Fri May 11 – Sorrento & Pompeii
Early start to our small group tour of Sorrento and Pompeii. Sorrento is famous of its lemons, limoncello and olives. Stopped at a limoncello outlet briefly, then drove way up above Sorrento to Le Colline di Sorrento, a co-op farm of lemon and olive trees which also makes their own cheese and wine. Very interesting walk about with a mozzarella cheese making demonstration followed by a great sit-down meal of fresh mozarrella & ricotta cheese, artichoke & olive spread on bread, salami and their white wine. Paid them back by buying all kinds of good things in their small store after tasting great limoncello (and chocolate and anniset limoncello).
Next stop was for an hour and a half in Sorrento which turned out to be a pleasant surprise with cobblestone walking streets, great alleys, and stores & vendors of all types. One main church we visited on the piazza featured a fabulous ceiling and a diorama of Bethlehem.
Then on to Pompeii which turned out to be about 5 times larger in size than we expected. Originally started in the 8th century BC, it reached its heyday in the 1st century BC and by the time of Jesus was home to 12,000 citizens. Mount Vesuvius, with its own weather system, looms over it, and when it erupted in 79 AD, the winds blew gas, ash and rock south, covering Pompeii and Herculeum to a depth of 7-8 meters, leaving the topmost structures partially visible. Those who tried to escape to the south died. Those lucky enough to escape to the north lived. Archeologists have found 1,240 bodies entombed in ash.
The city is so well preserved that we could see and touch original frescos and tiles throughout the maze of streets, walls and buildings. The roads were typical Roman slab stone roads, with wagon wheel ruts in the roadway, stepping stone blocks of rock at regular intervals, political propaganda signs on buildings, and water basins at major intersections. We started in the amphitheater where plays, entertainment and gladiator fights were held. Then we walked through a wealthy family home with a central garden surrounded by columns, rooms decorated with frescos and tiles, a shrine, and a room with the bones of 3 people who had died while trying to dig a hole through the wall to escape the ash. We also walked through the common bath and the main brothel, complete with erotic paintings high on the wall of the reception room which were designed to help customers who didn’t speak the language point to the type of entertainment they wanted to purchase. We were sort of rushed for time, so we barely scratched the surface, but we ended up at the highest part of the city, the main square with statues, columns and the remains of the municipal buildings, courthouse, etc. In the distance, Mount Vesuvius dominated the horizon.
Back on the ship, we enjoyed another great dinner with our favorite waiter, Ivan, and assistant, Yulin, then got on our suits, zipped up to the 15th deck and jumped in the Jacuzzi. No trouble sleeping that night, or any night, to be honest. Best bed and pillows of the entire trip.