Pompeii

I was originally supposed to fly out today, but when my flight changed times and I was able to cancel for free, I had to take the opportunity to add another day to my trip and see Pompeii.  Everyone who had been told me I was stupid for not including it in my itinerary, so I was very glad to have the chance to fit it in.

It was the absolute best day! About a 3 – 3.5 hour drive from Rome, we left early and got to Pompeii around 11.  After the nearby Mount Vesvius erupted in 79AD, the town has been amazingly preserved and features some frescoes from 79AD which is just amazing.  We had a local guide take us around for 2 hours, and the amount of information he had was unbelievable.  The town was covered by 4-6 meters of volcanic ash, and wasn’t discovered for 1,500 years.

They were just finishing up an art exhibit when I arrived, so we were able to see them removing the statutes which was cool.

The path around this square would have had a wooden roof.  And you can see evidence of their gutter system.  Collecting rain water was very important, and often houses would have the roofs tilt inwards so they could collect the water.  And anywhere were there is bricks would have had stucco.

Next up was their amphitheater.  In some towns they would have painted the wall for each performance, but here they used painted screens for the background.

Next we went to one of their main streets.  They had streets and avenues, depending if the road was big or small.  They had high sidewalks, for easy unloading of materials from carts, and perfectly straight grooves in the road for smooth riding for the carts.  They created walking bridges for pedestrians to cross the road, and perfectly curved them to match the grooves for the carts. And ensured each bridge perfectly matched the one before in regards to space between the stones.  The Romans really were ingenious.

One of the first pictures below, with the roudn circles?  That was a food stop where people could purchase wine and soup right when they entered town.

They had a few houses open for us to walk through. You could tell this was a rich man’s house by the size, but you also knew he was trying to be a politician.  In one of the (original from 79AD!) frescoes, it shows him wearing white and holding a book – he was campaigning for office.

If you found holes in the sidewalk, it was where they used to tie up their horses while they went inside a shop.  Most people had a shop on the road and then lived behind or above the shop.  The higher you lived the poorer you were.  You can also see the remains of a bakery/restaurant below – the oven really hasn’t changed too much.

We went inside another house, and I couldn’t get over the intricately carved ceiling.  Seriously.

There you could also see the shape of one of the people of Pompeii.  The body had decomposed by the time Pompeii was found, however the realized there were empty spaces in the ground when they were digging that they could fill with plaster. The result is the shapes of the body below (and more later on).

Back on the main street we continued our walk to the main square.  They had beautiful fountains spaced throughout the main street. The square was pedestrian only, and you can see the blockade at the end of the street to indicate carts could go no further.

And you’ll also find the symbol used to mark the outside of a brothel. At that time Pompeii was right beside the sea, and often had sailors visiting.  When they saw this, they knew they were at the right spot.  And in the evenings, girls would stand outside with lights.  When sailors approached them, they would howl like a wolf to indicate they had found the right girls – today this turned into a wolf whistle.  It’s amazing how little things are still influenced by history so long ago.

In the main altar of the main squre (in front of Mount Vesvius), they pay homage to Jupiter (the Roman’s Zeus).  And every pillar would have had another pillar above, and that pillar would have had a roof connecting them all.  The statutes aren’t original (they’re from the exhibition) but the stands all are so it would have been a very grand space.  And it all would have been covered in marble.

When it was first excavated there wasn’t proper security over the site, so much of the marble was stolen then.  But it would have been glorious.

And then we were back to the beginning of Pompeii.  Those two hours felt like 20 minutes, it was so interesting.  I’m so glad I was able to fit this trip in – really a highlight I won’t forget.

From here we had a traditional Napoli pizza for lunch, and then went to Mount Vesuvius.  Our bus could take us almost to the top, but we had to climb the last 800 meters (with 5 switchbacks each steeper than the last) but it was worth it. It’s not every day you can look inside an active volcano!

And then we were back in the bus for another 3 hour drive back to Rome.  SO WORTH IT.

Rome

I got the early express train back to Rome this morning.  My only plan was to go to the Colosseum, however my jeans ripped, so after arriving around 11, I spent the next few hours doing some shopping.  Usually I enjoy a good shopping day, however it was quite difficult to find clothes that fit me, so it took much longer than I expected.

But eventually I found some, and then made my way to my favourite site in Rome: the Colosseum.

Cinque Terre

Today I went the opposite direction to check out the remaining three villages: Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare.

Though the weather was better, I had still decided to take the train and not do any of the hikes between towns, as I wasn’t feeling any better.

I started in the next village over Corniglia.  This is the only one not situated by the coast, but instead up on top of a cliff.  Thankfully my train ticket also came with a local bus ticket, so I drove up.

