Tuesday 14 July 2015

Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast and Southern Italy

Italy, 24th – 26th May 2015


We set off to Pompeii from our spot at Cava de’ Tirreni, once more travelling through the tight, car-laden roads around Naples.  Upon our arrival, we pulled in outside one of the campsites on the main strip (Fortuna Village) and asked about parking up just for the day.  The staff gave us a price of €10, no set leaving time.  We could have paid to stay here (or at one of the nearby ACSI campsites) for the night, but in my paranoia I didn’t much fancy the idea of parking in the vicinity of an active volcano.  Vesuvius itself can be seen from Pompeii, however in my opinion it looks a lot more impressive when
viewing it from the north, as we saw on our way past Naples.  From the north, you can see all the paths in the rock that look like the routes molten lava would take.  From Pompeii, it looks more like a normal mountain.

Columns at the main forum in Pompeii
We entered the Pompeii site, and decided to invest in an audioguide, utilising the headphone slot to share it by having one earpiece each.  The audioguide proved to be a sound investment; Pompeii is a very large site, and many of the attractions had no written information to explain what they were or their significance.  Some areas of the site have a few recent-looking written signs, so it is possible that they are in the process of improving the written information available.  Pompeii was a very interesting visit and took us around five hours or so to walk around the whole thing, as we went down nearly all of the streets and listened to the audio information for at least 80% of the place.   The parts we found the most interesting were probably the following:
  • The thermopoliums, which are what would have been used as snack bars where people could buy hot food.  There are still counters with circular recesses where the hot food would have been contained.
  • The Orto dei Fuggiaschi (Garden of the Fugitives), which has the largest known group of the eruption’s victims found in any one area.  During excavations the excavators discovered some hollows within the volcanic debris they were digging up: excavations were halted whilst plaster mould was poured into the site, and then they dug around the plaster, leaving behind the shapes of the people who died here.
  • The Terme Suburbane, which is a sauna/baths that has frescoes on the walls that would suggest the place was used for more raunchy activities than just cleaning…

One of the roads in Pompeii - the central road would be frequently flooded with dirty water, so stepping stones were put in place for pedestrians to cross the road
Server Matt at one of the thermopliums
Plaster moulds at Orto dei Fuggiaschi
For the bulk of our Pompeii pictures, see the bottom of the blog entry.

Amalfi Coast

The view out from Meta - one of the towns on the headland
north of the Amalfi coast
After Pompeii we started driving towards the Amalfi coast, heading for a campsite at the village of Marina del Cantone.  To get to the Amalfi coast we drove through one of the longest tunnels we have come across so far, which carried on for several km, before finally emerging looking out over the cliffs to the sea.  From here we spent more time driving through twisty, hillside roads that, whilst not being particularly far in distance, took us around an hour or so to cross.  It was rather scenic, however didn’t seem to do much good for our MPG, nor for the sensibilities of the car that continued to beep us from behind for the short distance he had to follow us to the next passing point in the road.

We arrived at Camping Nettuno (N40.582831 E14.354164, €18 ASCI price + €1pp tourist tax) around 6pm; the site was rather busy, and as we were only staying for the night, the staff directed us to a spot in the middle of the main level area for ease of getting back out in the morning.  We needed to get online to get our ferry to Greece booked.  The WiFi here was €1 for 24 hours per device, which was conveniently paid for using a €1 coin I had spotted whilst walking along the pebbled beach at Marine del Cantone.  Matt went online to do a little research about which ferry crossing to use and also for any places we could park for the night nearby while I retired to the van to prepare dinner, which we washed down with a bottle of €1.19 Spumante Dolce from Lidl., which was surprisingly nice for the price-tag.  Thank you, Lidl.

The view from the campsite
Our spot at Camping Nettuno

We got up in the morning to get the ferry booked for the following evening from Brindisi (IT) to Patras (GR), giving us a day and a half to travel there, as well as take care of other errands like paying off the credit card and checking emails.  We were planning to get a ferry to Igoumenitsa but as the price was exactly the same we went for the longer 16 hour crossing to get straight to the Peloponese. Matt received word that his thesis corrections had been accepted, and that therefore the only thing between him and his PhD was to submit it to the university repository in time for graduation.  Hurrah!

Travelling to Brindisi

After leaving the site, we took the winding route across the coast and then promptly hit every wall of traffic in the vicinity of southern Italy, spending several hours in stop-start traffic that should have only taken an hour or so thanks to a combination of roadworks and just general business.  We’ve driven on a few questionable roads before, but the area surrounding Pompeii and Naples is the only area we’ve come across so far where if we ever returned to again I would insist on taking the toll road and urge others to do the same.

After getting onto the main (non-toll) autostrada across to Brindisi, we pulled in at a service point for lunch, spotting a worrisome looking leak across the floor near the fridge.  It turns out that an open carton of wine had leant over and spilled half its contents onto everything beneath it into the fridge before leaking out of the door.  Matt took on the pleasant task of cleaning the fridge out whilst I cooked our lunch, in an assignment of jobs that I took no argument with whatsoever.

Halfway along the autostrada, we came across a 2.3m width restriction through roadworks.  After our experiences with width restrictions near Bologna, we had no intentions of trying our luck and instead took the suggested detour away which was much to Daisy the sat nav’s justified chagrin, as the detour diverted us away from the main road for somewhere between 30 mins to an hour.  After an evening stop at a Lidl we reached the destination of one of the spots Matt had found for us to overnight at in Ostuni (N40.72324 E17.57857) around 10pm.  It was a large car park that a few people on the Camping Car Infos website reported to have stayed at for a night with no trouble, so we gave it a go and had no problems other than road noise in the morning.

Our lunch stop at Specchiola
As much as we wanted to wait until we got into Greece before getting any fuel rather than paying Italy’s prices, our mileage range readout was now reading “------”, which we decided would make a good point to stop pushing our luck.  We stopped at a fuel station and put €15 in, using some of the little cash we had left (we hadn’t come across any convenient cash points recently), before heading over to the small seaside town of Specchiola (N40.73854, E17.74048), which was another place Matt had found online as a potential stopover point in case things didn’t work out with Ostuni.  We might as well have forgone Ostuni and travelled straight to Specchiola for the night; the parking was a dirt area near the waterfront, and very quiet out of season.  I don’t imagine we’d have had any trouble staying the night there.  As it was, we had a few hours to kill before the ferry, so we stayed here for lunch and had a cycle ride around the town. While on the bikes we found a grassy area that looked better as an overnight spot just outside the built up area overlooking the sea (a right turn just as you enter the town), where there was an Austrian van parked.

We headed to Brindisi, stopping at a supermarket to pick up a couple of bits that we hadn’t been able to get hold of in Lidl, and then went to the nearest fuel station offering LPG, and filled our gas tanks up as we weren’t sure how much more difficult it would be to get hold of LPG and at what price in Greece, whereas in Italy it was available pretty much everywhere.  From here, we then went straight to the port to catch the ferry.

- Jo

The rest of our Pompeii shots:

Raunchy frescoes in the Terme Suburbane
View of the Terme Suburbane from near the site entrance
Walls that would have made up houses
The main Forum
Reconstruction of how one of the villa gardens would have looked
The remaining decorations on one of the ceilings inside a building

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