlep our luggage on the bus and metro, through 3 stations in order to get to our train in Naples.

Week 2 is over, we’re headed back north. Tomorrow we go to Assisi and then Monday afternoon back to Milan.

Lunch in Positano, about 1/2 way down the hill. It's a bit over exposed but I can't get this computer to open Microsoft Picture Editor:

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