Next up was Vernazza, which I found to be the busiest.  It wasn’t the biggest, but there was a market taking up lots of street space so it felt the most cramped to me.  But I did get some delicious fresh oranges from the market so I’m glad it was still there.

Monterosso al Mare was the biggest of all (I’d say it’s even a town!).  It’s also the only one of the five with a beach, but it still looked too cold for me to enjoy it.

And then I was back in Manarola for the rest of my last day here.

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It was so beautiful here, and they have so much locally made products that I would like to come back.  I really wanted to take the ferry back from Monterosso, but the sea was too rough.  So next time I’ll hike one way and ferry the other 🙂

Cinque Terre

A few years ago, we published a book with a picture of the Cinque Terre region on the cover, and ever since then I’ve watched as more and more people I knew came for a visit.  They all raved about how beautiful it was here, so I decided I needed to see it for myself.

Cinque Terre is made up of 5 small villages along the coast: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare.  Originally I made a list of which village I’d like to stay in before realizing Manarola was the only one with a hostel – but it worked out in my favour because Manarola had, in my opinion, the absolute most picturesque views.

Unfortunately it was also pretty hilly, so this was the first time I had to actually hike with my 20 kilo backpack, and it happened while I was in the midst of a cold.

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After a thorough investigation of everything Manarola had to offer, I decided to take the train over to Riomaggiore.

There are beautiful coastal hikes between the villages, but I decided I wasn’t in any state to complete them (in addition is was also raining and I just couldn’t do it – something for next time!). Due to my cold I also wasn’t able to eat gelato, and instead had to have with a cup/pot of tea in each town instead.

After I finally warmed up in the hostel, I went back outside in Manarola, to check out the town at night.  Since the town is all hills, they had to make modifications to the benches which I think is hilarious!

 

Florence

I started my day in Florence with lots of uphill walking to reach the Piazzale Michelangelo.   I got to walk by the San Miniato Gate along one of the last remaining stretches of medieval wall remaining in Florence, and the views were amazing from the square, but man it was a lot of walking/climbing early in the morning.

From here I made my way to the Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens.  Again, I was very thankful I didn’t have to wait in line, because it would have been over an hour of waiting.

I saw a couple of the exhibits in the palace, then found a good sitting spot in the gardens and relaxed.

The Brancacci Chapel was nearby so I went to check out the frescoes by Masaccio.

My final stop in Florence was to the Santa Maria Novella Church, which I walked by everyday but hadn’t gone inside.

And all of a sudden my time in Florence came to an end! I really liked it here (favourite place in Italy thus far!), and I know there’s so much more to see in Tuscany that I can’t wait to come back.

Unfortunately I picked up a cold today, so my next week was going to be filled with a sore throat and congested/runny nose. Super fun.

 

Florence

Day two in Florence started with a visit to the Accademia Gallery to meet my new friend David. Thankfully I had a skip-the-line pass, and didn’t have to wait in the line.

And then I went through the rest of the museum, including the plaster gallery.

My next stop was the Opificio delle Pietre Dure museum.  It wasn’t very busy and was absolutely gorgeous – it’s all stone murals by Pietre Dure and was one of my favourite places. In some cases you can see his inspiration (paintings and statues) and the final product which I think is just the coolest.

Next up was the San Marco museum, and its amazing frescoes. They also had some archaeological ruins, and a room that used to be the library and was my favourite in the museum.

There was a beautiful garden across the street, so I went that way next.

I booked a climb to the top of the Duomo Dome for this afternoon, which I was not looking forward too. But I couldn’t put it off any longer, so I lined up, climbed up the 400 steps, and had the most amazing view.

After a quick celebratory gelato, I headed towards the Palazzo Medici Riccardi. There was a small glass exhibit (which I can never say no too), and I was also able to see the small chapel decorated by Benozzo Gozzoli.

Next was the Medici Chapels, where I was able to see the work by the Opificio delle Pietre Dure in person.

I took a short break at the hostel, then made my way back to the Ponte Vecchio to watch the sun go down on the river Arno.

Florence

I took an evening train to Florence yesterday, and had a full day of exploring today. First impressions – I really like it here. It may even be my favourite city in Italy!

I purchased a Firenze Card this morning, which covers the entrance to 72 museums in Florence for 72 hours, then made my way to the Palazzo Vecchio.

While there, I also climbed the 233 steps up to the top of the tower.

From there I walked through the city, stopped by the Orsanmichele Church, got some gelato and eventually made it to the Piazza del Duomo.

I got one of the last 60 tickets to go up the dome tomorrow – which was good as today and Sunday were already sold out! But I didn’t have to book a specific time for the baptistery, cathedral, crypts or museum, so I checked out those.