Thursday, May 30, 2019

Grand Tour of Italy: Pompeii


For 3 days midway through our tour in April we were in the Naples area, passing it back-n-forth three to four times but never actually entering the city to visit it. No problem for us because it looked way too busy!

See what I mean!  And that's Mt. Vesuvius overshadowing it.

Our guide told us, while we passed Naples on the way to Pompeii, 25 km south,
that if Vesuvius erupts again, 3 million people in the Naples area will have nowhere to go.
Perish the thought.

The day with our Italian guide started and ended at this spot.
It was two hours in the rain (top 3) after which the sun broke through (bottom 3).

From there we meandered across the complex of a city that is now in ruins,
due to Mt. Vesuvius' eruption in AD 79, burying the city in 13-20 feet of ash.

It would be nigh on impossible for me to mark the route we took that day,
but the city plan can be easily walked in exact measurement if you have the time...and map.

That day too many separate groups of tourists (with guides like ours) criss-crossed our path,
so our guide made decisions on where to turn, right or left, based on traffic!
I suppose the rain at that point made no difference to her.

You can imagine the amount of time it took to excavate and restore the ruins from all that ash.

Brick and stone, one at a time.

Brick and stone.

Brick and stone.

From place to place there were artifacts, also restored.

You could envision how they lived...

 ...and played?
Frescoes line the walls of a brothel, with a copulation bed nearby.

We heard a guide say there are over 100 phallic carvings in the streets.
It makes you wonder.....

Of course, the famous Roman columns with their 4 types were everywhere:
Doric, Ionic, Corinthian and Tuscan.  Remember that from Latin class?

The rain was stopping when we reached the forum at the end of our tour.

The forum was the center of Roman religious, cultural and political life.
I suppose it was similar to the market squares we see today all over Europe?

Not much is left to the imagination when you see the actual remains of ash-covered bodies,
or the artifacts recovered over years of excavation.  
I thought of  Mom, who loved archaeology and would have enjoyed seeing such a place.

The sun came out, as I said, at the end of our tour.

Whether in sun or rain, the flowers reminded me that Mother Nature 
has her way of reclaiming history, however good or bad.

Walking back to where we started, it felt appropriate that the sun did come out.
We needed that.


Thursday, May 23, 2019

Grand Tour of Italy: The Alberobello Trulli Houses


Little by little, I'm showing the highlights of our 19-day trip!  I can't tell you on any given day what the biggest highlight was of them all, but this is definitely one of them.

I always want to know where a place is, so there it is, Alberobello, 55 km south of Bari.

Alberobello is a small town, a comune of Bari, with a population of ca. 11K.
It's best known for its famous trullo buildings made of dry stone (no cement), with conical roofs,
dating back to the 14th century and designed for the countryside.

This was my first view that day.
[I say "my" because Astrid took a me-day and stayed back at the hotel area in Bari.]

The first houses I saw up close were not whitewashed (top-right and center two).
But as you will soon see, all the others were.

Within Alberobello are dense concentrations of trulli houses,
sometimes viewed at the edges of the larger town.

But once inside a trulli community, you're in a different world.

[As you see, one of the houses is not exactly whitewashed (bottom-left).]

But you get the feel of how close-knit this community is.

Don't you love how they accessorize the nooks and crannies!
Some of the houses are even available for rent, if you fancy the venture.

You've surely noticed that it was a rainy day.
No gutters anywhere to be seen...unless you call that a gutter (bottom-right)?!

Nor were the streets in good repair but there were drains here-n-there.

Lucky for us, there was a "model home" to visit inside.
These houses were originally built as shelters for the poor, agricultural laborers, we were told.
I suppose today some are quite posh inside?

There's even a shopping area for the tourists (and inhabitants?) with restaurants.

Don't you wonder how these towns survive when there are no/few tourists?

Did you notice the symbols on some of the roofs in the shopping district?
They're of religious, astrological and/or mystical significance, meant to protect the inhabitants.

A sign directs us to the only trullo church in town...

...the Church of Saint Anthony of Padua, opened on June 13 (my birthday!), 1927.
As you see, it's built in the same style as the trulli houses. 

Just earlier I had caught a glimpse of this married couple on the street, 
and wondered if they were married in that church?  

Down a side street one is soon brought back to...

...the real world.

Did I mention that the trulli houses of Alberobello
were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996?!
No wonder because once you see them you'll never forget them.


Thursday, May 16, 2019

Grand Tour of Italy: The Amalfi Coast and Amalfi


You knew I would get to the Amalfi Coast, of course, because who can resist it...especially once you have seen it with your own eyes.

The Amalfi Coast is a 50-kilometer stretch of coastline along the southern edge of Italy's 
Sorrentine Peninsula, in the Campania region. It's a popular holiday destination, with sheer cliffs
 and a rugged shoreline dotted with small beaches and pastel-colored fishing villages. --Google

Technically it begins at Punta Campanella (west) and ends at Vietri sul Mare (east),
(red dots, left to right, and then the red arrow at Amalfi, where we stopped to visit)
but for me it started shortly after passing Naples going south.
[Reid's Italy map]

Don't know exactly where this was but it began my looking both up and down!

See what I mean?
And of course this was almost all from a moving bus, catching what I could.
It helped that the road was very winding, which meant it was slow-going...

...and often allowed looking back over my shoulder to catch the views behind us.

One of my favorite spots was in this area...

...where we spotted a tiny boat cove while stopping for a scenic overview.
I still have no idea how they get in and out, apart from the sea!

A roadside stand welcomed us on our stop.

Remember what I said about looking up and down?
It really was so  high in some places that the clouds covered the mountain cliffs and crags.
One church would be perched up high with another nestled far down below.

Yes, we saw all of this with our own eyes!

Between Positano and Amalfi, we stopped for lunch and a chance to buy goodies.

For Astrid and me the "goodies" were our cappuccinos following the meal,
overlooking the Mediterranean Sea while others shopped!

Then it was 2 hours of free time in the town of Amalfi.

Just to have free time was enough, but...in Amalfi?!?!  We were in heaven.

After first checking out the beach, we then walked along the coastal road
to look back on the town and get more of a feel for the place.
The Maltese cross is the flag of Amalfi and goes back to the 11th century.

Saving the best for the last, we waked to the town square to visit the Amalfi Cathedral,
dedicated to the Apostle Saint Andrew, from the 10th century.

No matter where you are in town, you see it.

Can you imagine climbing those steps every Sunday for a church service!

It was closed while we were there but we climbed the steps and roamed the cloisters.

Walking back down the steps we crossed the square to St. Andrew's fountain.
(And yes, water is coming out of her boobs!)

  As with all European main squares, life bustles all around, whether you buy its wares or not.
In this case, it's Limoncello, the drink we saw everywhere while in south Italy.

After Amalfi, we continued east towards Vietri sul Mare
and at some point turned off the coastal road back towards the Naples area.

So, there you have it, one of the wonders of the Italian world.
Did I mention that it's also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, since 1997!