April 26

     We drove 255 miles in light rain to get through Naples and all the way to Pompei. We are in the Spartacus Campground, a little place with tiny sites. We have other campers within ten feet of us in three directions, but it is in a great location, literally just a few hundred feet from the exit of the autostrada and directly across the street from the Pompei ruins with Mt. Vesuvius in the distance. The main entrance and the train station are just a short, but dangerous, walk up the hill. (In fact, it is necessary to walk across an entrance to the autostrada! What were they thinking!)

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    If there are five inches, drivers will take four of them. They do stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, but will fly past in front of you if they can make it and will pass a foot behind you. It is exciting just to cross the street.

    On Saturday we took the train to Naples. The city was a big surprise and bigger disappointment. It is teeming, full of litter and grafitti and chaotic traffic. People sell everything imaginable from every corner and doorway, especially knock-off purses, watches, shoes and sunglasses. We had to walk through a pretty scruffy part of town to get to the Duomo (their cathedral), which was like being in another world: very clean and well kept. Beautiful paintings everywhere. There was a wedding just finishing up and before we left another was beginning. What a wonderful aisle to walk down. The bride came in on her groom’s arm. She was obviously pregnant and wore a skin tight strapless dress, fitted over her hips and belly, which then flared out, above the knee in front with a 6-8 foot train behind covered in ruffles. It was the most awful, inappropriate wedding gown Susan had ever seen. We apologize for not taking a picture. The street outside was lined with wedding shops with gorgeous dresses and lots of little white communion dresses.  

    We caught a bus to the big city park along the Mediteranean Sea and discovered we were in the midst of a Formula One Show Run with crowds forming and blocked off streets barricaded. But when we figured out it was going to be just one vehicle showing off (sponsored by Red Bull), we decided not to stand around and wait for it to happen. So we went to the arts district where they sell nativity sets like doll houses: huge things where you can populate whole towns around the “Holy Family.” And of course they sell all the pieces. All very charming. But since the city was not charming we made our way back to the train station and back to Pompei.

    The showers at Spartacus Campground leave a little to be desired. There is only one hook inside the shower stall and no half wall or baffle to keep everything from getting wet. Imagine taking a shower with your clothes and towel inside the shower stall with you. It also takes about 5 minutes before any hot water arrives. We considered moving on, but the location is just too handy and helps us avoid driving anywhere. (And did we mention that there is a fairly big grocery a short walk down the street?)

    Sunday we took the train to Herculaneum, another town destroyed by the Mt. Vesuvius eruption in 79A.D. It is much smaller site than Pompei. It had been buried under yards of mud before the ash and lava came, so some of it is very well preserved--even some food and fabrics survived.

    We spent Monday at the Pompei ruins. It is a huge and impressive site, and you can easily lose yourself for a day. There is still more to be uncovered, but the archaeologists are now concentrating on restoring parts of it. The larger theatre (which we couldn’t get into) is going to be used for outdoor concerts.

    It was difficult to walk. There are narrow sidewalks, but the streets were sewers, paved with large stones. It is a totally handicapped inaccessibe place. The houses line the streets: tiny room and large gardens.  Much of the stuff that survived being buried under ash and lava for 1700 years was sold to the wealthy in Naples before archeologists and historians took charge. But there are still frescoes on some walls and beautiful tile floors. We could pretty much go where we liked (us and hundreds of school children and lots of well behaved stray dogs.)  Mt Vesuvius looms over it, but it really doesn’t look that high or impressive any more. Its last major eruption was in the 1600’s. No one seems to mind that it is there. According to a guide book, 600,000 people live within 7 km of the summit today. For the moment, we are among them!